Leica TL2: Buy It For The Experience

Leica cameras
I’ll put the review this way, if you’ve ever been frustrated by a camera’s settings, the Leica is worth the price of admission. It’s a pleasure to use, and that’s the point. You’re buying a user experience, and it’s a precise German one.

Where it seems many cameras are released by manufacturers to fill slots in prices and specs, the TL2 meets the demands of a photographer who wants a camera that’s easy to use and takes great pictures. It’s not the fastest, has the highest-resolution sensor or really any of the normal stuff that’s marketed to camera buyers. Instead, it immerses you in the process of taking a photo. Considering cameras sold in the past 10 years are a response to the smartphone—you’re buying it to take better photos than the camera in your phone does—the touch-screen user interface is almost like an iPhone or a Droid.

But, wait, there’s more: The TL2 has 32 GB internal memory and a USB-C slot, like I wish all cameras had. I understand why SD cards became the standard for compact cameras, but that doesn’t excuse all their failings. I appreciated the internal memory so much, I never stuck a card in the body while I used it to shoot around New York, Seattle, Las Vegas and Bellingham, Washington.

While preferring to work in post with the native RAW/DNGs, I’d have no objections to shooting JPEG only, connecting with the WiFi app and uploading to social networks. The photos are that good and processed by a 24-megapixel sensor with Leica’s Maestro II for a signature Leica look.

While the LT2 is for the photographer who wants a Leica and that experience, with an EVF and not spend $7K, it’s also for someone who’s into photography and good design, which brings me to the strap. As I shared in another article, I don’t wear straps, preferring to attach a body to my waist with a quick-release system like the Spider Holster. Well, Leica totally changed my stance with a silicone strap and lugs that click in and release with an eject tool. It works so well, other camera companies should license that design.

Leica cameras

Leica cameras

The TL2 is machined from an aluminum billet, hand-polished with chamfered edges and configured with a 3.7” touch screen that takes up most of the camera back. Again, to engage you with the body, the battery requires two steps to release, so it doesn’t pop out of the body or charger. You can’t remove the body cap without pushing the lens release button either, and the video button is programmable, like if you never wanted to use the LT2 for motion.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t because it takes perfectly fine 4K video, but you can also use it to toggle between the EVF and LCD. My demo camera didn’t ship with the EVF, I guess because of the firmware issue Leica had, but I didn’t miss it. I also never looked at the manual. I’ll repeat that I just starting shooting with the TL2 and didn’t look back to figure anything out.

Testing the user interface on unsuspecting friends of mine, I handed them the camera to take some snaps, and none one of them had issues or how-do-I questions, including pros who were also enamored by the body.

In the gallery below, yep, that’s Dan Rubin, the subject of this article from last year.

 

Look, I could get into the specs, ad nauseam, as reviewers often do, but that’s not what this camera is about. Instead, I could go on for days about what I think the aesthetic is and Leica’s intent.

The LT2 is for people who are really into design, the theory and culture. Use it to shoot street with the lens wide open and take it with you on a trip; buy a bag that matches it, too, because, why not. If you’re considering a Leica, you’ve earned it. Of all the demo cameras that come and go, this is one that I was the most reluctant to send back. After not using it for a couple of weeks, I see no need for the EVF, either.

I wouldn’t try and shoot a bike race with the LT2, though, but it’s something to enjoy, to just spend a few moments each day immersed in photos. It’s unlikely, as we’ve never met, but it seems Leica got into my head about what I want from a camera.

At the very least, they’re making a statement, and it’s one I fully endorse.

At $1,950, the LT2 is priced just above the also APS-C-based Fujifilm X-T2 and Sony a6500. Mine arrived with the finely engineered Summilux-TL 35mm ƒ/1.4 ASPH lens that retails for $2,395. Leica owners can adapt their lenses with adapters, too.

As I said in the intro, the LT2 is worth the price of admission, if you prefer a camera operating system that gets out of your way and makes a statement about the art of photography.

Don’t concern yourself with the specs, though; I sure didn’t. Just pick it up and start shooting.

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