Rewiring the neurones with a Leica X2
In a recent Macfilos article John Shingleton presented some images from my Leica X2, and threw down the gauntlet, suggesting that I take it to Indochina as my primary camera in upcoming travels. Well, that trip has now happened and, yes, I did take the X2 as my main camera.
I must admit that I did it with some hesitation and a fair degree of trepidation mainly because of the 35mm-equivalent focal length of the X2. My travel cameras in the digital era have always been short fixed zooms: Leica X Vario, Leica D Lux 109, Fuji X20 and so on. Even decades ago, in the days of film, for me it was just one 50mm prime on Minoltas and Konicas. My first real camera, a long time ago, was an Agfa Silette L with its 45mm lens. While it might seem sacrilege to many Macfilos readers, my brain had never routinely seen subjects from the fixed 35mm viewpoint (actually 36mm for the X2). Could it learn to see that way?
So it was off to Cambodia with the X2 and batteries safely packed in carry-on luggage. First stop, the temples at Angkor. It was there on Day One that I came to appreciate the X2 as a travel camera. We spent the morning from a sleepy 5am to just after lunch with our guide, visiting four of the ancient temples. It was on the way back to the hotel that the guide said “I see you have a nice camera, I will come back to the hotel at 4.30pm and then take you to where Angkor Wat turns golden with the sunset. You will get a nice photo”.
We went back to the temples as planned and my guide planted me in front of a lake looking out towards the famous Angkor Wat. Three images taken during the next hour did indeed show it turning to gold. A big thank you to guide Pireak for giving his time so generously.
Over the next few days in Cambodia I had a lot of fun using the X2. My concern about having to zoom with my feet was partly overcome by additional zooming on the computer now that I am home again. The images are certainly good enough to handle some cropping.
Outdoor shots were great, indoor photos at markets using available light, and night pics after dinner were also quite pleasing. Maybe there’s a bit of noise in low-light images, but that was what the world was like in the old colonial days without flash, so I don’t mind that at all. Set on auto-everything, the camera coped really well. It provided some great memories of a special country with spectacular ancient history and now emerging from the horrors of its recent past.
I’m pleased that I accepted the challenge in the fixed 35mm focal length world. I’m not sure that my neurones have fully rewired. But I am sure that the X2 is a great travel camera. I will use it again when travelling. Practice makes perfect.
Incidentally, one thing that I did do with the X2 was to use a Toshiba FlashAir SD card. It doesn’t drain the battery noticeably, and, combined with the FlashAir app on the iPad, it provided instant jpeg downloads as soon as I walked into my hotel room and switched on both devices. It is seriously impressive how it provides wireless downloading for a camera without the latest whizz-bang firmware.
If you have two different cameras just use a FlashAir in each of them, The app sees each one separately, and downloads images from each into separate folders. Highly recommended if you want wireless on a camera which doesn’t have it, or you just want the same wireless download interface with different cameras.
Tech Note: The X2 (introduced in 2012) is the successor to the X1 (2009), so beloved of John Shingleton. It has a larger 16MP CMOS sensor instead of 12MP, faster autofocus and an ISO top limit raised from 3200 to 12500. Another benefit of the X2 is its ability to mount an electronic viewfinder — the same as the one used on the Leica X Vario and the M240. This, however, necessitated a small hump on top of the camera so that the socket of the viewfinder could be placed above the screen. Many believe that this hump spoils the Barnack-Leica image of the original X1 camera. It must be said, also, that both the X1 and X2 suffer from an abysmal 230k rear screen which is similar to that employed on the M9. Another relic of 2009.