HIGH ISO and Color Comparisons. Leica TL2, Leica SL, Sony A9.

HIGH ISO Comparisons. Leica TL2, Leica SL, Sony A9.

Hey to all! Hope everyone is having a wonderful week! Today I did a few high ISO tests as I have the Leica TL2 here along with the Leica SL and Sony A9. With the TL2 being the latest from Leica with their newest sensor, I was curious if it beats out the SL for higher ISO. After the tests it was interesting to see the three different color signatures from these cameras. The Sony is cooler but the AWB seems to be the worse of the three here.  The SL gives its warm tones and the TL2 is more neutral/cool. But below are several FULL SIZE direct from camera RAW files from each camera at ISO 3200 up to 50,000. I let the cameras meter the scene, as that is a real world way to test. Most shoot these in a way that lets the camera do the metering, so that is how this test was done. Each camera delivering what you would get in real world us. The subject, an Amethyst crystal was placed on a (dusty) stool in my living room with only natural light. It was not bright in the room, but more dim. Also, the SL had the 24-90 set to 50mm, the TL had the 35 1.4 which gives a 50mm FOV and the Sony had the 55 1.8 Zeiss. Tripod mounted.

This test was JUST for ISO out of camera and I guess also the color signatures which are so different from each other. Click the images to see the full size files.

ISO 3200

Leica TL2, Leica SL, Sony A9 – Click to see them full size. Read above for details. 

Now ISO 6400, same as above


Now ISO 12500 (Leica) and 12,800 (Sony)

Now ISO 25000

ISO 50,000

Some will say they see banding in the Sony images, but it’s not banding. It is a shadow from my window blinds that for some reason the other cameras did not pick up as vividly. So it is not banding..he

Just a quick crop of ISO 6400 which is most peoples max when shooting. Crops from RAW files. No PP at all. No NR added.


  1. Interesting experiment that leads me to the (strange counter intuitive and paradoxical) conclusion that the amethyst is best captured by the Leica SL, but in colors in the interior seem best captured by the Leica TL2.
    Is there some explanation out there?

    • I would venture a guess that light of different temperature was on the statue compared to the background (which is lit mostly by daylight coming through windows)

  2. Steve,
    Thanks for the quick color review. The TL2 showed the slightest bit of chromatic aberration, but you shot it wide open.The others were closed down and had no C.R. which is no surprise. What impressed me, although that is not the purpose of the test, is how little C.R. the TL2 showed at f/1.4.

    My experience with my past Leica’s is that they all need a (-) 1/3 to (-) 2/3 stop exposure correction, and that showed up with the TL2 which was somewhat overexposed. I was pleased to see that the SL exposure appeared to be right on and needed no correction. Unfortunately, I cannot afford the SL despite the price reduction, but I am now convinced that the TL2 is in my future. The Sony color rendition is way too muddy for my tastes and badly in need of Rx with LR or PS.

  3. I got a chance to play with the SL in the store. The dealer was even nice enough to let me put a memory card in it (which if you are a dealer, you should never do). I loved the handling and the colors, but the noise and sharpness was worse than expected. I would compare the noise and sharpness of the SL to the Sony A6500, alhough the noise pattern on the SL was more “film-like”.

    Horses for courses. If you need sharpness at high ISO then buy the A9. If you want better colors (and a more fun camera) get the SL. If you don’t have that kind of cash, then spend your money on a vacation and shoot the pictures with your old Nikon.

  4. Thanks for the comparison. It’s interesting how different the photos look with the different cameras.

  5. An amethyst is purple in hue
    Sony makes it look way too blue/black
    TL is cold in color range.
    SL makes the room too warm but the crystal is real.
    Overall the SL captures the true color and is the better choice. Sony is distorting the color and could not be used to display the beauty of the crystal without major manipulation.

  6. Thanks Steve for the comparison.
    A9 and TL2 fail badly with the color in my opinion. The TL2 out of camera colors are the worst I’ve seen lately with new cameras, what’s wrong with the Leica engineers?

    The A9 looks less noisy / a tad sharper than the SL, because it’s darker, maybe they are even, if you pull the sony pictures to level (brightness and saturation)? Or maybe not, but “real world” would mean to me, that I’d pull the shadows in the A9 pictures to taste. No offence, just a suggestion.

  7. Good Morning!

    Thx for that comparison.
    As an amethyst naturally is not blue but purple the SL seems to have the correct WB. By viewing on the iPAD (on the road), I can’t see much of a difference at iso6400 between SL and A9.

    best regards

  8. What’s amazing is how much detail is in that Sony crop at the end. Damn good sensor.
    It definitely wins the ISO war too.

    I do like the TL2 color the best though, followed by the SL & Sony 3rd.

    • This is an interesting but hard to draw conclusions from comparison.
      Here’s why: for the 6400 ISO image, the:
      – TL2 is at 1/320 @ f/1.4
      – SL is at 1/125 @ f/3.6
      – A9 is at 1/125 @ f/4.0
      No prize for the correct answer as to which is going to be the least sharp!

      • It’s not a sharpness test, at all. It was a high ISO test, and color. Which was stated at the top, so your point is invalid. It was never meant to be a sharpness test, or one with the same aperture or lens, etc. It’s for ISO noise, and color and even the way the camera meters the scene. A real world use kind of test, as the is how we would use them in the real world ; ) Thanks for looking.

        • My point is not invalid at all, and I am able to read the article title and description just fine. No need to get on the offensive.
          But what struck me (and apparently two others, from reading the comments) was the difference in detail, which is for the first two ISOs at least much larger than the difference in noise (not so for colour though).
          Since you didn’t mention the lens settings, I wanted to see if the TL2 is really that much worse at resolving detail or it was down to the aperture, which it is, and should have been mentioned.

  9. The Sony appears superior at least in these samples

    I wanted to like the Leica’s better because the Leicas are beautiful and I have somewhat been trying to convince myself I should buy one

    But to me the Sony samples, at least here, are superior

  10. My question: The TL renders the crystal as blue. From the SL it is purple. The A9 shows it as almost black. What color is it really?

    • That’s a really good question, Ron!
      We can debate ISO qualities till the cows come home, but I’m more interested in knowing which one rendered the most accurate colours…

    • +1
      that was my first thought too
      love the colors of the SL2 most! High iso crop at 100% isn’t relevant for me or for a good picture!

  11. I like the out of focus grain structure to the TL2. It also captured the energy of the Amethyst properly and nicely with strong positive Chi at each terminated crystal point . SL colors look good. The A9 looks dark and feels dark. None of the environmental energy in the scene was captured; mechanical similar to X-Trans sensors. The images I’ve seen from the TL2 have really impressed me. Looking forward to your review and Grand Canyon photos.

    • Having owned several digital Leica’s beginning with the M8 and now with the Leica T, it seems that the OOC RAW images are all a little overexposed. I typically set up my Leica’s with a (- 1/3+ to (-2/3 stop) exposure correction in my User’s Menu. I get, to my eye, more accurate color. Steve’s TL2 examples of the amethyst seem to match my slight over-exposure experience with Leica. The SL, on the other hand, looks spot on .
      The Sony examples seem biased in the underexposed direction. What is your opinion, Steve?

      • As stated, I let each camera expose the scene, as to show what one would get using the camera metering system. The TL overexposes slightly, in almost all situations. The SL is usually spot on. Normally the Sony is spot on as well.

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