The journey from my trip to Tokyo continued to my final destination of Manila, Philippines, and I thought to myself this would be another good test to my new Leica SL. Tokyo was amazing and a city for street photography galore from sunrise to sunset, but Manila would bring other challenges to the mix. Humidity, smoke, dust, pollution and just a different vibe going from a first world country to a third world country. None the less the photography would also be a different story as with the sweltering heat, your confined to getting to your destination in a car versus walking and commuting your way in Tokyo.
First and foremost, what I wanted to test this camera out on with is the weather sealing. Prior to moving on to the Leica SL I had the Leica Q, and one of the biggest "wants" I wanted with the Leica Q was weather sealing. Yes the Leica Q is not officially weather sealed but it still did hold up fairly well in rain, humid and hot conditions. Though with this I would still have some concern and would also hate the dying battery life in blistery cold conditions. This was one of the main reasons I decided to move on to the Leica SL, was to feel confident that weather conditions were not a factor for taking a photo.
Manila would be another good field test for the Leica SL, heat, humidity and rain. Not just light drizzle rain but heavy downpour monsoon type rain. One disclaimer here is I have been using the Leica SL with the M to L adapter as I prefer to use lighter M lenses until the 35mm SL or 50mm SL Summicron lenses are released, but even with this I really had no issues with with the weather. I would get the Leica SL soaked in water or exposed to extreme heat and never did I have a hiccup with using the camera. It would just chug along and keep going. From cold weather conditions in Japan to hot humid conditions in Manila it worked the same both ways and throughout the time I felt confident that nothing would happen. That is something you really want for a camera, for it to work the same way in multiple conditions and environments. For a good month of staying in Manila, I never had the camera in a humidity controlled closet, so even with the 100% humidity I had no issues. All I can say is that through the first six months of using the camera, it's really met my expectations with holding up to the weather. Whether it be snow, rain, dusty or humid conditions.
Rainy street market
So walking around the city of Manila, one of my favorite places to take photos was Manila Bay. This area has seen a revitilzation over the last decade from how it was rotting away to being one of the best locations in the city. The city of Manila has invested time and money to get this area back to where it once was and today it's a favorite place for me to go and shoot. Sunsets are amazing in the Manila bay as its a perfect view to get the sun dimming over the horizon. You have fishing boats, tourist bouts and just all types of life in the foreground to a beautiful sunset. The streets of the Manila bay are also lined with a large mass of people waiting for the sunset, either to just end their day or spend that beautiful day romantically with a loved one.
Its a place where I can find amazing seascape and landscape photography and turn the camera and get amazing street and people photography. I probably found 60% of my favorite photos from this area as its a facinating place to be in. Its lined with amusment parks, malls, great food and now also great scenery. Now with the Leica SL, I really enjoyed taking photos in this area and the image quality of the photos were fantastic. Photos with bright background highlights were no issue and moving between the bright sunset shots to street photography of people were a cinch. One of my worries with the Leica SL was losing the stealth mode I had with the Leica Q, but in reality I never had any issues with the Leica SL. Most people never even noticed that I was there taking picture of them.
Couple Watching Manila Bay Sunset
Snowy Parking Lot
One of the challenges of a heavy populated metro is the busy and jam packed streets of the city. Tokyo is a different vibe since its very glamorous with fashion, lights and an overall technology focused city. Whilst travelling to Manila its just a dense population with traffic, street vendors and a busy working population. Capturing your subjects in the chaotic and ever so hot environment is a challenge in itself. What I found most interesting in the streets of Manila is isolating people out of a crowded environment. Every couple moments you would find a small window to capture the simplicity within the chaos and those photos were the ones I gravitated towards the most. Manila is great city, there is so much going on that you find yourself trying to make sense of what is going on.
With the Leica SL I found it to be quite pleasing of an experience, with the outstanding EVF and focusing assistance, my manual focusing and nailing shots came without concern. Even with the chaos that was happening around me. The Leica SL helped me slow down and break it down to its simplicity. Once you get used to it, I often times do not even need to zoom to focus. The Leica SL EVF is so good that you can see if you are in focus from a distance. I have gotten to the point of just focusing and snapping, whereas at the start of my life with the Leica SL I took way too much time trying to master manual focus. Focusing and refocusing until I took a picture, only to realize that I was missing the moment by doing this. Yes you will have shots not in focus every now and then but you focus sloppily as Thorsten Overgaard would say in his masterclass. This technique will give you more opportunities to nail your shot than miss it.
Kids in laser light show
Street Vendor Selling Balloons
Cooks At Work
During my trip to Manila, Philippines the Leica SL has never let me down in terms of image quality. I had the Leica Q prior to this and was always so pleased with the image quality of that camera, and the Leica SL has taken that up a notch just in terms of the richness of the files. There is an extra layer of IQ that you get from the Leica SL and the tones you get from the colors. Over the course of the last six months I have replaced a handful of my portfolio images with Leica SL images, this speaks to the level of quality that I feel I am getting with this camera. Part of it is finding those moments, but having the camera that fits your needs and can generate the IQ you need to take that moment and enrich it is amazing.
I have asked almost everything from this camera and its always been easy to work with. With most cameras of today, you get more leeway in making pictures than of yesterday. The Leica SL has really proven to be a reliable camera over my short experience with it. The best way to know is by field testing it and pushing the limits of the camera. I have needed the dynamic range, electronic shutter capabilities, High ISO capabilities and more. And for the most part its always given me good, reliable files to work with each time. Giving you the technical neccessaties to push that file to its limits.
Waiting for the Sunset
Overall, my time with the Leica SL in Manila went with a bang. Experiencing the culture, streets and people of the city and capturing it with a camera is all you need. When your camera works with you rather than hinder you is all you really need. Gear does not always matter as much as composition and emotion of the overall image, but if you know you are getting the IQ, camera quality and just overall simplicity to breakdown your workflow, you know that you have a keeper in a camera. The Leica SL helps me focus on what I want to compose and does not get in the way, while providing me the trust I need to know that the quality of images is going to be superb.
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