Camera Review: Leica TL2 Mirroless
December 11, 2017
Design has always been one of Leica’s hallmarks. With the TL2, the company has steered directly against the prevailing current in mirrorless camera design. Where rivals festoon their mirrorless bodies with dials, knobs, wheels and buttons, the TL2 cuts a more austere figure. Is less more? Let’s have a look.
The TL2 packs a 24-megapixel APS-C-sized image sensor with an ISO range of 100-50,000. It uses a contrast-detection autofocus system with 49 AF points. According to Leica, it can acquire focus three times faster than its predecessor, the TL.
It’s able to burst at up to 7 fps using a mechanical shutter and up to 20 fps using an electronic one. On the video front, the TL2 records 4K video (3840 x 2160) at 30p. Full HD recording is also available up to 60p.
You can mount both TL and SL series lenses directly to the TL2 and Leica offers adapters for both M and R series lenses as well. You’ll find Wi-Fi for wireless remote control and image transfers.
As we noted, the TL2 cuts a rather minimalist figure with no external markings on anything and not all that many buttons or dials to play with. You get a programmable function button on the top of the camera, plus two dials to adjust shutter speed and aperture.
The Spartan design shunts most of your fiddling to the 3.7-inch touch screen. It’s responsive enough, but pushing so much functionality into the display can slow you down and means a slightly higher learning curve when you first start playing with it. On the plus side, there’s a customizable “My Menu” function so you can keep your most-accessed features quickly accessible.
The camera is a solid unibody block and feels great. It’s very slim and sleek. Beyond a few more external controls, we found ourselves pining for a built-in EVF—especially for one as sharp as the EVF used in Leica’s SL. You can buy an accessory EVF though that also includes a GPS chip for geo-tagging images. The TL2 has a USB-C port for fast image transfers and for recharging the camera’s battery while it’s still in the body—a nice touch. Another nice bonus: There’s 32GB of internal memory, in case your SD card taps out.
JPEG images from the TL2 can look a little wan but the RAW files have plenty of latitude to pump up the saturation. On balance, images looked sharp and color-accurate straight out of camera.
We were very impressed with the low-light capabilities of the TL2. Shooting at a fall pumpkin blaze in near darkness with only illuminated pumpkins for light, the TL2 managed to focus reliably and deliver images that weren’t terribly swamped with noise at ISO 50,000.
The TL2 acquires focus fairly quickly and does an adequate job tracking subjects, though it’s not class-leading in this respect. As noted above, low-light focusing was much more impressive.
The TL2 does deliver an excellent continuous shooting mode that places it near the top of its class, especially when using the electronic shutter.
You’ll get a CIPA-rated battery life of 250 shots, which places the TL2 below almost all of its comparably priced competitors in the stamina department.
Price-wise, the TL2 competes against models like Panasonic’s G85, Olympus’s OM-D E-M5 Mark II, Sony’s a6300 and Fuji’s X-T20. It’s a stacked field that offers something for everyone. If video matters, the TL2 shouldn’t be your first choice. Sports shooters may find the Sony’s autofocusing more to their liking while the body-based stabilization in the Olympus and Panasonic make those compelling rivals.
The TL2 is a solid piece of aluminum, beautifully built if not necessarily accessible at first glance. After shooting so many mirrorless cameras that have buttons and knobs galore, we found the TL2’s minimalism both refreshing and, at times, cumbersome. Thankfully, that touch screen is huge.
Leica TL 2
PROS: Compact high-quality build; excellent image quality; large and responsive touch display; excellent dynamic range for still images; solid low-light performance.
CONS: Few external controls; poor battery life; poor dynamic range in video; over-sharpening in video; lacks viewfinder.