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Leica SL (Typ 601) Expert Review : Verdict



Leica SL Typ601 (1)

Value For Money

The Leica SL (Typ 601) is available for £5050 inc VAT for the body, which is comparable to other cameras, although with the 24-90mm lens available for £3150 inc VAT, the complete system is quite an investment, particularly if you are going to buy the 24-90mm lens with the camera. 

An alternative full-frame DSLR would be the Nikon D4s (£4449), and 24-70mm f/2.8 lens (£1149), or the Canon EOS 1D X (£4399), and 24-70mm f/2.8 II lens (£1,679). If you don't want the high speed continuous shooting, but do want 4K video recording, then the Sony Alpha A7R II would be an alternative priced at £2599 body only, with a Sony FE 24-70mm f/4.0 ZA OSS lens priced at £805.

Have a look at more Full-Frame DSLR options in our Top 10 Best Full-frame DSLRs, or for advanced mirrorless cameras have a look at our Top 12 Best Premium Mirrorless Cameras. You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.

Leica SL (Typ 601) Verdict

The Leica SL (Typ 601) is a 24 megapixel full-frame mirrorless camera with weather-sealing, and 11fps continuous shooting, designed for professional photographers. Alternative (Full-frame mirrorless cameras) top out at 5fps and aren't weather sealed, making the only real competitors for high speed full-frame photography the rather large Canon EOS 1D X and Nikon D4s. This makes the Leica SL seem quite good value for money body only, and also makes the SL seem quite small in comparison. The SL has an impressive electronic viewfinder with 4.4million dots and a large view (0.8x magnification) - larger than other full-frame cameras, such as the 1D X (0.76x magnification), and Nikon D4s (0.7x magnification). There is also a good touch screen, with a good resolution, although there are limits to how much you can control the camera using just the touch-screen. 

Is the Leica SL (Typ 601) conclusive proof of the future of camera technology? Does the SL end the need for Digital SLRs? Is the focus performance really quicker than all DSLR cameras available?

Whilst there are many bold claims made about the Leica SL, it does not match the focus speeds of the fastest cameras in our tests, although is still very quick. Continuous shooting is very quick at 11fps, but does not match the high speed of the D4s and 1D X, which offer similar speeds with continuous AF. That's not to say that the Leica SL isn't an extremely quick camera, it is, it's just that as Leica are claiming it is faster than everything else, it means we are naturally disappointed when we find it isn't as quick as they say. 

The Leica SL is a very good representation of what's possible with mirrorless technology, with a smaller camera body than most professional Digital SLRs, and the extremely high resolution electronic viewfinder is excellent, without doubt. However, it's quite clear when using the EVF that it is not the same as using an optical viewfinder, a bold claim from Leica. 

There are many benefits from mirrorless camera technology, and removing the mirror box mechanism of SLRs gives numerous benefits, which has been seen in the rapid growth in the mirrorless camera market over the years. Focus speeds are an area that have been excellent for many years on Digital SLRs, thanks to phase detection systems, and this has been mirrored (if you excuse the pun) in mirrorless cameras, with phase detection built into the sensor, giving extremely quick focus on a number of cameras. Therefore it's a shame to see that this technology hasn't been implemented in the Leica SL. It's of particular use with continuous AF speeds, as can be seen in other mirrorless cameras. 

The Leica SL (Typ 601) goes a long way towards demonstrating what is possible with mirrorless camera technology, and makes the case for mirrorless cameras even stronger. 

Currently there is a limited range of (native) full-frame lenses available for the Leica SL camera system. This will mean you will have to purchase an adapter to use other lenses on the camera, or make do with the large and heavy 24-90mm f/2.8-4.0 lens. If you do go for the 24-90mm f/2.8-4.0 lens, then you will be rewarded by fast focusing speeds, and very good image quality. 

Another great feature of the Leica SL is the built in CINE-4K recording, without the need for an external recorder, something only available on a small number of other cameras. The Leica SL features weather-sealing, and can shoot at 11fps, something other full-frame mirrorless cameras lack. As a camera that will meet a large number of needs, the Leica SL (Typ 601) delivers excellent performance, with advanced features and controls, and for those with the financial backing to invest in the camera, it should provide many years of highly satisfying results. 

Leica SL (Typ 601) Pros

10-11fps continuous shooting 
Excellent image quality
2 year warranty
Large, and very high resolution electronic viewfinder
2.95inch touch-screen
HDR bracketing mode
Dual SD card slots
Top LCD panel
USB3 connectivity
Adobe DNG raw format
CINE4K / UHD video recording
Dual axis electronic level
Quiet shutter

Leica SL (Typ 601) Cons

Large, heavy and expensive 24-90mm variable aperture lens
Limited availability of native lenses (Leica T lenses crop down to a 10mp image)
Weight of camera and 24-90mm lens combined is just under 2kg
Continuous shooting with AF doesn't match the competition (1DX / D4s)
EVF colour saturation can't be adjusted

FEATURES  
HANDLING  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
VERDICT  

The Leica SL (Typ 601) shows what is possible with a full-frame mirrorless camera with a cutting edge viewfinder and camera design.

 

 



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Comments


josa 6 25 Czech Republic
20 Oct 2015 8:04PM
I don't want a FF camera anymore...Sad

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pablophotographer 7 1.0k 339
21 Oct 2015 11:40AM
Hmmm German minimalist approach, as usual.
No tilting back screen, or eyepiece yet.
Rather small back screen don't you think?
I shall wait for two things,
More improvements on the camera and more money on my bank account.
I do have lots of patience.
For those who'll get it... Enjoy it!
pablophotographer

keithh 15 25.4k 33 Wallis And Futuna
21 Oct 2015 8:19PM

Quote:400 shot battery life



Really? You wouldn't want to use those 11fps too much.
joshwa Plus
8 861 United Kingdom
26 Nov 2015 4:10PM
Full review now live.
Niknut Plus
8 2.0k 76 United Kingdom
26 Nov 2015 4:25PM
8200 with 24-90 lens ????......with an image quality not even on a par with an Olympus M1
for example !!!!.................Father Christmas can forget this one !!!!.GrinGrin
AlanTW 16 353
29 Nov 2015 11:17AM
For 5K I would expect a camera that doesn't look like it was designed by a school kid - bloody ugly thing!
Cynog 6 United Kingdom
2 Dec 2015 12:16PM
"One of the major benefits of an electronic viewfinder rather than an optical viewfinder, is the ability to see in low light." Agreed - but I have a sort of electronic viewfinder on my DSLR: it's called Live View. Too bright to use the rear screen? Simple, use the optical viewfinder. I sincerely hope that optical viewfinders don't fade away in the face of the EVF onslaught, as all we will be left with is the electronic representation of what the sensor is recording. While that may be seen as an advantage, I can already get that from the rear of the camera. Optical finders work better in bright light, and don't drain the battery. When sensors and EVFs have the dynamic range and resolution to match the human eye, maybe then we can give up optical viewing systems.
2 Dec 2015 4:30PM

Quote:"One of the major benefits of an electronic viewfinder rather than an optical viewfinder, is the ability to see in low light." Agreed - but I have a sort of electronic viewfinder on my DSLR: it's called Live View. Too bright to use the rear screen? Simple, use the optical viewfinder. I sincerely hope that optical viewfinders don't fade away in the face of the EVF onslaught, as all we will be left with is the electronic representation of what the sensor is recording. While that may be seen as an advantage, I can already get that from the rear of the camera. Optical finders work better in bright light, and don't drain the battery. When sensors and EVFs have the dynamic range and resolution to match the human eye, maybe then we can give up optical viewing systems.


I think that nowadays with most cameras, when you put your eye to the evf, the screen turns off, so there's no further drain on the battery. And with some cameras ( GH3/4 for example ) you can choose to have the screen permanently off... the evf on its own will obviously use less battery power.
Also, if you are using an evf and want to make exposure adjustments, you can see the effect of your changes without taking your eye away from the finder ( which means recomposing ) .... I personally see that as a considerable advantage over an optical finder.
In any case, I don't really see why you would need an evf to have the exact characteristics of the human eye... how would that help you with over all exposure and composition?

Back in the days of film, I always lusted after a Leica, but anyone who pays 8 grand for this must be crazy.
8 Dec 2015 5:28AM
I was dumb enough to buy this HEAVY camera. While it takes very good photos, it also has many faults. The speed of startup in this article is correct but ONLY with the auto focus giant 24-90. When using a manual focus lens (like M or R lenses) the startup is an unbelievable 5.5 seconds. I have tried 5 SD cards of various sizes/brands and it doesn't matter. Also the focus zoom button is the lower left screen button, and it can't be changed. Imagine how hard it is to hit that button when you want to quickly zoom to make sure your 0.95 shot is spot on. Also once you move the magnified focusing patch to your required spot for a portrait shot, it doesn't remember where you placed it. You have to move it every time you want to use the zoom focus. Therefore it is nearly useless. Focus peaking is nearly useless too. It is way to faint. Now I have to wait for Leica to patch this problem and knowing them it will take about 12 months. My advice is to stay away from it until it is patched. Don't be a beta tester like me.
Cynog 6 United Kingdom
16 Dec 2015 2:11PM

Quote:"I think that nowadays with most cameras, when you put your eye to the evf, the screen turns off, so there's no further drain on the battery. And with some cameras ( GH3/4 for example ) you can choose to have the screen permanently off... the evf on its own will obviously use less battery power.
Also, if you are using an evf and want to make exposure adjustments, you can see the effect of your changes without taking your eye away from the finder ( which means recomposing ) .... I personally see that as a considerable advantage over an optical finder.
In any case, I don't really see why you would need an evf to have the exact characteristics of the human eye... how would that help you with over all exposure and composition?"



What you say is true, of course, but for my type of photography I need to look beyond what an EVF is telling me. Because the dynamic range of the human eye is greater than what an EVF can show, I can better see what is in the shadow areas with an OVF, so that I can bring out those details out in post-processing. I should say that PP is a large part of my style, and I often vary the exposure of areas of my photos after they are taken. If one does not go in for much post-processing, then I imagine that an EVF has many advantages. That said, I have not yet come across an EVF that I felt really at home with, though I have only tried those on micro four-thirds cameras to date. I find that they are not good in bright ambient light. The Leica one may be marvelous, for all I know, but I will be staying with DSLRs for the foreseeable future.

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