This article is going to be a bit of a departure from my usual efforts at showing a travel location in a different light, usually infra-red.
But first, we need to have a little background. For the past 6-8 months our Fearless Leader (Pascal) and I have been having an email conversation about our cameras and thoughts about changing cameras or systems. For my part of the conversation, I was discussing my experiences with a Leica SL2 that I picked up in June of 2021. Plus, I was trying to encourage Pascal to give additional thought towards upgrading to the new Hasselblad X2D, or something else, vs. changing systems to Fuji. While Pascal’s side of the conversation was encouraging me to get more experience with the SL2 and providing me with information about how other Dear Susan contributors deal with clipped highlights with their camera of choice.
While encouraging Pascal was an enjoyable experience, using the SL2 had moments of frustration that made trading it, or worse, sending it back to Leica for service, seem like a good idea. In early October 2022 I had enough, and decided the camera was going back to Leica for warranty repair. The three problems that needed to be addressed were; the sensor clipped highlights excessively, the light meter over exposed a minimum of 1-1.33 stops regardless of the lens used, and the shutter release button had a catch in its travel between half-press and activation. I received my camera back from Leica Service in February 2023 and started the process of getting to know the camera again as light and weather permitted, before traveling to Arizona in March.
Since our conversations included my experiences using adapted lenses on Fuji MF, and Leica and Lumix L-mount bodies, I offered to write a review with image samples to share here. I gave Pascal a list of the 17 lenses I currently have available and he selected 3; the Lumix 24mm f1.8 (L-mount), Nikon 50mm f1.4 AIS (F-mount), and Zeiss 35mm f1.4 ZM (M-mount, also known as Audrey).
This article is a review of my experiences using the SL2, after its return from Leica USA Service, along with images using the lenses Pascal selected. Because of the number of images, I will be publishing this in parts.
The above images were two of the first images I made after picking up my SL2 from my local dealer in February 2023, and were made walking around the waterfront and downtown main street in Poulsbo, Washington. I was fortunate to have partly cloudy skies rather than the usual constant cloud blanket, which gave me some interesting reflections on the water and in the window.
A few days later I was in Seattle and was given the gift of sunny skies in February. I started at Green Lake Park, which is a large public park located in a residential neighborhood North of Seattle’s downtown. I walked about a third of the way around the lake looking for subjects that would help me get a new feel for the camera’s operation. The third and fourth images of the tree above, are the same image. I wanted to see how much dynamic range the camera captures, so I underexposed the image capture (image 4) and then pulled the shadows up in post processing (image 3).
The following week I decided to go to the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, which is one of my favorite locations for street photography. This location, or series, brings up a challenge, in that street photography is as much about the people in a place as the place itself. Plus, the images were made in early March, before I thought about using them here. Being in the United States this is normally not a problem, since the images are made in a public place and they are not being used for a commercial purpose. On the other hand, since Dear Susan is based in France and different laws may apply, I decided that I would spot out any recognizable faces and vehicle license plate numbers.
My first stop in Fremont was the statue of J.P. Patches, who was the main character of a Seattle children’s television show that was broadcast from 1958 to 1981. Later, as I was crossing the street, I heard a low rumble and when I found it’s source said to myself, “Is that a GOAT (GTO)?” Unfortunately, those three letters were not on the front fender. But the rumble from under the hood said it might be one, rather than a standard 1968 Le Mans. I did get a chance to speak with the driver before the light turned green, and I did post these images to Instagram for him to find.
Around the corner and a block up the street is Lucky’s Pho. This restaurant has my favorite windows in Seattle. The windows are almost always covered with steam and the tables are usually full.
After leaving Lucky’s, I decided to stop using auto-focus in favor of manual focus. These images started as an exercise in using focus peaking with the idea to emphasize the neon. While processing the first image, I noticed the shapes in the window and decided to see what could be pulled out of the darkness. I think with a little more practice using the noise reduction tools available in Capture One, the noise will clean up a bit more.
I originally photographed the first window to practice manual focus. After the first image or two I stopped to really look at what was in the window, and decided that there were some Edward Hopper-esk qualities lurking about. Which gave me a goal for the rest of the walk, if not every time I take a photo walk in Fremont.
The first image was made to test the sensitivity of manual focus at close range, and the other two were to get a sense of depth of field. At this point I reached the outer limit of my walk and I changed lenses to walk back to my car.
I am pleased with the support Leica USA Service was able to provide. They had my SL2 for about four months; and they were able to provide my dealer status updates when requested. Which is a huge improvement from my previous experience and much quicker than what I was led to expect. The repair description provided with the camera said they replaced the shutter mechanism, and my experience using the camera is they also addressed the shutter release situation. Most of my time using the camera for this part of the review was in flat or evening light. Because of this, I am reserving any comments about the light meter and highlight clipping until later.
The Lumix S 24mm f1.8 is one of Panasonic’s full frame lenses for the L-mount and is not a lens to take lightly, even if it is a very light lens. Optically, it will perform to a very high level. I have compared it to the Leica 24-70 f2.8 SL* lens at 24mm and there is very little difference. Manual focus is by-wire and functions smoothly and as quickly as I would expect a true manual focus lens to operate. Auto focus performance is as good as the contrast focus system in the SL2. On the new Lumix S5II auto-focus may be faster due to the PDAF system.
*One or more images in this series were made using the Leica 24-70 f2.8 SL lens.
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