Leica SL2-S: is it destined to be the best of both worlds?

Leica’s latest L Mount body mixes top-level stills and video in the usual pleasantly Germanic package...

Leica’s latest model has just been announced – but is it one for your Christmas list? Well, if you want a beautifully-built camera that combines top level stills and video performance, and you have £3975 to spare, it could well be…

The third body in Leica’s SL series, the SL2-S is designed to be speedier than the hi-res 47Mp SL2, while also packing in improved video over the previous body – much of which is to come via a planned firmware update in early 2021. It uses a full frame 24Mp BSI-CMOS sensor offering up to 25fps at full resolution using its electronic shutter.

Thanks to its Maestro-III processor and a large buffer, if you shoot at nine frames per second with the mechanical shutter Leica says you’ll be able to fill a card without it taking a breather. However both of these modes are without AF or auto exposure and to enjoy those, you’ll need to drop to 5fps. Sills also benefit from a very useful ISO range of 50-100,000.

But it’s in its video spec that the Leica SL2-S is perhaps most noteworthy. Or will be. Oversampled 10-bit 4:2:2 4K video is offered with no recording time limit, and you can shoot up to 60fps, albeit with an APS-C crop of the full frame sensor. There’s also L-Log mode for the flattest and widest dynamic range, and integrated viewing LUTs, so the user can have full control throughout the recording. The promised stream of firmware updates for the SL2-S will add HEVC video compression standard for 10-bit recordings up to 4K/60p, an integrated waveform monitor and automatic follow focus.

The SL2-S also offers five-axis image stabilisation giving up to a 5.5stop advantage and this sensor-shift technology means it can give you a multi-shot hi-res mode, where eight photos are merged into one 96Mp file. The mode gives you two DNGs, one at 24Mp and one at 96Mp, so you’ve got a choice. Check out the full res 100% crop on the image below. 

Like others in the series it uses the L-mount, jointly developed between Leica, Panasonic and Sigma, and there are over 40 autofocus lenses at last count, so plenty of choice. It’ll also take the same accessories as the SL2, and its minimalist metal body with milled aluminium top cover and bottom plate, is dust and water resistant with a rating of IP54. That means it’s splashproof and it’s also promised to keep shooting down to at least -10ºC. 

Just as on the SL2, composing via the 5.76 million dot, 120fps EyeRes viewfinder should be a pleasure, and a 1.28in top plate LCD keeps users in touch with settings. It has a full sized HDMI connector for video output to external devices, and there are two high speed UHS-II SD card slots for internal recording. It measures 146x107x83 mm and weighs 931g.

Here are some example shots, taken using the new camera.