Leica dismisses the DSLR and looks to a mirrorless future

Stefan Daniels of Leica with the Leica SL (Typ 601)

Leica, the sometime staid manufacturer of traditional old-school cameras, has suddenly become all tech-savvy and is now forecasting that mirrorless system cameras with electronic viewfinders are the future of photography.

It's easy to see why when you look into the 4.4-million-dot EVF of the new Leica SL – it's incredibly detailed and life-like, and you see exactly what you're going to get when the image is captured. There's also an impressively smooth contrast detection AF system and a touchscreen – yes, a touchscreen on a camera aimed at professional photographers.

Speaking at the launch of the SL at Leica's Wetzlar HQ in Germany, Stefan Daniel, Director Product Management Photo, skips quickly over one of the main advantages that's often claimed for mirrorless cameras, the reduction in size over that of an SLR. This is hardly surprising – there's no getting around it, with the new 28-90mm kit lens fitted the Leica SL is a whopper.

Instead, Daniel focuses on the Leica SL's fast readout speeds, 11fps continuous shooting and video capabilities.

If Leica does succeed in convincing the world that DSLRs are dead, it won't be the first time that company has changed the history of photography, but ironically it was previously by downsizing designs and making more practical cameras.

Despite its vision of the future, Leica is not looking to beat Canon and Nikon for market share. As Daniel says, Leica is a comparatively small company and it needs to focus on its core values, producing high quality products. It also needs to shift the mindset in countries where it's considered a luxury brand and convince more users to see it as brand for 'serious' photographers – as Daniel believes it is in the US.

Whether or not you agree that DSLRs will die in the next few years, or consider Leica is a luxury brand, it's true that all the major innovations taking place in cameras at the moment are in the mirrorless sector.