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Leica TL2 Snap Verdict
Although it has the solid build quality that you expect from Leica, the TL2’s heavy use of touch-control makes it very unlike a typical Leica camera. It’s designed for use by people who have come to photography via their smartphone and while this might be off-putting for traditionalists, the majority of the features that you’d expect are present and the camera is easy to use. It may not be the usual approach for Leica but it means you can focus on the essentials of photography. The image quality is extremely good and the touch-control effective, but on the whole we prefer the Leica CL which combines clever touch-control with more physical controls.
For Leica TL2
- Superb build quality
- Excellent optical quality
- Slick touch-control
Against Leica TL2
- No viewfinder built-in
- Limited range of directly compatible APS-C format lenses
- High price
What is the Leica TL2?
The Lecia TL2 is a 24Mp compact system or mirrorless camera with an APS-C format sensor and the Leica L lens mount. Although it’s made by Leica and has the build quality you’d expect from the respected Germany company, it has a large touch-screen and few physical controls. It’s designed with well-heeled smartphone users in mind.
Leica’s TL2 is the third in its T-series line-up, and was announced just eight months after the TL but 3 months before the Leica CL.
While the body design stays roughly similar to that of the original TL, the TL2 has the same 24Mp APS-C CMOS sensor Maestro II processing engine as the CL. This means it has higher resolution and faster operation speeds, autofocus and start-up time than the TL.
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.
|Camera Name||Leica TL2|
|Date announced:||10th July 2017|
|Price at launch:||£1,700 body only|
|Sensor size:||APS-C (23.6x15.7mm)|
|Effective pixel count:||24.24 million|
|Sensitivity range:||ISO 100-50,000|
|AF System:||49-point contrast detection|
|Max video resolution:||3840 x 2160 p (4K) 30fps|
|Viewfinder:||Optional external EVF|
|Screen:||3.7-inch TFT LCD, 1.3 million dots|
|Dimensions:||134 x 69 x 33mm|
|Weight:||355g body only, 399g with battery|
[nextpage title=”Build & Handling” ]
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 luxurious feel that is 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 operating speeds in comparison with the TL. 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 and responsive, 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. I found it useful for control exposure compensation.
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 hot-shoe 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).
The large screen at least image composition easy – 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, but it actually copes pretty well.
I found the screen has a wide viewing angle so you can see the image when the camera is above or below head-height, but obviously, it’s foreshortened. A titing or variable mechanism would be usful.
There’s no longer a pop-up flash, so again you’ll need to make use of the hot-shoe and use a flashgun if you need more light.
[nextpage title=”Performance” ]
Leica TL2 Performance
Unlike the CL, the TL2 doesn’t have a viewfinder built-in and although the screen shows plenty of detail, in bright light it doesn’t always give the best view of the exposure. Consequently, there may be occasions when you miss that the Multi-zone metering system has a habit of producing slightly overexposed images. It seems to do this more often than the CL and when shooting scenes that wouldn’t normally trigger such a response. This makes the histogram view advisable in many situations.
I found that the TL2 delivers natural looking colours in most situations, but they can look a little flat, making the Vivid setting handy for a little boost in saturation. The low saturation is exacerbated by the tendency towards overexposure, as usual reducing the exposure a little below the recommended value also boosts saturation.
While the Auto white balance setting is a useful backstop, it’s best to match the setting to the specific lighting conditions – though beware of the shade setting making images a little too warm on occasion.
Naturally, shooting in raw format makes it less important to get the white balance correct in-camera, but heavy use of touch control and the automatic shooting options makes the TL2 and interesting option for inexperienced photographers.
At low to mid-range sensitivity (ISO) the TL2 produces images with plenty of natural looking detail. As the sensitivity rises, the TL2 does a good job of keeping noise at bay in jpeg images. The speckling is hidden well without much softening or smearing so even images taken at the highest setting (ISO 50,000) look good at normal printing and viewing sizes.
Luminance noise is visible in raw files when they’re viewed at 100%, but it’s not excessive and the results look good at normal viewing sizes. Even at the highest ISO value, there’s no clumping or banding visible.
Nevertheless, shooting at ISO 25,000 produces far better results than ISO 50,000, so I’d keep that as the maximum if possible. By the time you drop to ISO 12,500 the results are very good and noise practically disappears once you drop to ISO 1600 or lower.
The TL2 captures a good range of tones in a single file and I found it’s possible to brighten dark images or underexposed areas by around 3EV or more.
Although the TL2 has the same sensor and processing engine as the CL, and should, in theory, have the same autofocus (AF) performance, I found the TL2 lagged a little behind the CL.
That said, the TL2 focuses quickly and accurately on subjects in good light. However, the light level doesn’t need to drop far for the AF system to start to hunt a bit. That said, it’s unlikely that the TL2 would be used to shoot sport and it’s fast enough for ‘general’ photography, and shooting portraits, still life landscapes and most street photography.
[nextpage title=”Images” ]
Leica TL2 sample photos
[nextpage title=”Verdict” ]
Leica TL2 Verdict
It goes without saying that a Leica camera isn’t for somebody on a budget. The TL2 retails for £1,700/$1,950 body only, and adding a single lens will set you back at least another £1300/$1,300. That’s £3,000/$3000 for something that doesn’t have a viewfinder.
Whether that represents good value for money depends on how highly you value the Leica brand and its high build quality. The image quality produced by the TL2 is excellent, but it doesn’t make a significant step-up from that of cameras like the Fujifilm X-T20 or X-E3.
Should I buy the Leica TL?
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. However, we’d urge you to take a look at the Leica CL which has a few more physical controls which makes for a more traditional feeling camera that is augmented by a clever touch-enabled interface.