Leica T (Type 701) Hands-On Field Test

  By Jordan Drake

It’s not often Leica produces a new camera, and its extremely rare that they bring out a new system.  When a Leica T arrived unexpectedly for Chris and I to look at, we scheduled an emergency TCSTV evening shoot.  There wasn’t enough time to plan a new location – it was back to the streets of downtown Calgary for us!

This was an important shoot for me, as it was my first time using the spectacular Panasonic GH4 to film an episode.  I love working with the Sony FS700 which is the camera we used to shoot most of our recent episodes. It was great to have a kit one quarter the size and be able to shoot more discreetly.  I used the Panasonic G X 12-35 F2.8 lens exclusively.  I brought the new Nocticron 42.5mm F1.2, for when things got dark, but we actually wrapped filming before I needed it.  

Looking at the GH4 footage, it’s extremely sharp, which I knew it would be, but I’m very impressed with the tonal range it captures.  The files graded extremely well (I cooled colours down a bit to emphasize the cold), and the image is insanely clean.  I printed a 12”X19” frame from this shoot, and it looks startlingly good.  You can see the print at the store.  

As always, music was provided by the great people at Beatsuite.com.  I’ve always been able to find something appropriate to our episodes within a couple minutes of looking at their site.  Their library is huge and incredibly well organized.

Enough about the GH4. How did we like the Leica T?  Chris summarized his feelings extremely well in his wrap-up, and I tend to agree with him.  The interface is a lot of fun to use, though I do wish it was a bit more responsive, and I was really surprised how great the camera felt in the hand.  I do wish there was at least one customizable button, I missed quick access to ISO, and since the video quality isn’t great it would be nice to reprogram that button.  Otherwise everything feels very ‘cohesive’ in a way Leica cameras haven’t recently.  The T feels very contemporary, something I rarely say about Leica cameras, which achieve their appeal primarily through nostalgia.

It was a cool experience using the T, and if the camera piques your interest at all, I suggest you get your hands on one for a few minutes, that’s where the T’s distinct appeal is most apparent!