You might have read in my previous blogs, that my professional photography journey started and was inspired by Leica M and Leica-M lenses. Loving Leica, the second camera body I invested in, and loved using for tens of thousands of pictures, was a Leica SL. In this blog I will tell more about it, but also about my latest tool which is a Sony A9. I will also reveal the reasons behind the change from a Leica M and SL to a Sony A9 and Hasselblad X1D.
So, first about Leica SL. I love how it feels in hand. The size is just about right for a camera to feel perfect, at least in my hand. The feel is very similar to holding a Hasselblad X1D. Leica SL also suited extremely well for my needs on the street and in the studio. I appreciated the robustness and ease of use plus the fast electronic shutter allowing to shoot wide open with f1,4 in full daylight. With the Leica M and it’s maximum shutter speed of 1/4000 I had to use a 3-stop ND-filter most of the time. It was ok to keep the filter on while being outdoors, but when moving indoors or when the weather changed, the shutter speed started to get too long or ISO too high. This hassle with the filter is something I’ve never liked while shooting on the streets. As the Leica SL has an electronic shutter capable of shutter speeds up to 1/32000, there was no hassle of having/not having the filter. The electronic shutter also enables silent shooting when needed. Fast and silent electronic shutter is a feature I now wouldn’t want to live without. There are so many occasions when the silent shooting is preferable or the only option. Worth keeping in mind when considering your next camera.
So if the Leica SL was such a good camera, why did I change it to a Sony A9? The main reason was the SL-lenses and the A9 simply being a better camera. First about the SL lenses. Like I’ve mentioned before, I love the Leica-M Summilux lenses and how compact they are for street photography. The SL lenses were the opposite, big and heavy for any use, especially the Leica-Vario-Elmarit 24-90. The Summilux-SL 50 was huge too and also slow in autofocusing (much slower than the 24-90). They were also very pricy which made me wonder many times that can I afford to continue with the Leica lens line. So I didn’t fall in love with them and considering their price, I should have. I admit that they produced beautiful pictures as such, but using them was not a pleasure. I was also expecting a fast portrait lens for the SL-line from Leica, but it didn’t come early enough so I started to consider other options.
When the Sony A9 was published I didn’t consider it at first, but after a while I decided to test it. Thanks to Rajala Pro store in Helsinki, I got an A9 with a Voigtlander VM Adapter II to try over the weekend. I compared the A9 against my Leica M10 and SL in many ways, indoors and outdoors. The more I shot with the Sony, the more obvious it became that it was better for my needs than the Leica’s and in a number of ways. It’s clearly smaller than the SL and nearly as small as M10 being thus perfect for street photography. It has an inbuilt image stabiliser which neither of the Leica’s have. It has a really sharp and bright electronic viewfinder in which you can also adjust the brightness. It’s the first camera I’ve been able to use with sunglasses on, which is a plus during the bright summer days shooting on the streets. There is no black out period during the shots when using the electronic shutter, and much much less banding compared to Leica SL. The noice levels with high ISOs are a little better too. In all other aspects it is as good or better, except maybe the weather sealing. Now after over a year of using the Sony A9 in rain and snow, I’ve had no leakage issues, but I admit that the Leica SL felt so robust and well sealed that the photographer gives up before the camera ;-)
If I need to pick up one reason above others, the biggest difference and benefit for me was and is the inbuilt image stabiliser. Shooting a lot in low light during the darker months of the year, it has proven to be a really valuable feature enabling shots which I might not have even tried to take with the Leica’s. It eliminates my handshake completely so I don’t need to worry about it like I did earlier. I also calculated that over the years I will save a big money by being in Sony camp compared to Leica and it’s premium prices. Maybe not as sexy as Leica’s but even more fun to shoot with.
So I fell in love again, but this time with the Sony A9. After one night thinking about changing from Leica I decided to ask for a quote to swop my then six months old Leica M10 to a Sony A9 plus a Sony 85 GM lens. A deal was made few days later and I haven’t regret it ever since. I decided to swop the M10 mainly because of it’s very limited capabilities and annoyingly slow shutter reaction time with a long black out when using it’s add on electronic viewfinder. I kept the Leica-M 35 and 50 mm Summilux lenses which are perfect for the street with the the Sony A9. Over the time the Sony 85 G Master with it’s beautiful bokeh and A9’s wonderful eye focus has become my favourite combo for portraits. They together nearly never miss a focus. Since getting the A9 body I’ve also invested in 16-35 mm and 70-200 mm GM lenses which I use much less, but still like them for occasional needs. They are both optically beautiful, extremely sharp and fast focusing. All I need from a lens :-)
By reading the above you might have wondered that did I keep the Leica SL and it’s lenses and the answer is no. After I swopped to Sony A9, I also tested the Hasselblad X1D and ended selling the Leica SL and it’s lenses to buy the Hasselblad X1D with a 90 mm and a 45 mm lens. I love the camera and the lenses, but use them mainly for studio portraits. I’ll write about the Hasselblad another time. I can also add that I’m not fully without Leica’s because I have a Leica Q, perfect compact full frame camera with a fast 28 mm lens.
Now thinking, I admit I could have written this a year ago, but after using the Sony A9 for tens of thousands of shots, I can confirm that my first feelings and thoughts about it were right and I’m a very happy Sony A9 user. Furthermore, after I purchased the Sony A9 I was also extremely pleased that the Profoto came out with a TTL/HSS transmitter for it. I had then, and still have Profoto flashes and I was not able to use their full capability with any of the Leica’s. Another big plus again to Sony, and Hasselblad too.
If you got this far, I thank you for the interest! I hope there was something interesting for your camera considerations too. Until next time :-)
And if you are interested in test shots, I’ve included here some full size pics I took (you need to open them and zoom to see the differences).
The first shots show how little difference there is with the RAW files from these three cameras when using the same ISO and same lens (Leica-M Summilux 50). Files have been auto adjusted for exposure and white balance in Lightroom.
Second set of pictures show the differences with ISO 25000 and here the winner is Sony A9 (last picture).
The last pictures demonstrate the banding by the Leica SL and it’s electronic shutter under ordinary household LED light. In comparison, there is no visible banding with the Sony A9 (as you can see from the above pictures which were all taken with A9 and it’s electronic shutter on). Leica M10 has a mechanical shutter only.