Leica M8 versus Leica SL
The Leica M8 and the Leica SL (Typ 601) are two enthusiast cameras that were announced, respectively, in September 2006 and October 2015. The M8 is a fixed lens compact, while the SL is a rangefinder-style mirrorless. The cameras are based on an APS-H (M8) and a full frame (SL) sensor. The M8 has a resolution of 10.4 megapixel, whereas the SL provides 24 MP. 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: Leica M8 vs Leica SL
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Leica M8 and the Leica SL is provided in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are presented. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also toggle the display 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 M8 – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Leica SL is notably larger (37 percent) than the Leica M8. Moreover, the SL is substantially heavier (43 percent) than the M8. It is noteworthy in this context that the SL is splash and dust-proof, while the M8 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 table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.
|Camera Body Specifications
|Leica M8 (⇒ rgt)||139 mm||80 mm||37 mm||591 g||..||no||2006||5,499||discont.||check|
|Leica SL (⇒ lft)||147 mm||104 mm||39 mm||847 g||400||YES||2015||7,450||latest||check|
|Canon 80D (⇒ lft | rgt)||139 mm||105 mm||79 mm||730 g||960||YES||2016||1,199||latest||check|
|Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||158 mm||168 mm||83 mm||1530 g||1210||YES||2016||5,999||latest||check|
|Canon 40D (⇒ lft | rgt)||146 mm||108 mm||74 mm||822 g||750||no||2007||1,299||discont.||check|
|Canon XTi (⇒ lft | rgt)||127 mm||84 mm||65 mm||556 g||370||no||2006||799||discont.||check|
|Leica M10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||139 mm||80 mm||39 mm||660 g||210||no||2017||6,595||latest||check|
|Leica M Typ 262 (⇒ lft | rgt)||139 mm||80 mm||42 mm||680 g||..||YES||2015||5,195||discont.||check|
|Leica Q Typ 116 (⇒ lft | rgt)||130 mm||80 mm||93 mm||640 g||300||no||2015||4,249||latest||check|
|Leica M Typ 240 (⇒ lft | rgt)||139 mm||80 mm||42 mm||680 g||..||YES||2012||6,950||discont.||check|
|Leica M9 (⇒ lft | rgt)||139 mm||80 mm||37 mm||585 g||..||no||2009||7,999||discont.||check|
|Leica Digilux 3 (⇒ lft | rgt)||146 mm||87 mm||77 mm||606 g||750||no||2006||1,499||discont.||check|
|Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||160 mm||159 mm||92 mm||1415 g||3780||YES||2016||6,499||latest||check|
|Nikon D40X (⇒ lft | rgt)||124 mm||94 mm||64 mm||522 g||520||no||2007||729||discont.||check|
|Nikon D80 (⇒ lft | rgt)||132 mm||103 mm||77 mm||668 g||600||no||2006||999||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-410 (⇒ lft | rgt)||130 mm||91 mm||53 mm||435 g||500||no||2007||699||discont.||check|
|Panasonic L10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||135 mm||96 mm||78 mm||556 g||450||no||2007||599||discont.||check|
The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The M8 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 26 percent) than the SL, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. 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: Leica M8 vs Leica SL
The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its 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 Leica M8 features an APS-H sensor and the Leica SL a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the SL is 78 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.3 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
With 24MP, the SL offers a higher resolution than the M8 (10.4MP), but the SL has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.00μm versus 6.84μm for the M8). Yet, the SL is a much more recent model (by 9 years and 1 month) than the M8, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that neither of the two cameras has an anti-alias filter installed, so they are able to capture all the detail the sensor resolves.
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for most cameras. 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 M8 (overall score 29 points higher). The advantage is based on 3.9 bits higher color depth, 2.1 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.5 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.
|Leica M8 (⇒ rgt)||APS-H||10.4||3936||2630||no||21.1||11.3||663||59|
|Leica SL (⇒ lft)||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||25.0||13.4||1821||88|
|Canon 80D (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||23.6||13.2||1135||79|
|Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||20.0||5472||3648||4K/60p||24.1||13.5||3207||88|
|Canon 40D (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||10.1||3888||2592||no||22.1||11.3||703||64|
|Canon XTi (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||10.1||3888||2592||no||22.1||11.0||664||62|
|Leica M10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||23.8||5952||3992||no||24.4||13.2||2133||86|
|Leica M Typ 262 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||23.7||5952||3976||no||-||-||-||-|
|Leica Q Typ 116 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.3||12.7||2221||85|
|Leica M Typ 240 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||23.7||5952||3976||1080/25p||24.0||13.3||1860||84|
|Leica M9 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||18.1||5212||3472||no||22.5||11.7||884||69|
|Leica Digilux 3 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||7.4||3136||2352||no||-||-||-||-|
|Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||20.7||5588||3712||4K/30p||25.1||12.3||2343||88|
|Nikon D40X (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||10.0||3872||2592||no||22.4||11.4||516||63|
|Nikon D80 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||10.0||3872||2592||no||22.1||11.2||524||61|
|Olympus E-410 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||no||21.1||10.0||494||51|
|Panasonic L10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||no||21.3||10.8||429||55|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The SL indeed provides for movie recording, while the M8 does not. The highest resolution format that the SL can use is 4K/30p.
Feature comparison: Leica M8 vs Leica SL
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the SL has an electronic viewfinder (4400k dots), while the M8 has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Leica M8 and Leica SL in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.
|Leica M8 (⇒ rgt)||optical||no||2.5||230||fixed||no||8000||2.0||no||no|
|Leica SL (⇒ lft)||4400||YES||3.0||1040||fixed||YES||8000||11.0||no||no|
|Canon 80D (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||1040||swivel||YES||8000||7.0||12||no|
|Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||1620||fixed||YES||8000||16.0||no||no|
|Canon 40D (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||230||fixed||no||8000||6.5||12||no|
|Canon XTi (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||2.5||230||fixed||no||4000||3.0||13||no|
|Leica M10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||3.0||1037||fixed||no||4000||5.0||no||no|
|Leica M Typ 262 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||3.0||921||fixed||no||4000||3.0||no||no|
|Leica Q Typ 116 (⇒ lft | rgt)||3680||no||3.0||1040||fixed||YES||2000||10.0||no||no|
|Leica M Typ 240 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||3.0||920||fixed||no||4000||3.0||no||no|
|Leica M9 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||2.5||230||fixed||no||4000||2.0||no||no|
|Leica Digilux 3 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||2.5||207||fixed||no||4000||3.0||13||no|
|Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||2359||fixed||YES||8000||14.0||no||no|
|Nikon D40X (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||2.5||230||fixed||no||4000||3.0||17||no|
|Nikon D80 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||2.5||230||fixed||no||4000||3.0||13||no|
|Olympus E-410 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||2.5||215||fixed||no||4000||3.0||10||no|
|Panasonic L10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||2.5||207||swivel||no||4000||3.0||11||no|
The SL is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the M8 has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the M8 was succeeded by the Leica M9.
Review summary: Leica M8 vs Leica SL
So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Leica M8 or the Leica SL – has the upper hand? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Reasons to prefer the Leica M8:
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- More compact: Is smaller (139x80mm vs 147x104mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 256g or 30 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (26 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in September 2006).
Arguments in favor of the Leica SL (Typ 601):
- More detail: Has more megapixels (24 vs 10.4MP), which boosts linear resolution by 52%.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (29 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (3.9 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (2.1 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.5 stops ISO advantage).
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 4K/30p video.
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- Easier setting verification: Has a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1040k vs 230k dots).
- Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 2 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
- More modern: Reflects 9 years and 1 month of technical progress since the M8 launch.
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the SL is the clear winner of the contest (14 : 5 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera.
In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the M8 and the SL in practical situations. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate. This is where reviews by experts come in. The following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites. The detailed reviews can be accessed, respectively, on the websites of cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.
|Leica M8 (⇒ rgt)||-||HiRec||-||-||-||2006||5,499||discont.||check|
|Leica SL (⇒ lft)||-||84/100||4.5/5||4/5||4/5||2015||7,450||latest||check|
|Canon 80D (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||84/100 Silver||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2016||1,199||latest||check|
|Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||89/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2016||5,999||latest||check|
|Canon 40D (⇒ lft | rgt)||90/100 HiRec||HiRec||4.5/5||reviewed||4.5/5||2007||1,299||discont.||check|
|Canon XTi (⇒ lft | rgt)||85/100 HiRec||HiRec||reviewed||4.5/5||4/5||2006||799||discont.||check|
|Leica M10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||-||4/5||-||4.5/5||2017||6,595||latest||check|
|Leica M Typ 262 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||-||-||-||-||2015||5,195||discont.||check|
|Leica Q Typ 116 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||80/100 Silver||4.5/5||-||4.5/5||2015||4,249||latest||check|
|Leica M Typ 240 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||-||4/5||-||-||2012||6,950||discont.||check|
|Leica M9 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||-||4.5/5||4.5/5||-||2009||7,999||discont.||check|
|Leica Digilux 3 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||-||-||-||-||2006||1,499||discont.||check|
|Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||89/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||2016||6,499||latest||check|
|Nikon D40X (⇒ lft | rgt)||79/100||HiRec||4/5||reviewed||4/5||2007||729||discont.||check|
|Nikon D80 (⇒ lft | rgt)||86/100 Rec||HiRec||reviewed||4.5/5||4.5/5||2006||999||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-410 (⇒ lft | rgt)||86/100||HiRec||4/5||reviewed||4.5/5||2007||699||discont.||check|
|Panasonic L10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||85/100||Rec||3.5/5||reviewed||4/5||2007||599||discont.||check|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date 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? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes 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 send me an email, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.
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