Leica Aims for Professionals with Full-Frame SL (Typ 601) Mirrorless Camera

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Just ahead of PhotoPlus Expo 2015, Leica has decided to release what is bound to be one of the most talked-about cameras of the year: the Leica SL (Typ 601) Mirrorless Digital Camera, a full-frame powerhouse equipped with the latest and greatest in both stills and video technology. Leica is also presenting it as the “new professional camera system,” taking a stab at the high-end mirrorless for which many have been clamoring. It also signifies a giant evolutionary leap for the company, moving from more traditional camera designs into a new modern body that packs in autofocus, an electronic viewfinder, and 4K video.

Imaging remains king at Leica, thanks to a full-frame 24MP CMOS image sensor with no low-pass filter at the heart of the SL. This sensor works hand-in-hand with the Maestro II series processor to create richly detailed images and video at sensitivities ranging from ISO 50-50000. Leica also wishes to grant users the best shooting experience possible with an EVF by equipping the Typ 601 with a 0.66" 4.4MP EyeRes Electronic Viewfinder, which offers a best-in-class 0.8x magnification for spacious, comfortable viewing. This EVF also has an excellent refresh rate of 60 fps, ensuring you will not encounter any lag or jumps during use.

Speed is also a priority with the SL, as Leica claims it to have the fastest autofocus system currently available on a full-frame camera system. The AF system is contrast-based and offers 49 points along with a speedy burst rate of 11 fps at full resolution for 33 frames in DNG or unlimited shots in JPEG. Also, it has a UHS-II main SD card slot and a UHS-I backup SD card slot for storing your photos and video.

While not Leica’s first 4K-capable camera, this camera is bound to make waves with the addition of numerous video-centric features, including the flat V-Log L gamma profile for maximizing dynamic range and greater control over the final image in post production. To start on video, we need to mention the ability to record DCI 4K 4096 x 2160 video at 24 fps and UHD 3840 x 2160 video at 30 fps in the camera's Super35mm mode and Full HD 1920 x 1080 video at up to 120 fps in Full-Frame mode. This range of resolutions and frame rates makes this an excellent video camera offering. Also, while it records 4:2:0 8-bit internally to the SD cards, when output over HDMI to an external recorder, it is able to produce 4:2:2 10-bit video.

A built-in stereo microphone will record audio with manual or auto levels, but those looking for better audio quality can utilize a 3.5mm mic input and 3.5mm headphone output with the use of an optional adapter. Also, the Live View image has access to many tools, including focus peaking, histogram, clipping/zebras, levels, a grid overlay, multiple aspect ratios, and a safe area.

As for all of Leica’s top-end cameras, the SL (Typ 601) is made in Germany, machined from two solid blocks of aluminum and then hand-finished to ensure near perfection when it comes to body design. It has been built to withstand some of the most brutal conditions with excellent weather resistance when paired with Leica SL lenses. This camera is designed for intuitive handling, with a sensible menu, numerous physical dials, and a top 1.28" monochrome LCD for viewing settings, in addition to a rear 2.95" 1.04M-dot LED-backlit touchscreen with an anti-fingerprint and anti-scratch coating. Additionally, it has Wi-Fi connectivity built in, allowing users with the Leica SL App to control camera settings remotely and transfer images with ease, with GPS for geo-tagging your images.

Even the best camera system in the world is nothing without its lenses, so it only makes sense that Leica is releasing a new line of autofocus-capable SL-series optics for use with the SL (Typ 601)’s L bayonet mount. The first of these is the extremely versatile Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH., which has excellent image quality, as well as Optical Image Stabilization good for 3.5 stops that ensures sharp photos when using slower shutter speeds and smooth video when shooting handheld. The lens also has a fast, precise AF motor along with a minimum focus distance of just 1' for getting close to your subject, and can accept 82mm filters. Additionally, it has the water-repellent Aqua Dura coating to ensure optimal performance in any weather.

Coming to join the 24-90mm during the next year are an APO-Vario-Elmarit-SL 90-280mm f/2.8-4 and the Summilux-SL 50mm f/1.4 ASPH. The 90-280mm offers an excellent telephoto zoom range with a useful maximum aperture range of f/2.8-4, Optical Image Stabilization, and a minimum focus distance of 2.7'. Also, this telephoto optic has a detachable tripod mount with click stops at 90°. The first prime in the system, the 50mm f/1.4 aims to set a new standard in imaging as Leica claims it will be the best autofocus-capable 50mm lens on the market.

As with any other mirrorless camera, the SL does benefit from the ability to adapt lenses of many different formats to the body, so Leica makes numerous adapters for its own existing lineups, including the M, R, S, and Cine. To start getting into the details here, we need to explain the exact nature of the seemingly new L mount. The L mount is the same as the T mount found originally on the T (Typ 701) mirrorless camera; however, the SL features a full-frame sensor that will not be covered with existing T and future TL-series lenses. TL-series lenses will work with the SL when using the APS-C crop mode and SL-series lenses will be directly compatible with the T-series cameras, though with a 1.5x crop factor.

Now, let’s get back to adapters. At release there is the M-Adapter-T, which will give photographers access to the 48 M lenses currently available. Coming soon, Leica has the S-Adapter L for using the 16 medium-format S lenses, the R-Adapter L for using the 51 R lenses, and the PL-Adapter L, which supports the phenomenal Cine series of 21 lenses. This provides a vast library of superb glass to be used without issue on the modern SL body.

Alongside the camera is a plethora of accessories to make your overall experience that much better. The camera comes with a strap, the BP-SCL4 Lithium-Ion Battery Pack, the BC-SL4 Battery Charger, SL Camera Cover, USB 3.0 Cable, and a lens cleaning tissue. Other small items you can pick up for the SL are a 4.9' HDMI Cable, a Display Protection Foil, and the RC-SCL4 Remote Release Cable. A brand new flagship flash model is on its way in the form of the SF 64, featuring a powerful guide number of 210'. The new Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm isn’t left out from the accessory pool either, with a new E82 UVa Filter, a dedicated Lens Hood, and the SL Rear Lens Cap.

Leica Announces Firmware Update 2.0 for SL Cameras

Proving that Leica has a dedication to its products and customers, the company has just released Firmware Update 2.0 for the SL (Typ 601) Mirrorless Digital Camera. Available to download here, and user installable, this firmware update brings a host of new features and improvements to the table.

The most notable additions to the camera are direct access to exposure compensation using the top and rear dials in P, T, and A modes; lengthy shutter speeds can now be set for up to 30 minutes and electronic shutter speeds are able to reach up to 1/16000 second; and the AF system has been majorly advanced. AF changes include the basic enhancements to precision and tracking, but add AF steps of 1 and 5 in the menu as well as a 1-point AF setting with 529 selectable points.

Other changes include support for all Leica flashes with improved TTL/HSS modes; the ability to zoom into DNGs when in the DNG-only mode; enhanced time code menu options; improved power saving during long exposure and interval shots; flash exposure compensation can be added to favorites and customized buttons; the list of M- and R-mount lenses is customizable; JPEG quality is improved; white balance is more accurate; and noise reduction settings of low, medium, and high can be set for JPEGS.

Along with this, the first letter of the file name can now be set; Auto ISO now offers a minimum ISO setting; users can display the Wi-Fi password during input; focusing peaking now has an option for sensitivity; user profile titles can use up to 10 letters; and the rating is now compatible with Adobe software. Finally, the histogram is now transparent; the AF-frame is shown in continuous low and medium speeds; video format and resolution has been consolidated to one menu; users can now start video recording with the Leica Remote Control SCL4; and support has been added for more UHS-II SD cards.

 

SL (Typ 601) Mirrorless Digital Camera
Lens Mount L bayonet
Image Sensor Full-Frame (24 x 36mm) CMOS
Effective Pixels 24MP
Maximum Resolution Full Frame (24MP): 6000 x 4000
APS-C (10MP): 3936 x 2624
Aspect Ratio 3:2
Still Image File Format DNG (14-bit), JPEG (8-bit)
Storage Media SD
Card Slot 1 x SD (UHS-II)
1 x SD (UHS-I)
Viewfinder Type EyeRes Electronic Viewfinder
Frame Coverage 100%
Magnification 0.80x
Eyepoint 20mm
Diopter Adjustment -4 to +2
Shutter Type Mechanical focal-plane shutter
Shutter Speed 1/8000 to 60 sec., time exposures up to 30 min.
Flash Sync Speed 1/250 sec.
Drive Modes Single, continuous slow (4 fps), continuous medium (7 fps), continuous fast (11 fps), self-timer (2, 12 sec.), interval, exposure bracketing, time exposures up to 30 min.
Top Continuous Shooting Rate 11 fps
Self-Timer 2, 12 sec.
Metering Method Center weighted, multi zone, spot
Exposure Modes Program, shutter speed priority, aperture priority, manual
Exposure Compensation ±3 EV in 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps
Exposure Bracketing 3/5/7 images in 1/2/3 aperture steps; additional direct JPEG-HDR
ISO Sensitivity 50-50000
Autofocus System Contrast AF
Number of Focus Points 37 or 49 fields
Focus Modes AF-S, AF-C, MF, Touch-AF
Built-In Flash No
Flash Control TTL, Manual
External Flash Interface Hot shoe, X-sync port
White Balance Modes Preset Auto, Daylight 5200K, Cloudy 6000K, Shade 7000K, Tungsten 3200K, HMI 5600K, Fluorescent Warm 4000K, Fluorescent Cool 4500K, Flash 5400K, Gray Card, Manual 2000-11500K
Movie Recording DCI 4K (4096 x 2160): 24 fps
UHD 4K (3840 x 2160): 25, 30 fps
Full HD (1920 x 1080): 24, 25, 30, 50, 60, 100, 120 fps
HD (1280 x 720): 24, 25, 30, 50, 60, 100, 120 fps
Color Sampling 4:2:2 10-bit (HDMI only); 4:2:0 8-bit (internal to SD)
File Format MP4, MOV
Audio Recording Yes, stereo with video
External Microphone Input Yes, 3.5mm with optional adapter
Headphone Jack Yes, 3.5mm with optional adapter
Maximum Recording Time 29 min
Monitor 2.95" / 7.5 cm 1.04M-dot backlit-LED touchscreen
1.28" reflective monochrome top LCD
Monitor Viewing Angle Rear Touchscreen: 170°
Top Display: 120°
Interface Micro-USB
HDMI (Type A)
Multi Connector cable release
X-sync port
Multifunctional interface on baseplate
Wi-Fi Yes, built-in 802.11 b/g/n
GPS Yes, built-in
Power Source 1 x BP-SCL4 Lithium-Ion Battery Pack (1860mAh, 8.4V)
Battery Life ~400 shots
Operating Environment Temperature: 32 to 104°F / 0 to 40°C
Humidity: Max. 85%
Dimensions 5.8 x 4.1 x 1.5" / 147 x 104 x 39mm
Weight 1.9 lb / 847 g with battery
Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH. Lens
Lens Mount Leica L
Focal Length 24-90mm
Maximum Aperture f/2.8-4
Minimum Aperture f/22
Angle of View 82.4-27.8°
Minimum Focusing Distance 1' / 30 cm
Autofocus Yes
Image Stabililzation Yes, 3.5 stops
Lens Construction 18 elements / 15 groups
Diaphragm Blades Not specified by manufacturer
Filter Thread Diameter 82mm
Dimensions 3.5 x 5.4" / 88 x 138 mm
Weight 2.5 lb / 1140 g

14 Comments

I am sure it is a great camera, but who can afford it, really, especially with the kit lens? It's priced as much as a medium format camera.  And the ISO goes only to 50,000, that's lower than Nikon D3s launched 4-5 years ago.

I don't really get the pricing. Before it was rangefinder with superlenses etc. Now it pretty much sounds like exactly what others are doing for twice the price (and a red dot)? What am I missing?

PS: not a hater, I would love to have an M!

This is keeping with Leica's pricing in the industry from every other era and camera system they've offered.  You're paying for very detailed engineering and precision hand made craftsmanship with the assembly.  I am totally with you in your line of thinking, but if you compare it to it being a Rolls Royce and the other brands are more of a Toyota...both are cars but how much are you willing to pay for that finer attention to detail? 

Looks great and expensive, but just waiting for the Nikon full frame mirrorless offering!

Oh Lord, please grant me the money to fulfill my dreams! This time, I just may be FORCED to take the Leica plunge. Typically Leica in every way: simple, and the ultimate expression of functionality. I am so pleased to see Leica <i>finally</i> join the fray with a really serious entry... even at the price point of near perfection.

So, why does Leica use "Type ***" to name their cameras?  What does it supposed to mean?

Is,this a rebadged Sony?

The Leica SL (Typ 601) is not a repackaged Sony camera, no.  As for Typ, it likely just means type and indicates that the number following is the model of the camera. 

I own the Leica T and several lenses. I also just recently bought the Leica MP, Safari Ed, with one extra lense. Still practicing on the Type 240, wondering if I should sell/trade-in my Safari? Or, as someone has suggested to keep the MP, It's a limited edition, and I'm told it will be worth more money in the future? Any suggestions? PS, I also have a Nikon D750 with lots of glass and the Sony AR7ii, only one lense. 

I don’t know that I would sell the MP Safari Special edition.  Being a special edition, it could end up being a collector’s item.  I would suggest getting a lens adapter to be able to mount you M-mount lenses on the a7R II, however, if you don’t already have one.  I would suggest looking at the Novoflex Adapter for Leica M Lens to Sony NEX Camera.  Novoflex makes excellent adapters, which are extremely well machined. 

The free shipping sealed the deal for me!

Would anyone know what the all up price body & Lens would be please?

$7,450.00, body only.  But you get free shipping.  Old saying: "If you gotta ask, you can't afford it!"

At the end of the article is a section marked "Items discussed in article", and if you click on the images of the camera and lens, it will take you to their respective product pages on our website which will include the current prices for both as well as other relavent product info. 

A brilliantly simple and pure design. Perfection.

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