PhotoPlus Expo Show Report I: Hands On With The Leica SL (Typ 601)

Ho! There she is…

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Hands on with the Leica SL (Typ 601) and Vario-Elmarit 24-90mm f/2.8-3.5 ASPH at PhotoPlus Expo in NYC. As I handed the combo back to the Leica representatives, I thought of Biggie’s immortal words…”It was all a dream” πŸ™‚

I’ve been going to PDN’s PhotoPlus Expo show in NYC every year since 2007 to check out the latest and greatest gear. High on my list of priorities this year was to get a glimpse and hopefully try out Leica’s new SL (Typ 601), their new 24mp, full-frame mirrorless system camera.

As I approached Leica’s booth, a little anticipation came over me. I don’t know why, maybe it’s the Leica name, mystique, “German Heritage” or what have you. I was a little worried that I, a mere peon, would be “snubbed” by the people representing this Camera Legend.

I need not have worried. The Leica reps were among the nicest people at the show! Certainly a lot nicer than the Nikon rep I ran into, but I’ll leave it at that for Nikon.

Anyway, I asked the Leica representative if I could try the SL and he handed the camera to me right away.

I actually picked up one with a smaller Leica T lens on it, and he said, “Take this one better” as he handed me the SL and 24-90mm f/2.8-4 Elmarit, which is their full-frame setup.

LOOK, DESIGN, FEEL AND USE

The camera, together with the zoom lens, felt very solid. It did look like a Sony A7 series, but was larger and felt much beefier.

The materials used to cover the camera body felt very nice to the touch, grippy and comfortable.

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“The Last & The First.” From left, Leica’s S (Typ 007) digital Medium Format system, the Leica R8 (mine!) and the Leica SL (Typ 601). I asked the Leica representative if I could put my R8 next to the SL and take a photo of them together. He said yes and liked the idea so much, he asked if he could take the same photo! Of course, I said yes πŸ™‚

The design and controls are very minimalist, very Leica. There were some buttons which I’m not sure were labeled, which could be a problem in usage, and I’m not sure this was a pre-production model or not. If it is, I would hope they will have better labeling and indicators on their final production model cameras.

The view in the EVF looked great. Just like the Sony A7 series, it was very sharp and easy to see. The AF was very fast and accurate on first impressions and easy test targets. If I had more time with it, I probably could’ve selected harder to focus subjects, but time was of the essence so I didn’t have that luxury.

THE LENS

The Vario-Elmarit 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH was huge. If was big and beefy. You have to wonder why in today’s world, a zoom lens of this range has to be so large and heavy.

The zooming action was smooth and the lens focused very fast and accurately on the SL under the bright shows lights of the expo.

As I understand it, this lens has built-in optical stabilization which is always a great thing to have. The Leica representative stated that this lens could do macro mode on both ends of the zoom range, which is quite unique and something you don’t see in many lenses.

As a prime lens lover though, I did ask the Leica representative if they had any primes in the works for this camera.

He mentioned a 90-280mm tele-zoom, and then stated they were going to have a 50mm f/1.4 Summilux lens for this camera that will “set new standards.”

I said, ‘So you’re going after the Zeiss Otus?’ and the answer was “Yes.” Now this I have to see! πŸ™‚

MYΒ THOUGHTS

The camera is a beautiful monstrosity! Ugly, but beautiful at the same time. It feels great in the hand and the operations were smooth.

I think the SL is going to be a great camera, I don’t doubt that. However, at $7450 for the body and $4950 for the zoom lens, this is strictly for the hardcore Leicaphilles. I wouldn’t be able to even put a down payment for these πŸ™‚

I suspect most people will opt for the Sony option, which offers similar and even better spec’d cameras at much lower prices.

Even though I didn’t ask the representatives outright, I do suspect that the SL and especially that 24-90mm Vario-Elmarit to be made by Panasonic.

The lens is very reminiscent of the Vario-Elmarit 14-50mm f/2.8-3.5 ASPH which they released in 2006 as a kit lens for the 7.5mp Panasonic DMC-L1 and Leica Digilux 3 cameras which were 4/3’s system cameras.

That was also a beefy lens. The look, the lettering, everything screams Panasonic. Nothing against Panasonic, they make awesome cameras. In fact, if Panasonic released a twin of the SL under their own name, I’d be inclined to try it!

Leica has made their name as a premium brand, and they earned it. I totally understand that. But in today’s world, with SO many digital camera choices out there, I think they are doing themselves and their fans (myself included) a disservice by pricing themselves right out of the market.

Despite all I’ve said about pricing, there will be one thing I can predict with confidence…the SL (Typ 601) will sell out on its first run! πŸ™‚

WHERE TO BUY?

If you’ve got serious cash to spend, you can pre-order the Leica SL HERE and the matching Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPHΒ HERE. It’s slated to be released for sale November 20, 2015.

If you get this camera, you’re a CAMERA LEGEND in my book and I want to hear from you! πŸ™‚

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7 thoughts on “PhotoPlus Expo Show Report I: Hands On With The Leica SL (Typ 601)

  1. interesting review and opportunity to put your hands on this creature.
    i don’t like zoom lens with variable aperture. even if it sharp like razor still i love to have 2 or 1.4 and to feel comfortably in a low light conditions πŸ™‚
    and of course the price.. i have no idea. i hope some rich ppl can think that expensive gear makes them good photographers, and i know a few πŸ™‚ but it’s absolutely different theme.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. By the way, how do you like your R8? I owned both the R8 and R9 many years ago, but got rid of both due to the weight (the Leica R kit I carried around at the time was 33 pounds, no joke). I still have a few R lenses, but think I’ll be looking to unload them on eBay during the upcoming winter months.

    I was surprised how big the new SL looked compared to the R8 — do you have the motor-winder on yours in the photo? If so, then the SL isn’t much smaller at all… 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mitch, thanks for your comments, I love the R8! It’s heavy as a beast, yes, but I’ve gotten such nice portraits with it and the 80mm f/1.4 Summilux so I keep it around. Mine does have the motor winder on it. The SL feels just as solid as the R8, but it doesn’t have the bulk of the R8 body. What lenses are you thinking of selling? Nowadays, I only keep the 80mm on the camera.

      Like

      1. Yes, the R gear is very capable! πŸ™‚

        Hmmm… I’ll have to check, but I believe the remaining R lenses that I have are as follows:
        – 80mm Summilux f/1.4
        – 135mm Elmarit f/2.8
        – 35-70mm Vario-Elmar f/4.0 Macro
        – 560mm Telyt f/5.6.

        All are excellent glass — particularly the 35-70mm — but they are quite large and heavy, at a time when I’m trying to lighten my kit and keep things small.

        Liked by 1 person

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