LEICA SL (Typ 601), VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24–90 mm f/2.8–4 ASPH., 1/60, F8, ISO50, Photo by K


Leica has released the Leica SL (Typ601) as a model that falls between the Leica S featuring a sensor larger than 35mm full frame and the Leica M/M-P (Typ240)as the digital M camera. Certainly, the design and the user interface of the top cover and the rear side of the body are very similar to the Leica S. So, in this sense, we can say this camera is a younger brother of the Leica S. However, after I tested it fully, I learned that this camera has the best part of the Leica M and SLR cameras. The Leica M is sort of a mirrorless camera since the Leica M3. While films are replaced with sensors, the basic structure as a camera hasn't changed even on the latest Leica M (Typ240), which features a CMOS sensor, liveview, and optional EVF. Therefore, the Leica M/M-P (Typ240) can be categorized as a mirrorless camera except that it has a rangefinder and focuses manually. On the other hand, the Leica SL (Typ601) is a pure mirrorless camera with an operation system that resembles the Leica S. Yet, the body feels dependable because of the rigid construction and the impressive EVF which got one more closer to OVF. I believe that Leica didn't just focus on making the camera smaller and lighter. They made a whole new system by compactizing the whole system and featuring functions and usability that cannot be realized with the Leica M. The specification is similar to the Leica M/M-P (Typ240) in that it has an effective 24-megapixel sensor without lowpass filter and the same goes for the image tuning, even though it feels even more sophisticated than the Leica M. I only used the standard zoom lens the VARIO-ELMARIT 1:2.8-4.0/24-90mm ASPH. this time, and its image quality is superb enough to show their strong determination to start the new system. The maximum aperture is F4 at the tele-end, but I guess this is the result of their pursuit of higher image quality. I've always wondered if the tele-end of a F2.8 standard zoom lens could be extended, so I welcome the 90mm tele-end even though the max aperture was slowed down. What can I say? I think they put aside the market consensus of what a mirrorless camera is like and developed this camera just to diversify their lineup. And, I admire them in doing it. This camera is a strong candidate for the workflow of professional photographers and you know why by looking at the image above.

( Photography, Text : K )

LEICA SL (Typ 601), VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24–90 mm f/2.8–4 ASPH., 1/50, F4, ISO50, Photo by K

I went to Tohoku region. If the lens were a prime, I would have headed to other places. But, because the standard zoom lens appeared to be so powerful, I expected it to do a great job in capturing high-frequency subjects such as fallen leaves. So, I drove all the way up to Tappi. I could barely stand because of the violent wind and the slapping rain. The sensitivity is ISO50 with the ISO AUTO setting and the shutter speed was 1/50 second. Thanks to the F3.5-step image stabilization, I could capture the fine patterns of the waves sharply and the thick dark clouds heavily. The bottom part of the both sides is rain and they are not partial bokeh. Leica cameras have a special mid-tone reproduction, which is thick. Compared to the Leica M/M-P (Typ240), both shadow and highlight are even smoother. This is an evolution.

LEICA SL (Typ 601), VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24–90 mm f/2.8–4 ASPH., 1/80, F4, ISO64, Photo by K

Another shot of minute trees and branches taken from the hill overlooking Lake Towada. Resolution is just stunning. The drawing line is not only sharp but also delicate without thickening. And, this shot well demonstrates the power of the optical performance itself. The remote part of the scene was receiving a flat light instead of intense and contrasty one. With ordinary equipment, the highlight could lose colors and look unnatural. But, it discriminates the highlight and the shadow clearly. This is amazing.

LEICA SL (Typ 601), VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24–90 mm f/2.8–4 ASPH., 1/80, F8, ISO64, Photo by K

I focused on the thatched roof to check resolution and it's obvious. The camera and the lens have a power to capture subjects just as they are, allowing no ambiguity. In other words, it reflects you skill so directly. If you're the one who rely on "the taste" of equipment, you'll mass-produce images that will depress you.

LEICA SL (Typ 601), VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24–90 mm f/2.8–4 ASPH., 1/60, F3.7, ISO64, Photo by K

This image demonstrates the improved highlight rendition compared to the Leica M/M-P (Typ240). I love the way it captured the light and the 3D separation. I guess this 3D separation is achieved by the improved sampling capability realized by the 24-megapixel sensor with no low-pass filter and the high basic performance of the lens.

LEICA SL (Typ 601), VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24–90 mm f/2.8–4 ASPH., 1/30, F11 ISO80, Photo by K

Rendition is truly excellent wide open. And even at smaller apertures, this doesn't change and the line doesn't thicken. The line is very thin, indeed.

LEICA SL (Typ 601), VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24–90 mm f/2.8–4 ASPH., 1/50, F3.7, ISO250, Photo by K

I took almost all shots with ISO AUTO and found that the body picks lower ISO sensitivity presumably because it tries to balance with the effect of the image stabilization mechanism (when I looked at the shutter speed, I felt the ISO could be higher). Anyway, the image stabilization is very powerful. Even though I didn't zoom in to the tele-end, I still felt 1/50 second was a bit unsafe. But, the body is highly tolerant of shaking and I believe it's also due to the great holding feel.

LEICA SL (Typ 601), VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24–90 mm f/2.8–4 ASPH., 1/40, F6.4, ISO640, Photo by K

It automatically raised the ISO sensitivity to 640 because it was very dark. The noise level is completely negligible which is another improvement from the Leica M/M-P (Typ240). The rendition is absolutely haze-free and it reproduced the shiny surface of the handrail being used for a long time.

LEICA SL (Typ 601), VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24–90 mm f/2.8–4 ASPH., 1/125, F4, ISO50, Photo by K

I focused on the bench to defocus the woman's feet and I was able to see it clearly on the EVF. I admit OVF is pleasant to look into, but I have no problem with this EVF providing an outstanding visibility.

LEICA SL (Typ 601), VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24–90 mm f/2.8–4 ASPH., 1/80, F4, ISO160, Photo by K

Bokeh tends to be smooth to the front and a bit quirky toward the background. This is similar to the first generation rigid Summicron 50mm.

LEICA SL (Typ 601), VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24–90 mm f/2.8–4 ASPH., 1/500, F8, ISO50, Photo by K

A view of Sea of Japan from Aomori. Look closely at the rising part of the wave. I'd say a camera that captures the shape clearly to this extent is very rare. Among the cameras I have ever tested, I can think of SIGMA's SD/dp series (click to view a sample image shot with the SIGMA SD1). Now, a Bayer sensor has reached this level and I'm deeply impressed.

LEICA SL (Typ 601), VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24–90 mm f/2.8–4 ASPH., 1/160, F4, ISO50, Photo by K

Isn't it graphic?

LEICA SL (Typ 601), VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24–90 mm f/2.8–4 ASPH., 1/400, F4, ISO50, Photo by K

When I write a shooting report, I select sample images and usually order them to compose a story. But, can I add this shot of Daikon radishes? I say no more about its texture reproduction.

LEICA SL (Typ 601), VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24–90 mm f/2.8–4 ASPH., 1/250, F4, ISO50, Photo by K

This is the back bokeh that reminds me of the old Summicron. It depends on the distance to the background, but it's a bit quirky. Personally, I like it better than smooth one. This is a shot around the minimum focus distance at the tele-end. I notice spherical aberration only when I get this close.

LEICA SL (Typ 601), VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24–90 mm f/2.8–4 ASPH., 1/400, F4.5, ISO50, Photo by K

When the distance to the background is long enough, the back bokeh is free from quirks.

LEICA SL (Typ 601), VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24–90 mm f/2.8–4 ASPH., 1/400, F4.5, ISO50, Photo by K


This camera can replace SLR.

The first thing I was impressed with is the body's solid feel. It's rigid and easy to handle. Thanks to the feel of the shutter and the excellent visibility of the EVF, I feel "shooting was complete" every time I press the shutter. Because of the lens with uncompromised performance and this body, I want it to downsize my SLR system. At the time this camera body is released, there's only one standard zoom lens to choose from. So, the first target customers are the users of M and/or R lenses. However, as Leica has announced, this camera has a short flange focal distance and this means you can practically use a pile of interchangeable lenses via the mount adapter for M lenses together with another adapter for lenses of other mounts. When the Leica Company developed the Leica M8, they supposedly omitted the IR filter in addition to the lowpass filter in pursuit of higher image quality. And, I also find the image quality of the Leica SL (Typ601) convincing. Maybe you can have a great time just with the body, too. Of course, the SL is undeniably a new complete system that you can fully depend on.

( 2015.11.20 )