WPPI

The New Leica Q2 - First Impressions Review

Meet The New Leica Q2

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).

ISO160 f/1.7 1/50sec - Model: Katt Wilkens

[Entire Shoot For The Image Above]

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.

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon

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. 

 

Photo by John Kreidler, taken with Q2, with me holding a Q2.

 

NOTABLE UPGRADES

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.


THE BODY

 
 

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.

ISO50 f/1.7 1/320sec - All Natural Light

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.

Leica Q2

Leica Q

Leica Q2 size comparison and similar design to the Leica M10.

Leica Q2 size comparison and similar design to the Leica M10.


THE NEW SENSOR

(Click on image to see larger) Fully Edited - Shot at ISO50 f/1.7 1/250

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.

 

Fully edited - ISO50 f/1.7 1/320sec - Model: Sasha Casares

 

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.

RESOLUTION SAMPLE

RAW Image - Click image to see full size

Cropped in - Click image to see closer

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.

 

75mm Zoom - Cropped in even further to show detail

 

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.

Opened in Lightroom - Full size image


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.

 
Click on image to see even closer

Click on image to see even closer

 
 

Click on image to see even closer

 

Micro-contrast

Pushed 2.5 stops - ISO50 f/4 1/20sec

Closer Look (click on image for full size)

Dynamic Range

Exposure +3.5 - ISO400 f/1.7 1/640sec

 

Click on image to see even closer

 

MACRO Option

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.


Full size image shot in Macro Mode.

Zoomed in to show detail up close

CONCLUSION

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.

 
Leica-Q2-Review-319.jpg
 

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

Cheers!

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WPPI 2018 - Leica Camera Workshop

Last year during WPPI, I gave an hour-long lecture for Leica during a sit-down dinner that they treated everyone to. We had a great turn-out and everyone that attended really liked how it was done differently than all the other WPPI lectures or classes. This year, we decided to step things up a little and rather than just a lecture we would host a complimentary workshop out at the Springs Preserve. I loved that Leica was willing to switch things up this year and let me take a group of photographers out off the strip away from all the chaos and walk them through how I shoot an engagement session. We tried to do the shoot out at Red Rock Canyon where I had shot the day before but ultimately decided against it due to the permits and longer drive. Springs Preserve turned out to be the perfect spot for what I had in mind and was only a 15-minute drive from the Leica Store in Ceasars Palace.

Leica Workshop

A couple months before WPPI, just as I started planning for this workshop, I found out my good friend Mark Condon from Australia was coming over to the states to attend the expo along with his wife. Not only is he the creator of the popular website SHOTKIT, but he's also a pretty talented wedding photographer himself. After a little persuading, I was able to talk them into being the models for my workshop. 

Demonstrating creative use of harsh light and dark shadows

Demonstrating creative use of harsh light and dark shadows

We had 15 attendees show up which turned out to be the perfect head count for a workshop like this. I couldn't have asked for a better group of photographers, all asking questions and taking in everything I showed them. I went through everything from building client relationships, to posing, to shooting techniques and using natural light in creative ways. I also did things a little differently than I normally do at workshops and I let the attendees shoot a good amount. I would go through a few things, work with Mark and Elissa, then back out and let someone else lead. Overall, it was an awesome workshop and afterward, Leica treated everyone to a dinner while I went over some of my shots and post production. 

Photo by: Phil Cuenco

Photo by: Phil Cuenco

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Photo by: Phil Cuenco

Photo by: Phil Cuenco

I had a great time teaching this workshop and I'm hoping to do something similar again next year. A big thanks to Leica Camera USA for hosting the event, to Mark and Elissa for modeling, my good friends Bud Johnson and Jason Vinson for helping out, and John Kreidler and Phil Cuenco from Leica for helping me put everything together. 

Photo by: Bud Johnson

Photo by: Bud Johnson

Photo by: Bud Johnson

Photo by: Bud Johnson

Here are a handful of shots from the workshop. I only took a handful, so I'm glad that Bud and Jason took a few as well when I wasn't shooting. If you're interested in attending one of my workshops, I'll be teaching one in LA from April 20-22nd, here is the link to check it out - Leica Wedding Intensive.

Photo by: Jason Vinson

Photo by: Jason Vinson

Photo by: Jason Vinson

Photo by: Jason Vinson

Photo by: Jason Vinson

Photo by: Jason Vinson

SHOTS I TOOK WHILE TEACHING...



 
 

WPPI 2018 - Red Rock Canyon

Shooting out at Red Rock Canyon with Bud Johnson, Jason Vinson, Mark Condon, and model Ashleigh Etherton.

Wedding Gown by Mary Elizabeth Bridal out of Savannah.

All shots are with the Leica SL and M10.

WPPI - Complimentary Workshop On Creative Portraiture

Click on the image to see more details! The workshop is already more than half-way filled up with only 8 spots remaining. If you're coming out to WPPI, this will be a great way to get out shooting, off the strip with complimentary Leica loans if you want to test out some of their latest gear. 

WPPI - Leica Presentation

Relationships & Digging Deeper

Leica filmed my lecture that I gave during WPPI, but it's not crystal clear, and because it was held at a restaurant, there is a good amount of background noise. You can still hear me for the most part, and if you are curious about what I spoke about, it's worth checking out.