It is easy to forget that Leica was the second company to enter the full-35mm format mirrorless camera market after Sony and that the L Mount is the brand’s original mounting system amongst all the hype surrounding current full-35mm format mirrorless cameras.
Naturally, it is now jointly owned by Leica, Panasonic, and Sigma as part of the L Mount Alliance. The purpose of this alliance is to, among other things, broaden the attractiveness of Leica’s products outside the company’s conventional consumer base.
As a consequence of this, the brand new SL2 can be integrated into a line-up that already consists of four other L Mount bodies that are backed by a larger and more varied lens system.
And especially with the SL2, you get the impression that Leica is well conscious that it wants to provide a more popular camera while also keeping what it is that makes a Leica camera a Leica camera. This is something that you get the sensation of while using the SL2. However, if you are considering purchasing a camera with an L Mount, you should seriously consider the Leica SL2 because of its qualities as a camera first and a Leica second.
Because the first SL was arguably just a little bit too individualistic for some people’s tastes and Leica admits that it was possibly too “Germanic” in its appearance, the successor to the original SL has been given a thorough makeover.
Leica SL2 Design
When the dimensions are directly compared, the SL2 is slightly larger than the SL1, but it gives the impression of being much smaller because the proportions have been improved. All of the hard edges and corners have been rounded off, and the housing for the electronic viewfinder appears to have been designed to be there rather than being an afterthought addition. Pretty? Well, almost.
One of Leica’s most famous parlor tricks, performed with its 35mm SLRs ranging from the R4 to the R7, involved parking a car on the pentaprism housing to demonstrate the robustness of the bodyshell. Because both the top plate and the baseplate of the SL2 are machined from a single piece of solid aluminum, it is possible to accomplish the same thing with the SL2.
Machining may take more time (and maybe more expensive in terms of the procedure), but the result is body coverings that are far more durable than pressed goods.
Leica SL2 Handling
Here is where the SL2 has the most potential to persuade those who have reservations. It is unlike any other full-frame mirrorless camera in both appearance and handling, and it offers significant advancements in both areas compared to its predecessor.
Even though it weighs 835g before you add a battery, memory card, or lens (and none of Leica’s L Mount optics are exactly tiny), it is still quite easy to hold and has excellent maneuverability. Although it is a heavy beast.
The control arrangement is rather simple, but at least all of the buttons on the back panel have indications on them now. There is only a total of three of them, in addition to the joystick-style navigator, an unmarked button with a default setting for switching between the EVF and monitor, and the rear input wheels.
Even little information can be found on the upper deck: only the primary dial and two more unlabeled buttons (plus the shutter release, of course). Even though there are two further buttons on the front panel, neither of them is indicated, so you can’t say that the exterior control arrangement is crowded, especially when compared to the Lumix S1R.
However, Leica manages to get everything done with such a limited number of buttons, although it helps that the SL2 is, for the most part, straightforward and unadorned.
On the other hand, all of the rear panel’s unmarked buttons as well as the ‘Fn’ key may be customized from a selection of 29 different options. In addition, you can establish a maximum of six user profiles, which may be accessed via the Favorites menu pages. Additionally, you can set any one of four distinct info displays.
Leica SL2 Autofocus
Leica does not shy away from its technological relationship with Panasonic, which especially bears dividends with the autofocusing technology of the SL2 camera. Contrast detection is at the heart of it, and it looks to implement the same Depth From Defocus approach as Panasonic’s cameras employ (although Leica refers to their system as “depth mapping”).
There are 225 autofocus measurement points, which provide coverage that is very near to that of the complete frame. The area modes consist of Spot, Field, Multi-Field, and Zone. The artificial intelligence-based ‘Leica Object Identification’ was designed to improve face/eye detection and subject tracking.
Body, face, and eye detection can be set (and locked) as the default, but there is a choice of additional subject settings, including Children/Pets, Team Sports, Runner, and Wildlife. Each subject set has adjustable parameters for Depth Sensitivity, Field Movement, and Shift In Direction (all with a range of settings between Fix and Responsive).
Additionally, you can register the ‘AF Tracking Start Position’ to either Centre, Recall, or Last Position. It’s interesting to note that this goes above and beyond what Panasonic provides on their Lumix S cameras.
Another feature that is brand new to the SL2 is called “Smart AF,” and it monitors the subject for motion and then automatically toggles between single-shot and continuous AF settings. Touch AF may be operated using the display panel’s touchscreen controls, and while using the electronic viewfinder (EVF), there is a ‘touchpad’ accessible for use.
An enlarged picture (with three size choices) or a focus peaking display that can be red, green, blue, or white with one of two intensity levels can aid the user in manually focusing the camera.
Leica SL2 Performance
The SL2 took a burst of 47 JPEG frames (with an average size of 21.6MB) in 4.564 seconds when it was loaded with a Panasonic 64 GB SDXC UHS-II V90 speed memory card. This corresponds to a shooting speed of 10.3 frames per second.
It took 1.951 seconds to take a burst of 38 JPEGs at the highest possible quality, equivalent to 19.5 frames per second when utilizing the sensor-based shutter and super high-speed photography. Because the sensor shutter produces no audible sound, you won’t realize that the exposure is complete until the electronic viewfinder (EVF) or monitor switches back to live to view.
The autofocusing mechanism of the Leica is easily comparable to that of its Japanese competitors’ top offerings. It is quick and accurate, with dependable tracking that can be fine-tuned to the subject matter and the movement being tracked.
There is a lot of leeway for modifying selectivity using the Spot, Zone, and Field area modes, which makes utilizing Touch AF and Touchpad AF easier and more effective than using the joystick. According to Leica, its AF is superior to the S1R, and the company promises that future firmware updates will provide even greater performance.
We haven’t done a head-to-head comparison of the two to confirm this, but suffice it to say that the SL2 is very competitive and among the finest AF performers that are now available.
Leica SL2 Image Quality
We’ve already seen good results from the Sony A7R IV, Panasonic Lumix S1R, and Nikon Z7, so Leica isn’t the first company to provide us an effective resolution of 40 megapixels or more in a camera with a full 35 mm frame. But Leica is the first company to give us this capability.
On the other hand, Leica has worked its brand of wizardry on the sensor and the data processing to produce clarity and sharpness that is so striking that it immediately grabs your attention.
Of course, the lenses also play a role in this, since Leica’s optical glass formulations have always been known to produce a more nuanced balance of contrast and tone in their photographs.
During the days of 35mm, we were accustomed to referring to it as the “Leica look,” and you will undoubtedly get it by pairing the SL2 with a Leica SL lens. The definition has a lot of bite to it, but it’s also more nuanced than simply having everything with a sharp edge, and because of this, the contrast is rendered with a certain amount of smoothness.
Leica SL2 Specs
|Body type||SLR-style mirrorless|
|Max resolution||8368 x 5584|
|Image ratio w:h||3:2|
|Effective pixels||47 megapixels|
|Sensor size||Full frame (36 x 24 mm)|
|ISO||Auto, 100-50000 (expands to 50-50000)|
|Boosted ISO (minimum)||50|
|White balance presets||8|
|Custom white balance||Yes|
|CIPA image stabilization rating||5.5 stop(s)|
|Autofocus||Contrast Detect (sensor)Multi-areaCenterSelective single-pointTrackingSingleContinuousTouchFace DetectionLive View|
|Number of focus points||225|
|Lens mount||Leica L|
|Focal length multiplier||1×|
|Screen type||TFT LCD|
|Minimum shutter speed||1800 sec|
|Maximum shutter speed||1/8000 sec|
|Maximum shutter speed (electronic)||1/40000 sec|
|Manual exposure mode||Yes|
|Subject / scene modes||No|
|External flash||Yes (via hot shoe)|
|Continuous drive||20.0 fps|
|Exposure compensation||-3–5 (at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)|
|AE Bracketing||±3 (3, 5 frames at 1/3 EV steps)|
|Modes||4096 x 2160 @ 60p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM4096 x 2160 @ 50p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM4096 x 2160 @ 30p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM4096 x 2160 @ 25p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM4096 x 2160 @ 24p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 60p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 50p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 25p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM3840 x 2160 @ 23.98p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 120p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 100p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 60p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 50p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 30p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 25p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM1920 x 1080 @ 23.98p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM|
|Storage included||Dual SD card slots (UHS-II supported)|
|USB||USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5 GBit/sec)|
|HDMI||Yes (10-bit output)|
|Wireless notes||802.11ac + Bluetooth|
|Remote control||Yes (via smartphone)|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||370|
|Weight (inc. batteries)||916 g (2.02 lb / 32.31 oz)|
|Dimensions||146 x 107 x 83 mm (5.75 x 4.21 x 3.27″)|
Leica SL2 Verdict
Beyond the extraordinary history that lies behind the brand, it can be challenging to pin down exactly what it is that differentiates a Leica camera from any other model.
It may have something to do with European sensibilities and style; the SL2 was conceived in Leica’s design studio in Munich, and it is manufactured at the Leitz Park facility in Wetzlar. Additionally, everything seems to have been designed with a high level of care and attention to detail.
The minimalist concept of Leica is unquestionably extremely unlike the approach of the Japanese, which consists of “simply adding more buttons.”
The SL was a bit of a rough diamond that you either liked or loathed; in contrast, the SL2 is far less controversial and is typically more popular in its attitude, making it more approachable.
It is still unmistakably a Leica in appearance and handling, but rather than being different just for being different, it is different in the ways that count.