Leica SL vs Nikon D300S
The Leica SL (Typ 601) and the Nikon D300S are two enthusiast cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in October 2015 and July 2009. The SL is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the D300S is a DSLR. The cameras are based on a full frame (SL) and an APS-C (D300S) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 24 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 12.2 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 Nikon D300S? 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 Nikon D300S 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 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 Nikon D300S is notably larger (11 percent) than the Leica SL. Moreover, the D300S is markedly heavier (11 percent) than the SL. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.
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 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.
|Leica SL||5.8 in||4.1 in||1.5 in||29.9 oz||400||Y||Oct 2015||7,450|
|Nikon D300S||5.8 in||4.5 in||3.2 in||33.1 oz||950||Y||Jul 2009||1,799|
|Canon 1D X Mark II||6.2 in||6.6 in||3.3 in||54.0 oz||1210||Y||Feb 2016||5,999|
|Canon 80D||5.5 in||4.1 in||3.1 in||25.8 oz||960||Y||Feb 2016||1,199|
|Canon 5DS||6.0 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||32.8 oz||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699|
|Leica SL2||5.7 in||4.2 in||1.7 in||33.6 oz||370||Y||Nov 2019||5,999|
|Leica M10||5.5 in||3.1 in||1.5 in||23.3 oz||210||Y||Jan 2017||6,595|
|Leica M Typ 240||5.5 in||3.1 in||1.7 in||24.0 oz||..||Y||Sep 2012||6,950|
|Nikon D5||6.3 in||6.3 in||3.6 in||49.9 oz||3780||Y||Jan 2016||6,499|
|Nikon D500||5.8 in||4.5 in||3.2 in||30.3 oz||1240||Y||Jan 2016||1,999|
|Nikon D7200||5.4 in||4.2 in||3.0 in||27.0 oz||1110||Y||Mar 2015||1,199|
|Nikon D750||5.6 in||4.4 in||3.1 in||26.5 oz||1230||Y||Sep 2014||2,299|
|Nikon D7000||5.2 in||4.1 in||3.0 in||27.5 oz||1050||Y||Sep 2010||1,499|
|Nikon D700||5.8 in||4.8 in||3.0 in||37.9 oz||1000||Y||Jul 2008||2,999|
|Nikon D300||5.8 in||4.5 in||2.9 in||32.6 oz||1000||Y||Aug 2007||1,799|
|Nikon D200||5.8 in||4.4 in||2.9 in||32.5 oz||400||Y||Nov 2005||1,699|
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.
(1) Number of images that can be taken on a full battery charge according to the CIPA-standard; (2) Official announcement.
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 D300S was launched at a markedly lower price (by 76 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.
The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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 Leica SL features a full frame sensor and the Nikon D300S an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the D300S 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.
Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors.
With 24MP, the SL offers a higher resolution than the D300S (12.2MP), but the SL nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.00μm versus 5.53μm for the D300S) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the SL is a much more recent model (by 6 years and 2 months) than the D300S, 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 Nikon D300S are 21.4 x 14.2 inches or 54.5 x 36.2 cm for good quality, 17.2 x 11.4 inches or 43.6 x 28.9 cm for very good quality, and 14.3 x 9.5 inches or 36.3 x 24.1 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 Nikon D300S are ISO 200 to ISO 3200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-6400.
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 review, the SL provides substantially higher image quality than the D300S, with an overall score that is 18 points higher. This advantage is based on 2.5 bits higher color depth, 1.2 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.2 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.
|Leica SL||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||25.0||13.4||1821||88|
|Canon 1D X Mark II||Full Frame||20.0||5472||3648||4K/60p||24.1||13.5||3207||88|
|Canon 5DS||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||24.7||12.4||2381||87|
|Leica SL2||Full Frame||46.7||8368||5584||4K/60p||..||..||..||..|
|Leica M10||Full Frame||23.8||5952||3992||none||24.4||13.2||2133||86|
|Leica M Typ 240||Full Frame||23.7||5952||3976||1080/25p||24.0||13.3||1860||84|
|Nikon D5||Full Frame||20.7||5588||3712||4K/30p||25.1||12.3||2343||88|
|Nikon D750||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/60p||24.8||14.5||2956||93|
|Nikon D700||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2303||80|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the SL provides a higher video resolution than the D300S. It can shoot video footage at 4K/30p, while the Nikon is limited to 720/24p.
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), while the D300S 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 viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (100%), but the viewfinder of the SL has a higher magnification than the one of the D300S (0.80x vs 0.63x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Leica SL, the Nikon D300S, and comparable cameras.
|Canon 1D X Mark II||optical||Y||3.2||1620||fixed||Y||1/8000s||16.0||n||n|
|Leica M Typ 240||optical||n||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||n||n|
One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The SL has a touchscreen, while the D300S has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.
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 and the Nikon D300S both have 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 SL writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the D300S uses Compact Flash or SDXC cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. The SL supports UHS-II cards on its first slot and UHS-I on its second one, while the D300S 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 Nikon D300S and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
|Canon 1D X Mark II||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|Leica M Typ 240||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
It is notable that the SL has a headphone jack, which is not present on the D300S This port makes it possible to attach external headphones and monitor the quality of sound during the recording process.
Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.
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 D300S have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D300S was replaced by the Nikon D500, 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 and Nikon websites.
So how do things add up? Is the Leica SL better than the Nikon D300S or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Reasons to prefer the Leica SL (Typ 601):
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (24 vs 12.2MP) with a 40% higher linear resolution.
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (18 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
- Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (2.5 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (1.2 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (1.2 stops ISO advantage).
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 720/24p).
- Better sound control: Has a headphone port that enables audio monitoring while recording.
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.80x vs 0.63x).
- 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 burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 7 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Less disturbing: Has an electronic shutter option for completely silent shooting.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 91g or 10 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can take a broad range of non-native lenses via adapters.
- 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.
- Faster buffer clearing: Supports Ultra High Speed (UHS-II and UHS-I) SDXC cards.
- More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
- More modern: Reflects 6 years and 2 months of technical progress since the D300S launch.
Arguments in favor of the Nikon D300S:
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (950 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 into a lower priced category (76 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in July 2009).
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the SL is the clear winner of the match-up (23 : 6 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. 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 SL and the Nikon D300S place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera and Best DSLR Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the SL or the D300S. 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 expert reviews are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). 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.
|Leica SL||..||84/100||4.5/5||4/5||4/5||Oct 2015||7,450|
|Nikon D300S||+ +||82/100||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2009||1,799|
|Canon 1D X Mark II||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2016||5,999|
|Canon 80D||+ +||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2016||1,199|
|Canon 5DS||+||83/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||3,699|
|Leica SL2||..||..||4.5/5||..||4/5||Nov 2019||5,999|
|Leica M10||..||..||4/5||..||4.5/5||Jan 2017||6,595|
|Leica M Typ 240||..||..||4/5||..||..||Sep 2012||6,950|
|Nikon D5||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||6,499|
|Nikon D500||+ +||91/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||1,999|
|Nikon D7200||+ +||84/100||4.5/5||4/5||4.5/5||Mar 2015||1,199|
|Nikon D750||+ +||90/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||2,299|
|Nikon D7000||..||80/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2010||1,499|
|Nikon D700||89/100||+ +||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2008||2,999|
|Nikon D300||+ +||+ +||5/5||o||4.5/5||Aug 2007||1,799|
|Nikon D200||+ +||+ +||o||5/5||..||Nov 2005||1,699|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
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 comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date 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? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just use the search menu 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 Nikon D300S
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||Nikon D300S|
|Camera Type||Mirrorless system camera||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Leica L mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||October 2015||July 2009|
|Launch Price||USD 7,450||USD 1,799|
|Sensor Specs||Leica SL||Nikon D300S|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||36.0 x 24.0 mm||23.6 x 15.8 mm|
|Sensor Area||864 mm2||372.88 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.3 mm||28.4 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||24 Megapixels||12.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||6000 x 4000 pixels||4288 x 2848 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||6.00 μm||5.53 μm|
|Pixel Density||2.78 MP/cm2||3.28 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||no AA filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||4K/30p Video||720/24p Video|
|ISO Setting||50 - 50,000 ISO||200 - 3,200 ISO|
|ISO Boost||no Enhancement||100 - 6,400 ISO|
|Image Processor||Maestro II||EXPEED|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||88||70|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||25.0||22.5|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||13.4||12.2|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||1821||787|
|Screen Specs||Leica SL||Nikon D300S|
|Viewfinder Type||Electronic viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||4400k dots|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View||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||Nikon D300S|
|Focus System||Contrast-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||Focus Peaking||no Peaking Feature|
|Continuous Shooting||11 shutter flaps/s||7 shutter flaps/s|
|Electronic Shutter||up to 1/16000s||no E-Shutter|
|Time-Lapse Photography||Intervalometer built-in||Intervalometer built-in|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||Build-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||CF or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Dual card slots|
|UHS card support||Single UHS-II||no|
|Connectivity Specs||Leica SL||Nikon D300S|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 3.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||full HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||External MIC port|
|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||Nikon D300S|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||400 shots per charge||950 shots per charge|
147 x 104 x 39 mm
(5.8 x 4.1 x 1.5 in)
147 x 115 x 81 mm
(5.8 x 4.5 x 3.2 in)
|Camera Weight||847 g (29.9 oz)||938 g (33.1 oz)|
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