It may push the definition of ‘compact’ to its limit, but Leica’s top-end CSC has some outstanding features that set it apart from the rest, as Andy Westlake discovers
Leica SL (Typ 601) review – Performance
In practical use, the SL performs very well. With no anti-aliasing filter, the sensor is capable of recording loads of detail, and its impressive noise performance means that sensitivities up to ISO 12,500 are quite usable. Metering tends to be accurate, and it’s easy to preview the effects of your exposure settings in the viewfinder and apply any necessary changes before even taking a shot.
I was a little disappointed by the camera’s JPEG output, which gives muted colours and white balance that errs to the cool side. To be fair, though, I’d expect almost everyone using this camera to be shooting raw, and the DNG output means you can get to work straight away with the software of your choice. Indeed, the raw files are impressively malleable, with lots of scope for pulling detail from deep shadows at low ISOs.
Currently, the Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 Asph is the only autofocus full-frame lens that can be used on the SL, and will therefore be a major determinant of its image quality for most early adopters. Fortunately, it’s exceptional, as we’d expect given its price tag. It’s superbly sharp, with minimal chromatic aberration or vignetting.
Close examination of raw files shows that Leica has adopted a thoroughly modern approach of allowing more barrel distortion at wideangle than would be acceptable from a DSLR lens and compensating automatically in software, which allows other image-degrading aberrations to be corrected more thoroughly. The result is a lens that’s as sharp wide open as it is stopped down to f/8, no matter what focal length you use. The zoom range also extends very usefully into the short telephoto ‘portrait’ realm, where conventional 24-70mm zooms come up a little short.