After handling the camera and talking with the reps onhand at NAB 2015, Kevin Luiz gives us a fresh take on the upcoming Leica S Type 007 and why the $25K shooter could be a budget-friendly option for some users.
NAB 2015 was a bit of a whirlwind. With so much technology, it's almost hard to take it all in at once. As journalists, it is our duty to sniff out what technology is genuinely ground-breaking. With that being said, when Leica approached RedShark to come over and take a look at their new S Type 007, it was something I could not refuse – it's Leica, after all!
Back in September of 2014, Leica announced its S Type 007 at Photokina. The S Type 007 is quite the camera to behold. It's something like a Ferrari sitting on a tripod. Its footprint is obviously much smaller then a traditional ENG style camera, but its form feels beefy in your hands (body 2.8lbs). The camera is just really something you have to have a tactile experience with to come to grips with it.
With the S Type 007, I was greeted by a 3" diagonal, 921,600 pixel, full sRGB color LCD display. The screen felt punchy to me and most importantly, featured a tool I am very accustomed to: Focus peaking! I was immediately impressed that a photo company included something as simple as focus assistant software. This meant to me that the 007 was not slapped together with a video feature, but some real thought was put behind this. Leica had my attention and I had to know what other filmmaking tools this camera had tucked away within its bag of tricks.
Under The Hood
So, what sort of specs does this camera have? For starters, the S Type 007 boasts a medium format 37.5 megapixel sensor with the capability of shooting 4K DCI (24p) at an APS-C equivalent crop factor. If shallow depth and creamy bokeh is more your style, the 007 is also capable of utilizing the full sensor in medium format captured to HD (24/25/30p) resolution. Interestingly, when I asked the technicians about the compression, they told me the 007 roars with a MOV motion jpeg codec at a whopping 400mbs. This is a stretch from what I am used to, running my 4K images roughly around 100mbs. It will be interesting to see the video content and how its detail holds up in comparison to more heavily compressed media.
There is a bit of discrepancy between what I learned in my interview and our initial findings, but Leica has confirmed that the S Type 007 will feature 8 bit 4:2:2 internally for its color space. Regardless, the camera is capable of outputting its 4K signal clean, via its mini HDMI port which is also in 8 bit 4:2:2 space. This is merely speculation, but if Leica performs a bang up job on its internal compression (again, like Panasonic), the 8 bit file should grade nicely with hard pushes in both the shadows and highlights.
Speaking of shadows and highlights, this camera will have roughly 13+ stops of dynamic range and a base of 100 to 12,500 ISO. It's anyone's guess how clean the 12,500 ISO will be, but the proof will be in the pudding. I am by no means a technician, but it is my assumption that the larger sensor, the 6 µm pixel value and the Maestro II image processor will accommodate for its sensitivity, allowing for less noise than other cameras at comparable ISOs.
What's In The Bag?
Aside from the aforementioned Focus peaking, what's in the bag that makes this camera so alluring to filmmakers? Any seasoned shooter will be happy to know the camera is fully weather-sealed. The S Type 007 will also contain live histograms, an on-screen level, timecode input and a mini jack for external audio functionality.
In addition, the S Type also has full control of the camera via the integrated WLAN module, pairing the camera for both smartphones and tablets. This is a real treat that I, as a filmmaker, I have also become accustomed to in my work. Nothing is more liberating then being able to control your camera from a remote position, enabling you to adjust settings in hard-to-reach places.
Who Is This Camera For?
The burning $25,400 question is: who is this camera made for? Let's be frank; for the low budget indie filmmaker, this camera will most likely not be for you. I did get a straight answer as to who it might be for from the Leica reps. Upon reflection, I believe I have a solid answer: photography studios. The Leica S Type 007 is a stills camera through and through. That being said, this camera has gone a long way in making a video-centric stills camera.
The 007 has a great sense of worth with its video packed features and specifications. I say it is meant for photo studios because it is my belief Leica is trying to do something rather unique. This camera is giving premier to mid-sized photo studios a 4K video tool, allowing them to offer additional video services to integrate into their photography packages. With this target audience in mind, the Leica S Type 007 is actually quite liberating and budget-friendly. As a studio owner working in medium format, you will no longer need to invest in dual systems for both stills and video separately, but rather one hybrid system that will allow you to capture content in both mediums. Let's not forget though, you will have to buy into Leica's medium format glass to cover the full range of the sensor. This could become rather pricey, but you are buying some of the best glass in existent to date.
When looking at tools to invest in, one has to not only factor in the look and feel of their image, but also the mobility of the unit. Leica revealed to me that a great deal of its consumers have actually been running with both their Leica cameras and a Canon C100, C300 etc. Having two entirely different systems is not only really expensive, it's also extremely cumbersome for traveling shoots. Knowing this, the Leica S 007 makes perfect sense for who this camera geared towards.
This camera appears to be an expensive tool, but for the working studio, the Leica S Type 007 is truly a contender. It is my hope to have the privilege of shooting with this camera. I can honestly say I am excited to see some samples revealed. In closing, I really was blown away by what had been packed into this unit and, for companies that are looking to integrate video work into their own works, I would give a long hard look at this system. A new medium format work horse is born: the Leica S Type 007.
What do you think of the Leica S Type 007? Do you have experience working in medium format? Share your thoughts below.