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The Leica SL - Low Light Dynamic Range - Part 1 Supplement

The Leica SL - Low Light Dynamic Range - Part 1 Supplement

You know, I forgot how bright a fast lens is, having shot stopped down for the better part of two years. So when I did my first Leica SL low light review, I think I goofed. I couldn't understand why all the files were shot so cleanly. Originally, I had thought that perhaps the Leica SL sensor was just that good. But then I figured out that I was shooting at much lower ISO, on account of shooting wide open.

So this review is a supplement to part 1 from two weeks ago.

Anyways, I've learned my lesson this time. It's not enough to just shoot at night, or crack open the door for some available office lighting from the hallway. The way to do it is to eliminate all the light sources, one by one, until I'm shooting at ISO 6400. And before you tell me that I could shoot at ISO 12,500 to really push my review, my AUTO ISO is set at 6400, so that never happened.

Alright, I admit it. I should have gone up to ISO 12,500.

Okay. Not quite at ISO 6400 yet. Shooting at 28mm, ISO 4500, 1/30th of a second, f/1.4. At ISO 4500, the files still look relatively clean. The only light source came from the 60W incandescent light bulb from the left, six feet away. And yes, I drew in the curtains.

Now at ISO 6400, at 1/60th of a second, the image gets grainier. Actually, I shot this image before the previous one. You can tell because the lamp shade from the only light source is on the floor, to the left.

Yes, the Leica SL looks pretty good in low light, at ISO 6400. But what of dynamic range, in low light? How much can I push at low light? From what I can see, I can push two stops rather easily, even at ISO 6400. Although I have to admit that pushing three stops at ISO 100 looks even better.

Admittedly, sharpness and detail is retained better if the subject is closer to the camera. Even so, I am of the opinion that details at ISO 6400 for a subject that is standing head to toe from edge to edge of the frame looks reasonably good.

Shot at 28mm, ISO 6400, 1/90th of a second, f/1.4 and pushed 2 stops in Lightroom. The image file is grainy and not particularly sharp to my eyes, but I think it's still perfectly usable.

Shot at 50mm, ISO 6400, 1/125th of a second, f/0.95, pushed 2 stops in Lightroom.

Also shot at 50mm, ISO 6400, 1/125th of a second, f/0.95, pushed two stops in Lightroom.

It got brighter outside, with more lights bleeding through the shades. 50mm, ISO 3200, 1/125th of a second, f/0.95, pushed two stops in Lightroom.

Then I decided to roll up the shades, for some major backlighting. The SL's sensor, with metering set at center weight, was confused, and had consequently set ISO at 100. 50mm, 1/125th of a second, f/0.95, pushed three stops in Lightroom.

Mind you, you don't have to always rely on pushing the exposure. You could also just decrease the intensity of the shadows in Lightroom. That will work too. In the examples I have below, I decreased the intensity of the shadows by 70%, while bringing up saturation, clarity, and vibrance by 20%. The retained dynamic range of the image file handled the edit in post reasonably well.

Shot at 28mm, ISO 1100, 1/125th of a second, f/1.4. The backlighting was so extreme that I had a choice of either pushing the exposure or decreasing the shadow intensity, along with pushing up saturation, clarity, and vibrance. I did the later.

For this image and the previous image, I decreased shadow intensity by 70%, and increased saturation, clarity, and vibrance by 20%.

Overall, the Leica SL retained detail well enough to enable heavy editing in post on Lightroom. To my untrained eyes, I find the sensor to be much more forgiving than the Leica M240. Honestly, I really enjoy shooting the Leica SL in low and difficult light.

Other than that, I know I am supposed to do a review on the Leica SL under harsh bright light. But again, it's been raining non stop in Hong Kong for the last ten days, so I haven't been able to do that. On the one day that I did have sunlight, I spent it on testing the Leica 24-90mm Vario.

All images in this writeup have been optimize in Lightroom, because I'm testing dynamic range.

Special thanks to Anna!

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