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Leica SL (Typ 601) review

March 23, 2016

Overall Rating:

4

Leica SL (Typ 601)


  • Features: 8/10
  • Build/Handling: 7/10
  • Metering: 8/10
  • Autofocus: 8/10
  • AWB Colour: 7/10
  • Dynamic Range: 9/10
  • LCD viewfinder: 9/10

Pros:

  • - Extraordinary electronic viewfinder
  • - Excellent image quality
  • - Internal 4K video recording

Cons:

  • - Large, heavy body
  • - Unintuitive controls with poor default set-up
  • - Limited native lens range

Manufacturer:

Manufacturer:

Price as Reviewed:

£5,050.00 (Body only)

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 – Our verdict

Leica-SL-(Typ-601)-front

From the moment you set eyes on the Leica SL, it’s clear this is no ordinary camera. With its slab-sided design and minimalist unmarked controls it looks like nothing else on the market, particularly when kitted with its huge 24-90mm zoom. The spec sheet is impressive, too; no other full-frame camera has quite the same combination of resolution and speed.

There’s little to complain about in terms of image quality, either, with the sensor and lens combining to deliver superb results. The addition of 4K video shooting is the icing on the cake.

Unfortunately, though, the SL’s eccentric control system with its unmarked, dual-function buttons marks it out as one of the least intuitive cameras to pick up and use that we’ve seen for a long time. Indeed, it’s almost the antithesis of Leica’s other recent design, the rangefinder-like Q, with its traditional control dials. But after spending some time studying it and reconfiguring it to my liking,

I enjoyed shooting with the SL more than I initially expected. This is mainly down to its fabulous viewfinder, with its huge, bright and detailed view, and ability to preview more or less exactly how your image will look before shooting. This is surely the future, and once you’ve experienced the benefits of looking at the world through an EVF this good, you may find yourself reluctant to ever go back to using a DSLR.

But despite all its clever technology, does the Leica SL really make sense at the moment, particularly compared to the less expensive full-frame alternatives from Canon, Nikon or Sony, which also have many more lenses to choose from? For the majority of photographers, probably not, but in a way that’s the point. Leica isn’t really trying to be a mainstream player anyway; instead, it’s made a very intriguing – and capable – camera that will suit a minority of photographers very well indeed.

TESTBENCH RECOMMENDED 4
  • Sensor: 24-million-pixel full-frame CMOS
  • Output size: 6,000×4,000 pixels
  • Lens mount: Leica L
  • Focal-length mag: 1x
  • Shutter speeds: 60-1/8000sec + bulb
  • ISO: 50-50,000
  • Exposure modes: PASM
  • Metering system: Multi-field, spot, average
  • Exposure comp: ±3EV in 1/3 steps
  • Drive mode: 11fps max, 7fps with AF
  • LCD: 3in, 1.04-million-dot touchscreen
  • Viewfinder: 4.4-million-dot, 0.8x magnification
  • AF points: 49-point contrast-detection
  • Video: Cine 4K (4,096×2,160) at 24fps
  • External mic: Via optional adapter
  • Memory card: SD, SDHC, SDXC (2 slots)
  • Power: BP-SCL4 rechargeable Li-ion
  • Battery life: Approx 400 shots
  • Dimensions: 147x104x39mm
  • Weight: 847g (with battery and card)
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