Leica Sofort 2

It may be a crap photo, but it’s a perfect memory making machine.

In the fall of 2023, Leica announced the Sofort 2. This is a point and shoot Leica, with the primary idea of this camera being one which prints an instant image for people to share. It’s also inexpensive (by Leica standards) at $389.

I bought three of them when they were announced. One in each of the colors (white, red, black) and gave one each to my kids as gifts, (keeping one for me). Well, my black Sofort 2 only recently arrived due to all the backlog. So, let’s talk about the worst camera I own, and what and why someone might want this.

Specs

Cameras are a little hard to concisely whittle down as all the specs on them matter as a cohesive unit, and mean very little in isolation. I am going to highlight some of the specs, but check the product page for a more full listing:

  • microSD w/ internal storage for 45 images.
  • Polycarbonate frame and polymethyl methacrylate front and back cover (read: matte plastic with shiny plastic bits).
  • USB-C charging.
  • 87 x 123 x 44 mm and 320g w/o film pack.
  • 1/5” CMOS Sensor, 4.9MP.
  • Leica Summar 1:2/2.4 (equivalent to approx. 28mm format).
  • Leica instant film packs, but Fujifilm Instax works also.
  • Image output time: Approx. 16 seconds.
  • 3” TFT LCD, approx. 460,000 dots.
  • Shutter speeds: 1⁄4–1⁄8000s (automatic exposure control).
  • Focus range: 10cm to ∞.
  • ISO 100 to ISO 1600 (automatic exposure control).
  • Lithium-ion battery (internal, non-removable), 3.7V, 740mAh, 2.6W. Approx. 100 instant photographs (with fully charged battery). Charging time approx. 2–3 hours with camera switched off: 5V/500mA (2.5W to 5W)

The specs are meh, and not remotely earth shattering. I’ll summarize these specs to say that they feel very much like pre-iPhone 8 image quality. It’s not bad, but it struggles a lot in difficult lighting conditions (low light, and large dynamic ranges). Not bad, and given the price point and brand, I think the best you can hope for without the price tripling.

In Use

I’ve been carrying this camera a lot of places since getting it. There’s some serious quirks you need to be aware of with this:

  1. It’s very easy to hold.
  2. The fine tune controls, like exposure compensation are a bear to get to. They are not within menus, but it’s never clear to me which key press brings up the menu.
  3. There’s a little lever you pull to print, and it is as fantastic as you hope.
  4. You cannot transfer images to the Fotos app (right now) unless they are already been printed. Why? I have no idea. You can pull them from the microSD card if you inserted one, but you have to do that via a memory card reader. This is so perfectly stupid.
  5. The battery life is great, and it doesn’t drain fast when left sitting idle in your bag.
  6. It’s nearly useless for backlit portraits.
  7. The camera itself is quite bulky, but it doesn’t have a lot of density to it — which makes it easier to carry around all day than most Leica’s.

If you are good with all those, this can be fun and frustrating. The low light performance is very poor. If you take a low light image at ISO1600, it doesn’t look great, but it looks fine on the print. That’s a consistent theme here, as the images are not really made to be viewed digitally on a high resolution display, as much as the images are made to be printed on the film packs.

I do think this would benefit from better low light performance, but I wouldn’t be willing to pay more for that. Carrying around this camera is an effort in bulk. It does not weigh a lot, but it does take up a lot of space. It’s somewhat limited by the size of the film packs themselves.

Perhaps the most disappointing part for me, is the softness at the edges of this Summar lens. Leica is known for its colors and lens quality, and this lens simply does not measure up for me.

At this point I was looking at whether I should sell this or not. And then I walked into my kids’ rooms and saw all the prints from these cameras stuck up on the walls. All over their rooms.

They are not prints of landscapes or places. They are prints of people, of friends, of moments. And then I realized what this camera really is.

This camera takes disappointing photos, but captures great memories.

Just like the instant Polaroids of old, or 35mm disposable film cameras, or early flip phone cameras — they are not images you cherish for their detailed capture, but because they captured and solidified a memory. And because the photo quality is kind of shit, there’s no real pomp and circumstance needed. The literal easiest way to get an image off this camera is to print it. Which means there’s no real conversations about “posting this to your feed” or “FacetTune this please”. It’s a crappy enough photo where everyone is taken back to a time when they didn’t really care about having their photo taken.

This fucking camera somehow brought me back to high school and college days. And that’s exactly how my kids have been using the camera. When they want a high quality image, they grab their iPhone. When they want a memory, they grab the Sofort 2.

And this Sofort 2 does this exceptionally well. It won’t replace a modern smartphone camera, but it does remove all the anxiety that modern sensors give people. The softness, the ISO noise, and the small file size — our trivial insecurities about how we might look in the image fade away. All that is left is a moment.

And that’s rad.

Overall

I am going to stop right there. Don’t buy this because you want a camera. Buy this because you want to hand out little prints of shitty quality photos to your friends, so that they will remember a good time had by all. It’s the perfect device for that.

I dig it, and that means the specs kind of nailed it in an odd way.

Buy here, $389

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