The Officially Unofficial Leica SL App Users Guide
Leica officially did not ask me to produce this guide, but I think I owe it to all the Leica SL shooters out there..... The Leica SL App is one of the best kept secrets of the Leica SL Type 601, so I'm presenting the "Officially Unofficial" users guide.
PS - this guide is virtually the same when used with the Leica Q ;-)
Why Use the Leica SL App?
The Leica SL app for your mobile device allows you to connect to the camera, enabling remote control of focusing, camera settings, and taking photos and video. It also allows you to review files on the camera, and download images and videos to your mobile device. It is a must-have for any travel photographer, or anyone who wants to work with their images on the go!
The Leica SL app is available in the iTunes store for Apple or Google Play for Android. I only own Apple devices, so all screen shots are from my Apple iPhone 6 Plus. The app also works on my Apple iPad Pro.
All brand names, product names, etc are the property of their respective companies.
Installing the Leica SL App
The first step is to visit your respective app store and download the app. You can use the links above, or search "Leica SL" in your app store. Install like you would any other app.....
Connecting Your Camera
After you have installed the app, you will need to connect it to the camera. There are basically two ways - by scanning a QR code shown on the back of the camera, or by typing in a password. As far as I can tell, both work just fine.
To start, you'll need to get your camera to broadcast the wifi signal that your phone will connect to via the app. Navigate to the 'WLAN' tab on your camera (I have this saved as a favorite).
On the next page you will see three choices. Select the "function" tab.
You will now see a setting that says "Remote Control by App" - this is the setting you need to link your phone and Leica SL. Click down on the joystick to proceed.
Your camera will now display a screen with two pieces of information. On the right side is a QR code that you can "scan" with the app to connect camera and phone. Or you can use the password on the bottom of the screen to link the two devices. It doesn't matter.
The QR Code Route
On the app home page you will see the "connect by QR code" button. Clicking that will enable the camera and a red square that you need to position over the QR code on the camera back. After the phone reads the code, it will bring up a screen in your settings to link the camera and phone.
At this point, depending on your device security settings, you may have a few prompts to enter a password to enable the connection. Once complete you should get a success prompt. Return to the Leica SL app and it will first say "Searching camera in Leica ...." and then change to "Tap to connect to Leica SL....". Tap where it says and you're connected!
The Password Route
I prefer the connect via password route, mostly because my iPhone remembers the password, so I can reconnect faster between shoots than with the QR code. But to each their own.....
Navigate to the settings and wifi network selection for your phone. Yes, your wifi has to be on and the camera needs to be on the screen where it is displaying the password and QR code. You should see a Leica SL wifi network appear after a few seconds. Click on it. It will ask for a password - use the number provided on the bottom of your camera screen.
Once the wifi connects successfully, you return to the app and will see the same "Searching camera in Leica....." and "Tap to connect to Leica SL..." prompts. Tap and you are connected.
Controlling Your Camera
It is worth noting that turning off / time out your phone or camera can cause the link to disconnect, so be sure not to let the phone go to sleep if you are trying to remain connected.
Once the camera is connected, clicking the "Remote Camera Control" button on the app allows you to enter a remote controller mode, which is really the best part of the app.
There are three tabs under the camera control - photo, video and play. Those are hopefully fairly intuitive names......
In the center of the frame you will now see a live view of what the camera sees. In this case, we see my cat looking out the window at the end of my desk. Stimulating, I know. As you move your camera around, this view will change, with a minor lag.
At the bottom you can see the camera's current settings (aperture, shutter, ISO, EV, white balance, etc). You can also see what mode you are in (aperture priority, manual, etc). There is a large button that acts as the remote shutter, and finally a button on the bottom right to adjust more advanced settings, like drive mode or exposure metering mode.
Clicking on a setting like ISO will bring up a little bar where you can scroll left / right to adjust that particular setting. Some settings will be based on the lens - in this case I've got the Leica Noctilux attached, so I can't change the aperture in camera, only by changing it by hand on the front of the lens.
The app allows you to adjust all of the major settings of the camera, including file format (DNG or JPEG) remotely, which is great. Most wireless shutter releases do only that - but the app lets you not only collect images remotely, but also change every important setting. You could setup your camera on a tripod around a favorite bird spot and sit inside drinking a cocktail while remotely controlling the camera. I've used it for long exposures at night, when I wanted to sit someplace warm while the camera worked for several minutes. Opportunities abound!
Downloading Files to your Mobile Device
Under the play tab, you can see the images currently on the camera's memory card. Clicking an image brings up a large preview, which you can use to check the final product or show a client. If you shoot in .JPEG, you can also use the buttons on the bottom to download an image directly to your phone. Unfortunately, DNG files are not supported for download onto the phone. You also have options for favoriting a photo or deleting it, but I don't use these.
Leica SL Album
Any photos you download to your phone get saved in a special album called "Leica SL" - you can access this album via the app, or through your photos. For me, the view in app is rather useless; once I've downloaded the image, I will use my Apple Photos app to view them.
How I Use the App
The Leica SL app has had a surprising number of uses for me, and I use it as well with my Leica Q. I used the app to do comparisons between two lenses in a store - it allowed me to download full resolution previews and compare the bokeh effect between the old and new Noctilux before buying one. I have used it to do long exposures at night in the desert, star trails in England, and for long exposures where I don't want to introduce camera shake. On numerous occasions, the app has allowed me to download an image while traveling, edit it with Lightroom Mobile, and share it on my blog or social media.
I have never used the video functions of the app, mostly because I don't use the video functions of the Leica SL.
Overall, the app is a great addition. It's not perfect, but I appreciate that I don't need to carry more equipment to remotely control my camera in the field. I'll always have my phone in tow!