Firmware Friday: Major update for Leica SL (Typ 601); Canon hones its pro video gear / reference displays


posted Friday, April 15, 2016 at 6:56 PM EDT


For the second week in a row, Leica makes the big news in this week's Firmware Friday roundup. Last time around, it was the Leica S (Typ 007) that was showered with love; this week it's the Leica SL (Typ 601). And we also have news to report on a whole raft of cinema camera, camcorder and reference display firmware under development at Canon, announcements of which are all timed to coincide with the 2016 NAB Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.

We'll start off this week's roundup with the sole still camera in the group, the Leica SL.

Leica SL (Typ 601)

We've seen some significant firmware updates over the years, but the new Leica SL (Typ 601) firmware version 2.0 update really takes the cake. (And once again, there's an excellent rundown of the new features from the good folks at the Red Dot Forum, so we'll just hit the high points here.)

Perhaps the key area of focus for the firmware update (pun definitely intended!) is to be found in the Leica SL's focusing system. Both autofocus precision and tracking capability are said to have been improved, and the 1-point AF function now has a much finer granularity, providing access to 529 AF point locations, up from just 49 in the previous firmware release.  You can also now set the number of AF points used by the camera to just five or one if you prefer, rather than the default 49 or lower-density 37-point options of earlier firmware. Additionally, focus peaking now has two sensitivity levels, and an on-screen icon indicates the currently-selected peaking color. Also, the autofocus frame is now shown even in continuous low / medium-speed operation. And finally for the focus-related tweaks, a bug in focus point size when using single-point mode and a magnified view has been squashed.

The Leica SL's exposure system has also received a rethink, with quite a few new options. A new Electronic Shutter menu option provides access to shutter speeds as fast as 1/16,000 second, while at the other end of the scale you can also now dial in a manual shutter speed as long as 30 minutes. Exposure compensation, meanwhile, can now be controlled using the top or rear dials (depending on your exposure mode), saving time in the menu system. All Leica flash strobes are now supported, too, and Red Dot Forum notes that TTL and high-speed sync operation have been improved, although it doesn't say how. And flash exposure compensation is also quicker to get to, now that it can be added to the favorites menu or assigned to a shortcut button. As if that wasn't already enough, Auto ISO control can now be given a minimum sensitivity beyond which it will not range.

You might think that was already plenty -- and so do we -- but there is still more! JPEG image quality and the Leica SL's white balance system have both been improved, and you can now adjust JPEG noise reduction levels in three steps. The playback zoom function also now operates even when capturing only DNG raw files. Battery life should also be better if you shoot a lot of long exposures or interval timer series, thanks to more intelligent power-saving functionality. Video format and resolution options are now combined into a single menu, and the optional Leica SCL4 remote control can now be used to trigger video capture.

Throw in support for 20 new UHS-II SD card types -- Red Dot Forum has a full list -- plus support for star ratings that are compatible with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, a new translucent histogram display, the ability to hide lens types you don't own from the list of Leica R or M lenses, and several ore subtle tweaks to operation of the camera, and it's safe to say that the Leica SL is going to feel just about brand-new for a while!

See more details over at the Red Dot Forum, and get the update from the Leica website.

Canon EOS C300 Mark II

If still cameras are your only interest, you can move along to another article now. If you're interested in pro video gear, though, Canon has plenty of news on upcoming updates. We'll start with the Canon Cinema EOS C300 Mark II, whose new firmware arrives on July 28th 2016. Changes will include Canon Log 3 capture; a reduction in dark noise levels, streaking and sun spots in Log 2 mode; support for ACES 1.0 output via HDMI and HD-SDI terminals; availability of magnification during recording; and support for a wide range of functionality including Dual Pixel CMOS AF with certain compatible optics. More details can be found here.

Canon EOS C100 Mark II

For the Canon Cinema EOS C100 Mark II, whose new firmware also arrives on July 28th 2016, the list of changes is rather shorter. You'll get support for most of the new lens-related functionality including Dual Pixel CMOS AF, but not the other features like Log 3 support. More details can be found here.

Canon DP-V3010 4K Reference Display

Moving onto the Canon DP-V3010 4K reference display, this update will also land in July 2016. Changes will include Canon Log 3 and Hybrid Log-Gamma support; HDR optimization for the 4K waveform monitor; and improved contrast ratio. More details can be found here.

Canon DP-V2410 4K Reference Display

The Canon DP-V2410 4K reference display will get all of the above -- Canon Log 3 and Hybrid Log-Gamma support; HDR optimization for the 4K waveform monitor; and improved contrast ratio -- and plenty more besides. Features specific to this model include ARRI camera support; side-by-side two-screen and four-screen display; improved zooming functionality; two-sample interleave division; and support for 3G-SDI Dual Link signals. This update, too, will land in July 2016. More details can be found here.

Canon ME20F-SH Multi-Purpose Camera

The Canon ME20F-SH's firmware is set to land on June 30th, 2016. This includes a new 3x teleconverter function; on-screen display of external recorder status with compatible recorders; auto slow-shutter control; support for a dozen new lens models and updated support for 20 further models; updated support for the ZSG-C10 grip accessory; and support for a variety of functions on the 12-pin lens terminal. More details can be found here.

Canon XF305 / XF300 Pro Camcorders

Canon's XF300 and XF305 camcorders will be receiving three new features on June 2nd. These include a 600% wide dynamic range gamma option, a highlight-priority mode and a signal/noise priority mode. More details can be found here.

Canon XA35 / XA30 Pro Camcorders

The Canon XA30 and XA35 camcorders will get a new 8Mbps MP4 capture mode at 720p resolution with a 60 frames-per-second capture rate. This firmware will be among the first group to land on May 23rd, 2016. More details can be found here.

Canon XC10 Pro Camcorder

There are a few tweaks in the Canon XC10 firmware, which is set to arrive on June 30th, 2016. These include a new 35Mbps 1080p60/30/24 recording mode (1080p50/25 in PAL mode), using 4:2:0 8-bit H.264 / MP4 compression with AAC audio. There's also faster autofocus performance, alog with selectable 1/25 and 1/50 second shutter speeds. More details can be found here.

Canon VIXIA HF G40 Camcorder

And finally, we come to the Canon VIXIA HF G40 camcorder. Here, the only update is the same as that for the XA35 / XA30 Pro camcorders, which explains the identical availability date of May 23rd, 2016. The sole change is a new 8Mbps MP4 capture mode at 720p resolution with a 60 frames-per-second capture rate. More details can be found here.

(Camera parts image courtesy of Kelly Hofer / Flickr; used under a Creative Commons CC-BY-2.0 license. Image has been modified from the original.)