Leica is a staunchly traditional company that takes great pride in its legacy and heritage. Over the past few years, however, the company has been modernizing its camera lines and none has embodied this modern focus than the mirrorless T (now TL) line. Leica’s first APS-C interchangeable camera, the T has sleek lines, an aluminum unibody, wireless connectivity, and a very smartphone-like 3.7-inch touchscreen. But the first Leica T, released in 2014, felt like a camera from a decade before wrapped in a pretty shell. It was slow to focus, clumsy to use, and the image quality from it didn’t live up to the red badge it wore.
After giving the original T a minor refresh and a new name (TL) late last year, Leica is now announcing the true successor to the first T, the TL2. The TL2 shares the same design and main features as its predecessor, but it has an upgraded image sensor, a faster processor, better autofocus, a refined user interface, and a new electronic shutter. It’s available in Leica stores starting today for $1,950.
The main upgrade in the TL2 is its new 24-megapixel sensor. It’s still APS-C-sized, but it has considerably more resolution than the 16-megapixel chip in the original. It also has a much broader ISO range, able to go up to 50,000 if you want. The autofocus system is greatly improved, with 49 focus points as opposed to just 9, and Leica says it is about three times faster than before. The new electronic shutter can shoot as quickly as 1/40,000th of a second and the TL2 can shoot 20 frames per second (up to 29 frames) at full resolution. (The mechanical shutter still maxes out at 1/4,000th of a second.)
In addition to its higher still resolution, the TL2 is capable of recording 4K video. It has HDMI output right next to the SD card slot, and there’s a new USB Type-C port for data transfer and charging of the camera’s battery.
Basically, the TL2’s spec sheet is exactly what you’d expect from an APS-C mirrorless camera in 2017 and is competitive with the cameras currently available from Sony and Fujifilm.
The TL2’s design is what separates it from the rest of the field, however, and it hasn’t greatly changed from the T. The edges of the unibody aluminum chassis are now chamfered for greater comfort while shooting, the command dials are easier to turn, and the pop-up flash has been removed entirely. (The hotshoe to support flashes and other accessories remains.)
The TL2’s back is dominated by the same 3.7-inch touchscreen as before, but function button near the shutter can now be customized to a handful of different functions. Leica says the redesigned interface on the TL2 is up to eight times faster to use than the T’s original user interface.
I’ve had a chance to spend about a week with the TL2, and compared to my experience with the original T, virtually everything about this camera is better than before. The biggest difference is the TL2’s speed and responsiveness — while the T was frustrating to use because of how slow it was, the TL2 is quick to turn on and quick enough to focus that I didn’t miss shots because the camera wasn’t ready. It’s not the fastest camera I’ve ever used, but it’s no longer the slowest.
I appreciated the TL2’s greater ISO range while shooting in low light, and though the touchscreen interface still isn’t my preferred way to use a camera, I was able to figure it out quickly enough. I still prefer to shoot with the optional Visoflex electronic viewfinder attached to the TL2’s hotshoe, which also adds the ability to geotag my images.
The TL2 still doesn’t provide the same experience as a Leica M camera, but it’s not a poor experience either. You can certainly get as much or more from a much less expensive mirrorless camera from Sony, Fujifilm, or Olympus, but none of those can quite match the TL2’s style. You just have to be prepared to pay quite a bit for those style points.