Leica SL2 vs Nikon D500
The Leica SL2 and the Nikon D500 are two enthusiast cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in November 2019 and January 2016. The SL2 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the D500 is a DSLR. The cameras are based on a full frame (SL2) and an APS-C (D500) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 46.7 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 20.7 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 and the Nikon D500? 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 and the Nikon D500 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 D500 is notably larger (8 percent) than the Leica SL2. However, the D500 is markedly lighter (10 percent) than the SL2. 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 power pack in the SL2 can be charged via the USB port, so that it is not always necessary to take the battery charger along 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||146 mm||107 mm||42 mm||953 g||370||Y||Nov 2019||5,999|
|2.||Nikon D500||147 mm||115 mm||81 mm||860 g||1240||Y||Jan 2016||1,999|
|3.||Canon R5||138 mm||98 mm||88 mm||738 g||320||Y||Jul 2020||3,899|
|4.||Leica SL2-S||146 mm||107 mm||83 mm||931 g||510||Y||Dec 2020||4,895|
|5.||Leica Q2||130 mm||80 mm||92 mm||718 g||370||Y||Mar 2019||4,995|
|6.||Leica SL||147 mm||104 mm||39 mm||847 g||400||Y||Oct 2015||7,450|
|7.||Nikon Z7||134 mm||101 mm||67 mm||675 g||330||Y||Aug 2018||3,399|
|8.||Nikon D7500||136 mm||104 mm||73 mm||720 g||950||Y||Apr 2017||1,299|
|9.||Nikon D3400||124 mm||98 mm||76 mm||445 g||1200||n||Aug 2016||499|
|10.||Nikon D5500||124 mm||97 mm||70 mm||420 g||820||n||Jan 2015||899|
|11.||Nikon D7200||136 mm||107 mm||76 mm||765 g||1110||Y||Mar 2015||1,199|
|12.||Nikon D300S||147 mm||115 mm||81 mm||938 g||950||Y||Jul 2009||1,799|
|13.||Panasonic S1||149 mm||110 mm||97 mm||1017 g||400||Y||Feb 2019||2,499|
|14.||Panasonic S1R||149 mm||110 mm||97 mm||1016 g||380||Y||Feb 2019||3,699|
|15.||Panasonic S1H||151 mm||114 mm||110 mm||1052 g||400||Y||May 2019||3,999|
|16.||Pentax K-1 II||137 mm||110 mm||86 mm||1010 g||670||Y||Feb 2018||1,999|
|17.||Sony A99 II||143 mm||104 mm||76 mm||849 g||490||Y||Sep 2016||3,199|
|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 D500 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 67 percent) than the SL2, 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. 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 are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Leica SL2 features a full frame sensor and the Nikon D500 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the D500 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 46.7MP, the SL2 offers a higher resolution than the D500 (20.7MP), but the SL2 nevertheless has marginally larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.30μm versus 4.22μm for the D500) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the SL2 is a much more recent model (by 3 years and 10 months) than the D500, 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 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 SL2 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the SL2 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 41.8 x 27.9 inches or 106.3 x 70.9 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 33.5 x 22.3 inches or 85 x 56.7 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 27.9 x 18.6 inches or 70.8 x 47.3 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D500 are 27.8 x 18.6 inches or 70.7 x 47.1 cm for good quality, 22.3 x 14.8 inches or 56.6 x 37.7 cm for very good quality, and 18.6 x 12.4 inches or 47.1 x 31.4 cm for excellent quality prints.
Unlike the D500, the SL2 has the capacity to capture high quality composite images (187MP) 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 SL2 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 50000, which can be extended to ISO 50-50000. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D500 are ISO 100 to ISO 51200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-1640000.
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"). The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.
| DXO |
|1.||Leica SL2||Full Frame||46.7||8368||5584||4K/60p||..||..||..||..|
|3.||Canon R5||Full Frame||44.8||8192||5464||8k/30p||25.3||14.6||3042||95|
|4.||Leica SL2-S||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/60p||..||..||..||..|
|5.||Leica Q2||Full Frame||46.7||8368||5584||4K/30p||26.4||13.5||2491||96|
|6.||Leica SL||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||25.0||13.4||1821||88|
|7.||Nikon Z7||Full Frame||45.4||8256||5504||4K/30p||26.3||14.6||2668||99|
|13.||Panasonic S1||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/60p||25.2||14.5||3333||95|
|14.||Panasonic S1R||Full Frame||46.7||8368||5584||4K/60p||26.4||14.1||3525||100|
|15.||Panasonic S1H||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||6K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|16.||Pentax K-1 II||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60i||..||..||..||..|
|17.||Sony A99 II||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||25.4||13.4||2317||92|
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 SL2 provides a higher frame rate than the D500. It can shoot video footage at 4K/60p, while the Nikon is limited to 4K/30p.
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the SL2 has an electronic viewfinder (5760k dots), while the D500 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 SL2 has a higher magnification than the one of the D500 (0.78x vs 0.67x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Leica SL2 and Nikon D500 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|16.||Pentax K-1 II||optical||Y||3.2||1037||full-flex||n||1/8000s||4.4||n||Y|
|17.||Sony A99 II||2400||Y||3.0||1229||full-flex||n||1/8000s||12.0||n||Y|
One feature that differentiates the SL2 and the D500 is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The SL2 reduces the risk of handshake-induced blur with all attached lenses, while the D500 offers no blur reduction with lenses that themselves do not provide optical image stabilization.
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 SL2 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 SL2 and the Nikon D500 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 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the D500 uses SDHC or XQD 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 and Nikon D500 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|16.||Pentax K-1 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|17.||Sony A99 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.
Both the SL2 and the D500 are recent models that are part of the current product line-up. The D500 replaced the earlier Nikon D300S, while the SL2 followed on from the Leica SL (Typ 601). 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 there a clear favorite between the Leica SL2 and the Nikon D500? Which camera is better? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Arguments in favor of the Leica SL2:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (46.7 vs 20.7MP) with a 50% higher linear resolution.
- High quality composites: Can combine several shots after pixel-shifting its sensor.
- Better image quality: Features a larger and more technologically advanced imaging sensor.
- Richer colors: The sensor size advantage translates into images with better, more accurate colors.
- More dynamic range: Larger sensor captures a wider spectrum of light and dark details.
- Better low-light sensitivity: Larger sensor produces good images even in poorly lit environments.
- Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (4K/60p versus 4K/30p).
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.78x vs 0.67x).
- Less disturbing: Has an electronic shutter option for completely silent shooting.
- Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
- Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization built-in.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can take a broad range of non-native lenses via adapters.
- 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 modern: Reflects 3 years and 10 months of technical progress since the D500 launch.
Advantages of the Nikon D500:
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (2359k vs 2100k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (1240 versus 370) out of a single battery charge.
- Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (67 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in January 2016).
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the SL2 is the clear winner of the match-up (16 : 7 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 SL2 and the Nikon D500 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 SL2 or the D500. 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 (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||4/5||..||..||4.5/5||4/5||Nov 2019||5,999|
|2.||Nikon D500||5/5||+ +||91/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||1,999|
|3.||Canon R5||4.5/5||..||91/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2020||3,899|
|4.||Leica SL2-S||4/5||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Dec 2020||4,895|
|5.||Leica Q2||..||..||84/100||4.5/5||4/5||Mar 2019||4,995|
|6.||Leica SL||4/5||..||84/100||4.5/5||4/5||Oct 2015||7,450|
|7.||Nikon Z7||5/5||+||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Aug 2018||3,399|
|8.||Nikon D7500||4.5/5||+ +||86/100||5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2017||1,299|
|9.||Nikon D3400||4/5||+||76/100||4/5||4.5/5||Aug 2016||499|
|10.||Nikon D5500||5/5||+||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2015||899|
|11.||Nikon D7200||4/5||+ +||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2015||1,199|
|12.||Nikon D300S||5/5||+ +||82/100||4/5||4.5/5||Jul 2009||1,799|
|13.||Panasonic S1||4.5/5||+ +||88/100||4.5/5||4/5||Feb 2019||2,499|
|14.||Panasonic S1R||4.5/5||..||89/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2019||3,699|
|15.||Panasonic S1H||..||..||90/100||..||..||May 2019||3,999|
|16.||Pentax K-1 II||..||..||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2018||1,999|
|17.||Sony A99 II||..||..||85/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2016||3,199|
|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. 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, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.
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. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.
Specifications: Leica SL2 vs Nikon D500
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||Nikon D500|
|Camera Type||Mirrorless system camera||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Leica L mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||November 2019||January 2016|
|Launch Price||USD 5,999||USD 1,999|
|Sensor Specs||Leica SL2||Nikon D500|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||36.0 x 24.0 mm||23.5 x 15.7 mm|
|Sensor Area||864 mm2||368.95 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.3 mm||28.3 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||46.7 Megapixels||20.7 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||8368 x 5584 pixels||5568 x 3712 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.30 μm||4.22 μm|
|Pixel Density||5.41 MP/cm2||5.60 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||no AA filter||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||4K/60p Video||4K/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 50,000 ISO||100 - 51,200 ISO|
|ISO Boost||50 - 50,000 ISO||50 - 1,640,000 ISO|
|Image Processor||Maestro III||EXPEED 5|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||..||83|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||..||24.0|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||..||14.0|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||..||1324|
|Screen Specs||Leica SL2||Nikon D500|
|Viewfinder Type||Electronic viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||5760k dots|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.2inch||3.2inch|
|LCD Resolution||2100k dots||2359k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Shooting Specs||Leica SL2||Nikon D500|
|Focus System||Contrast-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||Focus Peaking||no Peaking Feature|
|Continuous Shooting||10 shutter flaps/s||10 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||400 000 actuations||200 000 actuations|
|Electronic Shutter||up to 1/40000s||no E-Shutter|
|Time-Lapse Photography||Intervalometer built-in||Intervalometer built-in|
|Image Stabilization||In-body stabilization||Lens stabilization only|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||SDXC or XQD cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Dual card slots|
|UHS card support||Dual UHS-II||UHS-II|
|Connectivity Specs||Leica SL2||Nikon D500|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 3.1||USB 3.0|
|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|
|Near-Field Communication||no NFC||NFC built-in|
|Bluetooth Support||Bluetooth built-in||Bluetooth built-in|
|Body Specs||Leica SL2||Nikon D500|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||370 shots per charge||1240 shots per charge|
|In-Camera Charging||USB charging||no USB charging|
146 x 107 x 42 mm
(5.7 x 4.2 x 1.7 in)
147 x 115 x 81 mm
(5.8 x 4.5 x 3.2 in)
|Camera Weight||953 g (33.6 oz)||860 g (30.3 oz)|
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