Leica SL vs Olympus PEN-F
The Leica SL (Typ 601) and the Olympus PEN-F are two enthusiast cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in October 2015 and January 2016. Both the SL and the PEN-F are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are based on a full frame (SL) and a Four Thirds (PEN-F) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 24 megapixels, whereas the Olympus provides 20.2 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 Olympus PEN-F? 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 Olympus PEN-F are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The PEN-F 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 Olympus PEN-F is considerably smaller (41 percent) than the Leica SL. Moreover, the PEN-F is substantially lighter (50 percent) than the SL. It is worth mentioning in this context that the SL is splash and dust resistant, while the PEN-F 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 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, you can 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|
|Olympus PEN-F||4.9 in||2.8 in||1.5 in||15.1 oz||330||n||Jan 2016||1,199|
|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|
|Olympus E-M10 III||4.8 in||3.3 in||2.0 in||14.5 oz||330||n||Aug 2017||649|
|Olympus E-M5 II||4.9 in||3.3 in||1.8 in||16.5 oz||310||Y||Feb 2015||1,099|
|Olympus E-M10 II||4.7 in||3.3 in||1.9 in||13.8 oz||320||n||Aug 2015||649|
|Olympus E-M1||5.1 in||3.7 in||2.5 in||17.5 oz||350||Y||Sep 2013||1,399|
|Olympus E-P5||4.8 in||2.7 in||1.5 in||14.8 oz||330||n||May 2013||999|
|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 listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The PEN-F was launched at a markedly lower price (by 84 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.
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 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. 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 more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Leica SL features a full frame sensor and the Olympus PEN-F a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the PEN-F is 74 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 2.0. The sensor in the SL has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the PEN-F offers a 4:3 aspect.
In terms of underlying technology, both cameras are build around CMOS sensors.
With 24MP, the SL offers a higher resolution than the PEN-F (20.2MP), but the SL nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.00μm versus 3.34μm for the PEN-F) due to its larger sensor. However, the PEN-F is a somewhat more recent model (by 3 months) than the SL, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that 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 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 Olympus PEN-F are 25.9 x 19.4 inches or 65.8 x 49.4 cm for good quality, 20.7 x 15.6 inches or 52.7 x 39.5 cm for very good quality, and 17.3 x 13 inches or 43.9 x 32.9 cm for excellent quality prints.
Unlike the SL, the PEN-F has the capacity to capture high quality composite images (40MP) by combining multiple shots after shifting its sensor by miniscule distances. This multi-shot, pixel-shift mode is most suitable for photography of stationary objects (landscapes, studio scenes).
The Leica SL (Typ 601) has a native sensitivity range from ISO 50 to ISO 50000. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus PEN-F are ISO 80 to ISO 25600 (no boost).
Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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"). Of the two cameras under review, the SL provides substantially higher image quality than the PEN-F, with an overall score that is 14 points higher. This advantage is based on 1.9 bits higher color depth, 1 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1 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 |
|Leica SL||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||25.0||13.4||1821||88|
|Olympus PEN-F||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||1080/60p||23.1||12.4||894||74|
|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|
|Olympus E-M10 III||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|Olympus E-M5 II||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||23.0||12.5||842||73|
|Olympus E-M10 II||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||23.1||12.5||842||73|
|Olympus E-M1||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||23.0||12.7||757||73|
|Olympus E-P5||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.8||12.4||895||72|
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the SL provides a higher video resolution than the PEN-F. It can shoot video footage at 4K/30p, while the Olympus is limited to 1080/60p.
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The two cameras under consideration are similar with respect to both having an electronic viewfinder. However, the one in the SL offers a substantially higher resolution than the one in the PEN-F (4400k vs 2360k dots). The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Leica SL and Olympus PEN-F along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|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|
|Olympus E-M10 III||2360||n||3.0||1040||tilting||Y||1/4000s||8.6||Y||Y|
|Olympus E-M5 II||2360||n||3.0||1037||swivel||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|Olympus E-M10 II||2360||n||3.0||1040||tilting||Y||1/4000s||8.0||Y||Y|
One feature that is present on the SL, but is missing on the PEN-F 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 PEN-F has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in taking selfies. In contrast, the SL does not have a selfie-screen.
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, both cameras under consideration feature an 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 Olympus PEN-F 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.
Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the SL and the PEN-F 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 PEN-F only has one slot. Both cameras support UHS-II cards, which provide for Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 312 MB/s (the second slot of the SL supports only UHS-I, though).
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 Olympus PEN-F and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|Canon 1D X Mark II||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|Leica M Typ 240||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|Olympus E-M10 III||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|Olympus E-M5 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|Olympus E-M10 II||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
It is notable that the SL has a microphone port, which is missing on the PEN-F. 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 PEN-F) 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 PEN-F have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The SL was replaced by the Leica SL2, while the PEN-F 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 and Olympus websites.
So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Leica SL and the Olympus PEN-F? Which camera is better? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Arguments in favor of the Leica SL (Typ 601):
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (24 vs 20.2MP) with a 11% higher linear resolution.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (14 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
- Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (1.9 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (1 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (1 stops ISO advantage).
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/60p).
- 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.
- More detailed viewfinder: Has higher resolution electronic viewfinder (4400k vs 2360k dots).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.80x vs 0.62x).
- Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (400 versus 330) on a single battery charge.
- 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).
- More solid recording: Has a full-sized HDMI port for a sturdy connection to an external recorder.
- 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.
- More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in October 2015).
Advantages of the Olympus PEN-F:
- High quality composites: Can combine several shots after pixel-shifting its sensor.
- More flexible LCD: Has a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
- More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
- More compact: Is smaller (125x72mm vs 147x104mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 420g or 50 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (84 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Was introduced somewhat (3 months) more recently.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the SL is the clear winner of the match-up (20 : 8 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 Olympus PEN-F 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 says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the SL and the PEN-F 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 adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular 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|
|Olympus PEN-F||..||82/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||1,199|
|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|
|Olympus E-M10 III||+||80/100||4.5/5||4/5||4.5/5||Aug 2017||649|
|Olympus E-M5 II||+ +||81/100||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Feb 2015||1,099|
|Olympus E-M10 II||+ +||80/100||5/5||5/5||5/5||Aug 2015||649|
|Olympus E-M1||+ +||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2013||1,399|
|Olympus E-P5||+ +||78/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||5/5||May 2013||999|
|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 Olympus PEN-F
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||Olympus PEN-F|
|Camera Type||Mirrorless system camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Leica L mount lenses||Micro Four Thirds lenses|
|Launch Date||October 2015||January 2016|
|Launch Price||USD 7,450||USD 1,199|
|Sensor Specs||Leica SL||Olympus PEN-F|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||Four Thirds Sensor|
|Sensor Size||36.0 x 24.0 mm||17.3 x 13.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||864 mm2||224.9 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.3 mm||21.6 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||24 Megapixels||20.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||6000 x 4000 pixels||5184 x 3888 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||6.00 μm||3.34 μm|
|Pixel Density||2.78 MP/cm2||8.96 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||no AA filter||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||4K/30p Video||1080/60p Video|
|ISO Setting||50 - 50,000 ISO||80 - 25,600 ISO|
|Image Processor||Maestro II||TruePic VII|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||88||74|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||25.0||23.1|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||13.4||12.4|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||1821||894|
|Screen Specs||Leica SL||Olympus PEN-F|
|Viewfinder Type||Electronic viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||4400k dots||2360k dots|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||no Top Display|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||1040k dots||1037k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Swivel screen|
|Shooting Specs||Leica SL||Olympus PEN-F|
|Focus System||Contrast-detect AF||Contrast-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||Focus Peaking||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/8000s||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||11 shutter flaps/s||10 shutter flaps/s|
|Electronic Shutter||up to 1/16000s||up to 1/16000s|
|Time-Lapse Photography||Intervalometer built-in||Intervalometer built-in|
|Image Stabilization||Lens stabilization only||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||Single UHS-II||UHS-II|
|Connectivity Specs||Leica SL||Olympus PEN-F|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||no PC Sync|
|USB Connector||USB 3.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||full HDMI||micro HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||no MIC socket|
|Headphone Socket||Headphone port||no Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||Wifi built-in||Wifi built-in|
|Geotagging||GPS built-in||no internal GPS|
|Body Specs||Leica SL||Olympus PEN-F|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||not weather sealed|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||400 shots per charge||330 shots per charge|
147 x 104 x 39 mm
(5.8 x 4.1 x 1.5 in)
125 x 72 x 37 mm
(4.9 x 2.8 x 1.5 in)
|Camera Weight||847 g (29.9 oz)||427 g (15.1 oz)|
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