And the World Reopens. Leica 24-70mm f2.8 SL Review

The Leica 24-70mm f2.8 SL isn’t just a clone of the Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 Art Lens.

If you thought that the Leica 24-70mm f2.8 SL is just a Sigma lens, then you’re wrong. I personally own and use the Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 Art lens. And after working with the Leica 24-70mm f2.8 SL for a while, I can say this definitively. They’re not the same. The Sigma is negligibly lighter. The Leica isn’t even noticeably larger. But what’s evident is the autofocus speed and the build quality. Essentially, the Leica 24-70mm f2.8 SL is the best of both worlds. In some ways, it’s the ultimate 24-70mm for the lens system. In other ways, the L mount continues to do things that perplex me.

Too Long Didn’t Read.

The Leica 24-70mm f2.8 SL lens is an improvement over the Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 Art lens. It focuses faster and has better build quality. Because it has Sigma’s optics, it’s also got great image quality. But I think Leica is capable of doing much better than putting their own wrapper on Sigma lenses.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Not much heavier than the Sigma lens.
  • Better built than the Sigma variant
  • Faster focusing than the Sigma variant
  • Good colors
  • They basically did what Sigma should’ve done in the first place rather than just focusing so hard on just the optics.
  • Weather sealing
  • Very versatile

Cons

  • I’m not too sure how I feel about Leica using Sigma’s lens optics. I feel it creates too much clutter in the camera system and not enough innovation. Leica, however, has improved on what Sigma did in some ways.
  • All of the L mount 24-70mm lenses are a bit large for me.
  • Some folks might not like the $2795 cost

Gear Used

The Leica 24-70mm f2.8 SL was tested with the Leica SL2s. 

Innovations

The Leica 24-70mm f2.8 SL is a Leica branded lenses with Sigma’s optics. Optically speaking, Leica isn’t innovating at all here. But where the innovations come in is with the performance and build quality. Leica gave the lens an all-metal body and minimally increased the weight. They also boosted the autofocus performance. Basically, they innovated on and improved Sigma’s lens. But otherwise, this is a 24-70mm f2.8 lens through and through. They haven’t reinvented the wheel at all.

Tech Specs

These specs are taken from our original opinion post.

Essentially the Leica 24-70mm f2.8 ASPH SL is the Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 DG DN Art internally. You can read our review of the Sigma here. Externally, the Leica uses a metal body with rubberized rings.

  • 19 elements in 15 groups
  • There is a single lens element that moves to get focus.
  • 3 aspherical elements
  • 11 aperture blades
  • Metal body with weather sealing. This is probably the biggest thing. Leica has IP-rated their cameras, and if Leica rehoused this lens, we’re confident that the build quality will be that much higher.
  • 82mm filter thread
  • 123mm long vs. the Sigma at 122.9mm
  • 88mm in diameter, where the Sigma is 87.8mm in diameter 
  • 906 grams vs. the Sigma at 835 grams. The Leica is just under 2lbs. 
  • $2,795 compared to Sigma, which is $1,099. And the Sigma is going for an even lower price right now.

Ergonomics

The Leica 24-70mm f2.8 SL is a lens that looks very much like a Leica, despite the internals not totally being the case. On the outside, you’ll see their token and signature colors used. If anything, it mostly looks like a cinema lens without an aperture ring.

The front of the lens has an 82mm filter thread. Yes, that’s huge. I’m not kidding when I say that this is a big lens compared to prime lenses. Most of the staff here shoots primes.

The Leica 24-70mm f2.8 SL is characterized by two big rings. The one up front is all about focusing. It’s so large to help give the lens extra grip. On the rear is the zoom ring. In between those are the zoom area markers and a textured spot to give the lens more grip. 

Of course, the Leica 24-70mm f2.8 SL also has a lens hood. This hood makes the overall package maybe around 1/3rd larger. 

Build Quality

The Sigma 24-70mm this lens is based on was already weather-resistant. Sigma does this with their Art and Sports lenses rather than half-assing it the way they do with the Contemporary series. But Leica took that to 11. With a minimal weight increase (see tech specs above for reference), Leica improved the build quality. This lens has a metal and rubber exterior. It truly feels like a German-made lens, even though it’s made in Japan. It also just feels terrific on the Leica SL2s. However, the SL2s is sort of a heavy camera. And I still think that you’ll want to bring it with you everywhere if you use light primes on it. I’ll also admit that the Leica SL2s takes some getting used to. But once you acknowledge how durable it is and get used to it, you’ll love it.

The Leica 24-70mm f2.8 SL is characterized by a metal body and a micro-pebbled metal texture. Honestly, you’ll only really feel this if you run your fingerpads along it slowly. But you’ll also note the ridges that make it easier to grip too. Notably, it’s even easier to grip even when the lens gets wet from the rain.

As you can see in the photos, it’s also weather-resistant. Leica goes out of their way to IP rate their lenses. To that end, you know that this is going to be very durable.

Last, the Sigma feels very front-heavy when you consider the design. But somehow, Leica made the Leica 24-70mm f2.8 SL feel much more balanced. It’s something you really need to hold and experience. 

Ease of Use

By all means, this is a straightforward zoom lens. Mount the Leica 24-70mm f2.8 SL to your camera, focus, shoot, and move on. If anything, the performance will partially be based on how the camera is configured. All the controls are done from the camera. So all you’re doing is controlling the zooming. This all means that it’s going to be really easy for anyone to use. 

Personally speaking, I wish Leica gave this lens an aperture ring. It would give the lens a really unique feeling that no one else on the market has. 

Autofocus

The Leica 24-70mm f2.8 SL is an intriguing lens. Some rumors are bound to say that it’s just a Sigma lens internally. But that’s not the case. The lens motors inside seem to be Leica’s. With that said, it focuses faster than the Sigma lens does. Even in low light, I rarely missed a shot. However, the system isn’t as great at capturing moving subjects as Sony and Canon are. At least that’s the case with human and body object tracking. With other types of tracking, it’s still pretty decent. But the Leica SL2s will track the subject only up to the medium continuous burst mode. 

I set up along 2nd Avenue in Manhattan to capture bikes. Luckily, they were staying in the bike lane, and I stood by on the sidewalk. As bikes moved past me, the Leica 24-70mm f2.8 SL and the Leica SL2s couldn’t always keep up consistently. 

So is it good enough for sports? No. But it’s good enough for photojournalism needs.

With all this said, I didn’t encounter many problems at all with the Leica 24-70mm f2.8 SL. Any issues I had were because I had the wrong autofocus mode selected. Those are user errors. But the Leica 24-70mm f2.8 SL worked very reliably. 

Image Quality

Optically speaking, the Leica 24-70mm f2.8 SL is the same as the Sigma 24-70mm f2.8. You can find that full review here. It would be unethical of us to not copy, paste and update. So that’s what we’re doing since our review format changed.

Bokeh

Well, the bokeh from the Leica 24-70mm f2.8 SL is quite lovely. But it’s at its best at 70mm, f2.8, and when focusing closely on a subject. For what it’s worth, Leica has significantly better lenses when it comes to bokeh. Besides, this won’t compare to a prime lens in any way.

When it comes to shooting events, don’t even bother with wondering if the bokeh will be great or not. It’s going to be nothing compared to a prime lens, again.

Color Rendition

The Leica 24-70mm f2.8 SL is in this beautiful place between being pretty standard and pretty saturated regarding colors. It’s beneficial as a photographer. I like it, and when combined with the right sensor, it will mean your colors are just that much better.

Lens Character

So the while the Sigma had vignetting and distortion on the wider end, the Leica doesn’t really have that issue as badly. Both of these can be fixed in post-production: I’m just making you aware of them. Further, it also doesn’t flare. If you’re into that, then you’ll like this lens.

Sharpness

We found the Leica 24-70mm f2.8 SL to be pleasantly sharp. In fact, we’re astonished at it once again. For the cost, you’re getting a great lens. I find this lens ever so slightly sharper than the Tamron, but to be truthful, I’m not sure I want it that sharp.

Extra Image Samples

From day one, the Phoblographer has been huge on transparency with our audience. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. You’re not showing what the lens can do. So we have a whole section in our Extra Image Samples area to show off edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.

Unedited

Edited

 Conclusions

Likes

  • The build quality is much better than Sigma’s at a minimal sacrifice
  • The autofocus speed is better than Sigma’s
  • Nice colors and overall image quality

Dislikes

  • 24-70mm lenses are all big. This one not withstanding.
  • Not sure about Leica’s long term sustainability of using stuff from other brands.

Let’s start these conclusions off right. The Leica 24-70mm f2.8 SL is Sigma’s optics with Leica’s everything else. Leica’s motor inside this lens is high-speed. It’s faster than Sigma’s. The Leica exterior is made of metal, and it’s overall superior to Sigma’s. Except for Canon, pretty much every brand has an issue with heavy 24-70mm lenses. So you’ll need to just expect that when using it.

As a result, the Leica 24-70mm f2.8 SL has great image quality. The bokeh is creamy. The lens is sharp. And the colors just sing when paired with Leica’s sensors. It’s the type of color that you sit and stare at the back LCD screen.

It’s slightly bigger and heavier than Sigma’s lens. But in this case, I think it’s worth it for sure. The build quality and balance that the Leica has is unmistakably better.

If you’re comparing it to Panasonic, then Panasonic wins for autofocus speed. But it’s even larger and heavier than the Leica. It’s not as expensive as the Leica though.

So why would you buy the Leica 24-70mm f2.8 SL? You’re getting the best of many worlds. The autofocus is very reliable and useable for photojournalistic situations. The optics are great. And then there is the build quality. This is an incredibly well-balanced lens that isn’t front heavy. Plus, it’s exceptionally well weather-sealed. Build quality has become more and more of an issue for Gen Z and Millennials. Hopefully, the older generations who make the lenses and run the companies start to realize that.

Still though, if I were to buy a Leica SL lens, I’d reach for their primes instead. But that’s just me.

The Leica 24-70mm f2.8 SL wins five out of five stars. Want one? Head on over to Amazon to check them out.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.