DxOMark on the Leica SL: best-performing Leica to date (with Nikon D750, Leica Q and Sony A7 II comparisons)

Leica SL Typ 601 camera DxOMark test review
Leica SL Typ 601 camera DxOMark test review 2
DxOMark published their test results from the Leica SL Typ 601 camera - as you can see the SL offers a slightly better dynamic range compared to the M 240 and the Q, something Louis mentioned in his SL review:

Leica seems to have set up the SL sensor to offer better dynamic range around base ISO, which might have sacrificed some high ISO performance when compared to the Q, because 12,500 ISO is not as usable as it was on the Q. The SL has the potential to be sharper and has greater dynamic range than my M240 at low ISO, but I still would greatly prefer my Q and M240 when walking around a city at night.

More from DxOMark's test results:

Leica SL Typ 601 camera DxOMark test review 3
Leica SL (Typ 601) vs Leica Q Typ 116 vs Leica M Typ 240 comparison

Leica SL (Typ 601) vs Leica Q Typ 116 vs Leica M Typ 240 comparison

Compared with its siblings, the $7250 rangefinder Leica M and the $4250 fixed-lens compact Leica Q, the new Leica SL achieves an incremental 3-point lead over the latter and four points over the 21012 Leica M. Much of the overall improvement over the Leica Q is achieved by lower base ISO setting (ISO50) and a lower SNR, which in turn accounts for the increased color sensitivity of 25 bits. Indeed, all three share similar results for color sensitivity when they overlap in ISO sensitivities. In terms of dynamic range, this differs slightly, with the Leica SL and Leica Q sharing similar results. Both models show superior dynamic range over the Leica M at high ISOs, but at base, all three share a similar 13-stop dynamic range. Both the Leica SL and Leica Q have relative ISO invariance by comparison, and with it, a boost in dynamic range at around ISO400 that equates to almost a +2 EV advantage at ISO1600. Despite the lower noise floor, low-light scores are comparable, though the Leica Q has a slight advantage in our tests, equivalent to just +0.25 EV.

Leica SL (Typ 601) vs Sony A7 II vs Nikon D750 comparison

Leica SL (Typ 601) vs Sony A7 II vs Nikon D750 comparison

Comparing the Leica SL with two rivals that are capable of delivering a similar-sized 16-bit TIFF file, the Sony A7 II and Nikon D750, the Leica performs very competitively. In fact, overall it’s exceptionally close to the Sony and not far behind the Nikon, which has one the best-performing full-frame 24-Mpix sensors in our database.

In terms of color depth, the Leica SL is more or less on par with both throughout the ISO range, though the Leica’s lower base ISO of 50 helps its summary scores somewhat. That’s not to say it doesn’t have the highest-measured color sensitivity, but as always, it pays to look at the results presented in our graphs.

As for dynamic range, the Leica SL practically matches the Sony A7 II, though the Sony has around 0.5-stop extra dynamic range at ISO100 and around +0.3 EV advantage in low light. But that’s only a slight lead, and the extra dynamic range wouldn’t be noticeable at other settings.

Nikon has extracted the most from its sensor, and the Nikon D610 ranks alongside the D750 as class-leading at 24-Mpix. Nevertheless, with just 5 points in it overall, Leica is closing the gap that once existed in sensor dynamics between high-grade cameras and more mainstream models.

While color depth is on par with the Leica SL, the Nikon D750 has just over a stop (+1.1EV) wider dynamic range at ISO100, falling to just under that at IS200. By ISO400, the advantage in dynamic range has eroded, though Nikon maintains around a +0.5 EV lead in our low-light score.

DxOMark's conclusion:

Although the Leica Q’s sensor performance hinted at the direction Leica was taking, the Leica SL sensor improves on that. Such improvement might be only in some small way, but it is quantifiable. With impressive still capability surpassing that of many high-end DSLRs, and with access to Leica’s huge range of top-drawer optics with a range of optional adapters, the Leica SL is a compelling choice, particularly for those who already own a number of Leica lenses. The Leica SL is not cheap, but then engineering at this level never is. Compared with the Leica M, there’s not much in it —indeed, it is even cheaper than a newer M-P at $7950, and that’s before taking into account the extra $570 for the Leica Visoflex EVF2. Given the advantages of the built-in viewfinder for focusing, particularly off-center, the SL may even be the better bet.

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  • Federico Zaza

    Sorry, it costs 7000 € so at least you should compare to a Sony A7r2 not to a 1300 € camera.

    • ElectricShunt

      DxoMark (not LeicaRumors) compared it against other 24 MP cameras. They focus on sensor comparisons, not price.

      • correct, you can choose what to compare it to on their website, given that they tested that camera already

        • Nonetheless, not the smartest comparison.

          • ElectricShunt

            I think it’s a good comparison. People only talk about A7R II vs. Leica SL because they’re the newest full frame cameras out right now. If you’re going to compare based on price, then it’s much more reasonable to compare the SL vs. the M240 and Pentax 645Z, but we don’t see much of that going on.

            Besides, there’s more than enough people already doing the A7R II vs. Leica SL comparison. Yes, we get it, the Sony is cheaper and has more features. But often times, I get the impression that people look at the price of the SL and then go no further.

            And if you really, absolutely want to see a comparison between the two aforementioned cameras? Here you go:

            http://www.dxomark.com/Cameras/Compare/Side-by-side/Leica-SL–Typ-601–versus-Sony-A7R-II___1058_1035

          • Silvestro Crino

            The SL is a good camera… but not in the A7Rm2’s league in IQ or functionality… its a silly comparison …the BSI sensor in the Sony is the state of the Art… That does not make the SL a bad camera… if it sold for $4500 with Lenses for $2000 I might consider it… but not at the price they are asking… at least the Rangefinder Leicas have style…

          • Les

            I’m not saying that you are wrong or right, but the two cameras have very similar IQ according to DxO. Obviously, you can argue that DxO is measuring things that aren’t all that relevant to image quality (as I have repeatedly).

            As for functionality, it’s a matter of user preference. Would you rather have a tougher body, faster performance and simpler interface (Leica), or a lower price, more menu options and a higher theoretical resolution (Sony)?

          • Silvestro Crino

            No…it had similar IQ to the 24mpix A7m2 which has a DxO score or 90 to the SL’s 88…. That’s a $1700 camera … The A7Rm2 has 43mpix BSI sensor the scores 98 on DxO it sells for $3200 ….its sharper, better color depth, better dynamic range and nears twice the ISO performance of the SL…also, there is nothing theoretical about the resolution advantage of 43mpix vs 24.. http://www.dxomark.com/Cameras/Sony/A7R-II

            But, I do agree it’s a matter of user preference ….

          • Les

            Better colour depth: 26 vs. 25 bits…
            Better dynamic range: 13.9 vs. 13.4 EV
            Better ISO sensitivity: if you look at the graphic on DxO’s site, the two cameras overlap exactly, except at the very highest ISO (way beyond what one would commonly use).

            I agree about the sharpness in some cases. However, you won’t see that sharpness difference on a screen (even a 5k screen can’t show a full 24 mp), and you won’t notice it unless you print bigger than A3, and shoot exclusively on a solid tripod, at the lowest available ISO, and focus manually, and use the very finest lenses. If you are doing all that, you should seriously consider a medium format digital camera, or a large format film camera.

            For me, 24 vs. 43 MP is a non-issue. It’s less than 1.4x linear, and the difference only becomes apparent at huge print sizes. It’s like the difference between a car that will go to 260 km/h vs. “only” 240 km/h. It does not affect my ownership experience, other than bragging rights.

          • Silvestro Crino

            1 full bit of Color Depth is Visible according to DxO. As for ISO…its not sensitivity that you need to look at but single to noise ration at each ISO sensitivity level….where the Sony sensor bests the Leica at every stop…even though it has nearly twice the number of smaller pixels http://www.dxomark.com/Cameras/Compare/Side-by-side/Leica-SL–Typ-601–versus-Sony-A7R-II___1058_1035

            As for sharpness at higher resolution, in addition to larger sharper prints … This allows more flexibly when editing your pictures… Yes, yes real photographers don’t crop……unless they should….and the higher resolution gives you more laditude.

            Also, the A7rii has in body stabilization which allows for increased sharpness handheld from the higher resolution sensor and quality lenses even when the lenses are unstabilized… To claim that, given similar quality lenses you won’t notice the increased sharpness and resolution of the 43mp sensor over the 24mp one is just incorrect …

            This might not matter ultimately in making a good picture, I agree with that whole heartedly. But you’re defending a $7500 camera against a $3200 camera by saying the cheaper cameras image quality advantages are only apparent when you print large and use a tripod…as if a tripod is hard to come by or as if anyone making small prints or just publishing to the web needs anything better than an iPhone …… Seems a bit lame to me.

          • Les

            Silvestro,

            You should seriously consider medium format for your style of photography.

            Why torture yourself trying to extract every last bit of performance out of a system when a Pentax 645 (for instance) will give you better results without breaking a sweat. I think that you will find it liberating.

          • Silvestro Crino

            Price and portability….

          • Les

            Wherever did you get that idea? 8×10 can be a nice size, but I stated that you need to go beyond A3 to see much benefit of the 1.3x increase in res between 24 and 43 MP. I’ve certainly seen prints in A1 size (roughly 23×33) that had plenty of resolution from 20-24 MP cameras. The quality of your lenses and of your technique are more important than the number of pixels at that size.

    • I don’t see how a 3200$ camera vs a 7000$ camera is any better than a 7000$ vs a 500$ camera.

      If price was all that matters for every metric, it is better to compare your gold-encrused smartphone VS an SL.

      Or a single pair of high-end barber scissors to a samurai sword. Price has very little to do with performance in any product genre.

  • SH*T666

    Who is making the sensors for Leica now? Dalsa? It seems they closed the gap with Sony very quickly.

  • Really hope this new sensor finds it way into the next M. But it’s hard to wait.

  • Joe Van Wyk

    I love Leica, but am very new to the brand. I own a Q and an M6. I also own a Sony A7rii and lots of native and vintage glass.

    I think it is interesting and fitting that the article points out the advantage of the SL’s ability to fit Leica glass with converters. But when I read that, it sounded odd.

    For a long time, we Sony users have heard over and over again that Leica glass does not produce images as good on Sony cameras as it does on Leica cameras, like the m240. The M240 is supposedly perfectly tuned and calibrated for native glass.

    Unfortunately, I have never seen a test with a Sony beside a Leica M240 shooting the exact same shot with identical lenses in order to compare.

    Anyway, now that there is this other beast out there, I sure would like to see an a7rii compared to the SL shooting a Noctilux or a summicron or whatever.

    I would love to have a blind test and have every expert who cares to choose from 100 images produced on the Sony and the same images produced on the Leica. Same Leica lenses.

    I personally do not think that even those of us who are “experts” could pick more than 50% correctly.

    If that is true, then what it comes down to is user experience. And, that is huge.

    I chose the Q over the Sony rx1rii because it is far more enjoyable for me to use. To heck with the numbers.

    It’s a pretty hard sell for anyone who cares to use autofocus lenses to use the Leica SL.

  • sickheadache

    For that price..I expect a 100 plus score. Paying the most money doesn’t give you bragging rights..Right?

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