I got a jones for the Leica SL after playing with it at PhotoPlus Expo and speaking with product manager Steffen Skopp, but as I wrote in a fairly gushing first impressions post there were still a bunch of things we didn’t know about the camera. What I never considered is that its log function might be ungradeable, as first reported by Andrew Reid of EOSHD and confirmed by Dan Chung of Newsshooter.
I reached out to Steffen directly to ask about this. Here's his response:
At the moment the L-Log should be used in 10bit HDMI mode. The offset does not effect the 10bit quality and the results are very good as reported from all our fieldtesters.
Honestly, I am surprised that the L-Log is used in 8bit in the reviews – but that’s why we are working on a short-term solution for 8bit – for now I can’t share any more details.
All the best,
We live in a world of extended betas, paid betas, kaizen with rapidly iterated product versions, and Agile methodology with “minimum viable products” – this is the new normal in which even hardware manufacturers have embraced software methods.
But sometimes these things bite someone in the rear.
In this case, it appears that the SL testing team missed a scenario because they simply hadn't anticipated it: who would go to the trouble of recording 8-bit log when 10-bit recording was available? Quality assurance (QA) testing is difficult (it can feel like there are an infinite number of scenarios), and I can imagine Leica staff assuming that this was a non-issue.
Recording internally using 8-bit should have been on the list.
So: shout-out to Mssrs. Reid and Chung for finding and following up on this anomaly.
I'm sure that this is now one of Leica‘s top priorities, if not THE top priority.
But while we're talking about it, at this price it's not unreasonable to assume that recording 10-bit internally is on somebody's list for the next version.
The curious case of the Leica SL – Going hands on with the camera confirms issues with Log gamma
So have Leica’s engineers got it right? I’ll talk about the layout and handling of the camera in a moment but let’s start with the bad news. First reports online indicate that they perhaps haven’t quite figured it all out yet. Andrew Reid over on EOSHD.com was first to discover that there were some strange things going on with the Leica Log gamma. It was supposed to create a more gradeable image in post production, but it seems that Leica managed to achieve the opposite. Log curves are supposed to be flat, but it seems the Leica version is so flat that it makes grading difficult, perhaps impossible. According to Reid the blacks when shooting in Leica Log seem to start at “100 on the 0-255 luma range”. Unless Leica intentionally made their Log mode totally unlike any other Log out there, then it looks like something is very wrong.
For a second opinion I turned to Nick Driftwood, well known as the creator of the Driftwood settings for the hacked GH2, who is an expert in such things. Using footage from a second Leica SL from a different source he was able to verify Reid’s findings. This is what he reported back:
Andrew Reid of EOSHD.com recently reviewed a Leica SL601 in their Berlin store and discovered something very strange was going on with the company’s implementation of Log. Andrew suggested “I first noticed it with the lens cap on that the blacks in LOG mode seem to start around 100 on the 0-255 luma range. This makes the footage essentially ungradable, severely limits dynamic range and is an obvious flaw. Who does Leica have testing the video features!?”
(cover photo credit: snap from Newsshooter)