Leica SL (Typ 601) – Mirrorless System Camera Without Compromise
Leica introduces the Leica SL (Type 601) – a mirrorless system camera without compromise: Top class electronic viewfinder, full-frame 24MP sensor, 4k video and a lot of professional features.
After canceling the Leica R system 6 years ago, Leica waited until now to start a new completely digital system, which
- makes full use of digital technology
- leaves behind restricting legacy of non-digital photography
- meets Leica’s requirements for quality and performance
The result is the Leica SL and thereby a new camera system. The German manufacturer wants to offer a system using all advantages of digital technology in order to provide best quality and performance to the photographer. I see three areas, in which Leica wants to attack the competitors and to find new customers:
- First mirrorless with real professional ambitions
- 4k video and Full HD at 120fps
- Adapting full format legacy lenses, for example Leica M / Leica R
The Leica SL will be available from November 16th. The camera body will cost $7,450 (£ 5,050), the standard zoom Vario-Elmarit-SL f/2.8–4 24–90mm ASPH. will have a $4,950 (£ 3,150) price tag.
Two more Leica SL lenses are announced for next year:
- APO-Vario-Elmarit-SL f/2.8–4 90–280 mm
- Leica Summilux-SL f/1.4 50 mm ASPH.
But at first the key facts at a glance:
Leica SL At A Glance
- Mirrorless system camera
- 24 MP CMOS 35mm Sensor
- 4.4 MP Electronic Viewfinder with 0.8x magnification
- ISO 50 – 50,000
- Contrast AF with 49 measuring points
- 1/8,000 – 60 sek, Bulb up to 30 min
- 11 fps continuous shooting in DNG
- Optical image stabilization (in SL lenses)
- GPS / WiFi
Leica SL Design
If you compare the new Leica SL to the Q and S (Type 007) the close relationship to the S is obvious: The Leica SL has the same DSLR form factor as the Leica S, instead of the pentaprism the SL has the EVF.
Leica SL (Typ 601): Further InformationAll Leica SL Lenses Leica SL Review by Jono New Leica SL Forum Leica SL Discussion Leica SL Product Page Leica SL Facebook Groupe
The size comparison to the Leica Q shows that miniaturization wasn’t a top priority. Fast full-format lenses with excellent optical performance need a certain size – especially if AF controls and drive must be integrated.
And for such big and heavy lenses it’s better to have a camera of an appropriate size and grip.
The camera body points out that Leica is serious about the professional ambitions: It’s milled from solid aluminum (Leica doesn’t mention how long it was polished) and completely sealed against splash and dust.
The Leica S lineage becomes visible with the concept of operations. It has similar elements on the camera back like the Leica S (Typ 007):
- Four unlabelled buttons
- Thumb dial
The buttons are free programmable, the joystick activates the focus magnifation and moves the focus field. The thumb dial controls the aperture (in A and M mode).
The monitor at the camera’s back can be operated via touch – but only for browsing images or setting the focus point. Navigation though the menus is done via the joystick.
Similar to the Leica S 007 the camera top has a LCD display with the core exposure parameters.
The two additional function buttons are configurable – as default they start video recording and switch the camera from photo to video mode.
As usual Leica remains silent about the supplier of single components but emphasizes that the viewfinder system is an in-house development.
Leica calls this piece of art „EyeRes Viewfinder“, EyeRes hints at the fact that the performace is almost better than perceptible by the human eye – both resolution as latency.
The Leica SL has a 24MP full-frame CMOS sensor which is almost identically to the Leica Q. Additionally the micro lens structure was optimized in order to get the maximum performance from Leica M lenses.
The sensitivity range is ISO 50 to ISO 50,000. Many photographers will be more interested in ISO 50 than almost unusable 6-digit ISO numbers…
Leica doesn’t mention the precise dynamic range, but it should be something around 13 EV as the Leica Q with the almost identical sensor.
The Maestro II engine (known from the current Leica S007) provides the performance to shoot 11 DNG files per second in full resolution – or to record 4k Video with 30fps.
2 GB RAM are sufficient to record 33 DNGs (or 30 DNG+JPG) in a row at full speed. Shooting JPEG the processor power and write speed is sufficient to write everything to the SD card – given that the SD card is UHS II.
Leica SL Autofocus – „the fastest autofocus of any professional camera“
Regarding autofocus Leica is very confident and claims „the fastest autofocus of any professional camera – including SLRs“. Tests must show if the Leica SL AF system rivals with professional DSLRs.
The Leica SL contrast autofocus controls focusing on the basis of 49 AF segments. Modes available are:
- Focus priority, Shutter priority,
- Touch-AF Static
- Dynamic (tracking),
- Auto (face detection)
I think that autofocus will be the crucial point which decides whether the Leica SL will become a serious option for professional photographers. Different from Sony or Olympus Leica doesn’t us hybrid AF (combination of contrast and phase AF) but seeks the performance by contrast information, fast image processor and the SL lenses’ extremely short focus time.
I’m pretty sure the Leica SL will be deployed to adapt legacy Leica R and M lenses. The Leica SL offers several focussing options even without AF:
- Via the high-res EVF without additional tools
- Focus peaking or
- Zoom focus (3x / 10x magnification)Leica has learned from the mistakes of the past: The zoom focus is activated by simply pressing the joystick once (3x) or twice (10x magnification), the zoom area is moved around by the joystick too.Which lenses can be adapted to the Leica SL is sufficient for another series of articles. Here is a short overview of Leica only lenses:
- SL lenses: 1 lens available, 2 more announced for 2016
- T lenses: 6 T/TL lenses in APS-C crop mode (10 MP)
- S lenses: 16 S lenses via S-ADAPTER L incl. AF
- M lenses: Full range via M-ADAPTER T
- R lenses: Full range via R-ADAPTER L
- Cine lenses: 21 Leica Cine lenses via PL-ADAPTER L
In a nutshell: Enough options until the Leica SL lens range is completed…
Leica SL Video Capabilities
One of the current trends in the camera market is the „4k Video“ label. But 4k only makes sense if the complete processing chain is available.
It looks as if Leica has done its home work
- Dedicated user interface for video recording and individual settings
- Immediate exposure simulation via display and viewfinder
- External HDMI output in 4:2:2/10 bit, internal SD card in 4:2:0/8 bit
- L-Log Video Gamma available
- external audio adapter AA-SCL4
And if you don’t need 4k video, the Leica SL provides a FullHD mode which uses the complete sensor for recording up to 120 fps.
Leica SL Accessories
In addition to the mentioned adapters for M, R, S and Cine lenses Leica offers this Leica SL accessories
- Handgrip with additional shutter release, joystick control and space for an extra camera battery
- Flash units SF40 / SF64
For the Vario-Elmarit-SL f/2.8–4 24–90mm ASPH. Leica offers
- Polarization Filter
- ND Filter
- UV protection filter
GPS / Wifi / USB 3.0 / Apps
The Leica SL has some more connectivity features: The GPS module writes the exact recording location of each exposure to the EXIF data. According to Jono’s first review this works pretty fast and reliable.
The Leica SL can connect to your mobile device via WiFi. In this way you can operate the camera. In Live View, you can remotely control your camera, set the focus and relevant parameters, and activate the shutter release.
Interesting for studio photographers is the application Leica Image Shuttle: It allows to operate the Leica SL from the computer and to view the results on the big screen.
Leica claims the Leica SL to be the first mirrorless system camera to fit professional needs:
- Sealed full metal body
- Electronic viewfinder with 4.4 MP resolution and 0.8x magnification
- AF speed allegedly beating performance of top DSLRs
- Continuous shooting at 11 fps, 33 DNGs in a row
- Two SD card slots (1x UHS II, 1x UHS I)
- Tethered shooting via Leica Image Shuttle
- 2 years shutter warranty or 200,000 releases
One camera with one lens available don’t make a camera system – but the specs of the standard zoom and the other announced lenses show where the system is heading:
Fast zoom lenses and primes, making the Leica quality standards availabel in a full-digital professional camera system.
If the Leica SL system will become a success story in the long run will depend on how discriminating photographers and video filmers will receive the system.
Judging by the known facts the Leica definitely has the potential to tempt a lot of professional photographers demanding Leica lenses without compromise in a fully digital and modern camera system.
If the Leica SL system becomes a serious option for professionals will depend on how the alleged performance proves to be true in the field and how fast Leica develops the system – especially with more lenses but also with video accessories.
A target group of its own are Leica R owners who finally receive the often quoted „adequate solution“ or R10 to use their excellent Leica R lenses digitally.
Japanese electronics manufacturer Sony targets the same market with their Sony A7x series. Considering the inactivity of the market’s top dogs Canon and Nikon I can imagine that both approaches by Leica and Sony will work. While I keep my fingers crossed in favor of the David from Wetzlar than the Japanes Goliaths 😉
|Technical Data||LEICA SL (Typ 601)|
|Lens Mount:||Leica L-Mount|
|Applicable lenses:||Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24–90 mm f/2.8–4 ASPH. Leica APO-Vario-Elmarit-SL 90–280 mm f/2.8–4 Leica Summilux-SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH. Lenses from the Leica T Camera System, Leica M-Lenses with Leica M-Adapter T, Leica S-Lenses with Leica S-Adapter L, Leica R-Lenses with Leica R-Adapter L and Leica Cine lenses with Leica PL-Adapter L.|
|Type:||24-MP-CMOS-Sensor (24 x 36 mm)|
|Resolution:||Full Frame (24 MP): 6000 x 4000 Pixel, APS-C (10 MP): 3936 x 2624 Pixel|
|Filter:||IR-Filter, no Lowpass Filter|
|ISO:||ISO 50–ISO 50000|
|Type:||Leica Maestro II series|
|Internal RAM:||2 GB: 33 DNGs or 30 JPEGs and DNGs|
|Image Data Format:||JPEG, DNG|
|Colordepth:||14 bit (DNG), 8 bit (JPEG)|
|JPEG:||Color Space Adobe RGB, ECI RGB, sRGB|
|File Format:||MP4, MOV|
|Resolution:||4K (4096 x 2160) @ 24 fps; 4K (3840 x 2160) @ 25 and 30 fps; 1080 @ 24, 25, 30, 50, 60, 100 and 120 fps; 720 @ 24, 25, 30, 50, 60, 100 and 120 fps|
|Bitrate:||8 bit (recording); 10 bit (HDMI not recording)|
|Color sampling:||4:2:2/10 bit (HDMI only); 4:2:0/8 bit (recording on SD card)|
|Video:||V-Log L gamma selectable|
|Audio:||Manual/Auto; Stereo microphone, 48 kHz, 16 bit; Wind elimination|
|Audio external via Audio-Adapter:||Audio-In (3.5 mm phone jack), Audio-Out (3.5 mm phone jack)|
|Movie Length:||Max. duration: 29 min, Max. size: 4 GB|
|Resolution:||SXAG, 4.4 MP|
|Eye Point:||20 mm|
|Field of View:||37°|
|Magnification:||x 0.80 (With 50 mm lens at infinity, −1 dpt)|
|Frame coverage:||100 %|
|Diopter correction:||− 4 to +2|
|Live View:||Operating Modes: Video- and Photo-Live-View separated; Frame rate: up to 60 fps; Exposure simulation available, Optional information: Focus Peaking, Histogram, Clipping/Zebra, Level, Grid Overlay (3 x 3, 6 x 4), Aspect Ratio (1.33:1; 1.66:1; 1.78:1; 1.85:1; 2.35:1; 2.4:1), Safe Area (80 %; 90 %; 92.5 %; 95 %)|
|Storage:||SD 1 slot (UHS II) with maximum writing speed 100 MB/s, SD 2 slot (UHS I) with maximum writing speed 30 MB/s|
|Focus Modes:||AF-S (focus priority), AF-C (shutter priority), MF, Touch-AF|
|AF Modes:||Static, Dynamic (tracking), Auto (face detection)|
|AF Size:||Point, Field, Zone (9 Fields)|
|AF Steps:||37 or 49 Fields|
|AF Assist Lamp:||Built in|
|Exposure Modes:||Program Mode (P), Shutter speed priority mode (T), Aperture priority mode (A) and manual mode (M)|
|Exposure Metering Modes:||Center weighted, Multi zone, Spot|
|Exposure Compensation:||±3 EV in 1/3 or 1/2 EV-steps|
|Exposure Bracketing:||3/5/7 images in 1/2/3 aperture steps; additional direct JPEG-HDR|
|White Balance:||Preset Auto, Daylight 5200 K, Cloudy 6000 K, Shade 7000 K, Tungsten 3200 K, HMI 5600 K, Fluorescent warm 4000 K, Fluorescent cool 4500 K, Flash 5400 K, Greycard, Manual color temperature 2000 K to 11500 K|
|Type:||Focal plain shutter|
|Drive Modes:||Single, Continuous slow S (4 fps), Continuous medium M (7 fps), Continuous fast F (11 fps), Self timer 2 s, Self timer 12 s, Interval, Exposure Bracketing, Time exposures up to 30 min|
|Shutter speed:||1/8000 s to 60 s, time exposures up to 30 min, Max. frame rate 11 fps,|
|Warranty:||2 years or 200,000 releases|
|Interface:||Standard X-jack, Hot shoe with Sync. and TTL-Mode contacts|
|Wi-Fi:||Built in, IEEE 802.11 b/g/n (2.5 GHz)|
|GPS:||Built in, Automatic time and date, Sensitivity < 1°|
|Power supply:||Rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery, Nominal voltage 8.4 V, Capacity at least 1860 mAh; Lifetime per charge (CIPA): approx. 400 shoots; Charging time: approx. 180 min; Charger: 100–240 V 50/60 Hz 0.25 A with adapters|
|Touch Screen:||2.95″ Touch Back light LED with Anti-fingerprint and Anti-scratch coating; 1.04 Mio. pixels; Format 3:2; View angle: 170°; Colors: 16 Million; Frame coverage: 100 %|
|Top Display:||1.28″ highly reflective monochrome LCD; 128 x 128 dots; View angle 120°; Anti-fingerprint coating|
|Dust/Spray water sealing:||Provided|
|Interfaces:||USB 3.0 Micro Type B; HDMI Type A; Multi connector adapter for Audio-Out 3.5 mm/Audio-In 3.5 mm; Multi Connector cable release; ISO accessory shoe with center and control contacts for flash units; Standard X-jack; Multifunctional interface in baseplate for optional handgrip|
|Tripod threat:||A 1/4 DIN 4503 (1/4″) with anti-twist locking pin|
|Dimensions/Weight:||147 x 104 x 39 mm (W x H x D)/ approx. 771/847 g (with/without battery)|
|Working conditions:||Approx. 0°– 40°C, max. 85 % humidity|
|Scope of delivery:||Camera body, Camera strap, Lens mount cap, Battery, Battery Charger with international adapter, USB 3.0-cable, Manual, Warranty Card, Leica Lens cleaning tissue|
|Software:||Remote Control (USB): Leica Image Shuttle SL; Remote Control (Wi-Fi): Leica SL app (Android/iOS)|
Here the official Leica SL (Type 601) press release:
The LEICA SL mirrorless system camera sets new standards in terms of speed, picture quality and versatility
Wetzlar, 20 October 2015 – The Leica SL system marks the beginning of a new era of professional photography made in Germany. The Leica SL mirrorless system camera is impressive on account of its innovations in exceptional Leica quality. Its 24 MP full-frame CMOS sensor and perfectly matched components – from superior-quality lenses to its electronic viewfinder – guarantee exceptional imaging performance.
EyeRes viewfinder and touchscreen display for total control of every picture
Developed especially for the Leica SL, this electronic viewfinder is the first of its kind to feature Leica EyeRes technology. With a latency time below the threshold of perception, an impressive resolution of 4.4 million pixels and a magnification reminiscent of a medium format camera, this electronic viewfinder offers an entirely new visual experience and numerous advantages: the final image is visible in the viewfinder before the shutter release is pressed, which enables optimum control over the final picture in any situation. The EyeRes viewfinder is activated simply by looking through it. In addition, the Leica SL also features a 2.95“ back panel display with a viewing angle of up to 170° that enables reliable viewing of pictures and efficient touchscreen menu navigation.
Maestro II processor for maximum performance
The high-performance Maestro II series processor guarantees that photographers never miss even the fastest-moving subjects and that the camera responds instantaneously to all commands. Together with 2 GB of buffer memory, the processor makes it possible to capture consecutive exposures at rates of up to 11 frames per second at full 24 MP resolution and 4K video with a frame rate of 30 frames per second. Pictures can be saved simultaneously to an SD memory card as both a JPEG and DNG in line with the fast UHS II standard. Thanks to its Maestro II series processor, the Leica SL achieves the best performance currently possible in the professional camera class and underlines the innovative character of the camera.
24 MP CMOS sensor for exceptional picture quality in 35 mm full-frame format
The 24 MP CMOS full-frame sensor guarantees impressive dynamic range, excellent contrast rendition, exceptional sharpness, the highest resolution, and noise-free images in almost all lighting conditions. The shutter provides speeds from 30 minutes to 1/8000 sec. The sensor reveals its full potential in combination with Leica SL lenses, especially in available-light situations, and captivates users with atmospheric exposures in superior quality at ISO settings up to a maximum of 50,000. What’s more, it is optimised for use with Leica M-Lenses and, in addition to supporting all their functions, delivers the excellent picture quality with which Leica has been synonymous for more than 100 years.
The new movie star: professional video in cinematic resolution
The Leica SL is much more than a professional still-picture camera with video recording capability: it fulfils even the most stringent demands of moviemakers as a fully fledged video camera. Thanks to its 24 MP CMOS sensor and high-performance Maestro II series processor, the Leica SL enables the production of professional videos in 4K resolution. Videos can be recorded in UHD at 30 frames per second or even in Cine4K at 24 frames per second. In full HD, the Leica SL records video at up to 120 frames per second and makes use of the entire sensor area. Here, the logical and intuitive handling concept of the camera makes a clear distinction between still- and motion-picture recording. As soon as the camera is in video mode, the display shows only relevant information for video recording, such as safe area, aspect ratio, zebra function or the recording level of the microphone. An optional audio adapter allows you to connect an external microphone and the audio recording level can be set without accessing the menu. Videos can be output in 4:2:2 10-bit format in 4K resolution over HDMI 1.4.
Aluminium body for robust performance in everyday photography
From the beginning, resilience and robustness were at the focus of the Leica SL’s development. Body components machined from solid aluminium and precisely engineered seals around controls and in the lenses provide optimum protection against dust, moisture and splashes for the sensitive technology inside. At the same time, integrated ultrasonic sensor cleaning removes dust and dirt from the sensor. The glass covering the back panel display is extremely scratch-resistant and features an anti-reflex coating. All these properties make the camera an ideal tool for use in the rough, everyday conditions faced by professional photographers. In the interplay between its equally classic and functional design and its distinctive lines, the Leica SL is another example of Leica’s fine art of engineering.
A new generation of lenses for excellent picture quality
The combination of outstanding imaging performance and the fastest autofocus currently possible makes working with the Leica SL an entirely new experience and enables photographers to produce images in a quality never before seen in 35 mm format. True to Leica’s principles, the new lenses specific to the Leica SL are distinguished by superior optical and mechanical precision. With its wide range of focal lengths and high speed, the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24–90 mm f/2.8–4 ASPH. is the ideal standard zoom lens in the Leica SL-System portfolio. The zoom range of the fast Leica APO-Vario-Elmarit-SL 90–280 mm f/2.8–4 follows on directly from this and the current lens portfolio is rounded off by the Leica Summilux-SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH., the new reference lens for this focal length.
What’s more, the exceptional compatibility of the Leica SL-System grants photographers access to almost all Leica lenses ever made. For instance, all lenses for the Leica T camera can be used without an adapter. In addition, appropriate adapters allow Leica S, M, and R system lenses and lenses from other manufacturers to be mounted on the Leica SL.
The Leica SL (Type 601) body will be on sale from 16 November 2015. The Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24–90 mm f/2.8–4 ASPH. zoom lens will be available at the same time. Further Leica SL lenses will follow.