I was first introduced to the Leica Q * at the Photo Plus Expo 2016 in NYC and was intrigued by the Q. It seemed to be a departure from the classic M camera. The concept of a fixed lens on a high-end Leica seemed like an expensive one trick pony. I primarily work with Canon equipment for 20+ years and have no particular must have feelings to any particular camera maker. Let me also say, I really wanted to dismiss the Leica Q, mainly because I was not a fan of electronic viewfinders or spending big bucks.
The Leica rep handed me the Q and I immediately liked how it felt in my hands and the clarity of the EVF (electronic view finder) is immediately noticeable. I was most impressed by the focus speed in low light. I left the photo show thinking, I need to invest some time and research into this camera. I convinced myself I was sort of in the market for a travel/street camera.
I demoed the Q several times and even used it for commercial work. I read reviews and comparisons with the Sony RX1r II * and Fuji X100F *. I really didn’t test either of those cameras outside of the B&H Photo store. I know the RX1r II has a strong sensor and great IQ (image quality) but the Q’s auto focusing is ridiculously fast compared to the RX1r II. Even in lowlight the camera wasn’t challenged, especially with the AF Assist lamp. You can argue the larger Sony sensor (42mp) and it’s RAW file dynamic range is perhaps a bit better, but the Q’s image quality is also impressive; and with the fixed Leica Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH lens creates the look that only Leica lenses somehow produce.
I decided to drop the $$$$ and pull the trigger. That was seven months ago and enough time with the camera to share some of my thoughts. I’m not going to get technical about things like sensor size; JPEG engine and video. You can google all that info and get plenty of reviews. I’m only giving my opinion why this camera works for me and where I use it in my work. Let me first address an issue that nearly preventd me from buying the camera ( besides expense). Moiré! Most modern day digital cameras have an optical low pass filter (OLPF) also known as anti-aliasing filter to counter this moiré effect in the camera. These filters also effect the overall sharpness of the image. Leica Q does not have the OLPF filter and therefore creating sharper images, but much more susceptible to moiré. If you are proficient in photoshop or lightroom, moiré can be reduced to a satisfactory level. This process can be time consuming.
In my testing of the camera, I did have some issues with moiré, but less than I thought. There is also an issue with banding in the shadows at high ISO. This was not a major concern for me because I'm old school and proper exposure is always something I'm careful with. There is more than enough dynamic range for me to work with.
Street photography - I feel this camera was made for street photography. The Summilux 28mm f/1.7 is tack sharp, combined with the speed and accuracy of the auto focus and silent shutter makes this camera ideal for the streets. I have tested the camera on the streets with all sorts of combinations of shutter speeds, apertures and ISO. This camera makes me want go out on the streets to shoot more. The functionality is simple and even manual focus is quick with great focus peaking in the EVF. The lens stabilizer is an added bonus, not sure if it’s any better than others, but a definite plus. Turning the camera on is almost instantaneous; especially in power save mode. The on/off switch is tricky. You can easily over shoot single shot setting and set it to continous mode. a minor pain when you have big hands. Continous shooting is 10fps fast, but the processing time is turtle slow; even with a fast sd card. I just leave the camera on. The power save mode is best for me.
I do however wish the camera was weather sealed. It helps that the lens is fixed, my concern is the holes on the top and back of the camera. I believe the holes are for video audio. I do not use the camera for video, I don’t think I even tried it yet. In any case, I decided to cover the holes with tape just to be sure the dust stay out of the camera.
Travel photography - This is my new go to camera when taking day trips or vacations. The wide lens works great for scenic shots with very little distortion. There are also scene modes on the camera (like most modern cameras). I like the miniature effect in scene mode for some scenic work, but I mostly stick with PASM (PASM is an acronym for Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual). Basically means scene mode OFF. I purchased a good leather case *and neck strap * for better camera care and protection. The camera wi-fi is quick and easy to set-up. I don't use it much, but the app (iphone) works smoothly with the camera. My first travels with the Leica Q I missed having the versatility of a good zoom, but this camera forces you to think about composition and the 24mp sensor gives you plenty of room to crop the images tighter if you can’t postion yourself the way a telephoto would. I actually now enjoy working around the 28mm parameters. The FN button on the back of the camera give you quick access to 4 custom functions which I find useful in travel shooting especially when moving from outdoor to indoors where lighting situations change dramatically. The exposures for jpegs are nice and snappy. Generally needing no post production work, which is great for wi-fi sharing. I set my jpegs contrast and Saturation to medium high; but for the most part I shoot RAW.
Portrait Photography - This was a surprise to me. I like this camera for certain portraits. I can’t explain it. It’s more about the feeling the images seem to have as opposed to the sharpness or bokeh or any other technology. The Q has in-camera crop modes for 35mm and 50mm with reduced MP’s. I don’t use the crop modes. If I crop the image, I do this in post production.
Macro Photography - I use this more then I thought I would. If you’re a foodie, you’ll love it. To use macro mode you will need to rotate the ring between the body and lens to macro; quick and easy.
My personal Pros and Cons:
My tips for this camera - A good quality lens filter is a must. What makes the Q magical is the lens, so protect it. I use B+W 49mm XS-Pro UV Haze MRC-Nano 010M Filter *. I normally don't have the lens cap on the camera, It slips off easily when walking around the streets on NY. Between the filter and the strong metal lens hood that comes with the camera, I feel the cap is not necessary; unless I’m coming from the cool indoors to a hot and humid environment. I’ll let the camera get acclimated to the environment before removing the cap. Get a second battery or maybe a third if you have limited charging time or constantly using the back screen for checking your work. I purchased a Lumix panasonic * battery which I find works well in the Leica Q and Leica battery charger. You will save $40+ switching to this battery. I never needed more than 2 batteries in a day of travel or street photography.
Be aware of the exposure compensation wheel on the top right of the camera. Useful until you forget to reset back to normal. I have accidentally moved the wheel without realizing what I did.
I know the Q is expensive and I wouldn't recommend purchasing one if money is tight. This is a tool and you can purchase cheaper tools to get the job done. With that said, I really like working with the Leica Q. It is a photographers camera in every way. You will want to go out and explore to create when this camera is in your hands. If you’re on the fence about the Q, think of it this way, You’re buying an outstanding Leica Summilux lens for $4250.00 and getting a free Leica camera with your purchase.
Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions regarding my experiences with the Leica Q. Don’t reach out to me regarding my grammar. Chow
* I have linked all the products in this blog to B&H Photo because it is the local camera store I use and get good pricing and service. The products mentioned in this blog can be purchased at other stores.
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