Thursday, April 22, 2010

Details on S2 Firmware Update 1.0.0.16



Today, Leica released a new firmware update for the S2, which addresses a wide variety of issues and adds additional functionality. I would have like to have this firmware a week ago, when I was at the LHSA Spring Shoot in Savannah (look for an update in the next few days), but I'm glad to see it now. A lot of these updates were the direct response to user and tester feedback since the camera started shipping in January of this year.

I personally gave feedback on several of these issues when I first tested the S2 back in August, then again in November of last year.

Here is a rundown of all the changes in the new firmware (my comments are in italics):

1. Consistent, continuous image numbering

The camera automatically numbers new images sequentially. The numbering sequence is continued when a new or formatted memory card is inserted into the camera (following on from the highest previous image number). If the memory card already contains an image with a higher number, the numbering continues from this number on. If the current folder on the card contains the image number “9999,” a new folder is created and numbering begins again from “0001”. On reaching folder number“999” with an image number of “9999,” a warning is displayed on the monitor and numbering must be reset.

This is a biggie. Although Lighroom automatically renames files, it is a pain to have the entire numbering sequence reset with each new CF card. So, I'm really glad to see this.



RESET resets the numbering memory and the sequence begins again with “0001.”



2. Correction of an error when using memory cards not formatted in the camera

Memory cards formatted with a computer or other devices must be reformatted in the camera before they can be used. If this is not the case, a new folder will be created.

I recall discovering this issue back in November, when a customer of mine was trying the S2 side-by-side with his Phase One. We switched the CF card back and forth and quickly found out that the images were inadvertently getting deleted. So, while not a common problem, nice to know it's fixed for those short on cards and big on different camera systems.

3. Improvement of data transfer speed for computer-tethered photography

The speed of the saving and transfer procedure for tethered photography has been increased.

Of course, this is a biggie. I need to run some tests to see how much improvement is offered or how this speed increase has been achieved. I'll post an update if I find out more.


4. Simplified image review operation


A short press of button 1.20 (upper right-hand button next to monitor) calls up normal review mode. You can begin to scroll through the images with the click wheel as soon as an image is displayed on the monitor. Press the click wheel to enter the zoom mode (enlarged image segment).

This was a one of my big requests, and I'm sure others wanted to see this change as well. Previously, playback defaulted to zoom mode. The new way (same as the rest of the world) makes a lot more sense.

5. Improved image review quality

The image review quality in the monitor has been improved

Hmm.... the image review quality was never lacking before. I'll try to quantify the improvement here, but better is better, right?

6. Increased functional reliability when changing exposure modes

The exposure modes (program, shutter priority, aperture priority, and manual modes) can be selected by a combination of rotating the shutter speed dial and pressing the click wheel (please refer to the camera instructions, pages 38–39). The operational mode of the click wheel can be adjusted in the camera menu to prevent accidental changing of the exposure mode.

The following settings are available:

_ Change exposure mode with a short press of the click wheel

_ Change exposure mode with a long press of the click wheel

Another big request for myself and other testers. So happy to see this. Previously, an accidental tap on the click wheel would take you out of M mode into T mode and really mess things up. Having the option of a long press makes inadvertent mode changes highly unlikely.






7. Correction of an error when using LEICA Image Shuttle software


Exposure settings (shutter speed or aperture), set in LEICA Image Shuttle software are no longer reset by pressing the shutter release button. If the shutter speed has been set in LEICA Image Shuttle, or is different from the speed on the shutter dial, it is displayed in blue on the top panel display. As soon as the shutter speed, aperture, or other settings are altered with the camera control elements, these new settings have priority!

Again, good to see Leica prioritizing tethered operation.



8. Optimization of JPEG image quality


Internal JPEG image processing has been optimized with regard to detail, sharpness, and noise characteristics.

I have never used the JPEG output of the S2 and probably never will, but I'm sure some will appreciate the higher-quality files.


9. Additional functions
The camera now has the following additional functions:

9.1 Additional white balance preset HMI (Hydrargym Medium Arc Length Iodide)

The additional white balance preset, HMI, has been added.

Not one of my requests (I prefer short duration strobes), but I can see how fashion pros can appreciate this, especially with more convergence between stills and video.



9.2 Additional viewfinder information: exposure compensation

Exposure compensation values are now indicated in the viewfinder’s light balance.


Whoo hoo! So happy to see this one. While there was always the little +/- triangle in the viewfinder to warn you that Exp comp was set, there was no display of how much was applied.


Example: Exposure compensation +1.5 EV



9.3 Custom settings for depth of field preview button


For particularly fast handling, the functions of the buttons 1.21, 1.23, 1.24 (the buttons surrounding the rear LCD), and 1.3 can be customized to provide immediate access to your most important or frequently needed menu functions. To do so, the buttons are first customized by defining which of the menus’ functional groups should be called up with the quick access function. From now on, the function of the depth of field preview button 1.3 can also be customized as desired.

Nice thinking on this one. When shooting with the S2, I rarely use the DOF button, but I do wish I had another programmable one.



9.4 Selectable top panel standby time


The standby time of the top panel display can now be selected in the menu.





9.5 Control element lock

A new function has been implemented with which the control elements for exposure setting (shutter speed dial and click wheel) can be locked to prevent accidental changes. The control element lock can be activated and deactivated in the menu or defined as a quick access option (refer to 9.6).

Awesome. This goes even further than the long click option on the click wheel. When shooting quickly in studio, accidents happen. I had even said in my initial S2 review that I'd like to see a shutter/aperture lock like Nikon has. Well... here it is.




9.6 Extended custom functions

For particularly fast handling, the functions of the buttons 1.21, 1.23, 1.24, and 1.3 can be customized to provide immediate access to your most important or frequently needed menu functions.

To do so, the buttons are first customized by defining which of the menus’ functional groups should be called up with the quick access function. Immediate access is activated by a long press on the respective button.

The following functions have been added to the user-defined button programming options:

_ formatting (formatting memory cards)

_ control element lock


10. Improved lens performance

Lens performance has been improved further.

I'll try to get more details on this one, but I'd guess that this has to do with AF performance.

11. Automatic detection of interchangeable focusing screen types

Interchangeable focusing screen types (e.g. ground glass with grid) are detected automatically. More information about “interchangeable focusing screens” can be found on page 19 of the camera instructions.

Cool. I'm looking forward to the grid screen myself.




All in all, this is a nice list of improvements and enhancements. I'm glad to see Leica taking user suggestions seriously and implementing changes quickly. This is one benefit of bringing all firmware development in-house.

Now, I'm back to work on my posting about how the S2 did in Savannah... stay tuned.

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