Leica SL (Typ 601) Video - Hybrid Cameras

Above is some footage I shot last week using my Leica SL (Typ 601) and two of my Leica T (Typ 701) APS-C lenses, because the SL shoots 4096 x 2160 4K video using the Super 35 crop. This is very similar to an APS-C crop and the Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 and Leica APO-Vario-Elmar-T 55-135mm f/3.5-4.5 lenses I used work pretty much as their 35mm 'equivalents', i.e. 28-85mm and 82-200mm. So not true 'full-frame' and if you use the native SL lenses such as the 28-90mm you will get a cropped image. 

Now why Leica have done this who knows. However it does integrate these early cropped APS-C lenses into the Leica SL / T 'system'. And I certainly have no issues whatsoever with the quality of footage that the SL creates with these lenses.  Plus in a previous article I showed that the SL is pretty remarkable at high(er) ISO's. Now when the SL first arrived there were some issues around the video output for some, mainly about the ultra low contrast V-LOG output. However, there have been a couple of firmware updates claiming to 'fix' this, though as I never use this setting I'm not the person to ask as to whether this is improved. 

What I need from a video enabled mirrorless camera is high quality output and a simplicity in use. I shoot stock clips for libraries, some of which you can see by clicking on the 'InstantClassix' banner above, which takes you to one of the libraries I have stills, video and audio content with. With regard to this I'm always a bit disappointed by most stills /video hybrod 'reviews' Certainly I and the other hybrid photographers that I know want the shooting and editing process to be short and the better the result straight out of the camera the better we all like it. This is for producing material for wedding videography and other commercial uses, mostly for the internet and the material is not for so called 'broadcast' quality, i.e. for showing in cinemas and / or on TV.  As is usually the case, it is easy to find reviews of cameras when they first come out but not after they have been used for some kind, particularly in a professional or semi-professional environment. So as I indicated above I haven't been able to source a link to anything that examines how the SL performs currently in those terms after the firmware updates. 

However, for me, the SL video output is the best I've ever created and if you view the above clips in YouTube 4K, you'll get some idea of what is possible. It's a long video, which I put together for the incredibly skilled tree surgeon featured and I was impressed how the SL performed. Now the arguments about stills photographers trying their hand at video with hybrid cameras and full time videographers with 'proper' dedicated video cameras hasn't gone away. I and I presume most of you reading this shoot video (if you shoot it at all) as a supplementary activity to stills shooting. So maybe we have different priorities.  

And then of course there is the other reason that photographers use video. To grab still images from video. The above clips were shot yesterday using my Leica V-Lux (Typ 114) for the first and my iPHONE 7 Plus for the second. Neither are good enough to upload as stock video clips, but I was able to get some decent stills from them. 

Below is a still from the Tree Surgeon Video plus some file information. And I have to say these 'video grabs' from the Leica SL (Typ 601) are the best I've ever seen.

So I am arguing that in general the requirements of predominantly still photographers who shoot a bit of video are somewhat different to those of people who shoot movies, TV programmes and Advertising. Plus I have talked to many full time cameramen and many are sceptical about hybrid DSLR's and Mirrorless cameras and also don't like using them as they are basically the 'wrong shape' for many kinds of videography and need a lot of add ons. We've all seen pictures like this

But the idea of using some of those huge rigs is not something that appeals to me and I suspect many of you reading this. Yes there are some advantages to using DSLR and Mirrorless lenses, but there are now dedicated video cameras with larger sensors and the ability to use those lenses. BUT there is still a cost benefit to using hybrid cameras, which makes them useful. You get a lot of video capability from the Panasonic GH5, for example, at a reasonable price. 

But essentially what (excellent) sites such as EOS HD are writing about is somewhat different to the reality for many of us. I've done 'pro' video work for paying clients but haven't felt it necessary to use anything more than a video loupe and add-on microphone. And for me any purchase of a dedicated film camera would be a waste of money. It is also worth pointing out that the BBC still use Panasonic GH2's for many of their drone shots. 

So, where are the articles that talk about how these cameras perform over longer periods of time? In what might be called a serious but not professional broadcast quality environment. Many, including Andreas Kauffman at Leica have concluded that Video is the 'next big thing' which explains the upgrading of video options in new Leicas. But what kind of use are they envisaging? They are keen to demonstrate compatibility with their ultra expensive cinema lenses, but even well heeled companies hire those rather than buy them. So in many ways the reality of what most 'hybrid photographers' experience is not available. What I would like to know is how a camera like the GH5 performs over a period of a few weeks or months, being used for real projects rather than testing. And yes there are some and some more will appear, but I would argue nowhere near enough. Most review sites move onto the next new camera announcement anyway.  And if anyone has some good examples of what I'm talking about then use the comments section below.