Leica SL Camera and Vario Elmarit SL 24-90 mm f/2.8-4.0 ASPH

by Bernardo Ricci Armani 1 comment

Milan (Italy). Let’s be honest: if you landed on this page because you are looking for information about the new Leica SL, most probably you already had the opportunity to read many reviews – much more detailed and specific than mine here below. However, what I can do is providing the readers with the feelings and the opinion of a “free user” like me, someone that finds him/herself in front of the question: “Leica SL, buying it or no?”. As specified many times, my blog’s readers won’t see any link to amazon, b&h or any other website; I’m not paid by anyone, I purchase equipments with my money and I say freely what I think.

That said – I thought it was an important disclaimer – let’s proceed. I tested the new Leica SL camera with its Leica Vario Elmarit SL 24-90 mm f/2.8-4.0 ASPH lens in a professional photographic studio, therefore probably in the best possible conditions. The event was organised by Leica Italia and it was very well prepared (I wrote a specific post about it). My test starts with the conclusion, which is asking myself to simple questions: “Did I like playing with the new Leica SL for more or less one hour?” The answer is “yes, I did; very much!”. Then, the second simple but straight question: “Would I buy it?” . This time the answer is “No, I don’t think so”. In fact, my conclusion is that the Leica SL is a great camera for some specific situations. Sport photography for sure, thanks to probably the most advanced autofocus ever developed, incredibly fast and precise, and which gives the possibility of focusing on the top-left side of the image (something of unique and well appreciated by Formula One photographers). But also fashion photographers I’m guessing will love it (both studio and shows). Same for naturalistic photographers (bird watching and safari). But I personally do not see the new Leica SL camera very usable in wedding photography, unless you are ready to carry on a very heavy equipment. And of course there’s no need to mention street photography, for which the Leica M system is unique.

Therefore, my feeling is that the Leica SL will compete for sure with cameras like Nikon D4s and the Canon 1-Ds Mark 3 (more or less same price, but being – the Leica SL – a bit lighter and definitely smaller). However, my biggest concern is about the lenses. In fact, the current Leica lens kit specifically for SL is limited to the 24-90 Vario Elmarit f/2.8-4.0 (which is, by the way, pretty big and heavy), with a 90-280 (a bit bigger) and a 50 f/1.4 that will be officially released in the first quarter of 2016. Users of the Leica SL can count on newly designed adapters (produced by Leica itself or by Novoflex) but in my personal opinion it does not make too much sense buying a camera designed for specific lens and being forced to use different glasses with adaptors.

This is to explain why I won’t buy the Leica SL (although of course I’m not saying it’s not a wonderful camera). The way I shoot photos and my passion for wide angle prime lenses keep me a bit cold about this camera. But of course if I were a professional sport or fashion photographer, I think I would seriously consider this new model of Leica (maybe not now, but for sure in the next months). As said, the new Leica SL has great performances (again, I would recommend to give a look to more specifically technical reviews): the autofocus is incredibly fast and precise, the processor is very powerful and the camera can shoot at 11 fps (DNG) and continuously in Jpeg (using the last generation of SD cards). In manual focus, the peaking is precise and immediate – I love the focus peaking of the Leica Q, but this one is even better. Not to mention the performance at high ISO: the Leica SL can be easily pushed above 3200 ISO without any grain, something that makes it usable even with very low light condition, with a jpeg that – when printed on A3 paper size – gives amazing results. The white balance – adjustable with a dedicated button – makes easier to set the parameter and get a wonderful jpeg, immediately usable. All these features are comprehensibly appreciated by photojournalists and by all those photographers that need to send the final result of their work in few seconds – there is an integrated wi-fi module.

So, here again with the conclusion, with which I opened the post: I would not buy this great, wonderful, fast, amazing camera… And just to confirm my feelings, during the test I could try the Leica M: oh yes, I would much more preferably buy that!

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