Premiere and review: The 2015 Leica SL (Typ 601) and lenses

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Minimalist Leica with a hint of several other cameras’ DNA. Doesn’t look that big, does it?

What would you get if you crossed a Q with a T and an S?

Not an unpronounceable algorithm for a consulting firm or a new Cadillac, but the 2015 Leica SL Typ 601. The SL is probably closest to an S (S Light?) and really does blend the choice bits of the DNA from each these three cameras into something that takes the fight to the Japanese brands – albeit with a few caveats.

Notes: I’ve had a few days with a final pre production SL and 24-90 thanks to Leica Asia Pacific, which is enough to form some preliminary impressions but further testing of a production sample will be required to evaluate all elements of the performance envelope. Sean Reid also has additional testing. More images from me with the camera can be found in this flickr set, and you may recognise some images from the Paradise Lost series. Images were processed using Photoshop Workflow II and The Monochrome Masterclass.

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The lens is pretty big, though.

Let’s get the headline specs out of the way: 24MP, full frame, Leica T mount, mirrorless, 4.4MP EVF, touch panel, three new lenses – a 24-90/2.8-4 ASPH, a 50/1.4 ASPH, and a 90-280/2.8-4 APO. The SL will of course take T lenses (in APS-C crop mode), M, R and S lenses via adaptors, and Novoflex also makes options for other mounts. It has external UI elements from the S – four button shortcut keys around the monitor, power switch top left, top panel TFT, modal soft dials and push-to-switch exposure modes – the mount and design influences from the T, and guts from the Q on steroids.

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That responsive little joystick under your thumb on the top plate has to be one of the best UI features in recent memory.

Data throughput is incredibly fast: it’ll shoot highest quality JPEG at 11fps unlimited and supports UHSII speeds – to two cards. 11fps DNG is also supported (14 bit uncompressed, 36 shot buffer with a 95mb/s card) and some serious video options – Cinema 4K (super 35 only) at 24fps; UHD at 30fps; 1080p at 120fps (!) and both 10-bit HDMI output and log gamma recording. You can even set safety gridlines for framing, and there are audio in/out ports – though via an adaptor only. The whole thing is weather sealed (including lenses) and runs ISO 50-50,000. It is unclear if ISO 50 is native or not, but it is very smooth and doesn’t appear to compromise dynamic range – good, because you can’t set a minimum auto-ISO threshold (it defaults to 50). There’s also built in GPS, Wifi and a companion app. A vertical grip is optional, which will accept an additional battery. In many ways, it’s more like a mini-S007 than anything else – including price, at $7,450 for the body and a further $4,950 for the 24-90 (!)

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Surprise! The whole thing is huge: the lower camera is a D800E with the 24-120/4 VR, and the top right is a Q. The lens is a 82mm thread monster; after seeing standalone images you expect the whole thing to be perhaps 80% the size it actually is. Weight is significant, too.

There are a lot of neat touches, too: under your thumb is a 4-way joystick for very fast AF point selection and zoom (assuming you don’t feel like using the touch screen for AF); the battery has a built in door like the T and the top panel LCD shows much useful information depending on the mode you’re in – including near/far depth of field information like the Zeiss Batis lenses. It also shows time remaining for longer exposures – though not noise reduction time remaining. That same top panel LCD means the main LCD can be off unless it has to be, saving power. (Sony could learn a thing or two here.) The shortcut keys around the monitor are customisable for functions of your preference, and there’s another shortcut key on the front near the lens mount and on the top deck next to the video button.

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The first thing you’re going to notice about this camera is the heft: everything is larger and heavier than expected. It’s a solid lump of metal with no rattles, squeaks or thin feeling sections; gaskets on this thing are thicker and more extensive than my supposedly 10m waterproof Sony compact. In shooting configuration with the 24-90 mounted, you’re looking at about 2.1kg. The bare lens is about the size of an Otus 55 with the hood mounted. This of course has a knock-on effect on ergonomics: though the grip is substantial, it is too straight and not sufficiently contoured for you to support the camera’s weight comfortably. The only way to shoot this combination is by supporting the lens in your left hand. I honestly didn’t find the grip comfortable, and landed up with sore fingers and a claw after a day of shooting it. I suspect that balance will be much better with M or R lenses, but then you lose AF and IS.

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The second thing you’ll notice is the EVF – for all the right reasons. It’s easily the largest, brightest, most detailed, most fluid EVF I’ve ever seen. It makes the Q and A7RII look like drinking straws by comparison. The refresh rate is blazingly fast and there is almost no lag to both image and shutter release – I found it fairly easy to time human action precisely without having to consciously time for lag (as I would with the A7RII). It also has an almost instantaneous shot-to-shot blackout time, much like the Q. There are also sensible options for monitor/EVF prioritisation: all one, all the other, or auto switch (with adjustable sensitivity) – I wish the Q had this option. Switching between the two is almost instant. The focal plane shutter’s action is fairly silent and damped, though a well-sorted mirror mechanism such as the D750 isn’t much louder. The button itself is another story, however – it’s too stiff and the break point not quite where you expect it to be; weaker springs (again, a la Q) would greatly improve this.

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One of the things I liked very much about the camera was how many practical ways there were to work with it – you could leave it in AF and matrix; you could use the joystick with a coupled spot meter to select your AF point and half press on the shutter to focus/lock focus; you could also leave it in manual focus and have the joystick/joystick press to be focus point move and AF-ON at the same time. Any of those options worked well in the field, and the speed of moving the points around is something the other manufacturers could take a hint from.

However, there are some catches. Many critical ones, in fact:

  • There appears to be no way to assign the redundant dial in A or S modes to direct exposure compensation; you have to either go into a menu or press and hold one of the shortcut keys.
  • There is no way to return the focusing point to the centre quickly (the Q does this automatically when cycling power)
  • Magnification in MF mode requires multiple presses of a shortcut – there should be an option to use the joystick to select the area, then go to a preset magnification level with one press in
  • I couldn’t find an option for automatic magnification when turning the focusing ring – only peaking
  • Exposure clipping warning is linked to the histogram: this blocks off the top left corner of your frame, and isn’t translucent enough to see what’s going on behind it
  • Long exposure NR cannot be disabled, and the entire camera locks up while it’s taking place – including for setting changes
  • You have to shoot DNG+JPG to get a representative 100% view to check focus, and the one press zoom goes to the centre not the area under the focus point
  • Finally, the power switch is in the wrong position – you need to shift your left hand position to turn it on (top left) before returning it to under the lens to shoot, which slows you down further.

The good news is that they can be almost entirely fixed in firmware and I don’t think my unit was quite final yet (though running FW v1.0); the bad news is that we still haven’t seen a firmware update for similarly minor bugs in the Q – and some things behave ‘correctly’ in the Q to begin with.

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All of this is antithetical to the whole gestalt of the camera – which is really one of speed. (I’m even more surprised because so many of these things were spot on with the Q.) It’s pretty much instant go when you turn it on; shot to shot speeds are lighting fast, playback is fast, magnification almost instant (I’d say they’ve almost caught up to industry benchmark Nikon here, though you still need to shoot DNG+JPG to see a representative preview) and autofocus was really blazing – possibly even a hair faster than the Q. It didn’t feel any slower than the E-M5II or E-M1 either, which are also speed demons. More importantly, speed and accuracy appear to be maintained even in very low light. In fact, I think it’s quite possibly the fastest focusing mirrorless camera in low light, period – and faster than some DSLRs, too. Light levels have to get very low indeed (think 1/10s f2.8 ISO 3200) before it starts hunting. Before anybody asks me about tracking, I didn’t have sufficient time to test it meaningfully. Aside from firmware and menu bugs: the SL is a very, very responsive animal.

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The SL launches with three native lenses – the aforementioned 24-90/2.8-4 ASPH, 50/1.4 ASPH, and a 90-280/2.8-4 APO. These are complex (the 24-90 is an 18/15 design, and the 90-280 is no less than 23/17) and large optical designs: all have optical stabilisation, 82mm front filters, and honestly seem closer to medium format glass in size than FF35. They are large lenses, and this is from somebody who’s used to Zeiss Otuses. Some will complain about maximum aperture, but the reality is f2.8 is fast enough for most uses and offset by the stabilisers and a sensor that’s pretty good at higher sensitivities. F4 keeps size somewhat sane, though we’re still talking in the 1kg range – even for the 50/1.4. I suspect the T stops of the zooms to be more like f4-5 with that many elements, however.

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Many of you will know I’m a big fan of the Nikon 24-120/4 VR for its versatility – if you don’t need the speed and can find a good sample (it is yet another complex 17/13 design, leading to massive sample variation) it can actually cover almost all practical requirements. It’s also a very flexible choice for travel since weight is kept low, and it can be paired with a fast prime (or a Q) for low light work. I’d say the same is true here of the 24-90 – it’s versatile, fast, and sufficient. Mechanical quality is excellent, with well-weighted controls and smooth travel. The one thing I didn’t like was the fly by wire focusing ring with no depth of field scales or hard stops  – especially given the excellent MF implementation on other recent AF Leicas – but I suppose this is partially outweighed by the focus limit information shown on the top panel.

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Optically, it’s also quite solid. Despite the number of elements, one has to try very hard to make the lens flare. The wide end is outright impressive: microcontrast is good and resolving power is high across the frame at all apertures; there is almost no improvement from f2.8 to f8. The telephoto end is a very mixed bag. I experienced serious forward focus shift when stopping down* – with worst results at the 90mm end – resulting in much softer images than expected (not reflected on the top panel info). This does not help matters because though the centre is strong at f4, you really need to stop down to bring the corners to match. In addition, the telephoto end somewhat lacks bite – I suspect this has something to do with the number of elements. I can only hope this behaviour is attributable to the lens being a preproduction unit. Otherwise, there was little lateral or longitudinal chromatic aberration (software correction, perhaps?), and mostly smooth out of focus areas. IS worked well (and it would be nice to have a 1/0.5x option for auto-ISO to take advantage of this, not just 1/1x and 1/2x) though it seemed somewhat less effective in portrait orientation than landscape. I wonder if this is evidence of shutter vibration. Additionally, there was evidence of blooming under strongly backlit situations (though without visible chromatic aberration).

*Lloyd Chambers reports he has found the same behaviour on his copy, too.

Focus shift update, 18 December 2016: This camera was first tested in October 2015. At that point, all samples clearly demonstrated the problem (which may have been due to AF or focus shift, but it was impossible to tell with the behaviour of that firmware). It was retested in early 2016 with several cameras and lenses supposedly handpicked by Leica and a beta version of FW2.0 – same behaviour. People on the various fora report that they can’t reproduce the test with current firmware and hardware, and therefore I must be wrong, a bad tester, a paid brand shill (even though the test predated any agreement with any company), a liar, the devil incarnate – it’s also possible that following my test report to Leica HQ, the problem was simply fixed. This whole saga smells the same as the D800’s focus asymmetry and the E-M1’s shutter shock, both eventually confirmed and remedied by the manufacturers – to the benefit of all users. A simple thank you would do. All I’m reporting is that at the time of both tests, it was a problem. People are finding that it’s not anymore, and it may well have been fixed, but I have no way of confirming this. 

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The 24-90 will be the only native lens available for at launch – I did not get a chance to try the 90-280 or 50/1.4 – since the former is to be available at the end of the year and the latter in 2016. You can of course adapt lenses from other systems to it via the adaptors released for the T, and these are likely to be much better balanced. I honestly didn’t think the camera balanced that well with the 24-90, which is probably down to the profile of the handgrip as much as anything. I can only imagine the 90-280 (apparently larger than the Nikon AFS 80-400G VR II) is going to be even more challenging; both really need tripod collars.

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The SL uses a derivative of the Q’s 24MP full frame AA-less CMOS sensor and an added ultrasonic sensor cleaner, and the same MAESTRO II imaging pipeline. I used my Q profile with the camera and got results that required little further calibration. The ISO 50 setting is new – and does not seem to impart any discernible dynamic range penalty, which makes me think it is native. It is also beautifully smooth and as close to completely noise free as I’ve seen from any camera. Image processing appears to have been further refined as the high end is half a stop to a stop cleaner than the Q, and the SL appears to lack the trace banding at higher ISOs or pushes which is sometimes present on the Q.

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Other than that – tonal response and image quality is much the same, and has probably been tweaked this way deliberately. Everything I wrote about the Q’s image quality is true here, plus a little more. The camera retains tonality and color well into the higher sensitivities; 6400 is very usable, and perhaps 12500 in emergencies – we start to see magenta pollution in the shadows at this point. I think the D750 still edges out the SL slightly at higher ISOs, but it’s very, very close. But the D750 won’t shoot 11fps, 4K30 or 1080p120 – but I suppose it doesn’t cost the better part of $7,500, either.

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Despite all of the horsepower and the massive amount of data being shunted around, plus the readout speed/refresh rate of the sensor and displays – the SL still manages a very respectable 700+ shots/charge in single shot mode, which is similar to my experience with the Q and light years better than the A7RII. Whatever tricks Leica have employed in power management are evidently working, and working well. I’d be comfortable with two batteries for a day of shooting – and could probably manage with one.

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From Paradise Lost

It is an interesting time to be a photographer. We have an embarrassment of hardware riches, all accessible to the working pro or the reasonably affluent amateur. There is the all-rounder Nikon D810, the resolution-champ Canon 5DSR, the tech-heavy Sony A7RII, medium-format-on-a-budget Pentax 645Z and now the Leica SL. You’re looking at a similar financial outlay to make a meaningful system of any of these cameras – remembering you will also need a complementary lens system, support and shot discipline to make the most of the cameras’ capabilities. I guess I am probably one of the few people who has shot seriously with each of these for long enough and under a sufficiently diverse range of circumstances to be able to make a meaningful comparison. Each also has an ironic clear weakness that might be a deal breaker for you: the DSLRs are difficult to use with manual focus lenses (they also have the most legacy glass); the Sony is somewhat lethargic, and eats batteries for breakfast negating its size advantage; the Pentax is really only for static or slow subjects and is a bulky beast, and the SL is both expensive and will be resolution limited for printing compared to the rest – there is a signifiant difference between 24 and 36 MP – let alone 50 – under ideal conditions.

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From Paradise Lost

Yet they are also so good at certain things that I wish I could have all of them for when the occasion requires it: there are definitely certain circumstances where one holds an advantage over the rest. The DSLRs are best for moving subjects and overall responsiveness; the mirrorless cameras work best with manual lenses and live view. The Canon and Pentax hold the resolution advantage for printing; the Canon probably has the best ergonomics of the bunch; the Nikon has the most natural/pleasing tonal rendition and the widest dynamic range – though the Pentax wins on overall absolute sensor image quality, it’s let down somewhat by the lenses; the Sony is best for manual lenses because of the stabiliser. The SL is the most responsive of the mirrorless bunch and loses nothing to the DSLRs, but has some ergonomic and firmware quirks that take some getting used to – but also some advantages, too.

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From Paradise Lost

The SL is not a cheap camera – EUR6,000+ for the body and a further EUR4,000+ for each lens makes this the preserve of the very wealthy, though in reality I suspect most of Leica’s existing audience will see this one as a no-brainer. M lenses are now virtually native, as are R lenses; they’re easy to focus and image quality is better than from the M cameras. It would have been nice to see more resolution, but I suspect this might have eaten uncomfortably into S system sales. I actually suspect this camera is the beginning of the end of the M resurgence – a typical complaint from M users I know is one of deteriorating eyesight and difficulty in achieving focus. We no longer have that problem. And for those used to paying $7,000+ for a body, the SL isn’t a stretch at all.

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From Paradise Lost

I admit I find myself somewhat conflicted with the SL: with a few firmware tweaks (fast exposure compensation mainly) and a chunkier handgrip, this camera would be pure joy to shoot. Even so, it still shows the way to the competition in many areas; the tricky question is one of relative value. I think it boils down to how much the shooting experience is worth to you, and whether the SL specifically works for you. Even though we had some clues as to what was coming, the SL takes it a step further, and feels like a next generation product – the Japanese brands are going to have to start playing catch up. After some expensive but niche (and occasionally flaky) product, Leica seem to have found their mojo again first with a Q, and now the SL – and are offering something that’s not just different, but genuinely better. Just like with the Q, my suspicion is they’re going to have problems making enough of them for the foreseeable future. MT

My thanks go to Leica Asia Pacific for making an advance unit available. As usual, enquiries should be directed to Johann Affendy at Leica Malaysia. The Leica SL (Typ 601) and lenses are available to pre-order here from B&H.


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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | 2012 onwards. All rights reserved


  1. Georges De Vos says:

    Dear Ming,

    We all understand your disappointment with Leica’s reaction to the focus shift you found.

    But we hope that this page is now turned with time and we can see soon your test on the SL Summicron lenses.

    Looking forward ,

    • Sorry, not going to happen since I work for their competition… 😛

      • I own a Leica SL that I purchased about 2 years ago, with a number of Leica lenses.
        While taking some pictures in low light conditions, I observed some straight faded lines stretching across the top-left quadrant of my pictures. After professionally cleaning the sensor and the camera at a recommended shop by a Leica store, the problem still remained. My camera was inspected at Leica Store in Coral Gables by Josh Lehrer, the store manager. They decided that it needed to be send out to NJ for repairs. After two weeks time of assessment, and multiple email exchanges the camera was sent to Germany for CCD sensor repairs.
        The German office identified that particles had crept-in under the glass cover for the CCD sensor and this was the cause for the observed problem. They blamed possible fall/impact of the camera for the cause and failure.
        As the original owner and the only person using the camera I know that this claim is false and that they are putting the blame for a manufacturing/packaging problem of the sensor and the sensor glass cover onto the users. The camera was inspected multiple times before it was decided to be send to Germany, first by the store manager at Leica store, Mr. Josh Lehrer, second by Mark Brady the technical advisor in Leica NJ. There was never a claim or any observation/marking by these Leica employees that the camera some how was subject to an unusual impact.
        Many false statements were made along the way in writing and over email exchanges trying to place the blame on me as the user. For example, Ms. Jennine Jacquues, director for customer care in Leica US suggested in her email that Leica US does not repair SL cameras and no one in NJ had touched or made an assessment of my camera. I needed to prove her wrong by forwarding to her an email from Mr. Mark Brady, a technical advisor on her staff as an evidence and contradiction to her claims.
        Since I know that I have never dropped or had caused a hard impact to my camera, paying additional $3,061.00 to Leica for repairs of the sensor make me feel cheated and uncomfortable. There is no guarantee that after paying for the sensor replacement, the particles will not penetrate under the glass cover again soon, the mirrorless cameras are open system design.
        I could use some help to make Leica come clean with whats behind such a premature failure in Leica SL sensors. I also know the only way to correct Leica misbehavior and abuse of power over consumers, is through public investigation and exposure to this problem.
        I do understand that other Leica cameras have been recalled for premature sensor erosions and failures after significant public outcry (Latest information concerning the CCD sensors replacement of the Leica M9 / M9-P / M Monochrom and M-E camera models).

        Thank you
        H Talia

  2. Ming, I am an avid reader of your articles. I am interested in buying a used SL which are now about half list price to put with my 21mm and 50mm lux. This looks to give me all the benefits of the Q, for a little more weight(!) and with interchangeable lenses. Would you agree or would you spend almost twice as much for the M10? Many thanks S

    • Check that the SL’s ergonomics are for you…I didn’t find the camera comfortable at all, personally. But definitely a bit better overall than the M (and with more lens options down the road).

  3. Georges De Vos says:

    Great article, Ming, as usual. Did you had the time to test the 90-280mm?

  4. Ming now with FW 2.0 out and there are low milage used SL’s with the 24-90 zooms going for $8500-9000 USD
    Does this change your opinion at all. I am a Leica S 006 owner with 4 S lenses.
    During your testing at what focal length did you start to see image deterioration? Or was it just at 90mm

    • No, sorry. $9000 gets you a CFV-50C 50MP CMOS digital back and a clean 500 series camera. Image quality isn’t even close. On top of that, the production 24-90s still show the same focus shift; at 90mm and f8 it’s so bad that the focal plane may move out of the frame!

  5. Hi Ming, is it true that the SL 50mm Lux has no stabilisation? have you been able to use it yet? Would love to hear your comments vs Otus 55mm.

  6. Are Barstad says:

    Thanks for a great review!
    I had the opportunity to use the SL with the 24-90 lens at a wedding. I only used the SL for everything: seremony (in a relatively dark church), party after, preparations (makeup, hair etc) and cake cutting. I loved it! The lens is the first zoom I’ve used that actually gave me premium Canon prime lens quality. I am an old Leica shooter however (M9 and 240 with Lux glass).
    Now I’m considering buying another camera with a comparable zoom lens. But what in earth could match the tac sharp SL 24-90 lens? It even had the Leica rendering – soft (but still sharp), warm and just very pleasing.
    Nikon D750 and the 24-70 VR lens comes to mind. I have never tried it. Do you think that would give me the same quality? I really don’t like zooms, but for a wedding it’s a great advantage!

    • Hmm…I honestly wasn’t impressed with the 24-90; all of the samples I tried had very bad focus shift at the 90mm end, to the point of being downright soft. I know I’m not the only one who experienced this – Lloyd Chambers reported the same thing.

      I think you’ll probably find the D750 and 24-70 VR to be better than the Leica – the sensor in the D750 has less noise, more dynamic range, and better color – especially for skin tones under incandescent light.

  7. I just entered the world of Leica thanks to your recommendation of the wonderful Q which I purchased and enjoy. Naturally I became curious of Leica’s other offerings and found the SL quite a departure from what I knew the Red Dot is known for which are high quality, elegant, and relatively compact cameras. The feeling I got when I first found out about the SL is the same feeling I got when Porche intoduced their line SUVs. A big “What?!’ for me. I’m not a professional, just someone who enjoys photography so I might missed something but I feel that Leica should have introduced a len interchangable Q body instead that can accept M lenses. I think that would have been much in line with the Leica ethos.

  8. Hi Ming, would you choose a Canon 5DSR or the Leuca SL? Which area of photography would you say they are best suited?



    • Frankly, neither. The SL is very overpriced for what it delivers. The 5DSR has such a narrow window in which you actually get the full performance of the camera, and dynamic range is compromised compared to most other DSLRs at that price point. One is an emotional purchase, the other only makes sense if you already know how you’re going to deploy it (and you probably wouldn’t care what I think, in that case 🙂

  9. Chad Hsieh says:

    Another great review – insightful and eloquent as always! Agree with everyone’s views but Leica, being unique as they are, probably don’t think like the other players i.e their business strategy has not been to mass produce and dominate market share. Their target market is to cater the niche, exclusive & luxurious – and they may intend to keep it that way. In that regard, people have compared Leica to BMW, but really I think Leica is more Aston Martin/Bentley. It’s Nikon/Canon that are the BMW/Mercedes equivalent. That is, Leica while costing more, most often has lessor overall specs but there will be people that will still buy them and that market group is all what matters to them. Leica range finders and their manual lens have been legendary no doubt but mirrorless seems to be the way forward and in terms of lens, other companies have also been producing out standing lens in recent time (canikon pro zooms/sigma primes) and if you want to compare manual e.g Zeiss with their, loxia, milvus, otus. So it’s obvious they’re doing their own thing and not out there to ‘beat’ another camera out there. The Q’s broader acclaim may have been somewhat unintentional. However we question why they simply didn’t put a mount on the Q(I’m very sure it’s crossed their mind), they probably just don’t care about what we care. For all we know they probably aren’t even interested to convert the D4/1Dx/A7 users over as it will dilute their Leica brand. I can still see the SL selling well to their intended market. If had a $20K pocket money and have always aspired to be a photographer, you can bet I’ll be pre-ordering a SL. If you wield a SL, by all means you’ll be making a statement. It’s a status symbol you are paying for and that has always been a major part of the Leica brand’s value proposition.

    • Thanks Chad. I definitely don’t think Leicas are BMWs; there are definite functional improvements if you step up from a 3 to a 5, and a 5 over a Camry, but not so much an SL over an A7.

      I think wielding something expensive but not necessarily an optimal tool for the money sends very mixed signals: yes, you’re ‘serious’, but it might also mean you’re using money to make up for something else that’s missing. For 20k, I’d rather have a digital back and a view camera, but that’s got zero status or sexy factor and requires quite a bit of skill to use 🙂

      In the meantime, I’ll just enjoy my Q. 😛

  10. Thanks, Ming.

    As a working pro, I often wonder if the clients see the difference between Leica glass and say, Fuji glass. I’m a hardcore Fuji/Nikon user, but the Q and now the SL have piqued my interest in returning to Leica.

    Any thoughts on deliverable image quality?

    • To be honest…no. They might at larger file/print sizes, assuming they specify that to begin with. And on top of that, not all subject matter will show the differences in resolution or color or contrast; plus we can claw quite a bit of that back in postprocessing, too. The sensors in the Q and SL are probably about the top of the 24MP FF heap in resolving power, though the D750/D610 is a bit cleaner at high ISO.

  11. Roy Prasad says:

    Hi Ming,

    Insightful and informative, as always. I am curious that you mentioned the Nikon D810, the Sony A7R II, Canon 5DS R and the Pentax 645 in your comparable cameras, but pointedly excluded the Leica S, either the 006 or the 007. As far as I can tell, the S lenses are better than all the Pentax lenses except for the 90/2.8. Any reason why the S did not make your list above?

    • Simple: price. My aim – and most here, I suspect – is to efficiently get the best image quality and shooting envelope for the least money. Unfortunately, this is the problem most of the time with Leica: more can be done for far, far less (the sole exception being the Q: there is nothing else that can match its shooting envelope at any price). For the price of the SL body alone, I can buy a D810/5DSR/A7RII and an Otus. For the price of an S body, I can get a complete 645Z kit and lenses, or any one of the FF35 cameras and all three Otuses. And image quality will be higher than the Leica option in every case.

      • Indeed, pricey –thinking of the (not even constant ap.! :o) lenses, esp., which points to one diction net : “You’re looking at a similar financial outlay to make a meaningful system of any of these cameras – remembering you will also need a complimentary lens system,” Would that they were “compLImentary”; you want “compLEmentary” here. (Just saw the combo courtesy of another photog and, wow, that 24-90 looks huge.) Thanks!

  12. I tried a demo in the shop the other day, having a good range of M lenses, particularly for wide angle use, where the M240’s ability to focus in Live View is a limitation and the corners are weak Sony A7 series cameras. I was not interested in the AF zoom as it is almost comically massive. However, the body is also too bulky and heavy for my (amateur) use. If I am prepared to carry such bulk, for specific purposes, I would take the Nikon. Perhaps if Apple halve the weight of their MacBook Pros, I might reinvest some of the gain in such a body, which gives better wide angle corners and provides the best focus peaking that I have seen.

  13. I’d like to suggest that we play the ball, not the man. This would apply both in real life and online.

    I do have opinions about everything to do with photography, some strong and based on evidence, some personal and based on experience. But I stick to the subject, and I try to avoid attacks ad hominem.

  14. thomas douglas says:

    Ming…I use Nikon D810…Very Happy with it. I know Leica is for Leica Fan Base Only. No one here is going to put down their Nikon D810’s and Canon 5D Mark Somethings, and Sony a7ll. and run out and buy a New 11,000 Plus new System. No One. For that Price anyone can purchase a Nikon D810 and Sigma’s 50mm and 35mm Art Series and Lot’s of Spare Change!! lol. It makes no sense. And I know there are the ones who don’t believe in MP Status…But I do. I know I can shoot with my D810…and crop the picture and have excellent looks. The Leica SL at that price..should not have should scream…42 mp Plus!!! In this world of entry level Nikon’s starting at 24mp…Leica’s new SL is a Big Ho Hum. Nothing new. Leica just built a camera that only Leica Fans will buy.

  15. stanis riccadonna zolczynski says:

    One thing more and sorry for bugging you ( you know cameras are like cartoons, it`s all bugs and bunnies). Does SL allow for viewing taken shot in EVF finder, if so,is there a dedicated/programable button for it? Often, be it a strong overhead sun or spotlight making it hard to see LCD or for the sake of speed, it would be easier to check exposure without taking camera from the eye. And thank you for quick resposes, you must be a speed demon considering the amount of work you do. Needless to say I consider you reviews among the best.

  16. Another little detail that made me purchase my by now old GXR m-module was that when changing the lenses the sensor stayed capped by the shutter. Something no mirror less cameras have as an option. They do claim that their supersonic cleaning shakes off any dust, I have yet to see a fine mist droplets removed that way and changing lenses under ones jacket is not always an option ( I`m not talking about changing lenses during typhoon or at stormy seas, of course ) . Does SL have this option? The most elegant solution would be an automatic capping when turning the lens mount a bit before removing it. Another thins is regarding TL lenses. Not a totally missed idea, provided SL gave two viewfinder options. One would be APS-C area enlarged to full size ( of course with less EVF resolution ), another which I believe should be the case, semitransparent greyed frame around APS-C field allowing photographer observe the un- or desirable elements at the edge of composition ( perfect for action shots ).

    • The SL leaves its sensor exposed when shooting. No idea on the VF in APSC mode as I didn’t have access to any APSC electronic lenses during the test. Doesn’t make much sense to shoot it this way anyway as resolution is seriously compromised.

      I agree that the lack of shutter covering is very annoying – especially with the A7RII which seems to be a dust magnet. Sony’s idea of sensor cleaning is shaking the IS system forcefully (!) which doesn’t really work and leaves me very concerned for the mechanics. Olympus ultrasonic system works very well; in >60,000 exposures with four cameras, I’ve not once seen a speck of dust on any of the sensors.

      • Do you feel that the Leica SL’s sensor cleaning system is better or the same as the Sony’s. It would be nice if it compared to the Olympus. By the way I think the photos you have taken with this camera are excellent. I have also seen other amazing photos taken with this camera.

        • The Sony one is terrible. I have to clean the sensor daily with a blower, which wasn’t the case with the Olympus. The SL – can’t say because I was only given one lens to use with it, so no interchanging 🙂

      • A German photo magazine tested sensor cleaning in a range of cameras a few years ago. They sprinkled some fine stuff on the sensor, in controlled circumstances, and they did ‘sensor clean’. Only the Olympus system was really good; some others were quite ineffective.

        • Matches my experience, too. The Sony system is useless; I have sensor dust after every shoot. The Nikons are not bad, but I still have to blower clean once a week or so and occasionally wet clean – perhaps twice a year. I have never cleaned an Olympus sensor in more than 80,000 shots with six of my own personal cameras.

  17. Ming – how easy is it to use exposure compensation on the SL? I can’s tell from the images whether it is as instantly accessible as it usually is on a DSLR (or even the Q for that matter).

    • I assume you read my review, so you’d know that not having any method of instantly accessible exposure compensation was my biggest complaint and repeated several times…

  18. Another important omission, albeit probably coming in the future is a R to Sl adopter with automatic stop down mechanism which would make SL really attractive to owners of R lenses.

    • This is actually the main problem if almost all adapted mirrorless solutions: stopping down either doesn’t work at all (electronic lenses), is flaky (e.g. only works on some lenses with the EF-E smart adaptors) or requires one more mechanical step, slowing down the shooting process: open up to focus, close down to shoot. For every shot.

  19. jerryeaton says:

    Ming, many thanks for another of your “where the rubber meets the road” reviews. Having now read the following comments as well, just am baffled that Leica didn’t just make an interchangeable autofocus lens mount Q, a M-adapter for legacy lenses in manual and DONE!

  20. I enjoyed reading your review, thank you for writing it

  21. Great write-up and sample images. Does it come w EFCS? And how is the shutter sound, super quiet or the typical Panasonic click? This is not a camera for me, but if indeed it has the Panasonic best DNA, it will give hints where Lumix cameras are heading. TIA.

  22. Samuel Jessop says:

    A really interesting and innovative camera, and it will be interesting to see how this line develops. It’s far beyond my means but would make a pretty useful travel setup with a few Summicrons.

    The inclusion of GPS is the most desirable thing for me, and makes me realise that there is no one perfect camera. The best of this with the best of the A7R II would get pretty close, and that would also include the EVF and operating system from the Leica. What I am absolutely certain about is that I’ll never buy another SLR.

    • It could probably use the processing engine and card bus from the Leica, too – the Sony’s card write tops out at 35mb/s or thereabouts (USB2!) and as a result read/write operations are really, really slow…

      • Samuel Jessop says:

        That’s really disappointing, and reminds me that manufacturers have been far to slow to include USB 3 in their cameras.

        I’m assuming the review of images once writing has finished is still affected by this lack of bandwidth.

        • Yes, because the data then has to flow in the opposite direction. The only way around this is by shooting RAW+JPEG, so the JPEG is read instead of the RAW; it’s both faster to parse and read, but slower to write initially. (Not to mention an uncompressed RAW + JPEG combo taking up the better part of 100mb yet not really containing much more information than the D810’s ~40mb files…)

  23. Ming, I have a question for you: does S lens get auto focus on this SL body ? once I use the Leica factory S to L/TL adapter, if your answer is YES, Can A S lens get auto focus on my Leica T body via adapter? Thanks….

  24. Karim D. Ghantous says:

    That was a nice, concise review. 🙂 I think this camera is going to do very well.

    BTW, I might have to disagree on a technicality. You said that there was a significant difference between 24Mpx and 36Mpx. But the difference in resolution is less than 25%.

    The difference between 24Mpx and 50Mpx is about 50%, give or take. Now, that’s significant, although we aren’t talking about the other sensor characteristics. To double the resolution of a 24Mpx sensor, you’ll need 96Mpx.

    • There’s a significant difference when printing – you can see it even at moderate sizes. Online, you could use an iPhone.

      • Precisely. A jolly good fellow I know did a test recently between his Oly EM-1 and an A7rII he had on loan. For photo posting on Flickr, no difference in the output. I believe even an 5k iMac Retina screen can only resolve 15 megapixels (stand to be corrected).

        In all my years of blowing vast sums on cameras I’ve never printed a photo, at least not using professional photo printing services. I wonder what proportion of amateurs and enthusiasts never actually print?

        For this purpose, to this day, the camera I had the best from was a Pentax K-5IIs with the FA Limited’s (also have K-3, A6000 and A7r). There really is no need to have the latest and greatest, although good glass helps.

        • You’re correct – you probably won’t see much of a difference even on a 5K screen, all things being ideal (and assuming he has the shot discipline to get the most out of both cameras). However, when conditions start to drift – low light etc. – the FF will still look superior.

          To answer your question, even amongst readers of this site – who are probably more serious about printing than your average – the number who print seriously is perhaps 5% or so.

          That is not to say there aren’t people who can actually use the extra performance, of course.

          • I can actually see the point of the A7s/II. That low light flexibility widens the shooting envelope over the high resolution bodies without making much difference when viewing on a monitor.

            • I don’t think the a7S II has much more low light flexibility than the a7R II once you downsample the 42 MP to 12 MP.

              • I’ve no clue about this down sampling stuff.

                • Downsampling effectively averages out random pattern noise.

                • Check out DPReview’s lovely studio scenes. You can compare the a7RII to the a7S. At the top of the studio scene you can choose options for full size (pixel to pixel, and then two ways to compare the same size). It’s remarkable how the a7RII changes when you shrink it down!

      • Great review. What is the largest size can you print with using the SL while still maintaining the highest quality. You mentioned that the difference between a 24 megapixel and 36 was significant when printing images.

  25. Jim Suojanen says:

    Excellent review as always. As an aging M9 user, I agree that focusing has become more difficult. But I can’t afford a sherpa either.

  26. Thank you so much for another great review! Very nice!

  27. I really find the size/balance debate fascinating. This is my take… Leica needed a heavier body for damped/smooth shutter. And since the body will most probably be used with large AF lenses, there was no point in making the body really small (Q like). Also, the high performance FF AF lenses are going to be large (and heavy). There is no way around dodging physics of light.

    At the same time, the body doesn’t look that big from current M (25% heavier). This means the smaller lenses from M and T will be ok on the body. I guess it is all about compromise (any engineering exercise is all about compromises).

    The camera is meant to be held by *both* hands, left hand supporting the lens. and not much weight on the shooting hand.

    I also don’t understand the criticism for the on/off switch location. One doesn’t even touch the switch during shoot. The camera sleeps and wakes up by shutter. I don’t even switch off my cameras (M, Sony, Canon). For comparison, Canon 5D mkIII also has the switch on the left side.

    The only design choice I can criticize is for not having contoured grip. Not the size.

    Lastly I will add a big disclaimer: I have not held it or seen it in person but still I exercise my right to comment as if I know something. 🙂

    • The criticism to power switch location is one of immediacy: if you go to grab the camera or have it in the hand, being able to raise, switch on with right hand in shooting position and left hand going to support the lens saves some seconds. That can often make the difference between getting the shot or not, and no, leaving it on all the time is a no go – power drain is very high and every mirrorless camera gets hot because the sensor is switched on – or it enters sleep and you’re back to square one. That said, it depends much on the way you shoot, I suppose. Less important for tripod shooters than documentary ones.

  28. Brett Patching says:

    … and here was me thinking, “Ming’s pumping out posts almost every day for the website on top of all his commercial assignments: there’s no way he’ll have time to review the new Leica camera.” But then I forgot that your days have 36 hours 😀 As many have already said, it’s always great to read your honest and grounded reviews. Some reviewers are comparing the SL to the Sony A7R II, but I’m wondering if Leica might have been thinking of the D4S and the EOS-1D X as their competitors with this camera. Is the 24-90 enough to play with until Photokina? The R-Adapter will be available then: perhaps all that R glass out there might be what makes this body interesting for many…

    • 36 hours and about 36 espressos, too…I spent about three half days shooting with it and two nights writing, and honestly haven’t had the time since.

      It is not the A7RII – I’ve got one and use it – and all the better for it in some ways (responsiveness), worse in others (ergonomics). The D4s and 1DX are superior in every way that matters photographically to the SL, and you could get both new for the price of the SL, too.

      The R glass does make it interesting, but boy that zoom is completely the opposite design direction…

  29. As ever Ming, a clear and concise write up, that rings true and answers many questions. Thanks for your time (I of course realise you don’t write these things just for lil’ ol’ me!!!)

    My question is pretty random!!

    Do you know if the EVF is made by Miyota (like the Q) and is that really the same Citizen Miyota beloved of microbrand wristwatch makers?!

    The reason I ask is that EVFs seem to have stagnated at 2.x for a number of years now on the Japnese mirrorless brands, but along comes Euro Leica significantly moving the spec up in the world, and it seems odd to me that there may be a off shelf solution to this, that only Leica are using.

    Of course I’m probably just confusing my Miyotas up!

  30. Grrrr, maybe I’m a dinosaur but I want to glance down and check a real shutter speed dial! Thanks for another great overview Mingster.

    • I agree, but only if it rotates in the right direction…otherwise, it’s just annoying!

    • Here, here. That’s one of the things that bugs me about the Nikon DSLRs like my D800E. If it’s off or asleep you have no indication what shutter speed is set (and with G lenses no indication of aperture either). If they made a 36-50MP version of the Df, I might go for that, but the 16MP current Df wouldn’t be satisfying for printing to me. The Leica SL has better resolution, but not any better than the Leica M-P I already use. I’m sure it will be good for owners of R lenses who felt burned by the discontinuation of that platform, but I see nothing to get excited about the SL for myself. The Q is more interesting to me as a sort of Ricoh GR meets Leica M casual camera.

      • You can tap the shutter for an instant top panel readout. You can’t do this with the SL or Sony cameras because there’s always wakeup time invoked (and in the case of the Sony, no top panel). The only way to use these modern electronic cameras effectively is to understand and maximise automation, otherwise you’ll just be frustrated…

        • Oh I know, that works well for the D800 series cameras, I just prefer the interface on cameras like the Nikon F4, Pentax 645nII and Leica M. One control one function, well labeled. I’m not wild about scrolling through menus, or multifunctional controls, though it’s pretty easy to customize the D800E. I’m used to it now but it’s less fun to use than my ideal nonexistent Nikon would be.

  31. Great unbiased review, I was hoping that the SL was a bit more smaller and lighter so that I could use my M 24 2.8 and 50 Summilux. Anyhow, I will wait till the new M comes out. I really don’t like the Sony A7 series of cameras.

  32. Peter Wright says:

    As an owner (and user) of a film Leica M, a Leica M 240, and having an M 246 monochrom on order (the last, about the same price as the SL coincidently), I wondered if the rumoured new camera was to be a Q/XVario cross. That would be tempting! For a camera to appeal to me, I want; reasonably small and light, stealthy, scale focus, instant access to shutter/aperture, and nice looks. The SL is exactly ‘none of the above’.

    I’m told however that M users are not the target buyers – just as well! Perhaps the target buyers are all those wealthy professional photographers (and who need only one lens (for the next few months)) – you would know better than me if there are many of those about :).

    I read somewhere that the Saudi royal family accounts for nearly half of Rolls Royce sales, so perhaps something similar is going on here? However, I hope it does well for Leica and provides the necessary funds for the development of a Q Vario 28-75 f2.8 Monochrom. I can live in hope!

    • It doesn’t have enough gold or bling factor for the luxury market, Peter. And the pros I know want a Q with a mount too – the SL leaves us scratching our heads and feeling not so bad we can’t afford it, because we can’t quite figure out where it fits anyway 🙂

  33. What’s up with that big rectangular bump on the top, to the left of the viewfinder?

  34. Larry Kincaid says:

    New Leica cameras are always fun, especially when accompanied by the images you always provide. The SL is way to large for me, but so was the first FF Nikon D750, which I simply placed back down on the counter and never looked at again. Your 3-camera photo confirms that decision for me. From a market point of view, I agree with you, however. Leica doesn’t need a million-plus market. The SL is not for walk-around, street shooters, which perhaps was the original and enduring market for Leica RF since the beginning. Too heavy? Don’t hold it! Take it out of your backpack, put it on the tripod, and take gorgeous landscape photographs, especially with the Leica lenses you already own or buy used. Or just leave it on the tripod in your studio. When you do get back to Paris or NYC or Hong Kong or base camp, then grab your Leica Q or Ricoh GR and hit the streets. . . or any other current, street sized digital camera. We’re in an age where owning 2-3 cameras to fit the occasion is the norm, if only because we all are getting cameras built into our cell phones now. I’d be happy to shoot street, portraits, and landscape with a Leica Q, but I’m beginning to accept the fact that they will never produce enough to ship any to the US. How, by the way, can they produce enough of any of their rapidly-growing-number of cameras to meet the demand?

    • Here’s a question though: if it lives on a tripod, why do we ‘only’ have 24MP?

      • Good question! And maybe one you answer further down… PERHAPS because 24mp was good for the resolution of the lenses (especially for users planning to use M mount glass) and also perhaps because the opertaional speed, buffer clear times and FPS targets set by the product manager were a little easier to hit with less pixels…

        • I suppose you could still clear 1.5x the MP at 0.66x the speed – which would be still very, very acceptable (and much faster than anything else). I suspect it’s also because a new sensor would have cost too much R&D time and money, plus it would threaten the flagship.

  35. Michiel953 says:

    Another excellent, informative and unbiased review Ming. Looks to me (look at that pseudo pentaprism) like Leica wanted to recreate the Leica R/Minolta SLR series in the most modern way possible, and it appears they came very far, so compliments for that. I’m not particularly attracted with the A7-ish looks, and the ergonomics (handling wise) seem to follow in that path. It appears there’s something to be said for the “blob”- like forms of cameras like the 8** and the 5D. And a massively improved EVF, the best currently on the market? That’s meaningful progress; look forward to peering through one.

    I’ll stick to my 810 with 24, 35, 58 and 85 1.4G’s though (even though I’m on a longish streak of 400Tx and Nikon slr’s right now); I have neither the budget nor the inclination to go the SL way.

    • Thanks. The EVF has pretty much double the resolution of everything except the Q, and even then it’s still 30% more. Bloblike is good if it’s comfortable. That said, the Q is comfortable (with thumb grip accessory) and not really bloblike…overall system size is important, too. I cannot understand why they didn’t just fit a mount to the Q.

      • My guess: The lenses were going to be heavy/large anyway and they won’t balance on Q size body. For this usage why do one asks for small camera? One should ask for the camera that is comfortable to hold with large lenses (as Canikons). You said that SL was not comfortable at the end of the day. I read Jono’s review and he said that it was comfortable. I will never know since I am not a prospective buyer. Who is? 🙂

  36. I hope quantum mechanics matured enough for camera companies to use them to the fullest, controlling its mechanics to shrunk them into smartphone sizes.
    Still, is that an aircraft bone yard of our RMAF? They allowed you access in it?

  37. Alex Carnes says:

    I find the camera more interesting than desirable, especially given the prohibitive asking price. Given my recent experiences of going from Sony A7R to D810, I’m more persuaded of the technical advantage of mirrorless than I was before though; PDAF, although fast, seems to be woefully inadequate for >16mp sensors, being inconsistent as well as inaccurate. I simply cannot guarantee a sharp shot using the Sigma Arts and D810 without tripod, live view, manual focus.

    • Michiel953 says:

      Coming from an 800 to 800E and now 810, the 810 is auto focusing heaven in comparison, by far. I would guess 90% accurate in all sorts of light, using 1.4 primes, although the focusing point used makes a difference. The outer ones aren’t much use.

      • Alex Carnes says:

        My hitrate using D810 and the Sigma 50/1.4 in particular is low, using the camera’s PDAF. I made every effort using the AF fine tune, but it’s not good. At an event in the summer I shot it alongside my Fuji X-Pro1 with 35/1.4, and honestly wished I’d left the Nikon at home. Most shots at f/2.8-f/4 were very poorly focused. In fairness to Nikon the Sigma was probably 60% of the problem, but the whole system just felt heavy and not up to the job.

        • Michiel953 says:

          All my lenses are primes and Nikkors G’s; with the 810 only a little AF fine-tuning was required, and the consistency is a lot better than the 800 and the 800E. For a fifty I have the 58/1.4G, which is light (and has very distinctive rendering). So… 😉

          • Agreed re. relative AF differences. They fixed something with the D810, D4s and D750 – all of them track and lock on much more positively than the 800/800E.

        • I think Sigma has a dock that lets you fine tune for different distances and apertures to your specific camera body. That might solve it? Some of these calibration issues are camera specific because of physical mirror position/tolerances etc. and cannot be adjusted at the factory in a universal way – especially not with the resolving power of current sensors…

      • The outer ones will never be much use because of ray angle issues. Compared to any film-era MF camera, the screen is still a disaster though. Even compared to the F6 it’s a disaster. We’ve regressed, sadly 😦

        • Michiel953 says:

          I sincerely love the srceens of my F2AS and my compact F’s. One of the (many) reasons I keep coming back to them. Ypu can actually focus by looking at that screen! Imagine!

          • Out of curiosity, I put the 28 Otus on my Titan – and had no problem seeing it snap in and out of focus. I suspect it has something to do with both the coarseness of the screen grind *and* the use of a collimating lens between screen and prism, which seems to be lost in later cameras…

            • At least based on my 60D, DSLR focusing screens have a Fresnel lens facing the lens and the matte surface facing the prism. That way they’re not so easily destroyed by stray fingers and the installation/removal process (since that side faces down in the supporting frame).

              I wonder if that is what hurts focusing snap relative to having true ground glass facing the lens and having optics (whether Fresnel or a standard curved block of glass) collimate the light towards the eye? Like as you move from the inside to the outside of each Fresnel ring, the effective optical location of the matte surface isn’t fixed?

              • You may well be right…

                • The sad part about this discovery is that even if I somehow cut and grind a custom focusing screen (lots of little tabs and stuff sticking out that’ll make that hard) there’s no way to have both the matte side be the first active optical surface and also collimate the light towards the eye (so the corners will be very dark).

                  Maybe it’ll be worth it… I don’t think I’ll mind dark corners to some extent if I get my focusing snap back.

    • Even with CDAF, manual focus remains the way to go most of the time – especially with fast lenses. The reality is that focus boxes are a finite size, and that finite size means there are many possible distances at which the camera might choose to focus for one reason or another…

      • Michiel953 says:

        Precisely. There’s an important three dimensional aspect to anything that’s caught within that focus point, and it takes practice to learn what the AF system will actually focus on, assuming we’re talking razor thin DoF, which is what happens with the larger Mp counts of today’s cameras. Still, I’m not dissatisfied at all with how the 810 performs in this respect, even though for more than one reason I mostly use f2.0 or f2.8.

        • Agreed. And once you start combining lenses that can actually resolve adequately on 36+MP at f1.4 with 3D objects, you start having to make serious focal plane choices…in many ways, it’s actually another compositional overhead that has to be dealt with on the fly when shooting. A lot of the time perfect DOF covering everything is not really required; our eyes don’t see that way anyway. But we do have to cover ‘enough’ so as not to appear unnatural…

  38. Hi Ming and, once again, thanks for the – always – meaningful reviews you provide. To the point, now. This is a Sony A7 II series camera body all too close… it just looks like one, the body lines and design base, it’s a Sony! Then, to put it plainly, this Leica is weirdo of a camera, but, then again, aren’t all Leicas unnecessarily unusual? How – on earth – one can overlook the size issue? I’m not implying that you did, it’s a rhetoric question. This is a DSLM, why compete with Nikon DSLR monsters in size (instead in price, for a change)? Can you imagine fitting a 35/2.5 on an SL? I mean, who would dare to do that without feeling as silly as a Pentax Q owner trying to adapt a Sigma 50-500mm on it? It looks like at Leica they are learning to build cameras all over again in the digital era and – so far – well… they are still learning.

  39. Outstanding review Ming. Yours is the only site where I read reviews on products that I have absolutely zero interest in owning 🙂 Such is the case with this absurdly over-priced behemoth that looks a lot like a Sony Ax series camera on steroids. Speaking of Sony, the product photos you made of the SL are magnificent; had you upgraded your A7RII firmware prior to the shoot because the SL photos look very MF-like?

    • That’s probably because there’s no incentive for me to make them desirable, unlike other sites with advertisers and sponsors…so I tell it like it is. I only review stuff if it interests me (i.e. might prove useful for my own work).

      Product photos were shot with the old firmware. I’m not sure I’m seeing what you’re seeing – could it be a change in lighting, perhaps?

  40. “What would you get if you crossed a Q with a T and an S?” – Clearly a full-frame DSLR!

  41. dmullis2012 says:

    Leica has been studying the OMD EM1, it seems.

  42. Ming, this Leica is the equivalent of wildly expensive clown shoes . .

    Just look at the size of thing, it’s comical.

    • Michiel953 says:

      Maybe the thing wears (as in “wears through use”) nicely, brassing (oh wait, it’s milled alunimium) and such. Maybe it’s a good tool that you grow to like and love, through using it a lot.

    • Well, for the rich kids who have been complaining that their Leica’s weren’t big enough to be considered ‘professional’, but couldn’t not shell out for an S, they got their wish 😀 Finally they get to show off with a ‘big camera’ that’s not from Canon or Nikon.

      But jesting aside, kudos to Leica for breaking new ground on several features (as already highlighted by Ming, the EVF and AF point selection). Hopefully now other companies will follow.

  43. Great review Ming, I enjoy reading your stuff.
    I’m not a Leica fan, I just happen to make my living with photography and use the best cameras I have ever had, a S 006 and a S 007, they happen to have Leica on the body but had they been made by another manufacturer then I’d still be using them for what they do for my work and my invoicing!
    I’m not in the market for an SL but I appreciate the camera, I can see the positives and negatives and I think that it’s a very interesting camera. For me, the 007 added a new area of business, that of static video shoots, it’s brilliant for interviews, talking heads etc. and something I have not offered before because i haven’t wanted to buy into a new system, the SL seems like a camera that could really work for this type of job, pop on an S lens, tripod and shoot good quality video whilst I use the 007 for stills. Like you say, balance and feel are personal things, the S is heavy but balance for me is pretty much perfect and I don’t even feel it, if the SL has balance then it will work at any size for me. Personal preference means the likes of the Sony’s don’t work for me without a grip, just too small for my hands and unbalanced with the type of lens I would like to use, the SL appears to solve size issue for me but maybe not balance. 24mp is not an issue for me personally as the majority of my commercial work is used online by clients but everyone wants different things. Overall I think it’s a good move from Leica not to make a direct Sony rival, size wise, they probably know they can’t compete with the size of Sony for mass produced products, with future firmware updates to deal with issues you have pointed out it could be a great camera.
    Keep on with the great articles.

    • Thanks Mat. The S balances much better than the SL – it’s a grip shape thing I think.

    • George Hafidz says:

      Hi Ming (and Mat)

      Good article as always..

      I went into the Leica shop twice convinced that this SL was a replacement for my old M8 and avoid having to buy a used M9. Something small and in between M and S systems. Twice I walked out empty handed. I thought it was unbearably unbalanced with the SL zoom lens. With the M lens and M-T adapter it looked ugly. With the R – M and M-T adapters stacked up for R glass it looked even uglier. The focus peaking with a Summicron 90 R lens was almost non existent with the current firmware on the camera.

      So I am back to the M and the S. Just bought a used M9 for not much money to retire the M8 , still love that old CCD warmth. The later CMOS M’s are just too harsh and bitingly sharp for my taste. And cant find anything that really can replace the S lenses. S2, S-006 and S-E still give that warm creamy look I cant find easily. Availability of leaf shutter lenses was also a killer.

      I also thought the SL would replace my Fuji XT 10 + Leica glass and better it by ten times – but alas that was not the case. I cant use the Fuji easily. My hands are triggering all sort of buttons at the most inconvenient of times and its far to small to hold comfortably with all four fingers and a thumb. Japanese cameras have too many buttons I just get plain confused.

      Like Mat, after messing around with all sorts of bodies and lenses at the end of the day I always return to the S. It is balanced, fits my hand perfectly, is fairly discreet compared to a Hasselblad or Alpa and very very few buttons. Hardly any post processing needed and faithful to memory corner to corner. The files are super creamy with plenty of 3D pop and faithful colors. Flash synch at 1/1000 s while shooting wide open with a leaf shutter lens is pure fun.

      And the SL is not cheap – I was offered (and bought) a new S body ( an S-E) for the same price as a new SL body. It was not too difficult a choice. Another factor was that the S-T adapter for the SL was not ready for some time and would have cost 8 – 900 GBP, plus it would also have looked ugly.

      I think its hard to beat a combination of an S CCD system, an M9 or M-E system and Mk I Monochrome system.

      Will you ever buy the SL?



  44. Nice review Ming, what about shutter? Does there is an electronic one and possibility to use it for real silence shot? Thank’s

  45. Thanks Ming for that hot review! Almost Leica, almost! CaNikon could put everything in order IF they finally released an FF mirrorless. But they wait laid-back and trust in Sony’s buggy handling and Leica’s prices while refining mirrors. CaNikon’s wait is a bit snobby since all at once Rico, Voigtlander or someone else could come around the corner with a simple FF M-mount mirrorless body an takes it all. It is overdue, g+*ç%&”it!! 🙂

    • Well, Leica could have done it themselves by just putting a mount on the Q: but I suspect that would have cut far too close to M sales for comfort.

      The only thing we can hope is the delay behind a decent CaNikon competitor is because they’re really trying to get as much of the operation and responsiveness right as possible with the first generation – something to take over seamlessly from where the 5D/D810 series is now – and not force us to take a step back in compromises. All may not be lost for them yet…

      • Steve Jones says:

        I really wish Leica would get over this…cutting far too close to M sales..thing. They have been stuck on this for years. Wish they could be a little more ‘Omega’ and less ‘Rolex’ in their product development.. I, like a lot of others, won’t buy a Q ( focal length limitation )
        or an SL ( too bulky ). I most certainly WOULD buy a Q with the mount. In fact, I wouldn’t be able to get to the store fast enough. They seem to want me to buy nothing at all or another brand’s products. Same old problem Leica! Fear of making a successful product that everyone wants. Why?

        • I think it may be a corporate culture thing: the M line has been going so long that it’s basically untouchable. I feel sorry for the design team because they are hamstrung by the expectations of history…

  46. Charles Millen Photo says:

    Great review Ming, it has come at an opportune time for me as I am looking at abandoning the DSLR system and moving exclusively to the M system. I have the original MM and would like to add a M240 into the workflow, giving me a nice compact system for hiking/landscape work. I carry a 4×5 camera and the M system is a nice little backup that doesn’t add too much weight to the pack! I thought I would wait and see what the SL brought to the table before taking the plunge. There are some great features here, and finally I feel I can be interested in the EVF going on what I have read. The main point holding me back is the bulk of the camera and the SL lenses, I don’t think it is worth abandoning the DSLR and all of the lenses (largely due to the bulk, and due to an inability to get out shooting wildlife as much with a growing family!) and moving into another system of fair weight and size and poorer ergonomics compared to the outgoing Canon system. This does excite me for the possibilities for the future of the M series, perhaps an offset high resolution EVF in place of the rangefinder? I might just wait for a while and see what happens in regards to the M…

    • You could equip a DSLR with a sensible choice of small and high quality primes – or a Sony system – but such a choice does not exist here…the SL is neither small, nor light, nor cheap. Maybe the next generation…

  47. I feel like if they had included a higher-res sensor this would be the perfect partner to some crazy sharp manual lenses. The gist I’m getting from the review is to wait for an SL-2, even though that’s probably a few years away. Maybe by then, they’ll either be using a denser sensor, have more native lenses; or else someone will have copied that joystick and put it on a camera half as beautiful!

    • They didn’t, and I suspect it’s because a) they’d kill the S if they did, and b) the lenses may or may not hold up to it – and would have to be even larger and more complex to do so.

      I’ll take ergonomic comfort over beauty any day though – cameras are for using, not looking at. The Pentax 645Z is the best example of this: something so functionally ugly only its mother could love it, but great in the hand and comfortable all day.

      • Isn’t it time the medium format Leica S line got a resolution bump too? Whether the Leica elves like to admit it or not, the Canon 5DSR, Pentax 645Z, and even the Nikon D810 must be eating into S sales right now. They need to jump up to 70-100MP (as do other medium format digital camera makers) to really distinguish themselves from high-res 35mm format cameras.

        • Yes, but 100MP on a not-that-big sensor is going to create a serious hit on pixel level quality. It may not actually make sense. Personally, I’m finding that with current technology, going much smaller than 5u pixels is not really gaining us anything – in fact, the opposite when practical use considerations are taken into account.

          • Thanks for your informed opinion on that. Of course another issue with most of the current medium format digital cameras is their sensors are circa 33x44mm, so not as big as 645 negatives. If they made full size 645 sensors the pixels could be more numerous without getting so small that noise becomes a problem. Such sensor and cameras’ cost might be extraordinary though.

            • So I’m dreaming of a Pentax 645 digital body with 38x48mm sensor with the dot pitch of the D800 series, 102 line pairs per mm, 7752 x 9792 pixels, nearly the frame size of the film 645 cameras, but slightly smaller than the Phase 1 IQ3 80. Ideally this would be more or less the same price as the current 645Z, and would make better use of my older A and FA wideangles, though I don’t expect miracles in those corners, except possibly with my telephotos.

              Who knows how practical that dream is. The 645Z is only about a year and a half old as a product, but the Canon 5DS series must be hurting sales of the 645Z now. It seems that Pentax should be working on something like this, but it probably is a couple years down the line for rollout. Honestly, most of the old Pentax 645 lenses may not be up to snuff for that resolution, but there is something to be said for oversampling and for having a more true medium format look by having a wide view at focal lengths like 35-55mm. At almost US $50,000 for a body and back, with one lens, the Phase 1 XF/IQ3 80 system seems quite unaffordable, and Ricoh-Pentax seems the only company capable of producing an “affordable” digital MF with decent ergonomics.

              I am pretty tempted by the 645Z, but I’m not sure I’d like the cropping in my old stable of lenses, or find it any more useful than my D800E. A D810 would make a more sensible upgrade for me, due to the better live view. Scanning film from my 645nII also might be more sensible than going digital MF.

              • I don’t think there are any lenses that would hold up to that pixel density very well, especially in the corners. Not all of the current stuff works so well even on the larger-pitched 645Z.

  48. Japanese brands have to catch up? Really? How is a Leica SL going to be better than an A7r mk2 or even an A7 mk2, especially at that price?

    • Compared to the A7RII, it focuses faster, shoots faster, turns on faster, reviews faster, writes faster, has (mostly) better UI and controls, better sealing, MUCH better battery life. I agree none of these things should increase the cost by 2x, but people who think the A7RII is God are deluded. I bought one with my own money and have been shooting it for the last three months: it still feels like a beta exercise.

      • Sadly, so was the first iteration. But don’t worry, by Easter Sony will be marketing the Sony A7r MkIII and by Halloween the MkIV with the MkV out by Christmas. They’ll be beta exercises too but with more PlayZzzzzzories Apps. By the Mark VI you’ll be able to play Call of Duty and GTA on the thing as the concept of the A7 series was originally envisaged.

      • Don´t forget some definite pro features from the SL the A7RII not has: splash & dust-sealed, dual-card slot that can UHS II, top plate-LCD, full-size (!) HDMI 2.0, USB 3.0 (A7RII has USB 2.0 and 42 MP…), EVF that can be used by right- AND left-eye-shooters, 11 fps for 36 pics JPEG and DNG (!), top notch video capabilities including V-Log L gamma, centered tripod-mount, 2 years worldwide-warranty (A7x: 6 months), Adobe Lightroom included, GPS etc. And one can use every M, S, R or T lens ever produced.

        • Oh, I haven’t forgotten, it’s mentioned clearly in the review – there’s just no point in repeating it in a comment. Besides, those things are actually not as important in actual shooting as the lack of fluidity of the A7X…

  49. Great review as always Ming, I do genuinely appreciate your honesty.

    Even without holding it, the grip just doesn’t look comfortable. The cost and size doesn’t appeal to me at all so I’ll be sticking with my current gear. I can only think this will push other companies to improve.

  50. Martin Fritter says:

    Congratulations, Ming. I think this is quite a scoop for you. The sample pictures are stunning. Leica gets a lot of heat in the various forums; anybody who is aware of your work here knows that you’ve been quite critical of them when you think it’s warranted, and this review is certainly not 100% positive.

    So it reflects positively on Leica that they made a pre-production system available to you. I’ll never own any of their digital stuff, just too expensive, but I have love my M4 and M6 and have a soft spot for them.

    • Thanks Martin, but I’m not sure it is a scoop at all – everybody seems to have been seeded an SL, and I was extremely late to the game. They tend to send me stuff when they want the eyes of my audience…same goes for the M240, the Q, the T, and X/X2/XV. Of all of these, I only really liked the Q without major reservations; the rest come ‘so close’ without quite getting there. Sadly, the SL is in the same category. But, if they do a little firmware tweaking, it could be something special…

      • Martin Fritter says:

        Oh.. Well, you certainly seem “first to market” with a hands-on review, at least among the sites I follow. I remember your complaints about the M250, especially its reliability problems. Anyway, actual journalism by someone able to produce informative and compelling photographs.

  51. Nice review, Ming. It’s a camera that I wouldn’t mind having, monies permitting. I wonder how the zoom stacks up against my all time favourite zoom, the PanaLeica 14-50mm f/2.8-3.5, a lens I hesitate selling, even though I don’t have the only current camera that would make it sing, the E-M1.

  52. thats an interesting choice of lenses that the camera has come out with. I wonder what their target market would be? It looks to me like a very “workman like” set of lenses. Are they targeting wedding photogs I wonder? Massive heavy zooms like that don’t seem to be targeted at the enthusiast. I for one would have no interest in such lenses.

    I do like the concept of the body though and the form factor.

    • Agreed – they look general purpose though; f4 isn’t that fast at the long end and I found myself hitting ISO 6400 very quickly indoors. The 50/1.4 is more interesting, though the size is massive. It’d better be Otus-grade at that size and price…

      Pancake time!

      • Good point about f4 and yes, a quality pancake is ALWAYS good!

        It really seems out of character for Leica to create such honking great lenses. I am doubting why at that price and lack of utility people wouldn’t go to medium format. I think I would prefer a Pentax MF…

        • For ideal function, I’d go with a D750, 24-120VR at $2,600 and pocket the $9,300. Or if cost was no object, a D810, an Otus, and a Q. 🙂

          • So has Your Leica Q taken the place of your Ricoh GR? I got a GR but somehow the difference between what it can produce with 16MP APSC-C sensor and what my Leica M9-P or M-P can do with the 28mm/2.8 Elmarit M ASPH leaves me dissatisfied with the little Ricoh. Fine details get a bit jagged on 11×17″ prints at 16MP. I guess c.18-24MP is now my lower tolerance bound for print quality. So now the M-P is my main casual camera.

          • Landscape photography in cold weather: Wouldn’t a 645z + A35 / FA 75 / FA 150 be just as heavy, but much easier to hand hold (ergonomic grip). AND better battery life. For people shots the FA90 with is? I’m thinking about the shooting envelope….

            • I’ve used the film Pentax 645nII in cold weather, and it’s very ergonomic. I imagine the 645Z is very good too. Love the 150mm/2.8 FA. 75mm FA is just OK, the 55mm/2.8 A manual focus is much better. I have not used the 35mm/3.5 FA but it is supposed to be better than the A version 35mm/3.5, which was pretty good in the center. 45mm/2.8 FA has disappointing corners until f/11, but the digital bodies might crop the softer areas allowing wider apertures to be acceptable. The 120 macros are very good in both A and FA versions, but slow at F/4 max aperture.

              You should check to see what 645D and Z owners think of these older lenses, as digital is less forgiving of lens flaws than film was, and I think may actually introduce artifacts and exaggerate aberrations you don’t see in film. But, any of these down-sampled to 24MP from 40 or 50MP would look pretty good I should think. The question is are they acceptable for full resolution use on the digital P645 cameras?

              • DFA 25: not so good.
                FA 35/ A35: equal if you can get a good copy; sample variation abounds. I preferred the A35 personally because of weight and me using it mostly on a tripod for landscape anyway; the MF ring is more precise than the AF clutch thing.
                DFA55: very good.
                FA45: disappointing compared to the 35 and 55
                FA75: acceptable only from f5.6; f2.8 is really for emergencies.
                DFA90: excellent, though the Otus 85 still leaves it for dead
                FA120, A120: both excellent, better than the DFA90
                FA150/2.8: didn’t particularly like it wide open, stopped down very good
                A150/3.5: a gem – at every aperture, and massively underrated. Tiny and small, too!
                FA200/4: a dog.

            • Yes, though I’d swap the 75 for the 55 and the 150 for the MF A 150 – better optics and even less weight. Battery life is actually about the same. Price would be a lot cheaper, and image quality a lot higher 🙂

  53. Thanks for this review; it was illuminating and more informative than others I’ve read today.

    Not the camera for me, and I think it cements the M’s future, rather than jeopardizes it. It’s big, with big lenses. The T would have damaged the M, if anything, and it did not.

    And when the M launched, there was a lot made out of the R adapter and Visoflex viewfinder… but that didn’t really turn into an area of serious value for the M. The SL is a much better camera for using R glass, it looks like, while the M will keep being the M, and folks that want it (like me) will keep wanting it.

    In any case, it does look like the first real attempt at an ILC of professional robustness and features, to compete with DSLRs. I hope it works out for Leica.

    • Interesting – the SL certainly reinforces how right-sized the M is, even if the thickness has grown beyond comfort levels. But it also shows how antiquated the RF system is in light of more modern finder options…

  54. Bruce Granofsky says:

    Leica Lover here who owns the M9, M240, and Q.
    I’m a little put off by the camera size and lens size.
    Not for me, but I wish this camera great success.
    Thanks for the review Ming!

  55. Great review and images, Ming! I don’t think the SL marks “the beginning of the end of the M resurgence” though. The size of the SL alone justifies the existence of the M, not mentioning all the other benefits of rangefinder cameras lacking in the SL. I also don’t think that the sensor in the SL has offset microlenses and a stack as thin as the ones on the sensors in M cameras. I’m pretty sure we will see colour shift and smearing on the edges with M lenses. Leica offers an M to T mount adapter but that doesn’t mean that M lenses will work well on the SL. A further indication is that the SL does not have the ability to read the 6-bit code on M lenses.

    If M lenses don’t perform as well an the SL as they do on M’s, they absolutely need to keep the M line alive. What good would all those M lenses be if there are no cameras left to put them on? I gave up on using M lenses on anything other than M cameras. On other cameras they’re simply not as good as many native alternatives.

    I’m pretty sure that the M is going to further evolve and that many shortcomings of the mechanical rangefinder will be overcome by newer technologies like the concept of an optoelectronic rangefinder for which Leica filed several patents. It will also be interesting to see how the Konost FF turns out to be.

    • Thanks Olivier. Take off the lens though and it isn’t much bigger than the current M with EVF and handgrip – more streamlined, if anything. And for those who have eyesight problems…

      The briefing doc I have says the SL can read 6-bit code with the T adaptor – the adaptor itself has a cutout for a sensor, too.

      A bigger question I have is why do we need the RF at all with magnified EVFs? You could just put a smaller secondary screen off to one side in the finder (or have a wide aspect EVF divided into two) with a permanently magnified focusing box on one side and save a lot of complexity and cost.

      • Thanks Ming. It sounds very promising if the SL can read the 6-bit codes via the adapter. Maybe I was being too pessimistic.

        And I wasn’t really defending the RF itself, more the M system as the only one optimised to work well with M lenses. For me, the most compelling features of the M system are the unparalleled small size/IQ ratio of the lenses as well as their longevity (being 100 % mechanical) and their extremely slow depreciation.

        Otherwise, I agree that with a magnified EVF the RF by itself is no longer really necessary. They could even keep the OVF by displaying a smaller EVF in the bottom right corner for focusing like Fuji did in the X100T. I also really like your idea of a dual EVF.

        • I agree re. longevity of mechanical lenses: beyond what electronic lenses I have to buy for the D810, all of the heavy investment glass is 100% mechanical and to a large degree, system independent. The only problem we have now is short flange distances either necessitate complex (i.e. expensive) telecentric designs, or offset microlenses. M has gone the latter route, but that means the lenses aren’t well suited to anything else. All of the newer cameras have gone for the former – but I really hesitate to buy even 100% mechanical lenses for the Sony (e.g. the Loxias and Voigtlanders) because the flange distance is so short that it’s unlikely they’ll be adaptable to anything else, and they still rely on electronics to some degree.

          • I too am very reluctant investing in Loxias and Voigtländers for E mount. They lock you down into a system with subpar ergonomics and, knowing Sony, with an uncertain future. Seing Sony’s (lack of) commitment to their A mount and thinking about their upcoming curved sensor technology that promises very small, high performing lenses with very simple designs and on which current lenses designed for flat sensors probably won’t work, I think it’s justified to worry about the longevity of the current E mount system and the long term usability of current E mount lenses. And it’s unlikely that the Loxias will end up being adaptable to other future systems of other manufacturers due to the short flange distance. And even then, they’re not fully corrected and still rely on software correction, at least the 2.8/21.

            That’s a shame because right now, they are the only truly small and fully mechanical lenses besides the ones for the M system (and the Voigtländers for m43 – which aren’t actually that small and which probably won’t end up being adaptable to other systems than m43 either). None of them are really system independent.

            That pretty much leaves us with SLR lenses of the Otus and Milvus range (and of course all the legacy MF lenses), but for me it feels kind of odd having to invest into SLR lenses, knowing that the SLR concept with it’s mirror box is becoming just as antiquated and redundant as the RF. But still, it’s probably the only sensible thing to do at the moment and this makes me wish and hope even more for a range of small and high performing SLR lenses with smaller maximum aperture from Zeiss, something like 2.8 Oti.

          • Hi Ming, first of all: I really enjoy your work and reading your blogs, I think you have a diversified opinion and you are one of the very few that I trust for being quite honest in your reviews, without having the feeling that you overly cater for any manufacturer (except maybe Zeiss, but one could understandably pass that as fanboyism :P). Joking aside, reading your comments about absolute image quality, and future proof all mechanical lenses and seeing a lot of your images being carefully arranged architectural shots, I really wonder why you didn’t yet buy into an alpa 12 max medium format system with schneider and rodenstock lenses.

            Regards Andreas

            • I review more Zeiss stuff because I own/use more Zeiss stuff – I can’t think of any other lens maker that gives me the same unified look/performance across all the mounts I use, and there isn’t anything better than the Otuses.

              A simple question of economics and return: Alpa 12 max + MF + lenses = the price of a very nice car…I spend 50% of my time maintaining and creating content for this site. I can’t afford the SL, let alone one of those things. And even if I could, there is no support for any of that gear in my country nor are there clients willing to pay the extra for the marginal difference. Remember, I’m running a business not a rich man collecting cameras…

              • Ming thank you for your swift answer. Regarding Zeiss I wasn’t really serious, I was rather referring to how much you must love their products because they are outstanding, which is totally understandable.

                Anyway I wouldn’t call the alpa a rich mans toy, especially since a lot of professional architectural photographers are using it, at least in Europe. But it makes sense that if 50% of your time is going into the website and there is no support for these products in Asia it doesn’t seem like a smart choice.

                So thank you again and keep up the good work!

                • Rates in Europe also make it actually financially viable: not at all here. I’d take a year to pay the whole thing off!

                  In all seriousness, I had a client in California who hired just that (IQ250, Alpa, Rodenstocks) for a shoot I did for him; in the end the whole caboodle was so temperamental with cables and interlocks and the like that we agreed I should just proceed with my D810 and PCEs. And he was very happy with the results 🙂

                  • George Hafidz says:

                    Hi Ming

                    I agree 100%. I looked at the Alpa system and there were all sorts of cables and triggering splitters hanging all over the place it was ridiculous. Plus the focussing “issues” , you might need to carry a laser rangefinder around if a person was too lazy to do he whole hyperfocal thing. Its not a system camera – its Alpa creating a frame to which various things are bolted and clamped too. Seemed to me to be more like a fashion statement for a fancy aluminium plate with a square hole in it and a fancy wooden handle.

                    • Hyperlocal seems to defeat the point of having a camera like that…the FPS looks a lot more interesting, but the price is really quite scary.

      • Exactly. At least the SL is a lens-unifying camera.

        Regarding the future of the rangefinder, this might be significant…

        • By that argument, so is the A7RII – and it adds IS for every lens too.

          That optoelectronic RF looks like unnecessary complexity. Just give us a small secondary screen next to the primary EVF to show the focus area magnified. Not that hard, surely. Or even an easily accessible button to get quick focus magnification.

          • I never used one but the old Nikon SP rangefinder had two viewfinders side by side, one for 50mm and telephoto focal lengths and a wide angle finder for 28mm and 35mm. It would be interesting to see an M with such a system but it might mess with the sainted M ergonomics like the M5 debacle did. I have a hard time seeing how Leica could make room for the same optical RF base and an electronic finder beside it without adding almost an inch (24.5mm) to the left side. They couldn’t put it to the right of the RF finder because too much of the RF optics and mechanics live there. Perhaps they could fit an EVF underneath the RF, as there is no roll of film there in a digital M, and perhaps two of the buttons that are placed there now could be moved to the other side of the rear screen.

            • That would be like a Leica III. I’m saying have two screens in the finder – probably up-down since it would be easier to expand the finder field of view that way instead of long and thin.

              Forget the RF entirely – it’s not accurate enough for today’s sensor resolving power, it’s mechanically expensive and complex to make/adjust. Just put a second, smaller EVF for permanent focus point magnification in the finder.

  56. I’m bit disappointed, and I think maybe Leica has shot itself in the foot with this one. Leica used to be an innovator and has been so again for the past 3-5 years. Leica S is the big MF one that has been built from a ground up to be a digital SLR, unlike all other MF cameras that ape the old film days with their boxy bodies. Leica T was revolutionary, and Q was sort of as well, a new M but unfortunately with a fixed lens. But this, it sort of validates what Fuji XT and Sony A7 are but only on bigger and heavier and much more expensive form. Yes, it is better, but only in incremental way with very big effect on size and cost. Which is exactly the point with the Fuji, Olympus and Sony mirrorless offerings. Why would Isomebody buy an SL to use Leica lenses when they can use them in Fuji or Sony body at much lower cost and with a wider range of both good and cheap original lens choices. Before it was sort of ‘wrong’ for me to put M or R lenses on a Sony body that looks like a box with a finder glued on top. Now it seems that Leica has approved that it is ok to do so. T was a clear mobile phone generation camera, but not many have bought that and a full set of lenses that could now be used in this big gun. And why buy crop sensor lenses to put in a full frame camera, unless you already have them? Lot of good tweaks but in my opinion wrong product for Leica and wrong product for the market at this price and size point. And I have been a Leica user for some 15 years, meaning I don’t hate them just for being Leica, and I have the disposable income to buy their products, including this one if I wanted. But I don’t.

    • The SL makes the most sense with native AF lenses to take full advantage of the speed. Where they shot themselves was on the size of the whole thing: all of the lenses announced have 82mm(!) filters! Not smaller, not lighter, not higher quality, not more comfortable, only a bit faster…what is left?

    • Steve Jones says:

      Agreed. Interesting product, could buy it if I wanted to but it’s NOT what I want. Leica should read these comments and take note.
      I LOVE the retro styling of the top plate but I’d rather have an old SL2 and some film than buy this.
      I need a Q with a mount please, now just what do we have to do to get Leica to make one?

  57. Appreciate the review of the Leica SL Ming. But is it just me or does this look oddly similar to the Sony A7. I don’t doubt that this camera produces great images and that the lenses are outstanding in sharpness and micro-contrast. BUT this seems to be aimed more at the rich DSLR / Mirrorless crowd than professional users.

    I currently use a D800 on film sets to survey sets for digital re-creation and my M-System for on-set photography along with personal work. If I was going to spend 10k on this I much rather invest the extra bit, as Gary Morris said above, on a Leica S system or get the Pentax 645. At least then I have a larger sensor for capturing the details I want. As for video from what I’ve seen I have a sneaky feeling the new A7S (II) outperforms this big time.

    Is it just me?

    • All SLR-derivative designs look similar to some degree. The camera has different proportions and completely different controls. There is no top panel LCD on the A7. And frankly, the A7II/A7RII (not the original A7) grip shape is much more comfortable.

      The 645Z is actually cheaper in my part of the world, even factoring in lenses 😛

  58. No IBIS 😦

    But there are some nice twists here I didn’t expect. It looks like AF and EVF are especially well-implemented, and base ISO50 will reward tripod work. If ISO6400 is usable, some of the need for IBIS with legacy glass can be negated to a point.

    I’m looking forward to seeing reviewers’ inevitable tests with legacy lenses. S lenses will be an interesting one. Given their high performance on the S itself, will they shine on the SL? It seems they offer no bulk/weight penalty compared to the native SL lenses. (Haven’t checked yet whether AF translates with that adaptor. I would hope so, as on the S they have adaptors that keep AF with Contax 645 and Hasselblad AF lenses).

    Much will come down to the success of this system. If the market responds well, then perhaps this line will get extended.

    Will be interesting to see if Zeiss start a T mount line. 😉

    Anyway, interesting, and thanks Ming. I hope they let you play some more with it.

    • 6400 is usable, and a little bit better than the Q. I would have tested it with other glass, but I didn’t have any adaptors available. I’d actually have like to try that EVF with the Otii (even if they would be overkill for 24MP).

      AF translates with the S adaptor, I believe.

      For you – I would skip this since I already have an S…

  59. Excellent first impression… as usual. You mentioned better image quality than M. Did you compare with the same M lenses or going by experience with Q sensor?

    And one typo: “….. as close to completely nose free as I’ve seen from any camera.”
    None of my camera’s have nose. 🙂

    • Aargh. Noise. That’s what happens when you’ve got very little time to shoot, analyse images, retest, write and post.

      I’m looking at the quality of the sensor (tonality, noise, dynamic range, peak acuity) not the lenses.

  60. I believe you’re right in predicting that Leica users will find the SL very appealing, especially if good support for M glass is available. For non-Leica users it will be hard to get past the price, size and spec sheet; a Nikon D810 is much less expensive, will offer high image quality, large lens selection and solid AF. And if a slower approach with MF is required, there are higher resolution bodies there that will perform and again for a lower price.

    • And there are oddballs like the 645Z which aren’t that much heavier, cheaper, and much better in output…the ergonomics are much better suited to the weight, too – I found that was a very comfortable camera to use all day.

  61. Fair writing and lovely images!

    I think Leica is pushing forward in a couple of areas here, still it’s sort of a first gen product. But I like how they are going after the DSLRs, letting us know that Mirrorless can be more than it has been up until now. Give it a firmware update and some f/2 primes, and this system is gonna look very impressive. Can’t wait for that EVF to trickle down to an m43, though.

    • Thanks. Cut the price a little too – they’re now competing with Pentax in medium format territory and size, and I know which I’d rather have…

  62. Ming,

    Just saw your post. Then I saw DPs post on this thing. I can see now why you didn’t include anything in the product shots to give perspective. DP did (I’m NOT making a comparison, I much prefer your commentary) and it made it glaringly suggestive to me that this thing is grossly huge. Or so it seems.

  63. I was expecting this kind of camera and even though it will be awesome to use, i much prefer the rangefinder photography. the size is ok for professionel use but in combination with the big lenses maybe not the best travel companion. It seems my M will keep its value for some more time.

    • Ergonomically, the M is more comfortable because the body-lens sizes are much more in proportion. The SL is fluid to use, but I agree the size is a bit crazy.

  64. Readng comments on several other fora/website, it seems that those who like/love the SL have gathered here 🙂 Well written short time review and pleasant images as always Ming.
    That tiny joystick caught immediatly my attention: when people started to judge controls without having seen the back of the camera it means that someone has too much free time to rant upon nothing..
    (Off topic: I wish Leica would add those little changes via firmware in the Q)

    • Hah! That’s not many people 😛

      The way the camera responds/handles is not something you can judge from images. I saw the images/briefing before handling the camera; it would be fine if it were 20% smaller in every dimension. But as it stands, it is just not comfortable because you’ve got 1kg+ of lens hanging off a not very contoured grip…

      • Michiel953 says:

        That kilo is not hanging off the grip (although it will feel that way), it hangs off the mount. Your helicopter view image of the three cameras demonstrates that from a mechanical point of view it’s worse than an 810; the “back of body to flange” distance is smaller with the SL (and the A7x) than with the 8xx, creating more leverage. Probably doesn’t feel all that confidence-inspiring, holding it by the grip in one hand with that zoom screwed on. Unless you point it down of course.

  65. Christian says:

    Thanks for the preview Ming, that sounds like a very well thought out camera! Do you see it potentially replacing your A7Rii (presumably using adapted M and S lenses) in the near future (at least for jobs that don’t require 42 MP)?

    • Short answer, no. Not at that price, not at that resolution, not with those ergonomic shortcomings, and not since I have no lenses for it. If jobs do not need 42MP, I can either downsize or use the D810 – and either way, spend nothing 🙂

  66. Dirk De Paepe says:

    Leica did a great job, apparently, on quite a few domains. But IMO it’s just much too big and too heavy to be appealing in any way. I believe the most important advantages of mirrorless (compact size and weight) were just forgotten. I hope for Leica that many DSLR shooters, who love a heavier and bigger size camera and are thinking of mirrorless, can be persuaded. But unfortunately, those are typically not M-mount lenses owners. I fear that the typical RF shooter (who owns M-mounts) will not be charmed by this DSLR size body. Anyway, some really advanced features indeed. So let’s hope for the best! If only, it was half this price…

    • A couple of months ago I was talking to someone who saw the SL and talked to someone from the “top of the pyramid”: the SL is not aimed at M users. Q “ate” much more M sells than what people thought, at Leica, but this system is different than the M and should not steal customers to the M system.

      • Dirk De Paepe says:

        Apparently it doesn’t, Marco. But should it have been aimed to RF shooters, then it would have been a solution for so many owners of M-mount lenses. Now a buyer and the system have to start from scratch concerning lenses, which takes a lot more time. Of course one can adept DSLR lenses, but that’s a bit odd on a €7500 Leica body, don’t you think…

        • Perhaps not if you’re putting Otii on, but then again, they’re overkill for 24MP.

        • I remember a patent about a digital rangefinder solution, consisting in two digital “eyes” working together to show the scene and the “ghost” in an EVF: perhaps that’s what we will see in a new digital M..

        • Michiel953 says:

          Dirk, it’s the spiritual successor to the R-series, not the M-series, in a very modern way, that a new M would find hard to achieve.

          • Dirk De Paepe says:

            It is indeed! But who’s is waiting for the successor of a failled system?
            Really, I absolutely and strongly hope that I’m wrong. But I fear there is (almost) no target group for this camera, regarding the price and the specs, nevertheless the many advanced features.

            • Michiel953 says:

              Why the fear? Maybe Leica struck gold here. There’s a lot of love still going around for the R series and the R lenses so, why not, in an ultramodern package?

      • But it will; I was told they didn’t aim the Q at M users either – and look what happened there 🙂

        Reality is the M system is from another era and may not be the best solution today.

        • Enjoy your reviews (and pics) as always Ming. And being an M9 user myself that’s an interesting observation. Reality is “Best”, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder. If one wants superior IQ using super high-quality glass, albeit in a rangefinder form factor, the M is the way to go and does not tire out the user with a large, heavy, conspicuous, complex system and was exactly my main motivation for getting an M. Thus far I have held off on upgrading my M9 to the 240 to see what was next (I mostly shoot street with the Leica but I also have a Pentax K-3 system for wildlife and macro so don’t need the Leica for that). The Q is very appealing but the inability to change lenses makes it too limiting for my needs. Would love to be able to use my M glass on the Q but since I cannot I suspect I will wait for the next incarnation of the M to make a decision of upgrading, might even buy a gently used M240 or Monochrome as I find that chasing the bleeding edge of technology is a costly mistake, especially with Leica. But I justified the M glass because I knew I could use it forever going forward, even with my old film M3.

    • I agree. The body not so much, but the lens is a monster. And then the body isn’t large enough or correctly shaped relative to the weight of the lenses, so we go around in circles…

  67. Rushed over here as soon as I saw it announced. I was not dissappointed.

    The 4.4 million dot EVF get’s me excited for the future. It pushes the boundaries and I guess it will benefit everyone in the end.

    • The EVF was really something else – it’s like a MF OVF compared to FF. Not just the resolution though, the dynamic range of the thing and the way it was represented was impressive. You can really get a good feel for what is likely to be overexposed or not.

  68. That’s a nice review. I can’t help but think that this is really aimed at M owners who perhaps can’t really use a Rangefinder anymore, or don’t want too, but can afford what is a very similar priced camera. If it were really a Pro camera I would think the ergonomics from the S would be more appropriate. That grip is the same reason I did not buy an A7, but did buy an A7mkII.

    I wonder if in the next generation of Sony A7 (mk3), and similar offerings, we will see higher res EVF and better battery life? I don’t really see Leica having much of an advantage, or for very long, but it sure is nice that they are doing something. What is certain is that the next M should have also some pretty good changes, and it might even cost more again. I would guess that Leica thinks they have created a new category, however I wonder if they actually create any new customers … or just keep sales from the pool of M owners who might not otherwise upgrade when the next M is released.

    Nice review, and nice photos. Thanks.

    • Thanks Tim. You’re probably right about the target audience – but that does start to put the nail in the coffin for M, since this is the majority of the M buying demographic. There are things which the SL gets right ergonomically that the S does not – the joystick, for starters – so it’s not that clear cut. Both appear to be built to the same standards.

      As for Sony – I don’t know whether it’s worse to release compromises and never really fix them (Leica) or fix them buy forcing you to buy a new camera and making your old one simultaneously worthless by slashing prices (Sony). All I know is that after three systems this year, this is getting too rich for my blood…

  69. Beautiful as this is to behold, it makes me wonder why _all_ camera companies seem to push the reset button on ergonomics every time they release a new camera. Just make it curvy in the same places as the 5D3/D810! (Same goes for some of the usability quirks – when’s everyone just going to do centre button one press zoom right?!)

    Other than that, the high-tech direction Leica has been going in lately seems like the right one for them, and it’s nice to see “professional” details like two card slots and weather sealing not being overlooked. I look forward to the more cutting edge features trickling down to camera systems that I can afford!

    Love the image of the lone man standing on his balcony 🙂

    • Also, to echo Gary and Gerner’s comments below and others in the recent Zeiss threads… high-quality 2.8 primes that we actually want to carry plz, camera companies.

    • Thanks Todd. It would be nice if they offers such professional details as quick exposure compensation on an unused dial, too 🙂

      But the thing is built like the proverbial brick outhouse (sadly weighs about as much, too).

      • You emphasize the size and weight of the Q, yet you shoot a Nikon 810 frequently, I believe. That seems inconsistent or do you place the 810 in a different class because of its sensor. I have not seen the SL yet but doubt that it is larger than the 810 with a comparable lens. I doubt that there is much discernible image quality difference between 810 images and Sl images except in an irrelevant pixel peeper sense. Frankly, for just taking high quality images that can be printed at @ 2’x3′, I can see no edge for an 810 over my M240 and certainly not over the new monochrom. Leica lenes seem to me to still be the component that gives an edge to Leica. There may also be no edge for the SL over these M cameras but the SL is intriguing as a platform for my great R lenses as well as potentially useful with M lenses. If I boughtI the SL I would probably not buy the zoom but wait for the 50 Lux.
        If you are comparing to the Sonys that is a different matter, but it seems to me that the SL is designed to compete in a different arena than the Sony.

        • The 810 is in a different class because of the sensor, which places different demands on lenses, too. Absolute size is not the problem, balance is. The Pentax 645Z is larger still, but balances better. Some smaller cameras are lighter but more uncomfortable to hold.

          There is a HUGE difference between the Q/SL/240 and D810, and not just for pixel peeping – gross properties like dynamic range are quite a lot better on the D810 too. If you print, it’s instantly visible. However that’s also highly dependent on lenses used and your own shooting discipline, and you (and your client’s) definition of ‘high quality’.

          • I do print often and really think what you claim is way overstated if not just plain bogus. I would never want to carry an 810 for my street work. I have handled the 645 and think it is impossibly awkward. I think you simply value characteristics that I do not. The idea that you can make an 810 print that exceeds the quality of a M246/Noctilux print, for example, with its special characteristics is just plain silly. You appear to shoot a lot of commercial and corporate work, stopped down to satisfy your audience I am afraid your review, as is the case with so many others, amounts to a defense of your own choice of gear and technique as a photographer. Your images are good and I do enjoy reading your site, but your conclusions are necessarily suspect for the reasons I state. I intend to examine the SL in a couple of days and take an independent look to determine whether it works for me and my style of shooting which is almost exclusively hand held, walking around for interesting opportunities. The SL with an M lens may or may not be good for that. We will see. I can, by the way, assure you that my definition of “high quality” is as high as yours and so are the expectations of my clients and customers.

            • Firstly, A bayer-less monochrome camera is NOT the same. You initially made the comparison between the Q/240/SL, which have bayer filters.

              Secondly, I don’t defend my choice of gear if there is a better choice available, and I’m quite willing to invest if the results are better even if everything else is compromised – I’ve done this before several times, with the 5DSR, 645Z and A7RII.

              Thirdly, “my style of shooting which is almost exclusively hand held, walking around for interesting opportunities” is NOT going to extract the full potential from any piece of equipment, much less a rangefinder with a lens that you already imply is not stopped down, sorry. I work off a sturdy tripod and head under optimal conditions with optimal focus. Under your circumstances: no, you won’t see a difference, and I agree that a D810/645Z is not the tool for you.

              It’s only possible to learn something if you are willing to consider that you might be wrong somewhere – and then scientifically investigate every single assumption to find the cause. Either you learn you are 100% sure, or you are wrong. I have done enough analysis to be sure of my results. You already admit not having tried it yourself. We can agree to disagree since everybody’s needs are different. Insulting me and insinuating stupidity, fraud and deliberate bias is unnecessary. I’m sure you wouldn’t do it to your firm’s clients or prospective clients, there’s no need to do it to me.

              • You are awfully touchy. I think I accurately summarized what you are doing in your photography and in your approach to an evaluation of a product. And from my perspective, that means that your thoughts are not helpful. You have a narrow minded focus based on your style of photography. You imply that mine in somehow suspect when, in fact, it is closer to the style of the most famous of photographers.
                I merely referred to the MM2 by way of illustration. I would make the same claim for the M240 using one of the exquisite lenses, such as the 50APO, the Noctilux or the 21mm Lux. Such combinations can create images that the 810 can never achieve. I am sorry that your partisanship about stopped down images will not admit that.
                It is clear to me that your review is simply meaningless.

                • I am, because YOU are making accusations and cherry picking my responses whilst making your own assumptions, again without any research. Example: I only shoot stopped down, therefore my conclusions are useless. Have you seen this post? Or the thousands of images in this set? Or any of these? Oddly enough, not one single image was shot stopped down here.

                  Secondly, copying somebody famous does not mean you will get the same results.

                  Thirdly, it’s been proven time and again – by others, even! – that shooting handheld will NOT maximise the potential of a system. And there is a MASSIVE difference between the resolving power of a bayer camera (which requires interpolation to output the final file), and a non-bayer (in this case, monochrome) one.

                  Lastly, the internet is voluntary and openly accessible. This site is free. If you don’t like my review, you’re free to go elsewhere.

                • This raises the question, John: sir, why are you so touchy? I don’t think Ming ever writes that all photographers should use the same approach he does for photography. Also, not all of his work is tripod based, and there are some wide-open city street shots in his work. You do come off as dismissive. If you find his blog useless to you, why not just move on? Criticism that’s not constructive is rather pointless, I think. You should reflect on that.

  70. Gerner Christensen says:

    Ming, your review is downright fantastic. How your thoughts easily translates to how the camera is to shoot and actually also quite a bit how it is to hold in the hands.
    The images are as fantastic as well. Now I wouldn’t mind to write the check because 24MP is just enough for me and I fell well with the IQ of the Q. There’s though one big caveat for me, the size and weight of the AF lenses. It’s a killer.

    • Thanks Gerner. Didn’t really have enough time with it though, and yes, the size is off-putting to me too: I am expecting more IQ at that weight and price penalty; the Pentax 645Z is a similar weight class and price…

  71. Gary Morris says:

    This might seem a bit of apple to oranges, but… for $3500 more and about the same weight (SL + 24-90 zoom), one can get an S006 plus 70mm S lens.

    I don’t see the reason for the SL to exist (other than it MIGHT make some money for Leica). It’s heavy, it will only have one native (non-T) lens at launch (the next zoom is scheduled for summer 2016 and the 50mm Summilux for December 2016 and the Noctilux SL lens is sometime towards the end of this decade).

    And as an alternative to the M… at the end of the day (and the adaptor), still manual focus. It might be the best adaptation of manual focus extant, but not taking advantage of the SL’s fast auto focus seems like a very expensive compromise (I tried an A7R when it came out with my Noctilux and in the end, sold the Sony… just not very satisfying for me.).

    I appreciate your review and images. If a well written review and superb images were all that are needed to make a purchase decision, Leica did well seeding you with the SL. However, this one is a big stretch for my camera brain.

    • It isn’t at all. I asked the same question: especially if one was lucky enough to find one of those cheap S-Es, it’s a serious head scratcher. If you work off a tripod, the S is unquestionably going to give much higher image quality. But that may not be the case handheld, and in marginal light. I don’t think it’s an easy choice at all, actually.

      I think the SL honestly needs another iteration. I didn’t feel compelled to shoot with it outside the review and beyond once initial curiosity was satisfied, unlike the Q…

      • Gary Morris says:

        After a bit of camera angst (as the wife calls it) I’ve warmed up a bit to the SL. The idea of having a single body on which I can use S lenses (and at native focal length vs. the reverse crop factor of those lenses on the S body) and M lenses is intriguing.

        In other words, a camera body the unifies the two principle Leica lens lines (not counting the T lenses or the Cine lenses).

        I know a lot of negative press (some well founded) has been written about using lenses via an adapter. However, perhaps staying within the Leica universe, some of the negative aspects of using adapters is negated.

        • I’m not sure the ergonomics really work with the larger lenses, though. I suspect it’d actually feel pretty good with M-size lenses, though. Remains to be seen if the corners look okay with the wides…

    • Gary Morris – it is actually even more lopsided than that! Slightly used S-006 cameras still under warranty and in mint condition with very low shutter actuations can be had on eBay for US$7,500-8,000. For out of warranty S-006 cameras in excellent condition, the price is $6,000-6,400. A used 70mm Summarit-S lens, again in mint condition, can be had for $3,000. So a slightly used S-006 + 70 Summarit could actually be cheaper than an SL + the 24-90 lens!

      • Wouldn’t that make an S-E or S2 even cheaper still, and fundamentally the same camera since they’re all using the same sensor and body?

        • Ming – yes, the S2 struggles to fetch even US $5,000 in eBay, even if in mint condition. However, as a former S2 owner, I would not touch the S2 with a ten foot pole. It has too many first generation bugs and lacks the joystick in the back which is very useful (e.g., can be used for focusing, instead of partial click of the shutter release button). Also, its firmware is very different. The S-006 and S-E have essentially the same firmware as the S-007, and they stay in sync with the S-007. So the S-006 and S-E are far superior to the S2.

          An S-E is the same as the S-006, if it is out of warranty. The price difference between the S-006 and the S-E is principally due to the extended warranty + loaner program (what Leica calls the S Protection Plan).

          Frankly, as a camera the S-E may even be marginally better than the S-006 by virtue of having WiFi and being a later design, presumably with a few more design improvements. Some people don’t like the gray top, but that is just cosmetic.

  72. Harvey Steeves says:

    the Japanese brands can offer 90% of the camera at 30% of the price and do quite well.

  73. Seems to me they just released the camera that I most want to own, a full frame that has an excellent evf and good battery usage as well as a bit bigger body than what Sony is currently offering. Unfortunately it is way too expensive for me and will be for the forseeable future.

    • They did a lot of things right – but got a lot of things wrong, too.

      • Seems to be a close miss in many ways I guess. Hard to say on the ergonomics without holding the camera, but for me smaller is not always better. Though I think the rounded edges and grips of the Canons and Nikons are more comfortable to use. But for example the A7 original or an XT1 is totally unusable for me. Too small.

  74. Bill Royer says:

    Very interesting. Have to say that I’m always a bit conflicted by “smaller” excellent cameras like this one or some Somy’s, although I haven’t handled or tested them. On one hand the thought has some appeal of carrying around a very good camera that’s smaller/lighter than my D810. BUT, then I see the large sizes of many of the lenses for them and it seems they negate the smaller size of the body, and are about as subtle as a brick through the window. (Maybe I’m just chasing my memories of walking around with a Leica M6 and a couple of very small and excellent lens.) So, I just put a Zeiss fixed lens on the D810, and keep on walking.

    • This isn’t small at all. In fact, it’s large enough that the ‘small camera ergonomic’ gestalt really needs to be rethought – the S has great hand-feel and balance, this doesn’t.

  75. Great review thanks. All in all looks good and a great option for those with an M body considering buying a Sony a7x for of using problems due to eye problems…

    • Agreed – it’s too expensive for most, but if you’re already spending on an M…

      • Roy Prasad says:

        It looks like Leica priced the SL with one overriding goal: protect the rangefinder sacred cow. Otherwise, it makes no sense to price the SL at US$7500. By any objective measure, it is hugely overpriced by a factor of 2, maybe even 3.

        I think there is a serious risk that after a small initial spurt of sales to frustrated M camera users, the SL will hit a brick wall, and the prices will likely drop quite substantially within the next 6-12 months, especially if Sony puts out an A7R-iii or the rumored A9 with a superior EVF and a much faster processor. The Leica S-007 was similarly way overpriced at $24,500 when announced at Photokina in Sept. 2014, and just 13 months later, Leica was forced to drop the price to $16,900, and I hear whispers that even at that, it is not selling.

        As a past M9 owner and a current owner of several M (and R) lenses, the SL is everything that I wanted from Leica FIVE years ago. But today, if it had a 42 MP or 50 MP sensor, I would have instantly ordered one. But with a 24MP sensor, I’m likely passing on it. I think I will wait for the inevitable “limited time offer” that bundles the 24-90 lens for free with the camera. I’m giving it 12 months.

        • You’re right. What I really don’t get is why they didn’t just put an M mount on the Q; without the lens, it should even be cheaper than the Q – except, that would make too much sense as a product and consequently land up killing the M.

          There were S-E cameras going at about $4500 new from a dealer in the US at one point – and it wasn’t vapourware, as one of my students bought one. At that price, it’s interesting. Not at $17,000!

          No question the S lenses are great. But they are limited by the body, and frankly overshadowed by the FX options.

          The SL is also tied by the S: at 36MP, the S would no longer make any sense. You could even mount S lenses on it via their own adaptor. See the problem?

          • I was expecting / hoping for the Q with an M mount, and when I first read the rumors about a new interchangeable all-digital camera on, I was pretty certain that it would be the Q with an M mount, because that was the most logical thing to do. There is only one reason why Leica did not do it, as far as I can tell: to protect the rangefinder sacred cow. A Q body with the SL EVF and an M mount would have slaughtered the sacred cow.

            Re. the S-E cameras going on fire sale, the lowest it got to in the U.S. was $6,000 ($5,995 to be precise), and an S-E + 70 Summarit bundle for $9,000. The 9,000 S-E + 70 lens bundle deal lasted for about two days, and the $6,000 S-E body only deal lasted for less than 24 hours. These were only on the individual Leica store websites, and not on independent dealers like B&H Photo, Adorama, etc.

            There was a period of 4-5 days when Leica had all kinds of bizarre pricing and bundles that made no sense at all – bundles that cost much more than what the components added up to, or different bundles that were listed on the same site that were wildly inconsistent with one another, or from similar bundles at other Leica store websites. So I was tracking these quite frequently, several times during a day, wondering what they were doing! It was quite amusing (I had many chats with some mutual friends during this time).

            As far as I know, the S-E never got to $4,500 – if some dealer sold one at that price, that was almost certainly by mistake. Must have been some fat finger price entry error. The lowest announced price was $6,000 for the S-E.

          • Ming – on your other comment, agree that the 36MP resolution in the S-006 / 007 is also limiting both the S line and now, the SL. But to artificially limit the SL to protect the S is another bad marketing move – Leica should be thinking of raising the game for the S, not holding it static and becoming a roadblock to progress on other fronts.

            The S lenses are capable of easily resolving 60MP, as stated by none other than Stephan Schulz when the original S2 was launched. But five years later, Leica is still sitting on 37.5MP, making the S lenses underachievers, and now, placing an artificial ceiling on the SL. I would urge Leica to take the S to 60+ MP and the SL to 40+ MP, and stop being connected at the hip to the rangefinder.

            With all due respect to the RF enthusiasts (and I used to be one), it is an obsolete camera paradigm today. Frankly, I think even the DSLR is on its last legs as a camera paradigm.

  76. Good review, Ming 🙂

  77. thanks Ming – a really insightful review indeed! I’ve always appreciated your honest & unbiased fact-based opinion…


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