Dec 042015
 

Leica SL Hands-On

On November 18, 2015, I was invited to Leica Store Miami to get a hands-on session with newly released Leica SL. The Leica SL is the first full-frame, mirrorless system camera from Leica. Aimed at professional photographers, the camera sports a lot of very interesting features. But will it make professional shooters switch systems?

Leica SL

Build

The Leica SL, like its smaller sibling – the Leica T, has a body that is milled from a solid block of aerospace-grade aluminum (or aluminium for my British readers). This gives the SL a solidity and heft that is unmatched by any other brand. My Sony A7 II felt flimsy beside it. The SL uses the T-mount as well. I always wondered why the mount on the Leica T was so huge considering it is an APS-C sized camera. The Leica SL is completely weather-sealed as long as you use the full-frame SL lenses.

Leica SL Back

The back of the Leica SL is a minimalist’s wet dream: a fixed 2.95" touchscreen display with four unmarked buttons. All four buttons are soft buttons whose function varies with the screen you are displaying. The buttons also distinguish between short-press and long-press, doubling their command capacity. Along the top-plate you have (from left to right):

  • The on/off switch
  • The eyepiece (more on that later)
  • The display switch button
  • The control joystick
  • Rear control dial (clickable)

The door on the right side houses the dual SDXC card slots. The door is weather-sealed as well. The battery is similar to the one used on the Leica Q: the end plate of the battery seals flush to the body negating the need for a battery door. There is an optional grip that allows the mounting of two batteries.

Leica SL + Grip

The grip also adds balance for the use of large lenses. Mind you, the design of the Leica SL targets the professional 35 mm photography and is reflected in the near-DSLR sized body. The body, sans lens, is very light, but will be an issue for photogs with smaller hands. Add the grip and it really gets big. Just to give you an idea, here is a size comparison between the Leica SL and the Sony A7r II (courtesy of Camerasize.com):

Leica SL vs A7r II

Leica SL vs A7r II

Leica SL vs A7r II

Leica SL vs A7r II

Leica SL vs A7r II

Lenses

The native SL lens lineup includes three lenses:

  • Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24–90mm f/2.8-f/4.0 ASPH (available now)
  • Leica APO-Vario-Elmarit-SL 90–280mm f/2.8-f/4.0 (mid 2016)
  • Leica Summilux-SL 50mm f/1.4 ASPH (late 2016)

As you can see from the first image in this review and the last one in the Camerasize shots that these are not small lenses. While some pros will bemoan the fact that the lenses are not fixed aperture, these are by no means some crappy kit lens. I was only able to see the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24–90mm f/2.8-f/4.0 ASPH in action, but AF on this lens is lightning fast. David Farkas of Leica Store Miami explained to me that the focusing element of the lens only has to travel a very short distance. Thus, the “zeroing-in” algorithm used by contrast detection AF can very rapidly acquire focus.

Images taken with the Leica SL

Now, three lenses (of which only one is available) does not make an enticing argument for a professional photographer to jump ship to this platform. However, this being a mirrorless camera means that lenses can be adapted. Leica makes an adapter for their M and R lenses, while Novoflex makes 13 T-mount adapters that work with the Leica SL adapting a wide variety of legacy glass.

Images

I was allowed to take test images using my own SD card. However, being a dual card system (not common on Leica) I wrote most of my test images to somebody else’s SD card. My bad. Here are the few I managed to write to my own card:

Leica SL + 18mm M-Lens

Leica SL + 18mm M-Lens B&W

Leica SL + 24-90mm Zoom OOC JPEG

At this stage of the game most RAW converters do not have custom profiles for the Leica SL. Leica’s choice to use the Adobe DNG format means that RAW files can be processed right away, but it is going to take a version or two to get the conversions optimized.

I found this most evident in the ISO 3200 images (the one’s shot with an M-lens), I found the images much grainier than similar images taken by my Sony A7 II. Again optimization will help greatly in this regard, eventually.

The next two shots were to compare color rendition between the Leica SL and Sony A7 II. The Leica SL was sporting a APO-Summicron 50 mm f/2 ASPH lens via M-mount adapter and the Sony A7 II had a Zeiss Loxia 50/2 Planar (courtesy of Carl Zeiss USA).

The first image was shot with the Sony. As I have an optimized workflow, my system color corrected the image. The second was shot with the Leica SL. This image had to be cropped because the APO-Summicron 50 mm f/2 Asph has a much longer minimum focusing distance than the Zeiss Loxia. I will be honest and say that the Leica got the color right without adjustment, however, this is not an objective test. This is more a test of the AWB sensor than the image sensor’s color rendering ability.

Early Verdict

Based on my extremely short hands-on time with the Leica SL, I can safely say that this is the most professionally oriented Leica digital 35 mm camera to date. That being said, the lack of native lenses, lack of a system flash, non-existent 3rd party eco-system of accessories and equipment, and all of the other baggage that comes with a new camera system, working professionals will probably adopt a “wait-and-see” attitude regarding the use of this camera in the job. Remember, working pros need a camera that can get the job done reliably and the company has to have the chops to support them quickly and efficiently. Unfortunately for Leica, Canon and Nikon have sent the support bar pretty high. Sony is now growing its professional support services and they vastly larger resources than Leica. Also, the $12k entry fee does not help.

So who is buying this camera?

Professionally, I see fine art photographers purchasing this camera. These are pros who shoot images to be displayed in galleries. They are beholden to no one but themselves and (as DigitalRev’s Kai states) often wear hats. They often print their own images. As a professional photographer myself, I can safely say that the vast majority of my customers cannot tell the difference between images taken with a $1600 camera or one costing 8x as much. Fine Art photographers (and amateurs caught in the Leica Reality Distortion Field) can spot the differences that justify the additional expense.

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Oct 162014
 

New York, New York (October 15th, 2014) — Leica Camera continues to celebrate 100 years of photography with the limited Leica X “Edition Moncler”.  The new edition was designed in collaboration with Moncler and infuses both brand’s values of quality design and technicality. The aesthetically pleasing and highly technical camera pays homage to the French origins of Moncler with a premium leather trim in a three-color scheme of red, white, and blue.  The silver version of the Leica X is appealing to both photographers and fashion forward camera users.


 
The exclusive Leica X ‘Edition Moncler’ is strictly limited to 1,500 units for the entire global market. The additional camera case was designed in accordance with Moncler’s world famous down jackets.  The matching genuine leather camera strap bears the inscription, Leica & Moncler, highlighting the collaboration. The Leica X ‘Edition Moncler’ will be available from Leica Stores, Boutiques, and Moncler flagship stores, beginning October 2014.
 
This exclusive camera was first unveiled during the Frieze Art Fair in London at the opening of Fabien Baron’s exhibition, “Monuments”.  The opening was hosted by Leica and Moncler at Sotheby’s on October 14th. Fabien Baron, Vanity Fair’s “most sought-after creative director in the world”, highlights the exemplary collaboration between Leica and Moncler with his exhibition.  Baron’s photographs, captured with the Leica S medium-format camera system, show the spectacular ice and snow-bedecked landscapes of Greenland and express the fascination of nature with which Moncler is deeply involved.
 
The technical specifications of the Leica X ‘Edition Moncler’ are identical to those of the standard production model of the new Leica X camera. The camera features a professional APS-C-format CMOS sensor with 16.5 megapixels (effective 16.2 megapixels) with a Summilux 23 mm f/1.7 ASPH. lens, increasing creative freedom and guaranteeing exceptionally brilliant pictures.
 
It also offers a wide range of camera functions, an intuitively simple handling concept and the iconic, premium attributes of Leica product design. The Leica X provides everything an amateur or professional photographer needs for commercial, small business or family use.
 
About Moncler
 
Moncler was founded at Monestier-de-Clermont, Grenoble, France, in 1952 and is currently headquartered in Italy. Over the years the brand has combined style with constant technological research assisted by experts in activities linked to the world of the mountain. The Moncler outerwear collections marry the extreme demands of nature with those of city life. In 2003 Remo Ruffini took over the company, of which he is currently Chairman and CEO. Moncler manufactures and directly distributes the Moncler clothing and accessories collections Moncler Gamme Rouge, Moncler Gamme Bleu, Moncler Grenoble and Moncler Enfant through its boutiques and in exclusive international department stores and multi-brand outlets.
 
About Leica Camera
 
Leica represents a union of craftsmanship, design, and experience. It is a beautiful
collision of art and engineering and the future of form and functionality. Join Leica
Camera on its journey to celebrate 100 years of innovation with the LEICA X ‘Edition Moncler’. www.leica-camera.com

Aug 212014
 

Leica Camera AG, Wetzlar, presents a further model in the Leica rangefinder camera segment. Based on the otherwise identical Leica M, the Leica M-P offers all the technical advantages of the Leica M-System and several additional features, for example an enlarged buffer memory. The ‘P’ in the name of this camera indicates the particularly discreet and enduring design concept with which the Leica M-P joins the line of Leica M-Cameras conceived especially to fulfill the needs of professional photographers.

Leica M-P_silver_front

The buffer memory capacity of the Leica M-P has been increased to 2 GB – twice the size of that of the Leica M. This guarantees that the Leica M-P is immediately ready to shoot in almost all situations. This is a particular advantage when shooting pictures in rapid succession, as the image data needs to be buffered directly after the shutter is released, before writing to the SD memory card. This means that users can now react to events with even greater spontaneity to capture the decisive moment in almost every photographic situation.

In terms of design, the Leica M-P is based on the typical characteristics of the Leica rangefinder system and focuses in particular on robustness and a long product lifespan. The use of an extremely scratch-resistant sapphire crystal cover for its LCD monitor is one example of this. This material is so hard that it can only be worked with special diamond cutting tools and is one of the world’s hardest materials. In practical terms, the sapphire glass LCD cover is almost unbreakable and offers resistance to many kinds of wear and stresses, meaning that the camera is ideally equipped for many years of use. Thanks to an anti-reflective coating on both sides of the cover glass, image reviewing is now even better, even in difficult lighting conditions, and allows photographers to assess and check every subject with optimum precision both before and after exposure.

The unobtrusive and minimalistic look of the Leica M-P provides even greater discretion in decisive shooting situations. Many photographers who already use Leica M-Cameras actually tape over the red Leica logo to make their work as unobtrusive as possible. For precisely this reason, this identifying feature has been omitted from the new rangefinder camera. Instead, the top plate of the camera is engraved with a subtle Leica script.

Other new details of the camera include a frame selection lever with which bright-line frames for six different focal lengths can be projected into the viewfinder to simulate subject framing. The corresponding frames are shown in pairs for the focal lengths 28 and 90 mm, 35 and 135 mm or 50 and 75 mm. This avoids the need to change lenses to assess suitable subject framing, offers greater creative freedom and allows photographers to concentrate fully on composing their pictures.

The Leica M-P is available now from authorised Leica dealers in two different versions: a black-paint version and a traditional silver chrome version. The Leica M-P complements the Leica M. Both cameras will be marketed together.

Technical Data LEICA M-P

Name:                                               
LEICA M-P (Typ 240), black paint finish
LEICA M-P (Typ 240), silver chrome finish

Camera type:                                     
Compact digital view- and rangefinder system still and video camera

Lens mount:                                      
Leica M bayonet with additional sensor for 6-bit coding

Lens system:                                     
Leica M lenses, Leica R lenses with optional Leica R-Adapter M

Top Cover:                                         
Milled brass top cover with integrated thumb rest

Material:                                            
All-metal case made of die-cast magnesium; synthetic leather covering. Cap and base plate made of brass

Image Sensor:                                   
LEICA MAX 24 MP CMOS Sensor

Number of effective Pixels:               
24 Million Pixels

Sensitivity range:                              
ISO 200 – ISO 6400, Pull 100 available, Auto ISO

Imaging Platform:                               
Integrated imaging circuit with Leica Maestro® Image processor

Electronic Viewfinder:                        
Optional available, can be used for Live View and Play functionality

LCD Monitor:                                     
3” TFT Display with 920.000 Pixels, scratch resistant cover glass made of sapphire glass

Shutter:                                             
Dual type focal plane shutter for classic image exposure and Live view

Shutter Speed:                                  
1/4000s – 60s (in Bulb), 1/180s flash synchronization

Burst rate:                                         
3fps (until buffer of 2 GB is filled)

Self timer:                                          
2s / 12s

Storage Media:                                 
SD / SDHC / SDXC Memory Cards

Imaging functions

Image File Format:                             
DNG™ (RAW data uncompressed or lossless compressed), JPEG

File Size:                                            
DNG approx. 20 Mbyte – approx. 30 Mbyte (compressed)/ 48,2 MByte (uncompressed), JPEG: Resolution and image content dependent

Available JPG Resolutions:                                       
5952px*3976px (24 MP), 4256px*2832px (12 MP)/ 2976px*1984px (6MP) / 1600px*1080px (1,7MP)

Color Spaces:                                    
sRGB / Adobe®RGB

White Balance:                                  
Auto / Daylight / Cloudy / Shadow / Tungsten / Fluorescent warm /Fluorescent cool / Flash / Manual (Greycard) / Kelvin 2000-13100

Other functions:                                
Film Modes, Saturation, Contrast, Sharpening

Movie recording

Movie Recording:                               
Single frame video compression (Motion JPG), Quicktime format (mov)

Movie resolution:                               
1080p, 720p, 640*480 (VGA)

Movie sampling rate:                         
25 fps, 24 fps, 30 fps (VGA only)

Microphone:                                      
Mono, stereo microphone adapter optional available

Audio recording:                                
Auto level adjustment, manual level adjustment (available while recording), concert preset

Exposure Control

Exposure Metering:                           
In classic viewfinder mode: Through the Lens (TTL) metering, center weighted with variable aperture.
In Live View and advanced viewfinder mode: Through the Lens (TTL) metering, center weighted, spot or multifield measuring.
Center-weighted TTL metering for flash exposure with system conformant SCA-3000/2 standard flash units.

Exposure setting:                              
Manual shutter speed setting with direct dial, A-Mode with direct dial

Exposure Modes:                               
Automatic shutter speed (A-Mode), Manual Exposure (M-Mode)

Exposure Compensation:                                  
-3 EV to +3 EV, 1/3 f-stops
Exposure Bracketing:                        
3/5 frames, 0.5 / 1 / 2 / 3 f-stops

Flash exposure Control

Flash exposure metering:                  
Control with center-weighted TTL pre-flash metering (with SCA-3501/3502 adapter, or SCA-3000 standard flash unit such as Leica SF 24D/Leica SF 58).

Hot shoe:                                           
SCA-3502 compatible hot shoe, with center contact

Flash Synchronization:                      
Optional triggered at first or second shutter curtain

Flash Synch time:                              
1/180s

Viewfinder / Focusing

Focusing Methods:                            
Manual focus with optical rangefinder, Live View, 100% Live View Zoom, Live View focus peaking

Optical Viewfinder:                            
Large, light bright-line rangefinder with automatic parallax compensation, LED illuminated frame lines.

Optical Viewfinder frame lines:                                        
Framelines size matches image sensor size at 2m focusing distance. Image field selector for manual frame selection

Optical Viewfinder correction:           
Eyepiece adjusted to -0,5 dpt. Corrective lenses from -3 to +3 dpt. available (optional)

Optical Viewfinder Magnification:                                   
0,68x

Optical Viewfinder Displays:                                            
In the viewfinder LED symbol for flash status (at bottom). Four-digit seven-segment LED digital display, brightness adapted to ambient conditions, for: Warning in case of exposure correction; display of automatic shutter speed in automatic mode; advisory indicating use of metering memory lock LED exposure monitor with two triangular and one central circular LED with manual exposure setting

Rangefinder:                                      
Split or superimposed image range finder shown as a bright field in the center of the viewfinder image Rangefinder effective metering

Basis:                                                 
47.1 mm (mechanical metering basis 69.25 mm x viewfinder magnification 0.68 times)

Others

Power Supply:                                   
Li-ion battery (included), 7.4V, 1800 mAh

Horizon:                                             
Yes

User Profiles:                                     
4 Profiles, exportable

Sensor cleaning:                                
Dust detection, manual cleaning function

Tripod Thread:                                   
A 1/4 (1/4″) DIN made of stainless steel in base plate

Dimensions:                                       
approx. 139 x 42 x 80 mm (5,5 x 1,7 x 3,1 in.)

Weight:                                              
680 g (23.9 oz)

Operating Temperature:                    
0°C – 40°C

Menu languages:                                
English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Korean

Accessories Included:                         
Battery, Charger with power cables for EU and USA (different in some export markets), 12V charging cable, Carrying strap, Accessory port cover, Body cap

Software licenses Supplied:                                          
Adobe® Lightroom®

Optional accessories:                        
Electronic Viewfinder (EVF-2), Multi-functional Handgrip M, Handgrip M, SCA Adapter Set for Multi-functional Handgrip M, Power Adapter for Multi-functional Handgrip M, Finger loop for Multi-functional Handgrip M, Size S / M / L, Leica Microphone Adapter Set, Leica R-Adapter M, Ever-Ready Case M, Li-ion Battery BP-SCL2, Battery charger BC-SCL2

Oct 242013
 

Solms, Germany  (October 24, 2013) – Leica Camera AG, presents a new design twist on the Leica D-Lux 6 digital compact camera. With an existing version in elegant, matte-black, the camera is now available in a high-gloss, two-color finish. The new high-gloss black camera body paired with the silver-colored lens creates a tasteful contrast that results in a sophisticated, stylish appearance.

image001

The silver lens of the Leica D-Lux 6 is a Leica DC-Vario-Summilux lens. The varied range of focal lengths makes the camera particularly versatile, ideal for everything from wide-angle architectural and landscape photography to photojournalism and portraits. Combined with a powerful 1/1.7” CMOS image sensor, this camera guarantees a high dynamic range and brilliant images that capture life’s greatest moments. 

The Leica D-Lux 6 offers a comprehensive range of features, including automatic mode, manual setting options and optional accessories, like an electronic viewfinder with 1.4 million pixels, which provide even greater creative freedom in all areas of photography. Full HD video recording capability is also included in this newest version of the D-Lux 6. The camera records a perfect rendition of fast-moving subjects in outstanding detail. Video data can be saved in Internet-compatible MP4 format and can be uploaded directly to social media or mobile devices without any need for conversion. Crystal-clear sound recording is guaranteed by special wind-noise filter that reduces undesirable noise.

Both versions of the Leica D-Lux 6 are available from Leica dealers. A new addition to the range of accessories for the Leica D-Lux 6 is the Leica Soft Pouch in lambskin nappa leather: black, stylish and with a fascinating wrap-around design, this leather case is a perfect complement to any outfit.

About Leica Camera

Leica represents a union of craftsmanship, technology and experience. It is at once an extension of art, knowledge and philosophy, providing a state-of-the-art optical experience in a precision, hand-made photographic instrument. Leica Camera has a simple mission: to provide users with an incomparable experience, an instrument that defines an unsurpassed heritage and sets a standard of excellence for the industry to meet.

Oct 162013
 

WHAT:                  

For the first time ever, Leica is launching the “Leica X Vario City Challenge,” a coast to coast Leica Camera photo competition with a twist! Leica fans in four cities— New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles and Miami—can compete for the chance to win a Leica X Vario among many other valuable prizes. 30 lucky participants in each city will be invited to shoot with a Leica X Vario for 4 hours during the City Challenge. Sign up quickly, be creative, select your favorite image, and submit it to the competition.

 

WHERE & WHEN:       

New York City : October 25 (12 Noon to 4 PM EST)

Washington DC : November 8 (12 Noon to 4 PM EST)

Los Angeles : November 15 (12 Noon to 4 PM PST)

Miami : December 6 (12 Noon to 4 PM EST)

 

HOW IT WORKS:    

To sign up, email rsvp@leicacamerausa.com and specify which city you will be participating in for the Leica X Vario City Challenge. Spots are granted on a first come, first serve basis. Participants will have until 11:59 PM on the Sunday of their City Challenge to submit their photo of choice. Albums will then be uploaded on the Facebook pages of each city’s participating Leica store and fans will be able to vote publicly for their favorite images. The photo with the most “likes” after one week is the “Leica X Vario Challenge City Winner” and will be entered into the national pool, where a panel of 5 acclaimed judges will choose the winning photograph.  For more details on the contest, please visit http://bit.ly/XVarioCityChallenge.

 

PRIZES:         

The Grand Prize Winner for the Leica X Vario City Challenge receives a Leica X Vario camera (valued at $2,850), a private reception for friends and family at their local Leica store, a digital photo exhibit at their local Leica store, and a special guest series on the Leica blog in 2014.

Second, Third, and Fourth National runners up receive other Leica cameras as their prize. City Winners and runners up receive other fun Leica prizes.