DC Walk (Part 2) – My Review of the Leica Q

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In continuation of my last post, this post will mostly be dedicated to my experience with the Leica Q and using the camera around the city. The overall experience opened my eyes on what a high-end camera could do and made me rethink about the camera (meaning – I want it a lot more now). What I’m about to say will also scare some people but after using the camera for a few hours, the Leica Q is a bargain for a full-frame Leica at $4,250.

Let me explain.

As I was explaining to my Candid.FM friends on Slack, the following attributes of the camera won me over:

  1. The Lens. You can definitely tell that the camera and sensor was built around the lens as one unit. The two elements work beautifully together to produce some of the sharpest and please color rendering I have ever seen. Honestly, you can shoot this wide-open at f/1.7 all day and get super sharp images across the frame without having to stop down.
  2. The price. Like I mentioned previously, the camera costs $4,250 (USD) brand new, which is not cheap by any means for the majority of people, including myself…but in the world of Leica, this camera is a bargain. An equivalent Leica M Body with a 28mm Summilux definitely costs more – and that setup will be larger and heavier than the Q.
  3. The images. The RAW images that come out of the camera is gorgeous and I’ve never used a camera that require so little post-processing in Lightroom like the Leica Q. When people talk about the Leica’s “look”, I finally understand it now. The .DNG files (Leica’s RAW file) was very impressive with a great dynamics range, but I still think my Sony A7II had more wiggle room in comparison.
  4. Build quality. I’m not sure you’ll touch any camera built like a Leica unless it’s a Leica and the Q is no exception. Built from a solid piece of aluminum with a magnesium chassis, the camera is lightweight but “solid” if that makes any sense. Think of it as reassuring weight that makes camera feel “expensive”. Every dial and button has just the right amount of pressure and resistance to give it that tactile feedback that people love in Olympus and Fujifilm cameras.
  5. Auto-Focus. Yeah. It’s fucking fast. The Q will lock onto your subject accurately and quickly like a powerful magnet. Hats off to Panasonic for developing such an excellent system. The AF system is just as fast as a Micro Four Thirds camera and it smokes the Fuji X100F I was using side by side. (Speaking of Panasonic, if you want to save some bucks on a battery for the Leica Q, just buy the Panasonic variant since it’s the exact same thing).
  6. Electronic Viewfinder. I’m personally not a fan of the old-school rangefinder like those on the flagship Leica M series, so I prefer to have an EVF if I had the option. That being said, the EVF on the Leica Q is absolutely stunning to look at with over 3.68MP, high refresh rate, and big. This is easily the best viewfinder I have ever used on a mirrorless camera.
  7. The 28mm focal length. The camera will inspire you to go out and get out of your comfort zone. If it was on any other camera, like say, Fuji X100F, I would hate it and sell it right away, but the images that you pull out of this camera will make you want to work for it. It will motivate you to work with the focal length and force you to be more creative with your composition. In street photography, that means you’ll be interacting more with your subjects than you would with a 35mm or 50mm equivalent. Luckily I’ve been shooting with the Leica DG 15mm f/1.7 (30mm equivalent) on the PEN-F, therefore it wasn’t that much of a change for me.
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Leica RAW

The Leica JPEGs were decent, but still not as good as the Olympus or the Fuji in my personal opinion therefore I don’t recommend using the JPEGs from the Leica unless you tweak the JPEG settings in the menu.

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Leica RAW

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Edited JPEG

The skin tones were very pleasing and I loved the way the colors popped in the frame, which sort of reminds of Carl Zeiss lenses with its micro-contrast.

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Edited in Lightroom

Here is another example of how good the RAW photos look in this picture with Jillian and Oliver.

JOLLIE Raw

RAW

JOLLIE Edited

Edited in Lightroom

Another example in low light

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RAW

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Edited in Lightroom

Below are a few pictures from the ARTECHOUSE to supplement my first post.

These were all edited in Lightroom from the Leica Q.

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The images are please to look at and I’m completely smitten by the lovely skin tones out of camera.

The images from the Q have a really nice color palette in RAW but I personally wouldn’t recommend its JPEGs as I’ve mentioned before. The sensor is so consistently good that I look forward to looking through the images in post to blow my mind.

Another thing I need to mention that I didn’t mention in my top reasons why this camera rocks is the ability to select crop modes between 28, 35 and 50mm fields of view. This may sounds like a useless feature since you can crop and adjust in Lightroom, but for me it completely changed the way you compose with the camera. With a push of a button on the back of the camera next to the thumbrest, you can quickly change the field of view in the viewfinder to your liking. However, you are paying with resolution when cropping images, but I don’t see it as an issue for most people – even if you print.

Here’s a chart of the image sizes relative to the different field of view modes:

28mm 6000 x 4000 px
35mm 4800 x 3200 px
50mm 3360 x 2240 px

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28mm will give you a wide scene for environmental portraits

Being a full-frame performance, the low light performance is much better and less grainy compared to APS-C (Fuji, Sony A6500) and Micro Four Thirds (Olympus, Panasonic) and the Leica Q is capable of going up to ISO 50,000 – but I don’t recommend it. Personally I wouldn’t go beyond ISO 6400 as the image quality will start to take hits, but to me, that’s an acceptable ceiling for 98% of my shooting.

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The larger sensor make low light photos more forgiving – f/1.7 | ISO 1250 | 1/60

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f/4 | ISO 2500 | 1/125

Another thing I think most people take for granted is the white balance (or how accurate the auto white balance can be) and to my surprise, the Q is the best I’ve ever used. I can confidently say that the Q’s Auto WB is accurate 98% of the time because who has time to go into the menu to change that on the fly when you need to capture moments.

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f/1.7 | ISO 320 | 1/60

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f/1.8 | ISO 250 | 1/60

If you’re in the market for a new high-end camera and have a few grand to spend, then the Leica Q is the only camera you should pick up if you want tactile feel, extremely high quality images, robust build quality and old school good looks. It’s beautifully made like all Leicas, but is super capable and functional that for most people, this is the only camera you’ll ever need. This is camera is the equivalent of a Porsche Cayman in a world where the Porsche 911 holds all the attention. The cheaper sibling is just as capable, but at a lower cost, but just like the Cayman, the Leica Q is a gateway drug to the higher end of the family – the Leica M.

Beware though – once you use the camera for a few hours out in the wild, you will want one. Trust me. I bought one.

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