If you are looking for an "affordable" Leica interchangeable-lens camera, the Leica TL2 might be the one to consider.
At $2,980 (body only), the Leica TL2 is much more affordable than its premium cousins like the M10 ($10,475) or the SL ($9,050).
Although the TL2 uses a 24.2-megapixel APS-C image sensor instead of full-frame image sensor - found in the M10 and the SL - and lacks a built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF), it still represents great value for money.
For a start, each TL2 camera body is made from a single block of aluminium (like the iPhone and MacBook). It comes in black (the version tested) and silver.
It sports chamfered edges for smoother handling, compared with its predecessors - the T and the TL. But the design remains clean and minimalistic.
On the right side is a nice bulge that acts as a comfortable grip. On top, the two command dials remain and sit close to where your thumb will rest at the rear for easy access.
In front of the two dials, you will find the shutter release, a power lever switch and a dedicated video-recording button. However, it is missing the built-in flash found in its predecessors.
PRICE: $2,980 (body only)
IMAGE SENSOR: 24.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS
DISPLAY: 3.7-inch touchscreen LCD with 1,300,000 dots
SENSITIVITY: ISO 100 to 50,000
SHOOTING SPEED: Up to 7 frames per sec
WEIGHT: 399g (body only, with battery and memory card)
BATTERY LIFE: 4/5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5
The TL2's back is dominated by its 3.7-inch touchscreen display. On the right side of the display, there is a compartment that houses the SD card slot, micro-HDMI port and USB-C port. This camera can be charged via a USB-C cable.
Like the T and the TL, the touchscreen display here is not tiltable. But it is said to be eight times more responsive than its predecessor, and it certainly feels that way.
The touchscreen display lets you access shooting modes, autofocusing (AF) modes, metering, exposure compensation and other settings. The menu interface is intuitive, with big icons that are easy to tap when changing settings.
For example, to change the shooting mode, tap on the shooting mode icon on the screen and choose accordingly on the next window.
By default, the left command dial changes the ISO setting while the other dial changes the settings of the shooting mode. So, you need to utilise both the command dials and the display to handle this camera.
It feels like the TL2 is built for the smartphone generation. But the old photographer in me prefers physical buttons. In fact, there is no Play button. To view your photos taken, you swipe up on the display.
You can also control the camera remotely via Wi-Fi using the Leica TL app (Android and iOS), which lets youchange settings, take pictures and videos, and transfer images from the camera to your smartphone.
For this review, I used the TL2 with the Leica Vario-Elmar-TL 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH lens ($2,370).
Operation-wise, the TL2 is a big improvement when compared with its predecessor. While the T starts up in around 1.9sec and shuts down in about 2.5sec, the TL2 does both operations in 1.1sec.
The TL2's AF speed is said to be more than 2½ times faster than that of the T. While the T sometimes fails to get a sharp focus in bright sunlight, this was never a problem with the TL2 during the review. It managed to get a sharp focus almost instantaneously under bright sunlight every time. Even in dim conditions, it took around 1sec to secure a focus with the AF assist light.
Using an SD card with a writing speed rated at 95MB per sec, the TL2 was able to take 33 RAW images in 4.9sec before the buffer ran out - close to the advertised speed.
Image quality is superb with sharp rendition of pixels and clear details even in darker areas. However, I do find the blues to be a little "less blue". But it is something you can easily tweak in post-processing.
The noise performance is equally stellar. Images are devoid of noise until ISO 800. Noise artefacts start to appear at ISO 1,600, but they are still insignificant. In fact, the images are still good enough for Web use or small prints at ISO 3,200. But, at ISO 6,400 and above, you start to see significant noise artefacts with detail loss.
The TL2 shoots only around 250 pictures on a full charge, slightly lower than the 300-frame average of mirrorless cameras. Guess all that touchscreen swiping takes a toll on battery life.
•Verdict: For those looking for a comfortable (to your pockets) entry into the premium Leica systems, the Leica TL2 is an excellent camera to start with.