The Making of the Mirrorless Leica SL

September 5, 2017

Photo © Fred Mortagne

When Leica created Leica SL, a mirrorless camera system, they were anticipating the future of photography. As the technology behind electronic viewfinders improves, and mirrorless cameras themselves use less battery power, more and more professional photographers are replacing their clunky DSLRs with sleeker, more versatile mirrorless systems. Eventually, Leica believes, the DSLR will become obsolete—along with all cameras that utilize a mirror.

There to fill the gap is the Leica SL, a professional camera with a view towards longevity. Made from a single block of aluminum that is weather-sealed to withstand the elements, the camera offers both the fastest autofocus and the best image quality of any mirrorless system currently on the market. The Leica SL is also compatible with almost all Leica lenses made since 1954—with the correct adaptors, even older lenses are also usable. Additionally, the camera can be used with Leica Cine lenses to make cinema-quality films and videos.

The Leica SL was designed with the needs of a working photographer in mind—it is both practical and minimalistic in design. “We don’t make cameras that are overloaded with buttons, and [come with] incredibly complicated manuals,” says Roland Wolff, the executive vice president of Leica Camera Inc. “We make cameras that give you the right functionality in the right places.” He adds: “When you pick up a Leica, it should be one of the easiest cameras in the photo world to get familiar with.”

Photo courtesy of Leica

Leica is so confident that the camera will appeal to serious photographers that they invite any and all to borrow a Leica SL from a store or dealership, and loan it for 24 hours. “When you pick it up, and use it, you will see how good it is,” Wolff promises.

Those who adopted the system already didn’t need much convincing. They range from renowned American documentary photographer Doug Menuez to South Africa-based wildlife and conservation photographer Adrian Steirn. What they have noted about the Leica SL is that along with taking crisp, balanced photographs that need very little work in post-processing, the camera is also durable, holding up to serious usage.

Photographers who invest in Leica do so for a reason. Beyond taking incredible images, the equipment bucks trends, and outlives generations. If Wolff had to compare the Leica SL to any previous camera in the company’s long and storied history, he would say it is most similar to the Leica Flex, the first SLR the company released in 1964. Ironically, the very technology the Flex introduced is what the Leica SL is replacing today—the mirror and prism system that creates a single lens reflex. Change, however, is something the photography community has grown accustomed to—no shock could be greater than the transfer from analog to digital, after all.

With the Leica SL, the company continues to focus on what is essential: providing its customer with an innovative camera that elevates imagery.

–Sponsored by Leica