Some Thoughts On The Leica X2
by Sean Reid
On May 10, 2012, at a special event in Berlin, Leica introduced a 16 MP successor to their X1 camera which – reasonably enough – is called the X2. I've been beta testing the camera's firmware for some time now though some of the changes I've suggested have not yet been implemented.
Physically, the camera is very similar to the X1. The most obvious change is that it now includes a port, located below the hot shoe, for an optional EVF called the Leica EVF2. This new device, it turns out, bears a striking resemblance to the Olympus VF2.
The X2 now sends data off the sensor at 60 frames per second and this has two benefits one can notice right away. The first is that the camera auto-focuses more quickly than the X1. The second is that EVF is less prone to motion blur than it would be if the camera used a slower frame rate.
This leads to an interesting difference between the X2 and its most obvious competitor the Fuji X100. The X100 has the advantage of a built-in window finder with parallax-correcting frame lines and stair-stepped AF target markings. Those are not small differences. The X2 can use an accessory window finder but that provides no auto-parallax correction and no indication of AF targeting. But the EVF component of the Fuji's hybrid eye-level finder uses a slow refresh rate and, as such, is very prone to motion blur – especially in low light.
So, in the end, the X100 has significant advantages over the X2 for window finder work. But the X2, in my experience, has advantages for EVF work – especially when the subject is in motion.
Leica also re-designed the flash unit when developing the X2. The X1's flash popped up when its top was pressed and this lead to many photographers, myself included, frequently opening it by accident while grasping the camera (to remove it from a case, for example). The new, much improved, flash pops up on mechanical arms when a switch on the rear of the camera is slid to the right. It's a better system.
The lens used in the X2 is the same one used in the X1. As X1 owners know, it performs quite well. The 16-MP sensor used in the camera naturally yields a larger file (dimensionally) than the X1 and also offers very good performance at high ISO levels.
At a cost of $1995 the X2 sells for about the same price as the X1 did. Its optional EVF2 finder, however, sells for $575 – which is pricy. Though neither myself nor Luminous Landscape can recommend using non-Leica accessories on the X2 it seems that some people may experiment to see if the Olympus VF2 finder works on the X2. I myself haven't tried it so I don't know if it works or if it causes any damage to the camera or finder. The Olympus VF2 currently sells for $250.
I've made a lot of pictures with the X2 and I'm yet to be dissappointed with the file quality in any of them. Of course, I'd also have to say the same of the X100 (save for some occasional high ISO banding from that Fuji). The X2 is certainly an evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, development for Leica but virtually all of the changes they've made in the new model have noticable practical advantages.
Leica X2 ISO 1600 F/4.0 @ 1/320
About Reid Reviews and Sean Reid
Sean's latest articles for his own site, Reid Reviews, include extensive reviews of the Leica X2 and the Leica M Monochrom. He also will soon be publishing an article that compares the file quality – at various ISO levels – of four window finder cameras: the Fuji X100, Fuji X-Pro 1, Leica M9 and Leica M Monochrom (using files converted from RAW in a beta version of Lightroom 4). Following that will be an article that looks at the file quality – again at various ISO levels – of three small sensor cameras: the Fuji X10, Pentax Q and Ricoh GR IV. Not long ago he published reviews of the Pentax K-01 and the Ricoh A-16 Zoom module.
Sean Reid, an American, has been a commercial and fine art photographer for over twenty-seven years. He studied under Stephen Shore and Ben Lifson and met occasionally with Helen Levitt. In the late 1980s he worked as an exhibition printer for Wendy Ewald and other fine art photographers. In 1989, he was the first American photographer to receive an artist-in-residence grant from the Irish Arts Council in Dublin, Ireland. His commercial work is primarily of architecture, weddings and special events. His personal work is primarily of people in public places although recently he seems increasingly fascinated by apple orchards. Most of his newest reviews and other articles can be found at Reid Reviews. The site concentrates on reviewing equipment intended for professional and serious amateur photographers but also includes a wide range of essays about various aspects of photography. It pays particular attention to rangefinder camera equipment and compact cameras for serious photographers. Most of the reviews are based on extensive field work as well as formal studio testing.