REVIEW OF MY NEW LEICA Q
I’ve just upgraded from Leica X-Vario Type 107, that I have had in about 3.5 year, to a Leica Q Type 116. Not that I in any way has become tired of my Leica X-Vario and want to put it on retirement. It’s still an amazing camera that really introduced me to the quality of German design, and I will for sure still be using it, from time to time.
You might think that Leica Q, might be a luxury and very expensive camera with a 24MP fixed focal length. And you are right. But on the other hand, it’s a compact camera designed to look and feel not too dissimilar to Leica’s high-end M series rangefinder cameras that Leica are famous for, but yet are able to get you addicted to Leica. Though the first fix aren’t free here.
The Leica Q comes with many interesting features and is a blend between old school features and the latest in camera technology.
Leica Q key features
24MP full-frame CMOS sensor
28mm F1.7 ASPH fixed lens with image stabilisation
3.68M dot electronic viewfinder
3″ touchscreen LCD with 1.04 million dots
10 fps continuous shooting
1080 30/60 fps HD video capture
Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity with Leica app
The Q features a 28mm f/1.7 lens – which for some will be a curious choice. Why not the more typical 35mm of street photography? But on the other hand it’s similar to many smartphones, including the iPhone and Google Pixel, so 28mm has become a very comfortable way of seeing for many people.
Over time modern lens design has moved away from having a physical aperture ring – choosing instead to use dials on the camera body, for better or worse. But the Q retains an aperture ring with 1/3 stop control.
The macro mode is also a neat little trick will give you a little more flexibility, especially if you are one of those food photographs. No one will mistake the focal length for a portrait lens, but it’s still capable of taking some nice environmental portraits.
The inconspicuous size of the Leica Q makes it a perfect street photography camera.
The image quality of Leica cameras has always been impressive to me. And the Leica Q doesn’t differ her. The camera’s DNGs have a built-in profile, so you can’t see what software adjustments are being made to lens defects while using a program like Adobe
The Achilles heel of the Leica X-Vario was the low light focusing. By contrast, the Leica Q’s autofocus is crisp and works surprisingly well in low light despite having a contrast detection system. Using manual focusing automatically throws the EVF into a magnified mode with focus peaking turned on. The focusing mechanism is silky smooth and manual focusing is unusually easy.
Taking photos is SILENT, unlike mirrorless cameras like some Nikon, which still has an audible shutter sound. It’s hard to explain how differently people react when they don’t hear a shutter sound. Using the camera becomes a liberating process.
It’s not as small as some other Leica cameras, but for me, the camera hits the perfect intersection of size and image quality. With a weight of 640g, it’s significantly lighter than any full-frame DSLR or ILP system with a comparable lens.
The Leica Q’s built-in diopter has no locking mechanism, unlike many DSLRs, which require the user to pull out a knob to adjust. Even though the mechanism lies fairly flat against the body, I still found an annoying tendency for it to spin while the camera was hung across my body.
Compact cameras always get dinged for poor battery life, and the Leica Q is no exception. On the one hand, it seems reasonable to expect a premium price camera to have decent battery life. On the other hand, a smartphone can barely last a day.
In my humble opinion, a power button/switch should fulfill a single function. As with some past camera designs, the Leica Q intermixes the single and continuous shooting mode functions into the power switch.
Because of the poor battery life, I’ve always shut the camera off between taking photos, which means even more opportunities to inadvertently throw the camera into continuous mode. The problem is minor compared to the more consequential diopter issue, but it’s annoying nevertheless.
Until September 2018, the Leica Q had its own dedicated app – a WiFi-based, power-hungry app that allowed you to both remotely control and download JPGs from the camera. It worked reliably, if not slowly, and has now been replaced with Leica Fotos, a single app that services all Leica cameras.
On one hand, the number of steps that it takes to transmit a photo from camera to phone seems unacceptable in today’s mobile economy (and nearly every camera manufacturer has this problem). On the other hand, I enjoy untethering myself from the constant need to post to social media – instead, focusing on watching and taking more photos.
If your measure of a good camera, is the one you’re inclined to carry with you, the Leica Q fits the perfectly. For those who want more fine-tuned control, better low light performance and higher image quality than a smartphone, a dedicated camera is the only way to go in my opinion. Yet size and weight can be a strong disincentive. I don’t think that this is the case with the Leica Q.
In many ways, the Leica Q might well will become one of the best cameras camera I’ve will own. Its inability to change lenses might actually be a benefit rather than a crutch. And while it may not be as durable or “pro” as some of my DSLRs, I’m confident that I will captured a lot of moments of my life with it.
Is the Leica Q worth the premium price? I’ve own a lot of cameras and lenses at various price points that rarely make it out of the camera bag. In a sense, the best gear for me is the one that inspires and encourages me to take photos. The Leica Q will definitely be a trusty companion with or without the red badge.