Shooting with Leica R on the Epic

Which lenses to buy is a big deal. A good one lasts a lifetime and finds new life in every new generation of cameras.

My Leica glass are all over 30 years old, I looked up the serial numbers to see what year they were made or ‘born.’

35mm 2.8 born in 1970

50mm 2 born in 1980

90mm 2.8 born in 1965

135mm 2.8 born in 1965

I’m surprised that my 90mm is 47 years old because it looks fantastic and I know I’ll be using it for years to come.

Speaking of which, one would think that for all the new advances on digital technology these artifacts of the non-digital age would get thrown under the rug… well the opposite has already happened. Because of large sensor cameras and flexible adapters the old Leica lenses has shot up in value over the past few years and will continue to climb as more and more people get their hands on a camera that supports the adapter mount. The marriage between classical and modern technology has never been more appealing.

I finally got to try my Leica glass on a red EPIC. I previously shot with RED primes which produced absolutely gorgeous images. But at $5,000 for each lens it’s well out of the price range for me and many others.

Below is the video we shot on the RED primes-

When I put the Leica on the RED I was hoping that it could achieve 70% of what the RED primes did… I was wrong.

Looking at the raw footage, I couldn’t tell the difference between the RED primes and the Leica glass. I actually found the 50mm for under 200 dollars in Europe. Talk about saving money.

Used my trusty shape rig for this shoot to help with stabilization.

Below is a list of a couple professional cameras that can use the Leica glass via an adapter-

Canon DSLR
Nikon DSLR
Sony F3
RED epic, scarlet

I plan on shooting my first feature with my Leicas and perhaps more, these guys don’t seem to have a expiration date and it’s easy to see why.

Without further ado… the video-

I’ve tried all the major photography lenses and below is my ranking-

1. Leica
2. Zeiss
3. Canon L

Zeiss glass are pretty sharp but tend to be cold in color. Canon L has sharpness and unusually are a bit over saturated for my taste.

Leicas are #1 by a mile, nothing matches the color fidelity and sharpness. There’s simply something magical about the image it produces. Look at the RED forums, Leicas have gained a religious following and rightfully so.

Color fidelity is essentially the contrast between colors or in other words the amount of shades/colors captured.

I shot a tree a few years ago with both the canon 50mm and Leica 50mm… in post I was only able to change parts of the tree on the canon footage because most of the greens were the same, however with the Leica footage I was able to do a deeper color grade because each leaf had a different shade that registered on my software as a different color.

Sure, most people won’t be able to tell the difference between the raw footage unless it was blown up but for colorists it’s paramount to capture as much color information as possible so you can push it closer to perfection.

One last note, the biggest compromise that comes with using a lens intended for photography rather than professional cinematography is that the aperture ring usually stops down in clicks. This means that the whole shot would need to be set at one stop, unless you’re cool with the whole image suddenly getting darker/lighter with an annoying flicker.

Thankfully there are options, I got my aperture ring de-clicked by Duclos so I can now adjust aperture discreetly while recording, test below-

I got all my Leicas from ebay but you should check your local used camera store or craigslist as well.

Happy hunting, I’ll leave you with my latest short which was shot 100% on Leica R glass on the Canon DSLRs.

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