#1295. Leica SL2 Repair Review – Part 1

By Paul Barclay | Review

Jun 23

This article is going to be a bit of a departure from my usual efforts at showing a travel location in a different light, usually infra-red.

But first, we need to have a little background. For the past 6-8 months our Fearless Leader (Pascal) and I have been having an email conversation about our cameras and thoughts about changing cameras or systems. For my part of the conversation, I was discussing my experiences with a Leica SL2 that I picked up in June of 2021. Plus, I was trying to encourage Pascal to give additional thought towards upgrading to the new Hasselblad X2D, or something else, vs. changing systems to Fuji. While Pascal’s side of the conversation was encouraging me to get more experience with the SL2 and providing me with information about how other Dear Susan contributors deal with clipped highlights with their camera of choice.

While encouraging Pascal was an enjoyable experience, using the SL2 had moments of frustration that made trading it, or worse, sending it back to Leica for service, seem like a good idea. In early October 2022 I had enough, and decided the camera was going back to Leica for warranty repair. The three problems that needed to be addressed were; the sensor clipped highlights excessively, the light meter over exposed a minimum of 1-1.33 stops regardless of the lens used, and the shutter release button had a catch in its travel between half-press and activation. I received my camera back from Leica Service in February 2023 and started the process of getting to know the camera again as light and weather permitted, before traveling to Arizona in March.

Since our conversations included my experiences using adapted lenses on Fuji MF, and Leica and Lumix L-mount bodies, I offered to write a review with image samples to share here. I gave Pascal a list of the 17 lenses I currently have available and he selected 3; the Lumix 24mm f1.8 (L-mount), Nikon 50mm f1.4 AIS (F-mount), and Zeiss 35mm f1.4 ZM (M-mount, also known as Audrey).

This article is a review of my experiences using the SL2, after its return from Leica USA Service, along with images using the lenses Pascal selected. Because of the number of images, I will be publishing this in parts.

Part 1: SL2 using the Lumix S 24mm f1.8 lens.


The above images were two of the first images I made after picking up my SL2 from my local dealer in February 2023, and were made walking around the waterfront and downtown main street in Poulsbo, Washington. I was fortunate to have partly cloudy skies rather than the usual constant cloud blanket, which gave me some interesting reflections on the water and in the window.


A few days later I was in Seattle and was given the gift of sunny skies in February. I started at Green Lake Park, which is a large public park located in a residential neighborhood North of Seattle’s downtown. I walked about a third of the way around the lake looking for subjects that would help me get a new feel for the camera’s operation. The third and fourth images of the tree above, are the same image. I wanted to see how much dynamic range the camera captures, so I underexposed the image capture (image 4) and then pulled the shadows up in post processing (image 3).

The following week I decided to go to the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, which is one of my favorite locations for street photography. This location, or series, brings up a challenge, in that street photography is as much about the people in a place as the place itself. Plus, the images were made in early March, before I thought about using them here. Being in the United States this is normally not a problem, since the images are made in a public place and they are not being used for a commercial purpose. On the other hand, since Dear Susan is based in France and different laws may apply, I decided that I would spot out any recognizable faces and vehicle license plate numbers.


My first stop in Fremont was the statue of J.P. Patches, who was the main character of a Seattle children’s television show that was broadcast from 1958 to 1981. Later, as I was crossing the street, I heard a low rumble and when I found it’s source said to myself, “Is that a GOAT (GTO)?” Unfortunately, those three letters were not on the front fender. But the rumble from under the hood said it might be one, rather than a standard 1968 Le Mans. I did get a chance to speak with the driver before the light turned green, and I did post these images to Instagram for him to find.


Around the corner and a block up the street is Lucky’s Pho. This restaurant has my favorite windows in Seattle. The windows are almost always covered with steam and the tables are usually full.


After leaving Lucky’s, I decided to stop using auto-focus in favor of manual focus. These images started as an exercise in using focus peaking with the idea to emphasize the neon. While processing the first image, I noticed the shapes in the window and decided to see what could be pulled out of the darkness. I think with a little more practice using the noise reduction tools available in Capture One, the noise will clean up a bit more.


I originally photographed the first window to practice manual focus. After the first image or two I stopped to really look at what was in the window, and decided that there were some Edward Hopper-esk qualities lurking about. Which gave me a goal for the rest of the walk, if not every time I take a photo walk in Fremont.


The first image was made to test the sensitivity of manual focus at close range, and the other two were to get a sense of depth of field. At this point I reached the outer limit of my walk and I changed lenses to walk back to my car.

Early conclusions

I am pleased with the support Leica USA Service was able to provide. They had my SL2 for about four months; and they were able to provide my dealer status updates when requested. Which is a huge improvement from my previous experience and much quicker than what I was led to expect. The repair description provided with the camera said they replaced the shutter mechanism, and my experience using the camera is they also addressed the shutter release situation. Most of my time using the camera for this part of the review was in flat or evening light. Because of this, I am reserving any comments about the light meter and highlight clipping until later.

The Lumix S 24mm f1.8 is one of Panasonic’s full frame lenses for the L-mount and is not a lens to take lightly, even if it is a very light lens. Optically, it will perform to a very high level. I have compared it to the Leica 24-70 f2.8 SL* lens at 24mm and there is very little difference. Manual focus is by-wire and functions smoothly and as quickly as I would expect a true manual focus lens to operate. Auto focus performance is as good as the contrast focus system in the SL2. On the new Lumix S5II auto-focus may be faster due to the PDAF system.

*One or more images in this series were made using the Leica 24-70 f2.8 SL lens.


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  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Well, à chacun son goût – which I think translates best as “each to his own taste”.

    Pascal prefers the larger format – although he has been known to shoot FF instead of MF, and I seem to recall he also shot 6×6 a while back.

    And your preference is . . . ? Somewhere, it’s clearly BEEN Leica, but they’re no longer front runner?

    I’m happy with Nikon – although I’ve used heaps of other gear – but of course that’s scarcely surprising, since I took my first photo about 70 years ago!

    A strong influence is the kind of photos we take. You’d never think to use a field camera (despite the name!) for birding, for instance. Or maybe I should have said I wouldn’t think to use one for that – Lord only knows what other people will get up to!

    I was startled by your comment that Leica took more than 4 months to effect the necessary repairs – under warranty! I presume they expected you to shoot with your iPhone in the meantime. Seriously – that was WAY too long – completely unacceptable. I wouldn’t even think to try one, after reading that! For what it’s worth, early on I had a serious problem with a very expensive Zeiss camera – shipped it around the world to their HQ in Germany, since their service agency here in Australia was the firm that caused the damage in the first place – Zeiss stripped it, put all the pieces through their assembly line, checked everything, replaced the damaged bits, and returned it to me far quicker than that – back a decade or so before the introduction of Jumbo jets and the resulting expansion of global air travel.

    I am a bit lost with your comments on light meters. If there was a consistent error, you could adjust the ISO setting to compensate for it – but you seem to be suggesting it was a “minimum” error, and often larger, but not consistent. Hmm. Ingenious, perhaps. Not terribly helpful though. I generally carry a Sekonic external meter, I’m not all that enthusiastic about “in camera” meter readings, they’re generally an “average” – alternatively, and this can be worse, they read ONLY the “subject”, as selected by AI.

    I am impressed with your available light shots – particularly the way you capture neon signs – I must practice that more, all too often my neon signs are rather washed out and the colour’s missing.

    Your shot when you circled around Green Lake Park is interesting – of course I’ve occasionally done something similar, quite by accident, but when I did it recently with a series of MACRO shots of bees on a pink flowering shrub, it didn’t work out quite the way you’re suggesting. Because the pink colour seems to be impossible to rein in, when you bring up the shadows. Pink (or at least this shrub’s pink) is a terribly difficult colour to rein in with sliders in red or magenta, and retaining the yellow of the bees, at the same time, didn’t help matters much either. Still – we all learn by trying.

    Footnote – quality “zooms” these days pretty much all match primes, for performance. Wasn’t always true, and there are still some “lemons” out there, so choose your zooms with care. And if you do, you’ll find it difficult/impossible to tell the difference.

    • PaulB says:


      Thank you for the comments about the available light photos. Living in the Pacific Northwest forces you to be out after dark for just about anything you want to do. During winter the skies are dark well before most places consider the time to be Happy Hour, let alone evening.

      Leica service in the US has always had a reputation for being incredibly slow, even going back to film cameras. Because of this, and my previous experience with my M9, I waited a long time before buying a second digital Leica; my film bodies never needed service. I bought the SL2 because I really like my M-mount lenses and wanted to know how the performed on a high resolution sensor, preferably with a dedicated EVF. Which is why I put so much effort into adapting lenses to other mirrorless camera bodies.

      The light meter, by itself, was not much more than an annoyance rather than a problem. For almost 1.5 years I simply set the exposure compensation to -2/3 and lived with the results. The elephant in the room was the meter in combination with the sensor. In a mirrorless camera the “meter” is incorporated into the sensor and is not a separate entity. When you were photographing in even light, the meter/sensor would give an accurate result. It was when the contrast range in the scene increased that became a problem. Street scenes where part of the image is in full sun and part in shadow, would result in the highlights being blown out. The SL2 has two features that help in this situation; blinking highlights and highlight weighted metering. The highlight weighted metering adjusts exposure to bring down the highlights and blinking highlights makes the highlights blink in the view finder to show you where they are; similar to Zebras in other cameras. Once you have these features set, you simply reduce exposure until the blinking highlights are eliminated, or reduced to an acceptable amount. The challenge this posed was, I was reducing exposure up to 1.3 stops for the lens, and then reducing at least another stop to compensate for the highlights. Which meant I was running out of available compensation range; the camera only offers +/- 3 stops of compensation. The final straw in the decision to send the camera for repair was, over time the amount of compensation needed was increasing. So I needed to send the camera for repair while the warranty was active.

      I have recently gone through my large format camera bags and found my Sekonic meter. It will probably travel with me when I am out for landscape images, even if it is just to compare it to the internal meter. Though, with the changing nature of my situation above, it probably would not have been a lot of help.


  • Honestly I baffled why anybody would consider 4 month turnaround for a digital camera repair in anyway satisfactory, especially for a high price object like a Leica. Excellent customer service should be factored in as part of the sky high price. Personally my experience with repairs has been two occasions with Olympus Europe (repair center in Portugal), both times my fault. In both cases turnaround, including delivery back to me in Switzerland was about 5 working days, and I received regular status updates by email.

    Four months. For a current model. With a defective component. Shakes head….

    • pascaljappy says:

      David, unfortunately this seems to be the norm. Three of my lenses have been stuck at Hasselblad central since about the beginning of the year. It baffles me as well. That said, it’s nothing new. When two of my Sony bodies died on me, service was … well, words fail me. A terrible terrible experience. Things may have changed since, but my guess is Olympus probably put more money into customer service than most other brands. And the market rewarded the brand by buying elsewhere and letting it die. So, it’s not a simple problem, I think. Cheers.

    • PaulB says:


      As I mentioned in my reply to Pete above, Leica Service in the US has always had a reputation for being slow; as in turnaround times being measured in months. With the advent of digital cameras service times were strained further, because any complicated or sensor issue requires that the camera be sent to the Mothership in Germany, from the repair center in New Jersey.

      With my M9, it took 5-6 months to adjust the camera rangefinder, and it was not possible to get any information about the status of the camera.

      A month prior to sending my camera in for repair, I talked with my local dealer about their experiences with Leica repair. I talked with their internal Leica specialist who just returned from attending the Leica Akademie in Wetzlar. He mentioned that the service area in the factory only had one technician at the time, and Leica had recently moved their service center to a new location in New Jersey, he would be expect a minimum of 6-months.

      Therefore, having the camera repaired and returned in 4-months, along with regular status updates, was a huge improvement over my previous experience and what I was expecting.

  • philberphoto says:

    to think that I was screaming and shouting oscenities at my vendor when it took 5 weeks to replace a lens puchased new but which had rapidly developped a fault… but of course it was/is not a hoity-toity- brand where no doubt mistreating the customer is part and parcel of separating the chosen from the riff-raff. and bearing it is a test of devotion…
    now your images are something else! Hard to pick faves, as each one has something to say for itself, by they would be: the closed restaurant window, the fogged up restaurant widow, and the restaurant in the dark or night. Kudos!

    • PaulB says:

      Yes, dealing with repairs can be a real test of one devotion to any manufacturer’s product. An experience I had, with a different manufacturer, was sending a lens back for repair after I dropped it, and getting the reply that it was not economical to repair the lens, but they would be happy to sell me a refurbished lens for more than the current new lens price.

      But this is a story for a different time and place.


  • Mer says:

    Four months . . . Sheesh. Still, the end result seems good. Pleasing colours and some images with a great 3d feel to them, though that’s probably down to the photographer. I tend to take too many photos straight on, but you’ve made the angled lines work for you. Something for me to remember.


    • PaulB says:


      Thank you for the compliment.

      I too tend to take a lot of images from the vantage of where I first notice something, particularly when I am in a new location. I have to force myself to move around so I can see the possibilities. It is a rare event when the first image is a decent image, let alone the best image. Though, looking for how capture depth in the scene helps improve the odds, not to mention going back to an area often.


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