I am posting this because people asked me to ... not to convince anyone of anything, nor to justify anything. At my age justifications are worn out along with my knees
About a year ago I test drove an S2 for about 200 shots. When Leica announced the S2 I divested myself of a lot of gear in prep for getting one ... but not without a test drive first. Guy and Jack's MFD Law Number One!
I passed on it then because it wasn't ready for what I wanted and needed. Questionable AF, no wide lens, limited availability, questions about the character of the images against my personal "Leica" expectations.
That was then, and this is now.
First a personal explanation of my functional criteria, and how certain S2 attributes now serve them better:
While I use a Leica M9 for a lot of work, I will not shoot weddings, events, fashion, commercial action or some environmental portrait work without an AF camera at the ready. I have used a M camera for 40 years, I know how to handle one in most any circumstance ... but I will not do paying work without an AF camera in the bag for certain aspects of my shooting style. I'd love to be a purist rangefinder dude, but I'm not. Not to mention that long lenses are not exactly rangefinder territory. 90mm is about it.
I also use an AF MFD camera for some of this work, and do so for pure IQ. I switched from using a Contax 645 and digital back to a Hasselblad HD system almost solely on the merits of the Hassey's superior AF. MFD provides IQ ... but it's more than that ... it provides flexibility in size by default. I crop like an Art Director because I am an Art Director. MFD simply provides more RAW data to work with when post processing. More dynamic range, nicer tonal gradations, etc. most of which remain intact when manipulating, resizing and cropping.
The closest amalgamation (read: compromise), of these attributes has been the higher end 35mm DSLRs ... of which I have explored every one in the search for what I wanted and needed to satisfy my eye. Add those system swap searches together, and more cash has flown out the door than buying two S2's. None ever satisfied me personally ... the closest being the Sony A900, which pales in comparison to the MFD results.
So, it is not hard to see why the S2 was an exciting prospect for me. It just wasn't ready for me last year when I tested it. Disappointed.
Now, the S2 AF is faster ... enough so to fit my requirements in most cases. Certainly not D3X fast, but now fast enough. I tried it at an outdoor Holiday event ... people, movement, close shots, inside and outside ... the whole 9 yards.
One functional thing that the 1DsMKIII and Nikon D3X have that I really like are their dual card slots. Sony has it, but it doesn't shoot parallel files. The S2 has this feature, and it is a big deal for me and what I shoot. Shooting at my rate of capture, it isn't a matter of if a card will go bad, or I'll make some stupid transfer mistake, it is when. Murphy's Law clearly states that when it happens, it'll be a corrupted, irreplaceable image, or set of images. I prefer to error on the side of caution if possible.
The S2 is pretty small. While the S lenses aren't all that much smaller/lighter than the other MFD lenses, the body is smaller, and the S35mm lens is slim, where the 28 and 35 HC lenses are not. It is much easier to carry the three lens S2 kit then it is to carry a three lens H kit. It is more an issue of proportional bulk than just weight/size.
The last big hurdle was IQ. It is the most important hurdle. For almost the whole year I watched and waited. My criteria being the look of M9 files and those from of Hassey H. Don't know what changed, or how it changed, but to my eye it did. Maybe people just needed time to get it all down ... maybe advancements in the camera coupled with better software in LR3 ... don't know, don't care. However it still needed to be tested, for my eye, no one else's.
So when the opportunity to grab the exact S2P system kit I wanted, at a package price that made it more palatable, I tried it again ... initial reaction is that it is the perfect companion for the M9 files ... only on steroids. Leica color and contrast ... ASPH and APO optics for sharp critical focus with excellent roll off to gorgeous OOF areas.
BTW I do not have a big issue with the S2 ratio ... I frequently do perspective correction with post software, and extra side data helps with this.
I also do not think this is a replacement for the H system ... I see it as the equivalent of 645 to 6X7 in the film days. I still need a really big gun for certain commercial applications, and I like the high sync speed of the H for certain applications ... but it now lessens my need for the H4D/40 which I will now sell ... along with most of the Sony kit save a body for back-up, and a few key lenses.
caveats and criticisms:
Even though I worked a deal for a whole package ... this kit is very expensive ... mostly because of the lenses. However, I'm pretty confident that the lenses will hold their value. But the body won't. Choose carefully based on your criteria, and don't sweat every advancement. I don't have that issue because I am retaining the big gun when it's needed. Otherwise 38 meg with a larger sensor capture area fits a good percentage of my needs. Hopefully, some advancements will be in the form of firmware ... thus enhancing the camera's value longer. Hassey has been pretty good at doing that. Leica would do well heeding that example.
ISO performance isn't a huge concern, but the narrow selection of ISOs on the S2 is. Hopefully that can be addressed in future firmware upgrades. ISO 500, 800 and 1000 increments would be most helpful.
A better solution than a hot folder Image Shuttle for tethered work would be most welcome ... although I probably wouldn't use it much since I use the H for that, I may in future and I'm sure many others could use it if the S2 is their only system.
I cannot and will not comment on controls and shooting flow. I have the H down pat (well, sort of pat ) ... and it will take me more time to master the shooting rhythm with this new camera. It's promising is all I can say.
I shoot people. If I shoot a landscape it is with people in it ... otherwise it's a test shot for deleting. If I strictly shot landscapes I'd think through the S2 more deeply. I shoot portraits. Kids. Weddings. People's pets. Commercial and corporate stuff. And now Pro-Bono work needing high image standards. I sell nothing in the form of web images ... if that was the criteria, none of this would be necessary. No one needs this type gear to impress other web surfers. People pay me for prints, albums, framed wall images. Commercial clients use images in so many ways it's not even funny. Clients pick pictures on the web, based on content, but the final use is usually printed, and the expectations there are much, much higher. When I read about someone setting prints out from different formats and saying there is not much difference ... I say good for them ... you just dodged an expensive bullet. However, I also think to myself, you don't have my clients doing that selecting
Now, I am semi-retiring, and it may be that this will be all I need unless they drag me back in (if the economy ever recovers enough). Not a bad way to phase myself out (pardon the pun) ... however, it isn't all beach lounging and fine wines ... when it comes to my personal work, I then face the hardest to please client in my entire career
P.S, real pics to come ... I have a real world paying shoot on Dec. 29th. which will be the first true test of the S2 ... so I gotta get to practicing on deletables to get the handling down by then
In the mean-time here are a few from my Holiday outing in 18º weather with just the 35mm ... and me with no gloves or scarf or S2 manual that I failed to read before leaving ... frozen fumble fingers at work But it was just enough to tell me that with some work and practice the S2 will cough up the kind of Leica punch I want (with bigger files to play with), without interfering with how I approach content, or how subjects react to me with this camera in hand.