(By Chris Leskovsek) This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to put my hands on the highly praised, Leica Q. At the time of writing this, I was told by Leica NZ, there’s only one copy of the camera in the country and I was going to shoot it. Is not everyday you get that lucky! Anyway, here's my Leica Q review.
When I had the camera in my hands, first thing it surprised me was the weight. It is much lighter than any M paired with lens. Or even lighter than my Sony A7 with the voigtlander adapter and my 35 summilux ASPH.
Also, the size is perfect, actually, to me, this is how cameras SHOULD be. Again, smaller than a Leica M, and my Sony A7 (because of that horrendous hump of VF that has). In fact I compared it to my Olympus OMD EM10, and they are pretty much the same height and width.
The difference is that the Q is the cleanest camera when it comes to design, nothing protrudes the body, everything is flat, hotshoe, buttons, dials everything is smooth and clean. Personally, this is a perfectly designed camera.
On some reviews I read some ‘soft’ complains about the grip (or lack of it) of the camera. I’d say, that for me, anything bigger than a Ricoh GR, falls in the category of Shoulder-Neck camera and not a hand wrist one. Having said that, the Q is great, no bulky unnecessary grips anywhere, just a clean and grip-rubbery-skin which is enough. Even for one handed operation.
For me as a designer (by day) the thumb-rest on the back needs to be celebrated. This goes into the camera body rather than out as in most cameras. That is simply brilliant! In fact, they should definitely get an award for the design of this camera.
The lens is big for Leica standards, yet still quite small, in fact, it is small by any full frame auto-focus standards.
Now onto the use of it…
I quickly turn on the camera and check what really intrigued me in the first place, the AF speed. I should point out, that this is the third camera from Leica that I try with AF, being the first one the Leica X2. I consider that AF experience quite mediocre to say at least. In fact, myself coming from Micro four thirds were Olympus and Panasonic pretty much have nailed the AF speed when it comes to mirrorless cameras, I didn’t had high hopes for the Q to be any good.
I was kicked in the face when I realised that the Q is actually as fast as any micro four thirds cameras out there. Which of course raises my suspicions that the AF system, has Panasonic written all over it. Of course this was not confirmed by Leica when I mentioned it, but it was not rejected either.
I’ve also read before of people that seem to bother with Panasonic having something to do with Leica, I personally don’t care much and in fact, I see it as a complete plus. The way I see it is: Leica knows engineering, design, photography and how to make glass.
Panasonic knows the technology and implementation. I see it as a complete win win. Again, this is just a guess, is not confirmed, but I really doubt that Leica could nail the technology of ‘how to’ do that ‘overnight’. After all they only have a handful of AF capable cameras only.
Anyway, back to the Q. When I first tried it, it was inside a very dim light bar, and the AF was near instant, it was SO GOOD, that I didn’t see the point of manual focusing. Really!
The lens is sharp, super sharp, and has that beautiful image rendition that only Leica glass does (and Zeiss). But this time, they added an extra. A macro function that makes it focus down to 0.17meters (remember RF cameras/glass won’t focus closer than 0.7meters). But those 17 centimetres mean the distance from the actual sensor of the camera, and considering the camera with it lens measures roughly around 12 or 13cm, means you can have your subject up to 5 or 4 centimetres from the front lens.
CRAZY! Top that with the fact that you have a 24 mega pixel sensor which gives you ‘cropping room’ you could end up with stunning macro shots or textures of whatever you want to shoot.
The menu of the camera is good, a bit long and perhaps TOO simple as is just one long list of settings, but it is much appreciated in a world of tabs, and endless submenus (looking at you Sony/Olympus/Fuji).
The EVF is great. nothing to complain at all. The back screen is stunning, no problem shooting with it at daylight. Big and crisp.
Now you got a touchscreen for all those who like that. I can’t be bothered. I hardly used that in any of my Olympus cameras. I don’t find the use for it. but hey, thats me! I did tried it on the Q, and still focuses as quick as using the shutter release.
I always praised Leica for having the right amount of buttons on the back of their cameras and this is no different. Just the right amount in the right places.
Ok this is starting to look like a ‘rich Leica fan boy’ review. Well, maybe, but truth be told, as many of you, I’m not rich, far from it and I don’t own a Leica as I can’t afford one, I love their lenses though, and made a huge effort to buy a used 35 summilux ASPH a couple of years ago. Thats it. I own a Sony A7, an Olympus OMD EM10 and a Ricoh GR. But I have tried, and shot Leica’s in an out every now and then.
So then, is there something ‘bad’ with the Leica Q?, thats a good question. And the more I think about it, the more I tend to say, no. This camera is the closest to perfection I have personally ever tried before. If you like 28mm FOV that is of course.
I don’t understand when people can state if a camera is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ by the field of view of the lens attached to it. I understand that 28mm might not be for everyone reading this, but for many interested in documentary, street photography, travel or even landscapes, this can be it.
I have a few thoughts that made me think why Leica released a 28mm lens with the Q. I guess Leica is testing the waters with this faux-’RF’-type-camera. Maybe they are trying to bring more ‘normal/working class’ people to use Leica and loose a bit that ‘rich’ tag they relate to quite well.
And they are doing it by releasing this powerful camera at half price of what an M system and equivalent lens cost with the same or even better results. It also seems to me that they are tempting Fuji/Olympus audience and maybe more young, serious street photographers to join them. Of course is still a super expensive camera, but MUCH, MUCH more accessible than an M.
On the other hand, they do have the X2 camera which is a 35mm APSC digital camera and they might think the Q could cut those sales?, maybe. M shooters on the other hand, mainly pair their cameras with either a 35 or 50mm lens. But theres still an audience for 28mm and I guess Leica sees this camera as a companion for those M shooters. I don’t know.
Leaving the 28mm FOV aside, I’m trying really HARD to find any problems with the camera, the buffer is great, playback is great, wifi works like a charm with my iphone, no lag, theres no viewfinder freezing, nothing is slow, everything is quick, smooth and instant, perhaps I could make suggestion to Leica though: the back button next to the thumb rest, should be an assignable one, which currently isn’t, and only works to select the 35 and 50mm crop lines that you can do in camera. But that is something a FW update could fix.
In a world of fierce competition of camera manufacturers to stuff cameras with anything and everything they can to please the shrinking ‘serious amateur’ and ‘professional’ audiences, it is very refreshing to see simple good photo cameras, such as the Ricoh GR, Leica Q, Fuji X100T, etc.
This is not a camera to shoot a movie, even though you can, but is not intended to, this is a photo camera, and a very, very good one at that, perhaps one of the best I’ve tried.
Im not even going to go into the Image quality part of it, theres no need for it. IQ is simply stunning, as my Sony, the best there is. No, is not medium format, but will give you more than enough details to print the size you please.
I am going to insist on the DNG raw files though . I don’t understand why other camera manufacturers keep pushing their own RAW file extension and not use a universal one like DNG. Leica and Ricoh are the only ones to use it. Is great not having to wait for that next Lightroom update to work with the raw files. Good stuff.
I will say that Leica has a winner here, and that I wouldn’t be surprised if this shapes future of the M system for Leica in the digital age. I know that many people wants or prefers a 35 or a 50mm camera instead. Im going to meet you guys in the middle and say that my dream camera is to get a a ‘Leica Q size-type’ with a 40mm ‘pancake’ with the same f1.7. After all ~43mm is how we really see, at least mathematically.
Now, how this compares to a Ricoh GR for example,
Well, I guess this are the exact same camera, being the Q the GR big brother.
Both have 28mm FOV, the GR is APS-C and the Q is ‘full frame’, the GR is f2.8, the Q is f1.7, the GR fits in your pocket, the Q doesn’t. The GR can shoot hyperfocal for instant shooting, same as the Q, the GR goes for under $1.000 and the Q goes for $4.500. So pick your flavour.
Is one better than the other?, No, not at all. The advantage I see towards the Q is that with the 24megapixel sensor, you have room to crop towards the 35mm and still get a 16 megapixel file, which is more than enough to do big prints. Whereas the GR when you crop towards the 35mm aspect you end up with a ~11ish megapixel file which is much more limiting for printing purposes. If you print stuff of course.
Overall, the Leica Q has little competition, being Sony perhaps the main one, as is the only one doing full frame mirrorless cameras, and when it comes to simplicity, speed, and IQ the Q feels much, much better than my A7 and I would take it over it any day. Specially because the shutter sound on the Q is simply music to your ears. You can barely listen to it and when the e-shutter kicks in, is dead silent ala Ricoh GR / Fuji X100T. PERFECT!
If you like ‘do it all’ cameras, this is NOT for you. This camera only takes pictures. It doesn’t make coffee for you. It doesn’t even have ‘creative’ filters!
Will I buy it then? Well, I don’t ‘need’ another camera, but I am extremely tempted and might sell a few things to see if I could afford one. But I still don’t see my OMD + Panasonic 20mm going anywhere soon. perhaps the only ‘combo’ that gives me a ‘fast-ish’ 40mm FOV I love, that fits my bag. Is not ideal, but no one else is doing something similar and doubt they will, but thats a different story.
Where to get it?
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