First off, the camera and lens is huge and heavy. I just can’t believe how large this camera is compared to other mirrorless cameras on the market. It’s every bit as big as my Canon 5D Mark II and feels heavier with the kit lens the my 5D kit.
Next to the massive Leica S medium format camera, the Leica SL still looks big. I was rather shocked to see this comparison. Of course, the Leica S has quite a bit more heft to it but we shouldn’t be comparing these two cameras in terms of physical dimensions anyway.
And speaking of large…
The upcoming Leica APO-Vario-Elmarit-SL 90–280 mm f/2.8–4 lens is a bazooka of a lens. It’s not due until early 2016 but Leica had a mockup on display at PhotoPlus. Also, the Leica Summilux-SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH is expected to arrive in late 2016 – no sign of it at PhotoPlus though…
The one thing that will downsize the Leica SL is adding a M-mount lens with the aid of an adapter. It brings the size of dimensions of the camera back into a more manageable perspective.
Of course, that heft comes with the feeling of Leica quality that really no other camera has. The camera is just as smooth to operate as you would expect from Leica.
The autofocus seems to work quite well and had no trouble locking on to subjects under the less-than-ideal lighting conditions that exist at trade shows.
The absence of button labels or icons on the SL comes as a bit of a shock if you are accustomed to mainstream DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. However, the operation is intuitive and takes only a couple of minutes to gather your bearings even if you don’t have a manual to walk you through it.
The SL uses its LCD screen to “label” the four rectangular buttons surrounding the display with icons that provide the function of each button. The touchscreen also serves as an input device and works very well.
A top dial gives you quick access to change shooting parameters depending on the mode you are in. A pair of top buttons allow you to toggle the shooting mode from photo to video and then start and stop recording with the other. The viewfinder is big and bright and serves as an excellent substitute for an optical viewfinder.
The Leica SL also shoots 4K video at 24p and 30p frame rates. You can see a short sample of the 4K footage in the YouTube clip below.
Take this for what it’s worth though and not as a final say on the 4K and video capabilities of the camera. It was just a quick clip shot at the booth and handheld with the camera. Although, I think there’s a lot of potential here – especially when you consider the sheer volume of great glass available for the SL.
My final impression of the Leica SL is that it will be an even more niche product than I initially thought when it was announced. As always, Leica finds its way into the high-end niche due the price barrier for entry. The Leica SL, however, adds the additional consideration of weight, which will be a tough pill for some Leica M shooters to swallow. And then there are some who have been waiting for a great full frame camera from Leica with a solid autofocus system – and this is their camera. If your back can bear the weight, this is the luxury camera to have as a daily carry.
The Leica SL (Typ 601) camera body retails for $7450 and the Vario-Elmarit-SL 24–90 mm f/2.8–4 ASPH lens retails for $4950. Both will be available on November 16, 2015. Check them out here at B&H Photo.