Leica SL vs Sony A5100
The Leica SL (Typ 601) and the Sony Alpha A5100 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in October 2015 and August 2014. Both the SL and the A5100 are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are based on a full frame (SL) and an APS-C (A5100) sensor. Both cameras offer a resolution of 24 megapixels.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
|Leica SL||Sony A5100|
|Mirrorless system camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|Leica L mount lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|24 MP, Full Frame Sensor||24 MP, APS-C Sensor|
|4K/30p Video||1080/60p Video|
|ISO 50-50,000||ISO 100-25,600|
|Electronic viewfinder (4400k dots)||No viewfinder, LCD framing|
|3.0 LCD, 1040k dots||3.0 LCD, 922k dots|
|Fixed touchscreen||Tilting touchscreen|
|11 shutter flaps per second||6 shutter flaps per second|
|Weathersealed body||not weather sealed|
|400 shots per battery charge||400 shots per battery charge|
|147 x 104 x 39 mm, 847 g||110 x 63 x 36 mm, 283 g|
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica SL (Typ 601) and the Sony Alpha A5100? 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.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Leica SL and the Sony A5100 is provided 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.
The A5100 can be obtained in two different colors (black, white), 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 Sony A5100 is considerably smaller (55 percent) than the Leica SL. Moreover, the A5100 is substantially lighter (67 percent) than the SL. It is worth mentioning in this context that the SL is splash and dust resistant, while the A5100 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 power pack in the A5100 can be charged via the USB port, which can be very convenient when travelling.
The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.
|Leica SL||5.8 in||4.1 in||1.5 in||29.9 oz||400||Y||Oct 2015||7,450|
|Sony A5100||4.3 in||2.5 in||1.4 in||10.0 oz||400||n||Aug 2014||549|
|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|
|Sony A5000||4.3 in||2.5 in||1.4 in||9.5 oz||420||n||Jan 2014||449|
|Sony A6000||4.7 in||2.6 in||1.8 in||12.1 oz||360||n||Feb 2014||599|
|Sony A3000||5.0 in||3.6 in||3.3 in||14.5 oz||470||n||Aug 2013||329|
|Sony NEX-3N||4.3 in||2.4 in||1.4 in||9.5 oz||480||n||Feb 2013||499|
|Sony NEX-3||4.6 in||2.4 in||1.3 in||10.5 oz||330||n||May 2010||599|
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.
Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. 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 A5100 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 93 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 imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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 Sony A5100 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the A5100 is 58 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.
Even though the SL has a larger sensor, both cameras offer the same resolution of 24 megapixels. This implies that the SL has a lower pixel density and larger individual pixels (with a pixel pitch of 6.00μm versus 3.91μm for the A5100), which gives it a potential advantage in terms of light gathering capacity. In addition, the SL is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 2 months) than the A5100, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time. 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 A5100 has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.
The Leica SL (Typ 601) has a native sensitivity range from ISO 50 to ISO 50000. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha A5100 are ISO 100 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 has a notably higher overall DXO score than the A5100 (overall score 8 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 1.2 bits higher color depth, 0.7 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.4 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.
|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|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. 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 A5100. It can shoot video footage at 4K/30p, while the Sony is limited to 1080/60p.
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range 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 A5100 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Leica SL and Sony A5100 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|
One feature that is present on the SL, but is missing on the A5100 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 A5100 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, 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.
The SL writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the A5100 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The SL features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the A5100 only has one slot. The SL supports UHS-II cards (on its first slot), while the A5100 can use UHS-I 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 Sony Alpha A5100 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 hotshoe, while the A5100 does not. This socket makes it possible to easily attach optional accessories, such as an external flash gun.
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Leica SL (unlike the A5100) 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.
The A5100 is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Sony. In contrast, the SL has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the SL was succeeded 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 Sony websites.
So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Leica SL and the Sony A5100? Which camera is better? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Arguments in favor of the Leica SL (Typ 601):
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (8 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
- Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (1.2 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 (0.4 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.
- 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 922k dots).
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 6 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.
- Better sealing: Is weather sealed to enable shooting in dusty or wet environments.
- Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
- 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.
- Faster buffer clearing: Supports a more advanced SD data transfer standard (UHS-II vs UHS-I).
- More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
- More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 1 year and 2 months after the A5100).
Advantages of the Sony Alpha A5100:
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- Better live-view autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident autofocus.
- More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
- More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
- More compact: Is smaller (110x63mm vs 147x104mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 564g or 67 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
- Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
- Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (93 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in August 2014).
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the SL is the clear winner of the match-up (25 : 10 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. 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 Sony A5100 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 comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the SL or the A5100 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 where reviews by experts come in. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear 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|
|Sony A5100||+||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Aug 2014||549|
|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|
|Sony A5000||+||..||4.5/5||o||4.5/5||Jan 2014||449|
|Sony A6000||+||80/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Feb 2014||599|
|Sony A3000||+||..||4/5||4.5/5||4/5||Aug 2013||329|
|Sony NEX-3N||..||..||4.5/5||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2013||499|
|Sony NEX-3||..||70/100||4.5/5||5/5||4/5||May 2010||599|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The above review scores should be interpreted 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. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. 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? 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 Sony A5100
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||Sony A5100|
|Camera Type||Mirrorless system camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Leica L mount lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|Launch Date||October 2015||August 2014|
|Launch Price||USD 7,450||USD 549|
|Sensor Specs||Leica SL||Sony A5100|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||36.0 x 24.0 mm||23.5 x 15.6 mm|
|Sensor Area||864 mm2||366.6 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.3 mm||28.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||24 Megapixels||24 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||6000 x 4000 pixels||6000 x 4000 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||6.00 μm||3.91 μm|
|Pixel Density||2.78 MP/cm2||6.55 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||no AA filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||4K/30p Video||1080/60p Video|
|ISO Setting||50 - 50,000 ISO||100 - 25,600 ISO|
|Image Processor||Maestro II||BIONZ X|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||88||80|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||25.0||23.8|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||13.4||12.7|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||1821||1347|
|Screen Specs||Leica SL||Sony A5100|
|Viewfinder Type||Electronic viewfinder||no viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||4400k 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||922k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Shooting Specs||Leica SL||Sony A5100|
|Focus System||Contrast-detect AF||On-Sensor Phase-detect|
|Manual Focusing Aid||Focus Peaking||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/8000s||1/4000s|
|Continuous Shooting||11 shutter flaps/s||6 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||Build-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||MS or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||Single UHS-II||UHS-I|
|Connectivity Specs||Leica SL||Sony A5100|
|External Flash||Hotshoe||no Hotshoe|
|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|
|Near-Field Communication||no NFC||NFC built-in|
|Geotagging||GPS built-in||no internal GPS|
|Body Specs||Leica SL||Sony A5100|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||not weather sealed|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||400 shots per charge||400 shots per charge|
|In-Camera Charging||no USB charging||USB charging|
147 x 104 x 39 mm
(5.8 x 4.1 x 1.5 in)
110 x 63 x 36 mm
(4.3 x 2.5 x 1.4 in)
|Camera Weight||847 g (29.9 oz)||283 g (10.0 oz)|
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