New Leica SL Full-Frame Mirrorless Means Business

A 24-megapixel sensor sans low-pass filter; 11-fps continuous burst; ISO that maxes out at 50,000. And this Leica is a full-frame mirrorless camera, making this a world’s second (if anyone ever hands out accolades like that), second to Sony’s a7 series. Unless you count the Leica M9 as a mirrorless camera, which it isn’t, because admirers would prefer that the Leica M series be categorised as a rangefinder to avoid anyone from thinking of it as a lesser product.


Just in case you didn’t notice the red dot, here’s a close-up shot

So those with reasonable observation skills will assume that the new Leica SL is gunning for the Sony a7. The SL moniker evokes memories of its namesake, the Leicaflex SL, which was a line of SLR film cameras that jumped on the bandwagon of what was the trend in the late 60s. As it turns out, history is repeating itself.

Let’s get one thing out of the way though: at $7,450 USD (they usually put the price at the end of the article but, as it’s a Leica, you already knew it was going to be more than) it’s not going to be a direct competitor to the Sony. Not indirect either. And that’s a shame because they bear an uncanny resemblance.

Mijonju has got his hands on a prototype Leica SL:

That’s not to say it’s a terrible camera either because Leica do make some bold claims with the features of the SL, including the claim that every manufacturer likes to make—it has the world’s fastest autofocusing of any camera. It also has a 2GB buffer you allow for an 11fps continuous burst, which can be written to two SD cards—one in 8-bit jpeg and the other 14-bit RAW—simultaneously at the same time.

The impressive feats continue with the ability to shoot 4K video at 30 or 24fps, with an option to record 120fps in 1080p.


P.S. I’m bloody expensive

Even the EVF has quite an impressive 4.4-megapixel resolution with something Leica call EyeRes, which sounds like iris—do you get it? Oh, those clever corporate people and the clever puns they come up with. EyeRes. That’s clever. I leic it a lot.

Leica promises that the EVF is of such a high resolution with latency so low that you could easily mistake it for an optical viewfinder. We’ll just have to see. Do you see what I did there? Clever, innit?


Battery grip always makes something look more pro

All of these features come packaged in a body that lacks a bit of finesse from the front but what it lacks in finesse it makes up for in brute, being milled from a chunk of aluminium with dust and weather sealing too.

It sounds like it could potentially be as good as—and an even better performer in some aspects than—any of the Sony a7 cameras, perhaps even better than some DSLRs. Those specs make it out to be a camera meant for pros, although at $7,450 USD for the body only and the only lens available when the SL is released on 16 November will be an optically-stabilised 24-90mm f/2.8-4 (yes, it isn’t a fixed maximum aperture) for $4,950 USD, it puts it firmly in the single-digit Canon or Nikon DSLR territory. Yes. Please scoff away at that to your heart’s content.


The 50mm felt like a third wheel during the photoshoot

A Leica APO-Vario-Elmarit-SL 90–280mm f/2.8–4 (yep, also not a fixed max aperture) be released early 2016, and a Leica Summilux-SL 50 mm f/1.4 in late 2016. Yeah, so not many lenses. Still, I guess we’ve found something that it could compete with Sony. You could always mount Leica T, M or R lenses on the SL with an adaptor.

It would have to live up to its world’s fastest AF claim and produce some amazing videos and images for this to make sense. I’m sure it won’t make sense to many pros—it doesn’t quite make sense for the business. It might make sense to the label conscious businessman however.