Early last fall, I purchased the above Leica SL from fotopia. Gilbert, Fotopia's mano on toppo, took careful enough charge of my order that I'll be back when he has a free Leica M10, Elmarit 28 ASPH II, and a spare Novoflex ASTAT-CN collar. Many thanks, fotopia.
Event photography is secondary to stills and commercial work. As such, I've invested little time and effort into selecting a perfect setup. Until last fall, I used a Leica M (Typ 240) with a backup, and two lenses, a 28 Elmarit ASPH, and a Tele-Elmarit (thin) 90mm along with whatever high-powered Canon or Nikon flash I had on hand.
Today, the M is my backup to the SL, in lieu of a pair of light primes is the large, autofocus monstrosity pictured above. 24mm to 90mm is the perfect range for embassy events and economic conferences.
ohmage: design, haptics, operation, software
God, does the SL feel good in the hand. I can balance the entire camera, and any lens, adapted or not from a single hooked finger on the grip. The SL's stretchy strap keeps the weight off the shoulders. The battery, which can only be inserted one way, and the ON/OFF switch, whose positions for both [up for ON, down for OFF] follow everyday logic, stand against the hasty designs seen in the competition.
All frequently used camera settings are easily, and quickly accessed via long presses of the four back buttons, and/or by rotating the control dials. For me, those settings are: ISO, WB, aperture, shutter speed, and focus modes. Quickly tapping the same buttons cycles through a cleverly ordered menu.
Despite obvious Leicaflex SL2 trappings, the SL is strictly and unapologetically digital. But it is digital design distilled to its simplest, to the most useful. You can navigate almost any on-screen option with your finger, or in any combination of it, the focus nipple, and the rear exposure dial. Nothing is limited by stubborn, nostalgic appeals to the past.
My only complaint is the AF-ON nipple, which is too perky. It bears the right navigational and focus controls and is perfectly located. But accidentally nudging it whilst long-pressing for tracking, or on-the-fly focus adjustment, is a bit too easy. It is my opinion that a flat top would be better. It should protrude about 2mm less,, and depress farther to activate. In light of the SL's many design wins, this is a minor quibble.
A cleaner, starker, more bauhaus autofocus digital camera does not exist. The SL's clean lines are deceptive. Pros and enthusiasts used to Nikon, Canon, and Fujifilm, might wonder how you can get anything done on the SL without major menu diving, and why there aren't 30 buttons. You can, and the SL proves you don't need 30 buttons to get the job done.
Nearly every commonly used function, from metering to exposure and on, is immediately available fromo a single button press. Because there are so few buttons anywhere, it is extremely hard to accidentally change a setting. Contrast this with the Sony A7r whose easy-set buttons litter the back and top, practically begging for accidental operation. Then there are Fujifilm's anachronistic X camera series, whose main draws are appeals to nostalgia. But four years on, it is still impossible to use the exposure speed dial to select every shutter speed. For both third-stops and electronic shutter speeds, you must use break from the shutter speed wheel and access a dSLR-like unlabelled exposure dial. The X100T only just fixed a similar problem with aperture settings.
Like Leica's M cameras, the SL creates DNG RAW files,
Leica thought and thought this camera out.
I purchased the SL with the hope of keeping up with my daughter. When she was eight months old, it could. But she is now a blazing crawler and the SL simply can't keep up unless she isn't on the prowl.
The SL's single-point AF-S is as quick, accurate, and repeatable. It is on par with a high-end non-sports dSLR from 2012. It is as fast as any mirrorless camera I have used. But the SL can't track for a damn. Which, owing to it looking the part, is a bloody shame.
Meanwhile, the Fujifilm X-T2 tracks along a moving z-axis almost as well as a D800.
Ineffectual AF-C tracking along the z-axis shame the SL's well-designed AF-ON nipple and its solid shutter button whose positions of off, half-press, and full press, are obvious. If the scene goes dark, or crowds a bit, SL's autofocus defaults to wobbly toddles to and from anything and everything. It is a pitiful, and meaningful reminder that CDAF, as good as it can be for single-focus, is outclassed by PDAF sensors.
This needs to change.
Despite boasting one of, if not the most advanced EVF out there, the SL's EVF is a disappointment. It reminds me of why I like OVFs, which rely on your brain to make sense of changing light, contrast ratios, and distance markers. EVFs fail precisely because they cannot reliably imitate the eye/brain relationship. They auto-gain from dark to light, stutter in low light, amp signals, delay updates, and constantly shift WB and exposure. None of it is natural. All of it erects an interpretive wall between the photographer and what his or her eyes naturally see.
I understand the benefits of WYSIWYG displays. I get that this is where the market is going.
Unfortunately, that market can't yet address frame rate induced vertigo. And because EVFs and the processors behind them are slaved to processors, sensors, and myriad other technological hard stops, they never will. In order to appreciate an EVF, you must first divorce yourself from the natural view of the world.
That said, the SL's is the best EVF I've used. It isn't as clear or as bright as an OVF. Nor is it as immediately useful for the quick-latch catch focusing of manual lenses. And while its small pixels only minimally impact image clarity, what you see isn't anywhere as clear, contrasty, or vivid as what your eye sees through the same lens. But it is far clearer than what I've used in any of the competition.
In 2016, my SL almost paid for itself. I expect the same this year. Despite getting so much right, I won't purchase a second SL. Mirrorless is great - to a point. The SL is designed. It is not mish-mashed together and ordered under appeals to technology or appeals to the past. It is easy to use, wonderful to handle, and solid. It is part of a slowly-growing whose long-reaching zooms, robust bodies, and utility-oriented design make it easy for the photographer to work in his or her own way.
Its EVF is good, but not great, and its tracking and continuous autofocus systems need serious work. The latter is behind some of the mirrorless competition by about a year. But in general, the SL feels and works great.
ohm image: Fujifilm X-T2 & 18-55 z-axis tracking — ohm image
ohm image: porridge to the Sony a7r
ohm image: Fujifilm Australia: Are You Carrying Excess Camera Baggage?
ohm image: dSLR to mirrorless to SLR - one Man's Fujifilm conversion
ohm image: Panasonic GH4 meets Fujinon Digipower XA55
ohm image: Just how good are Fuji x @iso6400?
ohm image: ONE TENTH OF A SECOND
ohm image: X-T1 firmware 4.00 brings zone/wide focus tracking
ohm image: The Sony A7ii taught me to respect the Fujifilm X100s