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Leica X2

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Leica X2 Preview

by Shawn Barnett

Aimed precisely at the photographer wanting a discrete, high-quality pocket camera, the Leica X2 takes its place in the X-line of compact Leicas with a few improvements and an APS-C sized sensor.

Said to be handmade in Germany, the Leica X2 has a 24mm f/2.8 aspherical lens, which equates to a 36mm lens, just about right for a classic street shooter. Its 16.2-megapixel CMOS sensor is a good upgrade for the category, and ISOs on offer range from 100 to 12,500, including Auto. Shutter speeds range from 30 second to 1/2,000 second. Continuous speeds range from 3-5 fps.

Weighing in at about 12 ounces (345g) with a battery, the Leica X2 measures 4.88 x 2.72 x 2.0 inches (124 x 69 x 51.5mm). Cameras this height are great for concealing in a hand as you walk around, though I know most folks prefer a strap.

Leica says the X2 has an enhanced autofocus system that's fast, precise and "almost silent."

Evoking that Leica rangefinder spirit, the X2 is incredibly simple from the front. The lens and that distinctive red dot set off the broad rectangle of black leather. The silver version is also black leather, but it's embossed with a diamond pattern.

On the left shoulder an oval conceals a pop-up flash. A silver hot shoe is right of that, followed by the Shutter speed dial. The Power switch rings the Shutter button and serves to select between Single and Continuous drive modes. Aperture is selected via a dial on the right. Both Aperture and Shutter speed dials can be set to Auto, which allows you to select among Shutter and Aperture priority modes and Program. Pretty straightforward. (It's a shame you have to pay more for this kind of intelligent simplicity.)

Five buttons line the left of the LCD. A sliding switch releases the pop-up flash. An accessory port appears below the hot shoe, designed to accept an electronic viewfinder (another site has hinted that it might be compatible with Olympus's AP2 port). The Leica X2's 2.7-inch LCD has a fairly low res 230,000-pixel resolution. A rear thumb dial and rotary dial allow for easy menu controls, and all buttons are clearly marked.

Though it's a fairly simple camera Leica knows its customers will want to trick it out a bit, so they've prepared a few upgrades. Above are the grip accessory and 35mm optical viewfinder.

Then there's the Viso-Flex electronic accessory finder with a 1.4-megapixel viewfinder, which swivels upward 90 degrees, just like Olympus's designs.

Leica includes Adobe Photoshop Lightroom with the X2, for both Windows and Mac, an excellent photo viewing, organizing, and development solution used by professional photographers.

It's a little disappointing that Leica didn't come out with a compact system camera, as many expected, but a compact camera with an excellent Leica lens does answer that hunger for a high-quality street camera. The Leica X2's most attractive feature may be its lack of gimmicks and special features, in favor of a tight focus on straightforward photography.