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  1. Technology
March 7, 2024

Leica SL3 Camera Revealed: The Ultimate Professional Tool

The SL3 brings Leica’s beloved 60-megapixel triple-resolution sensor to the SL series.

By Toby Louch

Describing a camera produced by Leica as “Pro” is somewhat redundant. All Leica products are used regularly by both professionals and enthusiasts. This has been the case since the Leica 1(A) was first released in 1925. Yet for the Leica SL3 — the company’s latest offering — the concept of a device aimed at professionals particularly resonates.

The SL-System was first introduced in 2015, and since then has been regarded as the Leica Camera most suited to the professional environment, thanks in part to its ruggedness, workhorse-like nature and video capabilities which were added with the SL2-S.

Unlike the Leica M series — a rangefinder loved for its small size, simplicity and focus on the essence of photography — the Leica SL features autofocus performing better in environments where speed is key, think sport, wildlife and reportage.

camera
The SL3 brings the SL series in line with Leica’s other cameras / ©Leica

The new SL3 marks a significant step in Leica’s journey. Now all three mainline cameras, the M, Q, and SL series feature a similar BSI CMOS full-frame sensor with triple-resolution technology. Additionally, the user interface is essentially the same across all three. All this means that for those lucky enough to own more than one Leica, switching between them is a breeze.

Heading out to do some exploring around a new city? Take the M1. Family holiday? Maybe the Q3 is the best bet. Going to a Formula 1 race? Take the new SL3. With this new release, the German manufacturer now produces a cohesive lineup of cameras that boast enough differences to be truly positioned in different categories, but enough similarities to seem familiar.

The SL3 is undoubtedly a Leica, all black, all metal and leather design that manages to look good while being rugged, with an impeccable sensor and heralded Leica color science. Elite Traveler recently got hands-on with the Leica SL3 and put it through its paces before release.

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Design  

Leica SL3 back
In every Leica, the placement of each button and the dial is highly considered / ©Leica

In Leica cameras, design and build quality always play an important role. The placement of each button and dial, the materials used, how the device feels both physically and in the way it is interacted with, is refined and considered. This trend continues with the SL3.

This new camera is more compact, lighter and user-friendly than the previous iteration. Leica narrowed down the most effective changes thanks to through regular dialogue with professional users.

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The body is all-metal using magnesium and aluminum and is wrapped in a leatherette covering, improving the grip and feel of the SL3 in hand. The camera can be operated via the impressive EyeRes viewfinder — which can refresh at 120 fps and features a resolution of 5.76 million pixels — or the tiltable high-resolution touchscreen. That gives the user greater choice and the ability to adapt to their shooting situation.

The button layout has also been refined – the majority of settings can be altered on the fly with one hand. Equally the way the camera operates can be heavily customized, with various wheels, dials and function keys around the camera left blank. That allows the user to adjust which setting they alter, tuning the camera to operate exactly how they wish. It’s a feature professionals will love.

The Leica SL3 is also IP54 certified, meaning it’s resistant to both dust and splashes of water – an integral feature for those looking to use the camera in tougher more extreme environments.

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The Leica SL3 sensor

Leica SL3 sensor
The BSI CMOS full-frame sensor brings triple-resolution technology to the Leica SL3 / ©Leica

While visually similar to the previous model on the outside, on the inside the SL3 is all new. At its heart lies the BSI CMOS full-frame sensor with triple-resolution technology, which is not the same but shares characteristics with the sensors found inside the M11 and Q3. Now capable of shooting at 60 megapixels, the Leica SL3 can capture much more detail than previous iterations.

The beauty of triple-resolution technology is that you can capture as much detail as possible using 60 MP with your raw images, while also capturing jpegs at 60, 36 or 18 MP. The benefit being the ability to quickly send the images to your devices and upload them to socials faster than ever. Turning down the megapixels can also deliver better low-light performance, so it all depends on the situation.

The camera’s dynamic range has also been expanded to 15 f-stops, while the ISO range now sits at 50 to 100,000. That ensures the SL3 delivers the impressive images users have come to expect, including in low light.

The Leica SL3 is also capable of shooting video up to 8k resolution, in some of the most popular codecs like H.265 and Apple ProRes. All this extra data is crunched by the impressive Maestro-IV processor that features L2 technology, this noticeably faster computing power means the camera is swifter and snappier to operate than previous editions.

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Connectivity

Leica SL3 back
The numerous connectivity options ensure the Leica SL3 can be connected to laptops and external monitors while shooting / ©Leica

As a camera designed particularly with professional users in mind, a variety of connectivity options is crucial for the SL3’s success, thankfully it has plenty.

The lens bayonet is based on the Leica-developed L-Mount standard, meaning Leica’s impressive roster of lenses can be used from all camera systems, while ultra-wide and super telephoto zoom lenses are available from L-Mount alliance partners. Those looking to use the lauded Leica M-Lenses will be able to push them even further thanks to the addition of in-body image stabilization.

Looking to memory options, users can choose between CFexpress type B and UHS-II-SD. There is also a USB-C port that allows for high-speed data transmission and charging, as well as a full-size HDMI 2.1 output for external monitors which video users will enjoy.

SD card slot
The Leica SL3 uses both CFexpress type B and UHS-II-SD / ©Leica

Of course, much like the Leica M11 and Q3, the SL3 also integrates seamlessly with the Leica FOTOS app, connecting via Bluetooth and Wifi with MIMO technology or directly via USB-C, photos can be quickly transferred to your device, ideal for photographers operating on the go.

The Leica SL3 is a continuation of Leica’s tradition of building exceptionally well-made cameras with industry-leading imaging capabilities. The name of the game with SL3 is versatility, it’s able to effectively handle anything that’s thrown at it. As it enters Leica’s lineup of impressive cameras, it appears set to be loved by professionals and enthusiasts alike.

The Leica SL3 is available now at all Leica Stores and online, priced at $6,995.

leica-camera.com

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