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Leica SL Comparison Review

The Leica SL (Typ 601) is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera that was announced in October 2015 and is equipped with a full frame sensor. It offers a resolution of 24 megapixel.

camera

The Leica SL has a Camera Elo of 2951. This very strong rating puts it among the elite group of camera grand masters. The SL ranks among the top 20 percent of all mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. In terms of its sensor size category (full frame cameras), the SL falls among the top 30 percent.

Headline Specifications
Leica SL
Mirrorless system camera
Leica L mount lenses
24 MP, Full Frame Sensor
4K/30p Video
ISO 50-50000
Electronic viewfinder (4400k dots)
3.0" LCD, 1040k dots
Fixed touchscreen
11 shutter flaps per second
Weathersealed body
400 shots per battery charge
147 x 104 x 39 mm, 847 g


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Read on to find out more about the camera's size, sensor, features, reception by expert reviewers, and how it compares to other digital cameras.

Body comparison with a credit card

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size of the Leica SL vis-à-vis a credit card. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Leica SL vs credit card front
SL versus credit card top view
SL and credit card rear side

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the Leica SL alongside a set of comparators. If you want to review a camera pair side-by-side, just select a right-side 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 comparisons there.

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
 
Leica SL 147 mm 104 mm 39 mm 847 g 400 Y Oct 2015 7,450 i i Leica SL
 
Canon 6D Mark II« » 144 mm 111 mm 75 mm 765 g 1200 Y Jun 2017 1,999 i i Canon 6D Mark II
 
Canon 5D Mark IV« » 151 mm 116 mm 76 mm 890 g 900 Y Aug 2016 3,499 i i Canon 5D Mark IV
 
Canon 80D« » 139 mm 105 mm 79 mm 730 g 960 Y Feb 2016 1,199 i i Canon 80D
 
Hasselblad X1D« » 150 mm 98 mm 71 mm 725 g .. Y Jun 2016 8,995 i i Hasselblad X1D
 
Leica M Typ 240« » 139 mm 80 mm 42 mm 680 g .. Y Sep 2012 6,950- i Leica M Typ 240
 
Nikon D7500« » 136 mm 104 mm 73 mm 720 g 950 Y Apr 2017 1,299 i i Nikon D7500
 
Nikon D5« » 160 mm 159 mm 92 mm 1415 g 3780 Y Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
 
Nikon D500« » 147 mm 115 mm 81 mm 860 g 1240 Y Jan 2016 1,999 i i Nikon D500
 
Nikon D7200« » 136 mm 107 mm 76 mm 765 g 1110 Y Mar 2015 1,199- i Nikon D7200
 
Nikon D750« » 141 mm 113 mm 78 mm 750 g 1230 Y Sep 2014 2,299 i i Nikon D750

The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The Leica SL was launched in the US market at a price of $7,450. 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.

Leica SL:
Check Amazon price

Sensor comparison with a 35mm slide

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units 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 tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

The Leica SL features a full frame sensor and has a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 1.0. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the Leica SL among the large-sensor cameras that aim for top notch image quality.

Leica SL sensor measures

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"). The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar 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
 
Leica SL Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p25.013.4182188Leica SL
 
Canon 6D Mark II« » Full Frame 26.0 6240 41601080/60p24.411.9286285Canon 6D Mark II
 
Canon 5D Mark IV« » Full Frame 30.1 6720 44804K/30p24.813.6299591Canon 5D Mark IV
 
Canon 80D« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.613.2113579Canon 80D
 
Hasselblad X1D« » Medium Format 51.3 8272 62001080/25p26.214.84489102Hasselblad X1D
 
Leica M Typ 240« » Full Frame 23.7 5952 39761080/25p24.013.3186084Leica M Typ 240
 
Nikon D7500« » APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.314.0148386Nikon D7500
 
Nikon D5« » Full Frame 20.7 5588 37124K/30p25.112.3234388Nikon D5
 
Nikon D500« » APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.014.0132483Nikon D500
 
Nikon D7200« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.514.6133387Nikon D7200
 
Nikon D750« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/60p24.814.5295693Nikon D750

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The SL indeed provides movie recording capabilities. The highest resolution format that the SL can use is 4K/30p.

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the SL has an electronic viewfinder with a resolution of 4400k dots. The viewfinder offers a field of view of 100% and a magnification of 0.80x. The adjacent tables list some of the other core features of the Leica SL along with similar information for a selection of comparators.

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)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
 
Leica SL4400 Y 3.0 1040 fixed Y 1/8000s 11.0 n n Leica SL
 
Canon 6D Mark II« »optical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 6.5 n n Canon 6D Mark II
 
Canon 5D Mark IV« »optical Y 3.2 1620 fixed Y 1/8000s 7.0 n n Canon 5D Mark IV
 
Canon 80D« »optical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/8000s 7.0 Y n Canon 80D
 
Hasselblad X1D« »2360 n 3.0 920 fixed Y 1/2000s 2.3 n n Hasselblad X1D
 
Leica M Typ 240« »optical n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n Leica M Typ 240
 
Nikon D7500« »optical Y 3.2 922 tilting Y 1/8000s 8.0 Y n Nikon D7500
 
Nikon D5« »optical Y 3.2 2359 fixed Y 1/8000s 14.0 n n Nikon D5
 
Nikon D500« »optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 1/8000s 10.0 n n Nikon D500
 
Nikon D7200« »optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n Nikon D7200
 
Nikon D750« »optical Y 3.2 1229 tilting n 1/4000s 6.0 Y n Nikon D750

One useful feature of the SL is a presence of 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.

 

Connection comparison

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 SL (Typ 601) and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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
 
Leica SLYstereomonoYYfull3.0Y--Leica SL
 
Canon 6D Mark II« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0YYYCanon 6D Mark II
 
Canon 5D Mark IV« »YmonomonoYYmini3.0YY-Canon 5D Mark IV
 
Canon 80D« »YstereomonoYYmini2.0YY-Canon 80D
 
Hasselblad X1D« »YstereomonoYYmini3.0Y--Hasselblad X1D
 
Leica M Typ 240« »Ystereomono---2.0Y--Leica M Typ 240
 
Nikon D7500« »YstereomonoYYmini2.0Y-YNikon D7500
 
Nikon D5« »YstereomonoYYmini3.0---Nikon D5
 
Nikon D500« »YstereomonoYYmini3.0YYYNikon D500
 
Nikon D7200« »YstereomonoYYmini2.0YY-Nikon D7200
 
Nikon D750« »YstereomonoYYmini2.0Y--Nikon D750

It is notable that the SL has a microphone port. Such an external microphone input can help to substantially improve the quality of audio recordings when a good external microphone is used.

 

Expert reviews

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 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 why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog).

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Leica SL-84/1004.5/54/54/5 Oct 2015 7,450 i i Leica SL
 
Canon 6D Mark II« »+80/1004.5/54/54/5 Jun 2017 1,999 i i Canon 6D Mark II
 
Canon 5D Mark IV« »++87/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2016 3,499 i i Canon 5D Mark IV
 
Canon 80D« »++84/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Feb 2016 1,199 i i Canon 80D
 
Hasselblad X1D« »o81/100--4/5 Jun 2016 8,995 i i Hasselblad X1D
 
Leica M Typ 240« »--4/5-- Sep 2012 6,950- i Leica M Typ 240
 
Nikon D7500« »++86/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Apr 2017 1,299 i i Nikon D7500
 
Nikon D5« »-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
 
Nikon D500« »++91/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 1,999 i i Nikon D500
 
Nikon D7200« »++84/1004.5/54/54.5/5 Mar 2015 1,199- i Nikon D7200
 
Nikon D750« »++90/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2014 2,299 i i Nikon D750
Notes: ++) highly recommended; +) recommended; o) reviewed; -) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. 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. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

Leica SL FAQ

Below are some additional questions and answers concerning some particular features of the SL.

What is the technology behind the imaging sensor in the SL?

The camera has a CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensor at its core.

Which image processing chip is used to convert the raw signal into an image file and perform noise reduction and image sharpening?

Leica equipped the SL with the Maestro II image processor.

What is the ISO sensitivity range of the SL?

The camera has a native sensitivity range from ISO 50 to ISO 50000.

What is the life expectancy of the shutter in the Leica SL (Typ 601)?

Leica does not publish a shutter rating for the SL. Yet, shutters in comparable cameras from other manufacturers are said to be good for at least 100 000 actuations. It should be noted, though, that this number represents a Mean Time before Failure. The shutter might fail earlier, or it might last longer. Anyway, in order to exhaust an expected shutter life of 100 000 shots over, say, three years, one would have to take about 100 pictures each and every day.

Do I need to purchase an external camera trigger to shoot time-lapse sequences?

No, the Leica SL (Typ 601) has an intervalometer built-in, so that low frequency shooting (for example, flower blooming, sunset, moon rise) can be undertaken without the need to purchase a separate external intervalometer and related software.

Is it difficult to use manual focus lenses with the Leica SL?

The SL offers focus peaking as a manual focus aid. This feature works by placing a colored highlight on in-focus zones within the image.

What is the fastest shutter speed that can be used with flash?

The SL's flash sync speed is 1/250 sec.

Does the Leica SL support the Ultra High Speed (UHS) bus interface for SD cards?

Yes, the camera can indeed use UHS-II cards (data transfer speed of up to 312 MB/s) in its first slot, and UHS-I cards (up to 104 MB/s) in its second slot.

Which battery does the SL use?

The camera gets its power from the BP-SCL4, which is a rechargeable Lithium-Ion power pack.

Is there a vertical grip available for the SL?

Yes, Leica offers the HG-SCL4 as an optional accessory to facilitate shooting in portrait orientation and to provide additional battery power.

Does the Leica SL (Typ 601) support geotagging?

The SL has a built-in GPS (Global Positioning System) module and can embed location information in the EXIF data of the captured image.

Camera to camera comparisons

If you would like to see a side-by-side review of this and another camera, 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.

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    Specifications Summary
    Camera Model Leica SL
    Camera Type Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens Leica L mount lenses
    Launch Date October 2015
    Launch Price USD 7450
    Sensor Specs
    Sensor Technology CMOS
    Sensor Format Full Frame Sensor
    Sensor Size 36.0 x 24.0 mm
    Sensor Area 864 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 43.3 mm
    Crop Factor 1.0x
    Sensor Resolution 24 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 6000 x 4000 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 6.00 μm
    Pixel Density 2.78 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter
    Movie Capability 4K/30p Video
    ISO Setting 50-50000 ISO
    Image Processor Maestro II
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 88
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 25.0
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 13.4
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 1821
    Screen Specs
    Viewfinder Type Electronic viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.80x
    Viewfinder Resolution 4400k dots
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0 inch
    LCD Resolution 1040k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen
    Touch Input Touchscreen
    Shooting Specs
    Autofocus System Contrast-detect AF
    Manual Focusing AidFocus Peaking
    Maximum Shutter Speed 1/8000s
    Continuous Shooting 11 shutter flaps/s
    Shutter Life Expectancy100 000 actuations
    Silent Shootingno E-Shutter
    Time Lapse PhotographyIntervalometer Built-in
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots
    UHS card support Single UHS-II
    Connectivity Specs
    External Flash Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket
    USB Connector USB 3.0
    HDMI Port full HDMI
    Microphone Port External MIC port
    Headphone Socket Headphone port
    Wifi Support Wifi built-in
    Geotagging GPS built-in
    Body Specs
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed body
    Battery Type BP-SCL4 power pack
    Battery Life (CIPA)400 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 147 x 104 x 39 mm
    (5.8 x 4.1 x 1.5 in)
    Camera Weight 847 g (29.9 oz)

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