Image © Dean Chalkley
Dean Chalkley is just the kind of photographer the Leica S2 is aimed at. He shoots in and out of the studio, photographing musicians and fashion models for advertising and editorial commissions (see pages 22 and 85 for more on two of his latest assignments). There’s often a performative element to his shoots, and the images might be used at billboard size, so a camera that boasts medium format quality and DSLR-like versatility is bound to interest him.
So we gave him the S2 to try out, and the verdict is in: “It feels good. It’s sharp. It’s a simple and solid camera. The only thing stopping me from buying it is the price tag.”
Chalkley spent three days playing with the £16,000 camera before taking it on a shoot at Shoreditch Studios, where he photographed a collective of female DJs, the She Set. Since its release, Leica has shown some illustrative images shot “in a quite controlled environment,” says Chalkley. “My shoot was totally uncontrolled.” Out of the box, the camera felt “very good,” the photographer tells BJP. “It reminded me of the Pentax 67.”
But, he says, one of the strongest wow factors only comes when you turn the camera on. “It has a really straightforward menu. Menus on DSLRs can prove confusing, especially when you’re trying to get the settings right between your main camera and a backup one.”
“Then,” he adds, “you hold it to your eye and there is this gigantic viewfinder. You can see everything.”
The next step was for Chalkley to hook up the S2 to a computer, using Leica’s intermediary software as well as Phase One’s Capture One software. That’s when he encountered his first problems. “The link crashed twice, with the numbering system going back to one both times. You then have to manually advance through the 600 frame numbers in order to carry on from where you left off,” he says. “But this seemed a minor point and one I’m sure Leica will fix.”
Leica’s unique autofocus point also proved limiting. “With most cameras today, you get at least nine points, and already you feel it’s not enough. But, just one autofocus point is a bit of a shame.”
Another problem, and Chalkley’s main beef with the S2, is the red bias he says he encountered. “The sooner a camera profile is developed to reduce this default bias the better,” he tells BJP.
Despite these issues, the photographer believes Leica has a winner with its S2. “The image quality is amazing. You can zoom in as much as you want and it remains sharp. This is a really great camera,” he adds. “I definitely would use it. It feels good. It’s a simple and solid camera, and once it introduces leaf shutter lenses, it will open up a world of possibilities. But, at the moment, this is best for studio work, unless you have absolute control over your environment if shooting outside of a studio. I’d love to own one and shoot with it every day. For me, the only drawback is the price tag.”
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