The new APO-Summicron-SL 75 f/2 ASPH. and APO-Summicron-SL 90 f/2 ASPH. represent the 75mm and 90mm extensions to the range of Leica SL-Prime lenses. Both of these professional lenses continue the long and successful tradition of Leica’s unmatched craftsmanship, offering uncompromising durability and a range of outstanding features. The Dual Syncro Drive™ with two ultra-lightweight lens elements enables extremely precise and almost silent autofocusing, while extremely high contrast values at maximum aperture mean that these lenses provide the quintessential Leica look, in terms of shallow depth of field and isolation of subject details. Düsseldorf-based photographer Arndt Sauerbrunn road-tested both lenses on his latest fashion shoot and we caught up with Arndt to get his take on the Leica SL-System‘s latest optical advancement.
How did you get into professional fashion photography?
Nearly 20 years ago, before the end of my studies, I founded a studio with two fellow students of mine. One of them is still my partner in the studio in Dusseldorf. Back in the day, we started by doing jobs for local fashion labels and were shooting a lot of classic catwalk photography. That was the start and things just grew from there.
What is it that you appreciate the most about the Leica SL-System?
The Leica SL has a range of great features but the one stand-out for me is the EyeRes® viewfinder (EVF). Of course, the fact that it is incredibly durable compared to other cameras is also a big advantage. When it comes to long shooting days, the simple and intuitive workflow really helps and the professional video quality is also something that I appreciate a lot.
What kind of feeling were you trying to capture during this shoot?
Firstly I want to mention the clothes we were shooting. Andrea Jacobi, founder of Meinweiss, owns a very special fashion label. I really like her collections and value her elegant cuts in combination with classy materials, such as silk. The manufacturing quality of all her garments is extraordinary. If I am not mistaken, the dresses are even made in Germany.
It was important to me to translate this feminine fashion and high quality manufacturing in a fitting visual language. The location and models were chosen to emphasize the exclusive individuality of the clothes. You’re doing a great job if you can tell small stories in the single shots.
But your question was more about the feelings I wanted to transport. I think I wanted to illustrate the interplay between female strength and vulnerability – this can evoke a sense of magic.
Shooting the first pictures with the 90mm lens (APO-Summicron-SL 90 f/2 ASPH.) I couldn’t believe how sharp the lenses are when wide open. Nevertheless, all the sharpness in the world is unnecessary if it is positioned incorrectly. I was skeptical, but after taking the first shots I realized I could totally rely on the autofocus. It delivered amazing sharpness. The automatic eye detection also works very precisely. In the first shot I took, the model’s eyes were captured almost 100% sharp.
In terms of sharpness and structure, the results are unsurpassable and working with the Leica SL in connection with these lenses is also a lot of fun. The design concept is consistent for all the SL lenses, despite their different focal lengths. No matter which of the lenses I’m using, the handling remains identical. The balance is the same, the focusing ring is in its familiar location, the filter thread has the same diameter and the optical performance is also consistent. This consistency also relates to the lenses Leica make for cinematography, the Summilux-C and Summicron-C lines. In terms of performance, Leica sets the bar right across its range of lenses.
The APO-Summicron-SL 75 f/2 ASPH. operates in the transitional zone between a standard and telephoto focal length. How did the versatility of this lens work to your advantage?
I can imagine that the APO-Summicron-SL 75 f/2 ASPH. will become one of my favorite lenses. At first sight, the focal length seams to be curious, but it is fun to engage with this focal length and I enjoyed seeing things differently.
The APO-Summicron-SL 90 f/2 ASPH. provides the perfect parameters for portrait photography and the half-length shots you captured with it are incredibly sharp. How was it working with the 90mm lens?
The 90mm lens is a classic. In combination with appropriate luminosity, it is the perfect lens for portraits and larger details without wide-angle effects but this is no secret.
What was your experience of the speed, precision and sound of the lens?
The lenses are fast and reliable in the autofocus mode. There were only a few moments where I operated the lenses manually. The manual focusing works in a really gentle way so you really feel the accuracy in the manufacturing. The lenses are also extremely quiet – I didn’t notice any noise during shoot.
The focal contrast of your images really allows your subjects to “snap”. What apertures were you shooting at and how much work did you have to put into the lighting?
Almost all pictures were shot at maximum aperture and we worked with Briese lighting. We used standard-size lights, as well as bigger vertical light banks (strips). I really like this light. I also worked with straight backlight. Shooting through a door with frosted glass worked fantastically. The camera, or rather, the lenses were able to create an enormous range of contrast.
What are your thoughts on the depth of field these lenses produced?
The dynamic range and detail resolution in the images captured with these lenses are extremely high. The depth of field is actually significantly shallower than you would expect from the f-number. This meant that sharply focused objects stood out more prominently and the overall impression from the images is more three-dimensional. The impression of depth is enhanced. This, in turn, opens up new opportunities for composition and creative expression. It felt like using a couple of really powerful new tools.
How much work did you put into editing these images and could you describe your process?
We used the light very precisely during the shoot. Fortunately the changes while converting from DNG to Tiff could be reduced. We had already received the maximum information in the RAW files with a few backlight shots. I developed the pictures in Photoshop Creative-Cloud. Fashion images are always edited in Photoshop. I personally set value on editing the skin tones in a special way, to keep it natural. In this regard, less is definitely more.
Do you have any advice for those looking to improve their portrait or fashion photography?
Getting good images comes down to so many different things when you’re on a shoot. Besides having a good working attitude (mostly hard work) and all the creative requirements, such as lighting, the most important thing is to create a pleasant atmosphere on set. That sounds trite but it requires a lot of attention, even as early as the preparation phase and communicating with the client. If you can achieve this it will help those involved feel secure and confident.
A team of creative professionals and efficient equipment is also indispensable. You need to be able to rely on your people just as much as your equipment. Perhaps one more thing to be aware of is that often time pressure comes into play when shooting. However, the photographer should never feel like they are rushed and can’t try out different things. Sometimes the best decision is to go slow rather than speed up. The bottom line is the quality of the photos.
Visit Arndt’s website to connect with him and see more of his professional work.