Leica SL test and review – Leica for survivors

Great image quality and searching, but you world as it costs to be a car.


+ Very high image quality with classic Leica look that looks vibrant and analog. Solidly built with easy operation, the best viewfinder and lightning-fast focus and shotpower
Crazy high price and only one custom lens will make many shade the track.

One may wonder what Leica thought when they decided to make another system camera. As with an appropriate lens, costs a six-digit amount. Has success gone to their heads? Who thinks they are going to buy a full-size camera that cost it over twice the competitors’ corresponding cameras?

The questions are many, and I have asked themselves both for Leica’s Director Oliver Kaltner, and Product Manager Stefan Daniel. The answers are that the new Leica SL is a professional professional system camera that requires fast auto focus, fast shooting and want to combine it with Leica’s legendary optical quality.

It is not possible with any of Leica’s current system cameras, and the only one in full format is Leica M with frame finder and manual focus.
So Leica looked back in time and used the analog R system from the 70s to 90s as inspiration for the new system camera. However, combining a SLR camera with full-format digital photo shoot, high shooting speed and lightning fast auto focus, was not possible until the technology became more mature.

The choice fell on a mirrorless system camera, which makes it possible to make the camera faster, as it has fewer moving parts in front of the image chip.

Leica SL is just such a camera. It can shoot 11 frames / s image slides, with fast tracking, and has 4K video capture internally, GPS tagging of images, Wifi for wireless image transfer, and a hosted camera body.

Similar specifications are only found in a few of the competitors’ cameras. Canon EOS 1Dx for $6000 managed 12 images/s, and Nikon D4s at $6500 managed 11 images / s. But they both have a full-sized lower-resolution image chip that does not support 4K video.

Leica SL

With the Leica SL zoom, the camera becomes quite dense and heavy.

In SL camera Leica namely chosen the same full format 24 x 36 mm image chip included in the Leica Q . With 24 megapixels, but here the microlines are adapted to replaceable optics.

SL is almost a Leica S Leicht, with a fairly similar form factor like the much larger mid-size camera, where a minimalist design with a few unmarked, but programmable buttons and a large handle dominates.

The camera is developed in Wetzlar and is not based on any donor model from other manufacturers. Leica has been completely free to make the camera from scratch.

Enormous applicant

It has given Leica SL not only a distinctive appearance but also unique features like an enormous electronic finder with 4.4 MP resolution and 0.8 x magnification, and an lens setting that can be used with all Leica lenses. Just with an adapter as well.

The first time you peek into the viewfinder, you are overwhelmed to look like a big window. With the big magnification and the high resolution, there are no known full-size cameras that are close to the experience the Leica SL provides. Photographers will love it because they see more detail in the subject, and can combine it with lots of useful and optional information.

Leica SL

Touchscreen and programmable buttons, but it’s the big searcher who steals the show.

Buttons and steering wheel

A proper diopter adjustment is also found in the form of a swivel ring around the ocular, as on Leica S, with clear markings. Markings by the way do not exist on any other buttons. Apart from the recording button that has a red dot and the on / off switch. The four elongated buttons around the touch screen can be programmed, which means that the photographer must remember what is added to which of the buttons. The same applies to the function button at the front next to the hand grip, and the live view button.

At the thumb on the backside, there is a pressure-sensitive adjustment wheel and a pressure-sensitive joystick. To select the exposure program, press the setting dial and turn. Both it and the joystick can be used to navigate the on-screen menu, where you can find the focus area, focus tracking, focus targeting, light metering, and all settings that are common on high-end digital cameras.

The touch screen does not work in the on-screen menus, but in live view, you can select focus point but do not take a photo. However, it is possible to change ISO, for example, with your fingertip and, among other things, scroll to images on the memory card.


The camera has two memory cards for SD cards, and one supports lightning UHS-II cards with write speeds up to 100 MB / s, which you need to record 4K video. But it also helps when shooting serial shooting. Then, the camera swallows 30-35 images in both raw (DNG) and JPEG format, double and even if you save only JPEG, but the camera uses a long time to save as long image series. You can actually count on a minute. It’s not too impressive for a camera that boasts speed.

But the autofocus is hard to fault. With follow-up focus, the camera had zero problems following moving motifs with panning. Even when the subject moved both in length and width direction. Each image was sharp. Very good.

Leica SL

The weatherproof and solid body housing for tough professional use.


Aside from the fact that Leica has chosen a full-size HDMI connector – when HDMI-C is holding on to a lot, there’s also no way to postpone video functionality. Ok, there is no microphone or headset connection on the camera. One needs an adapter for it and it is not ready for the stores properly yet.

But otherwise video recorders could use 4K video in both Cinema 4K and UHD in 24 and 25/30 fps. The camera supports the storage of 8-bit files, but can output 10-bit video (4: 2: 2) via the HDMI output. It also supports Video Gamma Log (V-Log) with expanded dynamic scope, time code, and displays both focus and sebra strips for control with focus plane and exposure.

Leica SL image quality

Since the camera shares a picnic with Leica Q, it’s no wonder that the image quality is comparatively high. The camera was tested with the new Vario-Elmar SL 24-90 f2.8-4 to $ 4000 (!), Which is the first and only single lens available for the SL system.

Next spring comes a 90-280mm f2.8-4 telecom zoom, and only in the fourth quarter of 2016 comes a 50mm f.4 with fixed focal length. Stefan Daniel has promised to increase the rate of lens launches to SL with more fixed focal lengths, but the first year is unfortunately the range lean.

If you do not count on all other Leica lenses, please note. For SL, a total of 145 of Leica’s different lenses can be used. For example, the T-Lenses of the Leica T APS camera – which, of course, provide APS SL cut-outs, but with adapters, you can use the full-sized S Series lenses – all 16 – 21 of Leica Cine Lens for video, 51 manual focus R lenses and 48 M lenses.

For example, Summicron-M 28mm f2.0, which we tested with SL camera.

With the two lenses, the camera delivers pretty much the image quality. As with the Q model, image dynamics deliver equivalent to 13 exposure steps. In practice, it means that the dynamics are at the height of the best full-size cameras, but I see that the camera burns a bit earlier in highlight than the Nikon D750 and Sony a7r II.

Leica SL

Of the three announced lenses, only Vario-Elmar SL 24-90mm f2.8-4 is available. Vario-Elmar SL 90-280mm f2.8-4 and Summilux SL 50mm f1.4 Asph, not available until later in 2016.

But the colors are very typical Leica. With stunning color saturation and beautiful tones, everything from landscape, architecture or skin tones is very lively reproduced. Put on Leica optics and get more contrast and deeper black level than from, for example, the D750.

If you are looking at detail, you must use lupe to see that Sony a7r II and Canon EOS 5DSR are better because they have more megapixels.

The sharpness of the new zoom lens is sensationally good. There is hardly visible loss of sharpness corners on the largest blender, and very little diffraction on small blinds. It is marginal with vignetting and prediction, nor much chrome file or floodlight on either jpeg or DNG files. So Stefan Daniel has retained his words when he says Leica is more concerned with optical perfection than to make the lens as light and bright as possible.

Therefore, compromised on the brightness, which is weaker than Nikon and Canon’s equivalent zoom, which, however, covers a maximum of 70mm tele, against 90mm here. If you see the zoom ring you see that the blender changes quickly. At 35mm, the f3.1, at 50mm is already f3.6, while the competitors’ corresponding normal zooms hold f2.8 at all focal lengths.

Looking at image noise, you’ll see fine-grained image noise from 1600 to 3200, but 6400 ISO sensitivity is fully usable under poor lighting conditions. It is only at 12,800 ISO that the grain noise becomes troublesome, and the camera is a step behind the D750 and A7r II. In practice, I would say that 6400 is the maximum limit for images you do not need to postpone after-hours.

Leica SL

But I discovered a problem with the noise processing in the camera. From 1600 ISO, we see hint for banding stripes – and it becomes stronger and more annoying when increasing ISO sensitivity. It is not as visible on all subjects, but is a problem that Leica should correct in an upcoming software update for the camera.

4K video? There is not much to defer on the file quality of the camera. I’d liked to watch 4K video with 50p frame rate and higher bandwidth in Mbps, because it provides cleaner file quality, but retains for V-Log gamma drivers and post-production at Adobe Premiere or Final Cut, the camera delivers high enough video quality.

Leica SL

The malware in the cup

Having joined the stealth design, programmed and learned the key features and settled down with camera + zoom is a swine and steindyr combination, Leica SL is a professional camera you can love. It’s a bottom-solid collision and is faster, easier and easier to use than Canon and Nikon’s similar professional cameras. That’s without 4K video. It’s also faster than Sony’s a series, but in practice, the image quality is not back for any of them. That’s the most important thing, but it’s still wormwood in the cup. The high price is mentioned, but it’s almost worse that Leica has nothing else to offer than a zoom to the camera. There are many photographers who do not already have Leica M optics to choose one of the competitors’ cameras.

Leica SL Specs

  • Type: 24 Mp system camera with full-size image chip
  • Optics: Leica T, SL, TL, S, M and C
  • Display: 7.5 cm LCD, 1k pixels
  • Seeking: 4.4 Mp
  • Highlight: Wi-Fi, GPS, 11 images / s, 4K UHD and Super 35 video, 10-bit HDMI output, hosted, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6 license.

Price: $ 6000

Leica SL and Sony A9 comprasion? Which is the best premium mirrorless camera?

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