Leica M for Motion Picture

This is quite out of Leica M question in general. In 2012 Leica introduced 1080p at 30fps video in Leica M240 model. With no stabilization in the camera nor the lenses this was easily overlooked feature. Plus most bloggers will use auto focus for video which made the Leica M240 out of the equation. Most Leica users hated the video button, Leica even came with firmware update to block the video button completely by giving the user the option of No Video. My experience was limited too for the most part with it. Shooting still videos from the tripod or handheld home videos. But recently I got a project for which I was torn- shall I use the Leica D-Lux 109 with its 1080p 60fps and video stabilization, good auto focus, closer focusing distance, and 4K 30fps or shall I use the well equipped Leica M240 with its beautiful sensor and astonishing lenses. Keep in mind for most photographers it might be an easy choice but when you look for cinematic look and picture quality to set you apart that might not be that easy. Leica has a long history in cinema lenses. Their top rated and award winning cinematic motion picture lenses are no coincidence. Don’t forget that Leica also makes motion picture lenses based on Leica M lenses and they called M 0.8 cine lenses. Going even further back Leica made Leica cine R lenses and before that as far as my information is correct it did the very famous Panavision lenses.
If you are following me closely you would already know that I shoot only with Leica equipment and my collection of M and R lenses is quite precisely picked. My Leica R lenses are long and macro, and my Leica M lenses are from ultra wide to medium long (90mm). So going back to the above disadvantages for most people of the Leica M240 for video, actually you will find out that in motion picture setups the lenses are manual focus, manual aperture, all manual with some differences in the mechanics but all this made me stop, adjust my thinking and realize my Leica M240 just needed a gimbal to become the tool for the job. I went to a local dealer with whom I have a good business to business relation and asked for the Moza AirCross gimbal to test it out in their backyard (I will do a separate article for the gimbal). Mounting the Leica M240 on the Moza AirCross gimbal was easy. Since the camera is small and the lenses are small it was no brainer that it will balance well. I already knew that I would be shooting the video for the project with the Leica Super Elmer 18 mm ASPH, 100 degrees field of view lens. This lens would produce the very cinematic look when cropped to 21:9 ratio. The lens is also a beast when it comes to straight lines on a super wide angle view. Sharpness is mind blowing and details that it puts in a single image with its 100 degrees view angel is unbelievable. So after 10 minutes with of testing the Leica with the Moza gimbal I was sold. I did some extensive testing of Leica M on the Moza gimbal. Video quality compared to the Leica D-Lux 109 when shooting from the same gimbal was quite obvious. D-Lux 109 with 1080p 60 fps was producing some very very smooth videos but Leica M with the 18 mm Super Elmer was producing more quality picture. Details from the Leica M shots was also outstanding. Colors were better and the bit rate was almost double. Leica M produces 50 Mbit/s while the Leica D-Lux 109 when shooting with 60 fps produced about 30 Mbit/s. Keep in mind the Leica M was set to 1080p @ 24 fps. The D-Lux’s 4K outputs 100 Mbit/s file which is outstanding in quality but for this project this was not an advantage. With its all automation Lica D-Lux was making me uncertain. On the M I would preset everything that I would need to take the cuts for the project and then focus only on the motion of the gimbal.
Leica M on Moza Gimbal
  • 100 degrees wide angle moster

    100 degrees wide angle moster

Focusing the 18 mm Leica Super Elmar I had everything I needed in focus very easily. I decided to give the maximum depth a go, and let the low 1080p resolution blur the further back objects by natural. The project shooting went a little different than I expected but made sure I follow my initial idea to get the cuts I will need.
  • Quick brainstorming about the project

    Quick brainstorming about the project

On the same day I sat down to focus and did some sketching on the tablet about what I will need to do in each cut scene- angles, motions, people, and etc. one thing you should know is that it was very, very windy. My hood was constantly falling, my head was freezing, hands were senseless. The wind was tropical storm like. The gimbal took it very nicely. I managed to take the owner out only for 10 sec to do the side cut scene. The rest was pure improvisation and following what I had in mind as close as possible for the short time I had. The time was so short that I had to leave the camera on auto white balance for all the shooting. It did very very well to be consistent and only once the balance was noticeably different because the change in light source was immense and the object was grey so it made the cast of the artificial light pure white. Easily corrected in post processing. I was shooting on manual shutter speed either 1/60 or 1/24 of a second.

As far as the battery life goes I always tell you will not find mirrorless camera with a better battery life. Leica M240 can take more or less 1000 shots with on a single charge. I shot for 2-3 hours video with LCD on, a couple of photographs at the end, and the battery left was 45%.

I did the whole shooting with just one lens.

Equipment and software used on the project:

• Leica M
• Leica 18 mm Super Elmer ASPH
• Leica M stereo microphone set
• Moza AirCross gimbal
• LUMU Power Meter
• MacBook Pro i7 2015 with 30” Apple Cinema monitor
• FinalCut Pro X
• Compressor
Bensound website for free audio track

Bellow you could see the final edited project
Leica M for Motion Picture project
Well that is all, hope you like the article, if you do please share or like me on Facebook or Instagram.

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