What’s In My Wedding Bag?
This is the overdue follow-up post to the one I wrote earlier this year explaining why I switched from Canon to Leica. A bunch of you reached out via Instagram these last couple months to ask what I use to photograph weddings and why. I know the number of photographers using Leica is a lot smaller than most other brands, and the number using them in the wedding context is even fewer still. I could hardly find any useful info on using a Leica SL2-S for wedding photography before purchasing one, so hopefully this can help the small group of you out there considering one for yourselves.
I carry each Leica SL2-S on a Holdfast MoneyMaker that I’ve owned for nearly 10 years. Wild how well-built they are and how much cooler it looks the older it gets! One SL2-S is usually paired with a 35mm lens and the other with either a 75mm or 90mm depending on the circumstance.
Both cameras are loaded up with two SD cards and write redundantly to each other. You can change the way the dual card slots behave in the settings menu. Mine are set up so Card 1 = Card 2, but you can also set it up so Card 1 fills up first, then Card 2. Super handy.
Both cameras are fully weather sealed. This is awesome since I sometimes have no choice but to photograph a rainy elopement in conditions too windy to bring along an umbrella.
Another awesome feature the SL2-S has that I think is absolutely prolific is the ability to assign all the buttons to do anything. Most cameras have pre-labeled buttons that have baked in assignments. The buttons on the SL2-S are unlabeled and can be assigned in nearly any way you want. I love this so much since I can set the camera up to suit exactly my preferences and intuition. If I intuitively think the ISO button should be where my index finger rests, then I can assign the ISO function to that button. …but if that changes and I later prefer it on the back of the camera somewhere, I can move it there instead. Incredible.
Battery life on these are amazing too. Whatever camera has the 35mm mounted to it is the one that gets the most use during a wedding day, so that camera usually chews through a battery after about 4 hours of continuous use. Out of the five batteries I have available between the two SL2-Ss and the Q2, I usually leave a wedding with one at 100%, three at 60% and one on the charger about halfway charged. It’s also great that the cameras can be charged with a USB-C charger.
I truly hate being a distraction during wedding ceremonies and think it’s so awkward to be in the stillness of a wedding ceremony while some guest and their DSLR is beeping (AF lock beep… turn that off if you have yours on please) and clacking away with it’s super loud shutter. The absolute silence of the SL2-S and its electronic shutter is a total game changer in this context.
There are a ton of other features you can read about in more comprehensive reviews that makes using the Leica SL2-S for wedding photography a great fit, but those are some of the highlights that mattered most to me.
The third camera I use for every wedding is a Leica Q2. It hangs out in a Filson Small Rugged Twill Field Bag, which carries inside of it a couple extra batteries and a lens cleaning cloth. The Q2 fits perfectly in there. I love having the Q2 since it means I can have a wide-angle lens ready to go without having to switch lenses.
The Q2 and SL2-S’s share the same batteries too – obviously ideal for weddings since I only need to bring a single charger.
And just like the SL2-S, the Q2 is also weather sealed.
Leica APO Summicron Lenses
One of the biggest reasons you might want to use the Leica SL2-s for wedding photography is to use the insanely amazing SL lens system natively. I absolutely love these lenses. The optics are basically perfect, and the build quality of all the Leica APO lenses are of course absurdly good. Some of my favorite design features are the things Leica actually left out. Compared to the busy Canon lenses I used to use, the only marking on these lenses is the focal length in bold yellow and the Leica Camera maker’s mark on the underside. Incredible minimalism. The focusing ring is big and feels intentional when you operate it. Its function can be customized in the camera settings too.
Also something super pleasing for me – all of the external dimensions of the SL lenses are identical. Filters that fit one fit the others. And they always take up the exact same amount of space in a camera bag. This comes in really handy when I have a 35 and 75 mounted on the cameras, but also need the 90 while I’m away from the main camera bag. I can switch out any of the SL lenses and they’ll always fit exactly the same in that small Filson field bag I mentioned.
All the lenses are weather sealed, so when combined with the SL2-S, I’m good to go for rainy weddings.
And perhaps the biggest and best feature in terms of workflow – there’s ZERO chromatic aberration with these lenses. I photograph a ton of weddings in the woods of Big Sur, often photographing backlit subjects with light streaming through the trees. I spent SO MUCH TIME during the Canon years manually removing purple color fringing. That entire workflow is now gone. Amazing.
Right now I have the 35, 75 and 90 APO lenses.
Leica APO-Summicron-SL 35mm
The 35 gets the most use by far. It’s sort of a generalist in a lot of ways. It’s not as wide as the 28mm, but it’s wide enough to get some epic landscapes incorporated into portraits. It can also get nice and close though when needed. I’ve always preferred the look of a 35 to any other. It’s a staple and definitely the last lens I’d ever own if I had to make the choice.
Leica APO-Summicron-SL 75mm
I photograph elopements about as often as big weddings – about 35-40 per year. This lens is ideal for elopements. It comes in most handy during ceremonies when you can get close, but still want to keep a big of distance to keep things intimate for the couple. Really stoked on what this lens produces.
(The SL2-S and the aforementioned dead-silent electronic shutter are another indispensable elopement feature.)
Leica APO-Summicron-SL 90mm
My default lens setup for everything is the 28mm of the Q2 + the 35mm on an SL2-S + the 75mm on the other SL2-S. That’s what I start everything with, but if I know I’ll be in a situation that calls for some length, that’s where the 90 comes along. It’s great for big ceremony spaces where I can’t get close and need to keep a little distance. Same for big cocktail hours and candids where I want to keep a lower profile and post up farther away.
Not gonna lie, I truly do love this lens. It’s worth mentioning though that the reason it got purchased is because it’s the longest lens Leica currently makes in the SL system. If they had a 100mm or 135mm, I probably would’ve grabbed one of those instead of this. For now though, I’ll gladly use the 90. And truthfully, there really hasn’t been many instances where I longed for a lens with more reach. I used to use a 135 before Leica, so I’m accustomed to that sort of length. Now that I’m “forced” to use a 90, I think the 135 might’ve been overkill most of the time.
Leica SF 60 Flashes
The first impression I had when these arrived were “omg, they’re so tiny!” The Canon flashes these replaced absolutely dwarfed these SF 60s. About a year of use later though and that size didn’t come with any trade offs that I’ve noticed. They have all the features I care about and none that don’t. Nothing bad to say about them. If you have Leica cams and need a solid compact flash for weddings, these are what you need.
I also have the Leica SF C1 flash remote that controls them wirelessly. I don’t use it a ton, but when I do, it’s awesome.
Filson Heritage Sportman Bag
Everything, even the smaller field bag I use to carry the Q2 in, fits inside Filson’s Heritage Sportman Bag perfectly. I’ve had a bunch of iterations of a camera bag or case over the years, with the longest running appearance being made by Pelican’s 1510 case. I still use the 1510 when I’m flying to a wedding and need wheels to roll around the airport with. The Filson bag is finally the perfect camera bag for me. It looks great, is super durable, and has a ton of pockets for chargers, batteries, cables and other little accessories. Everything needed for a wedding lives in this bag.
The Filson bag isn’t padded. It was never meant to be a camera bag. I don’t care about dedicated padded camera bags for a bunch of reasons. One, I can’t stand their bulk. Two, they typically look like camera bags and that’s sort of the thing I’m trying to avoid. Three, cameras are a lot tougher than people give them credit for.
I don’t think gear should be mishandled, but I also don’t baby them. Cameras are tools not treasures. To pack them away, I leave two lenses mounted and leave the other lens in the pouch it came with. The SL2-S + lens combination just gets put in old beanies. Works great and haven’t had a problem.
So yeah! That’s everything I take to a wedding! Whether it five minutes from home or five time zones away, I use the same kit for all of them. And if you’re considering using the Leica SL2-S for wedding photography, hopefully you found this helpful! Like I mentioned before, there aren’t a ton of photographers out there using them for weddings, but perhaps that’ll change. It’s an awesome system and is truly incredible to use.
As usual DM me or drop a comment below if you have any questions!
Love your work and this article on using Leica for weddings. I am a 70 year old retired naval officer and still working (35 years and counting) spacecraft engineer. On and off photo (art in general) enthusiast most of my life; very serious and more consistent for 17 ish years during which time i moved from no people in photos to photos concentrating on people with my goal to deliver creative story ideas. For over ten years have been shooting paid work … equestrian, weddings, and events on a word of mouth reference basis. I have shot canon slr, dslrs then sony mirrorless … now all gone. I have shot leica since 1980 ish starting with M4 and Leicaflex SL slr; simplified story to I now only have Leica i, M4, m6, m(typ 262), m10 mono, m11, sl2, sf60 (with sf1) (but prefer my profoto kit but no on-camera option for leica) … i am now all-in with leica. I love leica for many reasons but the all-in part is for lenses (28/2, 50/1.4, 90/2, 24-90). I don’t have near the experience you have and am not near as good, but try hard to deliver high quality wedding day stories. I love shooting M and sl2; however, the challenges cause me to have some confidence issues. I would love to have a 15-30 minute call with you about using the sl system in weddings … happy to pay for a timed call … i can prepare to get quick q&a to keep this efficient for you. Please let me know if this is possible. THank you for your article here … very helpful for me!
Happy to chat! I’ll shoot you a text!
Hello Brandon, I’m transitioning to the SL system as well for events and weddings. I had bought an SF60 flash and took it back to the shop because I thought it was defective. I discovered it wasn’t after trying another SF60, a SF64 and SF40: with the flash you can shoot faster that around 2 shots per second, it’s the Leica flash protocol that slows it down, even in manual mode. Have you found a way around that? Thanks!
I used to run into that back in the Canon days, but haven’t yet with the Leicas and the SF-60. I think 1/200 is the max for most speedlite-type flashes, but not super sure. Have you found out anymore since posting this?
I will be shooting my very first wedding with mySL601 and the 24-90mm eLMARIT. I am a bit worried as it does not have IBS but it does have in lens STABILISATION, Shoud i be worried or it will be fine ?
I am thinking more of the bride walking towards me scenario and the reception. Also i am an M User and i have never used a flash! Any advise on flash as well as the no IBS. I look forward hearing from you.
Many Thanks. Dominique Pierre-Nina
Don’t sweat it, you’ll be fine 🙂