Leica SL3 Review: Is The Best For Pro Wildlife Photography?

Leica has once again pushed the boundaries of mirrorless technology with the launch of its latest SL3 camera, a 60-megapixel powerhouse designed to cater to the needs of professional photographers. Unlike its famed rangefinder siblings, the Leica SL3 is a departure from tradition, embracing a more contemporary aesthetic without compromising on performance.

Sleek Design and Rugged Build

The SL3 maintains the signature “mirrorless” look that Leica’s SL family is known for, providing pro photographers with a handling experience akin to industry rivals such as Nikon and Canon. Despite its departure from the classic rangefinder design, the SL3 doesn’t compromise on durability. Weighing in at a sturdy 767 grams and boasting an impressive IP54 rating, this camera is built to withstand challenging weather conditions, allowing photographers to shoot confidently in temperatures ranging from -10 to 40°C (14 to 104°F) without fearing dust or moisture intrusion.

Sensor Excellence

The SL3 inherits the powerful 60-megapixel sensor from Leica’s M11 rangefinder and Q3 compact models, ensuring exceptional image quality that meets the high standards expected from Leica cameras. The sensor’s capabilities are a testament to Leica’s commitment to delivering cutting-edge technology to photographers who demand the best.

Leica SL3 for pro wildlife photography
Leica SL3 (Image: Adorama)

Autofocus Evolution

One of the standout features of the SL3 is its new phase-detect autofocus system. This addition marks a significant improvement over its predecessors, enhancing the camera’s ability to quickly and accurately focus on subjects. Professional photographers will appreciate the responsiveness and precision that this system brings to their workflow, especially in dynamic shooting situations.

Cinematic Brilliance: 8K Video Capability

In response to the growing demand for high-quality video content, Leica has equipped the SL3 with an impressive 8K video capability. This feature opens up new creative possibilities for photographers who want to explore the world of cinematography without compromising on the exceptional image quality that Leica is known for.

Leica SL3 for pro wildlife photography
Leica SL3 (Image: Adorama)

Pros and Cons of Leica SL3


  1. Exceptional Build Quality: The Leica SL3 is crafted with precision, featuring a robust build and durable materials. The camera is designed to withstand challenging weather conditions, making it a reliable choice for outdoor and professional use.
  2. High-Resolution Sensor: With a 60-megapixel sensor, the SL3 delivers outstanding image quality with sharp details and vibrant colors. This high resolution provides ample flexibility for cropping and printing large-format images.
  3. New Phase-Detect Autofocus System: The SL3 introduces a new phase-detect autofocus system, significantly improving focusing speed and accuracy. This feature is particularly beneficial for professional photographers working in fast-paced environments.
  4. 8K Video Capability: Catering to the demands of videographers, the SL3 offers impressive 8K video recording. This capability opens up new creative possibilities for capturing high-quality video content with the signature Leica aesthetic.
  5. Sleek and Modern Design: Departing from the traditional rangefinder style, the SL3 boasts a modern and sleek design. The ergonomic layout ensures comfortable handling, and the camera’s aesthetics appeal to those looking for a contemporary mirrorless camera.


  1. Premium Price Tag: As with many Leica products, the SL3 comes with a premium price, positioning it in the higher end of the market. This may be a limiting factor for some photographers, especially those on a tighter budget.
  2. Hefty Weight: Weighing 767 grams, the SL3 is relatively heavy compared to some competitors. While the build quality justifies the weight to some extent, it might be a consideration for photographers prioritizing portability.
  3. Limited Native Lens Options: While the L-Mount Alliance has expanded lens options, the native lens lineup for the Leica SL system is not as extensive as some other mirrorless systems. This may impact the availability of specialized lenses for certain photographic needs.
  4. Complex Menu System: Leica cameras are known for their simplicity, but some users find the menu system on the SL3 to be more complex than expected. Navigating through settings and options might take some time for those new to Leica’s interface.
  5. Battery Life: With an approximate CIPA rating of 370 shots per charge, the battery life of the SL3 is decent but may not be as long-lasting as some competitors. Photographers on extended shoots may need to carry spare batteries.

Is It Good For Bird And Wildlife Photography?

The Leica SL3’s powerful 60-megapixel sensor, advanced phase-detect autofocus system, and rugged build make it an excellent choice for bird and wildlife photography. The sensor’s high resolution ensures detailed and sharp images, while the enhanced autofocus system facilitates quick and precise focusing on fast-moving subjects.

Additionally, the camera’s durability, with its IP54 rating, allows you to confidently capture shots in various weather conditions, making it well-suited for outdoor adventures. Whether tracking birds in flight or documenting wildlife in challenging environments, the Leica SL3 provides the performance and reliability needed for successful bird and wildlife photography.

Leica SL3 for pro wildlife photography
Leica SL3 for Pro wildlife photography (Image: Adorama)

Does Leica SL3 Have Its Competitors?

Yes, the Leica SL3 has competitors in the mirrorless camera market. While Leica cameras often occupy a niche in the industry due to their unique design, craftsmanship, and renowned optics, they do compete with other high-end mirrorless cameras from various manufacturers. Some of the competitors in the same category as the Leica SL3 include:

  1. Sony Alpha 1: Known for its cutting-edge technology, the Sony Alpha 1 is a high-resolution mirrorless camera that targets professional photographers with advanced features such as a 50.1-megapixel sensor, 8K video capability, and a sophisticated autofocus system.
  2. Canon EOS R5: Canon’s flagship mirrorless camera, the EOS R5, is recognized for its impressive 45-megapixel sensor, 8K video recording, and Dual Pixel CMOS AF II system. It competes directly with the Leica SL3 in terms of features and performance.
  3. Nikon Z7 II: Nikon’s Z7 II is another formidable competitor with a 45.7-megapixel sensor, in-body image stabilization, and a robust build. It targets professional photographers who demand high resolution and reliability.
  4. Fujifilm GFX100S: While it operates in the medium-format realm, the GFX100S from Fujifilm competes in terms of image quality and features. It boasts a massive 102-megapixel sensor and a compact design for a medium-format camera.
  5. Panasonic Lumix S1R: Panasonic’s S1R offers a 47.3-megapixel sensor, 4K video recording, and a sturdy build. It competes with the Leica SL3, especially considering their collaboration within the L-Mount Alliance.

While Leica cameras, including the SL3, have a unique appeal due to their brand legacy and optics, these competitors offer alternative options for photographers seeking high-end mirrorless cameras with advanced features and capabilities. The choice among these cameras often depends on individual preferences, shooting styles, and brand loyalty.

The Advantage Of Leica SL3

The Leica SL3 distinguishes itself in the competitive landscape of mirrorless cameras through a unique blend of craftsmanship, innovation, and unparalleled image quality. In comparison to its competitors, the SL3’s 60-megapixel sensor stands out, delivering superior resolution for intricate details in images. The incorporation of a new phase-detect autofocus system ensures swift and precise focusing, enhancing its performance in dynamic shooting scenarios. The camera’s rugged build, weighing 767 grams and boasting an IP54 rating, positions it as a robust choice for diverse weather conditions, a feature not always matched by competitors.

Leica’s legacy of precision and design excellence is apparent in the sleek yet ergonomic build of the SL3. While competitors such as the Sony Alpha 1 and Canon EOS R5 offer impressive features, the Leica SL3’s commitment to craftsmanship, durability, and image quality makes it an ideal choice for discerning photographers who prioritize a seamless fusion of form and function. Despite its premium pricing, the Leica SL3 remains a top-tier option for professionals seeking a mirrorless camera that excels in every aspect, ensuring a photography experience that transcends conventional boundaries.

Specifications and Features

I prepared an extended table with more specifications and features for the Leica SL3, comparing it with some additional mirrorless camera competitors:

FeatureLeica SL3Sony Alpha 1Canon EOS R5Nikon Z7 IIFujifilm GFX100SPanasonic Lumix S1R
Sensor Resolution60 megapixels50.1 megapixels45 megapixels45.7 megapixels102 megapixels47.3 megapixels
Autofocus SystemNew phase-detect autofocus systemFast Hybrid AF with 759 phase-detectionDual Pixel CMOS AF II with 1,053 AF points493-point hybrid AF systemContrast-detection AF with 3.76M phase-detectionDepth from Defocus (DFD) with 225 AF points
Video Capability8K8K8K4K UHD4K4K
Design & BuildSleek, 767g, IP54-ratedProfessional, ergonomic buildSleek, weather-sealedLightweight, weather-sealedCompact, portable for a medium-format cameraSturdy build, comfortable grip
Viewfinder TypeElectronic OLEDElectronic OLEDElectronic OLEDElectronic OLEDElectronic OLEDElectronic OLED
ISO Range50 – 50,000100 – 32,000100 – 51,20064 – 25,600100 – 12,80050 – 51,200
In-Body Image StabilizationYesYesYesYesYesYes
Max Shutter Speed1/8000 sec1/8000 sec1/8000 sec1/8000 sec1/4000 sec1/8000 sec
Weather SealingYesYesYesYesYesYes
Wireless ConnectivityBuilt-in Wi-Fi, BluetoothWi-Fi, BluetoothWi-Fi, BluetoothWi-Fi, BluetoothWi-Fi, BluetoothWi-Fi, Bluetooth
Battery Life (CIPA)Approx. 370 shotsApprox. 530 shotsApprox. 320 shotsApprox. 360 shotsApprox. 400 shotsApprox. 360 shots

This table provides a more detailed comparison of the Leica SL3 with additional mirrorless camera competitors, highlighting various specifications and features that may be crucial for photographers when making a decision.

Leica SL3 for pro wildlife photography


The Leica SL3 stands as a testament to the brand’s commitment to innovation and excellence in the world of mirrorless cameras. With its sleek design, rugged build, powerful sensor, advanced autofocus system, and 8K video capability, the SL3 is a versatile tool that caters to the evolving needs of professional wildlife photographers. While it may not resemble the iconic rangefinder cameras, the SL3 makes a bold statement by embracing modern design while maintaining the uncompromising quality that defines the Leica legacy. If you’re a pro photographer seeking a mirrorless marvel that delivers on both form and function, the Leica SL3 deserves a spot in your gear arsenal.

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