Contemplating the Leica SL Mirrorless Camera

Contemplating the Leica SL Mirrorless Camera:

The Leica SL is getting more tempting by the minute :).  Thanks to Bob at Bergen County Camera, I was able to borrow an SL with the 24-90mm, and M adapter to see if I actually want one as a replacement for my M 240.  I know there are a lot of great cameras out these days, and ones that are coming out like the Fuji GFX.  I was actually pretty sure that this time around, I was going to get a GFX.  It’s within the same price range as a top end Leica, and it’s medium format.  Plus, I am also a Fuji fan, and I already love what the existing X Series produces in terms of image quality.  But I already have an X-T2, and I review a lot of gear; I can tell you that Leica definitely has a unique look that I totally love.  It’s so real and film like.  I love the tones, I love the colors.  Of course, I’m not saying that nothing else compares because that’s not true at all.  Fuji and pretty much every other good brand has their own unique look as well.  Judging by how many articles I write about Fuji gear, I’m obviously a fan :).

It’s been a little difficult for me to decide on whether or not I should dive into the Leica SL because I’ve been a rangefinder fan for so many years but at the same time, I feel like my photography is slowly changing, and the SL’s features may be a better fit for me now.  I just want to make sure I’m completely comfortable focusing my M lenses on the SL because unfortunately, there just aren’t many SL lenses out yet.

So far, there are two zooms but I’m just not interested in them mainly because I prefer primes.  The good news is the 50mm Summilux ASPH is coming out very soon for the SL.  The M version is by far my favorite lens from any manufacturer.  Leica have made some pretty bold statements about the qualities of the SL version, and if they are true (which I don’t doubt), the Lux is going to be pretty spectacular to say the least.  Plus, they are coming out with a 90mm APO Summicron along with a 35mm Summicron at later dates, which would pretty much fill what I need.  I would like an ultra wide but that can be filled by my 18mm Super Elmar-M.  It’s one of my favorite lenses.  The only thing is, until they release the 35mm and 90mm, I would essentially be relying on my M lenses, and the SL version of the 50mm Lux (which still isn’t out yet).  That’s not bad at all; who can complain about M lenses, right ;)?  But if I’m investing in this system, I want to use one of the benefits, which is the fast autofocus.

leica-sl-35mm-summicron-m-f2-m-adapter

The other issue is the size.  The Leica SL is larger than the M, especially if you mount SL lenses to it.  But to me, I’m actually okay with the size of the body; Leica has emphasized that they are trying to make the best lenses that they can for the SL, and that means they aren’t making any compromises.  I’m totally on board with that but that might also mean larger lenses, which is why a larger body makes sense.  The whole camera is better balanced.  It’s easier to grip.  It’s like Fuji: I was an X-E series user but the lenses steadily increased in size.  I ended up going with the X-T series bodies because I felt that they were better balanced with some of the larger Fuji lenses.

Now, the SL is also heavy.  But once you hold it in your hands, you’ll know why.  The Leica SL is probably the most solid, and dense feeling camera that I’ve had the pleasure of using.  Vault-like might be an understatement.  This feels better built than my M, and anything else I’ve used.  It’s almost hard to believe a camera can be built to this level.  It’s also quite comfortable to hold, and I love the simplicity of it.  There are four main buttons in the back, and that’s it!  The menu is extremely easy to navigate as well.  It took me 10 minutes to figure it all out without instructions.  All the important controls are essentially at your fingertips too.  It’s typical Leica layout, which I love.

Overall, the Leica SL is quite impressive to me.  When it first came out, I never really considered getting one because I just didn’t think it fit me but it grew on me, and once I started using one, I realize how amazing the camera really is.  I’ll post some pictures up soon.  I should’ve posted some images today to accompany my little blog post (I know, it’s kind of boring without any pics 😉 ) but I’ve been busy writing up my XF 50-140mm f2.8 review.  So stay tuned, and thanks for stopping by!

If you’re interested in any Leica gear, and you want a fantastic dealer (which my family and I have been going to for 30+ years), you should consider calling Bob at Bergen County Camera.  I wasn’t told to say any of this but they really are up there with the best.

13 comments… add one
  • Jed Orme

    Hello Patrick,

    Oh dear, the Leica SL has to be one of the most tempting cameras being made today. All who have been using it seem to be more than just happy or satisfied with it – they are gushing with praise! But if you can manage to do so, it probably would be worth it to wait until the Fuji GFX is available to test as well. It seems to be the center of attention today, with typical Fuji innovation & functionality. I don’t see how you could go wrong with either choice, but the SL is a bit of a better known piece of kit right now. So I envy your options & wish you great luck in making this decision – & will look forward to reading all about it. Cheers,

    Jed

    • Patrick

      Hi Jed,

      Sorry for the late reply. I am considering the SL because quite frankly, I love the Leica look. The Fuji, no matter how good it’s going to be, won’t give me that same look. Fuji has its own unique signature. At the end of the day, it’s not about the hype or what is currently getting the most attention. In 6 months, I’m sure something else will start getting a lot of attention. At the end of the day, I try to see pass the hype, and see what I can live with long term. The SL makes sense for me. It’s a very useable camera. The autofocus is fast. It operates faster than the Hasselblad. It’s EVF is the best that I’ve used so far. I absolutely love the build quality to, which I can tell you from personal experience, is even better than the Hasselblad X1D. I’ve been a huge Leica fan for years, and not only will I now be able to use autofocus Leica lenses, it’s easier (at least for me) to focus my M lenses on the SL. I hope to hear from you soon!

      Best,

      Patrick

  • Elderin

    Hello Patrick,

    i understand the trouble you are in 😉 the SL is a beauty to hold and shoot with. results are spectacular as well. Leica look is there with a mix of some modern influence. one thing that stopped me from buying one is size of lenses. and honestly, if you want to shoot with M lenses why not use a A7r2 ?
    That is what i questioned myself and now i shoot not only with M lenses but have fun with lots other vintage lenses (like Canon FL lenses from the 1970s). The Sony is not a Leica though. Very good, but i still prefer the sensor of the SL (though technically not better) let alone the look and feel of the camera itself. I guess if you have the funds to spare, the SL would not disappoint you.

    • Patrick

      Hi Elderin,

      Sorry for the late reply…been a little busy with the holidays :). The reason I am most likely going to buy the SL is because I actually want to shoot with autofocus Leica lenses. That’s my main reason for buying it. The zooms are pretty amazing but what I’m most definitely going to buy is the 50mm Summilux, which is coming out in a couple of months (if I buy the SL). I love Leica glass, and I love the Leica look, which results from a combination of their glass and sensor design. Like you, I still prefer the sensor of the SL over the Sony. I respect the Sony but I personally like what the Leica produces. Plus, I like the feel of the camera, and the EVF is the best that I’ve used so far. In addition to using my M lenses, I can even experiment with R, S, and TL lenses.

      Best,

      Patrick

  • Elderin

    … oh and what happens once Leica presents the new M 🙂 I bet you will love that thing, too.
    you have lots cameras with AF but only one with a RF. i guess it would make the most sense to stick with the M.

    • Patrick

      Hi Elderin,

      I had no plans of buying the new M even when I was thinking about going medium format. That’s because I really want an autofocus Leica this time. As for how many AF cameras I have, I only have one, which is the X-T2. The rest you see on my site are loaners. I did have the D-Lux but traded it in recently. I actually have more MF cameras lol. The beauty about the SL is not only can I use my existing M lenses, it’s actually a lot easier to focus them on the SL. That’s why I think the SL makes more sense for me.

      Best,

      Patrick

  • Elderin

    Greetings Jed,
    you remember that X1D ? compared to that, the GFX looks like a camera of the past 🙂 at least from the looks of the camera (and i like the look of the lenses better also). both are in the same ballpark in terms of cost. honestly i dont see why anyone would buy the fuji over the hasselblad if you want to go medium Format. what do you think ?

  • Jed Orme

    Hello Elderin,

    It appears to me that Fuji is trying to create almost an alternative to the medium format with this camera. Their sensor is quite a bit smaller than traditional medium format & their focal plane shutter lens design differs also. But I quite agree that the new Hasselbald is beautiful, very Scandinavian modern compared to the more traditional Fuji. The X1D & Phase One are really the benchmark in medium format while the Leica SL & now this new Fuji are offering alternative systems I think. That said, I am quite happy with what I could do with the Leica M before some aging eye issues intervened, & can now do with the Leica Q (which has pretty much the same sensor as the SL). Cheers,

    Jed

    • Patrick

      Hi Jed,

      I wouldn’t count the Fuji out when compared to the X1D yet. The Fuji has the same sensor as the Hasselblad but each company has their own algorithms etc to give them each a distinct look. I think it will come down to preference more than technical specs. Fuji have had plenty of medium format experience along with designing lenses. They once designed lenses for Hasselblad. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Fuji gives the X1D a run for its money :).

      As for the SL, I don’t consider it just an alternative to the Fuji and Hasselblad. I consider it a reference camera as well. Think about how many times Leica products are used to compare with so many other products. Think about how Leica products have actually inspired other camera designs. Leica sometimes get a lot of bashing but that’s because they are priced so high lol. The truth is, their cameras can still produce some of the best images out there when used right. Of course, this goes for many other top end cameras from other manufacturers as well.

      I’ve reviewed a lot of different cameras and I can tell you that there’s so much more that goes into making a top camera than just megapixels or a larger sensor. Of course, I’m not saying a larger sensor won’t help; all I’m saying is there are a lot of different aspects that go into making a camera that will produce top level image quality.

      For the price of the Leica, I’m in the ballpark of the Fuji, Hasselblad, and many others but I’m considering the SL not because of “prestigious” name or I can’t get either the Hassey or Fuji. My biggest reason for choosing Leica is because I simply love the results I get from something like the SL. It’s as simple as that. It has that Leica look that I’m addicted to, and it goes further than just having some of the best lenses in the industry. Whatever profiles or algorithms they used in their sensor design work together with those amazing lenses to give that Leica look. At the end of the day, I could care less about whether the sensor is smaller than the MD cameras or if it’s as technically good as sensor X; I just care about the end result, and what my eyes perceive as superb.

      Does this mean everyone should get a Leica? No. They should get what makes them happy :)! At this point, cameras are getting so good that many pro cameras will yield excellent results. Even entry level cameras can get you decent image quality now. In fact, my brother in law hasn’t picked up his OM-D since he bought his new iPhone 7 Plus lol. That’s why right now, my personal feeling is that since tech specs are already so good across the board, it’s more important to just look at how each camera actually renders their images in their own unique way.

      Best,

      Patrick

  • Jed Orme

    Hello Patrick,

    I totally get & understand what you are saying about the very unique qualities that are found in the Leica SL & its predecessors. And as you say, not always better but pretty much always different in their sensors & the way their lenses capture & render. I was very satisfied for a number of years with my Fuji & its X Trans sensor. But when I shifted to the Leica M with even my limited Leica prime lenses, I found something very different. And now what they are doing with the SL is really quite amazing. The zoom lenses for it are definitely on the large size, but also very good. However I would agree that by using only the primes, with the added ability also to adapt your M lenses, will give you a very manageable sized system & quality that can’t be matched. Very exciting to read what you will be doing with the SL & look forward to seeing the images you will be able to create. And if my appreciation of the auto focus & manual focus of the Leica Q is anything like what you will have with the SL, – – & I know it will be even better – – then you will be amazed with it I am certain. While the EVF on the Q is simply fantastic, on the SL it will be even more impressive I am sure. So Good Luck in these next exciting steps you are taking & I will look forward to reading all about it. Cheers,

    Jed

    • Patrick

      Hi Jed,

      Thanks for the well wishes! The zoom lenses are so large they are almost comical :). But I think I might end up with the 24-90mm, and when the 50mm Lux comes out, I will definitely get one. To complete my kit, I will wait for the 90mm Summicron, and the 35mm Summicron. But I think that’s quite a long ways.

      I’m almost ready to take the plunge…still thinking about it considering it’s a pretty large investment. But I will most likely end up with the SL. I definitely have been enjoying it.

      As for the Q, I would love to get one. It’s one of my favorite cameras but unfortunately, I could only afford one Leica :). My uncle has one, so I’m sure he wouldn’t mind lending it to his nephew once in a while ;).

      Best,

      Patrick

  • Jed Orme

    Hello Patrick,

    Not a bad idea about borrowing the Leica Q from your uncle (particularly if you are his favorite or only nephew), but I’m afraid the quid pro quo may be you would have to lend him your SL for the same amount of time! But in all seriousness, the SL & Q would be an ideal pairing – the SL for the heavy lifting, pro type of work & the Q for the more relaxing, travel & family photography. Only the steep entrance fee prevents it I suppose. But you will have the wonderful SL & your Fuji gear, & that sounds like a very excellent combination as well. Cheers,

    Jed

    • Patrick

      Haha, I don’t know if I’d be willing to loan him my SL! You are right about the SL and Q making a great combo. I would love to get a Q but that I can the entry fee is definitely steep :). But as you said, the Fuji kit will work well with the SL. Whenever I want to go light, I can grab the X-T2.

      Best,

      Patrick

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