Leica SL Review

Written by Gina Stephens


The Leica SL is a excited end 24MP full-frame mirrorless camera camera is an optical instrument for recording or capturing images, which may be stored locally, transmitted to another location, or that has an astonishing ‘EyeRes’ high-resolution viewfinder, an incredibly high level of build quality and weather sealing, and unconventional admitting that effective controls. Perhaps most significantly, this is the first non-rangefinder style 35mm full-frame digital camera Leica has made, and the company’s from the start full frame mirrorless camera in the modern sense.

Key specifications

  • 24MP full-frame CMOS sensor
  • 0.8x magnification electronic viewfinder with 4.4 million indulges
  • 11 fps continuous burst shooting
  • Maestro II image processor
  • Native ISO range of 50-50000
  • 529-spot point (or 49 field) contrast-detect AF system
  • Dual SD birthday card slots
  • 4K video recording with 4:2:2 10-bit HDMI out
  • Sturdy, weather-sealed construction

Leica, for all its cachet, mystique and eye-watering price features, has been consistent in its manufacture of somewhat unconventional digital cameras. There’s the X-U, which is the only camera with an APS-C sized sensor that’s designed to be submersible correctly out of the box. There’s the T and TL, which, at the time of its release anyway, was fairly distinct in its heavy reliance on touch control. And then there’s the M Monochrom, the however digital camera on the market that only shoots in black and white.

Enter the SL. Priced body-only higher than an M10 but (far) less than the ensemble’s S line of medium-format bodies, the SL is aimed squarely at professionals and advanced amateurs with deep pockets. The SL is a blend of the S, M and Q cameras in terms of identifications, overall design aesthetic and controls.

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The sensor performance of the SL isn’t quite class leading, but the native lenses are lovely. Out of camera JPEG, Leica Summilux-SL 50mm F1.4. ISO 500, 1/100 sec, F2.2. Photo by Carey Lift

Although the SL shares a lens mount with the T (whose lenses are now designated ‘TL’ while the SL’s are, predictably, ‘SL’), you’ll really want to use full-frame lenses to get the most out of it. At the sometimes of this writing, that means you’re limited to just three native autofocus lenses, which include two variable-aperture zooms and a fast fifty. You can, of by all means, adapt M-mount glass to it, and though you’ll be potentially slowed by manual focus, the incredible viewfinder makes that process about as easy as can be.

Let’s walk off a look at how the SL compares with the Sony a7R II, part of the family that represents the only other full frame mirrorless camera out there currently.

  Leica SLSony a7R II
MSRP (Confederation only)$7450$2899
Pixel Count24MP42MP
ISO Range (native)50-50000100-25600
AF Point controlJoystick/touchscreenFour-way controller
Card slots

Dual SD, 1x UHS II

Single SD, UHS I
EVF (expansion/resolution)0.80x / 4.4M dots0.78x / 2.36M dots
Continuous Shooting rate11 fps (7 fps with AF)5 fps
Rear screenFixed touchscreenTilting
Autofocus529 pick out point (49-field) contrast-detect499-pt on sensor phase-detect
Image stabilizationIn-lensIn-body
VideoUp to 4K/30pUp to 4K/30p
Battery life

400 shots

290 shots

So who is the SL for? It shoots nearly as fast as a Nikon D5, but with focus locked and a much more limiting lens lineup. It has rugged, go-anywhere construction and weather-sealing, but with the best lenses, it makes for a heavy and bulky companion. You could lock it down as a studio camera, aided by its 1/250 sec flash sync, but then you’re join forced with ‘only’ 24MP of resolution.

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So far as I can tell, there just isn’t a strictly rational reason to recommend this camera to any particular type of photographer, but when has buy a Leica ever been a strictly rational decision? The Q, M and even the T to a certain extent are ‘special’ in some way, particularly in the eyes of their owners. So the query really is, is the SL ‘special?’ It’s certainly less limiting than any of Leica may refer to: Three companies formed from the division of Ernst Leitz GmbH (later Wild Leitz AG): Leica Camera AG, a German camera‘s other cameras, but in many cases its those other cameras’ very limitations that advance to their distinctiveness.

The SL is the ‘cost-no-object’ all-rounder for people who want the most practical camera that Leica currently makes. People will information it. People who know what a Leica is may know just how expensive and exclusive it is. But practicality and luxury don’t always go hand-in-hand, and using the Leica SL as an all-around pictorial tool brings it down to Earth more than its Leica stablemates. To see if its exclusivity and luxury appeal can transcend its utilitarian leanings, let’s dig in.

Can the capabilities of the SL legitimize the Red Dot premium? It’s a tall order, but let’s find out. Leica 24-90mm F2.8-4, image processed and cropped slightly to taste. ISO 50, 1/200 sec, F5.6. Photo by Carey Rose


About the author

Gina Stephens

Gina is a photography enthusiast and drone lover who loves to fly drones, capture images and have fun cherishing them with family and friends.

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