Why does the new Leica SL3 not have a Content Authenticity system?

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The brand new Leica SL3 ($6995) was announced recently, and it boasts specs that potentially make it the highest-grade Leica camera yet. From resolution to speed, the SL3 seems to have everything covered. That is until you notice the lack of a content authenticity system, a quality Leica deemed important to them when they released the Leica M11-P.

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The Content Authenticity initiative

We already covered CA (Content Authenticity) in depth in a separate post, so I’ll make this short. CA allows a user to register encrypted data into an image. That encrypted data, while hard to change, is easy to read. The data will show anyone that you were the original creator of the image when the image was produced, if anyone has modified the image and more. Such a system is more important than ever in the age of AI, where photo theft, generation, and editing have never been easier.

Why does the Leica SL3 not have a CA system?

Leica SL3

You might think Leica skipped CA for the SL3 on purpose, but that is not the case. The true reason is that the technology came too late during the development of the SL3. On the surface, it seems weird, considering the M11-P, which was released earlier than the SL3, does have CA.

To include CA in the SL3, Leica would require a special chip, like the one in the M11-P, to handle the encryption while the camera process handles the image. The design of this chip was finished only after the hardware of the SL3 had been settled. After all, the SL3 was in development way before the M11-P was released.

If you’re wondering: “Can’t Leica just update the firmware of the SL3 to add CA?” Sadly, the answer is mostly negative. You can technically add a CA system that will utilize the camera’s processor instead of a separate chip, but it will take a lot of time for each shot to be encrypted.

According to David and Josh from Red Dot Forum Camera Talk, “They (Leica) did get it down to one and a half seconds, which is too slow for a camera that shoots 15 frames a second”. David and Josh also explained the chip allows for stronger encryptions: ” If you want to hack the CA hardware encryption on the M11-P, you can do it; it will take a few months”, “And a software solution? Yeah, it was like five minutes”.

The weird part is when you remember that cameras that don’t have such a chip, such as the Sony a1 and Nikon Z9, are said to receive the CA system in future updates. We still don’t know how those systems would end up, so we’ll just have to wait and see if they will be better than Leica’s ditched firmware encryption.


It’s a shame the Leica SL3 doesn’t have a Content Authenticity system. Like Leica, I believe CA tech should become more common in the industry. That said, I wouldn’t write off the SL3 just because it lacks this feature; It’s still a great camera.

If Content Authenticity is important to you, maybe you should wait before spending $6995 on a Leica SL3. Leica may release a new SL3-P version down the line, a version with CA, just like they did for the M11 with the M11-P.

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