Leica SL vs X Vario
The Leica SL (Typ 601) and the Leica X Vario (Typ 107) are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in October 2015 and June 2013. The SL is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the X Vario is a fixed lens compact. The cameras are based on a full frame (SL) and an APS-C (X Vario) sensor. The SL has a resolution of 24 megapixels, whereas the X Vario provides 16.1 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 SL (Typ 601) and the Leica X Vario (Typ 107)? 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.
The physical size and weight of the Leica SL and the Leica X Vario are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The X Vario can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the SL is only available in black.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Leica X Vario is considerably smaller (36 percent) than the Leica SL. It is worth mentioning in this context that the SL is splash and dust resistant, while the X Vario does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the X Vario has a lens built in, whereas the SL is an interchangeable lens camera that requires a separate lens. Attaching the latter will add extra weight and bulk to the setup.
The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras there.
|1.||Leica SL||147 mm||104 mm||39 mm||847 g||400||Y||Oct 2015||7,450|
|2.||Leica X Vario||133 mm||73 mm||95 mm||680 g||450||n||Jun 2013||2,850|
|3.||Canon 1D X Mark II||158 mm||168 mm||83 mm||1530 g||1210||Y||Feb 2016||5,999|
|4.||Canon 80D||139 mm||105 mm||79 mm||730 g||960||Y||Feb 2016||1,199|
|5.||Canon 5DS||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||930 g||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699|
|6.||Leica SL2||146 mm||107 mm||42 mm||953 g||370||Y||Nov 2019||5,999|
|7.||Leica M10||139 mm||80 mm||39 mm||660 g||210||Y||Jan 2017||6,595|
|8.||Leica Q Typ 116||130 mm||80 mm||93 mm||640 g||300||n||Jun 2015||4,249|
|9.||Leica X Typ 113||133 mm||73 mm||78 mm||486 g||350||n||Sep 2014||2,295|
|10.||Leica M Typ 240||139 mm||80 mm||42 mm||680 g||..||Y||Sep 2012||6,950|
|11.||Leica X2||124 mm||69 mm||52 mm||345 g||450||n||May 2012||1,995|
|12.||Nikon D5||160 mm||159 mm||92 mm||1415 g||3780||Y||Jan 2016||6,499|
|13.||Nikon D500||147 mm||115 mm||81 mm||860 g||1240||Y||Jan 2016||1,999|
|14.||Nikon D7200||136 mm||107 mm||76 mm||765 g||1110||Y||Mar 2015||1,199|
|15.||Nikon D750||141 mm||113 mm||78 mm||750 g||1230||Y||Sep 2014||2,299|
|16.||Nikon Coolpix A||111 mm||64 mm||40 mm||299 g||230||n||Mar 2013||1,099|
|17.||Ricoh GR||117 mm||61 mm||35 mm||245 g||290||n||Apr 2013||799|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. 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 X Vario was launched at a lower price than the SL, despite having a lens built in. 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.
The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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 SL features a full frame sensor and the Leica X Vario an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the X Vario is 57 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 1.5. 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 X Vario (16.1MP), but the SL nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.00μm versus 4.80μm for the X Vario) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the SL is a much more recent model (by 2 years and 4 months) than the X Vario, 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 the SL has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.
The resolution advantage of the Leica SL implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the SL for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 30 x 20 inches or 76.2 x 50.8 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 24 x 16 inches or 61 x 40.6 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 20 x 13.3 inches or 50.8 x 33.9 cm. The corresponding values for the Leica X Vario are 24.6 x 16.4 inches or 62.6 x 41.6 cm for good quality, 19.7 x 13.1 inches or 50.1 x 33.2 cm for very good quality, and 16.4 x 10.9 inches or 41.7 x 27.7 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Leica SL (Typ 601) has a native sensitivity range from ISO 50 to ISO 50000. The corresponding ISO settings for the Leica X Vario (Typ 107) are ISO 100 to ISO 12500 (no boost).
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many 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 review, the SL has a notably higher overall DXO score than the X Vario (overall score 10 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 1.6 bits higher color depth, 0.7 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.5 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.
| DXO |
|1.||Leica SL||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||25.0||13.4||1821||88|
|2.||Leica X Vario||APS-C||16.1||4928||3272||1080/30p||23.4||12.7||1320||78|
|3.||Canon 1D X Mark II||Full Frame||20.0||5472||3648||4K/60p||24.1||13.5||3207||88|
|5.||Canon 5DS||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||24.7||12.4||2381||87|
|6.||Leica SL2||Full Frame||46.7||8368||5584||4K/60p||..||..||..||..|
|7.||Leica M10||Full Frame||23.8||5952||3992||none||24.4||13.2||2133||86|
|8.||Leica Q Typ 116||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.3||12.7||2221||85|
|9.||Leica X Typ 113||APS-C||16.1||4928||3264||1080/30p||..||..||..||..|
|10.||Leica M Typ 240||Full Frame||23.7||5952||3976||1080/25p||24.0||13.3||1860||84|
|12.||Nikon D5||Full Frame||20.7||5588||3712||4K/30p||25.1||12.3||2343||88|
|15.||Nikon D750||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/60p||24.8||14.5||2956||93|
|16.||Nikon Coolpix A||APS-C||16.1||4928||3264||1080/30p||23.4||13.8||1164||80|
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the SL provides a higher video resolution than the X Vario. It can shoot video footage at 4K/30p, while the X Vario is limited to 1080/30p.
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 X Vario relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. That said, the X Vario can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the EVF 2. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Leica SL, the Leica X Vario, and comparable cameras.
|2.||Leica X Vario||optional||n||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/2000s||5.0||Y||n|
|3.||Canon 1D X Mark II||optical||Y||3.2||1620||fixed||Y||1/8000s||16.0||n||n|
|8.||Leica Q Typ 116||3680||n||3.0||1040||fixed||Y||1/2000s||10.0||n||Y|
|9.||Leica X Typ 113||optional||n||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/2000s||5.0||Y||n|
|10.||Leica M Typ 240||optical||n||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||n||n|
|16.||Nikon Coolpix A||optional||n||3.0||921||fixed||n||1/2000s||4.0||Y||n|
One feature that is present on the SL, but is missing on the X Vario 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.
Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the SL and the X Vario write their files to SDXC cards. The SL features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the X Vario only has one slot. The SL supports UHS-II cards on its first slot and UHS-I on its second one, while the X Vario cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD 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 SL (Typ 601) and Leica X Vario (Typ 107) and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|2.||Leica X Vario||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|3.||Canon 1D X Mark II||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|8.||Leica Q Typ 116||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|9.||Leica X Typ 113||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|10.||Leica M Typ 240||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|16.||Nikon Coolpix A||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
It is notable that the SL has a microphone port, which is missing on the X Vario. Such an external microphone input can help to substantially improve the quality of audio recordings when a good external microphone is used.
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Leica SL (unlike the X Vario) 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 SL and the X Vario have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The SL was replaced by the Leica SL2, while the X Vario does not have a direct successor. 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 what is the bottom line? Is the Leica SL better than the Leica X Vario or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Arguments in favor of the Leica SL (Typ 601):
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (24 vs 16.1MP) with a 22% higher linear resolution.
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (10 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
- Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (1.6 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (0.7 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.5 stops ISO advantage).
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/30p).
- Better sound: Can connect to an external microphone for higher quality sound recording.
- Better sound control: Has a headphone port that enables audio monitoring while recording.
- Easier framing: Has an electronic viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
- Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1040k vs 920k dots).
- Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/2000s) to freeze action.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 5 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 flexible: Accepts interchangeable lenses, so that lens characteristics can be altered.
- Better sealing: Is weather sealed to enable shooting in dusty or wet environments.
- Easier geotagging: Features an internal GPS sensor to log localization data.
- Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.0 vs 2.0).
- 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.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- Faster buffer clearing: Supports Ultra High Speed (UHS-II and UHS-I) SDXC cards.
- More modern: Reflects 2 years and 4 months of technical progress since the X Vario launch.
Reasons to prefer the Leica X Vario (Typ 107):
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- Ready to shoot: Has an integrated lens, whereas the SL necessitates an extra lens.
- More compact: Is smaller (133x73mm vs 147x104mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight even though it has a lens built in (unlike the SL).
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (450 versus 400) out of a single battery charge.
- Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
- More affordable: Was introduced at a lower price, despite coming with a built-in lens.
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in June 2013).
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the SL is the clear winner of the match-up (27 : 8 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 wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports 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 SL and the Leica X Vario place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera and Best Travel-Zoom Camera listings 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 SL or the X Vario perform in practice. 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 why expert reviews are important. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], 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 SL||4/5||..||84/100||4.5/5||4/5||Oct 2015||7,450|
|2.||Leica X Vario||3/5||..||..||4/5||4/5||Jun 2013||2,850|
|3.||Canon 1D X Mark II||..||..||89/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2016||5,999|
|4.||Canon 80D||4/5||+ +||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2016||1,199|
|5.||Canon 5DS||..||+||83/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||3,699|
|6.||Leica SL2||4/5||..||..||4.5/5||4/5||Nov 2019||5,999|
|7.||Leica M10||4.5/5||..||..||4/5||4.5/5||Jan 2017||6,595|
|8.||Leica Q Typ 116||5/5||..||80/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2015||4,249|
|9.||Leica X Typ 113||3.5/5||..||..||3.5/5||4/5||Sep 2014||2,295|
|10.||Leica M Typ 240||4/5||..||..||4/5||..||Sep 2012||6,950|
|11.||Leica X2||3/5||..||..||3/5||4/5||May 2012||1,995|
|12.||Nikon D5||..||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||6,499|
|13.||Nikon D500||5/5||+ +||91/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||1,999|
|14.||Nikon D7200||4/5||+ +||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2015||1,199|
|15.||Nikon D750||5/5||+ +||90/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||2,299|
|16.||Nikon Coolpix A||4/5||+||75/100||4/5||4/5||Mar 2013||1,099|
|17.||Ricoh GR||5/5||..||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2013||799|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. 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 make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
Specifications: Leica SL vs Leica X Vario
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 SL||Leica X Vario|
|Camera Type||Mirrorless system camera||Fixed lens compact camera|
|Camera Lens||Leica L mount lenses||28-70mm f/3.5-6.4|
|Launch Date||October 2015||June 2013|
|Launch Price||USD 7,450||USD 2,850|
|Sensor Specs||Leica SL||Leica X Vario|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||36.0 x 24.0 mm||23.6 x 15.7 mm|
|Sensor Area||864 mm2||370.52 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.3 mm||28.3 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||24 Megapixels||16.1 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||6000 x 4000 pixels||4928 x 3272 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||6.00 μm||4.80 μm|
|Pixel Density||2.78 MP/cm2||4.35 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||no AA filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||4K/30p Video||1080/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||50 - 50,000 ISO||100 - 12,500 ISO|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||88||78|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||25.0||23.4|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||13.4||12.7|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||1821||1320|
|Screen Specs||Leica SL||Leica X Vario|
|Viewfinder Type||Electronic viewfinder||Viewfinder optional|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||4400k dots|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||no Top Display|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||1040k dots||920k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Touch Input||Touchscreen||no Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Leica SL||Leica X Vario|
|Focus System||Contrast-detect AF||Contrast-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||Focus Peaking||no Peaking Feature|
|Continuous Shooting||11 shutter flaps/s||5 shutter flaps/s|
|Electronic Shutter||up to 1/16000s||no E-Shutter|
|Time-Lapse Photography||Intervalometer built-in||no Intervalometer|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||Built-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||Single UHS-II||no|
|Connectivity Specs||Leica SL||Leica X Vario|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||no PC Sync|
|USB Connector||USB 3.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||full HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||no MIC socket|
|Headphone Socket||Headphone port||no Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||Wifi built-in||no Wifi|
|Geotagging||GPS built-in||no internal GPS|
|Body Specs||Leica SL||Leica X Vario|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||not weather sealed|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||400 shots per charge||450 shots per charge|
147 x 104 x 39 mm
(5.8 x 4.1 x 1.5 in)
133 x 73 x 95 mm
(5.2 x 2.9 x 3.7 in)
|Camera Weight||847 g (29.9 oz)||680 g (24.0 oz)|
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