Photokina 2018 was the second (and hopefully not last) Photokina I attended. Despite general industry headwinds, there was much to be excited about: Nikon and Canon debuted their full-frame mirrorless systems at packed booths, it was the first opportunity to see the long-awaited Ricoh GR III, Zeiss made the surprise ZX1 announcement (which has to date remained vaporware) and, perhaps most excitingly, given its lack of precedence, Leica, Sigma and Panasonic unveiled the L-mount alliance.
At their booth, Panasonic also showed off early concepts for what would become the S1 and S1R – a few months later, at CES 2019 in Las Vegas, I got the chance to go hands-on with close to production-ready models; the mockups in Cologne were strictly hands-off! Sigma shared some insight into their lens roadmap – they’d be adapting many existing E-mount lenses to the L-mount system.
At their minimalist, but still rather large stand (Germany is Leica territory after all), it was mostly business as usual for the folks from Wetzlar.
In retrospect, I regret not making the pilgrimage, but at the time it felt like too much of a schlep. Some space was devoted to the partnership with Huawei for the P series of high-end smartphones, and there were some graphics that spoke to L-mount (which was, after all, based around Leica technology).
Primarily, though, it was a chance to go hands-on with their entire range. Part of my motivation in going to Photokina was that I was in-market for a new camera (really, when isn’t one?) and it was a chance to see everything in one place.
From Leica’s range, given it would be my first Leica, I was drawn to the TL2, which was to be my gateway drug. While I ultimately couldn’t overcome the camera’s limitations, the lenses were amazing.
Between then and now I bought and sold many different cameras including the CL, original SL and the Nikon Z6. I bring up the Nikon, which is an excellent camera because it underscored how remarkable the first edition of the SL was.
Industrial design aside, the Z6 and the SL are very in many ways very similar: both have 24MP sensors, feature similar continuous shooting rates, are weather-sealed, etc. Where differences exist, they are mostly edge cases: the Z6 features sensor-based stabilization, the SL does not, but the SL has a higher-res EVF (4.4m vs 3.7m dots).
What’s notable is that three years separate the two cameras, with the Leica being the older of the two. Possibly, due to the Leica brand being synonymous with the manual focus rangefinders of the M series, it isn’t often associated with cutting edge technology. The SL (and T/TL/TL2, despite their flaws) prove otherwise.
Technology is part of the promise of the L-mount, as is the choice of both lenses and bodies, spanning Full Frame and APS-C sensors – the latter hasn’t seen much action in terms of new bodies, but Sigma just released a trio of crop sensor lenses, the f/1/4 56mm of which is rather tempting.
The range of bodies isn’t huge, but it is diverse:
- Leica: the quirky, touchscreen oriented T*, TL* and TL2 (APS-C)
- Leica: the more conventional, rather delightful CL (APS-C)
- Panasonic: the general-purpose S1, high-resolution S1R and video focused S1H. Large, true, but soon to be joined by the lightweight S5
- Sigma: the tiny, modular, video-oriented fp
- Leica: the masterful SL* and SL2
The lens range, on the other hand, is diverse, quite vast and continues to grow – variety among macro lenses and super-telephoto options remain gaps in the line-up.
To see the above frame in a separate tab:
- On Mac and Windows, right-click on the panel above and select “Open Frame in New Tab”
- Not possible on iOS or Android at the moment
To that end, Mike and I thought it would be a good idea to share the currently available selection as an interactive spreadsheet that we will update periodically when changes to the product lines are made. At the moment we are showing UK and US prices but intend to add euro prices soon.
Let us know if there’s data you’d like to see that isn’t here or if you spot any inconsistencies in what is there.
Editor’s Note: I am very grateful to Narain for stepping in and offering to set up this database. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for several months but hadn’t got round to it. Once Narain offered, we were able to cooperate and improve the original Google Sheet. Also, porting over an interactive sheet is something I’ve never done before and, again, Narain’s advice and assistance were invaluable.