I Leica Q (A hands-on review of the Leica Q (Type 116)
My Hands On Review of the Leica Q - Type 116
I'm going to just start out by saying, this is one of the best Leica digital cameras I've ever handled. It's got so much going for it even though it still has some oddball quirks to it that still links it to the classic camera company trying to fit into today's modern technology world. I was given an opportunity to spend a few hours with the Leica Q, and this is my summary of my experience with it.
Let's start off with some key highlights on this camera.
Highlights24.2 MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor
Leica Maestro II Image Processor
Leica Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH Lens
3.68 MP LCOS Electronic Viewfinder
3.0" 1,040k-Dot Touchscreen LCD Monitor
Contrast-Detect AF System
Full HD 1080p Video at up to 60 fps
ISO 50,000 & 10 fps Continuous Shooting
Aluminum & Magnesium Alloy Body Design
Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity with NFC
The LensThe Leica Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH Lens has 11 elements in 9 groups, 3 aspherical elements. It has 9 aperture blades, and a leaf shutter built into the lens. As far as construction goes, metal construction, which has very positive rings that just feel very well built. Although I don't believe it's a traditional brass helicoid, it does feel like a quality Leica lens. Even though this is a fixed lens, don't confuse this as being just another Panasonic/Leica camera collaboration.
|Leica Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH Lens|
The 28mm focal length seems rather wide for a street photographer’s camera. Some will question why they didn't make this a 35mm or even Henri-Cartier Bresson favourite focal length of 50mm. Many would likely love at the idea of a fixed 50mm F/2 Summicron. But I think it was wise of Leica not to make this product any more niche than it needs to be. The 28mm focal length takes some getting used to if you've never shot with this length, but it's a great size to get everything you'll ever need and for some, means getting a little more personal with your subjects if you want to crop closer.
This is an ideal length for point and shoot/pocketable cameras. Although sized much larger than one would put into a pocket, this camera is small enough to fit in most small gear bags or purses. The saying goes that the best camera on you is the one in your hand and this is the right focal length and size to be that camera that is always in your bag.
The sharpness of the lens is very good and of course being paired with a high resolution 24MP non anti-aliased sensor is going to yield exceptional images.
The bokeh on this lens is really quite nice. Out of focus and shallow depth of field with this lens is really easy to achieve with images that pop with a 3D quality that is signature of Leica lenses.
|Beautiful smooth bokeh, even with a busy background.|
The Autofocus is engaged simply by having the focus ring parked in the AF marker on the distance ring. Once it is in this mode, the camera uses contrast detect for AF.
It's very fast and responsive, and compared to most of the mirrorless camera models I've owned the past 5-6 years, this camera is very responsive by comparison..
|Traditional focus thumb lever with an AF lock/release button|
I have to admit I like this approach. It's a great way to introduce a discrete switch onto the camera needing another barrel button or putting more buttons on the body. It's a great ergonomic design that feels natural.
|Auto aperture position just past the widest aperture setting|
Auto Aperture is also equally easy to access, and also on the lens. Just turning this below the widest setting, puts the camera into shutter priority with auto aperture. I actually rarely tried this, but is a nice feature when you really want to dumb down the camera for quick situations that don't require a lot of thought.
The macro mode is an interesting feature that basically acts like a built in extension tube. A ring on the lens, close to the camera body provides a positive turn from standard to macro mode. What's really clever in this design is the distance ring changes to provide the proper ranges for macro shooting.
|Instant macro lens at the turn of a dial.|
Body and ErgonomicsThe form factor and construction of the Leica Q is superb. It feels like a classic M without feeling clunky and large. In fact I'd almost argue that this feels more like my Leica M2 than the Leica M9 or Type 240. It is slightly smaller due to the lack of range finder, but rather than making this camera smaller, they actually kept the height the same as all current M bodies at 80mm tall.
|The Leica Q actually feels like a classic M in my hands.|
|Very similar dimensions. 3mm taller, and 8mm narrower.|
The fit and finish is very Leica for sure. The leatherette finishes are tactile and looks nice, although I can't help but think it will pick up some debris in no time. All the dials, buttons and rings are all very positive feeling. There's nothing on this camera that feels cheap on it.
|Exposure Comp dial inset to the body|
The shutter dial also has a position to put it into aperture priority mode and auto shutter. The dial only goes up to 1/2000 for the leaf shutter but when you need more, the shutter can give you up to 1/16,000 of a second in electronic shutter mode. The only caveat of shooting with electronic shutter is the potential of rolling shutter. The leaf shutter is also very quiet. I argue that it's only slightly louder than the X-Pro1 which is almost silent. I actually prefer this to a completely electronic silent shutter. Some feedback is nice even if it is barely louder than tapping your nail lightly on a camera case.
The shutter also offer 1/500s flash sync. This will be great for any action studio shooters, but one odd thing is the lack of a bulb mode. I found the omission of this standard feature a bit odd. I hope that this is an oversight and maybe it will come in the form of a firmware update or in the WiFi app that I didn't have access to. There is a time lapse function in this camera that I didn't explore, but that has some interesting creative possibilities.
A movie record button is also located right beside the shutter button. As a video shooter this is very welcome. Unfortunately it doesn't appear that it can be customized. I hope that this oversight from Leica will be fixed, but like a few other buttons on this camera, customization is rather limited.
There's an additional function button that if found on the back right by the shutter dial which has the most customizability, but it's limited to a small list of common functions. By default this is set to frame selector (or crop modes).
Doors and access ports are well made with one on the side of camera that reveals access to micro- HDMI and mini-USB ports. The battery and media card access is at the bottom and the tripod socket is located in line with the centre axis of the lens. The battery has approximately around 300 shots per charge and around 45 minutes of video. About what I'd expect from a battery of this size. The battery (BP-DC-12) is also the same battery found in the V-Lux and also other Panasonic cameras (Panasonic DMW-BLC12). The Leica battery is almost $200 USD, so it might be wiser to get extra Panasonic batteries which as far as I know are exactly the same. Batteries are always bone of contention with me. I find that my Sony equipment all seem to need lots of extra batteries. But compared to the RX1 series, it's closest competitor, this camera is significantly better on battery.
There is no official documentation on whether or not there are dust and moisture seals on this camera. I will not make any assumptions on that, but to be on the safe side, let's just say it doesn't have any.
A thumb indent is located just above the control D-pad and it's very comfortable in my hand. All things considered though. I would suggest getting a wrist strap or the integrated hand grip with finger loops. Although I like grips on my cameras, the accessory adds more height to the camera which I don't necessarily feel is needed. The camera is comfortable in the hand and I didn't find that it was uncomfortable, but having a decent grip is essential with the satin finish of Leica cameras.
A series of common buttons is also found on the left side of the LCD display. The buttons are nicely integrated into the design with just enough protrusion to easily press the buttons in. The typical buttons are found there with a FN button that has a limited set of customs functions you can assign to it. These buttons are also found much closer to the edge of the camera unlike the Leica M. This is certainly going to make it much easier to access those buttons with your left hand.
The display is a healthy 3" capacitive touchscreen display. I didn't get a lot of time with it, but it also has gesture controls on it that makes it very iPhone like.
The eyefinder is a large display that includes a diopter adjustment and a 3.7MP LCOS display. I didn't find any lag to this display and while shooting in the day with it, did not find it too dark. LCOS stands for Liquid Crystal On Silicon display. It has some advantages for near eye viewing, but due to it's polarization design, it can introduce some odd distracting colour behaviours when blinking or viewing on an odd angle. However the resolution is sharp and bright. I found that it didn't take long to get use to this display. There's also an integrated eye sensor on it so it will automatically flip from the LCD to the finder.
My own custom black and white workflow (http://www.frontallobbings.com/2013/08/black-and-white-images-that-pop.html) also loves the Leica Q files. Despite only having 13 stops of dynamic range, I did not find that this was at all limiting. Because the signal to noise ratio is so good on this camera, I was very comfortable editing the images as if they were 16+ stop black and white film.
|Film like black and white is easily achieved with this camera.|
Reviewing image in the camera are also very slow. It's almost like Leica's engineers forgot to embed a thumbnail preview into the DNG files. It was painfully slow and requires rendering each image to view it. Not a huge deal breaker for me but lets hope that this is just a pre-production glitch.
|Very pleasing blues from this sensor, unlike Sony sensors that tend to fluoresce with editing.|
I can only compare this to the Sigma DP Quattro for this kind of clarity and detail. Although I didn't photograph too many textures where moire might rear it's ugly head, I am truly impressed with the bayer mosaic sensor image quality that comes off of the Leica Q.
I also would make some comparisons to the X-trans sensors found on Fuji cameras. Aside from strong image quality, it has a similar user experience I get from the Fuji X-Pro1 rangefinder-esque cameras.
When these images are converted to black and white, you really get to appreciate how amazing this interpolated sensor really is. Both the Sigma and The Fuji X-trans, which are very nice for black and white work, are really outdone now with this camera.
|100% crop, click to view full size.|
One interesting feature in this camera is the ability to select the crop mode and bring up a very bright rangefinder like frame line to compose as if it was 35mm or 50mm. Basically it's a digital zoom that crops down the images from the 24MP down to 10MP for 50mm and 15MP for 35mm crop. This does not affect the full 24MP DNG files if you change your mind. It's handy to use when composing and should you change your mind, Adobe Lightroom allows you to go back to the crop mode and resize the crop appropriately. Most will find this feature novel but it did kind of made this camera feel like I'm using a tri-elmar lens which does increase the versatility of this limited focal length. 10MP is also higher resolution than most 35mm films. Optimal professional scanning will only yield anywhere from 6-10MP for most traditional films.
|10MP crop in 50mm simulation mode. Plenty of detail the still rivals traditional film resolutions.|
The Leica Q, for some, will certainly be great value!