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Leica SL versus Pentax 645Z

The Leica SL (Typ 601) and the Pentax 645Z are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in October 2015 and April 2014. The SL is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the 645Z is a DSLR. The cameras are based on a full frame (SL) and a medium format (645Z) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 24 megapixel, whereas the Pentax provides 51.1 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Leica SL vs Pentax 645Z

The physical size and weight of the Leica SL and the Pentax 645Z 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. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left side – the SL – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Leica SL vs Pentax 645Z
Compare SL versus 645Z top
Compare SL and 645Z rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Pentax 645Z is notably larger (19 percent) than the Leica SL. Moreover, the 645Z is substantially heavier (83 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 the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. 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.

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» 5.8 in 4.1 in 1.5 in 29.9 oz 400 Y Oct 2015 7,450 i i Leica SL
Pentax 645Z« 6.1 in 4.6 in 4.8 in 54.7 oz 650 Y Apr 2014 8,499 i i Pentax 645Z
Canon 1D X Mark II« » 6.2 in 6.6 in 3.3 in 54.0 oz 1210 Y Feb 2016 5,999 i i Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 80D« » 5.5 in 4.1 in 3.1 in 25.8 oz 960 Y Feb 2016 1,199 i i Canon 80D
Canon 5DS« » 6.0 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 32.8 oz 700 Y Feb 2015 3,699 i i Canon 5DS
Canon 5DS R« » 6.0 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 32.8 oz 700 Y Feb 2015 3,699 i i Canon 5DS R
Hasselblad X1D« » 5.9 in 3.9 in 2.8 in 25.6 oz .. Y Jun 2016 8,995 i i Hasselblad X1D
Leica M10« » 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 23.3 oz 210 n Jan 2017 6,595 i i Leica M10
Leica M Typ 240« » 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.7 in 24.0 oz .. Y Sep 2012 6,950- i Leica M Typ 240
Nikon D5« » 6.3 in 6.3 in 3.6 in 49.9 oz 3780 Y Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
Nikon D500« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 30.3 oz 1240 Y Jan 2016 1,999 i i Nikon D500
Nikon D7200« » 5.4 in 4.2 in 3.0 in 27.0 oz 1110 Y Mar 2015 1,199- i Nikon D7200
Nikon D750« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 26.5 oz 1230 Y Sep 2014 2,299 i i Nikon D750
Pentax 645D« » 6.1 in 4.6 in 4.7 in 52.2 oz 800 Y Mar 2010 9,995- i Pentax 645D

The camera’s price is obviously a critical decision-making factor. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The SL was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 12 percent) than the 645Z, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. 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.

 

Sensor comparison: Leica SL vs Pentax 645Z

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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. 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 tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Leica SL features a full frame sensor and the Pentax 645Z a medium format sensor. The sensor area in the 645Z is 66 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 0.79. The sensor in the SL has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the 645Z offers a 4:3 aspect.

Leica SL and Pentax 645Z sensor measures

With 51.1MP, the 645Z offers a higher resolution than the SL (24MP), but the 645Z has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.30μm versus 6.00μm for the SL). It is noteworthy in this context that the SL is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 6 months) than the 645Z, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units. 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.

SL versus 645Z MP

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 consideration, the 645Z offers substantially better image quality than the SL (overall score 13 points higher). The advantage is based on 1 bits higher color depth, 1.3 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.3 stops in additional low light sensitivity. 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
Pentax 645Z« Medium Format 51.1 8256 61921080/60i26.014.74505101Pentax 645Z
Canon 1D X Mark II« » Full Frame 20.0 5472 36484K/60p24.113.5320788Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 80D« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.613.2113579Canon 80D
Canon 5DS« » Full Frame 50.3 8688 57921080/60p24.712.4238187Canon 5DS
Canon 5DS R« » Full Frame 50.3 8688 57921080/60p24.612.4230886Canon 5DS R
Hasselblad X1D« » Medium Format 51.3 8272 62001080/25p26.214.84489102Hasselblad X1D
Leica M10« » Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992-24.413.2213386Leica M10
Leica M Typ 240« » Full Frame 23.7 5952 39761080/25p24.013.3186084Leica M Typ 240
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
Pentax 645D« » Medium Format 39.5 7264 5440-24.612.6126282Pentax 645D

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. 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 645Z. It can shoot video footage at 4K/30p, while the Pentax is limited to 1080/60i.

 

Feature comparison: Leica SL vs Pentax 645Z

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 645Z 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 table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Leica SL and Pentax 645Z in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.

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)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec)
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Leica SL»4400 Y 3.0 1040 fixed Y 8000 11.0 n n Leica SL
Pentax 645Z«optical Y 3.2 1037 tilting n 4000 3.0 n n Pentax 645Z
Canon 1D X Mark II« »optical Y 3.2 1620 fixed Y 8000 16.0 n n Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 80D« »optical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 8000 7.0 Y n Canon 80D
Canon 5DS« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Canon 5DS
Canon 5DS R« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Canon 5DS R
Hasselblad X1D« »2360 n 3.0 920 fixed Y 2000 2.3 n n Hasselblad X1D
Leica M10« »optical n 3.0 1037 fixed n 4000 5.0 n n Leica M10
Leica M Typ 240« »optical n 3.0 920 fixed n 4000 3.0 n n Leica M Typ 240
Nikon D5« »optical Y 3.2 2359 fixed Y 8000 14.0 n n Nikon D5
Nikon D500« »optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n n Nikon D500
Nikon D7200« »optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 8000 6.0 Y n Nikon D7200
Nikon D750« »optical Y 3.2 1229 tilting n 4000 6.0 Y n Nikon D750
Pentax 645D« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 4000 1.1 n n Pentax 645D

One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The SL has a touchscreen, while the 645Z has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.

Both the SL and the 645Z write their imaging data to SDXC cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails.

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 SL»YstereomonoYYfull3.0Y--Leica SL
Pentax 645Z«YstereomonoY-mini3.0---Pentax 645Z
Canon 1D X Mark II« »YmonomonoYYmini3.0---Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 80D« »YstereomonoYYmini2.0YY-Canon 80D
Canon 5DS« »YmonomonoY-mini3.0---Canon 5DS
Canon 5DS R« »YmonomonoY-mini3.0---Canon 5DS R
Hasselblad X1D« »YstereomonoYYmini3.0Y--Hasselblad X1D
Leica M10« »Y------Y--Leica M10
Leica M Typ 240« »Ystereomono---2.0Y--Leica M Typ 240
Nikon D5« »YstereomonoYYmini3.0---Nikon D5
Nikon D500« »YstereomonoYYmini3.0YYYNikon D500
Nikon D7200« »YstereomonoYYmini2.0YY-Nikon D7200
Nikon D750« »YstereomonoYYmini2.0Y--Nikon D750
Pentax 645D« »Ystereo----2.0---Pentax 645D

Both the SL and the 645Z are recent models that feature in their makers' current product line-up. The 645Z replaced the earlier Pentax 645D, while the SL does not have a direct predecessor.

Review summary: Leica SL vs Pentax 645Z

So how do things add up? Is the Leica SL better than the Pentax 645Z or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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Reasons to prefer the Leica SL (Typ 601):

  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/60i).
  • Better sound control: Has a headphone port that enables audio monitoring while recording.
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (147x104mm vs 156x117mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 703g or 45 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can take a broad range of non-native lenses via adapters.
  • Easier file upload: Has wifi build in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced segment (12 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 1 year and 6 months after the 645Z).

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Advantages of the Pentax 645Z:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (51.1 vs 24MP), which boosts linear resolution by 43%.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (13 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.3 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.3 stops ISO advantage).
  • Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (650 versus 400) out of a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in April 2014).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the SL is the clear winner of the match-up (14 : 9 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision.

SL 14:09 645Z

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the SL or the 645Z handle or 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 expert reviews are important. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). You can find the full text of the reviews by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

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
Pentax 645Z«--4.5/55/55/5 Apr 2014 8,499 i i Pentax 645Z
Canon 1D X Mark II« »-89/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2016 5,999 i i Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 80D« »HiRec84/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Feb 2016 1,199 i i Canon 80D
Canon 5DS« »Rec83/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2015 3,699 i i Canon 5DS
Canon 5DS R« »Rec83/1005/55/54.5/5 Feb 2015 3,699 i i Canon 5DS R
Hasselblad X1D« »rev81/100--4/5 Jun 2016 8,995 i i Hasselblad X1D
Leica M10« »--4/5-4.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595 i i Leica M10
Leica M Typ 240« »--4/5-- Sep 2012 6,950- i Leica M Typ 240
Nikon D5« »-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
Nikon D500« »HiRec91/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 1,999 i i Nikon D500
Nikon D7200« »HiRec84/1004.5/54/54.5/5 Mar 2015 1,199- i Nikon D7200
Nikon D750« »HiRec90/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2014 2,299 i i Nikon D750
Pentax 645D« »---4.5/5- Mar 2010 9,995- i Pentax 645D

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. 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. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

 

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. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please contact me, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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