Leica SL3 Review | Photography Blog


The Leica SL3 (Type 5404) is a 35mm full-frame interchangeable lens mirrorless camera designed to appeal to both stills photographers and videographers. It features a a 60.3 megapixel CMOS sensor with no optical low pass filter, the latest-generation Maestro IV image processor, C8K/30p, C4K/60p and 1080/120p video recording, a new hybrid phase, object and contrast detection AF system with intelligent subject recognition including animals, and continuous shooting up to 15fps. This new model for 2024 also offers an expanded sensitivity range of ISO 50-100,000, extended battery life, a 5.76m-dot OLED electronic viewfinder with 120fps refresh rate and 0.76x magnification, a tilting 3.2”, 2.33m-dot touchscreen LCD screen, and a 1.28” top display LCD. It additionally offers an IP54-rated weather-sealed magnesium-alloy construction, in-body image stabilisation worth up to 5 stops of compensation, wi-fi, Bluetooth and GPS connectivity, and dual UHS-II SD and CFexpress type B memory card slots. The recommended retail price of the Leica SL3 is £5,920 in the UK and it is available in black. It is designed and made in Germany.

Ease of Use

The Leica SL3 uses exactly the same 60 megapixel full-frame BSI (BackSide-Illuminated) CMOS sensor that was initially developed for the flagship M11 rangefinder camera, which offers a 21% increase on the resolution offered by 2019’s 47.3 megapixel SL2 model.

In conjunction with the latest generation Maestro IV image processor, this allows the Sl3 to output 14-bit RAW files with a claimed dynamic range of up to 15 stops, provide an extensive ISO range of 50-100,000, and shoot 60 megapixel images at 5fps with continuous AF/AE.

It also has a special IR + UV cut filter in front of the sensor which corrects even the most oblique rays of incident light and a new colour filter array that offers more natural colour reproduction than previous SL-system cameras.

Whilst 60 megapixels will undoubtedly be a big draw for potential owners of this camera, Leica have also sensibly provided two smaller 36 and 18 megapixel modes which help avoid some of the processing and storage challenges of the the 60 megapixel mode while also boosting the burst shooting buffer times.

So the SL3 can be set to record 60, 36 or 18 megapixel DNG Raw images with 14-bit color and 15-stop dynamic range using the full sensor area, something that Leica have dubbed “Triple Resolution Technology”.

Auto-focusing on this new SL-series camera has taken a big leap forwards, as it now incorporates a hybrid AF system that includes phase detection as well as contrast detection pixels., providing higher speed and greater precision when focusing and tracking objects.

Interestingly, it additionally employs Panasonic’s object-based depth from defocus system to build up a depth map of the scene to further enhance the AF.

The AF Modes include Spot / Field / Multi-Field / Zone / Tracking /Eye-, Face-Body-Detection / Eye-, Face-, Body-, Animal-Detection – we’re still not sure why animal detection isn’t separate?

In another first for the SL-series, the SL3 benefits greatly from the addition of intelligent subject recognition. It’s a pretty simple system by modern standards that only recognises the eyes, faces and bodies of people plus animals, but at least it’s a good start that works well in practice.

Leica camera have never been particularly renowned for their blistering continuous shooting rates, and the SL3 is certainly no exception to that rule.

While on paper it offers up to 15fps bursts, the reality is that the focus and exposure are locked at the first frame until you drop down to a rather more pedestrian 5fps, which is rather disappointing when some similarly priced mirrorless cameras can shoot at similar speed with AF/AE.

The buffer is 90 shots at 5fps for DNG RAW, though, so you can at least shoot for a long time before that rate slows down.

The SL3 has both a mechanical shutter that provides speeds between 60min to 1/8000sec and an electronic shutter that runs from 60sec to 1/16000sec, with a Hybrid option also available that automatically switches between them. Flash synchronization is available up to 1/200sec.

It’s important to note that this camera does not have the special multishot mode found on the previous SL2 and SL2-S models, which was undoubtedly a great feature for detail-hungry still-life and landscape photographers.

Leica told us that the new sensor makes it difficult to support this feature, and it will only be implemented if customer feedback demands it via a possible future firmware update – so start petitioning them now!

This isn’t just a camera for stills, as Leica have included 8K video recording for the second time ever on any of their models, following on from last year’s Q3 camera.

DCI 8K recording is supported at up to 30p with 4:2:0 10-bit color when recording internally or at 8-bit when recording externally via the full-size HDMI 2.1 Type A port.

If you only need 4K recording, that’s provided at up to 60p with 4:2:2 10-bit color internally or externally, while Full HD runs up to 120p for slow motion playback.

Other key video features include ProRes recording at 1080/60p, Leica’s L-Log profile, LUT compatibility, a 3.5mm stereo jack microphone socket and a dedicated timecode interface.

The 40MB/s wireless data transfer is up to 10x faster than the previous SL2, which doesn’t sound particularly astonishing until you realise that a full resolution 60-megapixel DNG file can be transferred to the Leica FOTOS app in a mere 2 seconds!

If you prefer a wired connection, there’s a new Leica cable available that’s 3x faster than the previous version, which means that it takes less than 1 second to transfer a 60mp DNG file.

Commendably you can also now use any USB-C cable with Android and newer iOS devices – you don’t need to use the Leica one – but make sure to use a USB 3 version.

The new USB-C port can be used to charge the camera via a powerbank, useful for extending the battery life when out and about. Talking of which, the SL3 uses a new battery, the 2200mAh BP-SCL6, which has a CIPA-rated lifespan of 260 shots per charge.

The SL3 is also still compatible with the BP-SCL4 battery that was used in the SL2, although the camera doesn’t support higher burst shooting rates than 2fps and video recording is limited to full HD.

The excellent electronic viewfinder is exactly the same as the one found on the previous SL2, with 5.76 megapixels of resolution, 0.76x magnification and either a battery-conserving 60fps or a smooth 120fps refresh rate for more realistic motion rendering.

Another important feature that first made it’s debut on the Q3 but which we’ve not seen before on an SL-series Leica camera is the newly tilting 3-inch LCD touchscreen.

This can now be moved both upwards and downwards to suit working from a variety of shooting positions, rather than fixed in place as on the previous SL models, which makes waist-level and overhead shooting much easier.

The resolution has also been increased slightly from 2.1M dots on the SL2 to 2.33M dots on the SL3.

The new screen does rather spoil the otherwise refined aesthetics of the SL3, however, as it juts out from the rear of the camera, interrupting the smooth lines. Still, this is first and foremost a photographic tool, rather than an expensive ornament, so we can perhaps overlook this slight faux-pas on Leica’s part.

It has also necessitated a restructuring of the controls on the rear of the camera. Instead of the vertical row of three buttons to the left of the LCD screen, as per the SL2, the Play, Function and Menu buttons have been moved to the right of the screen.

A new Leica Look makes its debut on the SL3 – Leica Eternal (ETN) – which joins the 5 other existing Looks and provides more contrast and saturation. You can see examples of them all in the Image Quality section.

The Leica SL3 is another incredibly solid, black-bodied camera that is hand-made in Wetzlar, Germany. This new version is a little lighter and more compact than its predecessors, though, weighing in at 769g without a battery versus 838g for the SL2, and measuring 5.2mm narrower and 3.0mm shorter than the SL2.

It’s equipped with Leica’s L-mount, which enables around 150 different lenses to be utilised, if you invest in specific adapters. Leica have 15 lenses L-mount lenses ranging from from 14mm to 560mm, with 84 native lenses available in the L-mount alliance from the likes of Sigma and Panasonic.

It has to be said upfront that the SL3 is not the most portable option ever. This is partly because it’s been fashioned from two solid pieces of aluminium with a central magnesium alloy portion sandwiched in its midst – so we were very thankful for the padded strap that’s supplied in the box.

While the rock-solid build quality is very reassuring, it’s not the ideal travel camera for lugging around for an entire day on a city break, especially with a bag full of L-mount lenses as well.

We’re told that the SL3 is both dust and water resistant to the extent of being IP54 rated, so it can apparently withstand water spray from every direction but falls short of being fully waterproof.

The SL3 has a -10 to +40 temperature guarantee, but Leica told us that it can work in much colder/hotter temps too (-40 to +70).

Though we’ve questioned the sheer heft of the camera, the robustness of the build quality is so reassuringly solid that, providing the internal electronics hold up, the SL3 could surely last years of use – which we’d certainly want it to at this price.

The handgrip is big enough to wrap four fingers around, while your thumb automatically brushes up against the control dial – or as Leica refers to it, ‘click wheel’ – which is peeking out at the back.

If you’re looking for a shooting mode dial, then you may be somewhat confused, because the SL3 doesn’t have one. Instead you have to press the click wheel in and then scroll through the usual PASM options to change the shooting mode.

The fact that the SL3 features a large postage stamp sized top-plate status display window is a real plus in operation. It’s really helpful in not being distracted by having to otherwise refer back to the larger screen at the rear of the camera, and thus take your eye off your subject for even longer.

Over on the left of the top-plate sees the addition of a second unmarked control dial which by default sets the ISO speed, making it even easier than before to control the key exposure settings.

One of the other big changes on this now model compared with its predecessor is the adoption of a push-button On/Off control in place of the SL2’s more conventional switch.

Not only do you now push a button to turn the camera on rather than move a switch, it also has a two-part operation when the camera is on, where a long press turns it off and a short-press activates the standby mode, speeding up access to the camera without adversely affecting the battery life.

There’s also a status ring around the power button which is illuminated blue to indicate that the camera is turned on and flashes green when the battery is being recharged. Rather cleverly, when you hold the camera up to your eye, the illuminated ring is automatically turned off so that it doesn’t distract you in any way.

The SL3 is a very customisable camera, with no fewer than 8 software buttons, 6 hardware buttons and 3 dials that can be configured to suit your particular way of working, not to mention the 6 user profiles for stills and 6 more for video that are available.

Cleverly, a red color code for photo and yellow for video is used throughout the interface to clearly delineate each shooting mode.

Leica make the bold claim that you can setup the camera and never have to use the main menu, something that we found to be mostly true once you’ve initially setup the camera and ironed out any operational kinks.

Leica have spent the last 2 years working on a new digital UI which makes its debut on the SL3. Focusing on the essential elements, there are now 5 menu items rather than 6 and 8 status screen/control center tiles rather than 12, with a size adjustment increase by 15%, all in response to customer feedback.

The digital interface has also seen a complete icon redesign, with a brand new family of clearer “Leicons” intended to be clearer and more cohesive than the previous icon set. Leica say that every icon and every layout has been refined to enhance the overall user experience.

Further usability improvements include a multiple delete option, the ability to customize on-screen icons during live view, new Quickaccess functions during live view so that you don’t need to go into the menu, optimized touch control with gestures, and a UI that automatically tilts from landscape to portrait when you change the orientation of the camera.

Leica have also signalled that the new UI will be rolled out on future cameras and other Leica divisions, although previously released cameras probably won’t benefit from it as that would require a brand new firmware version.

New accessories include a hand-grip with leather wrist-strap (Multifunctional Handgrip HG-SCL7), an Elk leather carrying strap that’s easier to use than Peak Design, a dual battery charger equipped with USB-C, and a DC coupler which can be inserted into the camera’s battery slot to ensure a continuous power supply via USB-C.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 60 megapixel JPEG setting, which results in an average image size of around 31Mb.
The SL3 camera produces noise-free JPEG images from ISO 50 all the way up to ISO 3200, with significant noise first appearing at ISO 6400. The faster settings of 12,500 and 25,000 display quite a lot of noise, but they’re still fine to use for making smaller prints and web images. You should avoid using the fastest ISO 50,000 and 100,000 settings if possible.
The range of Film Styles and Leica Looks is a little limited in number, but does allow you to apply effects in-camera for JPEGs and Raw files (Leica Looks only).
This camera proved to very capable in low-light, with the maximum shutter speed of 30 seconds and the Bulb mode allowing you to capture enough light in all situations.

There are 12 ISO settings available on the Leica SL3 running from ISO 50-100,000. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting, with JPEG on the left and RAW on the right.


ISO 50
ISO 50

ISO 100
ISO 100

ISO 200
ISO 200

ISO 400
ISO 400

ISO 800
ISO 800

ISO 1600
ISO 1600

ISO 3200
ISO 3200

ISO 6400
ISO 6400

ISO 12500
ISO 12500

ISO 25000
ISO 25000

ISO 50000
ISO 50000

ISO 100000
ISO 100000

Film Styles
The Leica SL3 offers five different Film Styles that are applied to JPEGs only.





Monochrome High Contrast

Leica Looks
The Leica SL3 offers six different optional Leica Looks that are applied to both JPEG and Raw files. Note that you need to transfer them to the camera via the Leica Fotos app in order to use them.







Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Leica SL3 camera, which were all taken using the 60 megapixel JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample RAW Images
The Leica SL3 enables users to capture RAW and JPEG format files. We’ve provided some Leica RAW (DNG) samples for you to download (thumbnail images shown below are not 100% representative).

Sample Movies & Video

This is a sample 8K movie at the quality setting of 8192×4320 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 10 second movie is 380Mb in size.

This is a sample 8K movie at the quality setting of 8192×4320 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 16 second movie is 610Mb in size.

This is a sample 4K movie at the quality setting of 3840×2160 pixels at 60 frames per second. Please note that this 16 second movie is 804Mb in size.

This is a sample 4K movie at the quality setting of 3840×2160 pixels at 60 frames per second. Please note that this 21 second movie is 1.06Gb in size.

This is a sample 4K movie at the quality setting of 3840×2160 pixels at 60 frames per second. Please note that this 12 second movie is 602Mb in size.

Product Images


The new SL3 inherits all of the significant improvements that Leica recently made on the Q3 model – 60 megapixel sensor, Maestro IV image processor, 8K video and hybrid auto-focus system – and additionally benefits from a major refresh of the user interface, making it more powerful and even easier to use than its predecessor.
The 60 megapixel resolution and 8K video will surely garner most of the headlines, but the incorporation of a tilting LCD screen, more refined UI and especially the vastly improved hybrid auto-focus system are for us even more important factors in the evolution of the SL-system.
Business-wise, the traditional M cameras still represent the biggest portion of Leica’s turnover, then the compact Q-series models, and finally the mirrorless SL, so it will be interesting to see if the new SL3 can increase both the SL-system’s share amongst Leica customers and Leica’s wider standing within the full-frame mirrorless market.
It certainly deserves to make an impact on both, being powerful and competent enough to compete with its main rivals, yet still refreshingly pared-back and easy to understand in an era of ever more complex products.
It perhaps goes without saying that Leica have once again lavished a frankly frightening attention to detail on the SL3, which boasts the usual impeccable build quality and a handmade in Germany origin that goes some way to justifying its price-tag. Commendably, Leica have also chosen to not increase the launch price of the SL3 over the SL2.
The Leica SL3 is a premium take on a 35mm full-frame interchangeable lens camera that delivers premium results with the absolute minimum of fuss – it’s undeniably very “Leica”, but in the best possible way…

Ratings (out of 5)




Image quality

Value for money

Main Rivals
Listed below are some of the rivals of the Leica SL3.

The EOS R5 has been the hottest full-frame camera on the block ever since Canon pre-announced it back at the start of 2020, thanks to its headline grabbing twin features of a 45 megapixel sensor and 8K video recording. We’ve seen it a few times since then, but now we can finally bring you our final Canon R5 review, complete with full-size sample photos and videos!

The Fujifilm GFX 100 II is a 100-megapixel, 8K video, 8-stop IBIS, 8fps continuous shooting, medium-format monster that is light enough to use all day, indoors and out. Find out just how good it is by reading our in-depth Fujifilm GFX 100 II review, complete with a gallery of full-size sample JPEG / Raw images and videos…

The new Fuji GFX 50S II is the most affordable medium-format ever released – it’s so cheap that it competes with high-end 35mm full-frame cameras like the Sony Alpha 7R IV, Canon EOS R5 and Nikon Z7 II. But surely there’s a catch – is it just too affordable for its own good? Find out now by reading our in-depth Fujifilm GFX 50S II review, complete with full-size sample photos and videos…

The Leica SL2 is a new mirrorless camera for professionals, offering a 47 megapixel full-frame sensor, 4K/60p video recording, 20fps burst shooting, a class-leading EVF, fast auto-focusing and a 3.2-inch touchscreen. Read our in-depth Leica SL2 review now to find out what this £5,300 / $5,995 camera is capable of…

The Leica SL2-S is an impeccably built full-frame mirrorless camera, offering a 24.6 megapixel BSI sensor, DCI 4K/60p video recording, 25fps burst shooting, a class-leading EVF, IBIS worth 5.5 stops, ISO 100,000 and dual UHS-II SD memory card slots. Read our in-depth Leica SL2S review to find out what this £3,975 / $4,895 camera is capable of…

As the spiritual successor to the popular D850 DSLR, the new Z8 full-frame mirrorless camera could turn out to be one of the most important products that Nikon have ever released. Read our in-depth Nikon Z8 review, complete with full-size sample photos and videos, to find out more about this mirrorless marvel…

The Nikon Z9 is a professional level, full-frame mirrorless camera for photographers and videographers that features a 45 megapixel stacked BSI sensor, 8K/30p and 4K/120p video recording, 30fps burst shooting and a dual-grip design. Read our in-depth Nikon Z9 review complete with full-size sample photos and videos to find out just what this flagship camera is capable of…

Panasonic have enjoyed a lot of success with their Micro Four Thirds camera range, and now they’ve turned their attention to the full-frame market with the release of the exciting new Lumix S1R. This is a 47 megapixel full-frame mirrorless camera with 187 megapixel high resolution mode, class leading electronic viewfinder, 6-stop IBIS, and a robust weatherproof body. Read our in-depth Panasonic S1R review now to find out more about this impressive camera…

The Sony A7R V full-frame camera is a hybrid powerhouse that in some ways outperforms even the flagship Alpha 1 model. Can this exciting camera really meet the needs of all kinds of photographers? Read our in-depth Sony A7R V review to find out…

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