Leica SL2 vs Nikon Z5
The Leica SL2 and the Nikon Z5 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in November 2019 and July 2020. Both the SL2 and the Z5 are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 46.7 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 24.2 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 SL2 and the Nikon Z5? 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 SL2 and the Nikon Z5 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.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon Z5 is notably smaller (13 percent) than the Leica SL2. Moreover, the Z5 is markedly lighter (29 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 battery packs of both cameras can be charged via USB, 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, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.
|1.||Leica SL2||146 mm||107 mm||42 mm||953 g||370||Y||Nov 2019||5,999|
|2.||Nikon Z5||134 mm||101 mm||67 mm||675 g||470||Y||Jul 2020||1,399|
|3.||Fujifilm X-T4||135 mm||93 mm||64 mm||607 g||500||Y||Feb 2020||1,699|
|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 II||134 mm||101 mm||70 mm||705 g||420||Y||Oct 2020||2,999|
|8.||Nikon Z6 II||134 mm||101 mm||70 mm||705 g||410||Y||Oct 2020||1,999|
|9.||Nikon Z6||134 mm||101 mm||67 mm||675 g||310||Y||Aug 2018||1,999|
|10.||Nikon Z7||134 mm||101 mm||67 mm||675 g||330||Y||Aug 2018||3,399|
|11.||Nikon D7500||136 mm||104 mm||73 mm||720 g||950||Y||Apr 2017||1,299|
|12.||Olympus E-M1X||144 mm||147 mm||75 mm||997 g||870||Y||Jan 2019||2,999|
|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.|
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 Z5 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 77 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 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.
Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the Z5 is 1 percent smaller. 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.
In terms of underlying technology, both cameras are build around CMOS sensors.
With 46.7MP, the SL2 offers a higher resolution than the Z5 (24.2MP), but the SL2 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.30μm versus 5.95μm for the Z5). Moreover, the Z5 is a somewhat more recent model (by 8 months) than the SL2, and its sensor might 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 the SL2 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its 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 Z5 are 30.1 x 20.1 inches or 76.4 x 51 cm for good quality, 24.1 x 16.1 inches or 61.1 x 40.8 cm for very good quality, and 20.1 x 13.4 inches or 50.9 x 34 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Z5 has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.
Unlike the Z5, 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 Z5 are ISO 100 to ISO 51200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-102400.
For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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"). 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||Full Frame||46.7||8368||5584||4K/60p||..||..||..||..|
|2.||Nikon Z5||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|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 II||Full Frame||45.4||8256||5504||4K/60p||..||..||..||..|
|8.||Nikon Z6 II||Full Frame||24.3||6048||4024||4K/60p||..||..||..||..|
|9.||Nikon Z6||Full Frame||24.3||6048||4024||4K/30p||25.3||14.3||3299||95|
|10.||Nikon Z7||Full Frame||45.4||8256||5504||4K/30p||26.3||14.6||2668||99|
|12.||Olympus E-M1X||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|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 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 SL2 provides a higher frame rate than the Z5. It can shoot video footage at 4K/60p, while the Nikon is limited to 4K/30p.
Apart from 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 SL2 offers a substantially higher resolution than the one in the Z5 (5760k vs 3690k dots). The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Leica SL2, the Nikon Z5, and comparable cameras.
|7.||Nikon Z7 II||3690||Y||3.2||2100||tilting||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|8.||Nikon Z6 II||3690||Y||3.2||2100||tilting||Y||1/8000s||14.0||n||Y|
|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 is present on the SL2, but is missing on the Z5 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 and the Nikon Z5 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 SL2 and the Z5 write their files to SDXC cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. Moreover, both the SL2 and the Z5 support UHS-II cards, which provide for Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 312 MB/s, on both slots.
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 Z5 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|7.||Nikon Z7 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||3.2||Y||-||Y|
|8.||Nikon Z6 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||3.2||Y||-||Y|
|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|
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Leica SL2 (unlike the Z5) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the SL2 and the Z5 are recent models that are part of the current product line-up. The SL2 replaced the earlier Leica SL (Typ 601), while the Z5 does not have a direct predecessor. 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 what is the bottom line? Is the Leica SL2 better than the Nikon Z5 or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Reasons to prefer the Leica SL2:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (46.7 vs 24.2MP) with a 39% higher linear resolution.
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- High quality composites: Can combine several shots after pixel-shifting its sensor.
- Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (4K/60p versus 4K/30p).
- More detailed viewfinder: Has higher resolution electronic viewfinder (5760k vs 3690k dots).
- Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (2100k vs 1040k dots).
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10 vs 4.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- 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.
- 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 November 2019).
Arguments in favor of the Nikon Z5:
- 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.
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.80x vs 0.78x).
- More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
- More compact: Is smaller (134x101mm vs 146x107mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 278g or 29 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (470 versus 370) out of a single battery charge.
- Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.2 vs 3.1).
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (77 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Was introduced somewhat (8 months) more recently.
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the SL2 emerges as the winner of the contest (12 : 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 SL2 and the Nikon Z5 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 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 Z5. 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 following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major 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 Z5||4/5||..||89/100||4.5/5||4/5||Jul 2020||1,399|
|3.||Fujifilm X-T4||5/5||+ +||..||5/5||5/5||Feb 2020||1,699|
|4.||Leica SL2-S||4/5||..||..||..||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 II||4.5/5||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2020||2,999|
|8.||Nikon Z6 II||4.5/5||..||89/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2020||1,999|
|9.||Nikon Z6||5/5||..||..||4.5/5||5/5||Aug 2018||1,999|
|10.||Nikon Z7||5/5||+||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Aug 2018||3,399|
|11.||Nikon D7500||4.5/5||+ +||86/100||5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2017||1,299|
|12.||Olympus E-M1X||4.5/5||o||..||4.5/5||..||Jan 2019||2,999|
|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. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, 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 SL2 vs Nikon Z5
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 Z5|
|Camera Type||Mirrorless system camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Leica L mount lenses||Nikon Z mount lenses|
|Launch Date||November 2019||July 2020|
|Launch Price||USD 5,999||USD 1,399|
|Sensor Specs||Leica SL2||Nikon Z5|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||36.0 x 24.0 mm||35.9 x 23.9 mm|
|Sensor Area||864 mm2||858.01 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.3 mm||43.1 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||46.7 Megapixels||24.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||8368 x 5584 pixels||6016 x 4016 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.30 μm||5.95 μm|
|Pixel Density||5.41 MP/cm2||2.82 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||no AA filter||Anti-Alias 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 - 102,400 ISO|
|Image Processor||Maestro III||EXPEED 6|
|Screen Specs||Leica SL2||Nikon Z5|
|Viewfinder Type||Electronic viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||5760k dots||3690k dots|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||no Top Display|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.2inch||3.2inch|
|LCD Resolution||2100k dots||1040k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Shooting Specs||Leica SL2||Nikon Z5|
|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||10 shutter flaps/s||4.5 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||400 000 actuations||200 000 actuations|
|Electronic Shutter||up to 1/40000s||up to 1/8000s|
|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||SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Dual card slots|
|UHS card support||Dual UHS-II||Dual UHS-II|
|Connectivity Specs||Leica SL2||Nikon Z5|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||no PC Sync|
|USB Connector||USB 3.1||USB 3.2|
|HDMI Port||full HDMI||micro 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||Nikon Z5|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||370 shots per charge||470 shots per charge|
|In-Camera Charging||USB charging||USB charging|
146 x 107 x 42 mm
(5.7 x 4.2 x 1.7 in)
134 x 101 x 67 mm
(5.3 x 4.0 x 2.6 in)
|Camera Weight||953 g (33.6 oz)||675 g (23.8 oz)|
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