Concurrent with Leica’s launching the SL2-S camera, please welcome Henri.
Here is today’s press release with some additional notes. Any errors are mine.
December 10, 2020, Wetzlar—Cine Lens Manufacturer Ernst Leitz Wetzlar Gmbh adds HENRI, a Cinematographer’s Viewfinder
The upgraded cine application of the new Leica SL2-S camera was the main incentive for Leitz to collaborate on this project.
This new system is based on the unique knowledge and experience of Leica in camera development for professional users, combined with Leitz’s deep understanding of the cine lens market and the particular needs of its professional users worldwide.
HENRI consists of a newly designed support system for Leica’s SL2-S camera with a pivoting handle including integrated camera controls. By flipping in the handle, the system can be easily attached to a monopod or tripod plate.
The modular system allows the camera to be easily attached and removed. L-PL and L-LPL mount adapters are available.
Weighing only 4 lb., HENRI and the Leica SL2-S Camera is a comfortable, practical and ultra- lightweight package for Cinematographers and Directors on set and on location.
Let’s begin with a far-fetched funny fable. Perhaps it all began when Directors became jealous that Cinematographers wore a badge of office. You could immediately identify the DP by the contrast glass dangling around the neck. We’ll mention that the Gaffer also had one.
Of course, the Director also needed a badge of office. And so it was that the Directors Finder was born. By 1979, the venerable vintage 1979 Alan Gordon Enterprises Mark IV (followed by the V and Vb) draped around the Director’s neck on a silvery chain that snagged shirt and skin. It was heavy. It bounced annoyingly on one’s stomach. Kish Optics had a lighter smaller finder. Over the years, many other finders found their way into Directors’ and DPs’ hands.
Which leads to the serious question: shouldn’t it be called a DP Finder as well? It is a team effort, after all. And I can’t imagine any DP on set or location not demanding equal time with Henri and the latest Leitz Prime, as Rainer Hercher, Managing Director of Ernst Leitz Wetzlar GmbH (Leitz Cine), demonstrates above.
To my question of how and where the concept for Henri began, Rainer replied, “We started earlier this year, following up an idea that we were looking into for a long time. The concept was to implement the Leica cameras, and especially the Leica SL cameras, to be used for lens testing. As you can imagine, when we have the first prototypes of a lens to try out, we often have the problem that there was no existing system from any of the manufacturers for the Leica SL cameras together with an LPL Mount. And so, we wanted to make our own system to get the camera into the cine world by using 15 millimeter rod supports.
“Next, we started thinking that it would be good to have a Director’s Viewfinder, especially because the SL2-S camera, in my opinion, has one of the best viewfinders in the business. It’s very good and very sharp. The colors and contrast are excellent. The SL2-S has a button to zoom in on the image for critical focus.
“Therefore, we considered this as a system where you can easily rig the camera accessories, a lens, even a follow focus. It should be equally comfortable holding by hand or on a tripod. After many talks with Leica, we also asked them to include more framelines. And so, on the latest SL2-S, they added more framelines. This makes the camera quite useful on set and they are working on doing more framelines and aspect ratios in the future with firmware upgrades. I believe Henri will be an amazing and very popular Directors Finder. You can record high quality video with the SL2-S, and you can also grab still frames, which is very useful as well.”
Noticing that Henri + SL2-S would probably not be dangling directly onto any Directors’ tummies, but would rather be cherished on an AC’s cart or in a nice Peli case, I ventured that even though they’re calling it a “Directors Finder,” what they’ve created is also a really good system that could potentially turn the SL2-S into a camera of choice for documentaries, fashion, independents, sports and action films.
Rainer agreed, “What I like about Henri is the handle that swings in or out. When you extend it, Henri has a bit of the feeling of a handheld Beaulieu Super 16 camera. Perhaps we should look back even further to a vintage Super 8 camera like the Leicina 8 V, which also had a swing-out handle. You hold it with your right hand, look into the eyepiece and your left hand pulls focus.
“You might attach a small follow focus to the rods. As a former documentary cameraman, I quite like working that way. I think it’s quite handy.
“A good thing about the SL2-S camera is how well it works with not only Full Frame 36×24 format lenses, but also 24×18 Super 35. It is quite a good system for doing handheld work. And then, if you swing the handle in, you can quickly put Henri on a tripod. I think that makes the system quite unique.”
A cable connects Henri to the remote start/stop of the SL2-S. And what about lens mounts? Can Henri work with native L-Mount lenses as well? Will more than 50 of these imminent L-Mount lens sereis make inroads in the cine world?
“Henri has L to PL as well as L to LPL mount adapters. We will also make an LPL to PL mount, so you have an array of choices. As for using Henri with the SL2-S and native L-Mount lenses, sure, you just attach the camera directly to Henri, most likely without the rods.
“Speaking of the L-Mount, we are announcing that Leitz Cine is also joining the L-Mount Alliance. We are enthusiastic about the synergy that can be gained from the combined know-how of these four companies.”
Presumably additional companies might be interested in joining as well. “In Unity there is Strength.” In Dutch, it is “Eendracht Maakt Macht,” our school motto at Collegiate School, oldest school in the US, and so decreed by the Dutch in New York in 1628. “Eendracht Maakt Macht” was forever remembered by the generations of Collegiate schoolboys doomed to writing those lines hundreds of times during detention for deeds deemed dubious. But I digress. What I really wanted Rainer to explain was how Henri would compare and contrast with current optical Directors Finders.
“The SL2-S EVF is probably better than most ground-glass viewfinders you’ve ever seen. Remember when ARRI came out with the original ALEXA EVF? At first, some distinguished DPs resisted and said they wouldn’t shoot digital until the ALEXA Studio had an optical spinning mirror shutter finder system. Well, ALEXA Studio eventually arrived. But by then, most Cinematographers were so accustomed to and comfortable with ARRI’s excellent electronic viewfinder that few of them wound up working with the Studio. Not to mention that in dark interiors or night scenes, some ALEXA Studio users were actually framing off their video monitors instead of looking through the viewfinder. So everybody got used to it.
“And that’s why, in my opinion, we see the SL2-S with Henri as a balanced system where you can put on various lenses. If you have heavier lenses, you can support them. You can shoot handheld or with a tripod, on Steadicam, gimbals, drones, remote heads, car mounts, helicopters, and more. The Leica sensors are really good. I think we’ll see the SL2-S to be a competitive camera. There’s quite a big market where I think this price is attractive. From the tests we did this week, the data rates were substantial, there was a lot of information in the files, they played back nicely in 4K and the results were really good. We tried the two Log modes: Cine Log and Classic Log.
“Henri was designed and built in-house here in Wetzlar by the same teams who manufacture our lenses. We get all the components locally and the supply chain is good. We are not a mass market manufacturer. We have always been a boutique, small manufacturer with low volumes and high quality. I hope you will enjoy trying Henri.”
- The rods are carbon fibre, the rest is aluminum.
- The weight of HENRI is 800 g, the L-PL mount is 250 g, and the SL2-S camera is 800 grams.
- So the complete unit without lens will be 1,850 gr. (1.8 kg / 4.07 lb.), which is comfortable for a Directors Finder in use all day.
- The SL2-S has a great viewfinder and already some basic frame lines. Additional framelines will become available with future firmware updates, making the SL2-S+HENRI system a very attractive product.
- When you flip in the handle you can attach the system to a tripod top plate. 19mm studio rods will become available for HENRI in Q1-2021.
- The pivoting handle comes with an integrated record on/off switch.
- Simple balance of camera and lens.
- HENRI will be available with L-PL and L-LPL mounts.. An LPL-PL adapter is planned. Also, a complete system of SL2-S, HENRI, mounts and a carrying case is said to be under consideration.
- Construction: Carbon fiber and aluminum.
The Leitz Directors Finder HENRI is named after Dr. Henri Dumur, Managing Director of Ernst Leitz Optische Werke Wetzlar.
Henri Dumur (1885-1977) was the Swiss grandnephew of Ernst Leitz I. Dumur joined the company in 1903 at the age of 18. He spent 60 years working for and supporting the company and the Leitz family. To this day, he is fondly remembered and well-respected.
The following notes come from German Wikipedia, with citations of Knut Kühn-Leitz book Ernst Leitz I: From Mechanic to World-Famous Entrepreneur, Stuttgart 2010, pp. 219, 220.
By 1915, Dumur was in charge of the Leitz commercial department. He traveled abroad often. With trips that included North and South America, he was able to renew business relationships after the war. He established sales organizations in a number of countries. Dumur enhanced the reputation and economic prospects of the company significantly.