Prior to its launch this past Thursday, March 7th, I had the opportunity to test out the new Leica Q2 for a few weeks. Here is the first photoshoot that I brought it on, each photo below of the beautiful and talented Katt Wilkins was shot at 28mm f/1.7. This was the first of several shoots I shot with it, but also my favorite. Even though it was cold and raining, we shot for a little over an hour and I was able to get a real good feel for how the new Q handled and performed. The sun that you’ll see in some of the shots is simply the affect from using off-camera flash with MagMod grids and warming gels.
In true Leica fashion, their team of engineers took the already impressive innovation of the original Q and elevated it to new level. The new Q2 is easily the most impressive compact camera on the market, and to be honest, labeling it that will make most photographers shrug it off yet it has simply so much more to offer. There currently isn’t a camera on the market quite like it. Sure, Sony has a full frame sensor compact with a 35mm f/2, but the Q2 brings a whole new level of what you can do with a fixed lens camera. The Sony RX1RII comes in at a price of $3300 and is the closest competitor to the Q2, but with when comparing the specs head to head, the $1600 difference seems like a no brainer.
When rumors started circulating around months ago about a new Q on the horizon, I was pretty curious as to what Leica’s mad scientists had been cooking up in the their lab. I was oddly interested to see what they would add or upgrade, besides the sensor, since the SL would naturally be the next in line for a update. Well, I've been shooting with the new Q2 for the past month and can tell you that even though I was skeptical as to what they could pull off, I’m pretty impressed to say the least. Like I said, there really is nothing on the market quiet like the Q2. Not only will this update impress those who already own the Leica Q (I know a good handful of photogs that do), but also those who really don’t see the need for a compact camera (like myself).
Much like the M240 upgrade to the M10, they slightly tweaked an already minimalistic body design and made it even sleeker looking. Inside, they put a completely new sensor that is easily one of the most impressive full-frame sensors I've ever shot with. Taking it from 24mp to 47mp which not only provides amazing IQ, but the ability to digitally zoom in to 75mm. Paired with the same awesome 28mm f/1.7 Summilux lens, the image quality is hard to beat for any full-frame camera let alone a compact one. I photographed two entire shoots with only the Q2, taking portraits at 28mm, which you’ll see the results of throughout this review.
*Every photo below, besides the 75mm digital zoom sample was shot at 28mm.
While the original Q was one that I got to shoot with a lot, I never quite fell in love with it. The Q2 is a different story. It's gonna be tough giving this one back and having to wait til mid-late April to purchase one for myself. The new sensor, along with the addition of weather sealing, a newly designed viewfinder, image stabilization, faster and more accurate AF, and a sleeker body design that makes it hard to put down had me wanting one for myself after the first shoot I took it on.
While the new sensor will be the most talked about and notable upgrade with the new Q, there are a few others that are definitely worth mentioning. The Q2 now has weather sealing against dust and water. I don’t think it’s the greatest weather sealing in the world, but it’s there and I did shoot with it in the rain without any issues. The other biggie for me is the battery. Being that the SL is my primary body which I often shoot alongside of the M10, giving me two different batteries and chargers to carry around. Leica went and gave the Q2 the same battery as the SL which now makes it even more enticing for SL owners like myself. I don’t ever travel without my M10, but when it came time to pack for my trip out to Vegas to teach at WPPI it got left behind. Having shot with the new Q alongside of the SL for an entire week prior, I really started to like the combo and decided to give the M10 a rest. Crazy, I know.
From a distance, it’s actually not that easy to differentiate the two. They’re pretty similar looking being that Leica didn’t want to reinvent the wheel with this upgrade, instead choosing to take the original and simply make it a little sleeker looking with less buttons. Just as Leica did with the upgrade from the M240 to the M10, they took an already minimalistic body and stripped it down even further. Personally, it’s the simplicity of the M and SL design that made me fall in love with shooting them. The Q2 is now just as sleek as the M10 and in that same category. It’s a camera that I can shoot without having it get in my way. I set it and go, not having to remembering which buttons or knobs do what.
Compare the Q2, M10, or SL to the Sony A7 or A9 Series models and you’ll see very quickly what I mean. Having owned the Sony A7II at one point and then the newer A9 giving it another shot, I simply couldn’t get over the fact that I felt like I was shooting with a mini computer that lacked soul. It was actually after shooting with the A9 for a few months that I decided to convert fully over to Leica with dual SL’s and the M10. Sorry Sony shooters, that’s just my opinion and my experience.
The new stripped down design of the Q only makes me enjoy shooting with it even more. Less buttons to get in my way, going from 5 to 3 on the back and scrapping the Record button on the top plate. Shooting with the new Q feels even more like shooting with my M than the original which made it tough to put down.
THE NEW SENSOR
Okay, so let’s talk about how Leica decided to just about double the megapixels with the Q2. Do you really need close to 50mp in a full-frame sensor? Well, that depends on the photographer. For myself, I would have said no prior to getting my hands on the Q2. Now, a few weeks later, I’m REALLY hoping that Leica throws this sensor in the new SL. The image quality and detail in these files continue to impress me the more I shoot with it.
I have no doubts that there will be a nice handful of photographers that will look at this upgrade from 24mp to 47 as unnecessary. While 24mp is more than enough to get just about most jobs done, I can honestly say that this sensor produces some of the most beautiful images that I’ve seen from a camera with impressive resolution and image quality being paired with the 28mm lens. While 24mp would be plenty, the amount of detail when digitally zoomed in to 75mm was pretty damn impressive. Let alone the ability to crop in post if needed for a better composition is more than welcome.
The sensor was the number one reason that I was excited to get my hands on this camera early to test out. Why? The SL is my primary camera body for all of my professional work. Based off of the original Q and SL having the same sensor, I knew that this could give me an early look at the image quality that the new SL will bring to the table. While I haven’t heard anything about the SL2 at this point, or whether it will share the same sensor as the Q2, I would be one happy camper if it did. After shooting with the Q2 for a few weeks I can tell you that this sensor produces some of the best image quality that I’ve seen from a full-frame sensor.
THE 28mm f/1.7 Summilux
Leica kept with the 28mm f/1.7 Summilux lens as the original, no changes there. However, the image quality produced by the Q2 with the higher resolution really makes this lens shine. Being that the Q is a compact camera with a fixed lens, the combination of the sensor and lens are what ultimately make this camera so special. Shooting wide open at f/1.7 is a thing of beauty, especially for portraits. The out of focus rendering and sharpness when shot wide open, along with the new sensor, are what really show off the precision engineering and design behind this camera. I shot with the original Q a good amount, but never quite fell in love with it enough to buy one. The Q2 is a different story. It’s gonna be tough giving this back and having to wait til mid-April to pick one up.
DIGITAL ZOOM FEATURE
Just like the original Q, you have the ability to digitally zoom in to 35, 50, and now 75mm which you see above. Both the RAW and edited version to show that it’s a usable image. While you can just as easily crop in post, this feature is actually pretty slick and helps when composing your shot. Sure, you don’t get the compression of a true 75mm lens, but being that this is a fixed lens camera, the digital zoom is a pretty nice feature.
The original Q had the ability to zoom in to 35 and 50mm. The extra resolution of the new sensor now allows for a 75mm zoom. I’ll be honest, I was pretty skeptical about how good the image quality would be cropped in that far so it was one of the first features I tested once I got out to Red Rock Canyon last week. How usable is an image cropped in that far? Take a look for yourself at the RAW file sample above, and the zoomed in image below. I also included an example of how the digitally zoomed in images look when opened in Lightroom. Zooming in doesn’t lock you into that crop, you still have access to the full file which is pretty nice.
The digital zoom isn’t a feature that I used a whole lot with the original Q, but I can easily see myself using it now with the Q2. I think a lot of photographers will really like this feature. Personally, I love shooting at the 28mm focal length which is why I loved shooting with the original, but I know there were a lot of photographers who expressed that a 35mm lens would have been a better way to go for Leica. Shooting the Q2 at the 35mm digital zoom won’t disappoint, I found myself using it a lot this past week.
DYNAMIC RANGE SAMPLE (Raw Images)
By now dynamic range samples in a review shouldn’t even be needed, but I included them anyways just for those that may be interested. There had been a few photographers who reported banding issues with under exposed files were pushed. I saw no banding whatsoever when I pushed files like the one below 5 stops in Lightroom. Honestly, seeing how clean the files are when pushed 5 stops did impress me. While I didn’t have the original Q to compare them head to head, I can see the difference by going back and looking at the original Q Review that I wrote up. You can see below how much detail is preserved when pushed 5 stops, with little to no noise. Had I made a mistake with my settings on a real shoot and underexposed an image by that much, you can see that it’s still a very usable file.
NOTE: The Next 2 Sample Images were each pushed 5 stops of exposure (the max) in Lightroom to test the Dynamic Range. No other changes. Shot with Auto WB, which is why it’s so warm.
Pushed 2.5 stops - ISO50 f/4 1/20sec
Exposure +3.5 - ISO400 f/1.7 1/640sec
You can easily switch the lens to macro mode and capture images at a much closer minimum focus distance. This is a really nice feature to have at your fingertips for when you need it, but even more so now with the additional megapixels giving you the ability to crop in even further.
The Q is a compact, or fixed lens camera. There’s no changing lenses, you’re stuck with one lens mounted on a sleek looking Leica body. For some, that’s a deal breaker. Why spend money on a fixed lens camera and limit yourself? Well, I used to be one of those people who had no desire to purchase one, until the original Q. I decided against it however, I did shoot with one a lot.
What changed my mind? There are some really nice benefits to a compact camera, which I didn’t see until I shot with the Q. For hobbyist photographers, a crop sensor compact might do the trick for you. Maybe something like the Fuji X100 series, which I tried and realized very quickly that I wouldn’t be able to shoot anything professional with it. It was a lot like a wiffle ball bat. Sure, it’s great for playing in your backyard, but it’s not made for much more than that.
The Q is a camera that’s great for the backyard and someone like myself who has young kids, or kid, but also likes to know that it can also be used for professional work. With a body that’s very much similar to that of the M that I love so much, a kickass full-frame sensor, and a lens that seems to fit like a match made in heaven, the Q2 now becomes a compact camera that fits perfectly in my gear bag. I can shoot at a 35mm focal length if I want to, it just won’t be full-frame which is fine. I can shoot at 50mm, and now even 75 if I have to. BUT, here’s the thing, I can also shoot at 28mm with a 47.3mp full-frame sensor at a wide open aperture of f/1.7 and take beautifully rendered photos on just about any professional job if I want to. I love when I hear photographers say that 28mm isn’t good for portraits. Sure, it’s not the most ideal focal length, but if the headshot of me at the top of this review along with all of the portraits I’ve mixed in doesn’t prove differently, I don’t know what will.
While the new Q2 is a camera that I admittedly didn’t see myself falling in love with as much as I did, I’m even more excited about the new SL that’s due to come out some time this year. Even though the M and the Q are similar, the new Q2 has now separated itself and I’m looking forward to getting my own. I’ll be following this up with a full detailed written review and video review next week. Below are more sample images that I took with it over the past few weeks. Feel free to leave a comment with any questions you might have.
The price of the Q2 is $4995, and as far as I know, those who put pre-orders in have already started receiving them. When considering the fact that the M10 starting at $7295 without a lens, the Q2 is actually a great price for a body and lens combo that also has an awesome AF system, Image Stabilization, and a brand new full frame sensor. If you don’t own a Leica but have been thinking about wetting your feet a little, in my opinion, this now becomes your best option.
Full shoot with the Q2 - Katt Kilkons Shoot
Full Sample Gallery in addition to the photos below - Q2 Sample Gallery
A couple months ago, Leica sent me their Leica Q (Typ 116) Titanium Gray to shoot for a few weeks. I was one of the few photographers who were asked by Leica to test the Q before it was announced back on June 10, 2015. At the time, I had tested a few different compact cameras and had absolutely no desire to keep them. The Leica Q was different, if I didn't already have the M240 and a few lenses, I would have no doubt kept the Q. It's the best compact camera I've shot, it still is.
Getting to shoot the Leica Q again only made me realize even more how good it really is, even for a wedding photographer like myself. Here are a couple shots that I took while I had it, but rather than bore you with wedding photos, I have something a little different for you all. My friend Ivo Scholz, a photographer from Switzerland, absolutely loves his Leica Q and uses it for almost all of his personal work. His personal work is stunning, and with the added bonus of breathtaking scenery, I feel that his work does a better job of showing off the capabilities of the Leica Q.
The name Leica, it stands for something they told me. There’s history, I heard it plenty of times. It’s quality and at the same time functional. It’s incomparable due to its design, something I read countless times. It's as if there’s some kind of special aura coming from within the box when getting one of these cameras.
As a guy who has shot with Nikon, Canon, Sony, Fuji, Hasselblad and all the others over the past decade, I developed the ability to quickly adapt to any system. This way, I never had trouble using one of those brands and generating great results. In my current portfolio, I showcase images made with almost all of those camera brands. The interesting this is, you probably won’t find a big difference between the results you see from image to image. And in my opinion, that’s a great thing. It shows how the industry pushed itself to the point where there really not making any bad digital cameras anymore. But, the difference between a good camera you use and a great camera you love, there is a vast difference.
A SINCERE CAMERA
Let's talk about the Leica Q. The Q is one of those sincere cameras you might fall in love for many reasons. At least, I did. When you grab the body for the first time, you quickly realize that it isn't a small camera computer, like a lot of the other mirrorless cameras currently on the market. It really is pure photography. There, I said it. It screams at you to use it for the damn purpose it’s been built, but at the same time whispers in your ear to relax and forget about all the technical noise. Just turn the aperture ring, use the wonderful electronic viewfinder, and press the shutter. Review the shot on that wonderful crisp rear display and swipe with your finger through your photographs using the touch screen. Extremely intuitive and easy. Nothing interrupting the creative process of taking your shot, nor anything to get in your way. Something that is hard to find these days.
You may wonder about the lens. A Leica 28mm Summilux f/1.7 lens, which is permanently mounted on the Leica Q. It is wide, I know. And it takes some time to figure out the best way to use this focal length (if you never really used 28mm or so). For me, coming from the Batis 25mm, which I really like a lot, it was easy to adapt. Playing with the wide angle and the depth of field of the Summilux lens is pure joy. There’s also a lot of arguing about the stabilizer and wether it makes the images less sharp or not. Forget about all that nonsense. It is sharp, I mean really sharp, especially when shot wide open. Some say it's maybe too sharp. Even usable for landscapes at f/1.7! I've never seen this on any other lens I used before.
IT'S WORTH IT
Here it is, the biggest question of them all. Is it worth the price? For all the photographers who simply care about more than just the final image and end result, the Leica Q also offers an experience. For me personally, I wanted more than to simply use my camera like any other tool, I really want to love using it. The Q did that for me. It also made me fall in love with photography all over again.
If you’re one of those photographers, who really do care about the process and the fun instead of just the end result, the Leica Q is definitely something to consider despite the price tag.
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