I found my Simplicity with a Leica TL2 by Timothy Giordano

I found my Simplicity with a Leica TL2

by Timothy Giordano

Hello Steve,

After reading your article on ‘upgradeitis’, the one issue you wrote that stood out for me the most – user experience.  Back in 2014, after your wonderful review of the Olympus OM-D EM1 and well as receiving the camera of the year from the NY Times, I decided to purchase the camera along with a number of great prime lenses. 

I shot some great photos with it; however, I was overwhelmed by the number of menus and submenus.  I would have to reorient myself with the camera every time I used it.  It wasn’t fun anymore.  It was easier to shoot with my iPhone.  Sure, quality wasn’t as great, but I didn’t have a plethora of menus to deal with.  This past year, I decided to sell the camera and the 7 lenses I had, included two pro lenses.  Then I was on a search for the right camera for me.  I wanted it to be easy – that is, the ability to set aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, be able to focus manually as well as take great shots, with a very simple menu.  My other requirement was to have only 2 lenses at most.

The new Sony, Oly, Fuji, etc, were not cutting it for me.  I decided to rent the new Leica Q.  Really loved the simplicity of the menu, but did not like the fixed 28mm lens.  I went into NYC to the Leica SoHo store to see the CL.  Great camera, but the menu system lacked in it’s simplicity.  In fact, I hit some button, and the store manager had to come over and return it to the former settings.  It wasn’t intuitive.  I said no, thank you.  I looked at the TL2.  The menu and it’s simplicity was exactly what I was looking for.  I’m not a professional photographer, I just do this as a hobby so I want to enjoy doing it.  I decided that this was the camera I was going to purchase.  

I started looking online for used TL2s and lenses.  It’s not an inexpensive system.  I was actually able to find an amazing deal through the Leica store in the Netherlands.  The body, Visoflex, extra battery, the Summilux-TL 35mm f/1.4 and the Leica APO-Macro-Elmarit-TL 60mm f/2.8 would cost $8355 before tax (an extra $553.52) in the US.  Through Leica Lisse Netherlands I paid €4900 which was equal to $5675.  In essence, it was like getting the 60mm lens for free.

I know there will be a lot of people saying, ‘do you know what you could have bought for $5675’, my answer to that is, it is what YOU could have bought with $5675. I didn’t want those cameras with all the menus and buttons, and bells, and whistles.  Yes, the Leica TL-2 is expensive and not for everyone.  It doesn’t focus the fastest; however, I love it and I love the photos it produces.  It’s very portable, it’s light, it’s intuitive. All I have on the back menu is to adjust Aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and AWB.  That’s it.  It’s all I need.  

I was at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton NJ last weekend.  It is the atelier for Seward Johnson.  I shot jpeg in B&W and raw in color.  I love the jpegs this camera produced.  I have done nothing to them.  These were shot with the 35mm lens.  I hope you enjoy and thanks for all of your wonderful articles.  Tim

A few images:

20 Comments

  1. The TL2 is indeed a beautiful camera. It has other advantages that are unique, too. The built-in storage can be helpful in some cases, I suspect. The solid construction means that you aren’t going to have to deal with peeling rubber or leather. I do wish it had a flippy screen, though.

    Interestingly enough, the TL2 has slightly more DR than the 6500 or the XT-3. That’s pretty good!

    I love this camera but I don’t know if it’s the best choice for me. I wish it was, though. 🙂

  2. I found my simplicity with a Nikon d3300 and 18-55mm kit lens. I just put it in program mode and shoot away. Great photos every time, and for under $500. You can’t beat that with a stick!

  3. Talking about camera. Cool concept but why this mismatch, sizelike between body and lens? Why they don`t offer more compact option like 35/2.8? Same case with their SLO model.

    • 35mm is still a large lens. The TL series is APSC. On the other hand there is a very compact near pancake 18mm ( 35mm equiv.) offered for the TL and/or TL2.

    • 35mm is still a large lens. The TL series is APSC. On the other hand there is a very compact near pancake 18mm ( 35mm equiv.) offered for the TL and/or TL2.

      Addendum: I own the TL2 having traded my TL for it + cash. I have the f/2.0 23mm, the 18-55 and 55-135 zooms plus the 60mm Elmait R macro with R to L adapter ( manual focus only which is OK for macro) as well as a 200 f/2.8 Nikkor with NIK to L adapter. It may be a pricey camera, but the images are spectacular and. the operation is simple and straightforward.

      It is truly a wonderful camera and a critical instrument.

  4. Nice post !
    I had the same problems and solved it with a fuji xt20.
    Set it one time and you just have the dials to use ( I mostly use auto iso ). Even the manual focus switch is physical. In fact have the exposure set already before turning the camera on.

  5. Very nice series of photos, and you certainly had a good lens deal! I liked this little camera in the hand far more than the CL, for example.

    • I did as well. The CL was nice, but when I was at the Leica dealer and accidentally pressed something, I didn’t know how to undo what I did. Again, just too much stuff. A child of 10 could use the TL2 without an issue.

  6. Nice photos and great philosophy. I have the Sony A7Rii. Hate the menu. Hate the big plastic native lenses. I got the kolari mod and bought an E to M adapter and shoot with the 28mm elmarit and a 50mm summicron. Someday, I hope to sell the camera and get a Leica CL or TL2 or something similar (when my wife lets me) as I fins myself only setting ISO, aperature, and shutter speed. The rest is just useless…and the postprocessing with DxO to correct color and contrast on the Sony is inconvenient. I take my setup on hikes, ski tours, and climbs and find manual focus can be tough sometimes on technical snowy terrain, but using clumsy menus, big bulky AF lenses, and lcd screen are even harder…and the camera is small but heavy. Mirrorless unfortunately doesnt necessarily save you space or weight. I have a sony A5100 also and actually find myself using that camera more as it is smaller…but, the screen and menus are terrible…and no Viewfinder. I regret my sony purchases. two cameras with adapters and sensor mod and overpriced bloated native lenses that are a struggle to take out of your pack…I could/should have just bought a small leica and clipped it on my backpack shoulder strap. Well, I guess it ironically takes GAS to finally learn what we truly need/want.

    • Thanks for your comment. I just sold all of my former camera and lenses on eBay, which didn’t take very long and used that $ towards the Leica. Yes, it was a pain to post the photos of the camera and the 7 different lenses I had, which were all sold separately, but it certainly eased the cost of the Leica. However, the enjoyment I get with this camera is priceless to me. Find what you want and what works for you. I don’t go by what other people complain about with certain cameras. If you’re happy with the user experience and the results of the photos, that’s all that matters. I’m processing the color photos, and some B&W in LR Classic. I will be printing some out for mounting and framing. I’m taking an online class from Robert Rodriguez Jr regarding printmaking which has helped me amazingly when printing final images.
      Good luck in your search.

  7. Love your sincerity and the fact that you found the camera that YOU feel comfortable with. I guess that if we could line up the photographers who buy functionality that they will never use, that line would be long enough to circle the world. You have done a great job in explaining the whole concept of defining your true needs and then finding the camera that fits those needs. Of course, this is also the technique used by those suffering from incurable GAS use to justify their “latest and greatest” behaviour, but gladly, you bring some sanity to the madness. Well done.

    • That is correct. Many people have complained about the lack of quickness in the focusing in the TL2. However, it’s somewhat of a mute point for me as my photos are either portrait, landscape, or macro, and utilizing manual focus as well.

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