Rugby with the Leica SL and a 50mm Zeiss Planar by Cris Rose

Rugby with the Leica SL and a 50mm Zeiss Planar

by Cris Rose

Hi Steve,

I discovered your blog back in 2009, I would regularly read your blog and dream about owning a Leica M. When I finally got one, I’d check out all your lens articles which led me to my favourite, the Zeiss 50 Planar. Today I’m an events photographer that only shoots Leica, so I thought I’d send you a short report on my new addition to my gear, the Leica SL. Thanks for all the inspiration over the years.

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.

As always you must click on the images to see them correctly!

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. 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 times. 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.
Copyright is maintained on all images and text and may not be used without written permission.
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  1. Hi Cris,

    It’s obvious that the Leica SL, the Lux, and the sport are well-suited to b&w images; they are easily the best when viewed against the color. Some have a timeless feel to them. Thank you for these photos.

  2. Nice work, Steven. I have to agree with commenters above me, black and white photos looked a bit better for me, although jersey colors are really eye-catching.
    When it comes to photographing sports events, it’s important to capture the right moments and you did that with some great photos of hurdles, but also people around, because what is sport without fans!

  3. People’s skin color is not good as any color.
    Probably the processing distort the colors look unnatural.
    There is no doubt that the combination of this lens with this camera produce excellent images, in this case mostly black and white.

  4. That’s some very nice work. It must be a relief to be able to use such a short lens at games like this. We are mostly fed tight compositions by most media outlets, and it’s nice to see some wide shots. I assume you are allowed to walk up and down the boundary at will?

    For the most part I preferred the b&w photos – perhaps because the quality of the light isn’t that pleasing.

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