Filming with Leica T/TL2 Camera
For most Leica lovers Leica T/TL2 cameras represent a deviation from what has defined Leica camera’s philosophy of manual operations and control of settings. I tend to think that Leica camera is adapting to technological advancements in the same way film was replaced by CCD which then was overtaken by CMOS image sensors.
For me, Leica TL2 represents not a deviation from Leica camera’s principals but a rather continuation of what has made their cameras as one of the most sought brands for decades. Leica T/TL2 cameras for better or worst represents a new generation of cameras that has incorporated the best of what current technology has to offer. Yes, the charm of turning dials have given way to touch screens but so has your smartphone. It only makes sense to see its merits than shun the new.
I have been using Leica T camera since it was launched and the new Leica TL2 for some time now.
Do I love it?
In a single word, yes, even though my love affair with Leica’s M line will continue long after the rangefinders become a thing of yesteryears. Some of you may think that rangefinders are here to stay as cellulose film was, and yes, some diehard connoisseurs will continue to cherish them as they did when these technologies were at their peak. But, look at what types are cameras are coming out of Leica’s workshop, Leica SL, Leica T/TL2. They have autofocus lenses and technologies that have many common grounds with other mirrorless cameras out in the market. Obviously, Leica camera has put a lot of emphasis in creating cameras and lenses that set them apart from other competitors, but they are not all rangefinders.
To this end, those diehard lovers of analogs who loathe video capabilities of newer cameras, the truth is blatantly apparent, video functions, as well as more pixels on sensors, are here to stay. For me, as much I enjoy photography I also make films. So, I find a video function in Leica T/TL2 or Leica M240 is a welcomed development.
I recently took my Leica TL2, Leica T, and Leica M240 cameras with me to Hong Kong to film. They performed exceptionally well, especially, considering that a person who may not have in-depth knowledge of editing techniques involved in film production can literally take the video out of the camera and view it without needing to do any serious editing.
As a filmmaker, I prefer working with log files that allow me to use maximum flexibility with color grading. But what if you did not know how to do that then what? Leica camera has done a fantastic job of recognizing the best coloring profiles for its camera’s video capabilities. The result is astonishing from a color grading point of view; colors are accurate, tonal ranges are well represented for a video that comes out of a pro-consumer grade camera.
After delivering my photography workshop, I took my Leica TL2 camera around the city to film then put the footage on Adobe Premiere for editing. I attempted to use various plugins and color grading options to see if any “improvements” could be made to the video. After mingling around for more than an hour, I concluded with Leica camera’s color grading profile there was not much more I can do to achieve anything better.
This is a benefit if someone has no idea of how to use Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro. It means if you are sharing your videos through most social network channels or uploading to Youtube or Vimeo it is as good as it gets. To be fair, there are cameras out there that perform very well in the video; Sony A7 series now has A7, A7s ii and A7r ii which means three different cameras.
Does this mean I should buy one camera for photographing one for video?
Can’t I have it all in one camera?
This seems to be approach most other camera manufacturers have taken and one I frankly find as a drawback. I like A7s ii as a video camera I would not want to use it for photography. At the opposite end of the spectrum, A7r ii offers 42MP sensor for ultra sharp images, but most people would not be able to use this camera’s high megapixel sensor to capture better images.
Leica’s medium format camera, S line, still only offers 37.5 megapixels does that mean full frame cameras with 50 megapixels are better ?
In no way or shape. I only see it as a way to lure misinformed consumers to purchase their products based on an assumption that more is merrier.
Leica T/TL2 camera does what it is supposed to do which is to capture high-quality images. Whether you own a Leica T with the 16-megapixel sensor or the latest Leica TL2 camera with 24 megapixels, the image quality is beautiful. I have had the privilege of being able to use both cameras, and I can say that Leica T with its 16-megapixel sensor can often render images as beautiful as 50-megapixel behemoths DSLR camera.
What makes images from a Leica TL2 or a Leica T unique is the combination of lens and sensor creating a harmonious bokeh and accurate rendition of colors. The fundamental laws of photography and aesthetics still dictate what a beautiful photograph is and a capable camera like Leica TL2 camera aids the photographer to capture it.
For video, the rules are no different, composition, framing, choice of lighting all play an integral part in creating a pleasing film. Leica T camera with its HD 1080p video can deliver a high-quality video while the new Leica TL2 can offer four times the image quality at 4K recording. Both cameras can be used to capture videos in low light circumstances as well as during daytime.
This high-quality image quality in video can be attributed to the excellent built-in video recording preset found in both cameras. Leica TL2 delivers accurate colors, and a good choice of lens can enhance the bokeh. As you can see in the videos captured the bokeh is creamy and smooth thanks to the excellent quality of Leica lenses.
When Leica T/TL2 camera footage is viewed in on Youtube, the compression algorithms work well to preserve the image quality captured by the camera. At 4K, Leica TL2 delivers equally impressive results. On most laptops and computer screens the HD quality will be indistinguishable from the 4K video due to the resolution limits of the graphics cards and display.
I often get asked about why there is a need to film in 4K or take ultra-high megapixel photographs when most laptop and computer screens are not designed for 4K viewing. The answer to that is when 4K footage is displayed in 4K ready TV screen the images will be very sharp. For all other applications, compressing a 4K image/video to HD quality will often yield better quality images than just HD recording.
From a consumer point of view, HD 1080p output achieved from Leica T is often sufficient and ideal for sharing or sending to friends and family. Leica TL 2 camera serves as the next step in the evolution of Leica T/TL2 cameras with the capabilities to deliver higher megapixels and 4K recording. Whatever your choice may be Leica T/TL cameras are compact and offer a highly accurate rendition of colors both in photography and video.
The user interface resembling a smartphone’s menu is another key feature which makes Leica T/TL2 cameras excellent choice for everyday use. Their menus are easy to navigate, the large LCD screen on the back panel allows quick viewing of images. Leica lenses with their unique character and integrated communication with Leica T/TL2 camera body allow the user to capture beautiful images.
What more could we ask more from a compact camera?
Some improvements would most likely mean that some of the ease of use functions must be sacrificed or perhaps the megapixel count on Leica TL2‘s sensor would not exceed beyond the ideal range of 24MP which seems to be the optimum limits in today’s technology. But there is a lot of room for improvement like autofocus, manual settings for video recording, noise reduction, a higher bit rate for 4K recording and more.
Let me give you an example; Leica TL2 camera just like its predecessor has autofocus function on video which means if you point at something and wait long enough the camera will eventually “pull focus.” This at times can be frustratingly slow at other times misfocus even not respond to attempts to capture the nearest object to be in focus.
If you have no experience using manual focusing like much of the new generation of camera users Leica TL2‘s lack of manual focus is immaterial but for someone who appreciates the use of smooth focus racking this can be a deal breaker.
Today almost all digital cameras come with video recording capabilities. Some camera manufacturers like Sony and Panasonic with their line up of Sony A6500, Panasonic Gh5 cameras offer more than just autofocus, they allow manual settings to be selected for an optimum recording of video.
Leica TL2 camera will only do auto exposure. This will cause havoc for those situations when video must be captured in high contrast situations. For example, if you are filming high contrast situations during daytime in a forest or a park you will most likely have blown out highlights. I think not having the option to set the exposure on Leica TL2 is perhaps one of the most significant drawbacks in using the video function.
While I was capturing video, I often found that I wanted to turn down the exposure setting to avoid blowing out highlights, but I had no option to do so instead of relying solely on auto exposure setting of the camera. At times, it would have been great to close the aperture and lower the ISO to achieve better results.
Leica TL2 camera offers much more than a simple to use point and shoot type camera. If you have some basic understanding of photography principals, you would be able to utilize manual, and aperture priority settings in the camera to capture high-quality photographs resembles images from Leica M10 camera.
If you are a Leica M10 camera user must often navigate between ISO, aperture and shutter speed to capture good images but Leica TL2 does not require much of a learning curve to use the camera efficiently. The autofocus and automatic selection of correct ISO or shutter settings on Leica TL2 camera is an excellent aid in attaining great photographs. For those with aging eyesight, autofocus can be a great tool in ensuring correct focus.
For those who are into the social media frenzy of posting images of Facebook or Instagram, wi-fi connectivity is a definite time-saving feature of Leica TL2 camera allowing the user to send JPG images to their smartphones and tablets. The smartphone-like menu of Leica TL2 camera can undoubtedly help Instagram “Photographers” to navigate its menu rapidly.
If you have not achieved a celebrity status on social media platforms, Leica TL2 camera can certainly distinguish from the crowd of cheap camera snappers and smartphone users. For all intents and purposes, their smartphones have preset apps that turn their tiny photographs into “masterpieces in photography”. This is the reality of today. Gone are the days when people were going to photo processing shops to have their photographs printed.
Today, we no longer need to have any knowledge of cameras because technological advancements in smartphone technology like iPhone’s “portrait mode” will blur, change and modify the “background” and the “lighting” to create a stunning image.
Video recording is no different with a generation of YouTubers turning their smartphones on to make millions of dollars in revenues. Samsung recently released explicitly targeting the new generation of smartphone users who post videos on YouTube. Their success achieved by just hitting the record button on their smartphones is only a testament to changing times. But in the hands of a professional Leica TL2 can do wonders because it affords one of the most pleasing images any camera can capture.
To demonstrate the capabilities of Leica T/TL2 cameras, I shot the film in this article to show how the camera performs under different lighting conditions.
For example, during the daytime, the colors are more “muted” due to auto exposure setting. At night, Leica T/TL2 brings about a nice rendition of colors with an almost “cinematic feel” which can be harnessed to a great advantage if the light conditions could be manipulated.
For the most part, light from a TV screen or a tungsten light from the side to light up the subject served sufficiently to capture beautiful video.
If I had a choice to use Leica T/TL2 camera under the different lighting conditions, I would have chosen low light conditions to film. One key factor to take into consideration when filming with Leica T/TL2 camera is to control the lighting. This camera will clip in the highlights if overexposed in high contrast situations.
It is a good rule of thumb to remember as you move, auto exposure settings will change resulting in shifts exposure which is not ideal for capturing a high-quality video. For best results, it is ideal to have a fixed position for the camera with the subject maintaining its position with respect to the camera. This could be, for example, an interview setting in which the subject is seated, and the light conditions pretty much remain the same.
Leica T/TL2 camera also has stabilization for video function provided that a native lens is used. This means that you can capture video in a moving vehicle or when the subject is tracked in a room resulting in a smooth footage. Of course, use of a gimbal will further improve the quality of the video. I highly recommend a light handheld gimbal for which I will place links at the end of the article.
Most Leica T/TL2 camera users will likely film their family and friends. Leica TL2 is a beautiful way to capture those special moments because 4K recording capabilities will ensure that images are sharp and clear. Furthermore, 4K video can be used to extract frames from the footage for additional photographs.
I think soon all cameras will incorporate some form of video stabilization and 4K recording. For travel photography or video, I think Leica TL2 camera is heaven sent. My food channel Ozlovesfood has many videos captured with Leica TL2 camera showing delicacies around the world. I record most of my location scouting on my Leica TL2 as well. It is small, compact, efficient and delivers great results. When I am heading to a location, I slip my Leica TL2 into my cargo pant’s side pocket.
As a professional, Leica TL2 also serves as a backup camera for me. I find that I can take my Leica TL2 on a photo shoot or when I am on a film set to capture images to discuss with my crew on lighting, camera angles and more.
My recent photographs published under the title “Doors” were all captured with Leica TL2 camera, now available on Amazon, Kindle, Barnes & Noble, iBooks. So, for those who are aspiring to be better photographers get out there and photograph whatever camera you may have. A camera is a merely a tool which lets you capture images, knowing how to use it is more important than which camera you use.
When I conduct my photography workshops, I have participants who come with their medium format cameras, and some with their Leica T/TL2 cameras, for both participants, fundamentals of photography don’t change. They need to understand composition, framing, iso, aperture, shutter speed, lens focal length which all play a critical role in capturing beautiful images.
If you are going to invest in a Leica T/TL2s camera, it is important to learn to use it efficiently and skillfully to get the most of it. Remember you can always improve your photography by attending a workshop or a course. Leica cameras and lenses are great choices for both professionals and aspiring amateurs, the difference that sets them apart if the knowledge and experience on how to use them effectively.
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OZ YILMAZ – Leica Review Team
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