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 Post subject: Leica S2 mini review
PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 11:01 am 
Yesterday I was asked to take some photos for a division of the British armed forces. Naturally I am not allowed to tell about what the photos are about nor share photos taken, but I am allowed to share my experiences with the camera. A great shame was that I was also not allowed to take my own compact flash card so I couldnt study the image quality from a computer, only from the frankly superb screen on the back.

I dont really know where to start about describing my experiences with the camera except from telling you that I really really want one, too bad I dont quite have the however many tens of thousands of pounds one will set you back.

For those of you who dont know, basically the camera is a (small) medium format digital body, but in the form of a DSLR. Basically it works like a DSLR system does, just with a much bigger sensor. The size of the thing is actually quite incredible. It feels much smaller (not lighter) than pro-line full bodied DSLRs, and about the size of my D300 (or 5Dii for you Canon users). It just feels quite a fair bit heavier than those cameras.

This weight however is just from the exquisite build quality. There is literally no way to describe it other than to say it feels like its literally one block of metal. I actually looked on Leica's website and they go as far as to say that its not just water resistant, or weather sealed, or however CaNikon phrase it for their cameras, but "Water proof," and I believe them!

The simplicity is another thing I appreciated. I liked this when I shot their rangefinders back in the day, but the same is true for the S2. There is a wheel for the aperture, a wheel for the shutter speed, and then (I kid you not) 4 buttons on the whole of the camera. Ive probably got 4 or 5 times that on my D300!

Also to point out is that the camera is so quiet. Any body after using a DSLR will know that smaller frame (DX) DSLRs are quite quiet when compared with their full frame relatives. I therefore expected a huge BANG-SLAP everytime the S2 took a photo, but no, its probably actually quieter than APS-C size sensor cameras, and more like the shutter noise of an M9. Although not quite that quiet.

Ok the image quality (off of the back screen not a computer as explained above) is fantastic. No way can I describe it, but it is leagues above anything Ive seen come out of a digital SLR including the Nikon D3X, not just in terms of resolution, but in terms of depth and tone of colours.

Theres no way I wouldnt buy one of these things if the opportunity came my way and I could justify the price. The image quality is insane, as is the portability of the thing. As a landscape photographer, I could throw one in my bag just as easy as my D300 (and easier than a D3X) and go out and shoot some fantastic shots.

There are however some downsides. For low light it is less than ideal. The ISO capabilities could be better, especially for a sensor this large. Combine this with some actually quite slow lenses (nothing faster than f2.5 which for a standard prime in my opinion is slow). And finally on the low light note, because the camera is so heavy, I found that the standard rule of shutter speed at least 1/equivalent focal length to be way off. For the 70mm lens which acts about like a 50mm lens, I had to use a shutter speed of at least 1/125 or preferably 1/250 to get a non-wobbly shot, and I like to pride myself for my steady hands!

Also, fairly obviously this isnt for sports or action shooters. There isnt any lens support for long teles, the continuos shooting isnt anything special (although think of the file sizes its pushing through), the autofocus is a tad slow, dont get me wrong it is fast, but quite considerably off the pace of say my 70-200.

While Im on the point of autofocus, note that with this camera, depth of field is minute. Focus has to be spot on or the photo is an absolute throw away, and I mean spot on.

Just realised I have rambled on a bit, but I hope at least one of you has been bothered/interested in my report, feel free to ask me any questions while it is all fresh in my mind (and my dreams!)

Cheers,
Jeremy


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 11:09 am 
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Hi Jeremy,

You lucky so and so... 8)

I'm guessing that the quietness was down to the SUMMARIT-S 1:2,5/70 mm ASPH having the optional central shutter?

Bob.

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Astrophotography: TEC 140 'scope, FLI ML16803 camera, ASA DDM60 Pro mount.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 11:14 am 
That might explain it Bob, although to be honest with you I didnt experiment with the central shutter too much. I left it on most if not all of the time as I was under the impression it only affects you when using flash, which I was not.

For those of you who dont know, some (possibly all?) of the lenses designed for this camera have some sort of shutter built into the lens as an optional extra which I believe the purpose is to increase the flash sync speed.

Yes I am very lucky 8)

Edit: Or maybe I am in fact unlucky for knowing how good the camera is first hand and knowing Ill never have one :wink:


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 11:31 am 
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Location: The Netherlands
To be fair, I dont want this camera unless it's about $1000. Slow lenses, slow AF, slow contiuous shooting, very few buttons, too heavy for slow shutterspeeds, ISO quality which isnt the best...
Then Id prefer a Canon 1Ds Mk IV (it's coming I hope)...

What about the viewfinder? Is it large?

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Ruben

Panasonic DMC-FZ18, Panasonic DMC-FZ28, Canon G5, Canon 350D, Canon 50D + BG-E2N
Tamron 17-50 2.8, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM,
Canon 18-55 II plus lots of Minolta MD/M42 lenses and bodies


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 12:28 pm 
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Who's camera was it? Is this where our tax money is going? :D

It's always hard to relate between different sensor sizes, but a 70/2.5 would be equivalent to 56mm f/2 on 35mm. So at least in theory, the DoF should be comparable to 50mm f/1.8 on 35mm, although I don't know if the nature of defocus is comparable there. Is it me or does "full frame" sound inadequate when you're comparing against medium format?

Still, sounds like a great experience, and not one most of us will have. We can only dream that the other players might also bring out a SLR style medium format more affordably. I can't imagine it being that hard to "scale up" a SLR but the need for a new line of lenses will always be an issue.

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Canon DSLRs: 7D, 5D2, 1D, 600D, 450D full spectrum, 300D IR mod
Lenses: EF 35/2, 50/1.8, 85/1.8, 135/2+SF, 28-80 V, 70-300L, 100-400L, TS-E 24/3.5L, MP-E 65, EF-S 15-85 IS
3rd party: Zeiss 2/50 makro, Samyang 8mm fisheye, Sigma 150 macro, 120-300 f/2.8 OS, Celestron 1325/13
Tinies: Sony HX9V.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 12:42 pm 
Ruben, I think you are misunderstanding the point of the camera. I think it is mainly for studio shooters who can connect it to lighting and so the ISO performance, slow lenses and autofocus arent really a hindrance. When I say "slow" I mean to pro DSLR, its still faster than anything other than a say 24-70 or 70-200 lens.

Yes sorry I cant believe I didnt say! The viewfinder is like the step up from APS-C to film/full frame again! Ie very large and very bright, not super bright from the fairly slow lenses I guess, but very large. It really was the best viewfinder experience Ive ever used I think.

Popo, yes unfortunately I suppose it is where our tax money is being spent. I suppose you are right in saying the depth of field shouldnt be that small, maybe I was wrong, but at the time it felt like a smaller depth of field than a 50 1.4 on a 35mm sensor.

I too would like to see a few more easy to use medium format camera like this come out, although I have a feeling they never will. Just look at the image quality of the new cameras coming out like the 60D or D7000, they are just so good that soon I cannot believe there ever would be a use for medium format. However at the current time, the IQ is fantastic.


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