Leica is expanding its mirrorless lineup and venturing into the hybrid shooting realm with the announcement of the SL2-S camera. Modeled after its popular SL2, the SL2-S strives to take the concept of an all-arounder or hybrid further by offering equal billing to photo and video specs.
Leica is primarily known as a camera company for photographers—"photographers' photographers," even—but the SL-series of cameras are breaking the mold from Leica's traditional rangefinder designs and stills-only offerings to suit more contemporary styles of shooting.
From the outside, the SL2-S looks just like the SL2, except that the Leica name on front and top is blacked-in. From here, though, the SL2-S distinguishes itself with an all-new full-frame 24.6MP BSI CMOS sensor and an updated Maestro III image processor. The sensor is the first time Leica is using a BSI design, which should yield cleaner image quality and reduced noise throughout the ISO 100-100000 range, while still offering the characteristic "Leica look" to photos and video.
In terms of processing, the new-gen Maestro III offers improved speed for shooting full-res DNGs at up to 25 fps with an electronic shutter, or 9 fps with a mechanical shutter, and a 4GB buffer enables near-limitless consecutive shooting (>999 frames per burst) for both DNG and JPEG file types.
Beyond stills, the SL2-S features equally impressive and capable video performance. UHD and DCI 4K recording are supported, using either full-frame or Super 35mm recording areas, with frame rates up to 60p possible, although internal 10-bit 4:2:2 recording requires 30p and slower. Moving down to FHD, high-speed recording at 180 fps is also possible for slow-motion playback. In addition, unlimited recording times are possible for extended takes. External output via the full-size HDMI port yields 10-bit footage and there is also HLG support for instant HDR-ready footage, or the L-Log gamma can be used for advanced color grading applications during post.
And proving that these two strong feature sets are equally important to Leica, the user interface has also been updated so photo and video modes utilize separate menu systems to avoid needing to readjust settings when moving from photo to video workflows. This makes working a more intuitive experience, especially if mixing content types in a single shoot. Benefitting photographers, too, the SL2-S will also feature full support for working with Capture One 21 and Adobe Lightroom.
Never one to drop the ball in terms of physical design, Leica has made sure to make the construction aesthetically appealing, as well as highly functional and durable. Built from milled aluminum and magnesium, the all-metal body is efficient at keeping the system cool during longer recording takes and the body is also IP54-rated for dust and moisture resistance.
It's also worth mentioning that the SL2-S, along with the SL2, are L-mount cameras and share the same lens mount with Panasonic and Sigma as part of the L-Mount Alliance. This ensures wide lens compatibility and even helps to retain seamless use of Leica M-mount rangefinder lenses via an optional adapter.
Beyond the hybrid feature set, the SL2-S shares many common features with the SL2, including the impressive 5.76m-dot EyeRes electronic viewfinder and 3.2" 2.1m-dot touchscreen LCD with a Gorilla Glass covering. It also features 5-axis sensor-shift image stabilization to reduce the effects of camera shake, as well as enables the 96MP Multishot Mode for high-resolution stills recording.
In addition, it features a top status LCD, dual SD UHS-II card slots, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, and it is compatible with the same accessories, including the HG-SCL6 Multifunction Handgrip and the BP-SCL4 battery.
Finally, in addition to the announcement of the SL2-S today, Leica has also announced a forthcoming firmware update for this camera set to come during the first half of 2021. This upcoming major firmware update will bring a revised autofocus algorithm for improved Eye/Face/Head/Body recognition and tracking along with a variety of video-specific upgrades, including internal 10-bit 4K 60p/50p recording with H.265 compression; Long-GOP recording for 10-bit codecs for a smaller 150-200MB/s bit-rate; segmented video recording to prevent data loss; an individual viewing LUT upload function; enhanced live view and an image overlay option; support for automatic follow focus operation; and the addition of a waveform monitor, color bar support, time code input, and tally mode.
What are your thoughts on Leica's hybrid camera effort? Are you drawn to its commitment to both photo and video feature sets in one body, or do you align more with the company's traditional photo-specific cameras? Let us know your thoughts on Leica's newest full-frame L-mount mirrorless camera in the Comments section, below.