Leica SL (Typ 601) Where's the noise? - Professional Mirrorless.

( N.B. I started this post before the Dpreview review of the SL came out and this covers some of the same ground. However I've decided to post it as a 'prequel' )


There are reviews out there about the Leica SL (Typ 601) that claim it's not good at high ISO's and that, in fact a camera like the Sony A7r II has been described as having 'Class-leading low light Raw performance, thanks to the first-ever BSI full-frame CMOS' Well as is often the case this is total BS. The shot above was when I was testing out my Leica R 135mm f/2.8 + Leica R teleconverter in low light. To get a decent hand held result I had to use ISO 6400. As you can see it's very low noise and very sharp. Below is one of the few raw samples I could find from the Sony A7r II. As with the Leica shot it's ISO 6400 and the images were processed using EXACTLY the same settings as for the SL and this is EXACTLY the same size blowup as the Leica shot. 

As you can see, it's nowhere near as sharp or noise free as the Leica shot. The Leica example was shot in semi darkness, though you would never guess it. 

Below is a video I posted a while ago, again shot with the Leica SL in using ISO 4000 and IS) 6400.

Now people can think what they like about cameras and they can certainly think that they are too expensive, but surely people who claim to write seriously about gear should compare ALL the options before writing stuff like 'Class-leading low light Raw performance, thanks to the first-ever BSI full-frame CMOS' which is clearly not the case. And OK I'm sure I've convinced no one to go out and buy a Leica SL and like a lot of what's on the internet these says it will probably get criticised as fake, or that I'm making this up.

But seriously, I don't really care, because I get to use this amazing camera to shoot stills and video with and the people who slag it off don't. Plus if you want to check out the Leica file for yourself click HERE to download it. 

So how does this work for me in the real world?


Again this was a far duller / darker day than the impression that the images give. It was one of those typical UK days when a promised sunny day was forecast and when I'd driven down to the Cotswolds that wasn't the case. So, I used my 'new' Leica R 70-210mm f/4 lens at f/8 and 1/500th. sec. and let the ISO take care of itself. the camera was setting between ISO 800 and 6400 and mainly between ISO 2000-3000. And once again the raw images produced very low noise files. Stock picture libraries aren't that keen on noisy / grainy images, so the fact that all of the above images are already for sale on three different websites (including the ones at ISO 6400) shows you that they are remarkably 'clean images. Below is another set, taken on an even duller day with a Canon 17-40mm zoom lens and Novoflex Canon EF > Leica T AF adapter. 


Same results as before, images were taken with high shutter speeds and high ISO settings, which again showed a 2 to 3 stop advantage in image quality over most other cameras.


And yet again this all shows that the Leica SL (Typ 601) is genuinely professional mirrorless. And indeed the first such camera. And the reasons are:-

  • Really impressive high(er) ISO results as indicated above.
  • The best EVF out there. I can actually focus my MF lenses quickly and with 100% accuracy without using the focus peaking (though that makes it faster) or magnifying the image. Easily the best camera for MF I've ever used.
  • Simple uncluttered body and 'lean' menus.
  • Still not as good for battery life as a DSLR, but then a mirrorless camera with constantly running EVF / Live View Screen will never compete with that. However this again is the best I've ever used. I usually take about 150 shots in a session and that uses 1/4 of the power from one battery. So with the battery grip and extra battery I now have that's around 1200 shots before I run out of battery power and need to change a battery.
  • Heavy duty construction with weather proofing. Though my lenses don't enjoy the same benefit. 
  • Top class broadcast quality video footage. 
  • Top class stills image quality, meaning dramatic upsizing of files is no problem.
  • With Novoflex adapters can use Nikon, Canon, Leica R and Leica M lenses.
  • Quiet shutter (Much quieter than Leica M cameras)
  • Spot on exposures and colour rendition. 
  • Uncluttered handling with body refreshingly free of knobs, dials etc. 

N.B. again. I was going to continue here, bit decided to stop in the light of :-