Zach rehearsal for "A Christmas Carol" in a past life...
There's something about buying too many cameras in a short time frame that seems to intrude on my getting to know the strengths of a particular new camera quickly. It took yesterday's foray into the streets with an S1R, combined with a Leica 90mm Elmarit lens, to finally get me into the groove with that camera. Now I'm all in. About time since I've owned a couple of the S1Rs since last Fall...
I tend to use the S1R's sibling, the 24 megapixel S1, as my working/commercial cameras. The file sizes are just right, the video is great and the EVF is inspiring. I used it so often when the S1 first came into the studio that it just overshadowed the S1Rs that came in at the same time. When we were photographing rehearsals and dress rehearsals for Zach Theatre the S1 was the "go-to" camera because it provided the most noise free high ISO files I'd ever played with. You could pull up the shadows to a tremendous extent and know that you weren't going to be plagued by the speckled color noise monsters. The smaller files also made for a quicker post processing and turnaround time. After working with the S1 bodies for months I got to the point where I started to question why I bought a couple of the S1R cameras in the first place.
My rationale at the time was that I might need the higher resolution for various advertising projects; and I may yet. If we ever go back to work again. But after yesterday's walk-n-shoot through downtown I've come to realize that I consider the S1R cameras to be the true art cameras in the Panasonic family. A camera that when used with good technique can provide exemplary files. After all, it's a camera the sensor of which ties the Sony and Nikon high resolution cameras for a 100 score at DXOMark. Add to that the ability to use Leica certified L lenses and it's a potent package for a dedicated art photographer.
Which is what I aspire to. Someday.
Today is the day I decided not to buy a Leica SL. I finally spent a couple of hours with an SL, loaned to me by a blog reader, and while I love the "idea" of that camera (what with all the "carved out of a solid block of aluminum" enthusiasm) the actuality of it is a much different thing. I do love the minimized control interface and the industrial design but when comparing them side by side either the S1 or the S1R is a significantly better camera. While I haven't been able to compare an SL2 to a S1R I have to believe that the output is so close (when using raw files) as to be inconsequential.
The Panasonic cameras are much better to actually hold and carry around and use throughout a long shooting day. The sensors in both the Panasonics are at least a generation ahead of the sensor in the SL and the built-in I.S. in both Lumix cameras is a tremendous advantage. From my point of view, if you want the Leica "look" you can do a few things to replicate it in an S1R.
First, go into the imaging profile in the S1R and turn the noise reduction control down to make the noise reduction less aggressive. Much of the "bite" of the Leica is down to less noise reduction in the files. More defined noise has the effect of making files look sharper. Then, add in a bit more contrast because the Leica files are contrastier by a significant margin. Then go into the WB settings and tweak the hue controls to match the color you see in the Leica files. A bit more cyan, a bit more green a bit less magenta, etc. You'll have to season to your own taste.
Finally, if you really want the full Leica "look" treatment then just step up and start buying Leica lenses. You can get your feet wet with some of the "R" series lenses but you'll be buying a couple of generations of optical engineering backward. To really get the full-on effect you might try one of the less expensive primes; something like the 50mm (non-ASPH) f2.0 for around $5,000. If that's too rich for your taste I can recommend the Leica certified Lumix S-Pro lenses. Start with the 24-70mm f2.8 and you may be amazed. What Panasonic and Leica are doing with lenses now is amazing and kind of fitting since their target is clearly professional photographers and very well affluent hobbyists for whom expensive glass is not a particular barrier.
There are three lenses I've bought from Panasonic that continue to amaze me when used on the S1R with the file adaptations I've suggested. These are the 50mm f1.4, the 24-70mm f2.8 and the 70-200mm f4.0. All S-Pro models. All come with the cool focusing ring that you pull back to get manual focusing control. These lenses are all pricey when compared to various competitors but in my experience they are wildly effective. I did try a Leica 90mm f2.0 APO and it is amazing but for $5695 it should be. The Elmarit R 90mm is not in the same ballpark but it's still an amazing lens.
I'm determined to keep my lens buying powder dry so I can pick up one of the Lumix 85mm f1.8 lenses (announced on the roadmap for this year) if it comes out and I'm pretty sure it will be a good, less expensive option. I have the Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art lens for the L system but it's so darn heavy. It's a great advertising lens or studio lens but it's sure not a walk-around option. At least not for those of us who aren't into competitive body building.
Once I tweaked the color settings and profile settings on the S1R I got files that were technically much better than similar files from the Leica SL, with the added benefits of much lower high ISO noise and a much higher resolution file (I guess five years makes a real difference...) and I was also able to get files that worked aesthetically at least as well for me. In fact, I prefer the WB from the S1R much more -- in most settings.
I've given myself the task of really digging into the whole range of the S1R's abilities. I've taken the batteries out of the S1 cameras and the Sigma fp camera and locked all of the non-S1R cameras up in the equipment cabinet. For now, until someone calls, texts or e-mails with a job I'll be working on becoming so intimately familiar with the S1R that I'll know it as well or better than anyone out there. (raw hyperbole).
I find it to be the best combination of sheer image quality, perfect ergonomics and it also excels at basic operation. I hope that by the time I'm finished getting fully self-indoctrinated that I am able to operate the camera (metaphorically) blind-folded.
We'll try this comparison again with a Leica SL2. It's the current version of their mirrorless pro camera and it matches the S1R for resolution. The issue right now is that everywhere one looks the SL2 is in "pre-order" or "back-order" and it's almost impossible to get one's hands on one. I promise I won't buy one without giving it a rigorous, side-by-side evaluation with the Panasonic. It's my hope that the Panasonic goes toe to toe with the SL2. I'd rather toss the $6K earmarked for the SL2 into some sort of emerging market index fund. Not as my exciting as high end camera gear but probably more sensible...
So that's what I did and thought about today.
In happy, personal news: The swimming pool is once again safe and we'll re-start masters swimming on Tuesday morning at 6 a.m. I'm still getting up early since the first practice of the day is limited to two persons per lane. Seems safer to me; especially now that Texas is breaking its own records for Covid-19 infections....
Still trying to figure out how to swim with a face mask on....