Shooting Video on the Leica SL by Tarek Jammal

 Shooting Video on the Leica SL

by Tarek Jammal

So like Steve, I always used to buy with my heart rather than my head. And every time I did, I would be relatively satisfied, but buyer’s remorse would kick in. The main reason being I’m surrounded by a group of friends who are all professionals in their fields (photography, cinematography, documentary filmmaking, etc).. So I’m the one of the group that gets the most criticism for my “obnoxious” purchases. The most flak I got was when I purchased the Leica T. A camera I loved, but compared to the competition, it didn’t compare that favorably. I’m predominantly a filmmaker / videographer, and at the time I had a 5d Mark 3 for video, and a Leica T for travel photography. The video on the Leica T was quite weak and left much to be desired, but it gave me the opportunity to finally shoot video with an M-Lens (I had bought a used but perfect condition summicron 35). As annoyingly limited as the camera’s video capabilities, I was enthralled by how beautiful some moments would appear with that lens in motion.

Then the Leica SL came out and it was the first purchase I made that satisfied both my heart and my mind. It made perfect sense to me, a cinema level video camera that I can use to shoot professional video utilizing my M lenses.

Since buying the camera, I am perpetually impressed at some of the things I could do with it in terms of video. While my friends boast about their unlimited iso capabilities (Sony A7s and co) which the SL isn’t great at, or their amazing dynamic range (Black Magic and co) which is SL is not bad at, there’s just something about the footage that comes straight out of the SL that I love. It’s very much the kind of “look” that speaks to me, and it’s something you can’t quantify with technical specs.

It’s been almost a year and still I have no regrets. I have shot large scale advertisements with the camera, most recently on an ad that was voted the best ad of the year by the people of this tiny little country I live in called Kuwait. That ad isn’t particularly beautiful visually, but it’s the freedom and versatility of using this camera that allowed me to capture moments that really connected with audiences, something I would not have been able to do with a more “professional” camera that needs a whole crew to support it like the Blackmagic Pro or the Red or the Arri Alexa. All those cameras defeat the SL in every way when it comes to their cinematic capabilities, but as an independent filmmaker who prefers to have as minimal a crew as possible on any shoot, the Leica SL is absolutely perfect.

Before I go, I figured I have to show you something 🙂

Here is a video I shot during a local creative conference that happened last year. It was about a few weeks after receiving the SL and I shot this video to test it out and learn how to use it well as getting an opportunity to shoot video with my newly acquired 50mm Summilux-M. This is a video comprised of portraits of some of the interesting people I saw. Nothing special, nothing specific I can point out, but in some moments you can see a glimpse of what a combination of a Leica Cinema camera and a Leica M Lens can achieve in terms of a “look”.

Enjoy, and feel free to ask any questions you may have about the SL’s real world video capabilities, what its limitations are, or if you need any humble advice from an amateur like myself.


Within & Without – Portraits from Nuqat 2016 from Tarek Jammal on Vimeo.


  1. I know you answered a question about focusing but I would like some more details. As a Cinematographer used to using manual focus PL lenses I find manual focus on the Leica SL to be very challenging. When shooting a video of an object moving toward the camera it is easy to miss the focus, especially in bright sunlight when the viewfinder is hard to see. Have you ever used any of the autofocus modes like dynamic tracking when shooting video? I understand the autofocus doesn’t work very well in low light but in a well lit situation is there a way to keep a moving subject in focus using a method other than manual focus?

  2. Hi Tarek,
    Inspiring to watch your portraits-film. Amazing how good it looks even with the sun straight into the camera. I really like this camera and lens. However I have a question: Does the paint of your SL hold up well or does it wear off easily? I’ve heard that the finish is not so durable even though the camera is very robust in all other ways. Just trying to get a picture so I won’t be too disappointed if I buy the camera and the black paint begins to come off after a few months of use.

  3. I enjoyed your post and video. I have Leica SL and M lenses but haven’t tried the video function.

    How did you focus with a manual focus?

    Thank you for your post

    • As you know, the Leica SL has an amazing viewfinder. Focusing with manual was very easy just by looking through the viewfinder. In my opinion it’s easier to do so for video than it is for photo, just cause you get to move, refocus, etc as you shoot. Focusing manual on video is really the only way to shoot unless you’re shooting a vlog or something of the like, but I always shoot with manual focus

  4. Great post, I have had not much interest in video until now, something to experiment with once my SL that I ordered yesterday arrives.

  5. Salam Tarek,
    Great post. Cool to see a fellow reader from Kuwait. BTW I was at that conference as well in Kuwait City

  6. Thank you for your post! As someone who is considering the SL partly to do some slow-mo video (for my own personal projects), this is very helpful. I am currently using the M10 and various lenses including the 50mm Summilux. As a total video noob who wouldn’t know a LUT if it hit him in the head, can you offer any tips on the basic settings to shoot video on the SL and get nice results? Did you find an external mic to be absolutely necessary? Thanks again for posting.


    • Hi Peter, thanks for the question 🙂

      The Leica SL has a log feature which basically gives you the widest dynamic range, however you can’t really use that feature if you won’t do intense color correction afterwards. I’ve only ever used it when I was going for a specific “look” cause to be honest if you want the image to return back to normal it can be a hassle. Most of my shoots I stick with the regular out of camera look, but I do reduce the saturation to its minimum in the camera so it gives me some options to play with in post, and because I feel the standard saturation is too strong. So my advice would be to bring saturation to its lowest in the settings.

      In terms of frame rate vs shutter speed, you want to go with what’s known as a 180 degree shutter angle. Basically, if I’m shooting regular speed I go with 24p All-I for the frame rate and 1/50 for the shutterspeed. When shooting slow motion, I go with 120p for the frame rate and 1/250 for the shutter speed. This will give you the most natural “cinematic” looking movement.

      In regards to the mic, yes. The built in mic is not great in that it picks up a lot of noise. If you’re in a quiet room with no AIr Conditioning on , it’s useable, but for the most part of you’re shooting dialogue an external mic is quite necessary

      Hope that helps!

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