ONE YEAR OF LANDSCAPES WITH THE LEICA SL
IT FEELS LIKE YESTERDAY, BUT IT HAS ALREADY BEEN ONE YEAR OF LANDSCAPES WITH THE LEICA SL!
Time really flies! It feels like yesterday, but a quick check on my purchase invoice from the great guys at NEWOLDCAMERA in Milan tells me that one year of landscapes with the Leica SL went by in a second, since I started using exclusively Leica SL for my landscape work. Read my A LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHER IN-DEPTH LEICA SL REVIEW to see what I thought about the Leica SL a few months after getting it.
A lot has happened during this past year, one of the most productive and successful years since I started my voyage with photography. I became a LEICA AMBASSADOR & LEICA AKADEMIE ITALY instructor, a FORMATT-HITECH AMBASSADOR and I have been awarded my BIPP ASSOCIATESHIP QUALIFICATION from the British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP). Most importantly, though, I created some of the best work I did since I started working as a landscape photographer.
After getting the Leica SL, and thanks to the results I got from it, I decided to go all-Leica for my work. Along the way, I added a Leica S (Typ 007) and a few S lenses to my arsenal, sold all my other equipment and happily went on working.
And so, one year went by. I brought my Leica SL with me to the Scottish Highlands, working with it on the Isle of Skye and the Isle of Arran under the most inclement Scottish weather. The SL was on my side on the northern Atlantic coast of Spain, where I even photographed standing with it in the ocean, cleaning seawater spray from camera and lenses as I worked. I photographed the Cinque Terre and the Valli di Comacchio in Italy in winter with it, again working against seawater spray and braving the cold and the rain. Death Valley’s landscapes have been my Leica SL’s most recent battlefield, and there sand, salt, cold, mud and rain left it unfazed. In short, no matter what I threw at it during these 12 months, my Leica SL always kept working perfectly.
I used my Leica SL with the wonderful, albeit big, 24-90mm Vario-Elmarit-SL as well as with the wonderful, but petite, Voigtlander 15mm v. III adapted with the M-Adapter L. My Leica S lenses worked perfectly on the SL through the S-Adapter L, adding flexibility and backup to my Leica S kit. My Leica Noctilux-M f/1 was a joy to use with the Leica SL in Burano, where I created my BURANOSCAPES series, all shot at f/1 with an ease and precision of focusing that I never experienced with any Leica M.
After years of DSLRs and Medium Format cameras growing more and more complex, and with more and more buttons, I enjoyed immensely working with the minimalist user interface of both the Leica SL and the Leica S. I find the four-button interface common to both cameras simply perfect. It took me very little time to get used to it, and once I got familiar with it, I just couldn’t imagine using complicated cameras anymore.
The “classic” style cameras now all feel overly complex to me, and unnecessarily so – at least for my work, of course. I am sure that there are photographers that enjoy having one dedicated button for every possible feature in their cameras, and I was one of them too. Not anymore: the Leica SL & Leica S’s four-button interface won me over.
The release of Firmware 2.0 and subsequent iterations fixed the long exposure artefact issues that plagued the Leica SL upon its first release. FW 2.0 added some unique long-exposure-related features as well, making the SL a very good tool – even if not yet a perfect one – for my long exposure work. During this last year Leica kept supporting the SL through Firmware updates, fixing bugs, adding features and improving the camera constantly since I got it. This showed me Leica’s continuing commitment to this camera and confirmed me I made the right decision in moving to an all-Leica setup for my work. Now, if Leica only added similar long exposure capability to the Leica S (Typ 007)!
As I mentioned above in passing, to me one of the strongest points of the Leica SL is that it truly is THE universal camera when it comes to using third party lenses. With dedicated adapters, either Leica’s own or third-party, with it you can use pretty much any lens ever made for any system, with perfect image quality and with all the original lenses’ features (in certain cases even better).
This allows me personally to go as wide as 10mm, thanks to the Voigtlander 10mm Hyper-Wide Heliar, and to use my Leica S lenses both as a backup and to extend my focal length range. Similarly, it would allow other 35mm or Medium Format users to fully enjoy using their existing, favourite lenses on the Leica SL. That said, nothing is perfect; while extremely good, neither is the Leica SL.
There are certainly areas where the existing camera might be improved, and areas that can be improved with the next iteration of the SL line. As always, every photographer will have his or her list of things he or she finds fundamental, of features they want, and his or her list of complains as well. Personally, for my work, what I would love Leica to do via the next Firmware is:
– Cleaner files for long exposures of 5 minutes and more;
– Better management of the rear LCD screen information during long exposures and during the black frame following an exposure.
In the next iteration of the Leica SL, on the other hand, I would love to have:
– More resolution (even 36 Mp would be fine) to help with big prints and with cropping: i.e. I use the 16:9 format a lot, and in doing so I lose lot of print real estate;
– The two FW fixes above.
It’s not much, but it’s something that would make the Leica SL (or the next SL) an even better tool for landscape work. My real dream, however, would be for Leica to release side-by-side to the current one a high-resolution SL, even if slower than the existing SL, dedicated to landscape and studio users (around 40-47 Mp).
You’d then have a Leica SL-R (for Resolution) made for resolution and long exposures, with slower FPS; and the current Leica SL, made for speed. That would make for a perfect duo and would make a lot of sense commercially for Leica to cover a larger user base.
Dreams aside, I really enjoyed working with the Leica SL this past year, and I am looking forward to creating many more images with it and its big sibling the Leica S (Typ 007) in the future!
Enjoy a small selection out of all the images I created in one year with the Leica SL (click on the images to enlarge):
Disclaimer: At the time of writing, I am a Leica Ambassador. That said, I am a professional photographer looking for the best equipment for my work, I buy all my gear with my hard-earned cash and I don’t get paid by anyone to write articles for my blog.
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