Yesterday I was asked to take some photos for a division of the British armed forces. Naturally I am not allowed to tell about what the photos are about nor share photos taken, but I am allowed to share my experiences with the camera. A great shame was that I was also not allowed to take my own compact flash card so I couldnt study the image quality from a computer, only from the frankly superb screen on the back.
I dont really know where to start about describing my experiences with the camera except from telling you that I really really want one, too bad I dont quite have the however many tens of thousands of pounds one will set you back.
For those of you who dont know, basically the camera is a (small) medium format digital body, but in the form of a DSLR. Basically it works like a DSLR system does, just with a much bigger sensor. The size of the thing is actually quite incredible. It feels much smaller (not lighter) than pro-line full bodied DSLRs, and about the size of my D300 (or 5Dii for you Canon users). It just feels quite a fair bit heavier than those cameras.
This weight however is just from the exquisite build quality. There is literally no way to describe it other than to say it feels like its literally one block of metal. I actually looked on Leica's website and they go as far as to say that its not just water resistant, or weather sealed, or however CaNikon phrase it for their cameras, but "Water proof," and I believe them!
The simplicity is another thing I appreciated. I liked this when I shot their rangefinders back in the day, but the same is true for the S2. There is a wheel for the aperture, a wheel for the shutter speed, and then (I kid you not) 4 buttons on the whole of the camera. Ive probably got 4 or 5 times that on my D300!
Also to point out is that the camera is so quiet. Any body after using a DSLR will know that smaller frame (DX) DSLRs are quite quiet when compared with their full frame relatives. I therefore expected a huge BANG-SLAP everytime the S2 took a photo, but no, its probably actually quieter than APS-C size sensor cameras, and more like the shutter noise of an M9. Although not quite that quiet.
Ok the image quality (off of the back screen not a computer as explained above) is fantastic. No way can I describe it, but it is leagues above anything Ive seen come out of a digital SLR including the Nikon D3X, not just in terms of resolution, but in terms of depth and tone of colours.
Theres no way I wouldnt buy one of these things if the opportunity came my way and I could justify the price. The image quality is insane, as is the portability of the thing. As a landscape photographer, I could throw one in my bag just as easy as my D300 (and easier than a D3X) and go out and shoot some fantastic shots.
There are however some downsides. For low light it is less than ideal. The ISO capabilities could be better, especially for a sensor this large. Combine this with some actually quite slow lenses (nothing faster than f2.5 which for a standard prime in my opinion is slow). And finally on the low light note, because the camera is so heavy, I found that the standard rule of shutter speed at least 1/equivalent focal length to be way off. For the 70mm lens which acts about like a 50mm lens, I had to use a shutter speed of at least 1/125 or preferably 1/250 to get a non-wobbly shot, and I like to pride myself for my steady hands!
Also, fairly obviously this isnt for sports or action shooters. There isnt any lens support for long teles, the continuos shooting isnt anything special (although think of the file sizes its pushing through), the autofocus is a tad slow, dont get me wrong it is fast, but quite considerably off the pace of say my 70-200.
While Im on the point of autofocus, note that with this camera, depth of field is minute. Focus has to be spot on or the photo is an absolute throw away, and I mean spot on.
Just realised I have rambled on a bit, but I hope at least one of you has been bothered/interested in my report, feel free to ask me any questions while it is all fresh in my mind (and my dreams!)
Nikon D5000 and D300 with 12-24mm, 35mm f1.8, 50mm f1.4, 60mm f2.8 Macro, 18-200mm, 17-55mm f2.8 (all Nikon)