At the end of October, videographer and photographer Bernhard Spöttel became one of the first people given the chance to work with the new Leica SL2-S. The area around Lake Fuschl in Austria offered the perfect backdrop for this purpose. We spoke with him about his experiences and first impressions.
You’ve been in the photography business for over 20 years. How did you actually get into it?
I discovered my father’s black and white laboratory, when I was 13, and that was when my passion was first stirred. I established myself as a freelance photographer when I was 23. Shortly afterwards, I was able to win Redbull as one of my most important clients. Nowadays, the range of my photographic work is very broad: from stills taken in the studio to commercials, editorials, aerial photography, automobiles, portraits and sports.
That certainly is a broad palette. What equipment do you use?
For assignments in the studio, where higher resolution is important, I use a Leica S3. For editorial assignments, and depending upon the demands, I use either my Leica M10 or an SL2. The SL2 is also my choice when I am working on action photography, as then I need a very fast autofocus.
You were one of the first people to try out the new SL2-S. What were your first impressions?
Because I’m already used to the SL2, the new camera didn’t really represent any big changeover. The SL2-S adapts perfectly to my workflow. Just like its sister model, the camera sits really well in your hand; it’s intuitive to use, and its versatility really makes it stand out. I used my M lenses with 35 and 50mm focal lengths for the pictures. Furthermore, I was also able to use the 35mm Summicron-SL and the 16–35mm wide-angle zoom.
You’ve tried out quite a few things, then. How did the camera deal with the outdoor setting?
The camera has an extremely robust construction and is very well protected against dust and sprays of water; so it can be recommended for a diversity of action shoots. The results during twilight were also very satisfactory, and fulfilled all my expectations.
How was the SL2-S as a film camera?
I must say that the SL2-S is really good for filming. In my professional life, I mostly use cine cameras, like the Arri, for my moving picture projects. When using the SL2-S, I noticed that the pictures taken with the SL2-S can be very well adapted to the results of the cine cameras. In this area, I consider that the SL2-S is far superior to the SL2. The reproduction of skin tones and the sharpness are especially pleasant. In matters of the interpretation of colours – in other words, how they are read off the sensor – Leica is really way ahead. It is so far ahead that you can use the Arri profile for the colour grading. It works really well. I was also very positively surprised by the results of the high-speed images. Sometimes, you can already get very good results at 180 fps.
In your opinion, what is the most special thing about this camera?
The great thing about the SL2-S is the possibility to attach such a large diversity of lenses, including the strong M lenses; but you can use all kinds of lenses. That’s particularly important for filming, where the combination of camera, sensor and lens is much more decisive than it is for photographing; because, when taking pictures, you can take individual images and change them significantly afterwards and also rescue them, if necessary. With filming, that’s not so easy. Because the lights move through the image, you need to define in advance what kind of look you want to have. What makes the camera stand out? It’s the combination: the new sensor; the speed gained as a result; and, above all, the pictures that it produces, whether photographs or video.
Born in Schongau in 1972, Bernhard Spöttel trained as an electrician. He was a sports soldier for three years, before turning his passion for photography into his profession, 25 years ago. Today, he works in the fields of photography and film, in particular with athletes and automobiles. You can learn more about Spöttel’s photography on his website and his Instagram channel.