Leica SL2-S Overview


The brand new SL2-S is far from being the regular Leica, starting with the price; same which we find to be quite friendly when thinking about it for a moment.

Body only, the Leica SL2-S is listed as $4,895.00, which is quite pricey when compared to other full- frame cameras, but is way below Leica's more expensive M cameras, and after watching some of those specs, we are sure that this model is insanely capable of delivering beautiful image quality at a somewhat accessible price.

Unfortunately, we haven't had the pleasure of playing with this magnificent beast so far, but for the moment we've crunched down several reviews into one single yet friendly overview for you to grasp on everything that there's to know about the Leica SL2-S.

When Two Become One

One of the most agreed features on the nature of this visual tool, is that it is essentially like having two cameras in one, literally. No tricks. By combining Leica's renowned aesthetic with state of the art, hybrid functionality, the SL2-S is a reliable full-frame mirrorless camera with superb photo and video capabilities. In a nutshell, the essence of the SLS-S revolves around Leica's very first 24.6Mp BSI CMOS sensor capable of delivering DCI/UHD 4K 10-bit video recording, a generous ISO sensitivity of ISO 50 to 100,000, and crisp image quality with virtually non-existent visual noise.

But as you might already know, behind a great sensor, there's always a great imaging processor, and the SL2-S is no exception to the rule. Embedded with the refined Maestro III image processor, the SL2-S guarantees high-speed performance and versatility throughout the camera system. Same which copes with a 4 Gigabyte buffer memory, making image series with up to 25 DNG files possible; meaning that the camera is also capable of producing image series with an almost infinite JPEG files, limited only by the memory cards used in both UHS-II-compatible SD card slots.

And to make the dual nature of the camera even better, Leica is also delivering separate menu systems for stills and video, making it more intuitive when navigating and controlling the camera when working in either mode. Now standard, a 5-axis sensor-shift image stabilization system is also inside the camera, minimizing the nasty effect of handheld shakiness when shooting, making images vibrant and sharper after every single shot. Leica Object Detection AF system is also included in the camera, delivering 225 selectable AF areas for faster and more accurate imaging performance.

And for the toughest shooters out there, the SL2-S is built tough, with a weather-sealed robust, dust and splash-proof (IP54) body, certified for continuous working even under harsh production conditions. Same which includes a bright and large 5.76m-dot EyeRes OLED electronic viewfinder and a sweet 3.2" 2.1m-dot touchscreen LCD. For battery economy and harsh lighting conditions, an upper LCD screen is also available, perfect for quick recognition of key shooting variables that one needs to constantly know.

About video, the Leica SL2-S is an immensely capable DCI/UHD 4K 10-Bit Video video camera, offering both DCI and UHD 4K recording at up to 60p using either the full-frame sensor area or an APS-C/Super 35mm crop. Internal 10-bit 4:2:2 recording is supported for frame rates up to 30p, and 60p is available at 8-bit 4:2:0. When recording externally via the full-size HDMI port, 10-bit output is available at the whole frame rates range for DCI and UHD 4K. Full HD recording is also supported with high-speed frame rates up to 180 fps for slow-motion playback. Additionally, there is no imposed recording limit at any resolution or frame rate, allowing for extended recording times.

Designed to Inspire

The overall design on the Leica SL2-S, recalls the iconic identity and traditional design core elements that the red dot brand has become respected and known for across the globe. Designed, developed and manufactured in Germany with state of the art imaging technology, comfortable handling and optic ergonomics coped with the highest quality materials available, make a camera built to perform and made to last.

With a broadly unique experience developed through the extensive feedback from users and image professionals worldwide, the SL2-S is a camera that has been designed by creatives for creatives, the intuitive and straightforward user image and video dual interface, allows content creators to completely focus on capturing the moment.

The EyeRes® Electronic Viewfinder blends an outstanding 5.76MP display panel with an eyepiece built of finest metal and glass with the tightest mechanical and optical tolerances for delivering an unpaired viewing and composing experience. And for further viewing, the 3.2" 2.1m-dot is a large and bright LCD touchscreen designed with highly durable Gorilla Glass. And last but not least, the 1.28" upper LCD status screen is perfect for swiftly reviewing shooting settings, even when the camera is powered off.

Its USB Type-C port allows fast file transferring; tethering, full support for Capture One 21 and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom; and high-speed in-camera battery charging. Also, a full-size HDMI Type-A port benefits video applications, and 3.5mm microphone and headphone jacks suit advanced audio recording needs.

And the BP-SCL4 rechargeable lithium-ion battery is rated for approximately 510 shots per charge. Featuring a fast built-in Wi-Fi, perfect when coped with the Leica FOTOS app for iOS and Android for quick and direct imagery sharing to any linked mobile device, same which also enables remote control over the camera and remote shooting via a live view image.

Reliable Imaging Capabilities

Finally, a really fast focus system in which one can rely on with the Leica Object Detection Autofocus. In addition to an array of modes and features, including face recognition, the high- performance AF system that also automatically detects whether a subject is still or in movement, which subsequently switches between motion and focus priority. Get some powerful In-body Image Stabilization thanks to the built-in Sensor-shift technology, a fundamental feature of contemporary photographers worldwide. The highly efficient multi-axis image stabilization compensates for lots of camera shakes quickly and effectively, the same which even allows image stabilization for lenses that are not equipped with it themselves.

And with the help of the sensor-shift technology used in this impressive minimally designed camera is the Multi Shot Mode which enables it to render images up to 96Mp when mounted on a tripod. Just remember to use a sturdy and not a clingy one. This way, the camera is capable of recording up to eight consecutive frames, whereby the sensor is shifted in half-pixel increments in between every exposure. This key feature results in images with an incredible 4x resolution of around 96 megapixels, resulting in an extreme increase in image detail and resolution.

What's with the S on that SL2

When compared to its $5,995.00 larger brother, the SL2-S has some things that are worth considering before making that heavy investment on your next powerful Leica visual system.

Based on the fact that the SL2-S is built within the same chassis and technology platform as the Leica SL2, we can make some well-educated guesses on how this mighty ambidextrous camera differs from the SL2. For the most intense brandies, the first thing that pops into one's attention is the all-black Leica brand on the top of the EVF bump, a feature which clearly indicates the constant progress into minimalism from the German manufacturer.

While the SL2 features a larger resolution 47 Mp sensor, the 24.6 Mp on the SL2-S is far from being inferior. It just means that you might not be able to make your regular building size billboard prints with it, and the multi shot mode isn't capable of reaching the 187 Mp shot when mounted in a tripod. Something quite nichey, and not a precisely necessity for the average photographer nor videographer.

Another interesting feature which isn't that critical for the 99% of photographers is the Max Shutter Speed, which is 1/16000 of a second on the SL2-S, vs 1/40000 of a second on the SL2. So, unless your income depends on photographing bullets in the air, you might not need that faster shutter on your camera bag.

And beyond that, the camera is the same, in fact, the SL2-S has a higher buffer depth of DNG > 999 shots, JPG > 999 shots vs DNG 78 shots, JPG > 100 shots on the SL2. And regarding the internal recording limit, it also performs even better with no limit up to 96GB, which differs a lot from the 29 minutes limit up to 96GB on the SL2.

Oh, and as expected in a Leica camera, the LCD screen offers no vari-angle or whatsoever. Therefore, if you want to create high-quality video, then you should invest in some needed accessories, like an external screen and others. And as the SL2, the massive camera body is quite heavy (850 grams) even without the battery. Something which feels oddly nice, even with small hands, but it might get you exhausted if used from sunrise to sunset during several days in a row.

On that L-Mount

Let's talk about something that has been given for granted in several sites, forums and reviews, the wide potential the L-Mount represents when considering this camera. Let us start by defining that the L-Mount, which is the result of an ambitious alliance between Leica, Sigma and Panasonic, was conceived as a Universal Lens Bayonet. Same which has been designed to provide us photographers with one unified lens mount standard that combines lenses and cameras made by any of the three partner companies. So, we better read this excerpt taken from the L-Mount website:

"The L-Mount marks the start of a new era of lens compatibility without compromise. Leica Camera, Panasonic and Sigma are set to offer a user-friendly solution that will allow photographers to mix and match any of the three manufacturers’ APS-C and full-frame cameras with any lens from each other’s product portfolios. Regardless of which combination you might choose: virtually all functional and qualitative characteristics of each respective system will be fully retained. The L-Mount thereby opens up an almost limitless spectrum of new creative possibilities."

On paper, that sounds brilliant, but the hierarchy is clear, Leica branded lenses are the main reason why people decide to invest in Panasonic cameras. Leica optics, in an accessible camera body.

Or that was what we were thinking before encountering the SL2 and SL2-S cameras. Leica has given its clear blessing to the L-Mount system by developing true Leica cameras that are embedded with the L-Mount Bayonet.

Technically, the L-Mount has an inner diameter of 51.6 mm and a flange depth of 20.0 mm, and exists in two versions; APS-C (TL) and full-frame (SL). The two versions are mechanically and electronically compatible, but TL lenses mounted on full-frame cameras will cause the camera to use a crop mode from the center of the sensor, corresponding to the APS-C coverage of the lens. SL lenses mounted on TL cameras function normally, providing a 1.5x crop field of view, as is typical with APS-C cameras.

Joint with other members of the L-Mount Alliance, the L-lens mount is a versatile interface with a mount diameter of 51.6mm and a flange distance of 20mm for working with a broad range of optics. Therefore, the SL2-S owners will have instant access to over 40 autofocus lenses and Leitz Cine lenses which are highly coveted among professional film-makers and serious video enthusiasts.

Therefore, the L-Mount makes the Leica SL2-S seamlessly and fully compatible with, not only the SL-System's already broad lens line-up, but also with TL lenses (which are also fantastic). And if that doesn't trigger you, via a special adapter, the SL2-S is also compatible with drool-worthy lenses from the Leica M, R and S-System.

Wrapping it up, the Leica SL2-S is a mighty interesting and powerful camera for any serious content creator out there. Not only because it is a Leica, which might be interpreted as more of a luxury rather than a much needed tool, but because it offers that incredible L-Mount system which runs strongly in parallel to Canon, Nikon, Sony and Fujifilm without a doubt.

In simple words, the Leica SL2-S is a tool, and not a guilty pleasure for sure.

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