FOLLOW UP: Is the Leica SL still a good choice today?
By Steve Huff
Wow, almost two full years since I reviewed the Leica SL. I LOVED it, and it made my camera of the year for 2015.
But it is now nearing the last quarter of 2017 and yes, the Leica SL is still a fantastic camera. But is it a good buy today at its new lower price? I have been using it more and more lately for my images, and testing a few different lenses with it. One thing that I know is that I never really used it much with the 24-90 zoom lens, even though that lens is pretty damn amazing and up to the level of Leica’s best glass. Sharp, just the right amount of contrast, amazing color and superb build. But it was the size, not the IQ, that kept me from using it or truly wanting it in the past. These days I am trying to be more open to larger lenses and cameras, and over the past 2 weeks I have been shooting this lens here and there when out and about. It’s a beauty no doubt, and the size, I have gotten used to, even as a daily carry. I also shoot with M lenses and do get more satisfaction using the camera in that way, but this lens, that 24-90 is not to be discounted. It’s beautiful.
I originally (and still do) found my groove with the SL using M mount lenses, and just recently shared my experience using it with the Voigtlander 35 1.2. . What a lens that is, and while not anything like a modern-day Leica 35mm, it has some mojo and magic about it when used at f/1.2. Lenses like that, and other M lenses seem to be made to use not only on the Leica M itself, but this SL, thanks to Leica making the EVF and focusing so easy for manual lenses on this camera.
While the SL sensor has been surpassed with better ones these days, the 24MP sensor in the SL is still very very good. Nice rich color, big Dynamic Range, and decent low light performance. While not up to the Sony levels for the sensor, it is still quite capable and will be for many years to come. Many have asked me to update my thoughts on the SL after two years, so away we go. But 1st, I want to show and share a photo I took that shows how amazing the SL and 24-90 Zoom is. The clarity, the color, the rendering and draw. I find it quite nice. Not that other cameras can not do this, many can, but the SL just has something about it that keeps me coming back to it, more so than even the M these days. I look forward to the day Leica upgrades the SL with a new sensor and Sony a9 style AF ; ) But in all reality I do not care if that takes 3-5 more years, as the current SL, at it’s new lower price point is fabulous.
Click the image below for a much larger version. Check out the detail in the sand, and the rendering of this camera and lens combo.
The image above was shot in California at the imperial Sand Dunes. Debby and I were on a road trip and stopped there to use the bathrooms, lol. The sun was strong but the SL and 24-90 was in my hand. I figured it would be a washed out flat shot but when I arrived home, this shot, only one of two I snapped, was rich, full of color, life and detail. When you view the larger image you will see the delicacy and rich detail. Not a “wow” shot but it does show the capability of the sensor and lens. Not bad. Not bad at all.
It’s interesting. There are not a ton of SL shooters out there, but the ones I know who do own an SL, they tend to really love their camera. Some switched from an M, some added it in addition to an M and others just tried one after using other brands. It’s a serious investment and if you only want to shoot with native AF lenses, you will have a large system to deal with. Over the last two. years I bought and sold a couple SL’s and have had one back for a while now, and I have learned my lesson (I think). I will only sell this SL if Leica upgrades it, and even then, the new one would have to be substantially better for me to want to upgrade. This SL stays with me, and I will be reviewing the 50 Summilux for the SL soon (Stay Tuned). Even though the M 50 Lux is tiny, and wonderful, some of you only want AF lenses. So I have had many requests to review that 50 1.4, and will ; )
In Sedona with the Leica SL and 24-90 – Click it for larger, and yes, EXIF is embedded.
While I do own a Sony A9, and LOVE IT..and have said it more than once that I think it is the most tech advanced camera on the market today for mirrorless, there’s just something about the SL that ticks my boxes. The body, the simplicity, the controls, the EVF, the build and feel, the entire package. It’s a special camera. When using it with M lenses it is a treat, and semi compact. Shoot an SL with a 50 Summilux M lens and it will be smaller than something like a 5D or D800 with an AF quality pro prime lens. But IMO, a much nicer experience. There’s still nothing out there today with an EVF like the SL. Not even the A9.
Yes, two years has just about passed on since the SL was released but I still enjoy it and love it today just as much as I did when I wrote that original review. Coming in at $5,995 it is now $1500 less than it was a few months ago when it was $7450. While it sounds like a ton of cash, it really is but at the same time, so is something like a Sony A9 at $45o0, or a Fuji GFX that for the body only comes in at $6500 and will be larger, slower and bulkier. Yes, the Fuji is beautiful and medium format quality but the SL can be used as my daily driver, that Fuji never would be able to take that spot. So you have pros and cons to each system, and depending on the user, you go for what you needs are.
Beautiful Sedona AZ with the SL and 24-90
So what about the Sony A9? Once can get a brand new shiny A9 for $1500 less than a new SL. $1500 can be used towards a nice G Master Lens, maybe the awesome new 16-35 (full review soon)
Yes, the SL is still the pricey 35mm full frame mirrorless on the block but for some that extra cash will be worth it alone for the build, feel ,design, usability…yes, USABILITY. Now, I love my A9 but using manual lenses on the SL is a MUCH nicer experience. The joystick placement, the size of it and the ease of it all. Let’s say I am using the 35 1.2 Lens and want to zoom in on the picture window EVF..well, I just use my thumb on that joystick, that has a quality feel and build btw, and as soon as I push it in I hear a soft “click” and see the EVF image explode, giving me a closer look. Click it again and it gets closer for precise focusing. It just is easier and more seamless to do on the SL than the Sony. Now if you are using AF lenses, all of that goes out the window as the Sony will AF faster than the Leica, and the Leica has very good AF with the AF lenses.
SL and Voigtlander 50 Heliar at ISO 6400
But the Sony, using a lens like that G Master 16-35 is fast, and no thinking required. Aim, compose, shoot. But that is the beauty of using the Leica SL with a manual lens. It feels like you are working it, and when it all comes together it all comes together. I remember a shot I took of an old cowboy with the Zeiss 50 Sonnar on the SL, such a gorgeous lens, affordable (for what it is) and on the SL it rocks.
The SL with the Zeiss 50 Sonnar at f/1.5 – A legendary lens IMO
So the A9 or SL? Well, I have both and could not get rid of one or the other even though for photos, they do a similar job albeit with a slightly different color signature. The A9 will be better at super high ISO’s of 10k or greater, have a cooler color temp out of camera and will be faster, better for (AF) video, and offer some features that the SL can not. The SL will offer better build, nicer feel, slightly larger size, larger EVF, better manual lens usability, and warmer color. It’s a funny thing as I know damn well I have two cameras here that are more similar that different yet I have a need to keep both.
SL and Voigtlander 50 Heliar
The funny thing is I still own my EM1 MKII and PEN-F and slew of Olympus lenses! The madness!
Out of camera from the SL and 24-90 – click it for larger.
So at the end of the day, is the SL still a good buy TODAY, for YOU? ONLY YOU can answer that. I can only speak of my experiences with the camera, my love of it, and why I feel the need to own it for my uses and needs and wants. One thing is for sure, I can not imagine ANYONE being disappointed with a Leica SL, quite the opposite. The easy simplistic menu system, the common sense controls, the solid and amazing build and feel of the body, dials and buttons, the color performance and the overall vibe of the camera. It’s pure Leica, a real Leica and like a Mini S system. With the TL2, the M, the Q, the SL and the S Leica has a serious set of cameras. Pricey, yes of course, it is Leica but they do indeed offer more than other brands in some areas, with less in others. If you have always wanted a real Leica, and the M is too finicky with its RF focusing or the TL is too gimmicky with its touch screen modern look and feel and the S is too large and pricey, take a look at the SL. It’s wonderful with M lenses, TL lenses and SL lenses and has MANY more years left in the tank before it is considered “obsolete” by the community. The fact is, it takes amazing photos today, so it will also do so in 10 Years if the body is still working.
The 24-90 AT ISO 6400 on the SL
Just as some of us desire the old look of film, who knows, maybe in 10 years we will have a desire to go back to the time of today with the look of todays cameras ; ) Hehehe.
Who here owns an SL today and enjoys it? Leave a comment below if you do!
You can buy an SL from Ken Hansen (email@example.com), PopFlash.com, B&H Photo or even Amazon.
A couple more from the SL…and 24-90
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As an SL owner I have only had great experiences with my system using M and SL lenses. Being left eyed I cannot use M cameras, the SL viewfinder allows me to finally shoot with Leica.
Lots of SL thoughts here. Steve Huff has brought us together to share these feelings, so thanks, S.H., for the space.
I just turned 71 and began my photo journey at 15 with a Kodak Retina. More than a few film cams in between. I liked them all for one reason or another but mainly for stoking the passion for learning more about photography. Digital began with a Canon 20D and two L zooms. A 7D followed. A 5D Mark II. Then a III. Loving every click along the way. Sold the lot after reading Huff reviews of Sony mirrorless. Bought the Sony A7II followed by an A7RII, and adapted four Leica M lenses from my M6, plus four Zeiss-Canon lenses, to use on a7’s. Bought the Sony 24-70GM zoom a year later. Loved using them all.
But I had a long time hankering for a Leica digital. Not a G.A.S. desire, just a deep curiosity coupled with growing older and wanting to fill that missing Leica gap. The M6 fulfills my film need and sparked my interest in a digital version. I thought M240 was my direction. I was talking to the all-things-Leica mentor, Ken Hanson, about which way to go for the last couple years. I bought my Leica lenses from him. I checked in with Leica Miami, too. Josh, who manages used Leica’s there, emailed me that a used SL had arrived. Then Leica dropped the price. Used and a discount, too? I bought it. Josh is a fine gentleman and assisted me in everything I needed to know about the SL. Two weeks later a used SL 24-90 arrived in Miami. There went my annual (or five) photo budget. I sold my Sony cams and the GM lens on Craig’s. Bought an M lens to SL adapter. I have no regrets. I did have some tendonitis from hours of hand holding the weight of the SL+24-90 during three weeks of everyday shooting, but it’s clamped on my Manfrotto monopod now and it’s all good. BTW, I sold my Zeiss lenses soon after and bought a Leica Q for every day, every where, shooting. Am I missing this or that cam or gear? Why even think about it? Working within any limitation will eventually spark your creativity if you let it. So, let it. Read Steve Huff. Get some ideas. Make a decision. Make changes. Make worthy pictures. Be happy in your passion to do so.
I hate being the party pooper but here goes. I owned the SL for one year. I originally bought it to compliment my M system of cameras and lenses. I wanted to add “auto-focus” to my photo tools. Turned out that the SL autofocus lenses were too big, bulky and heavy for an M user to carry around. So, during my year of SL ownership, I ended up using the SL camera with my manual focus M lenses. Worked great but was still a lot bulkier than manual lenses on the new M10. No auto-focus for me and too much weight! So I sold the SL + Zoom lens. I now get auto-focus with the Hasselblad X1D (smaller and much lighter than the SL kit) and continue to enjoy the M system of manual focus lenses. So, Steve, what say you about the Leica SL vas the Hassy X1D?
Did you not read the three parts of my X1D review? Your answer is there ; )
Of course I read your X1D reviews and I agreed with your review entirely (I said so in your blog). As I mentioned in my comment on your Sl review, I now own the X1D to avoid the bulk and weight of the SL system.
Just re read your part 3 review of the X1D and now see the entirety of your comparison between the SL and X1D. Thanks for insightful review. BTW, the reason I have used the M system, while also owning the Hassy system all those years, was for the very shallow DOF that the M lenses can comparatively render. Now, I must use the electronic viewfinder to enjoy the same privilege!
I own the SL and the M240. Although not native, I find that the M lenses work very well with the SL. The handling the size match the body perfectly. I do not have the SL native lens yet and hope to get the 24-90 by year end or early next year.
The dilemma is whether I should let go my M body since I have the SL and Fujifilm X100F.
Some years ago i got Leica m9 and in several days of its use i brought it back to the store. Since that moment i have never used Leica again
Rangefinder not for you? The M9 was a long time ago, 2009 ; ) This article is about the SL from 2015, and it is not a rangefinder. The SL is a wonderful camera, amazing really.
Other than being able to use the M lenses with the SL via the adapter (which I use exclusively) they are completely different animals IMO. The rangefinder environment was fine, but using M lenses with the SL, for me makes it a very capable system beneficial for pretty much any kind of shooting.
I like mine. I shoot it with the 120 mm non cs S lens with the S to SL adapter. Amazing resolving power. The 24-90 and 90-280 are great too!
Own an SL and shoot M lenses with it. Finally got the Summilux 50 SL a week ago after a long wait. Incredible combo! Love my Leica! The images this camera gives is worth every penny.
As stated from probably hundreds before, the combo of the SL and the 24-90 has proven to be an amazing fit for everything. I do still own an APO 75 and a LUX 1.4 ASPH but I begin to wonder why. I never take the 24-90 down anymore. If I want bokeh for portrait, I take a few steps back and crank the lens up to 90mm. The result is outright stunning. While I miss my M9 that I have used with much joy for many years, the SL is a worthy successor.
Steve, thank you again for your post. It’s always a pleasure to read.
You know, I owned canon rebel with kit lens and tamron 70-300 for years before I stumble upon your website. Your website has given me G.A.S. Since then I’ve bought and sold many gears. From Fuji XT1, Nikon D750, Sony A7, Olympus em5 ii, sony a7rii, leica m240, and more.
I guess I’m just in it for the feeling of owning a new gear rather than the camera lacks something because those I mentioned are amongs the best in 5 years. Last month, I sold my a7rii. It was a great camera, but it doesn’t inspire me at all. It feels like I’m using a computer instead of a camera. I grew even lazier even because of the high ISO capability I don’t even think about the setting. Lenses are too expensive for my taste compared to the rivals.
Anyway, I got married on May this year, and since then we’re planning to have a baby. Since now I’m no longer single, I need to balance my spending. My wife will also present in my decision making. Future needs and expenses must be considered.
So, because of that, I am very careful in choosing my next camera because this time, it needs to last much longer. I no longer can be unwise by buying and selling at loss every single time wasting money. I almost get a fuji XT2 but then I realize that it won’t fulfill my ego. I’m really sorry for those who reading this and especially shooting with Fuji cameras, but, I feel like because of the cheap cost, coming from Leica m240 and a7rii as my last camera, I feel like I’ll be downgrading. I’m just afraid that I’ll keep wanting/dreaming on a higher more expensive “toy”.
So, I’ve decided to go with Leica to give me much less excuse to sell in the future. Because after all, if Leica won’t keep me (back then I sold my M240 and 28+50 cron because my eyesight is bad, I don’t want to shoot everytime wearing glasses, and the evf sucks), then nothing will! As my wife said to me, “if this fail again, then you’re getting a pocket camera and that’s it.”
Almost went back to M240, but with the MP version, again. Until my local camera store owner told me, for that price of second hand mp240, you could get a second hand leica SL and get $400 back. He then told me things (that I already know of course) on how “ancient” the features of M240 compared to the SL, and how it’s the same like M240 I own before it and sold, etc. Eventually, what he said makes sense to me!
– I want to record a video when we have a baby later, a decent video feature gives me no excuse on the SL. No more excuse.
– EVF is magnificent for manual focusing even without visual aids. This making me want to try one lens that is famous for its focus shift, the 50 sonnar zm!
– Not a cheap/second grade leica product. This is one of their flagship. So prestige/ego is secured.. hehe.. No more excuse
– Build quality is even better than M240. Rock solid, no creak whatsoever. No more excuse.
– 2 SD card slots, No more excuse.
– Fast operability and start up time (m240 was kinda a dog compared to SL. Made me lost couple of shoots because the start up time was slow). No more excuse
– Shutter speed goes to 1/8000 mechanical and electronic expands it more. No more excuse
– Finally, the AF lenses sounds amazing. Very expensive for me, no doubt. But, that gives me a goal to save up for it. I just want the 24-90 and the upcoming 35 cron.
For me, having a camera where I have an option to use AF lenses or MF lenses and knowing that the result would be amazing, is a dream. I thought I gotten this wish before with A7 series. However, even the A7RII still didn’t perform well for a lot of manual lenses.
To close, I am happy with the SL. I own it with 50 sonnar for now (great great 3D separation and for b&w is just superb), while saving up for the 24-90.
The only minus is the size. But then again if I use manual lens on it, it won’t seem that much bigger than the sony a7x. If I started to have G.A.S problem again, I’ll be sure to read this page again, and again, and again.
Anyway before this turns into another essay, I just want to say thank you to Steve huff for your website. Without your website, who knows, I might be taking a totally different hobby today. Keep going Steve, and please review some more of those amazing manual lenses on the SL! Such as the 21 1.8 voigtlander CV, 15mm voigtlander ver III, 50 f1.1 voigtlander for b&w, etc
Long live, Steve 😉
Thank you, and I am planning on reviewing some of those M lenses on the SL and A9 together. I already did the 15 Voigtlander just recently, and the 10mm a little bit, still have the 12mm but will also be doing more Zeiss ZM glass and others along the way. Thank you.
I love Leica gear…but i cannot justify the rangefinder in the M series. Just far too hit and miss. If they put something like the SL EVF in it, i would be all over it like a rash. An EVIL M!
Ahhh, that would be awesome..an EVIL M! Lol.
The sand dunes photo is pretty cool! I haven’t tried out the SL, im faithful M user, but it seems comparable to other available options. We’re kind of at the point tech wise where nearly every camera is good enough. It really comes down to which camera speaks to you. How you shoot and what you want to shoot can answer a lot of those questions.
I purchased the SL about 3 months ago after much personal debate and wish I had pulled the trigger earlier. I have sold my Leica M and my Sony A7R systems and am consolidating on the SL. It was with hesitation on selling the incredible Sony GM 85, GM 24-70, GM 70-200 and so on, but the SL feels like a tool that is an extension of my body. Once set up, it is so intuitive to use and the images are amazing and require so much less adjustment in comparison to my Sony files. I used to own Nikon and moved to Sony with the Nex 7 and then the A7R and loved the smaller camera bodies – they can be compact if you want by selecting the right lens. However I never found the haptics of any other camera great except for my Leica M with 35mm and 50mm lenses. I was thinking of upgrading to the Sony A9 but I am delighted with the SL, actually more than delighted! After a very short time, the camera feels like it is an extension of my vision. I have not felt that since I owned a Nikon FM2 in the 80s. People gripe about the 24M sensor but I think Leica did that to maximize Leica M lens compatibility and will bring out a higher resolution sensor option when they have more SL glass available. I shoot with the Leica 18/3.8, CV 21/1.8, Zeiss ZM 35/1.4, CV 50 1.5 and the absolutely amazing SL 24-90. The extra reach of the 24-90 is a delight. I print up to 17×22 and sell prints and win competitions . I often wonder how many of the people complaining about the sensor resolution really need more pixels. It is the quality of the file and the rendering of the glass and the haptic that matter if you are an advanced amateur. I purchased my SL based on the Steve Huff review and a couple of other professional photographer opinions and ignored the mass internet incompetent reviews and enjoy my photography even more. Thanks Steve – keep up the great work and when you decide to take a loss on the CV 35/1.2 let me help you out!
My experience verbatim, Brian. There’s joy in the SL/24-90 combo that I haven’t felt in some time. Yes, I’ve appreciated Sony’s and Canon’s gear, and been grateful for their contributions to my passion of capturing the best light possible for many years. But…Leica. I look at the photos and I sense, emotionally probably, that what I’m seeing is what I’ve been wanting to get to since the beginning of my photo life. I’m glad I lived long enough to have this experience.
I’ve had the SL for about a year. Was shooting my 50 M summilux, 35 cron , and 90 cron with the SL, and finally bought the big 24-90 (yes it is big) which is an incredible lens! Steve has mentioned it comes close to the primes, and I agree. Super fast and accurate focusing. Shooting the 90 apo cron is a dream with the SL. So easy to focus with the M lenses. I got the M10 but my focus hit rate with the SL is definitely higher. I’m anxiously awaiting the new SL 75 f2 which is coming out soon. I passed on the 50 SL 1.4 bc I already have the 50 M summilux and I heard the SL 50 is slow to focus in low light (defeats the purpose of a good low light lens IMO, exp at $5k). And its also too damn big…I’ll stick with my M 50 lux. The SL is built like a tank, totally weatherproof with the 24-90, stunning image quality, and I absolutely love it! Here is a gallery of model shots I recently shot with the SL and the M10 with a combo of those lenses: http://snagarkar.zenfolio.com/p260283879.
It’s not at all weather proof if you’re using M mount lenses though!
50lux and 35cron are the two best Leica lenses in my opinion. Great setup! I hope you like your m10, i love mine. Best camera I ever purchased because of the feel and the rangefinder experience.
I sold it and focused on the M. But missed it so much i re-bought the SL again…It is THAT good.
Steve, using the 24-90 and 90-280 with the SL is very satisfying and the images are hard to beat, but using a manual lens on the SL is unlike any other experience (film or digital) I’ve had. The EVF, to my 58 year old eyes is pure joy.
I love my SL. I’ve been using it for 1.5 years almost exclusively for weddings & seniors. The downside is that I’ve experienced several glitches in which the SL freezes. Sometimes the only way to turn it off is taking out the battery. I only use Leica batteries, and the most well respected cards. I purchased the SL from Tamarkin in Chicago (so it’s not gray mkt.)…this being said, I do love the quality of the images I make with it. Thanks for all of your work Steve, it’s impressive and inspiring!
Interesting, never heard that with any SL. You may want to send it to Leica to check out. I’ve never had an SL freeze so there may be an issue that is causing it. Thanks for reading, and enjoy your SL!
Hi Steve & Jonathan:
Love my SL, and use for about 85% of my shooting, with Canon comprising the remaining 15%. I am considering another SL body, but there’s only ONE thing holding me back; the complete lack of back end support (i.e. like Canon’s CPS program). If Jonathan were to send the SL body back for a checkup, he’d probably not have access to the SL for 2 months, minimum! Completely unacceptable. I sent my DSIII in for a repair, and I had it back in 3 days. My 35mm Summilux M has been with Leica repair for 3 weeks, and I’ve heard nothing, except receipt from Leica in NJ. that they received the lens. Leica & Sony for that matter, needs to step it up in pro-support. When you make full time $$ with your gear, you gotta have support.
Good point, as Leica does not have a pro service like the rest. So you do have to wait for repair, which can be a pain, and if you need it for paid work, that can become an issue. I do not see Leica incorporating any type of pro support, but I could be wrong.
Hi Jon, do you have the actual firmware installed on your SL?
In had similar issues Jonathan, and i realized it was purely linked to the SD cards i was using, testing single variably. I now use 64 gb san disk extreme pro 95 mb/s and issues didnt show up no more. May be different problem for you but for mine it was clearly this one.
Hi Miguelec: If my memory serves me correct, that spec card is what Overgaard originally suggested when shooting the M. Following his recommendation I also use the same card, initially on my M and now the SL. Have not had this lockup issue to date on the SL.
I worked many years with the Leica M system, including the M9 and the M240.
Last year I moved to the SL, with the 24-90 and several manual lenses (Leica, Zeiss and Voigtlander). For me, there is no going back. Period.
The 24-90 is the lens I use almost 90% of the time. The size and weight do not bother me at all.
The SL is a great and responsive tool.
The EVF is so amazing. When you see better, you usually get better results.
It may not have the best of every single parameter, but overall, it is probably the best full frame package.
The sensor of the SL is exceptional.
I develop all my photos b&w using NIK silver fx pro.
The dynamic range and the flexibilty is so good, so analog like.
I also develop (b&w) and print for a friend who has the A7R2 and the A9.
These mega pixel sensors have, what I call “nervous pixels”. Maybe the pixels are too small or “too sensitive” but they have a certain “digital signature” which, in my eyes, represent the opposite of analog.
It is my opinion that 24 MP is probably the perfect fit for the size of the sensor and if you need more, you should probably move to a larger format
The AF of the SL is good enough 80% of the time and not suitable for sports photography. Its fun to use the manual focus with the 24-90 if and when there is a need.
The only thing I wish for in the SL is better high Iso performance in excess of 6400 (the SL is excellent up to 6400), but that for me is not a reason to look for another camera.
Bottom line, the SL is the most motivating camera I ever used
sorry.. with the “nervous pixels” I only refer to the A7R2 and not the A9…. my mistake
absolutely agree. 24 MP is the „sweet spot“ on full frame. Sony, please listen!
You say you NEED to keep both the A9 and the SL. I think you are confusing need with desire. 🙂
Oly at 2000 clams, the a9 at 45 hundo and the sl at six thousand simoleons is quite a spread … funny thing is all three will reproduce nearly all of the photos in this post with near equal loveliness and with near imperceptible IQ differences, especially down-sampled for the internet. So the price gap between the three has little to do with “Real World” image quality, that’s for sure. That said; I will most likely be unable to resist buying an A9R when it comes out, for now though, the E-M1 Mark II is my favorite camera to shoot with. It just feels so good in hand on an all-day shoot…
Well, the EM1 MKII does not have the DR of the A9 or the SL, nor the same color signature of either. All are different, web sized or not. The main differences for me lie in the usability, body shape/feel, and user experience. I own all three of the cams you mention and the SL wins without question for joy of use, and usability/simplicity. It gets out of the way 100% and is a joy to use. The A9 is next, then EM1II. I enjoy them all obviously or else I wouldn’t own all three systems but there is nothing like the SL out there today, even 2 years after it has launched. All are great, but all are different and will provide different IQ, and yes, they would be easy to distinguish just by color, DOF differences and noise levels if it hit low light. But I love them all. I WILL SAY that the EM1 MKII and 7-14 Pro probably would have done better than the SL and 10mm Voigtlander here.
Spec-wise, price-wise and x-wise the A9 eats the SL for breakfast. But the problem with the A9 is it puts the A9 in focus whereas the SL puts in focus: the photograph.
I hear ya and I feel ya … the SL seams like a gorgeous shooter with stellar haptics. That said, having to spend between eighty five hundred (adapted lens) and ten thousand dollars (native lens) in order to produce your first image is absurd unless you are a top shelf photog earning top shelf income, to somewhat justify the expense, is all I’m saying. Let’s face it, a real pro with a E-M1II will crush a wanna-be with an SL all day long regardless of dynamic range. All day long… 😉
I paid $5k for the setup I am shooting here, and many pay $10, $15, $20k for camera setups that they use on the street. Many are paying $10-$15k for a new Fuji setup. So $5k (bought this SL used, and the Voigtlnder can be had for $700 or so). Not everyone will be interested in an SL, but some are. Not all will be interested in a $1000 Canon, but some are, and not all will be interested in a $599 Nikon, but some are. Different strokes for different folks. Today I am shooting with a $1k pen-F and $200 lens, heading to Sedona in a few. An EM1 MKII will and can not crush an SL for DR or IQ, or build and handling, I own one, I know. The EM1 MKII is fantastic, best M 4/3 there is IMO, but M 4/3 can not even begin to touch an SL, Sony A9 or similar when the lights get low, or when you want a look similar to what I have here (shallow DOF with a 35mm focal length). Can’t do it. Again, I own the EM1 MKII, Pen-F and many of the pro lenses. Amazing system but much much different. You get what you pay for most of the time in the camera world. This is why the A9 is $4500. But as I have said a million times, all cameras today are good if spending over $1k. Not all will be equal, but all will be good enough for most. But good enough for most is not what matters to many who shoot! This is what some fail to understand. Some out there, quite a bit actually, want something premium, something larger, or even smaller, something more simple or more tech, something with a 4MP EVF like the SL or something with a 1MP EVF. Again, not one camera will ever please everyone which is why we have choice. Some will choose the more premium camera, she will go more affordable. You should always go with what makes you happy, and not worry what others like or want. Thank you.
I’ve had my SL for about nine months now. Almost all the images you see on my website (link below) are shot with it (there are some 6×6 analogue portraits and one or two shot with an A7rII that I had before the SL).
My experience of using the SL is that there are three reasons you would buy this camera over a Sony, Canon, Nikon etc.
1. The ability to (effectively) natively mount M lenses and focus them accurately (ignore the need for an adapter as this is merely a mechanical coupling – the lens is made to work with M glass and that’s not something you can say about other CSCs).
This more than anything else is the killer feature in my view for the simple reason that you just cannot mount M lenses on other cameras without it being a bit of a gamble at the wider angle end. The 35mm Summicron just does not work on a Sony A7 for instance unless you make a rather extreme modification to it.
The M mount lenses are both compact and fabulous in their rendering. The lack of AF is irrelevant unless you’re shooting sports, action and wildlife in which case why would even opt for a mirrorless system when Canon and Nikon can’t be beaten in this area?
2. The EVF; as Steve says it is unrivalled so far (the Fuji system will beat it in time though; a module EVF is a brilliant idea). Apart from being a joy to look through, it’s the reason you can critically focus M lenses on the SL.
3. The build quality; the camera is a reassuringly solid block and while divisive in styling, I love the way it handles, which is odd considering it’s not exactly anatomically designed.
Of these three, I think point one is still the most compelling. The other two are important considerations but really they can be substituted by other products.
I have been using Minolta,Konica Minolta and Sony for decades. While I havnt got the Alpha 9 ,I have the Alpha 7 mark 2 and the three Sony GM zoom lenses. However I have kept these aside time and time again to use the Leica SL with its 2 zooms and a 12mm Voightlander f5.6 which gives me huge range and ease of use. The SL 90/280 works well with image stabilisation and I also sometimes use a monopod with this . The 24/90 is incredible and the ergonomics of the camera mean it is easy to carry with 3 fingers on your right hand with the reassurance of a Peak Design Clutch to ensure you dont drop it!. Actually the Peak Design system really works well with this system. I havnt been persuaded by the SL Prime 50f1.4 and use M lenses very easily and well instead
From all my many cameras and systems if I had to save one or two it would be the SL system and the Leica Monocrom 246. Im travelling next month and have already decided on the SL kit over the Sony and will have to think really hard about future investment in Sony. Not because it is inferior,it isnt. Its because of the ease of using the SL despite being a lump of a camera!!
I was a Cannon DSLR user for many years and two years ago bought the Q after reading the amazing reviews. The Q is so amazing in terms of shooting experience and image quality (3D effect and Dynamic Range). In December I bought the SL, 24-90, 50 summilux black chrome, 35 summilux, and recently added the 90 summicron APO all after reading your reviews and connecting with Ken. Obviously a significant investment, but I have zero regrets. The M lens are all fantastic and I have learned to love manual focus, in large part because of the EVF on the SL. Autofocus is easy, but with manual focus you really have to think about the image composition and specific focal point. Like you I find that the 24-70 stays in my bag more times than not, purely because of the size and the pleasure I receive using manual focus. I truly love the rendering and shooting experience of the 50 summilux black chrome that I discovered due to Steve’s in depth review and recommendation, but the Nocilux is always tempting me. The next lens though is going to be the M 21 3.4 or 1.4 …. lea Inc towards the 3.4 as the reviews sound great, price way better and mainly thinking for landscapes in the daylight. Thoughts Anyone?
I would go for the 21 f/3.4 SEM over the 1.4. Better IQ/Color, much smaller and perfect for daylight landscapes.
Thanks for follow up review, I have SL, I bought from this blog’s Buy & Sell at a good price. Now I am saving to buy 24/90. Meanwhile, I am using MATE / 28.35.50 and 50 Cron… very happy with what it produces..
Steve, A few months ago I reread your SL review, took up the local Leica store on the 24 hour trial (they actually gave me 48), and ended up trading in all my Nikon and Olympus gear to get the SL and 24-90 lens. It has been pure joy ever since. Now I am looking for an R or two, and really look forward to the 50 1.4. Thanks for continuing to keep it fresh. I totally agree – the images are wonderful, and usage, ergonomics a joy to use. BTW, I use a Tenba, which fits the SL, 24-90, 50, couple of RF M lenses, charger, strap and misc. Works very well and reasonably sized.
Hi Steve, great stuff on the Leica SL, love this camera!
Didn’t know you still owned the Oly OM-D E-M1 Mkii? It’s not mentioned in your ‘My Gear’ section anymore… 🙂
I have owned it since its release. So yes, still have it. And a PEN-F.
I have an M9-P and the (your) original Monochrom. I recently sent both of them to Leica to have the sensors replaced because of the corrosion problem. My wife and I are going on a trip and I didn’t have a digital camera to take.
I was looking at buying a Sony to use my M lenses on but was getting mixed reviews. Then my wife piped in and told me, ” you are not getting anything but a Leica”.
I saw the price reduction on the SL and read all of the great reviews and decided I would give it a try. I have only had it for a little over a week but I can say I really like it a lot!
It has been a great experience shooting my 50mm Summilux on it wide open and not missing focus. The simplicity of all the controls and ease of operation are a real joy. At this point I don’t even miss my M cameras.
I only have one complaint about the SL. Now I want to get a Noctilux to use with it. I never even considered a Noctilux on the M but think I would love it on the SL.
The Noct is amazing on the SL. If I could afford one these days I would have one. Enjoy and have fun!
Sure. Just keep telling me how amazing it is on the SL. It just makes me want it even more, but unfortunately I can’t afford it right now either.
The Noc is amazing on a Sony also, it even still shines on my good old Sony A7R “the original” which I did purchase once for about 1400 euro’s brand-new………….
But ok maybe if the SL price will drop another 1500 maybe and just maybe I might consider it………..
But nice thoughts you shared about it.
I commented a month ago when I bought a used SL and 24-90. The
price dropped and Leica Miami honored it. I then sold my two Sony’s, 3 lenses and accessories. At 70 years old and 55 years of shooting most all brands, I felt that the SL was the endgame. Last week I sold more lenses, Zeiss and Canon, and bought a Leica Q. All good, all fun. Along with my long time friend, a Leica M6 that I’m holding on to, I’m an all Leica, all the time, shooter. No regrets.
Wow, you went all in! Congrats, enjoy it, I know you will!
I totally agree with you. I have the SL to match with Summilux 28mm, Noctilux 50mm 0.95 and 24-90. Its perfect match , easy to use(MF) and have great quality. I love it and will keep it for a long time. Looking forward to the new SL 35mm F2 and SL90mm F2 lens.
I have he SL, and will buy a second one, for many of the same reasons you suggest. It’s so beautiful to hold and shot with no matter what lens