Leica has been making mirrorless cameras for a long time, thanks to the very nature of their classic rangefinder designs. They have also been dabbling in digital mirrorless cameras over the years, with varied success. Now, reports over on Mirrorless Rumors are indicating that thanks to their continued collaboration with Panasonic, Leica is gearing up to launch two new cameras; a new full frame Leica SL mirrorless camera and a new C-LUX compact camera.
The first Leica SL, the (type 601) was an interesting experiment by the company that continues to struggle between maintaining their luxury brand status and looking to expand their appeal to other types of photographers beyond rich hipsters and old men with more money than they know what to do with. In many ways it was a decent first try, but largely due to its pricing and some odd design choices the SL failed to go far beyond the brand’s fanatic fanboys.
No doubt Leica learned a lot from their first SL experience and will bring some of that newer knowledge to the table in terms of their design and specs. But today I want to talk about some of what we feel like a new Leica SL needs to have in order to have any sort of relative success.
The first thing, in my estimation, is a total overhaul of the body design. Visually, looking at the original SL body, you can tell that some engineer/designer had some fun with it. But that doesn’t translate into a camera that is fun to hold and feels good in a photographers hands after long days of use. These days, especially with mirrorless, ergonomics are key and cameras needs to fit well in the hand to allow for comfortable all day use.
The second thing I would like to see from a new Leica SL camera would be a serious upgrade in terms of the AF technology. This was another area where the original SL had a lot of trouble when compared to its competition. It brought a Contrast Detect AF knife to a Phase Detect AF gunfight, and as you would expect, in most ways it was destroyed by the likes of cameras from Sony and Fujifilm. So for me, besides the design, the next biggest ‘need’ for this new SL mirrorless camera is a sensor upgrade to include something with phase detection.
The third thing I really think that needs saying is that Leica needs to spend some time and get some more full frame lenses for the camera. I know this isn’t really a feature of the new camera, but it’s the same problem that Canon has when trying to sell their EOS-M bodies. The native lens selection simply sucks and everyone knows it; any serious photographer who has done their research will know that not only are they getting an inferior camera, but they are also buying into an ecosystem with fewer quality lens options.
Leica did get a lot right on the first SL, and if they can take what they did right in the first version, and use the feedback that they have received about its shortcomings in their development of the SL 2, then I am confident the SL 2 can be a solid option for anyone with the budget to blow on it. A Leica will never be the best bang for your buck, but at the very least it should perform as well as the camera you could have bought (and saved thousands on).
What do you all think? What would you like to see in a new Leica SL mirrorless camera?