Leica SL2 Review
I've been looking forward to this review ever since I got the Leica SL2 back in February 2022. I actually wrote it already, multiple times over the last year, but never published it because I somehow knew my thoughts will change. Now, after 20+ weddings with the Leica SL2 as my main camera, I can confidently share my thoughts. Also, since I started writing this review, Leica reached out and started a partnership with me. I still paid for all Leicas I've ever owned but you should definitely know that I'm a biased Leica fanboy who's also over the moon that he gets to partner with his favorite camera company. Whoops. Here's the review. Spoiler: It's not an easy camera to pick up. But if you give it a chance, there's nothing like it.
When I started taking some photos with the SL2, it was a great feeling. The shutter sound is beautiful and feels very "mechanical" which I love. Makes it feel like a serious camera. The viewfinder and the screen are gorgeous, the photos (and more on that later) looked great... And then I started noticing a few annoying things as well, mainly the battery life and how differently the autofocus works compared to other cameras. Not that it's bad, it was just very different and it took me a long time to figure it out. It felt slow at first, especially next to Canon R5. However, after a few weddings I started noticing it very rarely makes mistakes. It "feels" slower but it definitely hits the focus every single time. I tested this on Leica's own Summicron lenses (50mm F2 and 75mm F2) as well as Sigma lenses (24-70mm F2.8, 35mm F1.4 and 85mm F1.4).
With Canon mirrorless cameras, I got pretty spoiled by the continuous autofocus and I learned how to fully rely on it - letting the camera track the face and just click the shutter when the moment's right. This is where the SL2 felt behind. The focus tracking is fine but once I went back to just single focus point, I noticed I missed focus less often (!) on the SL2 than I did with the Canon using all the fancy features, because sometimes the camera just decides the wrong thing. I'd give the autofocus on this Leica SL2 7/10. It works. The only issue is it starts to hunt a bit when it gets really dark. So in a way, the Leica SL2 focuses more like a DSLR than most mirrorless cameras. You just have to get used to it. I'd say it took me at least three weddings before I started fully trusting this camera without double checking if I got it right. From all the weddings I've done with it, I can only recall one moment where I was really mad about a missed shot. I call that success.
Now that the elephant left the room, let's focus (yep) on the good parts. First, the build quality: This camera is no joke, it's heavy and it's extremely well made. Nothing on it is poorly designed. The main three buttons in the back and multiple customizable buttons without labels are in all the right spots (especially love the two up front right by the lens). The grip is great, the viewfinder is big and bright, probably the best one I've ever seen on a camera. No complaints here. 10/10.
Second, and this is where the SL2 really shines, the image quality: The sensor is 47 megapixels, which I thought I won't ever need but now I can't go back to anything smaller than that. You can crop 100 percent and still have a nice clean image. One time I cropped to the moon with my 85mm lens and turned it into a 200mm lens kind of photo without sacrificing much quality. What a luxury. It also matches the sensor on my Leica Q2, even though the image processor makes slightly different decisions on each camera for some reason.
The very best feature is the actual look of these photos. The RAW files (which are actually the DNG format) are so easy to edit. So easy that I now use my own presets at 60 percent opacity. The colors and contrast are just so good already that just a gentle kiss of a film preset will do. Sometimes I just hit "V" in Lightroom to convert to black and white and there is literally nothing else I need to do, it just looks great, there's a natural contrast and clarity to these photos and I haven't seen anything like that since the Canon 5D mark II days. This applies to all Leicas I've ever had, you can just tell this is something the company really cares about and refuses to make any compromises on this. Image quality 10/10.
It comes with a side effect though. Each DNG is around 80 megabites so you can easily bring home over 250 gigabites of data from each wedding. Not great. It's definitely not the camera for some insane overcaffeinated paparazzi shooting though, you gotta think before you shoot, otherwise you'll need some serious storage as well as processing power to handle all these files.
A few more things on image quality: The low light performance is solid, not as good as Leica SL2-s which has a smaller sensor, but definitely usable at ISO 5000 or more if needed. The auto white balance is not my favorite, it's especially frustrating with JPEG previews looking much cooler than the actual RAW file after you import it to your Lightroom. This always tricks me and I tend to set up my white balance warmer than it needs to be. Leica has been rolling out software updates multiple times a year and they seem to be making tweaks to the JPEG look so I'm guessing this could be changed at any time. Some of these software updates really upgrade the camera a lot. Big fan of these free updates, Leica and Fujifilm are both doing these and you can tell both companies listen to their users.
Battery life, not the best but not horrible. I go through 5-6 batteries between the SL2 and my Q2 at every wedding and each battery is around $285, so that's not fun. Leica cameras are expensive but to pay this much for a basic accessory, that's some Apple level stuff. 6/10.
The menus are 9/10. Only because you can't customize your first page shortcuts, otherwise it would be a perfection. The camera has a touchscreen but I always turn that off on every camera I get, I'm just not a fan. The joystick is enough for me and the SL2 has a really nice one in a perfect spot.
My conclusion is that this is a unique camera that needs to be given some time. I wanted to sell it after my first wedding, it just felt so different. But once I figured out how to work around some of its deficits, I finally realized what the Leica SL2 is really about - excellent image quality with a unique look to its files. It's also built to last and survive the humankind.
I've had all kinds of Leica cameras in the last few years. From the analog M2 to digital M240, later the M10, the Q, then the Q2 and analog M6. They are all amazing and I've always absolutely loved to use them. Getting the SL2 made sense, it's Leica's best workhorse kind of camera and that's exactly what's great about it. It's Leica magic in a professional body. Can you take the same photos on Sony or Canon? Yes. But if you take them on both cameras, will you prefer the Leica one? Yes.
One more thing about this. Cameras are tools and they all do the same thing, just differently. To say the Leica SL2 is a better camera than Canon R5 or Sony a7IV would be unfair. I believe it's a better camera for me personally, but everybody needs something else from a camera. If it feels right, that's a good sign. And in order for a camera to feel right, you two have to become friends first.