Fstoppers Hands-On Look at the New and Surprisingly Brilliant Leica SL2

As camera manufacturers go, Leica is probably one of the more polarizing brands on the market right now. Personally, I'm a fan of their cameras, although I'm not planning on owning any cameras from them in the immediate future. Even still, I do think they produce some wonderful devices. 

Recently, Leica announced the new SL2, a feature-filled mirrorless camera that honestly surprised me. As photographers and customers, many of us have become somewhat used to seeing incremental updates from many manufacturers. Due to this, it's great to see companies like Leica offering proper upgrades for new models. The SL2 has some very notable features, including the fact that this camera can shoot video with resolutions of up to 5K and offers 10-bit recording. The high-resolution sensor produces beautiful images, especially when coupled with the fantastic L mount lenses from Leica. The SL2 can also film up to 10-bit, 4K 60p via an external recorder. This I think will be very useful for many photographers who also dabble a little in video. The only major downside of this camera was the fact that the autofocus system wasn't the best I have used in a mirrorless camera. There were plenty of occasions where the autofocus just didn't land, and this can be a little frustrating especially when you consider the quality of results this camera can produce. All in all, this is a great new addition to the line for Leica . 

The SL2 is currently available for preorder for $5995.

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Alex Yakimov's picture

Thank you, Usman.
Mind you, 100Mpx Hasselblad has only one focus point. It seems that the more expensive you go, the less well rounded camera becomes. SL2 is refreshingly well rounded piece of hardware, given its price. I’ve heard that hunting and continuous AF would be improved in the consecutive firmware updates.
PS It would be nice to see a head to head comparison between SL2 and Lumix S1R using lumix 50mm f/1.4 and Summilux SL 50mm f/1.4

Usman Dawood's picture

You're right and the focus points and issues with the Hassy were one of my main complaints too. The Phase is worse but I tend to shoot with manual focus on that camera anyway so not really an issue there.

The GFX 100 seems to be changing things though so we may now start to see better focus systems in more expensive cameras.

I'll see if I can do a head to head between Pana and Leica.

Alex Yakimov's picture

That would be awesome, Usman. It would be nice to see a cross-comparison using two bodies and two similar lenses (Panasonic 50mm f/1.4 and Summilux-SL 50mm f/1.4):
native (SL2 and s1R) body - native lens and the other lens.
Here are few of my sample images from S1R using native 50mm f/1.4

Nick Rains's picture

I have done just this with the 90mm Summicron-SL on both cameras. I have been shooting with the camera for the past month or so and the SL2 has a clear edge when it comes to 'crispness'. In film terms I would say the SL2 has better acutance. It's quite a clear difference too, but not a scientific bench test, just shooting the same images at the same time with the same lens and using the same settings. The SL2 with the Summicrons is astonishingly sharp and I say that as someone very familiar with what Leica lenses, and others, are capable of.

Spy Black's picture

That Panasonic sure is versatile...

Deleted Account's picture

Are you saying Leicasonic? ;-)

Spy Black's picture

Oops, yes, I meant Leicasonic...

Nick Rains's picture

Just want to clarify a couple of points made by Usman in his otherwise well rounded comments. He says Leica lenses do not have stabilisers - in fact the 24-90 and 90-280 both have excellent stabilisers in them. Also, the criticism of the AF is a bit harsh.I have used the SL since it was released and now the SL2 for a 10 day shoot in Myanmar. My hit rate is very high with AF, but like many cameras it takes a bit of time to learn how to use it. A quick shoot and a first impression are hardly realistic. The AF is deadly accurate for stills, and frankly, if you use AF for video, well maybe you should rethink that.

Usman Dawood's picture

You're right about OIS, I meant to say prime lenses so that was an error.

In regards to AF I agree that it's very accurate, the issue isn't accuracy but finding focus quickly. We spent a few hours and most of it was on the AF comparing it to the Sony a7R III and the Leica really struggled in comparison. Accuracy once it find focus is great but it's more about finding the subject in the first place and that's what contrast detect really struggles with. It's less about the SL2 and more about the system they implemented.

Nick Rains's picture

Interesting. My own experience in shooting almost 70000 images with the SL, and now four weeks with the SL2, is that I have never had it so good in terms of successful focus - i.e. a very high percent of correctly focussed images. I came from Canon 5D3 to Leica S2 to M240 (!) and now SL2 (and CL). I don't have an A7R3 to compare to, I had an A7R2 once and the SL/SL2 is way better than that.