I told my husband that if he ever saw me snapping pics on a camera with a red dot on it, to ask where his share of the Lotto earnings are. Thank goodness that was a few years ago, and that his memory has not gotten any better with age, because I am now in possession of a new-to-me Leica TL2. No, I did not win Lotto. I happened across a truly amazing deal at my local camera shop — and was given the opportunity to shoot with it for a few days before making a decision. (Who are we kidding? Once I left the store, there was no chance that camera was going back.)
I’ve had the Leica for two weeks now and have taken it out a couple of times, with varying degrees of photo satisfaction. I attribute this to a variety of reasons — most of them due to the photographer, not the equipment (more on that in my follow-up post). My keeper rate is in the crapper, but when I have a keeper, it’s a KEEPER. There is definitely something to be said for Leica image quality and while I do still love my Olympus cameras, if I can solve my TL2 shooting problems, my beloved E-M1 Mark II is going to start gathering some dust.
Let’s start with what a quick lists of things I am loving about the Leica TL2 so far:
- Image quality
- JPG color rendering
- Native 100 ISO (my Olympus EMI.ii starts at a native 200 ISO)
- HUGE screen
- Built in 32MB of storage
- Image quality
- Wi-fi connectivity
- It’s a Leica
- It’s gorgeous
- Minimalism (2 buttons, 2 dials)
- Did I mention image quality?
It’s a Leica
Let’s start with the obvious. There’s a certain history and gravitas that comes with shooting a Leica. I find this an equal combination of terrifying, humbling, and inspiring. Some of the most iconic images were taken on a Leica, such as V-J Day in Times Square by Alfred Eisenstaedt (1945) and Napalm attack in Vietnam by Nick Út (1972). When you are out taking pictures with a Leica, people expect a certain level of photography — one I don’t know that I’m quite up too. Yet.
I’m ready to rise to this challenge, and some of the frustrating things about this camera may just be some of the things that get me there.
This camera has two buttons and two dials. That’s it.
Ok, that’s a minimalist statement to go with this minimalist camera. The TL2 has all the settings you need* in a modern, mirrorless camera. They’ve just put the control to these options in a touchscreen, geared towards a mobile phone generation. While I’m not that generation, I actually appreciate the simplicity of this camera. I don’t feel overwhelmed by the myriad of buttons and dials that I don’t really use (and feel guilty for not setting all the custom settings I should be setting). I do need to change settings and do need access to modern options — I just don’t need them all crammed onto the body of the camera.
While discussing the minimalist approach to this camera, we have to agree that it’s simply gorgeous. The TL2 is a unibody design, crafted in Germany from a single block of aluminum, and the entire back of the camera houses the 3.7″ 1.3m-dot touchscreen and nothing else. This camera is sleek and sexy. How’s that for a minimalist statement?
I mentioned at the beginning of this article that my keeper rate really sucks right now. Most of that is my fault. There’s a) quite a learning curve going from an Olympus system that I’ve been using for the past 20 years to the Leica universe, and b) the only glass I can afford right now are manual focus lenses, which strain my already strained peepers. Manual focus when you need reading glasses to browse a restaurant menu does not make for a great combination. But more on that and some other issues I have in the follow-up to this post. Back to image quality. It’s amazing.
The increase from a 20MB sensor (sorry, E-M1) to a 24MB sensor, coupled with Leica technology, really makes for some mind-blowing opportunities. In my limited tests thus far, I’m excited for the increased low-light (high ISO) performance I’m going to be able to get from the TL2. Of course, that’s going to depend on if I can get my manual focus shit together (more on that in the next post).
Odds and Ends
While not the sole reason to choose a camera, there are a few other things, based on my shooting style and experiences, that I really like about the Leica TL2. The first is the built in 32GB of storage. Walk away from your home without an SD card in your camera? No problem! You can get over 1,000 RAW images stored in the camera. I’ve done this on several occasions, including the second time I took the Leica out. This is such a great feature, and I’m surprised it’s not a standard on all modern cameras.
Second, the wi-fi connection is legit. It’s not as fast as Olympus’ OI.Share (the image file sizes are bigger), but its interface is more intuitive and its connection is more stable.
So, this is all after two weeks of sporadic use. I haven’t been out on a dedicated photowalk yet and I haven’t put the Leica through its paces at an Astral Tomb show, but since it’s all mine now, I have plenty of time.
Here are a few more pics I’ve captured over the past two weeks.
Has this left you wanting to see more? 😉 You can see everything I’m creating on the Leica TL2 on Flickr.
Next up, things I’m not a fan of.
*Note: I stated above that “The TL2 has all the settings you need,” which is true, depending on what you go out and shoot. This is not a camera for birders, fast-action sports, or other specific genres where more complicated settings are needed.