Leica S1 vs SL
The Leica S1 Pro and the Leica SL (Typ 601) are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in August 1996 and October 2015. Both the S1 and the SL are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are based on a medium format (S1) and a full frame (SL) sensor. The S1 has a resolution of 26.4 megapixels, whereas the SL provides 24 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica S1 Pro and the Leica SL (Typ 601)? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Leica S1 and the Leica SL is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
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 smaller (79 percent) than the Leica S1. Moreover, the SL is substantially lighter (66 percent) than the S1. It is noteworthy in this context that the SL is splash and dust-proof, while the S1 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 and compare 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. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, you can move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.
|1.||Leica S1||339 mm||214 mm||119 mm||2500 g||..||n||Aug 1996||21,490||ebay.com|
|2.||Leica SL||147 mm||104 mm||39 mm||847 g||400||Y||Oct 2015||7,450||ebay.com|
|3.||Canon RP||133 mm||85 mm||70 mm||485 g||250||n||Feb 2019||1,299||amazon.com|
|4.||Canon SL3||122 mm||93 mm||70 mm||449 g||1070||n||Apr 2019||599||amazon.com|
|5.||Canon 80D||139 mm||105 mm||79 mm||730 g||960||Y||Feb 2016||1,199||ebay.com|
|6.||Fujifilm X-T30||118 mm||83 mm||47 mm||383 g||380||n||Feb 2019||899||ebay.com|
|7.||Leica SL2-S||146 mm||107 mm||83 mm||931 g||510||Y||Dec 2020||4,895||amazon.com|
|8.||Leica SL2||146 mm||107 mm||42 mm||953 g||370||Y||Nov 2019||5,999||amazon.com|
|9.||Leica M-E Typ 240||139 mm||80 mm||42 mm||680 g||..||Y||Jun 2019||3,999||amazon.com|
|10.||Leica CL||131 mm||78 mm||45 mm||403 g||220||n||Nov 2017||2,795||amazon.com|
|11.||Leica TL2||134 mm||69 mm||33 mm||399 g||250||n||Jul 2017||1,950||amazon.com|
|12.||Leica Q Typ 116||130 mm||80 mm||93 mm||640 g||300||n||Jun 2015||4,249||ebay.com|
|13.||Leica M Typ 240||139 mm||80 mm||42 mm||680 g||..||Y||Sep 2012||6,950||ebay.com|
|14.||Leica S2||160 mm||120 mm||80 mm||1410 g||..||Y||Sep 2008||22,995||ebay.com|
|15.||Nikon D750||141 mm||113 mm||78 mm||750 g||1230||Y||Sep 2014||2,299||ebay.com|
|16.||Sony A6400||120 mm||67 mm||50 mm||403 g||410||Y||Jan 2019||899||amazon.com|
|17.||Sony A6100||120 mm||67 mm||59 mm||396 g||420||n||Aug 2019||749||ebay.com|
|Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The SL was launched at a markedly lower price (by 65 percent) than the S1, 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.
The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors 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. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better 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 Leica S1 features a medium format sensor and the Leica SL a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the SL is 33 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 0.85 and 1.0. The sensor in the S1 has a native 1:1 aspect ratio, while the one in the SL offers a 3:2 aspect.
With 26.4MP, the S1 offers a higher resolution than the SL (24MP), but the S1 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 7.01μm versus 6.00μm for the SL) due to its larger sensor. However, the SL is a much more recent model (by 19 years and 1 month) than the S1, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels. 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.
The Leica S1 Pro has a native sensitivity range from ISO 50 to ISO 1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Leica SL (Typ 601) are ISO 50 to ISO 50000 (no boost).
In terms of underlying technology, the S1 is build around a CCD sensor, while the SL uses a CMOS imager. Both cameras use a Bayer filter for capturing RGB colors on a square grid of photosensors. This arrangement is found in most digital cameras.
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
|1.||Leica S1||Medium Format||26.4||5140||5140||none||..||..||..||..|
|2.||Leica SL||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||25.0||13.4||1821||88|
|3.||Canon RP||Full Frame||26.0||6240||4160||4K/30p||24.3||11.9||2977||85|
|7.||Leica SL2-S||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/60p||25.2||14.1||3504||95|
|8.||Leica SL2||Full Frame||46.7||8368||5584||4K/60p||25.3||14.3||2866||95|
|9.||Leica M-E Typ 240||Full Frame||23.7||5952||3976||1080/25p||25.2||14.2||2821||94|
|12.||Leica Q Typ 116||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.3||12.7||2221||85|
|13.||Leica M Typ 240||Full Frame||23.7||5952||3976||1080/25p||24.0||13.3||1860||84|
|14.||Leica S2||Medium Format||37.5||7500||5000||none||23.9||12.5||2224||82|
|15.||Nikon D750||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/60p||24.8||14.5||2956||93|
|Note: DXO values in italics represent estimates based on sensor size and age.|
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 S1 does not. The highest resolution format that the SL can use is 4K/30p.
Apart from 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 S1 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 adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Leica S1 and Leica SL along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|1.||Leica S1||optical||n||none / none||none||n||..||0.01/s||n||n|
|2.||Leica SL||4400||Y||3.0 / 1040||fixed||Y||1/8000s||11.0/s||n||n|
|3.||Canon RP||2360||n||3.0 / 1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0/s||n||n|
|4.||Canon SL3||optical||n||3.0 / 1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0/s||Y||n|
|5.||Canon 80D||optical||Y||3.0 / 1040||swivel||Y||1/8000s||7.0/s||Y||n|
|6.||Fujifilm X-T30||2360||n||3.0 / 1040||tilting||Y||1/4000s||8.0/s||Y||n|
|7.||Leica SL2-S||5760||Y||3.2 / 2100||fixed||Y||1/8000s||20.0/s||n||Y|
|8.||Leica SL2||5760||Y||3.2 / 2100||fixed||Y||1/8000s||10.0/s||n||Y|
|9.||Leica M-E Typ 240||optical||n||3.0 / 920||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0/s||n||n|
|10.||Leica CL||2360||Y||3.0 / 1040||fixed||Y||1/8000s||10.0/s||n||n|
|11.||Leica TL2||optional||n||3.7 / 1230||fixed||Y||1/4000s||7.0/s||n||n|
|12.||Leica Q Typ 116||3680||n||3.0 / 1040||fixed||Y||1/2000s||10.0/s||n||Y|
|13.||Leica M Typ 240||optical||n||3.0 / 920||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0/s||n||n|
|14.||Leica S2||optical||Y||3.0 / 460||fixed||n||1/4000s||1.5/s||n||n|
|15.||Nikon D750||optical||Y||3.2 / 1229||tilting||n||1/4000s||6.0/s||Y||n|
|16.||Sony A6400||2359||n||3.0 / 922||tilting||Y||1/4000s||11.0/s||Y||n|
|17.||Sony A6100||1440||n||3.0 / 922||tilting||Y||1/4000s||11.0/s||Y||n|
|Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.|
One feature that is present on the SL, but is missing on the S1 is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.
The reported shutter speed information refers to the use of the mechanical shutter. Yet, some cameras only have an electronic shutter, while others have an electronic shutter in addition to a mechanical one. In fact, the SL is one of those camera that have an additional electronic shutter, which makes completely silent shooting possible. However, this mode is less suitable for photographing moving objects (risk of rolling shutter) or shooting under artificial light sources (risk of flickering).
The Leica SL has an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.
The S1 writes its imaging data to external storage, while the SL uses SDXC cards.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Leica S1 Pro and Leica SL (Typ 601) and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
Mic / Speaker
|1.||Leica S1||-||- / -||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|2.||Leica SL||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||full||3.0||Y||-||-|
|3.||Canon RP||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||-||Y|
|4.||Canon SL3||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||-||Y|
|5.||Canon 80D||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|6.||Fujifilm X-T30||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||micro||3.1||Y||-||Y|
|7.||Leica SL2-S||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||full||3.2||Y||-||Y|
|8.||Leica SL2||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||full||3.1||Y||-||Y|
|9.||Leica M-E Typ 240||Y||mono / -||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|10.||Leica CL||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||-||-||Y||-||-|
|11.||Leica TL2||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||3.0||Y||-||-|
|12.||Leica Q Typ 116||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|13.||Leica M Typ 240||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|14.||Leica S2||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|15.||Nikon D750||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||Y||-||-|
|16.||Sony A6400||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
|17.||Sony A6100||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
It is notable that the SL offers wifi support, which can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location. In contrast, the S1 does not provide wifi capability.
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Leica SL (unlike the S1) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Travel and landscape photographers will find it useful that the SL has an internal geolocalization sensor and can record GPS coordinates in its EXIF data.
Both the S1 and the SL have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The S1 was replaced by the Leica S2, while the SL was followed by the Leica SL2. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Leica website.
So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Leica S1 and the Leica SL? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Arguments in favor of the Leica S1 Pro:
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in August 1996).
Advantages of the Leica SL (Typ 601):
- 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: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
- Rear screen: Has a backside LCD (3.0") for image review and settings control.
- Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 0.01 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Less disturbing: Has an electronic shutter option for completely silent shooting.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- More compact: Is smaller (147x104mm vs 339x214mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 1653g or 66 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
- Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
- Easier geotagging: Features an internal GPS sensor to log localization data.
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (65 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 19 years and 1 month of technical progress since the S1 launch.
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the SL is the clear winner of the contest (17 : 2 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. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Leica S1 and the Leica SL place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the S1 or the SL perform in practice. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.
This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], digitalcameraworld [DCW], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
|1.||Leica S1||..||..||..||..||..||..||Aug 1996||21,490||ebay.com|
|2.||Leica SL||4/5||..||4/5||84/100||4.5/5||4/5||Oct 2015||7,450||ebay.com|
|3.||Canon RP||4/5||+||4/5||..||4.5/5||4/5||Feb 2019||1,299||amazon.com|
|4.||Canon SL3||..||o||4.5/5||79/100||4/5||4/5||Apr 2019||599||amazon.com|
|5.||Canon 80D||4/5||+ +||4.5/5||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2016||1,199||ebay.com|
|6.||Fujifilm X-T30||5/5||+ +||5/5||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2019||899||ebay.com|
|7.||Leica SL2-S||4/5||..||4/5||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Dec 2020||4,895||amazon.com|
|8.||Leica SL2||4/5||..||4.5/5||..||4.5/5||4/5||Nov 2019||5,999||amazon.com|
|9.||Leica M-E Typ 240||..||..||..||..||..||..||Jun 2019||3,999||amazon.com|
|10.||Leica CL||..||..||4.2/5||..||..||4/5||Nov 2017||2,795||amazon.com|
|11.||Leica TL2||3.5/5||..||3/5||..||4/5||4/5||Jul 2017||1,950||amazon.com|
|12.||Leica Q Typ 116||5/5||..||..||80/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2015||4,249||ebay.com|
|13.||Leica M Typ 240||4/5||..||..||..||4/5||..||Sep 2012||6,950||ebay.com|
|14.||Leica S2||..||..||..||..||..||..||Sep 2008||22,995||ebay.com|
|15.||Nikon D750||5/5||+ +||4/5||90/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||2,299||ebay.com|
|16.||Sony A6400||4/5||+||4/5||85/100||4.5/5||4/5||Jan 2019||899||amazon.com|
|17.||Sony A6100||..||..||4/5||82/100||4/5||5/5||Aug 2019||749||ebay.com|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
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 comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.
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 use the search menu below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.
Specifications: Leica S1 vs Leica SL
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Leica S1||Leica SL|
|Camera Type||Mirrorless system camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Leica R mount lenses||Leica L mount lenses|
|Launch Date||August 1996||October 2015|
|Launch Price||USD 21,490||USD 7,450|
|Sensor Specs||Leica S1||Leica SL|
|Sensor Format||Medium Format Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||36.0 x 36.0 mm||36.0 x 24.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||1296 mm2||864 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||50.9 mm||43.3 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||26.4 Megapixels||24 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||5140 x 5140 pixels||6000 x 4000 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||7.01 μm||6.00 μm|
|Pixel Density||2.04 MP/cm2||2.78 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||no AA filter||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||4K/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||50 - 1,600 ISO||50 - 50,000 ISO|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||..||88|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||..||25.0|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||..||13.4|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||..||1821|
|Screen Specs||Leica S1||Leica SL|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||4400k dots|
|Top-Level Screen||no Top Display||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||no LCD||1040k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen|
|Touch Input||no Touchscreen||Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Leica S1||Leica SL|
|Focus System||Manual Focus||Contrast-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||..||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||0.01 shutter flaps/s||11 shutter flaps/s|
|Electronic Shutter||no E-Shutter||up to 1/16000s|
|Time-Lapse Photography||no Intervalometer||Intervalometer built-in|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||external||SDXC cards|
|Single or Dual Card Slots||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Leica S1||Leica SL|
|External Flash||no Hotshoe||Hotshoe|
|Studio Flash||no PC Sync||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||no USB||USB 3.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||full HDMI|
|Microphone Port||no MIC socket||External MIC port|
|Headphone Socket||no Headphone port||Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||Wifi built-in|
|Geotagging||no internal GPS||GPS built-in|
|Body Specs||Leica S1||Leica SL|
|Environmental Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
339 x 214 x 119 mm
(13.3 x 8.4 x 4.7 in)
147 x 104 x 39 mm
(5.8 x 4.1 x 1.5 in)
|Camera Weight||2500 g (88.2 oz)||847 g (29.9 oz)|
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