The Leica SL2: A Game-Changer for Professional Photography

The Leica SL2: A Game-Changer for Professional Photography

Since its release almost four years ago, the Leica SL2 has become a favorite among professional and enthusiast photographers. But considering its impressive list of features and stunning image quality, it’s no wonder this top-tier mirrorless camera has been dubbed a “game-changer” in the industry.

By Liam O'Donnell

Although the SL2 made by Leica has been on the market since November 2019, I only recently had the opportunity to try it out. However, as someone who already loves Leica, I was excited to not only have the chance to (finally) get my hands on the SL2 but I was also allowed to use it for several months.

As it turned out, having the camera for an extended period was necessary to fully experience all the new and upgraded features that the SL2 had to offer because this latest version of the brand’s SL camera finally includes cutting-edge capabilities that other brands have had for quite some time. Moreover, by incorporating these features, Leica’s SL is better equipped to duke it out with flagship models from other major manufacturers.

And while I wish I could have tried out more lenses, I was pleased to have access to the Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 Aspherical Lens, arguably the most versatile option to pair with the SL2.

Enough of the preamble. Here’s why the Leica SL2 is considered a game-changer in the industry.

Built Like a Tank

Although the overall shape of the new SL2 is similar to the original SL, it now feels more ergonomic. The larger grip and unique material where your fingertips rest provide an excellent grip on the camera. Moreover, this feature gave me the confidence to take photos while on the move without worrying about dropping the camera.

Leica also revamped the customizable buttons for better usability, with the SL2 now sporting six programmable buttons, including the front setting wheel and thumbwheel.

That said, when you first hold the Leica SL2, besides its robust design, you’ll notice its heft, which I would compare to the sensation of wearing a solid platinum watch for the first time, unexpected. To put it another way: This camera, made from aluminum and magnesium, is durable and IP54 certified (meaning it can withstand dust, rain showers, or water splashes), but it is not for weight weenies.

Performance Enhancing Technology

Of course, the SL2 also boasts impressive performance upgrades, including a 47-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor, which almost doubles the megapixels of its predecessor, the SL. This results in an exceptional picture resolution of 8368x5584 pixels, making it perfect for photographers who specialize in capturing extreme macro shots or enjoy cropping images to create new ones.

What’s more, Leica has added an in-body image stabilization (IBIS) system to the SL2, allowing photographers to shoot in low-light conditions with slower shutter speeds, preventing blurry images.

The autofocus system has also been significantly enhanced, with 225 autofocus points, almost five times more than the SL. This improvement, along with an extremely fast shutter speed of 1/40,000th of a second, ensures that capturing moving subjects and panning shots will be more responsive, even in bright conditions with a wide-open aperture.

Extra Batteries Not Included

As someone who makes a living with my camera, I must admit that I was disappointed with the battery life of the SL2 camera because while a single, fully charged battery would almost certainly suffice for a casual photographer, it may not be sufficient for those who use the camera for commercial purposes.

For instance, I found that the battery could only last a few hours, which compelled me to turn off the camera when not in use to save power. Even with strict power-saving settings, I still found that the battery wore down quickly (plus, the sleep-to-wake time was frustratingly slow). As a result, if the SL2 were my primary camera, I would purchase multiple batteries or carry a power bank to keep my reserve batteries charged.

However, it’s worth noting that battery performance can be affected by several factors, so your mileage may vary!

A Rising Tide Raises All Boats

Regarding lenses, the SL2 and SL platforms benefit greatly from the L-Mount Alliance, a partnership among Leica, Panasonic, DJI, and Sigma. This collaboration enhances the already exceptional collection of lenses from Leica, offering consumers a broad selection of over 60 lenses, including options at various price points and levels of quality.

One unique aspect of the L-Mount standard is its mounting design. And when you combine a short flange distance and a mirrorless camera like the SL2, the result is a significantly reduced distance between the back of the lens and the front of the sensor, which eliminates the need for complex retro-focus lens elements to account for the distance between the back of the lens and the plane of the sensor.

In simpler terms, there is less material and space between the subject being photographed and the camera sensor, resulting in higher-quality images and a more compact camera.

Easy on the Eyes

The SL platform and SL2’s UX/UI are remarkable, especially for me, as this aspect is crucial in determining my purchases.

The SL2’s user experience is straightforward yet powerful, intuitive, and performance-driven. The menu system is displayed in a bright and cohesive design language, making it easy for anyone familiar with modern digital cameras to discern the settings by their icons.

Leica’s product haptics always leave a lasting impression on me, and the SL2 is no exception. The wheels and dials have pleasing feedback, and the buttons are easy to press without being too sensitive. Additionally, the battery compartment has a delightful eject confirmation mechanism to prevent accidental drops.

The Leica FOTOS app is also the perfect complement to the SL2 camera. The app simplifies the image transfer and sharing process, thus making it more efficient. Plus, the app also lets you effortlessly browse and download pictures wirelessly from your camera to your phone, allowing you to access and share your photos with others in a snap. It is an incredibly useful feature that will save you time and energy.

Final Thoughts

In my opinion, the SL2 camera is exceptional and sets the standard for other cameras. I found it enjoyable to use, and although it may not suit everyone’s needs, I would suggest it to most photographers.

The SL2 is perfect for photographers who prefer a satisfying and hands-on photography experience should consider the Leica SL2. Its impressive range of features and remarkable image quality have earned it the reputation of a “game-changer” in the industry, taking picture-making to new heights.

Available now, the Leica SL2 costs $6,995. For more information, check out Leica’s website.

(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)

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