After Leica first entered the video market last year, the Leica SL is their second attempt at a 4K camera that is aimed at filmmakers. But is this camera ready for primetime filmmaking? Just like many other cinema cameras currently on the market we have assessed its qualities in our test lab and in this part 2 of our Leica SL review we will show you how it performed. The Leica SL raised our hopes when it was introduced last October. A camera with Leica’s reputation in photography, that shoots 4K and outputs 10-bit 4:2:2 video with slow motion in HD at up to 120 frames per second. Nice. The 10 bit option is just what we’re missing on other mirrorless cameras currently available. It seems only the price of the Leica SL sours the mood. In this lab test we found some reasons for concern on the Leica SL, but there are also good things to say. The organic image quality of this camera stands out, while lowlight performance and dynamic range could be improved. Check out our real world Leica SL Review Part 1 HERE For this test we used the latest available firmware (V1.2) and the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm F/2.8-4.0 lens. Note: We were not able to use the Zeiss 50mm CP2 T/2.1 makro lens, which we have used to test the other cameras mentioned in this article. At the time of the review there was no compatible adapter available by Leica. Due to the nature of this particular test, the influence on the verdicts of this variation is minor, but must be noted. Dynamic Range Let’s start with dynamic range. A very important attribute of a camera sensor that is often overlooked and hard to measure. More often than not we find that this is where many camera sensors fail to amaze. The Leica SL is no exception. We’re testing with a DSC labs XYLA-21 transmissive test chart (More on how we test HERE). In the chart above you can see the performance of the different cameras. The Leica only reaches a bit more than 9 usable stops of dynamic range between ISO 50 and ISO 400, while ISO 400 is slightly lower than 9 stops. (Avoid ISO 200 if possible, slight sensor pattern) The way the camera processes the image is very very strange. The log file here looks unlike anything we’ve seen and it is necessary to overexpose in order to get your image in a “safe place”, as from a certain point in your mid-tones noise appears with sensor patterns and then the image very quickly drops into pitch black. A very unnatural looking log gamma. In practice this means it’s very hard to expose correctly with this camera. When your scene has too much contrast you will very easily over or underexpose and if you make a mistake your shots can easily be ruined. We even had troubles to expose a normal test chart. Leica needs to address the way the image is processed. Something seems wrong here. ISO and Noise As mentioned above there is a lot of noise in the dark areas on recordings from this camera. This wouldn’t be so bad was the dynamic range not so limited, as this means your dark areas start where the mid tones start on other cameras. ISO 400 is as high as you should go on this camera at any time. The reason for this is that starting with ISO 800 a very strange looking noise reduction kicks in that cannot be disabled. You will not want this kind of noise reduction in your shots as it ruins any detail in mid tones and dark areas. This also needs to be addressed by Leica. Leica SL – Automatic Noise Reduction at ISO 800 External 10 bit? According to the press release in Ultra-HD (3840×2160) resolution the camera outputs 10bit 4:2:2 via HDMI. Indeed we could record an image at this size to the Atomos Shogun. The upside here is that before rec is triggered (when the camera is on standby) the automatic noise reduction, mentioned above, does not kick in yet, so you get images above ISO 400 without the horrible noise reduction. The dynamic range did not increase on external recordings. Also we did not notice a significant increase in video quality on the external HDMI feed vs. the internal 100mbit H.264 8bit recording. We were not able to test wether there is a true increase in bitrate. There are some hardly noticeable compression artefacts on the internal recording, but the video looks identical, also during heavy grading. Image Quality Yes, there’s also something positive to say. At the right ISO speeds and contrast, image quality of the Leica SL is superb. The noise looks very organic, the compression is significantly better than on the Sony a7S II and the true 4K (24fps only) image looks stunning and clean. 400% crop: Horizontal Resolution / Detail (Red Line is where resolution tops out) The chart above is a comparison of horizontal resolution. The Leica SL was shot at 4K, all other cameras at UHD resolution. When we see this image at its original size we notice the following: The Leica SL produces the most natural looking and clean image, no aliasing is visible, very natural looking noise. The Sony FS7 has more detail and less noise, but also produces some unnatural aliasing. The Leica SL is on par in terms of detail / resolution with the Samsung NX1 and Sony a7S II. The Sony a7S II image looks least clean (lots of compression artefacts and some aliasing) You should know, that this is really pixel peeping here with a 400% crop. You will not notice a resolution difference when played back at 1080p. But one thing is for sure: The clean image of the Leica SL stands out and reminds us of how the Arri AMIRA captures light (see image below, 300% crop, contrast slightly matched), but the colours seem less accurate (notice the red). Rolling Shutter Rolling shutter behaviour on the Leica SL is about 22ms which is very similar to most other mirrorless and DSLR cameras, a bit better than the Sony a7S II, but significantly worse than the Sony FS7 for example. Conclusion This camera is very interesting. Personally I was at first very put off by the limited dynamic range and weird automatic noise reduction starting at ISO 800. But the organic, clean images the camera can produce in the right shooting environment and the well compressed video files are something to note and will have a significant impact on the look of your films. When Johnnie shot his nice Leica SL Review Video I could see him struggle to get the camera working with the dynamic range and ISO limitations, but I could also see his positive surprise when he saw how nice the footage had turned out. We all thought that there was clearly a more neutral and organic feel to it than on a Sony a7S II for example. This lab test confirms those observations. There are many things speaking against this camera. Not only the limited dynamic range and bad lowlight performance, but also the high price and closed off Leica eco system are a problem. Once proper adapters for a wide range of lenses become available and if the price goes down, this camera could become a serious alternative to some other large sensor video systems, especially on shoots with controlled lighting. We’re looking forward to the next Leica and possible firmware updates. Thank you LEICA STORE WIEN for supplying the camera and lens.Read more
For years the name “Leica” has been associated with high quality expensive photography equipment, and the new Leica SL (Typ 601) camera is no different. Actually, with this camera, Leica tries to prove that “the mirrorless full-frame camera is the technology of the future”. I will let others to check how good or not this Leica SL (Typ 601) performs as a stills camera but for us here at cinema5D it was important to test and review Leica’s new flagship (even with a small project), as the respected manufacturer claims “it fulfills even the most stringent demands of moviemakers as a fully fledged video camera” in its official publications. Check out our lab test Leica SL Review Part 2 HERE Let me start by writing that this is the most confusing camera I ever tested up to date. The video images that comes out of this camera can be AMAZING yet the camera itself and how Leica treated the video side of it, can leave one with much to be desired. We had the camera for two days only (One for filming this review and the other for running it through our LAB test). I truly hope that some of the obstacles we found can either be fixed with a firmware update or at list grab Leica’s attention and respond to some of the issues we found. It is important to note that the reviewed camera had the latest firmware installed (V1.2) and the lens used was the new Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH. Please allow me to start gently by saying that not surprisingly, the Leica SL (Typ 601) is build like a tank. It consists of two blocks of solid aluminum, it is weather-resistant, heavy and nice to hold in the hands. The style of design is very clean and minimalistic. It takes a bit of time to get used to the menu structure and to my personal taste it is not very intuitive, yet, navigating between the different possibilities is better then what other respected manufacturers are currently offering with their camera menu. Leica SL-Clean design One domain that the camera preformed well in (in combination with the newly developed 24-90mm zoom lens) was its autofocus system (in manual mode). You can either touch the LCD screen at any desired point or alternatively, use the little joystick to navigate with your thumb to the place you want your focus to be, press on it and voilà, spot on. The Achilles heel of this system is the absence of continuous autofocus and a much less accurate autofocus when light conditions are not ideal. It is also worth pointing out that when using manual focus this lens has a servo focus and not a direct one, so it can be hard to nail focus accurately. Those obstacles (among others) are bringing me to the conclusion that this camera is NOT for the run&gun documentary shooter, but rather better suited for controlled film sets. Leica SL-Favorites menu Continuing stating with what I liked about this camera, I cannot skip the formidable EVF. Just when I thought that my eyes are getting old and “out of focus” becomes my second name, here comes a manufacturer that understand how important it is to include a high quality EVF device in a high resolution camera. I can’t remember myself magnifying the image even once during my shooting day in order to judge focus. The combination of an accurate focus system, a great lens and an excellent EVF made my life very easy. Well done Leica! It is also worth mentioning that I had no overheating issues during my shooting day and 90% of the video you see above was shot handheld. The optical stabilisation system implemented in the 24-90mm lens was working very well. (At times, too well…You have to turn it off when on a tripod while attempting to pan as the lens will heavily compensate on the movement.) And what about the “ugly side” of the camera you may ask? Well, for best results you should not attempt to shoot above 400 ISO. You can get away with 800 ISO but anything above that value will prove to be in a very painful experience. It looks like as if the camera has some kind of noise reduction constantly turned on and this will become very evident above 800 ISO. Anything which is a bit underexposed will become muddy. On a side note, I’m not sure if you remember how it was with the old Sony mirrorless cameras (NEX5 for example), when the LCD live view showed one thing and when pressing the REC button it immediately turned into something else. This is exactly the case with this camera. Turn the ISO north of 1600 and the picture in the EVF will become noisy. Press the REC button and the picture will “magically” turn into lake of mud. By the way, this phenomenon is happening no matter if you record 4K internally (8 bit), or 10 bit externally. The picture below is taken straight from the time line is showing best what I’m trying to describe. See how the dog’s front head lost its details completely – click on it to see the full resolution. Leica SL- High ISO mud It also felt like the dynamic range (DR) of this camera is somehow limited especially when filming with Leica’s strange L-LOG gamma turned on. I was constantly trying not to overexpose my picture and on the other hand, there is no real way to avoid noise in anything which is even a tiny bit underexposed. It feels like the tolerance offered by this camera needs to be improved. Leica SL- L LOG vs Graded picture Last but not list, for whatever reason, Leica decided NOT to include a mic and headphone jack build into the camera body but rather sell an dedicated external audio device which will connect to the camera via a proprietary connector (not XLR or mini jack, not available yet – but it will most likely look similar to this, which was made for another Leica camera). Here is a summery of the strengths and weaknesses of the Leica SL (Typ 601) in no particular order (make sure to download the 4K file by clicking “Original” from here: https://vimeo.com/149700017) Strengths: A variety of resolution and frame rates. DCI 4K is the highest resolution possible, but in 24p only (No 25p). Recording is made in H.264 format wrapped in MOV or MP4 container (identical in quality). Data rate: 100Mbps. Excellent 1080/120fps Rugged camera body Excellent EVF and good touch screen LCD screen. Very good autofocus system (no continuous autofocus). Exceptionally detailed video picture No overheating “World camera” – switchable from PAL to NTSC Full HD recording is done in full frame 10 bit 4:2:2 external recording via 1.4 HDMI Large HDMI camera conector Zebra, histogram, peaking LOG picture profile Leica M and R adapters are currently available Battery life is exceptional! Weaknesses: NR (noise reduction) is constantly working and very noticeable above 1600 ISO Anything recorded above ISO 800 becomes very noisy and not usable. No continuous autofocus. No build-in microphone and headphone jacks. A separate adapter must be purchased. Camera alone will set you back by $7,500. Video can be recorded only on a single SD slot. 29:59 min recording limit. Dynamic Range is limited (stay tune to our lab test review coming soon). 8 bit internal recording. 4K recording is in Super 35 format (which is not a weakness for those who prefers that mode over full frame). Zebra values should be displayed in industry standard method (% marked). L-LOG picture profile is not “locked” you can amend Sharpness, Saturation and Contrast. No articulated LCD screen Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH remarks: This is Leica’s first new lens out of 3 to be brought to the market. (The other two will be 90-280mm and 50mm). Personally I prefer constant aperture when working with a zoom lens but can understand Leica’s decision to try and keep this lens in an acceptable size by “compromising” on the availability of constant aperture. My other concern is the servo motor which is driving the lens focus ring. When attempting to focus in a traditional manual way, the response of the focus ring is not direct, making it very hard to achieve accurate focus (as a result it will also not work with a follow focus system for example). On the plus side, it’s truly amazing how sharp this lens is, throughout the whole range of its focal length, and catch me if you can by spotting any “breathing” when focusing. Conclusion: The Leica SL (Typ 601) does not come cheap. You will have to say “goodbye” to more then $12,000 in order to enjoy the combination of this camera and zoom lens. Can it fulfill even the most stringent demands of moviemakers as a fully fledged video camera?, well, it depends on how far and how fast Leica can and will address some if not all the issues related to the image quality. In some ways, this camera is everything that the Canon 1DC was not (as Canon never improved the camera since its introduction). Will it keep its value (unlike the Canon 1DC)? It is truly hard to say, but one thing is for sure, Leica is on a road for a new beginning when it comes to video imaging. It is a traditionally structured company but If they will listen to customers’ feedback and continue improving their products for video shooters, I’m sure some will show love to the new Leica SL camera. As requested by some, here is the link to the ungraded version for you to download. Make sure you are downloading the 4K version marked as “original”. Camera settings for this video: DCI 4K/24p, mostly shot in 400 ISo, L-LOG picture profile (all parameters set on “LOW”). Audio was recorded separately on an external recorder. LUT designed and contributed by my colleague and friend Sebastian Wöber. For the list of equipment used in this video, please see below. Music is a courtesy of the music bed. Tracks: Winter by Ashley Arrison and Where Christmas is Found by Aprilemade Thank you: Romana and her family for helping creating this video in such a short notice. Highly appreciated! LEICA STORE WIEN for supplying the camera and lens. Most important, a happy holiday season for all of us. May 2016 only bring positive news! Oh, and for those who would like to try and bake the cake at home: (cinema5D can not take any responsibility for the end result…:) ) 3 eggs 250 grams sugar 1 sachet of vanilla sugar or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract 150ml oil 150ml milk 200 grams fine flour 1 sachet of baking powder 150ml liquid or melted chocolate Mix well and bake in the oven at 150-160 degrees for 1H and 15 min. Johnnie Behiri is a freelance documentary cameraman/editor/producer working mostly for the BBC and other respected broadcasters. He is also co-owner of cinema5d.com.Read more
Newsshooter has reported a series of image tests on the soon to be released Leica SL. Accredited Camera Technician and Hollywood first AC Tim Arasheban conducted the shoot at Panavision with a pre-production Leica SL. Check out the video here. Mmmm, lens charts look pretty on the web, don’t they? Said no one. Download the original file from Vimeo for a better viewing, but be mindful that this is still a compressed export of the test. It indeed looks good from initial impressions, perhaps the remarks of someone with Tim Arasheban’s experience is more of a takeaway, here they are in a nutshell: Arri Alexa reminiscent tonal range, subtle and clean skin tones out of the box. Comparing to the C500 (recently used on a project) an estimated stop less in the shadows, and 1 to 1.5 less in the highlights. Softer than the Sony A7s but smoother tonal range, 10 bit output ‘above and beyond’ Sonys 8 bit colour. Very low rolling shutter in S35 mode, similar to 5D in full frame. Noise level similar to Sony A7S at ISO 3200. The 4.4 million pixel EyeRes viewfinder was also high in appraisal, billed as one of the best he’d seen on a camera system. The larger sized HDMI port got kudos too. The setup for these tests were the Leica SL body, shooting to L-Log (pre-production) 4K in S35 mode. ISO 800, shutter 1/50th at 24p. Recording was via the output to a Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q in 4:2:2 10bit. Latter being the key, the camera records 8 bit in-camera, 10bit unlocked via the output. Carrying such a heavy price tag you’d expect (even demand) that the Leica SL have a very impressive build quality. And this is so; it’s look like this thing will take some abuse. At this point it’s hard to see exactly where this will sit in the market. A price tag of over $7000 for the spec sheet is perhaps one only Leica could get away with. Reports like this are great in suggesting this is more than a nicely spec’d premium camera; that it may add value to productions that other systems can’t. Here’s the spec list for the Leica SL (Typ 601) Lens Mount: Leica L Sensor: 24MP Full-Frame Sensor Type / Size CMOS, 24 x 36 mm Movies: MOV, MP4 Memory Card Type: Dual SDXC/SDHC/SD Resolutions & Framerates: 4096×2160: 24 fps, 3840×2160: 30 fps, 25 fps, 1920×1080 & 1280X720: 24 fps, 25 fps, 30 fps, 50 fps, 60 fps, 100, 120 fps Video Clip Length: Up to 29 Minutes Audio Recording Built-in Mic: With Video, Stereo Optional External Mic: With Video, Stereo + Mono Focus Mode: Continuous-servo AF (C), Manual Focus (M), Single-servo AF (S), Touch AF & Shutter Viewfinder Type: Electronic 4.4M pixel 0.66″ Screen Type: 2.95″ Touchscreen LED (1,040,000) ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 50-50000 Shutter Speed: 1/8000 – 60 second Interval Recording Yes Connectivity” 1/8″ Headphone, 1/8″ Microphone, HDMI A (Full Size), USB 3.0, X-Sync Socket Wi-Fi Capable Yes Battery: 1x BP-SCL4 Lithium-ion Battery Pack, 8.4 VDC, 1860 mAh Dimensions: (WxHxD) 5.8 x 4.1 x 1.5″ / 147.0 x 104.0 x 39.0 mm Weight: 1.86 lb / 847 g with battery Via NewsshooterRead more
Leica has been attempting the break in the Internet today with the announcement of its new mirrorless camera. The Leica SL (Typ 601) shoots 4K video in V log gamma, outputs 10bit 4:2:2, is weather sealed and shoots up to 120fps FullHD video. The Leica SL (Typ 601) is a premium mirrorless camera; a feature rich, weather sealed body that comes with a hefty price tag of just under $7500. It seems the video side of the camera is getting an equal amount of marketing compared to the stills side, interesting for a camera in this sector. Lets take a look at those features designed for moving images. Both flavours of 4K are included. DCI 4K (4096X2160) and Ultra HD (3840X2160), you’ll get up to 30p here. 1920X1080 will get you up to 120fps, a new standard set by the Sony A7S II that I hope many will start using as a benchmark. The Leica SL records 8 bit 4:2:0 internally to dual SD cards (nice) that you can tandem or continuous record, it also outputs an impressive 10bit 4:2:2 via HDMI out. V-log l gamma is supported for log recording. Audio input is supported by a 3.5mm jack that along with a 3.5mm output for headphones is accessible via the AA-SCL4 Audio Adapter. The sensor is a full frame 24 Megapixel sensor and it looks as if 4K will utilize a super35mm portion of the imager. ISO range is 50-50,000, it features a 2.95″ LED touchscreen and a 4.4MP EyeRes Electronic Viewfinder. At over twice the price of the Sony A7S II, the Leica enters a new class of its own. You get the build quality you expect for the price; an all aluminium weather sealed body. Video assist features like peaking and zebras are mentioned as well as aspect ratio overlays. The Leica SL (Typ 601) has a Leica L Mount, there’s a handful of variable aperture zooms already available with a punchy Leica price tag. Check out the below promo video, towards the end it demonstrates lens expansion through lens adaptors for Leica M,S and R as well as what looks like a PL mount in there. Here’s a video bias specific list of the Leica SL (Typ 601) Lens Mount: Leica L Sensor: 24MP Full-Frame Sensor Type / Size CMOS, 24 x 36 mm Movies: MOV, MP4 Memory Card Type: Dual SDXC/SDHC/SD Resolutions & Framerates: 4096×2160: 24 fps, 3840×2160: 30 fps, 25 fps, 1920×1080 & 1280X720: 24 fps, 25 fps, 30 fps, 50 fps, 60 fps, 100, 120 fps Video Clip Length: Up to 29 Minutes Audio Recording Built-in Mic: With Video, Stereo Optional External Mic: With Video, Stereo + Mono Focus Mode: Continuous-servo AF (C), Manual Focus (M), Single-servo AF (S), Touch AF & Shutter Viewfinder Type: Electronic 4.4M pixel 0.66″ Screen Type: 2.95″ Touchscreen LED (1,040,000) ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 50-50000 Shutter Speed: 1/8000 – 60 second Interval Recording Yes Connectivity” 1/8″ Headphone, 1/8″ Microphone, HDMI A (Full Size), USB 3.0, X-Sync Socket Wi-Fi Capable Yes Battery: 1x BP-SCL4 Lithium-ion Battery Pack, 8.4 VDC, 1860 mAh Dimensions: (WxHxD) 5.8 x 4.1 x 1.5″ / 147.0 x 104.0 x 39.0 mm Weight: 1.86 lb / 847 g with battery It’s likely that this is not going to be an industry workhorse, more of a premium owners camera, but we’ll see. I’m hoping it is a sign of what’s to come in that every type of new stills camera (cheap point & shoot or premium mirrorless camera) will support credible video features, it’s just a case of the user picking their favourite format. Pre-Order the Leica SL (Typ 601) below if it tickles your fancy.Read more
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