Leica Launches the SL—Pricey 24MP Full Frame Mirrorless Camera

Leica SL with Vario Elmarit 24-90mm f/2.8-4
Leica SL with Vario Elmarit 24-90mm f/2.8-4

German luxury camera maker Leica has announced the Leica SL, an entirely new mirrorless camera in the likes of the Sony A7 series. In fact, it does look like the Sony A7 series of mirrorless cameras. Although the Leica M series are also technically “mirrorless” cameras, Leica and its aficionados would object to that moniker, preferring to call it a “digital rangefinder” camera.

The Leica SL has a 24MP full-frame CMOS sensor with a max ISO of 50,000. Like most modern cameras nowadays, there is no optical low-pass filter, ensuring the sharpest possible images at the expense of more chances of moiré.

Leica says that the SL has the “fastest autofocus in the market”, featuring a 2GB buffer that lets you shoot up to 11 full resolution photos in a second. It is able to save the images to the dual SD slot in both 8-bit JPEG and 14-bit RAW DNG formats simultaneously.

The most impressive feature of the SL is probably the EVF. It features a magnification of 0.8x and has 4MP, the highest we’ve seen in a mirrorless camera so far. This exceeds that of the Sony A7RII and the Fuji X-T1, both of which already have excellent EVFs.

Having said that, I really wonder if Leica really meant 4MP or 4 million dots. There’s a big difference between the two, since a LCD/EVF pixel is made up of 3 dots (subpixels.) If it’s really 4 million dots, the effective resolution is only 1.33MP, which is lower than both the Fuji and Sony.

Leica says that the EVF, dubbed the Leica EyeRes, has such a high refresh rate that the image will always be smooth and consistent. Pressing the shutter half-way lets you preview what the final shot will be like.

Leica SL EyeRes EVF
Leica SL EyeRes EVF

The LCD is a more common 1.04MP variety with a viewing angle of 170º. It is also touch sensitive and also scratch resistant. The Leica SL is built to be rugged and weather sealed, with a body made of solid aluminium. Other features include Wifi, GPS and 4K video.

Three lenses are announced together with the SL in what’s known as the “L” mount—a Leica Vario Elmarit SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4, Leica APO Vario Elmarit SL 90-280mm f/2.8-4 and Leica Summilux 50mm f/1.4. The 24-90 will be available together with the camera, while the other two will be available from early 2016 and late 2016 respectively. Existing Leica T lenses will be compatible with the SL, while S, M and R lenses will be usable via additional adaptors.

Leica - 3 lenses
Leica – 3 lenses

Interestingly, there’s also a Leica SF40 flash, which looks exactly like a Nissin i40. Of course, the red dot edition will also cost you a premium over the Nissin.

Leica SL with SF40 Flash Unit
Leica SL with SF40 Flash Unit

One thing I’ve noticed is that the Vario Elmarit 24-90mm f/2.8-4, which has a filter size of 82mm. When used with the SL, it makes the whole combination look humongous. And isn’t the idea of using a mirrorless camera to have a small and lightweight setup? With this kind of size, I think Leica users are more likely to use a small and light prime instead.

The Leica SL (Typ 601) will be available from November 16, 2016 with a cool price of US$7,450. The 24-90mm f/2.8-4 will be available at the same time for U$4,950.

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