Q&A: Do you prefer the SL over the M?

I’ve been exchanging emails with a follower and I thought I might share this question:

So you mainly use SL for more precision/posed kind of work? Would you pick the M262/M-P(240) over SL?

This was my answer:

Yes and no: for precision work the SL work much better. It doesn’t need to be posed. I only do posed work with headshot assignments.
For a more dynamic assignment, like a wedding, I still prefer the M (doesn’t matter which one) but I also use the SL for anything that doesn’t move fast. The SL is a completely different machine though. It is less rewarding than the M and though the interface is nice and minimal, it isn’t an M. However, as a pro who needs to deliver, it is a fantastic machine to bring on any assignment.

Shooting a wedding with the SL and the SL 50/1.4

Shooting a wedding with the SL and the SL 50/1.4

So let me elaborate a bit on this. As for now, I use both my SL and M(240) for my weddings. I wanted to order the M10, but I like this combination so much (and the list is so long) that I’ll keep this combination for as long as it works.

Yes, the M is more rewarding. It is more intuitive and I have used it so much I don’t need to think about anything. The SL is slightly more complicated and therefore (for me) slightly (but minimally) less rewarding. But, it has its place in the Leica line-up and in my photo bag:

  1. For staged portraits, the SL works much better than the M. I use the Noctilux for most (corporate) portrait assignments and the EVF works without any need for focus peaking or magnification.
  2. As long as people aren’t running around, I can keep up with the SL and M-lenses. As soon as things get hectic, I use my M, which is much easier to focus on dynamic subjects. Currently, I’d say I shoot 70% of all my work with the SL and 30% with the M.
  3. The SL has opened up a huge range of lenses that I can use now. Yes, the M10 does this too, but the EVF of the M10 is not half as good as the SL EVF is. Balance with larger lenses is also much better.
  4. With the SL, I can shoot short movies with the same camera, on a compact rig.
  5. People with aging eyes can buy an excellent (but big and heavy) 24-90. I haven’t bought it, but used it a couple of times. For quick and dirty work, this is the best lens you can get. I just miss the look that I get with my primes wide-open.
  6. Misaligned rangefinders happen, most often when you don’t want it. Not with the SL. As long as  your focus ring will turn, you can focus any lens on the SL.


Shooting the SL in a completely controlled setting.

Shooting the SL in a completely controlled setting.

There’s much more to say about the M vs the SL, but we’ll do that later. I think that there are two things that currently have something to do with the SL vs M debate:

  1. The M10 isn’t really available yet. You’ll need to be patient if you want one.
  2. The SL has gotten much cheaper this month.

Whatever you choose, make an informed decision, but use both your heart and your brains.

Leica M9 with Zeiss ZM 35/2.8: can't beat the IQ, usability, weight and compactness of this combination.

Leica M9 with Zeiss ZM 35/2.8: can’t beat the IQ, usability, weight and compactness of this combination.