Leica’s newest compact system camera, the TL2 is the third in its T-series line-up, following on from the TL. It may come as a surprise to some to see a new model already, considering the TL made its debut just eight months ago.
In terms of differences though, there’s been quite a bump in specs. While the body design stays roughly similar, there’s now a higher resolution 24 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, and a quicker processor, the Maestro II, which facilitates faster operation speeds, autofocus and start-up time.
There’s also 4K video recording, at up to 30fps and a mechanical shutter which means you can utilise shutter speeds as quick as 1/40,000.
A 3.7-inch touch-sensitive screen is where most of the operation takes place, and as such there a very few physical controls to be found.
Hands-on Leica TL2 review: Build and Handling
Just like the TL, the TL2 is constructed from a single block of aluminium. Typical high-quality Leica construction results in a high-quality piece of kit that feels satisfyingly weighty in the hand. The rounded-edges are very appealing, while the craftsmanship that has gone into the dials and so on is clear to see.
As this is a Leica camera, you can expect some extra ‘design’ touches. One such example is the recessed lugs which you use to attach a neck or wrist strap. The lugs use an easy-click system so you can quickly remove and replace straps, and the fact that they recess into the camera body results in nice clean lines.
One of the things that the new processor brings with it is an improvement in start-up time and operation speeds. Indeed, switching on the camera now takes just 600 milliseconds, making it ideal for grabbing fleeting moments.
Those who prefer physical controls may not be at home here, as the majority of settings changes takes place via the rear screen. The good news is that the screen is very large, while everything you’re likely to want to change often is easy to access thanks to a quick menu.
The more extensive main menu, where you can control more detailed settings, has also been simplified to display the same sort of icons you’ll find in the quick menu. A nifty feature is the ability to “lock” the touch-screen settings meaning you won’t accidentally change something.
Lots of different settings can be changed using gesture controls, something which has been made faster for the TL2. You can swipe down to display images in playback, and then once you’re in the image use a pinch to zoom gesture, or swipe through images. If you’re used to the simplicity of using a smartphone, you’ll probably enjoy using the TL2.
Two dials on the top of the camera are within easy reach of your thumb. The dials have different functions depending on the exposure mode you’re shooting in, while the left of the two can be customised to different parameters depending on your preferred way of shooting.
Around the shutter release is the camera’s on/off switch. In a change from the TL, you won’t find continuous shooting accessed via this switch – Leica says this is because it was far too easy to accidentally set the camera to continuous when you didn’t want to.
A function button on the top of the camera is in the same location as the video record button on the TL. You can still use it as a video record button, but you can also assign it to other functions, such as playback if you prefer.
A hotshoe on the top of the camera is available, but, some will be disappointed to note, there’s no built in viewfinder. You can mount an external one (at additional cost, of course).
Again, the large screen at least makes composing with it quite appealing – those who are used to composing via a phone screen likely won’t be bothered by the lack of a viewfinder. The angle of view can sometimes mean that reflections hinder your use of the screen, especially in bright sunlight.
There’s no longer a pop-up flash, so again you’ll need to make use of the hotshoe if you intend to use one.
An improvement has been made to focusing speeds, and the camera now offers a fast AF of 165 milliseconds. We’ve been able to use a TL2 with a 28mm f/2.0 lens briefly at the launch event, and found that focusing was indeed very snappy, locking on quickly and generally accurately.
There can be some back and forth hunting if you get a little too close to the subject. I’ll be keen to test out the TL2 in a range of different focusing conditions, and with different lenses, to see how well the overall system copes.
Hands-on Leica TL2 review: Performance
We’ve had a very limited time with the TL2, but initial indications are very promising. Of course, we’d expect high quality images from a Leica model, and it will be interesting to see how it deals with a wider variety of subjects.
JPEG images directly from the camera are pleasingly well saturated, while corresponding raw files are a little flatter – giving you good scope to adjust in post-production as you see fit. Exposures seem well-balanced, while out of focus areas are rendered nicely.
Detail is also well resolved, but again, we’ll be keen to put the camera through its paces before making any final comments.
Leica TL2 Sample Photos
Hands-on Leica TL2 review: Early Verdict
It goes without saying that a Leica camera isn’t for somebody on a budget. The TL2 is set to retail for £1700 body only, and adding a single lens will set you back at least another £1300. That’s £3k for something which doesn’t have a viewfinder.
Whether that represents good value for money depends on how highly you value the Leica brand. Image quality seems to be excellent, and we’d be surprised if that opinion changes too much after more extensive testing.
Overall, the TL2 is a great evolution of Leica’s mirrorless efforts, and while it’s not likely to knock any other manufacturer of its perch, for those who have the readies to spend, it’s a nice option.
Look out for a full review in due course.