Leica’s back with another new jaw-dropping camera, the Leica SL2. We had the opportunity to take a look at the camera in Germany, so while the hardware is final, the software is still in beta. We’ll do a full review in time, but here are our thoughts from the hands-on time we had.
The SL2 looks a lot like the original SL, except the edges are rounder and much better feeling in the hand. The front design takes inspiration from older cameras like the Leica Flex, R3 and R4 series and implementing those elements in the SL2.
This camera looks way better in real life compared to promotional photos and is solidly constructed with aluminium, magnesium and leather. This is the best built full-frame mirrorless camera system on the market, hands down.
There’s a 47.3MP full-frame CMOS sensor inside, which is the same number in the Q2 and very similar to the Lumix S1R. The S1R sensor has three layers of glass, while the sensor in the SL2 only has two layers. Leica claims this is because the quality of their lenses are good enough that their sensor doesn’t require that additional layer to correct aberrations and the likes.
This results in a sharper image from the SL2 compared to the S1R. Even using the same Summicron lenses on both the SL2 and S1R produces noticeably different results.
ISO runs from 50 to 50,000 and there’s a higher resolution rear display that’s fixed. When asked why the screen isn’t able to be flipped or articulated, Leica mentioned that it was to ensure the robustness of the camera by removing moveable parts.
There are two UHS-II card slots which retain continuity from other Leica cameras, so long-time Leica customers don’t have to purchase new cards to use the SL2. This does come at the cost of longer buffering times when shooting at higher framerates, however.
EVF has improved with a 5.76MP panel that’s similar to the S1R, but there’s different glass in the SL2’s viewfinder which makes images crisper and sharper than the S1R’s. It’s the same for the rear display, with photos looking sharp and vibrant on the SL2 rear monitor.
There’s 5-axes in-body image stabilisation, which is an improved version of the technology in the S1R. The autofocus system has also been enhanced. Leica and Panasonic do have a partnership so they’re able to use each other’s technology and build upon it. As of the video recording date, the autofocus on the SL2 is as good as the S1R and Leica says it’ll only get even better before the camera goes on sale at the end of November.
The SL2 battery is the same as the SL and Q2’s, so Leica users who have those two cameras will be able to swap batteries between them.
As for video, Leica has brought their A game. There’s up to 5K recording in 30fps, and there’s an option to record in 24fps for 1080p, 4K and 5K. You can record in MLV or MP4, and there’s internal 8 or 10bit and external 10bit recording. There’s also a cine-mode which turns off image stabilisation and you’ll get manual focus with shutter speed going into shutter angle and ISO goes to ASA.
The SL2 is basically a hybrid of the S1H and the S1R, with the Leica magic, glass and build quality. The image quality is phenomenal, focusing is quick and colour tones are beautiful. Low light is decent, but at the time of recording, it wasn’t as great as it’s going to be at release yet.
Battery life is fantastic and there’s everything you need in the SL2 for it to be a great hybrid camera.
More information about the Leica SL2 (US$5,995) can be found on Leica’s website.