Leica TL2: A professional camera that is as simple as an iPhone
The Leica T was announced in 2014 as a totally new camera concept. Leica Camera AG had made up 10-12 concepts internally for a future camera not based on any previous ideas, but an entirely re-invention of photography.
The idea obviously was to see what a new take on photography would look like; but also to stop adding to 100+ year-old concepts and instead ask themselves, "How would we make camera if this was the first we ever made?"
With the introduction of the new Leica TL2 (2017), the whole Leica T (2014) concept has been turned upside-down and equipped with enough power to run a small island. In short, the Leica TL2 is an extremely well-working camera.
Here is my first video-review, hands-on field test:
The concept was promising when it came out in 2014, but the downside of the concept (that otherwise had waxed enthusiasm worldwide) was that the camera was slow in responding and had a slow and sneezing auto-focus. Not even the next 'generation', the Leica TL, addressed those issues. But the Leica TL2 does.
With other successful concepts being presented, the Leica SL and the Leica Q, some even predicted that the Leica T series was a dead-end. Not so, apparently.
A needed intervention was done in the headquarters in Wetzlar, Germany, and in all secrecy a team have been addressing all the issues needed to turning the Leica TL into a slick, fashionable real camera.
I was not a big fan of the Leica T. Actually, all in all, I never paid any serious attention to it. But two things made me consider to try to take on the Leica TL and make it work:
One was that the optical designer at Leica, Peter Karbe, would always mention the Leica T lenses as great lens designs. Great lenses for a "small consumer camera" – that made me curious. Why would they make such great lenses for a camera that didn't matter?
Leica Camera AG wouldn't exist if it wasn't for the innovative Leica "small camera" (the current Leica M) that was introduced back in 1925, which came with the world’s best lenses. In fact, the Leica M was so innovative that that camera concept shaped the photography industry all the way until present time. The current Leica M10 is perfectly close to the original 1925 invention. Despite many other successes at Leica Camera AG, the Leica M camera and lenses still stands for 60% of the overall income.
So here comes the second reason I wanted to use the Leica TL: Back in January 2017 the CEO of Leica Camera AG said in an interview that the Leica T concept camera is very important to the future of Leica Camera AG.
There are many innovations inside the Leica TL2 that would impress if one knew about them. The uni-body aluminum design that makes a sturdy body that allows for effective production, a light camera, and the aluminum body allows heat from the sensor and electronics to distribute easily (always a problem in digital cameras).
But the truth of the matter is that I'm not very interested in the inside of a camera. What I see is a slick black body that doesn't have any unnecessary buttons or features. It's easy to use, and it makes great photographs.
The Leica TL2 changes everything. Forget the Leica T and the Leica TL. When I had people try my Leica TL2, they asked me what was so great about my Leica M10 that I didn't ditch that one and just kept using the Leica TL2.
If you have a Leica M you will know this is an insult to the entire evolution of man. It's like asking NASA why they make rockets.
I have found Leica M photographers considering the Leica TL2 as an extra camera, and I have found Leica SL users asking if it would be a good backup camera for the Leica SL (as they both have 24MP sensors and can use the same lenses), and I've had children loving the Leica TL2 to bits.
I think the ease of use is what attracts, and not what camera system (or which smartphone) you come from.
There are the cameras that enable you to take photographs, and there are the ones which do not.
I think - looking at it in retrospective - that if you can pick up a camera and the pictures you take come out so well that you are surprised and feel accomplished, that is a great camera. But reality is that most cameras that are supposed to make quality pictures are so complicated, so heavy, and demand so much prior knowledge of the user, that the result will always be depressing.
The Leica TL2 is basically a really good 24-megapixels digital camera, operated as simple as an iPhone (1st generation when they were actually simple and intuitive to operate).
The Leica TL2 skips all the traditional photographic controls and features and cut straight to the chase. It's so minimalistic that I find even the elegantly designed Leica Q looking complicated! (No, I didn't expect that!).
The Leica TL2 sums up the image quality experience that Leica Camera AG has gained since first introducing a 24MP sensor on their main camera, the Leica M, in 2013. The whole lineup of Leica cameras (except the medium format Leica S) currently feature 24MP sensors, which is a relief because 18MP basically is enough, and anything above 24MP is overkill that slows down the necessary computer editing accompanying any digital camera.
All the sensors in the Leica cameras are different, but they follow the same philosophy and aim for the same look. When Leica started making sensors back 15 years ago, they aimed at having sensors that emulate the look of the classic Kodachrome film: "The last known standard for great colors we know," as they said. An unusual approach in digital photography where most seem more occupied with the electronic parts than the images the sensor is supposed to make.
Thorsten von Overgaard is a Danish writer and photographer, specializing in portrait photography and documentary photography, known for writings about photography and as an educator.
Some photos are available as signed editions via galleries or online. For specific photography needs, contact Thorsten Overgaard via e-mail.