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Review Leica SL3
Reading time: 10 minutes - March 07, 2024 - by Christina Thomas

Hands On: Leica SL3

The SL3 is here - and with it a new full-frame flagship from Leica! In this blog post with video, you can find out to what extent this camera has fulfilled our expectations of a true professional camera.

Design made in Wetzlar

When we talk about a new Leica, we must of course also talk about the design: and this is not only well thought out in the packaging, but has also become iconic overall.

For over 100 years, Leica has been developing cameras that are known not least for their timeless and elegant design.

And Leica's design principle of "design follows function" is also clearly evident in its latest flagship model, the SL3. The camera is not only beautiful, but also has an extremely high-quality finish - and is of course weatherproof to IP54 standard.


Compared to its predecessor, the SL2, the body has become even smaller and, above all, significantly lighter and feels really good and solid in the hand.
And even with the buttons and dials, Leica has stuck to the familiar and deliberately reduced controls, but has also optimized a few things: For example, two (one large and one smaller) dials have been added on the left side that can be assigned to the various exposure settings.

The design of the on/off button is also new: instead of a toggle switch, there is now a button that lights up discreetly in different colors, which, when pressed briefly, puts the camera into a kind of standby mode.
The three menu buttons have now moved from the left to the right side of the display, which makes operation much more intuitive. And while we're on the subject of the display: It can now not only be operated by touch, but is finally also foldable, making it much more suitable for unusual perspectives!

High end for professionals

In terms of features, Leica has fulfilled our wishes with the new SL3 and installed the 60MP sensor with up to 15 stops dynamic range and the super-fast Maestro IV processor, which we know from the Q3 - and have already come to love there. When it comes to the battery, Leica also relies on the powerful battery from the Q3 for the SL3. If you are interested in the Q3, you should definitely take a look at our test report with video on this camera.


Strictly speaking, you can also use the old battery from the SL2 here, but you will then have to live with some not insignificant limitations - for example, filming in 4K is unfortunately no longer possible.

In addition, the camera is equipped with all the connections you would expect from a high-quality professional camera today - especially when it comes from Leica: Full-size HDMI, USB-C, 3.5mm jack and two memory card slots for SD and now brand new for CFexpress type B cards.

Leica SL3

  • 60.3 megapixel
  • CMOS sensor
  • mirrorless full-frame system camera
  • 5.76 megapixel OLED viewfinder
  • ISO values from 50 to 100,000
  • HDMI 2.1 Type A (Full HD)
  • 8K video (16:9)
  • Hybrid AF through combination of contrast measurement
  • 5-axis image stabilization up to 5 f-stops
  • Bluetooth 5.0 LE & WiFi
  • CFexpressType B & SD UHS II
  • Leica L-Mount

Easy to operate

The minimalist design continues inside the camera: Leica has opted for a clean, harmonious and modern screen design. What we really like is the new menu, which may take a while to get used to, but is then super easy to use and also allows you to save individual profiles - both in photo and video mode.

The special look

Pictures taken with a Leica have a very special, soft, but also clean look.


If you want the look to be a little less clean, you can also use the 5 new, special Leica Looks in the SL3, which we already know from the Q3. You can either add them later in the Leica Photo App or import them directly into the camera and apply them there.

Video

The new SL3 has also improved significantly in terms of video: The extremely powerful new processor now makes 8K videos possible (from 4K, however, with 1.2x crop) and some professional codecs, such as h.265 and ProRes.

The fact that the SL3 was also developed for professional video use is also evident in its operation. Both the ability to set the shutter speed as an angle (i.e. to adjust the shutter speed to the frame rate using the shutter angle) and the fact that the aperture for compatible lenses is specified in T-stops and not in F-stops as is usually the case.
Detailed settings for video compression, bit rate, color sampling, time code, zebras and many other video functions are also possible here. The video functions can be saved in five different profiles and can therefore be called up quickly.


The 10x faster WI-FI (compared to the SL2) means that up to 40 MB/per second can now be transferred. This means that you can now not only install firmware updates easily, quickly and wirelessly, but also send your pictures to the Leica Photos app in record time and edit them in the Leica look that we have just mentioned.

Now even better: the autofocus

Leica has also made significant improvements to the autofocus compared to its predecessor and has given the SL3 hybrid AF with new phase detection, which is also an old acquaintance from the Q3. In combination with the extremely reliable subject recognition with eye, head and body recognition of people and, of course, animals, you will definitely never miss a subject again.

Super flexible thanks to the L-mount

The really great thing about Leica is of course that the brand is part of the L-mount alliance. If that doesn't mean anything to you yet: with the L-Mount, several brands have agreed on a common bayonet standard. Eight brands, such as Panasonic, DJI and Sigma, are now part of the alliance, allowing them to combine their own cameras and lenses with those of the others. And that is of course pretty brilliant when you consider that there is a whole range of different lenses, from wide-angle to super telephoto, that fit this camera and can also be used on bodies from the other brands. So you can draw on the full range here.

Conclusion:

Is the new Leica SL3 worth an upgrade compared to the SL2? We would say: Yes! After all, a lot has changed in the almost 5 years since the SL2 was released, especially from a technical point of view: sensor, processor, autofocus - everything is state-of-the-art. And the design: classic, beautiful and timelessly minimalist as ever - a Leica is also a luxury.

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