Well, here it goes.
I bought a Leica S2 at a gorgeous price - as pretty much a large number of folks, I lusted after MF for ages and MFD since the dawn of time.
I lurked on this forum for centuries ( give or take ) and recently I was in the position to buy a MFD kit - as some folks are (getting a few emails and pm's about my Leica S2 recent experience) since MFD is "almost" getting into affordable territory.
Almost is the operating keyword in that sentence but for quite some time MFD has been in such a higher echelon of price that was... well.. still is .. unobtainable. As an amateur, I couldnt figure out a way to justify it or even raise the funds needed for it.
These days, a P40+ or P45+ ( Phase One backs ) can be had for 6.000 euros and sometimes less and that makes a very attractive proposition. I originally lusted for it and was trying to make a good deal on it ( plus a Phase or Contax kit ) but the fragility of it ( non weathersealed, etc ) was worrying me to death - perhaps unjustified but it was there. Plus the fact that I was dropping a large few thousand euros on discontinued stuff that if goes south I'm on my own (or facing a very nasty repair bill) wasnt exactly very reassuring as well.
Hasselblad's are great but H3D are very old tech and H4D still a bit expensive for my taste - and the whole outfit is a bit clunky and boxy.
Pentax 645D are great value for money these days and have the correct bells and whistles but I couldnt get over the fact that it feels a big plastic SLR with a MF sensor on it and with silly menus and gizmos ; also the fact that it seems/feels iminent the replacement for a 645DII and the lack of a more dedicated lens lineup doesnt help as well.
So here comes the Leica S2 : never really thought of much of it, since I have to sell both lungs, kidneys and heart to get it ( and I kinda need them ) but these days they are moving into affordable territory. Plus, with the arrival of the new Leica S2, few demo units with warranty are showing up with very low "miles" on it - my case. After grabbing one for a stupid low price, I'm into the MFD game.
So whats new ? a lot - and this is the reason for this little review, since a few people are sending me emails about it - I reckon that they are like me, want to move to MFD but never used MF before and want to know that if I regret the move or not.
First things first, Im a long long time Leica rangefinder user. SLR's I used them the last of them being a Canon 1Ds II. L glass and all that jazz, got too heavy for casual use, start leaving it at home, yadada.
Got a M8 at launch , M9 at launch ( pays to be friend with your local dealer ) and got a lovely collection of M lens, Noctilux 1.0, 0.95, etc.
Never used a MF camera before for more than a day so I was bit worried with this and everytime I had to pick up one ( Nikon D2x for web work ) I moaned. It just feels alien. Buttons galore, simple actions seem dauting complicated.
So I pick up the S2 and the viewfinder... oh boy... holy mary jesus... its HUGE. Payed for the thing and took it home.
After a month using it now and after holidays, I can report the following :
 rethink your shutter speeds : specially if you come from a rangefinder, this is a whole new game. 1/180 is dead sharp and unless I'm taking pictures of a playgirl AND being watched by my wife at the same time, everything is pin sharp. 1/125 as well if I pay attention. 1/90 a slight change to miss a couple of shots, 1/60 is a bit hit or miss, 1/45 is well… 60% miss or more… lower than that, you have to get lucky. I got pin sharp photos at 1/30 and 1/24 but I had to take quite a few and lean against something.
 ISO is not that bad : up to 320 is clean. 640 is perfectably usable if needed. 1250 for emergencies and its nice for printing, if the printing isnt huge AND if you overexpose by a half or full stop. reminds me my old Canon 1Ds I : this camera really BITES you in the shadow noise. Overexpose a bit and you are fine, although at 1250 even if its pin sharp, you are loosing detail.
 viewfinder : its huge. theres no other word for it. you can manual ( I can ) focus with easy and very accurate
 AF : I've read everywhere that is slow but precise. Happy to report that is exactly like that : not the fastest kid on the block - a decent modern day SLR will kill the S2 in AF performance, but its very very precise
 weight : "ohhh so featherweight" I read everywhere. Well a Shark is a featherweight if compared with a Blue Whale. Still I dont want to carry a shark on my back for a day. Its the size and the weight of a pro SLR ( D3, D2, 1Ds ) perhaps a bit lower on the height but with one BIG difference : balance. The Leica with a 70mm attached is balanced. Attach a 14-24 on a D3 and that thing is front heavy. The whole package ( Leica S2 ) is well though and gravity wise is perfect. Not featherweight, I'm carrying it for 6-8 hours per day on my neck and wouldnt mind if it was lighter.
 stealth : forget about it. again, I'm a rangefinder man. so I'm used to go to silly places with a camera and nobody notices me. bit different with the Leica S2 : people know that I'm carrying a camera from 500mts away. Do "normal" people know its a 20,000 usd camera ? nope, they think its a Nikon / Canon / whatever SLR. Nikon & Canon users are confused to see a SLR Leica. Leica users just drool and point. Do I like it ? nope. But I learned to live with it.
 Battery life : its good. its very good. I'm in Budapest ( tomorrow Prague ) and its 0 or -2 c. I take around 300-350 shots per day. Minimal chimping. I get back home with 70% battery charged. I'm impressed
 solidity : this thing is built like a brick. no other way around it
 weather sealing : it is. having been caught in the middle of nowehere and got drenched like a … well, got really drenched, the S2 is without a hiccup. I was a bit nervous, but it works
 Buttons : they are spaced out nicely. Such a nice thing. Again, I'm in Hungary. Freezing cold. Its snowing. I'm taking picures. Blimey, I dont want to take my gloves to change settings. No problem with the Leica
 Menu system : love. I'm in love. So simple. So direct. So custom ( you can pretty much configure all buttons to your liking ). Why, oh why, dont every camera manufacture do like this ? I holded a D800 the other day.. Lord… 239482903 buttons. I love S2 simplicity.
 Long Exposures : really nice. I've done 12 seconds exposures so far and they are clean. super clean. no worries here. Didnt get into longer yet but not afraid to do so
 does it handles like a SLR ? : got a lot o people asking me this. to be honest, no. it does better. menu system is so much nicer. viewfinder is so much better. for me, its heaps better than a SLR. its a MF without the minus of the MF. is that good
 lenses : boy they are something. it seems that they "beg" to be used wide open. they are PIN sharp wide open. tack sharp. you really dont have to "stop a bit" to get it to its full potential. You have the impression that their full potential its at 2.5. they are that good.
 Mirror slap, how is it ? : not that bad, to be honest. shot with a few MF cameras and was worried about the vibration and also about the noise from it. while its nothing stealth, Leica took time to damp both noise and vibration really well.
 MF 3D look, is it real ? : well either you see it or you dont. dont take my word for it. I see it and its there - the clarity, the sharpness, the "flexibility" of the files are just great. works for me.
 black and white ? : S2 files do great processed in BW. dont take my word for it - check Kurts work, he inspired me to get one S2
 regrets ? : none. zero. nada. I still kept my M9 but having a hard time justifying keeping it. its becoming a very expensive point and shoot. I'm now confortably using the S2 in the holidays and getting used to the "ohh a big camera" looks. If you dont need 800 plus iso and/or super AF speeds, both of things that a normal SLR will surpass the Leica S2 by a mile, its a great camera. It showed me as well that I really dont want more than 37 mp. Its fine. When I do panoramas ( +10 images ) it really makes my Macintosh sweat. I mean REALLY sweat : I did a 42 picture panorama ( just for fun ) and it took 4 hours in Photoshop to merge them. And I got a nice MacbookPRO i7 3.2ghz with 8gb ram. 37gb is enough, I can crop sometimes quite.. well. vigorously *lol* and still have lot of MP to do a lovely print. And when I use all of those 37mp, boy… it does show
 do this camera makes you go all zen like MF ?: it does. few things it taught me : I need a tripd. I'm lusting for a tripod. Using a Leica M for years and running away from one like the plague, I want one so badly now. Need to upgrade mine asap. People told me that so many times but I though ( meh, I can handhold that thing nicely ). And truth to be told, I can. But boy, when you do put on the effort of a tripod, it shows. You can see details in all their glory. Its impressive. Its really darn impressive. Techinque wise its a challenging system - its a cruel mistress. If you get your techique right it pays back. Big time. But you really have to slow down. Rethink your shot. Your composition. Your light. Your tripod. Its not as fast paced a rangefinder, neither a modern day SLR with its infite buffers, af systems and high ISO's.
 and the million usd / euro / chf / yen / whatever floats your bank question : is it miles better than a D800 ? no. It is not. I can cleary see the differences but they are not huge. Actually, if we are talking about quantum leaps, its actually the D800 that is heaps better : AF in the Nikon is world class, high ISO is in a league that the Leica can only dream about. But Leica wins for me, in small details that overwall makes a big difference : its more solid, it has a viewfinder thats much bigger than the Nikon, the menu system is heaps better for me, the buttons are only a few and simple, the lens system is world class ( there is not a single bad Leica S lens ), the sharpness, bokeh, clarity of the files are beautifull... all small details that add up. I dont make money out of photography - that said, I dont have to make rational, logical choices. If I did, as an amateur, it would be hard to choose the Leica S2 and justifiying the price increase over the D800. But I take pictures for my own pleasure. And my pleasure with photography starts BEFORE I press that shutter button. The Leica is a tactile experience. And that counts - for me. Look at this way - two cars, a "regular" Ford family car and a Bentley, in a normal country road, traveling at the same speed, taking exactly the same time to get from point A to B. Of course, its logical to get the Ford - it does the same thing as the Bentley for much less. But its its heaps more fun, confortable and enjoyable in the Bentley. If you can do it, get it.
Budapest's Hero Square, weather sucks these last few days ( f4.8, ISO160 )
Wife. ISO160, 1/90 , f2.5 :
Budapest bridge to Gersham Palace, F22, ISO160, 8.0 sec
Last but not least, the one I'm really proud : Budapest Buda Castle, ISO 160, F16, 4,0 sec
ps: no tripod used. camera placed in very strategic places ( mooring pontoons, benches, etc ) for the long exposures. my wife now founds funny to look at something that can be used as a tripod AND I can keep the desired composition. yesterday she yelled "found a nice tripod here !!!" pointing to a flat fire extinguisher while a couple of japanese tourists were looking at her confused and looking for tripods
pss : I do not have a Bentley