A weekend with 007: thoughts on the Leica S.

 Leica S product shot from Leica.

Leica S product shot from Leica.

 

My friends at Leica recently asked me if I was interested in taking the latest Medium Format S (type 007) out for a test drive and I am always up for experimenting with new gear so I jumped at the chance. The loaner body was paired with a SUMMICRON-S 100 mm f/2 ASPH which for my purposes is a really amazing lens. I am pretty biased about the shooting experience with Leica, but I am pretty locked into the M's and the SL which is my primary portrait camera.

I have owned a lot of other cameras, I started shooting with Nikon's and just aspired to cameras like Leica and Hasselblad. Anyone who has worked with me, also knows that any given shoot I am likely to bring out my Hasselblad 500c or my Mamiya 645 pro to leverage the larger surface area of the medium format.

WHY?

The detail is amazing with medium format cameras so the chance to shoot Leica's take on the format was both exciting and nerve-racking (Due to the value of the camera). This review won't get in to the technical aspects of the camera, because I don't argue on the internet and in the right hands any camera is just a tool that any artist can use to make their work happen. I use the camera's I use because they inspire me to get out and shoot.

 A family portrait. 

A family portrait. 

Let's get the BS out of the way for the nerds out there. The Basic Specs:

  • 37.5MP Leica ProFormat (30 x 45mm) CMOS sensor
  • ISO 100-12500
  • Leica S mount (There are adapters for other lens systems)
  • 3.5 fps continuous shooting, with a 35 frame buffer
  • Records DNG format raw (16 bits per color channel)
  • 3” 921,600 dot LCD
  • Cine 4K video recording and Full HD video using full sensor width
  • Weatherproof design 

 

 Leica S rearview

Leica S rearview

If you want some technical reviews: 

  • https://luminous-landscape.com/leica-s007-first-impressions-review/
  • https://www.dpreview.com/articles/2149185801/leica-claims-fastest-in-the-world-for-its-new-cmos-s-type-007 
  • Thorston Overgaard did a great review of the 006 and updated it with details for the 007. http://www.overgaard.dk/leica_S2_dSLR.html

A real heavyweight. 

When I first bought the Leica SL, one of my big concerns was how heavy it was even without a lens. At 1.85 lbs it felt like a lot, but the S makes the SL feel light. Without the lens it is just under 3 lbs. I love to use wrist straps vs neck straps for photoshoots and putting this camera around your neck is asking for a visit to a doctor, but the ergonomics really make up for the weight.

During my fist shoot with it my self and the models I was working with walked around a two mile area in Downtown Seattle and never really got fatigued from its size. In fact, the Camera feels like an extension of your hands as you use it. The shape is both familiar and unique. Drawing a bit from the R8 ergonomics that were so weird but were also revolutionary in many ways.

The Work

I move fast when I shoot. I started out with photography shooting in the street and you have to be quick, I learned to be fast with manual cameras and I try not to over think things or fiddle to much with camera options. I am always amazed when I read a review of a camera and the complaint is not enough options. At the end of the day, the essence of photography hasn't really changed what matters is the holy trinity of Aperture/ISO/Shutter speed. However, everyone has a workflow myself included and while I eventually figured everything out and mapped my macros for managing my settings to the buttons on the back.

I thought it would be more intuitive since the SL back and menus are very similar. I wish that the for the pro class cameras the firmware and interfaces were less unique and more consistent. Less in the menus is definitely more.  I am so fast at changes in the SL because I map all the functions I need and everything is within a thumb click. I

Shooting 

Shooting this camera is a joy, I was smiling a ton when I got down to working with it. The screen on the back is not the biggest but it is bright and quick checks of the photo's brought me instant smiles and even my models could not stop talking about how badass the RAW images unedited looked. The level of detail is really amazing. One thing that I did find was that the autofocus really struggled to get it right when I was shooting wide open.  My models where both really good at moving around in the spaces we were at and sometimes the natural movement shots the focus could not keep up. I realized later I should have probably not shot so wide open. In fact I recommend not trying to push this lens on this camera wide open unless your scenario really calls for it. 

Truly great natural color.

This camera will force you to do somethings differently from how you shoot with other cameras but the learning curve is really small and I can't get over how much fun it was to use. I really had a hard time to bringing it back. You get to use your imagination in a different way and editing the photos you have a lot more detail to work with. While not an immediate focus, this camera is for sure on my list of wants. 

 Landscapes really are amazing with this camera.

Landscapes really are amazing with this camera.

If you are a professional photographer and you want to have a medium format, right now there is probably not a better shooting experience that isn't film. Thanks again to Leica for the chance to try this out.