Leica SL2-S

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September 2023

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Leica SL2-S
The SL2-S is a very modern yet practical 24MP camera that enjoys a touch of Leica flare. As my first chance to shoot with a Leica body in over a decade, this one left a very positive impression.

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This is not so much a review, rather an essay on my first chance to reconnect with the Leica brand in over a decade.

It’s been over a decade since last I got a proper look at what Leica are doing with cameras. I’m very familiar with their brand, in part due to the L-mount alliance and in part because their name appears on most of my LUMIX lenses. The name is a permanent resident in our home.

Back when I was doing reviews for an Australian photography magazine I borrowed one of their range-finder models on a trip to China for a few weeks and really got to know it. The image quality and bokeh was an absolute joy. Not so much the rangefinder.

The SL2-S is a 24MP L-Mount body, which on paper lines up against the LUMIX S5 or Sigma FP. It’s got an excellent AF, body built to withstand a direct nuclear attack, and a very nice menu system. Sony could learn a lot from these guys. There's a beautifully designed top screen with all the essential information, something you don't get on the LUMIX S5 for example. The ergonomics of the SL2-S are excellent, and that surprised me. I thought I’d go a little crazy looking for buttons that weren’t there, but you soon settle into the pace of the camera. If your style of photography is methodical and focused, then this Leica might be a good pairing for you.

The minimalist layout of buttons and dials is at odds with what I’m used to shooting on the LUMIX bodies, which are loaded with options and features I’ll never learn. Each new model I try to get my head around the enhanced functionality, but I am an old dog and getting older all the time. To my mind the Leica is just removing distractions, and that has appeal.

My loan camera was with me for just a weekend. We used it for a workshop along with the Summicron 50mm F2 L-Mount. Leica is well supported by Capture One for tethering, so it’s right at home in the studio environment. The first time I tested the tethering it was only a matter of seconds before Capture One (v23) could see the Leica SL2-S, and everything worked with absolute zero fuss. That’s how tethering should be.

I miss my mode dial and the custom settings I have quick access to on the LUMIX bodies. But hey, not every camera is the same and there is always a learning curve when you pick up a different camera body. Not having my flippy rear screen was a big deal for me. There’s a lot cameras I’d consider buying, if not for the lack of a flippy screen.

Plot twist on the SL2-S rear screen is that it looks really really really good. It’s a peach alright. You feel good about the colours when reviewing images. That’s good for your confidence, and extra good when the client is peering over your shoulder.

We already have a wide range of L-mount lenses, from LUMIX and Sigma, including a couple of very very nice 50mm primes. But Leica loaned us their 50mm F2 for comparison (LEICA SUMMICRON-SL 50mm f/2 ASPH). It’s super similar in size and form to the LUMIX S 50mm F1.8, just with a little more finesse on the build quality. Optically we didn’t see any difference, they’re both great lenses.

The price point for Leica lenses and bodies will always put them out of reach for many photographers. You pay a premium for the Leica standard. You can dig through YouTube to find a lot of opinions about whether the Leica 50mm F2 is any better or any different to the LUMIX 50mm F1.8... and whether the price difference is justified. You already know for yourself if you're willing to spend $3,000 versus $800, you don't need another opinion on that.

I buy a lot of things that aren’t justifiable and I enjoy them very much. Some of them I keep for decades and continue to enjoy them even then. Few people are buying Leica lenses with an economic justification – They buy them because they like them.

This isn't just a camera to look pretty around your neck, it's ready to get busy and be productive. So if you’re wondering if the modern version of Leica can deliver great autofocus, studio tethering or quality log gamma video at 4K, then rest assured it’s up to the task.

– Ewen

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This feature was last updated on Monday 09th October 2023
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