Following the excellent Leica Q compact camera, we wondered how long it would be before Leica unveiled a full-frame mirrorless system with interchangeable lenses. Well, wait no more - that time is now, with the Leica SL (Typ 601) officially unveiled at a press conference at the company's HQ in Wetzlar, Germany.
The Leica SL is an all-new camera, complete with - you guessed it - SL mount lenses to match with that 24-megapixel full-frame sensor at the camera's core.
In tandem with the body, the first three lenses for the system were announced: a 24-90mm f/2.8-4 (available at launch); 90-280mm f/2.8-4 (Q2 2016); and a 50mm f/1.4 (Q4 2016). However, all lenses for the existing Leica T camera can be used without an adapter, while adapters for S, M and R systems will also be made available, so there's a wider range of optics to join the line-up from day one.
Being a mirrorless system, Leica has had to invest heavily in an electronic viewfinder (EVF), as no mirrorbox means no optical viewfinder (and in moving away from the old style, a rangefinder wouldn't befit the SL).
Specs wise the Leica SL's "EyeRes" EVF offers a whopping 4.4-million pixels of resolution, putting it head and shoulders above similar competitors. It's also said to offer "magnification reminiscent of a medium format camera" for an ultra large image - although we're yet to query exactly what that means (we'll be seeing the camera following the press conference for further detailed information).
To the rear the Leica SL utilises a 2.95-inch LCD screen, with a 170-degree angle of view. It's a touchscreen too, should you want to tap to focus rather than using the physical toggle control.
With the Maestro II processor on board the Leica SL is said to offer a 2GB buffer, translating into shooting at 11 frames per second or even capturing 4K video at 30fps (or Cine4K at 24fps). Not that you have to record in 4K: the SL can also capture Full HD at up to 120fps.
In typical Leica style the SL is a robust bit of kit. Its aluminium body is chunky yet durable, including dust- and weather-seals to keep those optics and internals free from gunk and grime.
Also in typical Leica fashion the SL is far from a budget buy. Its body only price will be £5,050 when it goes on sale from 16 November this year. The 24-90mm f/2.8-4 adds a further £3,150 to the price tag. Yes, our mouths remain wide open too (partly because we're enamoured, partly because our bank balance needs a few extra zeroes).
[Correction: the original article stated that the Leica SL has a tilt-angle screen. This is incorrect, the screen is fixed to the rear. The 170-degrees refereced refers to the angle of view]