I have been following the S2 very closely since Leica’s announcement of the camera at Photokina last year. In fact, I went to PhotoPlus in 2008 to handle the pre-production S2 and compare its handling with the other DMF options. I also went to PhotoPlus again this year and participated in Leica’s S2 studio event. I really enjoyed shooting the S2 in the studio, but that is not how I intend to use the S2. So when David Farkas let me know that he was getting an S2 for a couple weeks to demo I began trying to schedule a time when I could get my hands on it for a few hours. So I flew down to Tampa last Sunday and picked up the camera just after Marc (fotografz). It is safe to say I am being very careful with this purchase decision.
I have had several opportunities to handle the S2, get a feel of its ergonomics, and explore the controls over the last year, but the only way to truly learn a camera is to use it. I spent approximately 5 hours Sunday afternoon and another 2 hours Monday morning using the camera. I now have an informed opinion of the S2. A big thank you to David Farkas and Chris Snipes for making this possible. They went out of their way to facilitate my schedule by working Sunday. I really appreciate it.
I will start off with some things that I think could be improved.
- It is too easy to accidently change the shooting mode by inadvertently pushing the thumbwheel. When in Aperture Priority mode pressing the thumbwheel in changes the camera to Program mode. When in Manual mode pressing the thumbwheel changes the camera to Shutter Priority mode. Leica did a great job by color coding the top display (in addition to letter designations) to let the user know which mode your in and which setting are being set by the camera. The shooting mode is also displayed in the viewfinder. Regardless, I had more than one occasion where I inadvertently changed the shooting mode and it took me a minute to figure out what was going on. Leica should put a lock on this or change it to a double click to change modes.
- There is no easy way to quickly delete an image. I understand the need to protect us from ourselves so we don’t accidently delete images, but I think there needs to be a simple way to quickly delete an image when it comes up in review mode after the taking the shot. As it is, the image review comes up and you can’t delete it until the review image clears and then you have to press play, then delete twice (once to delete and another to confirm). The problem with this approach is that if you take a shot and see that it is way off that it takes way to long to go into the play menu to delete the image. I think a better approach would be to separate the review mode and play mode such that in review mode you could press the lower left button twice to delete without having to wait and go into the play mode. I found myself getting in a hurry to delete an image and pressing buttons like mad to get rid of it and almost pressing the delete to many times - once you are in delete mode the lower left button deletes and confirms the delete so it if you press the button to many times you will delete more than one image. This is not a problem when you are not in a hurry as in a normal play back mode.
- Another problem for me was the default mode of the thumbwheel rotation is to zoom the image rather than scroll to the next image. In review mode, this makes perfect sense because you will most likely want to zoom in to check details of the shot. However, in play mode, this is a pain because you have to remember to press the thumbwheel to change its function from zooming the displayed image to jump to next image.
- Exposure compensation values are not displayed in the viewfinder. There is an icon in the viewfinder that indicates EC is in effect, but it doesn’t give you the value plus or minus. It may be possible to repurpose the exposure meter in the viewfinder to show EC when making a change, but I don’t know. This may be one of those things that will get corrected in the S3.
- ISO is not displayed in the viewfinder. I wished the ISO was displayed because I would be more likely to use auto ISO if I could keep track of what it was choosing. I think this is something else for the S3.
None of these things are deal breakers for me. I can easily get comfortable working with the camera as it is, but correcting the items I mentioned would be a big improvement in my opinion. Also, keep in mind that I did not expect the S2 to be like a 35mm dSLR in terms of autofocus performance and ISO performance so I am not going to fault it for not being one in those respects - just like I am not going to fault a dSLR for not having image quality as good as the S2.
I started of with the list of things I didn’t like because the list of things I like is much longer and I don’t have time to list them all. The camera handles really well and I had no problem or fatigue during a 5 hour stretch of hand held shooting. The image quality is excellent and the files are very natural right out of the camera.
I am uploading some dng files for those that want to process the files themselves. Go to www.mediafire.com/markgowin and please overlook the ads - that is why it is a free service. It may take a couple hours to get the files uploaded os be patient please. All I ask is that people do not use the dng files for anything other than their own personal evaluation.
I am posting a few images and, in some cases, crops from the original image. I processed (usually just white balance and minimal sharpening) the images on my laptop so don’t get upset if something looks amiss – it is probably my fault, not the camera.
1. Pelican. Probably one of the first wildlife photos taken with the S2 and 180mm 1/1000th at f 9.5, ISO 320
2. Crop from the pelican photo
3. Bait shop. 180mm, 1/1500th sec at f 6.7, ISO 320
4. Crop from bait shop photo
5. Mythos 70mm handheld at 1/30th sec, ISO 640
6. Crop from Mythos
7. Tattoo shop. 70mm, 1/125th sec at f 8.0, ISO 320, off camera Leica flash w/pocket wizards
8. Tampa Bay skyline, 70mm, 6.0 sec at f 6.7, ISO 160
9. Acropolis Ybor City, 1/3 sec at f 5.7, ISO 320, (lens propped up by silverware, body was held on table and 2 sec selftimer was used)
10. Crop showing Moiré in speaker grill. Yes there is moiré in this image. I didn't try to correct it.