Leica SL2-S vs Sony A1
The Leica SL2-S and the Sony A1 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in December 2020 and January 2021. Both the SL2-S and the A1 are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 24 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 49.8 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 SL2-S and the Sony A1? 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 SL2-S and the Sony A1 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 width, height and depth measures 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 Sony A1 is notably smaller (20 percent) than the Leica SL2-S. Moreover, the A1 is markedly lighter (21 percent) than the SL2-S. 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 battery packs of both cameras can be charged via USB, which can be very convenient when travelling.
The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. 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 SL2-S||146 mm||107 mm||83 mm||931 g||510||Y||Dec 2020||4,895|
|2.||Sony A1||129 mm||97 mm||81 mm||737 g||530||Y||Jan 2021||6,499|
|3.||Leica SL2||146 mm||107 mm||42 mm||953 g||370||Y||Nov 2019||5,999|
|4.||Leica SL||147 mm||104 mm||39 mm||847 g||400||Y||Oct 2015||7,450|
|5.||Nikon D780||144 mm||116 mm||76 mm||840 g||2260||Y||Jan 2020||2,299|
|6.||Olympus E-M5 III||125 mm||85 mm||50 mm||414 g||310||Y||Oct 2019||1,199|
|7.||Olympus E-M1X||144 mm||147 mm||75 mm||997 g||870||Y||Jan 2019||2,999|
|8.||Panasonic S5||133 mm||98 mm||82 mm||714 g||440||Y||Sep 2020||1,999|
|9.||Panasonic S1||149 mm||110 mm||97 mm||1017 g||400||Y||Feb 2019||2,499|
|10.||Panasonic S1R||149 mm||110 mm||97 mm||1016 g||380||Y||Feb 2019||3,699|
|11.||Panasonic S1H||151 mm||114 mm||110 mm||1052 g||400||Y||May 2019||3,999|
|12.||Sony A7S III||127 mm||97 mm||81 mm||699 g||600||Y||Jul 2020||3,499|
|13.||Sony A9 II||129 mm||96 mm||76 mm||678 g||690||Y||Oct 2019||4,499|
|14.||Sony A7R IV||129 mm||96 mm||78 mm||665 g||670||Y||Jul 2019||3,499|
|15.||Sony A7R III||127 mm||96 mm||74 mm||650 g||650||Y||Oct 2017||3,199|
|16.||Sony A9||127 mm||96 mm||63 mm||673 g||650||Y||Apr 2017||4,499|
|17.||Sony A7R II||127 mm||96 mm||60 mm||625 g||290||Y||Jun 2015||3,199|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The SL2-S was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 25 percent) than the A1, 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.
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. 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 tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. They nevertheless have the same format factor of 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
Despite having a slightly smaller sensor, the A1 offers a higher resolution of 49.8 megapixels, compared with 24 MP of the SL2-S. This megapixels advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.16μm versus 6.00μm for the SL2-S). It is noteworthy in this context that the two cameras were released in close succession, so that their sensors are from the same technological generation. 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 Sony A1 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the A1 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 43.2 x 28.8 inches or 109.7 x 73.2 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 34.6 x 23 inches or 87.8 x 58.5 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 28.8 x 19.2 inches or 73.2 x 48.8 cm. The corresponding values for the Leica SL2-S are 30 x 20 inches or 76.2 x 50.8 cm for good quality, 24 x 16 inches or 61 x 40.6 cm for very good quality, and 20 x 13.3 inches or 50.8 x 33.9 cm for excellent quality prints.
The A1 has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.
Both cameras have the capacity to capture high quality composite images by combining multiple shots after shifting the sensor by miniscule distances. This multi-shot, pixel-shift mode is most suitable for photography of stationary objects (landscapes, studio scenes).
The Leica SL2-S has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 50000, which can be extended to ISO 50-100000. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony A1 are ISO 100 to ISO 32000, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 500-102400.
For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. 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 SL2-S||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/60p||..||..||..||..|
|2.||Sony A1||Full Frame||49.8||8640||5760||8k/30p||..||..||..||..|
|3.||Leica SL2||Full Frame||46.7||8368||5584||4K/60p||..||..||..||..|
|4.||Leica SL||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||25.0||13.4||1821||88|
|5.||Nikon D780||Full Frame||24.3||6048||4024||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|6.||Olympus E-M5 III||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|7.||Olympus E-M1X||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|8.||Panasonic S5||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/60p||..||..||..||..|
|9.||Panasonic S1||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/60p||25.2||14.5||3333||95|
|10.||Panasonic S1R||Full Frame||46.7||8368||5584||4K/60p||26.4||14.1||3525||100|
|11.||Panasonic S1H||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||6K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|12.||Sony A7S III||Full Frame||12.0||4240||2832||4K/120p||23.7||13.9||2520||86|
|13.||Sony A9 II||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||25.0||14.0||3434||93|
|14.||Sony A7R IV||Full Frame||60.2||9504||6336||4K/30p||26.0||14.8||3344||99|
|15.||Sony A7R III||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||26.0||14.7||3523||100|
|16.||Sony A9||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||24.9||13.3||3517||92|
|17.||Sony A7R II||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||26.0||13.9||3434||98|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the A1 provides a better video resolution than the SL2-S. It can shoot movie footage at 8k/30p, while the Leica is limited to 4K/60p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The two cameras under review are similar with respect to both having an electronic viewfinder. However, the one in the A1 offers a substantially higher resolution than the one in the SL2-S (9437k vs 5760k dots). The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Leica SL2-S and Sony A1 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
|6.||Olympus E-M5 III||2360||n||3.0||1040||swivel||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|12.||Sony A7S III||9440||n||3.0||1440||swivel||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|13.||Sony A9 II||3686||n||3.0||1440||tilting||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|14.||Sony A7R IV||5760||n||3.0||1440||tilting||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|15.||Sony A7R III||3686||n||3.0||1440||tilting||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|17.||Sony A7R II||2400||n||3.0||1229||tilting||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||Y|
One feature that is present on the SL2-S, but is missing on the A1 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, 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 SL2-S and the Sony A1 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 SL2-S writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the A1 uses CFexpress or SDXC cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. Both cameras support UHS-II cards, which provide for Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 312 MB/s.
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 SL2-S and Sony A1 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|6.||Olympus E-M5 III||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||Y|
|12.||Sony A7S III||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||full||3.2||Y||-||Y|
|13.||Sony A9 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||3.1||Y||Y||Y|
|14.||Sony A7R IV||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||3.1||Y||Y||Y|
|15.||Sony A7R III||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||3.1||Y||Y||Y|
|17.||Sony A7R II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Sony A1 (unlike the SL2-S) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the SL2-S and the A1 are recent models that are part of the current product line-up. Neither of the two has a direct predecessor, so perhaps they will constitute the origins of new camera lines for Leica and Sony. 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 what is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Leica SL2-S or the Sony A1 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Reasons to prefer the Leica SL2-S:
- Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (2100k vs 1440k dots).
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (20 vs 10 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More solid recording: Has a full-sized HDMI port for a sturdy connection to an external recorder.
- More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced segment (25 percent cheaper at launch).
Advantages of the Sony A1:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (49.8 vs 24MP), which boosts linear resolution by 44%.
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (8k/30p vs 4K/60p).
- Better live-view autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident autofocus.
- More detailed viewfinder: Has higher resolution electronic viewfinder (9437k vs 5760k dots).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.9x vs 0.78x).
- More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
- More compact: Is smaller (129x97mm vs 146x107mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 194g or 21 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the A1 emerges as the winner of the match-up (9 : 7 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 SL2-S and the Sony A1 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 says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the SL2-S and the A1 in practical situations. 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 table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear 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 SL2-S||4/5||..||..||..||4.5/5||Dec 2020||4,895|
|2.||Sony A1||..||..||..||..||..||Jan 2021||6,499|
|3.||Leica SL2||4/5||..||..||4.5/5||4/5||Nov 2019||5,999|
|4.||Leica SL||4/5||..||84/100||4.5/5||4/5||Oct 2015||7,450|
|5.||Nikon D780||5/5||..||87/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2020||2,299|
|6.||Olympus E-M5 III||5/5||+||82/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2019||1,199|
|7.||Olympus E-M1X||4.5/5||o||..||4.5/5||..||Jan 2019||2,999|
|8.||Panasonic S5||4.5/5||+ +||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2020||1,999|
|9.||Panasonic S1||4.5/5||+ +||88/100||4.5/5||4/5||Feb 2019||2,499|
|10.||Panasonic S1R||4.5/5||..||89/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2019||3,699|
|11.||Panasonic S1H||..||..||90/100||..||..||May 2019||3,999|
|12.||Sony A7S III||..||+ +||91/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jul 2020||3,499|
|13.||Sony A9 II||..||..||90/100||5/5||5/5||Oct 2019||4,499|
|14.||Sony A7R IV||5/5||+||91/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jul 2019||3,499|
|15.||Sony A7R III||..||+ +||90/100||4.5/5||5/5||Oct 2017||3,199|
|16.||Sony A9||5/5||+ +||89/100||5/5||5/5||Apr 2017||4,499|
|17.||Sony A7R II||5/5||+ +||90/100||5/5||5/5||Jun 2015||3,199|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The above review scores should be interpreted 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 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? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. 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 SL2-S vs Sony A1
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 SL2-S||Sony A1|
|Camera Type||Mirrorless system camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Leica L mount lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|Launch Date||December 2020||January 2021|
|Launch Price||USD 4,895||USD 6,499|
|Sensor Specs||Leica SL2-S||Sony A1|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||36.0 x 24.0 mm||35.9 x 24.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||864 mm2||861.6 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.3 mm||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||24 Megapixels||49.8 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||6000 x 4000 pixels||8640 x 5760 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||6.00 μm||4.16 μm|
|Pixel Density||2.78 MP/cm2||5.78 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||no AA filter||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||4K/60p Video||8k/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 50,000 ISO||100 - 32,000 ISO|
|ISO Boost||50 - 100,000 ISO||500 - 102,400 ISO|
|Image Processor||Maestro III||Dual BIONZ XR|
|Screen Specs||Leica SL2-S||Sony A1|
|Viewfinder Type||Electronic viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||5760k dots||9437k dots|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||no Top Display|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.2inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||2100k dots||1440k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Shooting Specs||Leica SL2-S||Sony A1|
|Focus System||Contrast-detect AF||On-Sensor Phase-detect|
|Manual Focusing Aid||Focus Peaking||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/8000s||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||20 shutter flaps/s||10 shutter flaps/s|
|Electronic Shutter||up to 1/16000s||up to 1/32000s|
|Time-Lapse Photography||Intervalometer built-in||Intervalometer built-in|
|Image Stabilization||In-body stabilization||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||CFexpress or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Dual card slots|
|UHS card support||Dual UHS-II||UHS-II|
|Connectivity Specs||Leica SL2-S||Sony A1|
|Studio Flash||no PC Sync||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 3.2||USB 3.2|
|HDMI Port||full HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||External MIC port|
|Headphone Socket||Headphone port||Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||Wifi built-in||Wifi built-in|
|Bluetooth Support||Bluetooth built-in||Bluetooth built-in|
|Body Specs||Leica SL2-S||Sony A1|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||510 shots per charge||530 shots per charge|
|In-Camera Charging||USB charging||USB charging|
146 x 107 x 83 mm
(5.7 x 4.2 x 3.3 in)
129 x 97 x 81 mm
(5.1 x 3.8 x 3.2 in)
|Camera Weight||931 g (32.8 oz)||737 g (26.0 oz)|
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