Monday, September 21

Leica SL2: images of the semi-lockdown and watch macros

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We spent some time with the Leica SL2 and four lenses, as discussed in our Chillout-TGIFriday last week. Today, we share some images of the Singapore semi-lockdown and our usual watch macros.

The Leica SL2 and lenses

The system that was loaned to me, courtesy of Leica Singapore comprised of the Leica SL2 body, with three lenses – the Leica Apo-Summicron SL 90 f/2 ASPH, the Leica Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16–35 f/3.5–4.5 ASPH and the Leica APO-Macro-Elmarit-TL 60 mm f/2.8 ASPH. I also had the Sigma Art 70mm 1:2.8 DG Macro and the Sigma Art 24-70 f/28 DG DN at my disposal.

Leica Apo-Summicron SL 90 f/2 ASPH, the Leica Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16–35 f/3.5–4.5 ASPH and the Leica APO-Macro-Elmarit-TL 60 mm f/2.8 ASPH. The TL60 is shown in silver finish, and is also available in a black finish to match the other two lenses.

Both the SL90 and SL16-35 were used extensively, while I did not use the TL60 as I had access to the Sigma Art 70. This is because the TL60 crops the sensor to APS-C, yielding a 20Mpix image, instead of the full frame of 47Mpix.

Sigma Art 70mm 1:2.8 DG Macro

Dynamic Range

The SL2 demonstrated excellent dynamic range. Leica claims 14 stops of dynamic range, which is comparable to the dynamic range of the smaller medium format sensors like the Fujifilm GFX 50, or the Hasselblad X1D. I have no way to measure the dynamic range, but the following photograph is indicative.

The photograph is taken at the swimming pool at a very bright day. This file was grossly under-exposed as shot, and the image below is recovered through Adobe Camera Raw (ACR).

The SL2 was set in Aperture Priority mode, metering for the highlights. If I blow the highlights, no detail is captured in the over-exposed areas, and the file cannot be recovered. But here, the 1/5000s shutter speed meant that the shadow areas are very dark. However, because detail and colour fidelity is captured, this can be recovered in ACR.

Leica SL2 with 90mm f/2.5, 1/5000s at ISO100. Shadow detail restored in ACR.

Zooming in on the girl in the photograph, we see that details are well recovered, and colour is well preserved.

Multi-shot High Resolution Mode

The SL2 provides a High Resolution Mode, where it uses a pixel shifting technology to capture an image which is 187Mpix. This a massive increase in pixel density. There is currently no sensor which captures a 187Mpix image natively, the nearest being the Phase One XF IQ4 150, which has a resolution of 150Mpix. The SL2 does by using the stabilization to move the sensor eight times, shifting it by half a pixel each time, and combining the 8 images into one raw file in-camera.

The Multi-Shot Mode on the SL2.

The advantage pixel shifting technology provides is that it does not require the lenses to be able to resolve the 187Mpix. The Leica lenses are said to resolve up to 100Mpix, not sufficient for 187Mpix, but by using pixel shifting, the lenses are not required to perform better than to resolve 47Mpix, which is way below their limit. The disadvantage is that this high resolution image can only be captured by using the SL2’s electronic shutter, which means that it cannot be used for flash photography, ruling out studio work. The use in landscape is perhaps the best use case indication, but it too presents problems if the subject moves, like leaves, people in the scene.

Pixel shifting sidebar: The technology is not new. Hasselblad introduced it in the H4D-200MS in 2009. Instead of using the IBIS to move the sensor, Hasselblad used a precision piezo actuator, moving the sensor 1 or 1⁄2 a pixel at a time to enable it to capture more colour information and data than in a single-shot capture.

Hasselblad’s Multishot pixel shifting.

In Hasselblad’s implementation, the sensor takes 4 images by moving 1 pixel each time, to capture more accurate colour information, and then makes two additional exposuresby moving the sensor by ½ a pixel horizontally and then ½ a pixel vertically to increase the resolution. In the current H6D-400C MS, the native resolution of the sensor is 100Mpix, and the pixel shifted image is 400Mpix.

Leica Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16–35 f/3.5–4.5 ASPH.

In our example below, I mounted the SL2 on a very sturdy tripod – I used my Photo Clam Multiflex geared head on a Gitzo GT3560 tripod. The camera will detect vibration in this mode, and will not release the shutter if it detects movement. And once set up, it is very easy to capture the high resolution image. The camera creates two images. One in regular resolution single shot 47Mpix image. And the other is a composite done in-camera combining 8 shots in pixel shifting mode, giving a much larger resulting image. A 2s lag to the electronic shutter is added by the camera, and it takes the 8 shots automatically, shifting half a pixel each shot, and combining it in camera for a single raw file.The resultant raw file is very large – 16736 x 11168 pixels vs 8368 x 5584 pixels in standard resolution.

The Singapore CBD skyline. SL2 with SL 16-35 at f/8, 1/160s, ISO100 on tripod in Multi-shot Mode. The crop below is the 100% of the red rectangle.
100% crop of the above. Details are clear, and in sharp focus. Resolution is incredible at 187Mpix.

I will make a comparison between the SL2 and the Panasonic Lumix S1R’s High Resolution Mode (completely unscientific) soon.

Low light / high ISO performance

The SL2 is able to shoot at an ISO from 50 – 50,000. I did not shoot at 50,000. At base ISO of 100 up to 6400, the noise is not obtrusive, especially for web, and small print work. The ISO is highly usable up to 3200 for larger prints, though for critical large prints, I may stay below 1600. However, what noise was there up to 6400 was quite benign, allowing details and colours to be well preserved.

Leica SL2 + Sigma Art 24-70. ISO500, f/3.2 1/125s.

Portraits

Opportunities for portraits are limited, as one can expect in the semi-lockdown situation in Singapore. I have taken some photographs of my family, but I will not show those.

Leica Apo-Summicron SL 90 f/2 ASPH.

As an illustration for portraits, here are two of Fabien Levrion, Brand Manager of Breguet Singapore. Both are shot with the SL90 with a wide open aperture. The depth of field at f/2 is quite small, but I think it is quite pleasing as a portrait lens, with the focus fall off from the sharp focus points on the eyes towards the back of his face. His nose is also de-focused. The most critical part of a portrait is the eyes, and here, Fabien’s eyes are in tack sharp. I shot this with the rather available light of the boutique. And if I had used a flash, the catch light in the eyes would elevate the portrait.

Fabien Levrion, Brand Manager of Breguet Singapore. Leica SL2 with the SL90 at f/2.1 1/160s, ISO1000. Handheld n available lighting at the Breguet Boutique in MBS.

The same lens, also in the boutique’s available light, but full length, seated. I had to move back a bit due to the 90mm focal length, but the compression provided by the mid-telephoto lens is quite pleasing. At this distance, the depth of field is larger, allowing the entire body to be in focus.

There were no events during the period where I had the SL2 on loan, so I have no event photographs to show.

Watches

As usual, I photographed quite a number of watches.

Here is one hand held photograph of the Swatch Big Bold Jelly. The image was taken hand-held, with at f/2.8, and an exposure time of 1 second with the Sigma Art 70m Macro. By convention, we normally recommend a shutter speed of no slower than 1/focal length for hand held images to be sharp. In this image here, I have successfully hand held at 1s about 6 stops slower than recommended. This is a demonstration to support Leica’s claim that the In Body Stabilization System (IBIS) provides about 5.5 stops of stabilization.

Leica SL2 + Sigma Art 70mm, hand held, f/2.8, 1s, ISO100. Depth of field at this aperture and close focusing distance is very small, but the Swatch logo is sharp.

The following watch reviews were photographed with the Leica SL2

Jaquet Droz Petite Heuer Minute Tiger.

And some architecture

As a walkaround camera and lens combination to photograph architecture, the SL2 with the SL16-35 is quite well suited to the task. The combination is rather small and lightweight, and the image quality, even without the use of the traditional architecture tool of a tripod is excellent. The files are detailed, and can withstand perspective correction within ACR very well.

View of the PSA Building from Mapeltree driveway, just beside the Lighthouse. Perspective correction in ACR. Foreground slightly cropped. Leica SL + Super-Vario-Elmar 16-35.
The Fullerton Lighthouse, moved from its original location at Fullerton Building to this location in Mapeltree City. Leica SL2 + Super-Vario-Elmar 16-35 at 35mm. ISO100, f/7.1, 1/320s.
A more artistic image, in black and white. Mapeltree Business City sculpture at the water feature in the main entrance. Converted in ACR to BW with yellow filter. Perspective corrected in ACR. Leica SL + Super-Vario-Elmar 16-35.

Concluding thoughts

I have nothing further to add to the conclusions I drew last week which I wrote in the Chillout-TGIFriday article. The SL2 with the lenses remain at the epitome of the art of creating beautiful images with great style. While it sits at the apex, I also must take cognizance that it is an expensive piece of kit, and not the best bang for the buck.

The Leica SL2.

It oozes class, street cred, build quality, history, tradition and every bit the best built quality in a camera I have seen. The SL2 has a very high X factor – which for me, means that it is a camera which seem to beg me to take it out and shoot. And for these reasons, just like we recommend high end watches with good tradition, finishing and innovative features, I must end up with a high recommendation for the Leica SL2 and lenses for those seeking the best in full frame digital.

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