Leica Makes Serious Improvements with SL2 Mirrorless Camera


“An evolution” is how Leica describes of the just-announced SL2 Mirrorless Camera, and it fits. Leica has made several notable-but-subtle changes to the exterior of their flagship full-frame mirrorless camera and some impressive updates under the hood. Ergonomics have been optimized, specs have been vastly improved, and the user interface is even more intuitive. To highlight one of the critical upgrades, it would be the use of a 47.3MP full-frame CMOS sensor and the latest Maestro III Image Processor. Blending this imaging pipeline with Leica design sensibilities makes the SL2 one of the best full-frame mirrorless options on the market today.

A Maestro of Digital Imaging

Having been designed in Germany is a selling point of the latest Leica camera, though the SL2 shines when you start talking about its core imaging specs. The 47.3MP full-frame CMOS features minimal glass surfaces and omits the low-pass filter to reduce the chance of reflections negatively impacting images while the micro lenses ensure the utmost in quality is captured when paired with phenomenal Leica lenses, including those designed for the legendary M mount via adapters or the native L mount.

Making the most of this sensor is the Maestro III Image Processor. This will allow the SL2 to realize a dynamic range of around to 14 stops and a sensitivity range of ISO 50-50000. Speed also comes into play, with this model reaching continuous shooting speeds of up to 20 fps, and a 4GB buffer handling approximately 78 full-resolution DNG raw files in a row. Autofocus has been improved with 225 contrast-detect fields and Leica Object Detection which makes calculations at 480 fps for tracking extremely fast-moving subjects. This frame rate is possible with the electronic shutter and without continuous AF. For full continuous focusing performance the camera will work at up to 6 fps.

Completely new to the line is in-body image stabilization. Using a 5-axis system, the SL2 can compensate for handheld camera movement to guarantee maximum sharpness. It also enables a 187MP Multishot Mode, which captures eight images and combines them to create an ultra-high-resolution raw photograph. Additionally, the SL2 has a mechanical shutter, which is able to reach 1/8000 second speeds and an electronic shutter that maxes out at 1/40,000 second.

Looks Like a Leica

Modern in every way, the SL2 certainly doesn’t forget its heritage. This mirrorless camera calls back to classic cameras designed by Leica but with a modern spin. A sleek all-metal exterior with leatherette wrap provide durability and comfort. Clean lines, a good feel, and sensible button placement put this camera at the top of the heap when it comes to ergonomics. Compared to the original, the SL2 has a new mechanical structure with a die-cast housing of machined magnesium and an aluminum top and bottom. Designed for professionals, photographers can be certain it will survive the toughest environments. Leica even boasts supreme optical and mechanical tolerances.

Being made for the current day there are plenty of new technological upgrades to help photographers and filmmakers operate the camera. An upgraded EyeRes OLED Viewfinder has a 5.76m-dot resolution and 120 fps refresh rate for crisp imagery and the rear 3.2” touchscreen has a 2.1m-dot resolution and durable Gorilla Glass. At the top of the camera you will find 1.28” monochrome LCD for quickly viewing current settings.

On the right side, users will find two UHS-II SD card slots behind a weather-sealed door. The other side hosts all the ports with a full-size HDMI 2.0b output, both a headphone and mic jack, and USB 3.1 Type-C for data transmission and power. The bottom is simple, with a slot to hold the BP-SCL4 Battery Pack, the same as the original SL for anyone looking to upgrade.

Inside the camera is the camera’s wireless functionality, both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 Low Energy. This enables working with the Leica FOTOS mobile app on mobile devices, including full support for iPad with the paid PRO version. Other benefits of PRO are integration with Lightroom mobile allows for seamless editing workflow on mobile, the ability to download raw photos, and remote control over video.

Next-Level Cinema

Filmmakers can benefit from the SL2 as it has an impressive set of features, including internal DCI 4K video at 10-bit using the full width of the image sensor. DCI 4K is possible at up to 60p and Full HD recording can reach an impressive 180 fps. A new 5K mode at up to 30 fps also makes an appearance for squeezing every little bit of detail out of the camera for 4992 x 3744 video. Being a 4:3 aspect ratio allows for anamorphic recording for professional video applications. Filmmakers can also choose to record either Long GOP or All-I compression at up to 400 Mb/s.

Beyond pure specifications, Leica took care to improve the graphical interface to make it better for filmmakers. Video settings are now kept on a separate tab from stills and shooters will enjoy being able to see professional settings such as shutter angle. L-Log recording is supported again using the Rec. 2020 color space and HLG can be selected for instant HDR applications. For maximizing quality, it is recommended to use the HDMI output to a recorder where full 10-bit 4:2:2 quality is available. Both MOV and MP4 formats are present and filmmakers can choose to use a high-efficiency codec.

Leica has made a complete package with the SL2 as it is one of the most fully-fleshed out full-frame cameras currently on the market. Has this camera piqued your interest? Think it is worth it? Let us know in the Comments, below!