No, this is not something just for you Trekkies. This is a little review of a camera. Read on.
„It’s up to YQU“ – now that’s the new slogan for the English speaking market to advertise the latest offering of Leica – the Q. It has been in my hands for a few days and I have mixed thoughts about Typ 116 as it is called in Leica terms.
There are brands that polarize people whenever they release a new product. One of them – in photo business – is Leica. Usually there are two major kinds of response, the lovers will buy their new „baby“ without questions, the haters will look for things not to like about the new product just to rip it apart in discussions.
Unfortunately in the past Leica produced some simple point’n’shoot cameras for a much higher price than comparable cameras by other manufacturers. Also in the M-series over time there weren’t too many positive changes. Things like these led to a lot of criticism.
Don’t get me wrong, I really like the M-series, but in it’s substance the system is 60-70 years old. My thoughts about the M (Typ 240) you can read here. (in german only, but there is a google translate button)
When I learned about a new camera by Leica, I wasn’t really interested. Point’n’shoot is not my territory and that there is now one more button on the M-bodies is of minor interest to me.
But then it happened: a picture of the Leica Q leaked through, also some specifications were rumored:
- size and UI similar to an M
- 24MP 35mm-sensor
- fixed prime lens of 28mm
- autofocus – wait, autofocus! You read that right.
Mmmh? Looks like a Fujifilm X100T, or at least similar. In my eyes the X100-series by Fujifilm is one of the most inspiring cameras, so I got interested in Leicas latest offering.
The Leica Q has been available since the 10th of June and my good friend Sura convinced his boss to lend me a Q for a weekend – and what a short weekend it was.
When I got it in my hands I was little surprised by it’s size- positively surprised. The Q is not much larger than my X100T with the WCL-X100, wide angle converter, attached and it’s not as heavy as an M.
The ergonomics are just fine- everything can be found easily and it just fits my hands- I like the little recession for the thumb on the back side of the camera, it helps a lot with gripping it lightly but firmly. There aren’t too many buttons and their resistance is just fine.
The viewfinder is really a treat – quite large and it comes with a diopter adjustment for users with „less than perfect vision“. 😉
It’s a shame that the video button which is sitting right next to the shutter release is not usable as a function button – you cannot configure it as you wish, it always stays „just a video button“. The thumb button is configurable, but some functions are missing: I would wish for a choice in AF-modes there. But with the firmware today you can just change the frames for 35mm and 50mm, exposure, autofocus or both can be memorized. Unfortunately you have to keep the button pushed to lock the exposure. They should let the user decide if it should be kept pressed or be used like an on/off button.
Well, there is autofocus. 6 modes of AF – wow! 6! (There is also a really good manual focus, rejoice!)
AF is really good- read: precise and fast. In 1-point-AF you can chose nearly every point in your view and just let it work. In the extreme corners AF becomes a bit weaker and I sometimes had to refocus, but altogether AF is pretty good in this camera – actually I didn’t really expect this from a Leica so I was positively surprised, again. (Yeah, I know, I am not being nice to Leica now. 😉 )
I liked the „subject tracking“ mode a lot. You match your AF-field to the subject once, halfpress the shutter release and the AF bites into the subject. In the end there will be a lot of well-focussed pictures. I tested this in a series showing my little daughter on her trampoline.
My settings were:
- 1/500 sec
Subject tracking has a drawback, though: The AF-point stays in the last position of tracking when you release the shutter button. It doesn’t jump back to the first point you picked. This sure has some good points to it as well, but for me I’d like to have it back to it’s original position automatically.
The Q sports a fine touch screen, so it’s possible to pick a focus point by directly pointing it out in the display. This works reliably. To have a touch screen is a nice-to-have but nothing too special. For working with a tripod this comes in quite handy – you can either just focus by touch or focus and release.
As I wrote earlier the Leica Q also has a very nice manual focus. In this respect Leica is among the best and the Q goes into the same direction. I’ve been working with an M6 for a while now and I‘ve had the pleasure of using the M (Typ 240), so I am used to rangefinder focussing.
Also I’ve used my old manual lenses on my beloved Fujifilm X-Pro 1. So I can compare a bit. Usually my perfectionism isn’t met properly, there are always drawbacks in every system. But in case of the Q I can say: That’s how I want manual focussing in the digital age!
There is a small button at the focus tab of the lens. When you press it and turn the focussing ring a little the camera changes into manual focus mode. As soon as you turn the focus ring the display or viewfinder changes into 3x or 6x magnification. Also you can add focus peaking in one of 4 different colours. Focussing feels so fine I still don’t know if it is focus-by-wire as in the splendid Fujfilm X100T or a real mechanical manual focussing. It feels like mechanics. The high-resolution finder combined with focus peaking and the nice feel of the lens all make for a very fine experience. What makes manual focussing with the Q so special is the end stop at the far and near position. There is no endless turning like with the x100 for example. A trained photographer is able to set the distance without even looking at the lens or through the viewfinder/display. The focus tab is helpful here as orientation, too. I know some Leica photographers working in this way. The distance scale engraved on the lens body works just fine and for a lot of Leica M photographers it is simply essential.
The Q is the first digital camera in which I really like the manual focussing. I cannot repeat it often enough; Really great MF! In this case Leica brought us the best of both worlds- mechanic and electronic.
The rangefinder of an M is best in slow photography, when you go for a walk or for landscape and so on. But when you want to take pictures of your child in wild action without artsy out-of-focus pictures there has to be a different approach – and no M-photographer can tell me that they didn’t wish for another technique than f11 and hyperfocal distance. 😉
Since we’re talking about Leica here and their highly priced products I really start nit-picking with that camera: I don’t know why only the center field can be magnified in manual focussing. The Fujifilm offerings of the X-series clearly show that cameras can do that differently today. So in manual focussing you’re going to resort to focus-recompose. If you like to work with your lens „wide open“, you will run into problems with that, even with that 28mm.
On the other hand there is another good thing: internal stabilization. Ok, 28mm usually is not too difficult in that respect, but in poor lighting conditions a stabilization helps a lot to keep ISO down.
Oh. 28mm. Oh well. :/
I don’t know. For me this is clearly not the most „interesting“ focal length. I like myself a 24mm or 35mm fov. 24mm looks wide but not too wide. 35mm is not too wide and a lot more „universal“ than 28mm – at least in my book.
But, ok, the Q comes up with a funny little gimmick for that: by pressing a button you can see frames for the 35mm and 50mm focal lengths. But that comes with a price: The RAWfile is always that of the 28mm lens. But in jpg you get the chosen crop. This costs a lot of resolution. Remember the good old days of „digital zoom“? There you have it again. The 50mm frame gives you a resolution of about 8MP. So, as I told you – a funny little gimmick. For web-sized pictures this is still mighty fine.
Oh, btw, since I am talking about jpgs… in todays firmware version you cannot shoot in raw-only. This will be added in a later version, I guess…
There isn’t much to write about the lens. It’s a Leica glass! For every Leica fan you get at least two Leica-haters. But usually when it comes to Leica’s lenses both parties agree – a fast f1.7 Summilux? BAM! A wonderful lens that is totally sharp wide open and give you a magical bokeh.
Both, sharpness and bokeh, are really good on their own- together, paired with a good shot of the Leica recipe, the lens delivers a nice 3D-pop.
So… after 48 hours of using the Leica Q my impression of that little camera is quite positive.
Besides all the nice technology I like the fact that Leica hits the market with a modern camera (finally – yeah!). Tradition is good and something to be kept, not just in photography. Yes, call me bougeois! I don’t care. I see traditions as something worth to preserve and live. But this should not run on it’s own. If you shut off yourself from innovation, just as Leica did, in my opinion, you lose in the long run. In my opinion, Leica is on the right way now with bringing out the „Leica Q“.
I am quite sure that the Q is just the beginning. I know a lot of photographers who insist in using an optical viewfinder and who cannot imagine a Leica without an OVF (optical viewfinder). But I have to admit: I like the viewfinder of my M6 – but a Leica sporting a built in EVF (electronic viewfinder) is just a tad more, er, „cool“. 😉
Now you made it to this point… At first I want to thank my friend Sura and Meister Camera Berlin for the chance to test this camera. And you, my dear readers: Thanks for bearing with me. Have a good look at the pictures to get a sense of the camera.
For everybody who just scrolled down for a feature and pro/contra list, look here:
- Ergonomics and feel
- The lens
- Very good manual focussing
- The Lens
- Autofocus is precise and fast
- Did I mention the lens?
- Internal stabilization
- Electronic shutter – thus very silent
- Face detection (yeah, if there ist AF, why not?!)
- Focus tab
- The electronic viewfinder is just great.
- ISO up to 6400 very „usable“.
- Oh, and the lens. It’s, er, quite, er, wow.
- Only the center area can be magnified while zooming in while shooting.
- AF-mode has to be chosen by digging through the menues.
- FN-buttons are not widely configurable
- There is no histogram when you use exposure compensation
Oh, the most important thing: You can take nice father-daughter-selfies. 😉