How to Shoot weddings with leica

why leica

Let's get this out of the way immediately: Leica cameras and lenses are ridiculously expensive...ridiculously! There is absolutely no need to shoot weddings with Leica gear. Every single modern (post 2014) digital camera will get the job done. I used Fujifilm cameras for years and loved the images out of those. The brand of your camera really doesn't matter.

But if you are fortunate enough, or crazy enough, to dive into the Leica ecosystem then here's what you'll find: some of the best lenses that money can buy! And it's the lenses, not the cameras, that made me switch.

The cameras

LEICA SL 601 (2015)

The camera is probably the least important part of the equation for me. Buying an SL (601) camera gives me access to the SL lenses. These are some of the most optically amazing lenses you can buy. The SL (601) is a 2015 full-frame 24mp digital camera. It doesn't have the bells and whistles of more modern cameras. That's fine with me. I've never used eye-tracking, I don't need blazing fast auto-focus for sports, and 24mp is a perfect sensor size for me.

The SL (601) is a beautiful brick. It feels amazing in hand, and the ergonomics of the menu system is simplistic in its eloquence. Honestly, I want my camera to feel more like a black box with a sensor than a complex computer (see below for Panasonic S5).

Panasonic s5

First of all, this is a great piece of gear. Especially for those wanting to shoot video as well as stills (that's not me). Unfortunately, for me this camera is more like a computer. This is one of the reasons why when trialing a Panasonic S5 at two weddings I just never got on with it. It just isn't a camera in the sense that I want it to be. Don't get me wrong, it has amazing features and specs. But most of them I don't want or need. I thought it could replace the Q as my go-to 2nd body (the S5 has two card slots and the Q only has one! Putting the fear of God in me when using the Q).

But lets be real, a used SL (601) is still almost double the price of a used S5. This would still give you access to the amazing SL glass but at a fraction of the cost for the camera (the least important part). Unfortunately, the S5 just does not appeal to me. My bank account hates me for this. But that's why I'm rocking a soon to be 10 year old SL (601). Because the camera is not as important as the lens!

Leica q (116)

Talking about overpriced ... the popularity of the Q series has actually seen the original price of a used Q 116 go up since I bought mine!!

The Q was great for what it was, an extremely expensive point and shoot. The 28mm f/1.7 lens is fantastic. It was quick autofocus and a really good close focus even when not using the great macro mode.

The Q is everything I loved about my Fuji cameras but in full-frame. That being said, it really is a point and shoot. And an expensive one at that. With the drop in price of the Panasonic cameras, or even the SL 601, and with the emergence of some absolutely amazing 3rd party L-Mount alliance glass, I think a 2nd body and a Sigma/Panasonic/Lumix lens would probably be the best way to go for the same overall price of a used Q 116.

Because, here is my worry: the 28mm lens is amazing, but it's a fixed lens. Meaning, when the camera dies, I'll have an extremely expensive and useless amazing lens. And the whole point of this switch was to gain access to the lenses. So I'd rather buy an expensive lens that will outlive every camera that I own, instead of a Q that becomes defunct if/when the camera dies.

The Q is great, but the inability to detach the lens is a deal breaker.

L-mount lenses

Leica APO-Summicron-SL 50 f/2 ASPH

The tag line for this lens is 'Anything but an ordinary lens' and boy is that right! Again, the disclaimer: having an almost optically perfect lens is not needed to shoot weddings. Many a day goes by that I wonder should I have just got the Sigma Art 50mm f/1.2 or even the amazing Panasonic 50mm f/1.4 that come in at around £1300 and £1800 used respectively instead of the £3200 used Leica. And yes, actually that probably is the smarter choice. If I only shot weddings. But this lens is a generational lens. It's the lens that I will never sell, it's the lens that will get past down to my children and their children. It really is just that bloody good. When I use it to shoot portraits it has the most beautiful rendering imaginable. Even on a 24mp sensor, if you punch in to 100% you'll see tac sharp, and I mean tac sharp, images. This lens renders completely differently to any lens I have ever used.

Yes, it's an f/2 but some of my all-time favourite lenses are f/2 lenses: the Contax 80mm f/2; and the Contax 45mm f/2. If speed is a real issue for you (and with these modern ISO capabilities, is it actually an issue?) then there is the Leica 50mm f/1.4 for the same price used as the used f/2. But it isn't an APO, which means it isn't optically perfect from corner to corner. At that point maybe the Sigma and Panasonic are the way to go. But f/2 is absolutely perfect for me.

Sigma Art 24mm f/1.4 L-Mount

This lens used is an absolute steal used right now. It's main problem, however: it is absolutely HUGE! But it does render images very well. The images below were also shot on the Panasonic S5 with the Sigma Art 24mm f/1.4.

Final thoughts

I have shot some of my best images on the Leica SL (601) paired with the 50mm APO Summicron f/2. The rendering of the images is the closest I've been able to get to medium format film photography in my digital work. This makes me happy. Can my clients tell? Probably not. There are still days when I wake up and wonder if I should just shoot weddings with a pair of X-T3s and the 23mm and 56mm again. That really was a great set up.

But then I wouldn't have an image like this:

The fall off between in focus and out of focus is just so pleasing to my eye - Glen and Tom almost pop out from the background. This is what I mean when I say I've gotten close to replicating my film medium format.

And when I can then use this set up for portraits as well, then I think the cost is actually worth it for me: