Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Leica SL Review

Leica has introduced the new SL camera, and the Internet is ablaze, or abuzz, or something. Everyone is reviewing this thing. I guess I better step up.

With this camera, Leica is attempting to merge two separate lines of artistic inquiry, the experiment with gigantism in the Leica S is merged with the boxy planarity of the original M models. To these basic elements, we add a strong dose of Bauhaus modernism blended with something like Soviet Brutalism, creating an architecture that is somehow simultaneously sleek and blunt, slender and massive.

The almost total lack of surface texture and the hard angles (the design has nary a single radius, it appears to be constructed entirely out of featureless black planes intersecting in mathematically sharp lines, it frankly makes me want to pick up some sort of large bone and brain a friend) seem a nod to 1970s hifi design, perhaps a hearkening back what is now the distant past, that ambiguous era of heavy distortion and bad shoes, somewhere between the bright color of the 1960s and the cheerfully false plastic of the 1980s.

Or are we seeing something different, something a touch more sinister? In the view of this author that 1970s hifi look could as easily be a nod to H&K's design language. Combined with the obvious Soviet design influences, one cannot help but feel something a little military, a little nasty, in here. Is this thing a metaphor for a tank, or for rock&roll? Or is it playing with some unmentionable dialectic between the two, somehow?

One thing is certain, the SL is a gigantic, and I mean that literally, "Fuck You" to Jony Ive.


  1. Your comment about the wooden grip on TOP almost made me spew my coffee. And the "large bone" did it again.

    You now have another reader.

  2. I have to admit I sort of like the look, but your point about H&K did ring true. There is a certain sinister look to the thing I vaguely associate with the Batman movies. Wonder how it feels in the hand? Not very comfortable I fear.

    And I, too, laughed at your wooden grip comment.

    1. Thanks ;) It does have a kind of appeal to it, yep. The built all those sleek black stereos back in the day because it's a pretty cool look!

      And it's not evan all that huge!

      But I do love being a bit snotty, so, artistic license?

  3. I'm not very worldly: who's Jony Ive??
    African hardwood grips?? Machined in Solms?
    Or "aged" by Mr. Kravitz? (Dying to see his "Limited Edition" version of this one!!)
    BTW: is the commenter who doesn't agree with your writing (ivokele ??) really MT in disguise?
    Keep 'em coming...................!

    1. Jony Ive is the design mastermind at Apple. He likes sleek, thin, rounded, and above all white ;) It's not *actually* true that the SL is an anti-Ive piece but it's not too far off, either.

      I dunno about ivokele. He seems to think I need a lot of correction. And he's probably right, but he doesn't seem to be the guy to do it? Maybe I'm just stubborn.

    2. I am not related to Ming Thein. I actually criticised one of his pictures earlier on, don’t you remember?

      I am simply an old reader of this blog, from before the time it went on hiatus in ay 2014. I am also a photographer and have been active on forums since 1995.

      In the past 2-3 years I have grown discontent about photography forums. I feel my opinions are not wanted: the only opinion that appears to be accepted is more sharpness, more dynamic range, more colour saturation and any new camera is to be accepted as “what we always missed to take real pictures at last”. I am a lot less active on photo forums than I used to be. I can recognise when my opinions are not wanted.

      This blog was a refreshing change, so I started to follow it. I really regretted when it closed in may 2014. I was pleasantly surprised when it restarted.

      My mistake was to start to post comments, anonymously at first and then I found back the password for that old google account I used years ago, so I started to post under that i.d. My mistake was to use the comment section of this blog as a forum substitute: I started to post my own opinions. And, wouldn’t you know it, as on forums I am not always of the same opinion as the majority.

      Except that this was downright silly on my part. This is a blog, not a forum. A blog works a bit like a TV program: you are presented with someone’s show and you are not supposed to answer to the TV when you don’t agree, you simply change the channel.

      Which is what I will do.

    3. You are, of course, welcome to continue to comment.

      Comments that merely agree are certainly nice, but less interesting than the ones that disagree. You are welcome to continue to disagree.

      But there will be a human conversation in which disagreements often cannot be resolved. Snark will often be met with snark.

      I try to be graceful about corrections but I am human in the first place and in the second place I've often taken some care and have some confidence in what I've said.

      You are still welcome to disagree, and to say so.

    4. But a blog is not the place to have a discussion. A forum would be a place to have a discussion, it is designed for exchanges between like minded members, at least in theory. A blog is a place where the host runs the show and entertains the readers, not a place where the readers write the articles themselves.

      A blog is similar to a magazine or a TV program or a magazine and I don’t write to TV stations or to magazines regularly. Do you?

      So: thank you for the offer, but no.

    5. That is just silly. A discussion is a discussion wherever it takes place. Where is the law that says you can have a discussion on a "forum" but not on a "blog" ?

  4. Heckler & Koch? As in H&K Assault Rifles? (Yes, there really is such a thing. I've held one in my hot little hands.)


    Steve Mack