Both a styling makeover and a significant performance upgrade have gone into Leica’s second-generation full-35mm L mount mirrorless camera. The SL2 looks a whole lot softer than its overtly ‘Germanic’ predecessor and, consequently, seems smaller although the two cameras are roughly the same size. The new model is, however, lighter (by nearly 100 grams) and has significantly improved ergonomics based around a reshaped handgrip and a new GUI. The top and bottom covers are machined aluminium components (rather than diecast) for added strength, covering a magnesium alloy chassis and with upgraded weather sealing (now up to IP54 standard). The material inserts are genuine leather… well, it is a Leica. The SL2 is built in Germany at Leica’s Wetzlar camera factory which also makes the Q, S, M, TL and CL series models.
On the inside, the SL2 steps up to a 50.44 megapixels (total) CMOS sensor mated with Leica’s latest-generation ‘Maestro III’ processor. The native sensitivity range is equivalent to ISO 50 to 50,000, and Leica is claiming fourteen stops of dynamic range. RAW capture is with 14-bit RGB colour. Leica also notes that the sensor’s design has been optimised to work with its M mount lenses, primarily via the design of its microlenses which are shaped to better handle light rays arriving at a more acute angle. The SL2 will accept Leica’s TL/CL system lenses, switching to the ‘APS-C’ format which still delivers an effective resolution of 20.2 MP.
The full-frame effective pixel count is 47.3 million, and there’s no optical low-pass filter in order to optimise sharpness. Continuous shooting is possible at up to 10 fps with the focal plane shutter, and up to 20 fps with the sensor-based shutter (both with the AF/AE locked to the first frame). The SL2 has dual memory card slots for the SD format, both with UHS-II speed support. The FP shutter’s speed range is 30 minutes to 1/8000 second while the sensor-based shutter has a top speed of 1/40,000 second.
A big deal is the introduction of in-body image stabilisation (IBIS) via sensor shifting. This operates over five axes and gives up to 5.5 stops of correction for camera shake. IBIS will also enable ‘Multi-Shot’ high-res capture, giving a resolution of 187 megapixels and available in mid-2020 via firmware upgrade. Leica wants to avoid using optical image stabilisers in its Apo-Aspherical L mount lenses as they compromise “the perfect and constant alignment of elements on the optical axis”.
The new SL2 also gets a significant upgrade to its autofocusing system which remains contrast-detection based (using a similar technology to Panasonic’s DFD processing), but has ‘Leica Object Detection AF’ for subject recognition and tracking. There’s also face recognition and a ‘Smart AF’ facility which automatically switches between focus and shutter-release priority depending on whether the subject is stationary or moving. There are now 225 selectable measuring points arranged in a 15x15 pattern to give extensive frame coverage.
A new OLED-type ‘Eye Res’ EVF has a resolution of 5.76 megadots with a precision eyepiece built to tighter optical and mechanical tolerances. The monitor screen is fixed which, says Leica, was “a conscious decision” – mainly in the interests of maintaining the camera’s overall strength and durability. There’s extensive touch control implementation with the main operating screens now separate for when the SL2 is in photo or video modes. A new user interface greatly enhances operational efficiencies.
On the video side, the SL2 boasts a number of improvements over its predecessor, including the provision of a 3.5 mm stereo audio output for monitoring headphones, and an HLG profile for a more convenient 4K workflow. As before, 4K video can be recorded in either the DCI or UHD resolutions, but now with a 50/60p frame rate option. Additionally, 5K video recording is available at 30 or 25 fps with a 1.6x crop. As before, 10-bit 4:2:2 colour is available at the HDMI output, but 10-bit video can now be recorded internally as well. The SL2 also has a V-Log L gamma profile, time code support (either rec run or free run), and a zebra pattern generator. There are both stereo audio input and an output, both standard 3.5 mm minijack connectors.
Leica has also announced plans for more L mount autofocus lenses, namely three APO-Summicron-SL primes to supplement the existing 35mm, 75mm and 90mm models. All are wide-angles, starting with a 28mm f2.0 which will be followed by a 24mm f2.0 and a 21mm f2.0. All are scheduled to arrive during 2020.
The Leica SL2 is available in Australia from 21 November, priced at $9900 for the camera body. For more information visit https://au.leica-camera.com