Anyone that knows me knows that my passion for cameras and photography is equaled only by my passion for fast cars. Fortunately, I live in South Florida, the exotic car capital of the world. Year-round beautiful weather and salt-free roads bring together car enthusiasts from all parts of the country. As a photographer attending many car shows, my objective is more than just enjoying the opportunity to appreciate a beautiful automobile; I want to capture it for posterity.
My previous “go-to” camera for general walk-around photography has been the venerable Leica D-Lux 5. While that camera is no slouch, I have found it unable to capture the true detail, richness, and tonal range of the cars and locations I have been traveling to. The prospect of taking a medium format digital camera to a car show would have been almost laughable to me just a few years ago. However, at the last few events I have taken the Leica S2 with the 35mm and 70mm lenses, and have taken this casual photography to a new level.
A day spent in the Florida heat walking around with a camera can be a challenge, especially if you need to carry a flash or a tripod. I knew that I desired none of these items in my bag when out shooting. Using the S2, I set my ISO to 320, shooting mode to aperture priority, and set out to make pictures. Any normal amount of daylight allows me to set my aperture to about f/5.6 and shoot hand held without any issues, keeping my shutter speed 1/125th or faster.
All day I see hundreds of Canon and Nikon SLR's (and dozens of iPhones), many with basic kit lenses, struggling to capture sparkling chrome and flamboyant paint colors. Snapping away with the S2 I look like another guy with a DSLR. Aperture priority and autofocus work extraordinarily well with the well lit, high contrast subjects before me, and the massive optical viewfinder of the S2 makes composition a breeze compared to the D-Lux 5's LCD screen.
Should I feel compelled to point my camera at something that isn't the price of a moderately sized family home, I take the S2 back to familiar territory. This is the ultimate landscape camera, and fitting for my first experience on the Gulf coast of Florida. A cold, windy day did not deter at least one family determined to make the most of their vacation.
Replacing my standard “point and shoot” camera with the Leica S2 has been an absolute pleasure, and a bit of a surprise that the S2 can handle itself so well as a hand-holdable camera to carry around for a day or more. Lately I have been leaving the 70mm at home and just using the 35mm, given the frequently difficult task of getting a photo of a rare car without my fellow gawkers in the frame.
Often I am asked what people are shooting with the S2, as many assume it is only designed as a studio camera to be permanently affixed to a tripod. If my experiences show anything, that just the opposite is true. The Leica S2 will be my travel camera for the foreseeable future. With a 2,000+ shot battery life and rock-solid auto focus system I can concentrate on taking pictures instead of fiddling with equipment. The weather sealing is a nice perk as well; a quick rain shower or some ocean spray do not bother the camera one bit.
I would encourage anyone currently using the S2 to bring the body with a 35mm lens out somewhere you might normally bring a compact camera, set your ISO to 320 and shoot away!