When Leica reps first reached out to me about meeting with them in NYC a couple months ago to have me test an all new camera prior to its announcement, I'll admit, I was hoping to walk in and see the new M replacement sitting there. Instead, I was handed a new fixed lens camera. Having tested many of the fixed lens options on the market, I've yet to find one that impressed me, so I sank back in my seat and hoped for the best as they presented the new Leica Q to me. With each new feature they presented, my initial disappointment started to change. By the end of the presentation, my previous thoughts and view on compact cameras not having a place in my camera bag had changed. This could be the one. Leica describes the Leica Q as a trailblazing camera that proudly combines all of the high performance qualities of a full frame sensor in a beautifully designed and highly innovative compact - a milestone for the brand and the photography sector. I have to agree...and that comes after a few weeks of shooting with it.
I have a lot more planned over the next couple weeks with testing this camera, so a will be writing a full review soon. This is more of a "first impressions" review where I try to show you, mainly with the images I've taken with it over the past few weeks, why I think Leica has brought something special to the table with this compact camera.
With any camera or lens that I test, image quality comes first, and when I heard the words "full frame sensor" at the beginning of the presentation, it seemed to echo throughout the room. The only other fixed lens camera with a full frame sensor is the very popular Sony RX1. Image quality has been THE biggest reason I haven't purchased any of the previous fixed lens cameras on the market yet, especially with the Fuji X100T. I tested the X100T and loved everything about that camera, until I uploaded the images into Lightroom and was extremely underwhelmed by what I had to work with.
Very Similar Body To The Leica M
All of you that follow my work, know how much I love shooting my Leica gear, and one of the biggest reasons is because of the rangefinder system. Along with the rangefinder shooting experience, I love the simplicity that Leica uses in its menu and setup. My Leica M9 has very minimal menu options, it's a camera you set up and go, there's not much to get in your way...you just pick it up and shoot. The Leica Q takes on that Leica simplicity, and unlike my Sony A7II that feels more like I'm shooting a small computer with all its menus and options, it's made to make shooting a breeze and extremely simple to set up and shoot.
Manual Focus with AF Over-ride button
A 28mm F/1.7 Summilux Lens
With any compact camera, the lens obviously plays a large role. Leica went with, what I feel, is the smartest option they could have went with. The Leica Q has a 28mm f/1.7 Summilux lens that can also be used as a 35mm and 50mm when needed, at a slightly lower resolution. This was very inviting to me since I had been looking to get my hands on their newly announced 28mm f/1.4 Summilux lens. Most portrait or wedding photographers would look at this as being too wide for them, but with my style of shooting, the 28mm paired with a 50mm makes the ideal combo for me. The 50mm is my go-to focal length, but I've found the 35mm to be a little too close for me when going with a wider option. I currently shoot a 24/50 combo that works well, but the 28mm has slightly less distortion making it better for portrait work.
Touch Screen Focusing
Focusing is simply brilliant on the Q. It has a mechanical and electronic viewfinder that offer both great manual focusing as well as more than impressive AF. The EVF has a resolution of 1280x90 pixels, current top EVF's are 1024x768. Focus peaking and zoom assist work beautifully, and can easily be changed to the AF system on the fly. Being that the Leica Q doesn't have the rangefinder manual focusing system, they implemented one of the most impressive Auto-Focusing systems I've seen on a compact. Face detection works brilliantly, along touch screen capabilities much like focusing with your iPhone.
· 24-megapixel, full frame, CMOS sensor precisely matched to its lens. The Leica Q delivers richly detailed pictures with almost noise-free, richly detailed pictures at ISO settings up to 50.000.
· Fastest autofocus in the compact full-frame camera class. Precision focusing in real time.
· High speed burst shooting. The newly developed processor from the Leica Maestro II series sets an enormous pace in this category with continuous shooting at a rate of ten frames per second at full resolution.
· Integrated 3.68-megapixel electronic viewfinder. The highest resolution viewfinder of its kind displays both the fixed 28 mm view along with focal lengths of 35 mm and 50 mm on demand.
· Conveniently placed functions provide instant access to all the essential controls needed when taking a photo. Not only can you control the focus manually, but the Q is also equipped with a touchscreen that can select a focus point with a simple touch of the fingertip.
· Ability to save two versions of the photograph. The JPEG image files are saved in the selected framing, while the RAW files in DNG format preserve the entire field captured by the 28 mm lens.
· Video recorded in full HD. Depending on the scene, users can choose between 30 and 60 frames per second for video recording in MP4 format. The video setting also features a wind-noise filter which guarantees crystal-clear sound.
· A WiFi module for wireless transfer of still pictures and video to other devices. The app also allows you to remotely control settings such as aperture and shutter speed from your smart phone or tablet. The free Leica Q app to access these features is available on both the App Store and Google Play Store for iOS and Android.
Image Quality Testing
Here are some sample shots, in DNG Raw format, all shot wide open at f/1.7 with 100% crops to show how impressive this sensor and lens truly are. Sharp? It's sharp.
Dynamic Range Testing
Beautifully Smooth Bokeh
I was lucky enough to get my hands on the new Leica Q before its announcement, and while I admit I was hesitant on how much I would like a compact camera, this one stands out and might be the first to end up staying in my bag. While the price is steep for some, at $4200, I know the quality and craftsmanship that goes into all of the Leica gear I use and shoot with on a daily basis. While some will disagree, it's worth every penny. Keep an eye out for my full review coming soon.
FULLY EDITED SAMPLE IMAGES
All shot wide open at f/1.7 and auto ISO
Camera type Leica Q (Typ 116), digital small picture compact camera
Picture format/aspect ratio 24 x 36mm/2:3
Lens Leica Summilux 28mm f 1.7 ASPH., 11 lenses in 9 groups, 3 aspherical lenses
Digital frame selector (digital zoom) optionally approx. 1.25x (corresponding to 35mm) or approx. 1.8x (corresponding to 50mm)
Image stabilization optical compensation system for photo and video recordings
Aperture range 1.7 to 16 in 1⁄3EV increments
Picture sensor/resolution CMOS sensor, 26.3/24.2 million pixels (total/effective)
Dynamic range 13 aperture stops
Color depth 14Bit
Photo capture format optional: DNG + JPEG, JPEG
DNG/JPEG resolution 24MP (6000x4000 px), 12MP (4272x2848px), 6MP (2976x1984px), 1.7MP (1600x1080px)
Video recording format MP4
Video resolution/frame rate optional: FHD 1920 x 1080p with 60 or 30 B/ or HD 1280 x 720p with 30 B/s
Sound recording format AAC
Storage media SD/SDHC/SDXC
ISO range automatic, ISO 100 to ISO 50000
White balance automatic, default settings for: daylight, cloudy, halogen lighting, shadow, electronic flash, two
manual settings with measuring, manual color temperature setting
Color range optional for photos: sRGB, Adobe®RGB, ECI RGB
Focus/saturation/contrast each selectable in 5 steps, for saturation also in B/W
Working range 30cm to ∞, with macro setting from 17cm
Setting automatic (autofocus) or manual focusing, option of magnifying function and edge marking (focus peaking) available for manual setting
Autofocus system contrast-based autofocus system
Autofocus modes AFS (shutter release only after successful focusing), (shutter release possible at any time), AF setting
Autofocus metering methods 1-field (adjustable), multi-field, face recognition, subject tracking, optional setting/shutter release
Exposure modes automatic program, aperture priority, shutter speed priority, and manual setting
Scene modes fully automatic, sport, portrait, landscape, night portrait, snow/beach, candlelight, sunset, digiscoping, miniature effect, panorama, time lapse
Exposure metering methods multi-field,center weighted, spot
Exposure compensation ±3EV in 1⁄3EV increments.
Automatic bracketing three pictures in graduations of up to 3 EV, can be set in 1⁄3EV increments
Shutter type mechanic and electronic
Shutter speeds 30s to 1⁄2000s with mech. Shutter 1⁄2500s to 1⁄16000s with electr. shutter, in 1⁄3 increments, flash
Viewfinder electronic LCOS display, resolution: 1280x960 pixels x 3 colors (=3,68MP), aspect ratio: 4:3
Monitor 3" TFT LCD monitor with approx. 1,040,000 pixels, touch control possible
NFC according to JIS X 6319-4 standard / 13.56MHz
Connections Micro USB socket (2.0), HDMI socket
Body In Leica design made of massive, extremely light magnesium and aluminum, two loops for the
Lens filter thread E49
Dimensions (WxHxD) approx. 130 x 80 x 93mm
Weight approx. 590/640g (without/with battery)
synchronization up to 1⁄500s
WLAN-compatible WPATM / WPA2TM, access method: infrastructure mode