Leica M VS. Lecia SL2: Which is right… | Leica Store - San Francisco

Leica M VS. Lecia SL2: Which is right for you?

Leica has done a terrific job developing two iconic and performance-driven camera systems on the market, the Leica M and the Leica SL system. Both are full-frame 35mm, both with similar sensors, and both share lenses in a sense. Between the Leica M and the Leica SL, there is a lot of overlap and many unique features that fit a different set of needs and styles of shooting. We've come up with a list of things you should consider before diving into either the Leica M or the Leica SL system.

The Leica M and SL systems complement each other in many ways. The Leica SL2 and SL2-S take on the full feature-packed packages capable of tackling any task you throw at them while allowing the Leica M to be true to form. The Leica M is a unique beast, and as a result, the Leica M may not excel at everything the Leica SL2 and SL2-S do. That's a good thing which we will go into a bit more detail below.


Are you a rangefinder user & do you need autofocus?

You should ask yourself when considering the Leica M or Leica SL if you need autofocus. If the answer is yes, you can save yourself the time of reading through the rest of this post since the Leica M is manual focus only, and the Leica SL2 and SL2-S feature fantastic autofocus systems, and now a wide range of excellent autofocus lenses to choose from.

Lecia SL2 and Lenses Family

On the contrary, if you are coming from the Leica M system already and have built the muscle memory and skill required to focus a rangefinder effectively the Leica M10, M10-R or M10-M might be the best option for you.

Is video important to you?

Leica eliminated video recording capabilities with the introduction of the Leica M10, and we think this is a good thing. Even if you pick the Leica M240 series camera up with video, the video recording pails compared to the capabilities of the newer SL2 and SL2-S. The omission of video recording on the Leica M10 cameras supports the Leica SL2's ability to be the powerhouse camera that it is meant to be while leaving the Leica M as traditional and minimal as possible.

Leica SL2-S Cine
The Leica SL2-S makes for a compact, capable and powerful cinema camera.

Tradition or Technology?

What do you value more? A traditional style of shooting or the technological advancements of a modern mirrorless system?

Lecia M10 & 28mm Summicron M Titanium

"The purist's choice," as some might say, the Leica M is a pure rangefinder, and it should remain that way. As we mention, there is no video in the Leica M. The menus and controls are kept to a minimum. The way of quiring an image is traditional. There is something about seeing through a rangefinder, lining up the double image in the RF patch, and releasing the shutter that invokes a sense of nostalgia and minimalism rare in today's tech-driven camera market.

The Leica SL2 and SL2-S, on the other hand, provide a more technologically diverse and capable platform. The bright and high-resolution EVF makes focusing even long telephoto Leica R lenses a breeze. Multi-shot, backlit sensor (SL2-S), IBIS (in-body image stabilization), powerful motion picture capabilities, complete weather sealing, fast autofocus, and the list goes on and on. While the Leica M is a bit of "Everything you need and nothing you don't," the Leica SL is a bit of the opposite. "Everything you need and then some" can sometimes be a good thing.

What lenses do you want to Use?

The final question you should ask yourself concerns itself with what lenses you plan to use or even what kind of focal lengths you need. The Leica M is going to be entirely composed of prime lenses (with the odd exception of the tri-elmar... which, of course, is not a true zoom). The Leica SL, on the other hand, has several fantastic zoom lenses with fast apertures and prime-like qualities.

If you plan on using longer lenses, we would recommend that the SL2 or SL2-S be at the top of your list. First, longer lenses simply work better with autofocus. And, even if you plan to use manual focus telephoto lenses (i.e. the 135mm f3.4 APO-Telyt-M ASPH or Leica R telephoto lenses), then the EVF on the SL2/SL2-S is going to be very beneficial for nailing focus.

Leica Apo-Vario-Elmarit-SL 90-280mm F2.8-4
The Leica Apo-Vario-Elmarit-SL 90-280mm F2.8-4

Of course, anyone looking for the best performance out of the Leica SL in a telephoto lens should seriously consider the Leica 90-280mm f2.8-4 APO-Vario-Elmarit-SL ASPH.

In the end, the Leica SL2 system is the best at using all of Leica's rich history of optics. From Leica M lenses, vintage M or LTM lenses, Leica R lenses, and even Leica S lenses, the Leica SL is purpose-built to handle every Leica optic ever made. The Leica M digital bodies, on the other hand, fit well with lenses ranging from 16mm-135mm consisting of primes and work best with modern M ASPH optics with 6-bit coding.

Leica SL2 and Noctilux
The Leica SL2 with M-Adapter L and 75mm Noctilux is a perfect combination.

The Leica M has a specific appeal to it, an appeal that is nearly intangible to write about in this post. It is something you have to experience first hand. If you haven't already, we encourage all photographers to try the Leica M. The Leica SL2 and SL2-S are super powerful and full features mirrorless cameras capable of conquering nearly anything you put them to.

A Note to Current M or SL Users

Hopefully, this post has enlightened you to the differences and capabilities of each Leica system. The most beautiful thing about the Leica SL and the Leica M in actuality is how they complement each other. While one might specifically need the Leica M or the Leica SL2 for a specific taste sometimes they work in tandem like a hammer and saw are different tools and sometimes have different tasks they many times can both be the right tool for the job. The Leica SL for M users provides a camera with video functionality, autofocus, and a more robust construction while the Leica M for SL users can provide a refreshingly simple and minimal experience. 

We are here to help with this decision-making process, and we hope we can lend a hand in guiding you in the right direction. If you have questions about choosing between the Leica M or Leica SL system, please reach out! Give us a call at 415-801-5066 or fill out the form below and let's talk!

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By Ben Carpenter

July 20, 2021