Leica Q

June 18, 2015  |  Review

Before I put in writing my overview feelings towards the Leica Q. I need to write a few disclaimers.
(BTW, all images in this article were shot with the Leica Q.)

I love the Range-Finder experience. I believe it’s the most fun, and most educational camera tool out there today. I also believe that Leica M lenses are so unique that more then just focal length or sharpness comes into play when trying to select a kit. Sometimes I get tired of manual focusing. I am willing to admit the camera is a bit heavy (though well built, and not large. My fingers are long).

I’m also willing to admit that the Q may be a bit on the small side, even though the lighter weight is welcome.


Let’s just pull back to the lenses. If I felt the need to own 28mm lenses, I could straight up justify why a 28mm Elmarit-ASPH and a 28mm Summicron-ASPH are both necessary in a kit. The end result is visually different, you’d need to consider what works best for you. Concerns like size/speed/price could be a factor, but rendering should be priority. I can confidently say this about every focal length Leica supports. 21mm, 35mm and 50mm are focal lengths that come to mind where I have had more then one lens at a time, and have genuinely needed/wanted to own them.
You can read my 28 Elmarit-ASPH thoughts HERE and 28 Summicron-ASPH thoughts HERE

The Range-Finder experience.. Most companies wouldn’t be willing/able to give you anything close to the joy you get from seeing your framing within a scene and being able to actually make informed decisions about taking steps back to include missing elements. Yeah the Q tries this with a nify “throwback” crop mode. Though why by a FF compact camera, then willingly recompose for a crop. You wouldn’t, or at least I wouldn’t. Part of the minimal Leica experience, is the fact that everything is in half stops. I know this sounds a bit trivial, but half stops give you enough movement that you can fine tune without feeling like you’re missing something. 1/2 stops are quick because going up two stops only takes 4 clicks rather then 6 with 1/3 stops. The idea of one half is a lot easier for your brain to process (and more flexible then full stops). This brings me to my point about it being a learning tool. Fine enough adjustments, but nothing unnecessary. All evenly spaced out so you can do everything by feel, and the math is simple, so you don’t get confused. It’s the easiest camera to learn. The essence, the most important thing about Leica M cameras, the simplicity to change settings without having to think, only needing to feel.. This isn’t something you can get with todays DSLRs or other mirrorless/point and shoot cameras.


Let’s move onto the Q.

I’ll start by saying the Leica Q is the most fun I’ve had since picking up my first M. A camera that’s a joy to say the least. It’s not without fault, and I will get to that. Though I cannot stress how fun it is to use, and for the most part, it doesn’t get in the way.


My first and second “gripes” about the camera are personal. I’m not a 28mm guy. I tried to, I love 50mm lenses, 28mm just made sense.. But no. I’d rather use a 35/75 or 35/50/90 then a 28/50/90 setup. Playing with the Q over these past few days has confirmed it for me. I don’t like 28mm lenses. This is not the Q’s fault, hence only a “gripe” of mine, and not something that needs attention from Leica. The reality is, it’s a challenge for me, one that I’m willing to take up because the Q is just that much fun!
The second gripe is IQ. I think that for the size and price, Leica should have done a bit more with the lens. I’m not saying it doesn’t take good pictures. It does. I’m saying for the price/size, I would have expected to be blown away with the sharpness across the frame, contrast, color pop and also lack of distortion. Distortion is one of those things I figured Leica would pay attention to. Thus far, it’s the biggest IQ fail. If you don’t care about distortion, then this is the camera for you. If you do (and can’t deal with software corrections), you might want to consider sticking with a friendlier camera/lens combo. Again, only a “gripe,” I’m not privy to the limitations of current technology/economics. I will note the 28Elmarit-ASPH is a far more brilliant lens in that regard. I do need to stress that for a walk around kit, the Q’s image quality is SUPER and the lens renders in a pleasing way (just slightly lacking the color pop/contrast I like to see). Unless you’re a corner-pixel-peeper, you’ll love the images coming out of this camera. The JPG files are spectacular. I wouldn’t hesitate to shoot a whole vacation on JPG only mode, if I forgot my spare SD cards at home. I probably wouldn’t miss all that much, save for a few AutoWB errors that may need correcting (situations where all cameras would fail).



Gripes aside. There are a few SERIOUS issues that need to be addressed. I’m going to get to them, but I do want to touch on some positive aspects. I think it’s only fair that I explain WHY I feel this is the most FUN camera I’ve used to date (save for the M-system).

I was walking around playing with the Q. Just myself and the camera, no distractions. I felt the EVF was just a joy to use. At no point did I feel it was lacking. I tried to make a point of stopping my lens down to f/5.6 or f/11 just to get an idea of the quality that could be achieved if I was the kind of guy who stopped down. Since I’m not, I would find myself taking the same shot again at f/1.7 and aside from the 1/3 stops, it was effortless for me to spin the ring around. I did have to check the aperture info in the EVF to make sure I was going back to f/5.6 because I’m not use to counting 1/3 stops, but it wasn’t bad. I found myself frequently spinning the macro ring. I think it was probably the hardest for my hand/mind to grasp. I felt the grip of the ring should have been in a different orientation. I did get use to it nearing the end of my walk. Overall the macro ring is smart, and really very intuitive. The lens can get crazy close without the macro ring, but it’s neat to have the option. In the interest of keeping things simple, I did put the camera on automatic shutter and automatic ISO. I found that this allowed me to be fuss free the whole walk. I need to stress that the EVF is one stop brighter then the final images. I knew this going into it, but I kept forgetting or not trusting my own claims and I would use the EV-1 compensation a lot. Then I’d find at home my pictures were -1 stop to dark. The good news, spot metering on the Q is reliable. The bad, the EVF at LOWEST brightness (which I always set) is still 1 stop brighter then reality. It can get confusing/annoying. I’m not going to mention this in the “what needs to be fixed” because it’s so minor and something that wouldn’t make or break an image for you.



That whole last paragraph didn’t touch on AF. The reason, it was perfect. The walk was overcast, nothing to difficult, but not once did the AF get in my way. The only time I hit an AF snag was when I forgot to take it off Macro mode and stepped out of the macro range. This also mirrors my at night walk around. I had no problems with the AF even at ISO 50,000. Notice I didn’t mention the manual focus feature? Well it’s a great feature, and it’s beautifully executed. I don’t even notice the Focus By Wire in actual use. Though the AF is so great that I find it difficult to want to use the manual focus. However when I do, it feels like I’m using a M240 w/advanced EVF.



Onto the points that need to be addressed, if I am ever to buy a interchangeable lens version of this camera. These points almost make me want to sell the camera, if it weren’t for the images it produces and the insane amounts of fun I have despite my dislike of the focal length, I’d consider selling on the listed points below:

1) This pertains to how I work and interact with a client and is crucial. When you set the camera to EVF only mode (to save batteries), you should be able to press PLAY or MENU and have the LCD automatically switch on. Or at the very least, have it sense if you still have your eye up to the EVF or not. That way, you can show your client an image without having to scroll through the display settings. This is mandatory, and the one thing I’d honestly sell the camera because of. I have this problem with other EVF cameras, and believe me when I say, it gets in the way.

2) The aperture ring and shutter dial MUST match. I would prefer 1/2 stops, but if not, they still HAVE TO MATCH. If I have my exposure on my M set the way I want it, but I’ve decided that I need more DOF, it’s 4 clicks on the ring, and 4 clicks on the shutter dial. I know that’s 2 stops in opposing directions, my exposure stays the same, easy! The switching of visual objectives without thinking, removing my eye from the camera or changing my exposure should be priority.

3) The thumb wheel, right now it serves a silly purpose. It will do one of the following things. Either it will compensate EV +/- if you have your camera set to A shutter. It will allow you to make in-between stop adjustments if you have your shutter set to a fixed value. And if everything is set to Auto (shutter/aperture) it’ll let you adjust your aperture from the thumb wheel. This is just silly and unnecessary with all the dials at your fingertips. What needs to be understood is that the Q is an auto focus camera. And since most everything is already accessible with other dials, the only thing I feel one would change on the fly while working, is the way the AF operates. Let me explain in more detail. You have three basic usable AF modes. Center point AF, which with the little donut dial can be placed anywhere on the screen (brilliant). Face recognition, which also works great when it’s hitting the right face (more on this in a second). And multipoint. Imagine f/5.6 or f/11 basically the AF version of smart hyperfocal distance, shooting from the hip. There are a few other ones, touch screen and AF-C which adds more confusion. I could see the working user switching between two of those three modes on the fly. Why not have a menu option where you can select which AF styles you want, and then while you’re using the camera a quick flick of the thumb wheel will give you one of the how-many-ever selected AF styles. They did something very similar with the function button, it allows me to pick my metering mode with the press of a button (genius). Now I don’t fault Leica for this, they’re new-ish to AF. Though I think it’s something that would make the camera infinity more usable on the fly, and make use of an otherwise pointless wheel.


The Future for Leica?
What if Leica decided to either make a interchangeable lens system, or even out right replace the RF with a M-body like this. I have to say as much as I love EVF, there is no way I would give up the optical viewfinder in my M camera. I would sooner shoot the M-P240 well into retirement. With that said, my last point is that although I think this is a great system (assuming above points get address in a future body). I still think that finding a way to have an optical RF that looks exactly like my M-P RF, but with either a digital patch projection for M lenses and a full EVF for AF lenses would be almost necessary to fully merge the two lines M+Q. If not, I’d stick with my M-P for when I wanted to use RF cameras and I’d buy an interchangeable Q setup for when I just couldn’t be bothered to manual focus. In which case I hope the points above are addressed, and that the interchangeable Q lenses would at least be excellent performers (even if they have to be larger). Why not just retrofit M lenses with AF?