Leica Q: Hands on review - Is the Q for you? / by nicole struppert

When I first tested the Leica Q a few weeks ago at my Leica dealer in Munich, it was love at first sight.  The Q felt just right in my hand, the specs were promising and I loved the idea that the Q is a mixture of the X and M cameras. 

A few weeks later I bought the Q and was ready to shoot in London to work on my project Tales on Shoreditch.

With this hands on review I don’t want to get too much into the specs. We all know they are brilliant and promising. I highly recommend the review of the Leica Q from Torsten Overgaard. It helped me a lot to find my workflow with the Q.

After shooting with the Q for almost 4 weeks I am sharing my first impressions on the camera.

The 28mm lens  

The 28 mm Summilux ASPH lens is fantastic, fast, sharp to the edges with beautiful color rendering! The image quality is superb! I would say that the Image quality comes close to the M240 files. 

Leica is selling the Q as a perfect camera for architecture, landscape and street photography. I totally agree - even so that for street photography you have to be clear that you need to get very close to your subject. 

This can be a real burner for some street photographers who are afraid getting too close to the subject. I think with a bit of training you will feel well - especially when you are coming from 35mm. The Q is nearly soundless. Shooting from the hip is no problem, but I found the camera a bit too bulky for close up shots. I like to be invisible when I document life around me. I always try to get the most intimate moment of the subject - holding up the Q 1 meter just in front of a face of a subject is not very invisible. 

I also used the Q for portraits… same here - to get a real nice close up - you need to get very close and most people don’t feel comfortable with it.

The Q comes with a Zoom mode where you can shoot in 35mm and 50mm. The 35mm and 50mm image will be just cropped jpeg. The Original DNG will always be in 28mm. When you are uploading the files into Lightroom you will see the cropped image of the DNG & jpeg. If you want to reframe the DNG, you just need to go into the cropping tool, where you can see the original 28mm file.

DNG or jpeg?  

I really like the outcome of the DNG files of the Q - even so they look a bit too clinical. The processing is easy and u need just little tweaks and turns to get a great result. The Q just shoots jpeg or DNG & jpeg. I never understood why Leica is not offering just shooting in the DNG mode. The jpegs are so so - and so you are forced to shoot DNG & jpeg. I set the jpegs into the Monochrom mode - to compare the color image to a Black & White version. The B&W rendering is great - not much processing needed. 

The Leica Q is a 24 Megapixel camera. You have to be clear that you’ll need a lot of space of your hard drive - especially when you are shooting DNG & jpeg. The DNG file size per image is around 43MB and the jpeg around 10 MB. My MacBookPro is not the newest version anymore and so I had some difficulties uploading the files to my computer. It took ages - but I finally found out that Lightroom 6 and Lightroom 5 site by site were the problem.   

Finally I decided to erase the jpegs and give my hard drive more space. Now I decide from photo to photo if want a Black & White version. 

AF/MF  

The AF is actually fast and precise. In the beginning I had some problems to find the right set up and so I got some blurred shots, which came out very artistic. Shooting with the continuous AF is an issue. Yesterday I tried to take pictures with the continuous AF of our dog running around… Most of the shots were out of focus. But to be honest - the Q is not made for sport photography. 

Manual focusing is a joy. There are a few settings I would recommend. Leica offers a function where the display enlarges the middle section of the image to show more details of your subject. There are 2 modes - 3 times and 6 times zoom mode. I used to focus with it, but it is not possible to focus and compose the image at the same time. That is why I changed my settings just to focus peaking. Now I focus and compose at the same time.

Macro Mode  

I use the Macro Mode just from time to time - so I am not experienced in shooting Macro. All I can say is that twisting the focus ring into MacroMode is pretty sexy. It was a brilliant idea of Leica. The images look fantastic and the bokeh is just bokelicious. I just noticed that the Macro Mode starts at aperture 2.8. But I heard that this is normal.

The big Question - is the Q the new M?

Well - no… That has especially something to do that the M is an Rangefinder and the Q is more like a point and shoot camera. Both cameras have their advantages but they are different in their usage. 

Is the Q the right camera for you?

I would recommend the Q always if you like to shoot with AF. Using the camera for architecture and landscape is a joy - for street photography you have to be clear that you have to go very close to your subject.  The price of 4000€ is not cheap. Be sure that you want to invest such an amount of money in a point and shoot camera with a fixed lens. But with the Q you’ll get a camera with superb build and image quality and a super fast AF. 

I for myself prefer using the M camera. When I was in London, Leica UK supported me with a M240 and a 35mm Summilux lens for my project Tales on Shoreditch. Equipped with the beautiful combo of the M and Q I have to admit that the Q stayed most of the time in my bag. The M feels just right for me and gives me more fun shooting with it.

My advice is always that you should choose a camera which feels right for you and your needs - and also for your budget. The best camera is the one you love to shoot with - this can be an iphone, point and shoot, Rangefinder, DSLR fromm any brand. 

If you are keen to have the extra Leica feeling but not sure about getting the Q or might think of selling the M for a Q I recommend going to your Leica dealer and test the camera first. Dont hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions about the Q. I would be pleased to help.