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Canon M3 versus Leica SL

The Canon EOS M3 and the Leica SL (Typ 601) are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in February 2015 and October 2015. Both the M3 and the SL are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are based on an APS-C (M3) and a full frame (SL) sensor. Both cameras offer a resolution of 24 megapixel. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Canon M3 vs Leica SL

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Canon M3 and the Leica SL. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also use the toggle button to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the M3 – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Canon M3 vs Leica SL
Compare M3 versus SL top
Compare M3 and SL rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Leica SL is considerably larger (103 percent) than the Canon M3. Moreover, the SL is substantially heavier (131 percent) than the M3. It is noteworthy in this context that the SL is splash and dust-proof, while the M3 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. Hence, you might want to study the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.

The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Canon M3» 4.4 in 2.7 in 1.7 in 12.9 oz 250 n Feb 2015 679- i Canon M3
Leica SL« 5.8 in 4.1 in 1.5 in 29.9 oz 400 Y Oct 2015 7,450 i i Leica SL
Canon M50« » 4.6 in 3.5 in 2.3 in 13.8 oz 235 n Feb 2018 779 i i Canon M50
Canon M6« » 4.4 in 2.7 in 1.8 in 13.8 oz 295 n Feb 2017 779 i i Canon M6
Canon M100« » 4.3 in 2.6 in 1.4 in 10.7 oz 295 n Aug 2017 499 i i Canon M100
Canon 1D X Mark II« » 6.2 in 6.6 in 3.3 in 54.0 oz 1210 Y Feb 2016 5,999 i i Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 80D« » 5.5 in 4.1 in 3.1 in 25.8 oz 960 Y Feb 2016 1,199 i i Canon 80D
Canon G7 X Mark II« » 4.2 in 2.4 in 1.7 in 11.3 oz 265 n Feb 2016 699 i i Canon G7 X Mark II
Canon M5« » 4.6 in 3.5 in 2.4 in 15.1 oz 295 n Sep 2016 979 i i Canon M5
Canon 5DS« » 6.0 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 32.8 oz 700 Y Feb 2015 3,699 i i Canon 5DS
Canon G5 X« » 4.4 in 3.0 in 1.7 in 12.5 oz 210 n Oct 2015 799 i i Canon G5 X
Canon M10« » 4.3 in 2.6 in 1.4 in 10.6 oz 255 n Oct 2015 499- i Canon M10
Canon T6i« » 5.2 in 4.0 in 3.1 in 19.6 oz 440 n Feb 2015 749- i Canon T6i
Canon G7 X« » 4.1 in 2.4 in 1.6 in 10.7 oz 210 n Sep 2014 699- i Canon G7 X
Canon M« » 4.3 in 2.6 in 1.3 in 10.5 oz 230 n Jul 2012 599- i Canon M
Leica M10« » 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 23.3 oz 210 n Jan 2017 6,595 i i Leica M10
Leica M Typ 240« » 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.7 in 24.0 oz .. Y Sep 2012 6,950- i Leica M Typ 240

The camera’s price is obviously a critical decision-making factor. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The M3 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 91 percent) than the SL, which puts it into a different market segment. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

 

Sensor comparison: Canon M3 vs Leica SL

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon M3 features an APS-C sensor and the Leica SL a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the SL is 160 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.6 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors.

Canon M3 and Leica SL sensor measures

Even though the SL has a larger sensor, both cameras offer the same resolution of 24 megapixel. This implies that the SL has a lower pixel density and larger individual pixels (with a pixel pitch of 6.00μm versus 3.72μm for the M3), which gives it a potential advantage in terms of light gathering capacity. In addition, the SL is a somewhat more recent model (by 8 months) than the M3, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the SL has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

The M3 has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in relatively fast and reliable autofocus acquisition during video recording.

M3 versus SL MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the SL offers substantially better image quality than the M3 (overall score 16 points higher). The advantage is based on 2.2 bits higher color depth, 1.6 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.6 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
Canon M3» APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/30p22.811.8116972Canon M3
Leica SL« Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p25.013.4182188Leica SL
Canon M50« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/24p----Canon M50
Canon M6« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p----Canon M6
Canon M100« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.512.9127278Canon M100
Canon 1D X Mark II« » Full Frame 20.0 5472 36484K/60p24.113.5320788Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 80D« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.613.2113579Canon 80D
Canon G7 X Mark II« » 1-inch 20.0 5472 36481080/60p----Canon G7 X Mark II
Canon M5« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.412.4126277Canon M5
Canon 5DS« » Full Frame 50.3 8688 57921080/60p24.712.4238187Canon 5DS
Canon G5 X« » 1-inch 20.0 5472 36481080/60p----Canon G5 X
Canon M10« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.211.475365Canon M10
Canon T6i« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p22.712.091971Canon T6i
Canon G7 X« » 1-inch 20.0 5472 36481080/60p23.012.755671Canon G7 X
Canon M« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.282765Canon M
Leica M10« » Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992-24.413.2213386Leica M10
Leica M Typ 240« » Full Frame 23.7 5952 39761080/25p24.013.3186084Leica M Typ 240

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the SL provides a better video resolution than the M3. It can shoot movie footage at 4K/30p, while the Canon is limited to 1080/30p.

 

Feature comparison: Canon M3 vs Leica SL

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the SL has an electronic viewfinder (4400k dots), which can be very helpful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the M3 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. That said, the M3 can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the EVF-DC1. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Canon M3 and Leica SL in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec)
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Canon M3»- n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 4000 4.2 Y n Canon M3
Leica SL«4400 Y 3.0 1040 fixed Y 8000 11.0 n n Leica SL
Canon M50« »2360 n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 10.0 Y n Canon M50
Canon M6« »- n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 4000 9.0 Y n Canon M6
Canon M100« »- n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 4000 6.1 Y n Canon M100
Canon 1D X Mark II« »optical Y 3.2 1620 fixed Y 8000 16.0 n n Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 80D« »optical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 8000 7.0 Y n Canon 80D
Canon G7 X Mark II« »- n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 2000 8.0 Y Y Canon G7 X Mark II
Canon M5« »2360 n 3.2 1620 tilting Y 4000 9.0 Y n Canon M5
Canon 5DS« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Canon 5DS
Canon G5 X« »2360 n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 2000 5.9 Y Y Canon G5 X
Canon M10« »- n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 4000 4.6 Y n Canon M10
Canon T6i« »optical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 5.0 Y n Canon T6i
Canon G7 X« »- n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 2000 6.5 Y Y Canon G7 X
Canon M« »- n 3.0 1040 fixed Y 4000 4.3 n n Canon M
Leica M10« »optical n 3.0 1037 fixed n 4000 5.0 n n Leica M10
Leica M Typ 240« »optical n 3.0 920 fixed n 4000 3.0 n n Leica M Typ 240

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The M3 has one, while the SL does not. While the build-in flash of the M3 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

Both the M3 and the SL write their imaging data to SDXC cards. The SL features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the M3 only has one slot.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Type
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
Canon M3»YstereomonoY-mini2.0YY-Canon M3
Leica SL«YstereomonoYYfull3.0Y--Leica SL
Canon M50« »YstereomonoY-micro2.0YYYCanon M50
Canon M6« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0YYYCanon M6
Canon M100« »-stereomono--mini2.0YYYCanon M100
Canon 1D X Mark II« »YmonomonoYYmini3.0---Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 80D« »YstereomonoYYmini2.0YY-Canon 80D
Canon G7 X Mark II« »-stereomono--micro2.0YY-Canon G7 X Mark II
Canon M5« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0YYYCanon M5
Canon 5DS« »YmonomonoY-mini3.0---Canon 5DS
Canon G5 X« »Ystereomono--mini2.0YY-Canon G5 X
Canon M10« »-stereomono--mini2.0YY-Canon M10
Canon T6i« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0YY-Canon T6i
Canon G7 X« »-stereomono--micro2.0YY-Canon G7 X
Canon M« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0---Canon M
Leica M10« »Y------Y--Leica M10
Leica M Typ 240« »Ystereomono---2.0Y--Leica M Typ 240

The SL is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Leica. In contrast, the M3 has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the M3 was succeeded by the Canon M6.

Review summary: Canon M3 vs Leica SL

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Canon M3 or the Leica SL – has the upper hand? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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Advantages of the Canon EOS M3:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Better video autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident movie autofocus.
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • More compact: Is smaller (111x68mm vs 147x104mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 481g or 57 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (91 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in February 2015).

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Reasons to prefer the Leica SL (Typ 601):

  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (16 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (2.2 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.6 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.6 stops ISO advantage).
  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/30p).
  • Better sound control: Has a headphone port that enables audio monitoring while recording.
  • Easier framing: Has an electronic viewfinder for image framing and settings control.
  • Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 4.2 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (400 versus 250) out of a single battery charge.
  • Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
  • Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.0 vs 2.0).
  • More solid recording: Has a full-sized HDMI port for a sturdy connection to an external recorder.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale value.
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (8 months) more recently.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the SL is the clear winner of the contest (18 : 9 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera.

M3 09:18 SL

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the M3 and the SL in practical situations. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable. This is where reviews by experts come in. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The full reviews are available by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Canon M3»rev75/1004.5/54.5/54/5 Feb 2015 679- i Canon M3
Leica SL«-84/1004.5/54/54/5 Oct 2015 7,450 i i Leica SL
Canon M50« »Rec79/100--3.5/5 Feb 2018 779 i i Canon M50
Canon M6« »-80/1004/54.5/54/5 Feb 2017 779 i i Canon M6
Canon M100« »Rec-4/5-3.5/5 Aug 2017 499 i i Canon M100
Canon 1D X Mark II« »-89/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2016 5,999 i i Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 80D« »HiRec84/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Feb 2016 1,199 i i Canon 80D
Canon G7 X Mark II« »HiRec81/1004.5/54/54.5/5 Feb 2016 699 i i Canon G7 X Mark II
Canon M5« »Rec82/1004/54.5/54/5 Sep 2016 979 i i Canon M5
Canon 5DS« »Rec83/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2015 3,699 i i Canon 5DS
Canon G5 X« »HiRec78/1004.5/54/54.5/5 Oct 2015 799 i i Canon G5 X
Canon M10« »---rev4/5 Oct 2015 499- i Canon M10
Canon T6i« »-75/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Feb 2015 749- i Canon T6i
Canon G7 X« »HiRec77/1004.5/53.5/54.5/5 Sep 2014 699- i Canon G7 X
Canon M« »Rec-4/53.5/54/5 Jul 2012 599- i Canon M
Leica M10« »--4/5-4.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595 i i Leica M10
Leica M Typ 240« »--4/5-- Sep 2012 6,950- i Leica M Typ 240

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just use the search menu below. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. If you do not see the camera that you are looking for, please contact me, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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