Leica SL: New Thumbs Up works wonders for SL handling
Tim Isaac at Matchtechnical in Seattle has rolled out the big guns in designing his Thumbs Up for the Leica SL. It's a whopper. Put it next to an equivalent grip for the M and the new brass grip is a real biggie.
Beautifully crafted, as always, this Thumbs Up uses a swan-neck design to anchor on the accessory shoe, perched atop the viewfinder, and swoop down to the traditional position at the top of the camera back. Unlike M grips, this one comes with an allen key so it can be tightened in place. Perhaps this is no bad thing in view of the size of the rig.
Tim has clearly out a lot of thought into the requirements of SL, a heavier camera than the usual Thumbs Up fare. As he says:
One of my goals was to make the Leica SL, in particular with that lens [24-90], more manageable with one hand. After a few minutes for me, my grasp of the camera would start to shake if I held the camera with one hand. Therefore the thumb rest portion is larger than on other models of Thumbs Up to better distribute the load. My goal was an improved balance with better balance even with one hand.
In use, the grip feels very much like the ones we are familiar with for other Leica cameras. The thumb section is larger, as befits the overall construction, and it works really well in combination with the SL's substantial front grip. The camera feels much more solid in the hands and, with the 24-90mm mounted, it is definitely more wieldy. The grip section is raised above the camera top plate by a few millimetres to allow the bottom section to avoid the joystick and viewfinder button (see the picture at the top of this article).
I took it out for the day with two lenses, the 50mm Summilux-M and the 24-90mm zoom. It's an asset even with the M lens, making the camera feel more solid. With the large zoom it is almost essential, such is the difference it makes. As with the M designs, the thumb has to be lifted from the curved grip to operate the thumbwheel. Some may not like this but I find it no problem, even on the SL where the grip section is much larger.
With the chunky front grip and the Thumbs Up combined, the camera can be held safely in one hand and is comfortable to carry even when using a wrist strap. If a neck strap is worn the extended viewfinder eyecup combines with the grip to ensure the camera doesn't feel uncomfortable against the chest. With the M thumb grip, for instance, the curved grip tends to prod the chest.
Unlike previous Thumbs Up grips I have tried on various cameras, this model has a top plate to cover the accessory shoe. The plate is chamfered and complements the design of the camera. However, since it is secured by a screw, using flash or other shoe accessories will involve a bit of work with the supplied allen key.
I have just one reservation about handling the SL with the new Thumbs Up. The depth of the SL's front grip means that the right hand is rather stretched when the thumb is nestled against the curve of the rear grip. My hands are medium sized and I am just about on the limit. Owners with smaller hands should check out the grip before buying.
Tim's grips, made from brass and painted (in this case) black, are works of art. They brass quite easily and I have an M version, now sitting on the M-D, that has worn one nicely, just like an old pair of Levis. While the SL won't brass, this lovely grip will. Can't wait.
Despite the rather hefty price tag of £175, this is one accessory that you really need for your SL. Once you've tried it you have to buy it.
The Thumbs Up SL grip is available from Red Dot Cameras in London's Old Street.