Filming with the Leica SL2-S: A Year In Review

Filming with the Leica SL2-S: A Year In Review

After a full year of filmmaking with the SL2-S for many of the videos you have seen from us on Camera West TV I'd like to discuss my setup for filming videos using the Leica SL2-S camera. 

The Leica SL2-S is a versatile camera that can be used for both stills and video. It features a mirrorless full-frame 24-megapixel sensor with 5-axis image stabilization, a backside illuminated sensor for excellent dynamic range and 14-bit color depth in various lighting conditions. It offers a wide range of video frame rates, from 8-bit Full HD to 10-bit Cine 4K, and can record in REC. 709, L-Log REC. 2020, and HGL REC. 2020. It also has access to L-Mount lenses and the ability to adapt M, R, and PL-Mount lenses for unique visual signatures or specific camera builds.

For my videos, I typically use the L-LOG 4K 10 bit 23.97 FPS setting to maintain a natural look. I will occasionally switch to 4K 10 bit 59.94 FPS for slow motion or macro detail shots to highlight details or create an interesting b-roll. In the field, I use the Leica 28mm f2 Summicron APO SL lens, which is paired with a variable ND filter and sometimes a ¼ promist filter for a stylistic effect. The focal length is great for showcasing the environment and allows for a relatively small, portable setup for on-the-go filming. In the studio, I prefer the Leica 50mm f2 Summicron APO SL lens. For macro b-roll, I use the Leica 60mm f2.8 Apo-Macro-Elmarit TL lens. The Leica 24-70mm f2.8 Vario Elmarit SL Lens is my go-to for the Cinestill 400d Review and the "Why the M6?" videos. In these cases, I opt for a 4 stop ND filter because my variable ND has a smaller thread size. While this setup is larger and heavier, it provides more versatility.

I've mostly worked with the 4K 10-bit 23.97 L-Log files and have found the customizable user profiles to be useful for saving specific settings. The backside illuminated sensor performs well in a range of lighting conditions, retaining good highlight and shadow detail even when overexposed or underexposed by a stop or two. The color range is impressive and offers flexibility when color grading. The lenses I use help keep skin tones and other colors accurate. I use the Classic LUT for preview in camera. The focus by wire for manual focusing has been hit or miss, but the AF works well when it catches focus. For studio shots, I control focus through my iPad using the Leica photos app. The battery life is decent, and the camera can be charged via USB-c. The screen is fixed, but an external monitor can be used. It's worth noting that the photo and video settings are separate. One potential downside is the price point, although adapting lenses like Sigma/Panasonic L lenses or other lenses via M or R mount or thread mount can help reduce costs.

In conclusion, the Leica SL2-S is a powerful camera that can meet the needs of professional users and casual videographers alike. Its ability to switch between stills and video with the press of a button makes it a great choice for solo filmmakers. The controls and menus are simple and intuitive, and the user profiles are helpful for shooting in different frame rates or consistent environments. Overall, the Leica SL2-S is a reliable camera for videographers of any skill level.

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