Leica Q camera Review
I have resisted the temptation of writing a review for Leica Q camera. The reason was very simple; I wanted to understand how this new camera would perform in various photography projects and have a fair amount of experience working hands-on with Leica Q camera before committing to writing an in-depth review.
In this Leica Q camera review, I will not be delving into the operations of the camera but offer my observations and experiences while using this camera in various photography projects. Let’s begin with the basics.
Body & Handling
Certainly, Leica Q camera is big, perhaps a little heavy compact camera when compared to other compact cameras in the market. The reason for the weight is mostly due to the high-quality materials used in the construction of Leica Q camera.
While Leica Q camera resembles a compact version Leica M10 camera with the addition of autofocus capabilities and a single 28mm fixed lens. From a design and functionality perspective, Leica Q camera has a certain appeal for anyone looking to purchase a compact camera especially for Leica enthusiasts who want to have an everyday use camera.
Leica Q camera could be yet another success story for Leica camera as it is a more affordable than a Leica M10 camera and is a pleasure to use for casual photography. Perhaps, the reason why I see Leica Q camera as a toned down version of Leica M rangefinder camera is that most people dream of owning a Leica M10 because of its classic rangefinder-style design appeal. But hope that there would be a cheaper way of having the quality of a Leica camera by making some compromises to afford one.
Leica Q camera has a higher price tag than its competitors in the market. There has been much debate as to whether the price warrants the name and quality associated with this camera.
From a quality and functionality point of view, Leica Q camera is a superb in build quality and delivers features that make it a pleasure to use for photography. Of course, there are compromises that were made to bring the price down so that most people who have been dreaming of owning a Leica camera even a compact one could finally be able to afford one. For example, Leica Q camera features a 28mm Summilux f/1.7 lens while all Leica Summilux lens including the Leica Summilux-M 28mm lens feature a faster f/1.4 aperture.
Leica Q camera‘s Summilux lens lies somewhere in between a Leica Summicron-M lens with f/2.0 aperture and Leica Summilux-M lens with f/1.4 aperture. The price difference between these two lenses is immense. Hence, Leica Q‘s Summilux lens may not be the best way to name it for the sake of avoiding confusion with Leica Summilux lenses for SL and M line up of cameras.
One attractive feature that has made Leica M rangefinder cameras is that that have interchangeable lens mount meaning different lenses from Leica M line-up can be mounted on the Leica rangefinder body. This is also the case for Leica SL or Leica S line of cameras.
Leica Q camera features a fixed lens camera body meaning that only a single lens with a fixed focal length of 28mm is permanently mounted on the camera. Leica camera has chosen 28mm to be the focal length for the Leica Q camera which is perhaps not the most popular focal length for photographers. 28mm focal length is considered a wide angle lens which is very suitable for general photography but not the favorite focal length for portraits for most people. It is for this reason,
28mm focal length is considered a wide angle lens which is very suitable for general photography but not the favorite focal length for portraits for most people. It is for this reason, Leica Q camera may be a versatile lens for most photography application but may have been better served if it featured a 35mm focal length lens.
A Compact Camera For Everyone
I would say Leica Q camera fits in the niche of semi-pro or avid-enthusiast camera. While Leica M camera may not be for everyone because it is a manual focus camera requiring settings such as aperture to be dialed by the camera user, Leica Q camera has all the elements that make it very users friendly.
Street photographers, for example, who use only one focal length to capture candid photographs on city streets would perhaps find Leica Q camera o be a perfect companion. It has a compact body with autofocus and a fast lens that can deliver exceptional results in low light circumstances.
While most manual focus cameras would require a street photographer to utilize zone photography system inclusion of autofocus in Leica Q would mean that exceptional bokeh can also be captured with this compact camera. auto-focus zone system would no longer be needed.
Leica cameras do become collector items and a number of special edition cameras are issued periodically to satisfy Leica collectors. In the past, Leica rangefinder cameras were seen in the hands of celebrities who probably had never used a rangefinder style camera before nor understood how to compose photographs.
Leica Q camera has already been offered in titanium grey and as a limited edition collector items. I think they are beautiful and any Leica Q camera would a wonderful camera but celebrity endorsements are not necessary to sell this high-quality product.
I certainly would not want to see a rerun of Lenny Kravitz prancing around Leica showrooms.
Would we see Madonna or Katy Perry or even Justin Bieber holding one? It remains to be seen.
Purchasing a Leica Q
Purchasing a Leica Q camera is an important commitment. It means you have made your research and know that this is the right camera for you. As a professional photographer, I get often asked about which cameras are worth buying, I have had the question of purchasing a Leica Q camera posed to me hundreds of times in my photography workshops and my travels around the world. The answer is not a simple one for most photography enthusiasts especially for those who already own a Leica camera. The reason is rather simple.
Before beginning this review, I have read just about all the reviews that were written on this “amazing camera” and watched those wonderful “homemade” videos on Youtube from the “expert” reviewers who received their camera from Leica camera as a courtesy. Every review seemed a repetition of the other, a chorus of “experts” who are reviewing a Leica camera one week and a Chinese gimbal the next, saying the same thing over and over again without mentioning any of the shortcomings of Leica Q camera.
For the most part, the “reviews” are right, Leica Q camera delivers exceptional image and the camera is built like a tank that will last a lifetime or two. It is built in much the same way a Leica M10 camera is built with precision and attention to details.
I also see Leica Q camera as a camera that will pave the way for the cameras to come from the German company. Leica Camera knows that the future is auto-focus cameras. Their release of Leica TL2, X-U, and Q cameras is a testament to Leica Camera’s belief in versatile autofocus compact cameras as the future of photography instruments.
On the professional side, Leica SL and S line are both autofocus cameras with the latest innovative advancements. Naturally, Leica M rangefinder camera line will continue to flourish but at a cost to be estimated at 600 Euros for the rangefinder mechanism, the price of Leica M rangefinder camera will always be considerably more than the competition.
Leica Q Line
I firmly believe that Leica Q camera holds some of the key features that camera owners demand and will lead the market in innovation, design, and functionality. To understand this phenomenon let’s delve into how the lens and camera industry has been reshaped over the years. For one, Far Eastern camera manufacturers have long ago migrated to smaller DSLRs and mirrorless cameras knowing that the consumers are willing to pay more for easy to use, compact cameras that deliver high-quality images.
Leica camera, on the other hand, has managed to deliver products like the Leica TL2 and Q cameras that are not only innovative but easy to use delivering exceptional image quality. What Leica camera had done was to introduce a product that is highly competitive with a higher price tag than the competition for which the consumers were willing to pay the difference. As a result, months after Leica Q camera‘s announcement the camera was sold out everywhere around the world.
In order to better understand what Leica Q camera can do as a high-quality camera let’s begin by looking at its specs. Leica Q camera weighs a hefty 640 grams, comparably this is more thna other digital compact cameras inthe market. For example, its closest competitor, Sony RX1 RII for example, weight is at 507 grams with the card and the battery included. Leica Q camera is also larger in dimensions that the Sony RX1 RII camera.
In reality the weight of the Leica Q camera camera is closer to Leica M10 which weighs in at 660 grams. While this weight factor may be of concern for those who like to travel light or prefer a light camera for their street photography ventures, the Q camera is a solid camera withouth any of the plastic or flimsy parts. Hence, it is reasonable for anyone who understands that a good lens will need high quality optics and a good camera is made from metal shell casing to be a photography instruments that last for decades or even a lifetime. In another aword, Leica Q camera owes its weight to the high-quality materils used in its manufacturing process for which we ll should be grateful for Leica camera for setting the standard.
I say if you like the classic lines of a Leica camera then Leica Q camera is the one that can be for everyday use whether you are photographing on the streets of your city or traveling or celebrating that special moment with your family. For those who may question the limitations of owning fixed lens camera, there are many professionals like Bill Cunningham who spend virtually using a single focal length during his entire career.
While we are on the subject of street photography, Leica Q camera has a 28mm lens with an aperture maximum opening of f/1.7 which means that street photographers can know use their lenses after dusk or when the lighting conditions are less than ideal. As a compact camera, it is perfect for blending in the crowd for those candid photographs.
Leica Q camera as a Travel Companion
On a long road trip across the midwestern United States, I took my usual photography gear, and I packed my Leica Q camera in my most accessible camera bag. I knew that as a wide angle lens 28mm would be a perfect choice for photographing the small towns and amazing landscape through much of the states, I would be traveling.
Unlike APSc or small size sensors camera, Leica Q camera delivers incredible detail and accurate rendition of colors for those breathtaking details in places like Mount Rushmore, Yosemite National Park and wide open fields of South Dakota. The difference is sensor size coupled with the resolving power of the 28mm Leica Summilux lens is beyond words. Especially for capturing subtle details of the landscape.
Then comes the design, Leica Q camera takes its inspiration from the classic lines of the Leica M rangefinder camera which is indeed a beautiful industrial engineering and design. It is the epitome of German engineering that dates back at all the way to the early days of the iconic streamlined design of rangefinder camera styling. Naturally, Leica Q camera is pleasing to look at as it is to use, for me, carries the classic trademark design characteristics of Bauhaus period.
When I look at Leica Q camera, I see there is no place for your fingers to grab a firm hold which requires a thumb support to be purchased for single hand use. It could have been included for the sake of ease of use in the original design of the camera. In the end, the choice is left up to the user, perhaps the user would want to use the camera with both hands without needing the thumb support or if you are into photographing with a firm hold on the camera with a single hand operation than a thumb support can be purchased from any Leica Store. I have provided several links for online Leica authorized dealer from which the products mentioned in this article can be purchased directly.
There has been much debate as to the optimum number of pixels for a full frame sensor. It seems that camera companies that announce new cameras almost on a yearly basis have a tendency to push the megapixels of the sensors higher which are now bordering 50MP. Whether any photographer needs these high megapixel sensors is a very debatable in fact unless the photographs are blown up to giant billboard sizes these high megapixel sensors are no more than bragging point and massive storage space on computers.
I mention this because now APS-C size sensor cameras including Leica TL2 and Leica CL cameras are featuring the same number of pixels as the Leica Q camera. Ideally, a 24MP full frame sensor is a perfect balance between capturing subtle details and low light performance for the sensor. It is for this reason, I like to use Leica Q camera at night or anytime I am traveling knowing that digital noise would not be creeping in when I photograph in less than ideal lighting conditions.
As any photographer should know it is more important to have a high-quality image without digital noise than have high megapixels when the lighting is not at its best. In this regard, Leica Q camera offers the optimum balance between low light performance and megapixel density for a full frame sensor.
Lens as a Benchmark
Leica Q camera has the fastest 28mm lens of any compact camera. In fact, among all full frame compact camera, Leica Summilux lens is faster than 35mm lenses that are found on premium full-frame compact cameras. Naturally, Leica Q offers a superb quality in optics with the ability to resolve for fine details while offering incredible bokeh at wide apertures.
The focal length of 28mm is a moderate wide angle lens which is important to have if you are photographing landscape or architecture. Leica Q‘s 24MP allows for cropping for images should the need arise for tighter angle shots. If I were to chose a focal length for a fixed lens camera 28mm would probably be my first focal length choice.
As I have mentioned earlier Leica Summilux lens on the Leica Q is not a f/1.4 but a f/1.7 which means it is a tad slower than Leica Summilux-M 28mm lens. The speed change may be in part due to Leica camera’s desire to produce a more compact camera or to reduce production cost whichever it is I am fine with the fastest 28mm compact camera lens in the market.
Leica Q comes with a beautiful crystal clear 3.6M viewfinder. Whether you are a fan of electronic viewfinders or not, they are here to stay as more and more camera manufacturers adopt electronic viewfinders for their line up of cameras. Leica camera with the incorporation of design features like the electronic viewfinder is now pushing the frontiers of latest camera technology.
Personally, I like using electronic viewfinders on cameras because they provide exposure data that show what your final image is going to look like before you press the shutter. Also seeing your composition in frame lines helps to better compose photographs which I think is a must for anyone who is starting out in photography or still developing their style of photography. Electronic viewfinders are also incredibly useful in low light situations.
Leica Camera as a Symbol
I like discreet, especially in cameras. So much so that I prefer a Leica M9-P or a Leica M-P240 camera without the red dot on the front of the camera. As a professional photographer, it is important to not attract unwarranted attention it is for this reason most photographers put a black tape over the name lettering on the front of theır cameras.
To the extent that Leica camera knows that its name is associated with quality and new Leica camera owners want to display their acquired photography gear with all the visible signs like ghetto kids with designer labels plastered on their sweatshirts. So, there you got “Leica Camera Wetzler Germany” written on the back, with the red bold Leica dot on the front.
Some may not agree on this point of “show me your Leica camera” approach to marketing but some may remember those who have asked for their Leica M cameras be without the red dot. Leica’s response was with Leica M9-P (p standing for professional), no red dot camera. Leica M-P240 safari edition is sans dot, too, which should tell you the difference between the wanna-be photographers and true professionals who care to be less visible is being without pretension.
Improvements For Leica Q
Overall Leica Q is a well-designed camera but still needs some improvements that can be improved via a firmware update. For example, the navigation dial does shift through different viewing options for the live view function but as soon as the shutter is pressed reverts back to the info filled screen. Leica camera, please fix this!
Another consideration is the “crop” that occurs when the info display is on. A photographer should care more about the composition then having info filled screen where the full view is obstructed. For someone who is new to composition in photography, this “crop” on the back screen will not allow him/her to see the complete composition. In another word, it looks the image you see on display is like a 16:9 format crop when in fact the photo composition is 3:2 size.
Getting back to using Leica Q for street photography, the shutter is quieter than Leica M cameras but is not completely silent like some of the digital compact cameras. Personally, it is important to have a completely silent shutter operation for those moments who when the silence is appreciated like weddings, private parties, candid photos.
Also, when you are focusing with Leica Q, you will hear that all familiar beep, “yes, I am in focus now” sound, then the shutter falling, click. For street photography, if you were aiming to be “invisible,” this, “yes, I am in focus” sound will translate as “yes, I am here taking your photograph” sound. Tread lightly, if you are a candid street photographer, ask permission before snapping away with your camera. Leica Q has a setting to turn sound-off for the silent operation which would be ideal.
Leica Q is best used as an autofocus camera but if you fancy using it in manual focus auto-focus must be disengaged from the lens barrel. Zone focusing is one common application that some street photographers like to use for all in focus look by setting aperture at f/8 or f/11. Personally, I don’t believe that turning off the autofocus mode is necessary as the auto-focus must be disengaged from the lens barrel is very fast in attaining focus at the aperture settings of f/4 and beyond.
In the event you do want to fiddle with manual focusing the switch is on the lens focus ring, meaning that both hands must be used to disengage the auto-focus function. Better design would have been an auto-focus on and off switch that could be accessed via a single button. This would have enabled the photographer from not having to lower the camera and disengage the auto-focus function. He/she could continue snapping away without missing that “decisive moment”.
Once you have succeeded in disengaging the auto-focus, you can look right on top the lens barrel to see Leica’s all familiar aperture and distance markings for accurate zone focusing, a definite plus for any manual camera user.
Leica Q is great for macro photography. I think having a lens that is capable of macro photography opens a wide range of possibilities for the photographer. You can now take photos of your coin collection, stamps small objects, insects even close-ups of wood patterns to create unique photographs.
While many of today’s point and shoot cameras offering macro capabilities do paint an image as that of the compact cameras have arrived at the limits of photography capabilities, there is an important consideration about the quality of the images for both normal and macro use that must be considered. For Leica Q the images for landscape look just as good as the macro photographs which goes to show how much dedication Leica Camera engineers have put into producing a great compact camera.
Leica Q offers a minimum focusing distance of 0.17m, which allows a good isolation from the background resulting in a smooth bokeh for macro photography.
As far as macro capabilities are concerned Leica Q has done something beautiful with the lens design. When the camera is selected for macro photography, the metering marking on the lens barrel slides back to reveal macro-metering marks. This is a nice feature to get an accurate readout of distance when photographing flowers and insects in nature.
The aperture setting on the lens is well thought-out with the first settings being A – aperture priority then f/1.7 to f/16. Again, I have to say Leica camera has done an excellent job of keeping it simple.
I have never liked the lack of aperture control on the lens on DSLR cameras or the compact cameras. Just for this reason, Leica Q is doing something very right that most other manufacturers are missing out on, a professional often chooses to photograph using aperture priority setting. Having easy access to aperture settings is always a welcomed functionality for any photographer.
The shutter speed dial is a particularly interesting one to notice on Leica Q camera. The settings are in full stop increments while the mechanical shutter is only able to go up to 2000 of a second. To get the third stop increments the dial near the thumb must be engaged to achieve correct shutter speed.
For all practical purposes, on a sunny day, shooting at f/1.7 would mean that even at the shutter speed of 2000 of a second the images would be blown out. Again, Leica Q could have had 4000/s. on the shutter dial as found on Leica M10 camera. i Here, we see a compromise being made in comparison to Leica M10 that has a shutter speed that stretches all the way up to 4000/s with “proper” increments.
Worry not though; electronic rolling shutter goes up to 16000 of a second for Leica Q. Most people would not know or care about the difference between the shutter mechanics and it should not matter as long as you are able to capture the photograph you aim to take.
Leica Q camera‘s ISO Setting is designed to go in “leaps” rather than increments jumping from 100 – 200 ISO to 400 then to 800 etc. All this translates to is that between setting the shutter speed to an accurate speed with the correct ISO setting could take “time”; valuable time which should be spent on photographing rather than fidgeting on the back of the camera.
Then, there is another button on the back, above the screen that acts to as a “crop” function going from 28mm to 35mm to 50mm. Anyone who understands lenses knows that you can’t have a varying focal length with a fixed lens. What that means is, if you have a 28mm all you got is a 28mm. The rest of the 35mm or 50mm settings are just cropped images, which can be done and should be done at the computer after all shooting is done.
This feature is, of course, to please those who wish that Leica Q camera came with a zoom lens. For those selling the camera to someone who does not understand lenses or cameras, it is a blessing, “Look! You can shoot at 35mm or 50mm, if you want.” Again, this is another marketing tactic to lure more new customers into buying what should be considered a fixed lens point and shoot camera.
For those who are interested to know, a “50mm crop” is not a 50mm focal length lens equivalent, in another word, a 50mm lens would give a different composition than a 50mm crop but that should not matter for those who are just cropping images.
Leica Q camera also has impressive ten frames per second shooting, but its buffer has the same classic problem associated with Leica cameras, it fills up fast and slows down the camera to a standstill. In this case, if you shoot for about a second then about halfway through the second second the camera slows to a crawling speed. So forget about those fast sports photography or catching the action (DNG shooting).
Do you want to view what you shot right after a burst of shots? Wait. Then wait some more. Yes. Classic Leica buffer issues which have remained intact as was in Leica M cameras of the past.
Like Leica TL2, Leica Q camera also uses touchscreen functionality. Touchscreen autofocus is a great focusing tool.. By selecting on the screen the point to focus, Leica Q is capable of creating sharp, in-focus photograph even at the widest aperture.
Although Leica Q camera is a streamlined, minimalistic photography camera, it would have been a great idea to place a direct on-screen auto-focus button on the back of the camera. No one wants to go to the menu to find an on-screen auto-focus function every time he/she needs this function.
One new feature on Leica Q camera is the grove that has been designed for the user’s thumb to rest on the back. This is perhaps the best idea that Leica camera has come up with regarding ergonomics, I know no other company that has taken into consideration an ergonomic design for the thumb rest. Additionally, a thumb support can be purchased for use with the Leica Q camera if one hand operation is desired.
Of course, Leica Q camera would not be complete without W-Fi connectivity. If you have reception for both your mobile phone and the camera then you have to enter the password for both devices.
For those dads photographers posting their pictures on social media application on their smartphones, Wi-Fi connection would save them time since they could seamlessly transfer their images from their cameras to their smartphones without needing to use their laptops.
Leica Q ‘s 24-megapixel sensor has no aliasing filter, which improves the detail and sharpness of images captured but also makes it susceptible to moire. If repeating patterns are such as parallel lines are the subject matter of your photographs, Leica Q camera like most cameras without the AA filter would most like have issues with moire. But, exclusion of AA filter has become more of an industry standard than an exception in attempts to get more “accurate” or “sharp” photographs which consumers have been demanding.
On video functions, you will see that the frame rate is 30 and 60. Today, most cameras have upgraded to various speeds for HD and 4K video recording, Leica Q offers Hd but not 4K recording option.
The world standard for broadcasting is 30 frames which is what Youtube uses as its reference frame rate. Film industry uses 24 frames per second, it is what our eyes are used to seeing which is not available for Leica Q camera but 30 frames is, making it a good tool for those moments you wish to share on social media platforms.
Leica Q also offers 60 frames per second for which you will get that slow motion video effect should you wish to add some dramatic effects to your videos.
In video mode, there is no manual exposure metering control which means all the settings for exposure is controlled by the camera and not the user. On a technical level, it is perfect for those who are not videographers or have little understanding on how to set the exposure for video recording. For those who are videographers, you will know that exposure will shift with as the camera attempts to compensate for even the smallest shifts in exposures creating darker or lighter segments in the video.
Would I recommend Leica Q Camera? I would say Leica Q camera is a great compact camera for everyone. It is a compact enough for everyday use that I would be more than happy to take along for a day at the beach or a casual Sunday stroll downtown Vancouver.
Leica Q is a camera for both the professionals and amateurs. For the amateur, the decades-long prerequisite of understanding composition, symmetry, aperture settings, shutter speed and exposure for necessitated for using a Leica M camera has been nullified thanks to Leica Q Camera. For all intents and purposes, this auto-focus camera could be the doorway for many to begin photographing with a Leica camera. In this regard, I suppose Leica camera has done a service to the world of photography once more.
For the professionals, this camera is wonderful as a backup camera or one that is compact enough to be taken on assignments that don’t require a full set-up of photography equipment. For example, I take my Leica Q Camera to various local scouts for my films, have it with me when I am shooting commercials for making notes for the production crew. Leica Q is also my go-to camera preparing shot-list when I am working as a director of photography on set.
It is also a great camera for taking on trips, as a travel camera to carry around in Europe without having to think about changing lenses. The quality of the images are as good as any Leica M camera can offer and more. So, I say thumbs up for Leica Q Camera.
If you are in the market to buy a Leica Q Camera or any of the Leica cameras and lenses mentioned in this article you can check out the links below for the best possible prices.
For my upcoming 2018 photography workshops, here are the links
I hope you have enjoyed this article.
Leica Review Team
HELP US TO KEEP LEICA REVIEW INDEPENDENT.
PLEASE MAKE A SMALL DONATION TO BRING YOU MORE ARTICLES.