There’s no denying that Leica’s reputation has pushed the company into the digital age with full force, with options like the Leica TL2 being aimed at the more point-and-shoot brigade. Once you’ve got the Leica bug, it’s hard to shake, but you will be rewarded with a top-quality imaging device, just with a rather high price point.
This means the Leica TL2 can’t just rely on reputation alone, but has to deliver on a number of fronts. In this regard, let’s have a closer look at this compact camera and see if its functionality matches the reputation.
The whole body design of the Leica TL2 is wrapped around a 24.3MP APS-C sensor, Maestro II processor, plus 4K video at 30 fps. The ISO is also a wide ranging 100 to 50,000, with another plus point being the exceptionally large and bright rear 3.7-inch touchscreen with a resolution of 1,300,000 dots. This is also the primary way to shoot with no viewfinder and minimal external controls.
You can expect high-end build quality from Leica, which is the case with the TL2, as it’s sculpted from a block of aluminum and feels rock-solid in the hand. There’s just enough handgrip to get a firm hold, but with no textured covering, it can get quite slippy at times. The general exterior of the camera has been kept minimal, with the rear touchscreen being the main point for control. Two dials on the top of the camera control the various exposure parameters and can be customized within the menu system.
The menu system is very simple to use and with everything being done on screen, you can swipe left and right as well as up and down to preview images. Because of the lack of external controls, there is more screen tapping involved than usual, but when used in conjunction with the two top dials, it’s quite easy to develop a quick and seamless way to shoot.
Due to its compact nature, there is an SD card slot, but also a 32GB internal memory where images can be transferred via a USB-C port. This syncs up efficiently with the Leica T app, which can also be used to control the camera, along with transferring of images. Also included are WiFi and GPS to extend transfer capabilities.
The Leica TL2 is also respectable on the video front, providing 4K video at 30fps, while 1080p comes in at 60 fps, and 720p at 120fps for slow-motion work. Unfortunately, there’s no microphone port, which means you have to solidly rely on the built-in microphone.
Once you’re happy with the camera setup, then it’s time to choose a compatible TL-mount lens, with a range of prime and zoom lenses available from the 23mm f/2 to a 55-130mm f/3.5-4.5. M-mount lenses can also be used with an adapter to further expand the camera’s capabilities.
Lastly, the Leica TL2 features a contrast-detect AF system with six different metering modes and exposure compensation of -3 to +3 EV. There are 49 autofocus points available, which work the fastest in the Touch AF mode with static subjects. While the camera can track moving objects, it’s not the greatest with fast-moving subjects.
The Leica TL2 In Use
When it comes to continuous shooting, when using the mechanical shutter, the camera can achieve 7fps, while the electronic shutter can fire at a rapid 20fps. The multi-zone metering system works well in all modes, but can lean toward slight overexposure at times. When this is the case, it’s very easy to dial in exposure compensation at a moment’s notice.
There are a bunch of presets available, such as Vivid and Natural, along with B&W settings, which produce good white balance when in full automatic mode. As you would expect from Leica, at ISO 100 image quality is full of fine detail, especially when shooting in RAW format, but JPEGs can have a little too much noise reduction applied at times. For RAW files, images still look good up to ISO 6400, with very little noise. Dynamic range is also extremely good at low ISO levels, showing lots of detail in very dark and light regions.
Once you get the hang of the menu system and the sparse external controls, the Leica TL2 is quick and efficient to shoot in both image and video mode. At low ISO levels, you can’t fault the image quality, obviously dependent on the lens being used. Being so small and compact, the TL2 could be a great solution for travel or even discreet street photography.
How Does It Compare?
The Fujifilm X-T3 is a great alternative with a slightly higher pixel count sensor, loads of external control, and is packed full of features. Following the more traditional mirrorless body layout, the X-T3 features 4K video with advanced output options, dual SD card slots, Fuji’s film simulation modes, and advanced AF detection. As a fully-rounded camera solution, this is a great option for the money.
If you wanted to stick to the Leica camp, then the Q2 provides more resolution, but also at a higher price point. The Q2 features a 47.3MP full-frame CMOS sensor, with a very capable 28mm f/1.7 lens, plus the image quality is stunning. But, don’t expect much change from $5000 for the privilege.
|Leica TL2||Fujifilm X-T3|
There’s still no denying that the Leica TL2 is an extremely well-made and beautiful camera solution. The huge rear touchscreen is a great interface for not just previewing images, but also for general camera workings. With the two external controls, it doesn’t take long to develop a seamless way of working, even though a few extra dials and buttons would have helped out.
Images are excellent in RAW format, with plenty of dynamic range at low ISO levels, while JPEGs can display muted colors at times. This generally means that the Leica TL2 would be a highly recommended compact camera with interchangeable lenses if it wasn’t for the overall cost.
A high price is a given with Leica gear, but the TL2 doesn’t have the above and beyond features to warrant the price. This is clearly a beautiful and well-made camera, but without an electronic viewfinder, stabilization, or more external controls, this is an offering that is more aimed at the hardened Leica enthusiasts than anyone else.