Leica SL

24MP full-frame CMOS sensor | Ultra-high resolution EVF | 11 fps bursts

What we like:

  • Highest resolution EVF available
  • Beautifully-designed and built like a tank
  • Direct AF point selection joystick is one of the nicest we've used

What we don't:

    • Very expensive
    • Very heavy, with poor grip
    • Very limited lens selection
    • Lack of PDAF means continuous AF lags behind competition

The full-frame Leica SL represents the first model in a brand new Leica pro-level full-frame mirrorless system. It uses the SL mount, which is technically the same mount used by the APS-C format Leica T (the Leica T crop mount has been renamed TL).

The highlight of the SL is arguably its 4.4M-dot 'EyeRes' EVF. It is currently the highest-res EVF of any full-frame camera. The resolution and fast refresh rate make this EVF the closest to an optical viewfinder we've seen - dynamic range and live feed during burst issues notwithstanding. 11 fps bursts are impressive, though continuous shooting rate drops dramatically with AF.

The autofocus system, which is contrast detect only, seems to use a similar approach to Panasonic's 'Depth from Defocus', by gathering depth information from known lens defocusing characteristics. This results in surprisingly fast and accurate AF in most scenarios. That said, while AF is generally quite snappy, other cameras in this class use phase-detect or hybrid AF systems and offer even better AF performance, especially when shooting moving subjects, due to reduced hunting. Still, subject recognition and tracking is quite good on the SL, with the touchscreen offering a quick and easy way to designate your desired target. Currently only three lenses are available, though, and they're not cheap.

The electronic viewfinder boasts the highest resolution of any EVF in the world at a whopping 4.4 million dots

The 24MP full-frame sensor is based off the one used in the Leica Q and image quality overall is good. On the original firmware we saw banding in lifted shadows, though this was greatly reduced when firmware updates became available. The shutter is able to sync at 1/250 sec, which is critical for strobe shooters, and makes one of the nicest click sounds of any mirrorless camera out there.

On the video front, the SL is capable of internal 4K/30p capture, though the frame is cropped in slightly. The camera also offers useful video features like zebra stripes, exposure simulation as well as a built-in stereo mic. A headphone and external mic jack are also included.

It might be difficult to tell from images of the camera body, but the Leica SL is enormous, not only that, it is also quite heavy with the 24-90mm 'kit' lens affixed. Shooting with it also takes some getting use to; none of the buttons are labeled, leaving a very clean and design-conscious body behind, but also causing some confusion. However once you wrap your head around the UI, it is actually quite easy to use. We especially like the AF selector joystick on the back of the body.

Price aside, the Leica SL is a highly capable camera and built like a tank. We see no reason it could not fill the needs of a professional studio or portrait shooters. But for the everyday photographer, everything about the Leica SL is excessive, from its size and weight to its price tag. Considering there are plenty of cameras out there which rival the Leica SL in terms of capability, but which can be had for literally 1/10th the price, we see little sensible justification for purchasing it.

Studio Test Scene | Specifications Compared

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