Rugby with the Leica SL
Bury RUFC in the rain
Getting a new camera is lovely.
All the new buttons to press, the fuctions to discover. But until you go out and actually shoot a location, you’re not really using it.
I was invited to come down to Bury Rugby Football Club and cover their training session and a couple of games, so I packed the new Leica SL along with my M9, a couple of M lenses and made my way down to the rainy pitch.
While the SL is weather sealed, the Zeiss M mount lenses I was using were not. I’d used them in plenty of drizzle in the past tho so I wasn’t concerned.
At first, it was a little odd trying to focus manually. I’d been a long time M users and was used to the little rectangle-aligning game you get with a rangefinder. I’d really built up the muscle memory there and while the focus peaking was something I’d used in the past on a Sony NEX, I’d not warmed to it then. The 50 Planar had the same throw and handling that it always did, so I quickly adjusted.
The viewfinder was quite a pleasing difference, one I didn’t expect as a fan of optical VFs. Huge, detailed and very comfortable. Peaking through the M9’s at a later date felt like a keyhole in comparison. Whether the SL will end up ruining my experiences with the M is still to be seen.
Catching action with a manual focus lens is always a challenge, but the insanely high burst speed of the SL tripled my chances. Each touch of the shutter became an instant tripple ta-ta-ta of images as the subject moved in and out of my pre-focused spot on the pitch.
I’ve never been an advocate of the “spray and pray” technique of catching moments, years of using an all manual, film Leica M taught me to predict my subject and choose when to strike. I never normally had athletes in the middle of a game as my subjects tho.
The downside of this technique is that at the end of the day, I had 1300 photos to go through, with a looooot of duplicates to sift out. This was a huge time sink. I can honestly say that as blisteringly fast as the 11fps is, it’ll be saved for moments such as post-ceremony confetti over the bride and groom.
Aside from the game itself, there was a huge crowd of fans and support staff to photograph. Rain was never something that would put off a true supporter and even after several hours of it, there was still plenty of smiles to snap.
As it got dark, the SL’s excellent low-light performance was put to the test. Even tho I had the shutter speed locked to 1/125 to capture the movement and the lens I was using was only F2, I was incredibly impressed by the performance.
With auto-ISO set to max out at 6400 (compared to 800 on my M9) the results had incredibly well controlled noise in the darkest areas. The 4.4 megapixel EVF was still very useable in this low light, tho I did find that focus peaking was easier when the JPG settings were on Monochrome to make the red lines really stand out.
With the home team victorious, I was able to capture some fantastic images of the mud-covered players and was brought into the post-game huddle for some of the amazing photos below.
I’d shot everything with a single camera (Leica SL) a single lens (Zeiss 50mm f2 Planar) and 2 batteries and ended up with shots I know I’d never have been able to get with my M9.
I never once found the need to pull my M9 out or change lens, tho I would have loved to have had a 90 Summicron in my bag at points.
If I needed any proof that I’d made the right decision to pair my M9 with an SL instead of an M240, I had it.
Congratulations to Bury RUFC and to Leica, both put in champion effort and scored big time.
All images in this article were shot with my personal Leica SL and Zeiss 50mm f2 Planar.
All black and white images were processed with Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 and all colour images were processed with Nik Color Efex Pro 4.
The views an opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not constitute a technical review or product advertisement.
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