Shooting Video with Leica SL

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Leica’s new SL (Spiegellos – Mirrorless) Camera shoots superb  4K 4096×2160 24p Video. The camera exposes stills in either Leica Format (24x36mm) or APS-C.

Video is recorded in 4K 24p or UHD 30p in APS-C format, as well as HD in Full Frame Leica Format up to 120 fps.

MOV or MP4 4:2:0 8-bit files are recorded onto an internal SD card. External 4:2:2 10-bit recording is provided via an HDMI 1.4 connector.

For video, you can use the Leica SL 24-90 lens that comes with the camera to benefit from its optical image stabilization. I prefer manual focus and manual exposure for motion. An optional PL to Leica L mount adapter is available from Leica.

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PL to Leica L lens mount adapter

The Leica SL’s flange depth is 20 mm. Leica makes a PL to Leica L mount adapter.

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Leica L mount

Here’s a Jump Start crib sheet on which buttons to push and settings to make for video.

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  1. Turn the camera on. This is the only switch or button on the camera that is labeled. That’s interesting. The rest of the camera is quite intuitive, even without labels.
  2. Push the top left menu button twice to see the Main Menu.
  3. Push the lower right button and use the joystick to navigate down to Video File Format. Select MOV or MP3. (I prefer MOV).
  4. Select Video Resolution. (4096×2160 24p).
  5. Go to Video Settings. If using the SL 25-90, I suggest turning on VIDEO. STABILIZATION. I turned off VIDEO GAMMA L-LOG for the time being.
  6. To change from Auto to Manual Exposure, push in on the thumbwheel (Leica calls it a click wheel) and rotate. The settings are shown in the status display screen on top of the camera.
  7. Set the shutter speed to 1/50th second — unless you like stuttery images, plan to get still frame grabs from the video, or want slower/smeary shutter effects.
  8. You can access quick touch screen settings by pressing and holding the Top Left button for ISO, and the Bottom Left button for White Balance.

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  • You’ll find framelines in the VIDEO ASPECT RATIO settings of the CAPTURE ASSISTANT menu: 1.33, 1.66, 1,78, 1,85, 2.35, and 2.40:1.
  • The camera does not crop to these formats–they are electronic framelines.

To record video, first toggle from Stills to Video mode with the Stills/Video (LV) button on top. The extremely sharp and incredibly large EVF immediately shows you the effect of this “crop factor” — blowing up the APS-C 4K image to fill the finder frame.

Then push the Video button with the red dot to start and stop recording.

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The front element of the SL 24-90 trombones in and out like many still zoom lenses–but it doesn’t twist. A clamp-on 4×4 mattebox will work nicely. The focus barrel doesn’t have end stops. The zoom barrel has index marks and has end stops. Aftermarket focus gear rings are readily available.

The following summarizes a few previous articles:

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L-R: PL to Leica SL/T Mount Adapter; Leica SL; Summicron-C prime lens; Summilux-C prime lens, Leica Q.

Favorite things about the new Leica SL Full Frame Mirrorless 35mm camera:

  1. Sharpest EVF I’ve looked through on a still camera: 4.4 Megadots.
  2. Very rapid autofocus and Optical Image Stabilized lenses.
  3. PL adapter to use cine lenses; also M, R, S, etc.
  4. 4K Video: .MOV motion jpeg or MP4 files
  5. Smooth skin tones and beautiful images.

CW Sonderoptic’s Rainer Hercher filled a backpack with an SL camera, SL, Summicron-C and Summilux-C lenses, and a PL-to-SL mount adapter. We headed for the hills above Wetzlar for some wide shots. Excellent ergonomics and design. Your left eye is not blocked by the camera. Nice thumb control to select focus area.

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The camera quickly shifts from 35mm full frame to 35mm cine at the push of a button. Full frame is HD; Super 35 goes up to 4K.

Leica’s new PL to L lens mount adapter accommodates most PL lenses — and all Leica Summilux-C and Summicron-C cine lenses.

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L1010865fdtimesOf course, macro mode had to be tested on good food, with Wetzlar’s La Piazza obliging with photogenic and perfectly prepared rack of lamb. Minimum macro autofocus of the SL 24-90 f/2.8-4 zoom was about 12 inches.  Autofocus is very quick: the lens goes from infinity to close-up in milliseconds.

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The 4.4 million dot Electronic Viewfinder is extremely large and incredibly sharp. There is no latency (image lag). This may be the first digital camera that rivals (or perhaps exceeds) an SLR mirror for critical focus. A joystick lets you move and select the auto-focus area.

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Left to right: Leica SL Vario-Elmarit 24-90 f/2.8-4; 90-280 mm f/2.8-4 and Summilux SL 50 mm f/1.4.

The SL camera’s L-mount (same as the APS-C format Leica T) has a flange depth of 20 mm. Leica makes adapters that accept all 48 current Leica M, most vintage M lenses, 6 Leica T lenses, 51 Leica R lenses, 21 Leica Cine PL, and most PL lenses.

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A button on top switches preview between still and video modes. Maximum ISO is 50,000.

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Above: Framegrab with Leica SL and 75 mm Summicron-C lens with PL adapter. 4K Video (4096×2160 MP4 at 94 Mbit/s, H.264.

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Above: Leica SL 6000×4000 (24 MP) still with 24-90 mm Leica Vario Elmarit at 90 mm, close-focus Macro, 1/100 sec, f/6.3 at 200 ISO.

 

Leave a Comment

3 Responses:

  1. Leica sl records 4:2:2 internally 8 bit???
    Thats news to me.

    • Jon Fauer:

      Oops–typo–good catch. 4:2:0 8-bit to internal SD card.
      4:2:2 10-bit via HDMI to external recorder. Thanks.

  2. Hi John, I consider buying a Leica SL, also to record film footage in 4K, but don’t understand much about the different codecs. I would like use the SL in combination with a light HDMI recorder with built in monitor. I found the Atomos Assassin and the Video Devices PIX-E5H. Are they both compatible with the SL? Is there one you would prefer? I would be very happy to get a feedback of you on this. Thanks a lot. Have a great day, Peter

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