Did They Waste a Year? Leica SL2s Review Update

The Leica SL2s recently received a brand new firmware update. This update brings it more in line with a lot of modern cameras but ignores what could’ve been. Leica is focusing on making the SL2s a content creator’s camera. But when we tested it, we found it to be excellent for photojournalists. And it’s still one of my favorite personal cameras. However, after installing the new firmware update, I can’t help but feel like they wasted a year. And so, our Leica SL2s review update begins.

Despite the new firmware update, there’s so much more Leica could’ve done but didn’t. Here are some questions I have from my notes from my Leica SL2s review update:

  • Where is the shutter to come down over the sensor when the camera is turned off? The Leica SL2s is IP rated but lacks this critical function. And so, yes, the sensor can surely get dirty.
  • Where are the Kodak film classic profiles? DPReviewTV reported that they would be coming to the stills’ side.
  • No multiple exposure mode still? The camera has the image overlay feature, so why not just let us keep the final photos?
  • Leica lenses will also be automatically updated, but Panasonic and Sigma are left in the dust.
  • Adds eye autofocus detection, which is cool. But in reality, it slows down the camera. You’re better off using face and body detection.
  • 1/3rd and 1/2 ISO increments are only available in video mode. So in stills mode, you only have full ISO values. This isn’t all that bad. As a photographer for over a decade, I tend to use only film ISOs anyway. With that said, ISO 160 would’ve been really nice to use.
  • Still no animal or bird detection. However, the Leica system can still look at animals and track them as moving subjects.

Leica wasted a year creating a firmware update to target this camera more at content creators. But the truth is that they’re not going to win the market from Panasonic, Sony, or Canon. Leica could’ve focused on the market that they appeal to most instead: photographers. And they could’ve done a lot more. I mean, why is it that only video users get the new ISO increment additions? Why did they basically give the camera multiple exposure mode but not let us save the photos in the form of image overlay? Why does eye autofocus detection suffer so much in low light?

It doesn’t mean the camera does a bad job at all. I can still shoot and get the photos I want. But it’s surely slower than others at times.

Leica SL2s Review Update Findings

The following can be found as an addendum to our autofocus section in our full Leica SL2s review.

Update May 2022: The Leica SL2s received another firmware update in May 2022. It lets you set a few things to custom buttons, but the biggest part for photographers is the addition of Eye detection. Yes, I’m typing that in 2022. You wouldn’t necessarily think that this would’ve been something we said, but indeed it is. It took Leica this long to implement Eye detection. To be fair, they also have body detection, which many camera companies don’t have. That also means that Leica has the potential to be the most comprehensive system for tracking people. In practice so far, it left us wanting.

If you turn off eye detection, the system is pretty darned quick to find faces and bodies to focus on them. But things slow down considerably when you add in eye detection. What’s more, the system does some fascinating things after the firmware update. If you’re using Leica SL lenses, it will prompt you to also update the lens’s firmware. But this won’t happen with both Panasonic and Sigma lenses. I own lenses from all three brands.

Here are my main findings:

  • In restaurant lighting, the Leica 28mm f2 Summicron SL is reliable enough, but lags far behind Sony and Canon. In fact, I’d also argue that it lags behind Nikon’s speed, but is significantly more reliable with getting the subject in focus. That also means it’s not going to suffer from the dreaded “eyelash AF” that Fujifilm cameras do. The Leica lens performed its best in AF-S mode and struggled a bit in AF-C mode.
  • In diffused daylight, the Panasonic 50mm f1.8 Lumix S had no issues with autofocus and keeping a subject in focus. It nailed the eyes 100% of the time. The accuracy of the system is right on par with Sony and Canon.
  • The Panasonic 50mm f1.8 is still questionable in low light with moving subjects in AF-C but great with still subjects in AF-S. Regardless, when I did this during an event in low light, I was still able to get a ton of photos I really liked. And a lot of people on social media adored the photos too. That’s more important if you’re shooting professionally.
  • Switching focusing from one person to another in low light could use some work. If someone is in the shot, and you’re trying to tell the camera to focus on something they’re holding, the focus will go back and forth. For example, in one scene, I tried focusing on one gentleman stretching some cheese. But the camera wanted to focus on his face despite telling it not to. This could use some work. In reality, I’d need to switch focusing mode and this potentially means a lost moment.
  • Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 couldn’t get eyes in focus in low light even with subjects not moving. It would detect their face, but not the eyes. To clarify, we updated the firmware for the Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 Art as well using the Leica SL2s. But still, this provided the worst performance in low light. In good lighting, it did a satisfactory job.
  • In good lighting, this camera can still pretty much keep up with Canon and Sony. But in low light, it’s frustrating.

All of this is not to say the system is bad at all. It’s just unreliable compared to the others and it means that you”’ have fewer “keepers” because the system is slower.

Chris Gampat

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