Hands-on with the Leica Q (Type 116)
Last updated June 10, 2015
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A lot of people didn't believe us... A predictable few had their fun. But a camera that we first told you about back in March with major details following in May... Is now a reality. The Leica Q (Type 116) was announced today on June 10, 2015 at a special event in Munich, Germany. We met with and were given early access to this camera by Leica for full testing and review, and here it is.
The Leica Q is an entirely new camera from Leica Camera. It does not borrow directly from the M, X, T or any other lines other than in principle. You might say rather, that it borrows some of the best ideas from each platform. The body is newly designed, the lens is newly designed and finally, the sensor is also newly designed - just for this camera. Although it bears some resemblance to the D-Lux, there's no real comparison. Many will, of course, also compare it directly to the Sony DSC-RX1 - perhaps rightfully so. But don't be so quick to compare, as the Leica Q beats the Sony in several key areas. For example, the high resolution EVF, the faster Summilux lens, higher still frame rate and higher ISO maximum to name a few - besides the famous Leica build and haptics. Just to keep it interesting, there are some other new things thrown in as well.
The Leica Q (codename "Hemingway") is an interesting name for this new camera... As it fits in between the traditional Leica M - and the Leica T, and even has some Leica S bits thrown in for good measure. Our own theory was that in the alphabet, Q is right there in between M and S/T! Leica assures us that this is not the case however, joking that it could stand for "Quality." We can agree with that - and we'll take you on a tour below as to why we feel that way.
The first section of this review will be an overview of the new camera, from the body to the EVF, lens, sensor and more. Be sure to check out our report on the shooting experience down below for a more personal look and thoughts on actually shooting with this exciting new camera... Enjoy!
Camera Body and Design
The Leica Q is obviously influenced by the Leica M system of cameras. It shares the same aesthetic and overall design. Things are where they should be and what you might be accustomed to. Upon closer examination, it really does bear a striking resemblance to a Leica M camera, starting with the silhouette. There are also some design features that borrow from the Leica T, at least in the sense that there's something new going on here. Unlike the Leica T and some other recent models, the Q was not designed with the help of Audi, rather an in-house Leica design by Finnish designer Vincent Laine.
The body itself is fashioned from magnesium, and the top/bottom plates are aluminum. The latter are anodized in black and the former clad in a surprisingly realistic feeling leatherette. It's soft and grippy, both in texture and material. At launch, the camera will only be available in black. There are no plans currently to offer it in silver, but that may change at a later date. In hand, the body is both lighter and thinner than any digital Leica M camera - it feels more like the film cameras.
Borrowing some of the design approach from the Leica T side of things - rather than add a raised bump out back for your thumb, the Q has an indentation. This gives the body a smoother appearance and really, is just as effective. Another aspect borrowed from the T is a control dial sleekly integrated into the body contours just to the right side of the thumb groove. It serves multiple purposes depending on the mode you're in; it can be used to dial in exposure compensation, zooming in/out during playback or setting electronic shutter speeds for example. It is not configurable as the two dials on the T are.
The rest of the controls on the body are also decidedly very M-like, from their function to their location. Up top for example, the shutter speed dial (offering a range from 1s to 1/2000s in full stops as well as A) which does not provide for a threaded cable release (more on this later). Below the shutter speed dial is the typical Off/S/C selector and the video (movie) button is even in the same spot. The rear of the camera is also very familiar, while the front of the camera is very clean; sporting only an AF Assist light and an understated(!) Leica roundel ("dot").
The only ports are under a hard flap to the right side and include micro-USB and micro-HDMI. Underneath the camera is a standard 1/4-20 tripod thread (centered on the lens) and a locking door to gain access to the battery (same BP-DC12 as used in the V-Lux 4) and SD card. Gone is the throwback to the old days, the removable baseplate! Can't say we'll miss it.
Unfortunately, the camera is not water or weather resistant. That would've been a great feature, especially at this price point. There are multiple holes for the microphones and speaker - but those exist on the Leica M as well and it's weather sealed. The only issue that should arise would be the touchscreen working properly when wet. Not a deal breaker though, as tolerances on Leica cameras are such that they can take at least as much judicious use in wet weather as any other camera, if not more so.
One accessory launching with the camera is a handgrip, which sports a matching leatherette on the grip area and a finger loop, very much like that available for the Leica M... In three sizes; S, M and L. There will also be an "eveready" style case, which has some neat design features; magnetically closed flaps instead of snaps and a cutout opening under the battery (same BP-DC12 as the one used in the V-Lux 4)/SD card access door. The camera comes with a simple black strap, but you'll be pleased to know that unlike the Leica T, the Q uses regular style strap loops on the body - allowing you to use whatever strap you'd prefer. From the brochure:
A quick glance and you'd think you were looking at an M camera. An M camera with a large lens and a missing rangefinder...
EVF and LCD
One of the immediately recognizable departures from the typical Leica M rangefinder is the EVF that the Leica Q is outfitted with. It has a resolution of 1280x960 (3.68MP) which is the highest resolution Leica could get their hands on - and easily bests one of the best EVFs currently on the market; the 2.63MP unit found in many cameras, including the highly praised Fujifilm X-T1 and X-E2. It also clearly exceeds, by far, any other Leica EVF offering to date. We suspect it's the Citizen Finetech Miyota (now Citizen Seimitsu Co., Ltd.) unit, which has similar specs of a 0.4" size at Quad-VGA (1,280×960×RGB) resolution, capable of a 120Hz input to combat lag. The Leica T's EVF, by comparison, offers 2.4MP.
All that resolution is useless unless it's lag-free and clear. We were pleased to see that performance is quite good, even in dark conditions. Naturally there's a slight bit of lag introduced in such conditions typically, but the Leica Q handles it very well indeed. The view is also quite clear and sharp, thanks to all those pixels. The EVF features an eye sensor, which toggles between it and the rear LCD of the camera, and we found it too to be quite snappy. While not quite instantaneous, it's eminently usable. Overall, it competes well against anything else out there.
Some other features of the EVF worth noting are the built-in diopter adjustment (±3 diopters) allowing those with less than perfect vision to dial it in. The EVF protrudes a bit from the rear of the camera, slightly more than an M viewfinder - its oval shape is also surrounded by rubber to prevent marring of eyeglasses, should you shoot with them on. The glass of the EVF is multicoated to prevent glare, as it is flat - which also allows one to wipe it clean easily when out shooting.
Think of the EVF and LCD as essentially one and the same. The eye sensor switches seamlessly between the two (and can be tuned for low or high sensitivity) or you can manually select one or the other. They both display the same image and can be used for shooting, playback and menus. The latter is great if you prefer not to shoot with eyeglasses, as the diopter adjustment of the EVF will (within reason) let you see everything clearly. Surprisingly, there are no settings for tuning the EVF in the menu as far as brightness, contrast or saturation (the LCD can however be set to one of five brightness levels).
Speaking of the LCD, it is a 3" TFT display with approx. 1,040,000 pixels in a 4:3 aspect ratio. While this is fairly standard fare these days, keep in mind that the Leica M by comparison, has only 920,000 pixels. But the particularly interesting news here is that like the Leica T, it supports touch control - more on this below! The expected controls line the left side of the LCD, with one that stands out; Fn or "function." It can be selected in the menu to let you set white balance, exposure compensation, scene mode, file format, exposure metering mode, WLAN (WiFi) or the self timer. There's obviously no LV ("Live View") button as on the M as there is no other possibility other than a live view.
To the right of the LCD is a single, rather diminutive directional pad with central ("set") button. When shooting, it allows you to change the focus point (when in 1 Point mode) or change the display options... You can select two different sets of information (sort of a "high" or "low" amount) or just the image itself to be displayed, which applies to both the EVF and LCD. You can also enable "Rule of Thirds" grid lines and/or a level - which shows primarily horizontal but also vertical. Furthermore you can also optionally display clipping and/or a histogram. Fairly standard options, but nicely implemented, easily readable and adjustable to your preferences.
Summilux 28mm f/1.7 Lens
The Leica Q is a fixed-lens camera. This allows it to be as small as possible and as a side effect, eliminates worries about dust on the sensor. In what might be seen as a bit of a controversial move by Leica, the lens on the Q is a custom Leica-designed Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH model. Why 28mm, you might ask. We wondered about that too - and did ask. They entertained the notion of a 35mm but couldn't bring the size of it down as much as they wanted to - a 28mm worked out to be smaller. The wide focal length also covers many situations, from reportage to street to landscape. Something that they felt was important. The lens is composed of 11 elements (3 aspherical) in 9 groups.
If you're thinking that 28mm might be too wide or a fixed focal length too restricting... Fear not. In another nod to its Leica M roots, there is a digital zoom implemented, which brings up 35mm and 50mm framelines. This is accomplished via a Zoom/Lock button (configurable in the menu) on the rear of the camera, located just left of the thumb groove. Rather than digitally "zoom" by magnifying the image up to 24MP (which would compromise the image) the Leica Q will crop the image down. The penalty of course, is that full resolution is only available at the native 28mm field of view. Selecting 35mm gives you a maximum of 15MP and 50mm a maximum of 8MP. All three (24/15/8MP) can be dialed down to 12/8/4MP, 6/4/2MP and 1.7/1.1/.5MP as well... Which only applies to resulting JPEG images. The native DNG file retains the full 28mm FoV and 24MP resolution where you can do your manipulations to it in post, offering you more control over the process. There is no DNG-only mode unfortunately. It would be nice if it were an option, even if it meant zooming would be disabled or JPEGs are output only when zoomed.
Unlike either the Leica M or especially the T, this lens features optical image stabilization in both still and video modes. It of course can be disabled, should you need maximum image quality in certain situations via the menu. It's good for about 2.5 stops.
The lens should feel very familiar to the typical M shooter, with some interesting exceptions. Starting at the front of the lens is the aperture dial. It goes from f/1.7 to f/16 in 1/3 stop increments. Should you opt not to select your own aperture, you can turn the ring to the "A" (auto) position, located just before wide open at f/1.7. Since the lens is fixed and electronically linked to the camera, you'll see the selected aperture in the EVF or on the LCD when shooting.
Moving further back is the focus ring - which features a focus tab! We applaud Leica for including one on the lens, as we really appreciate them on our M lenses. Many of those familiar with Leica know of the old school "infinity lock." The Leica Q borrows this anachronism to enter auto focus (AF) mode. It is unlocked by pressing a small release, located on the focus tab. Focusing and switching into or out of AF mode couldn't be easier. The normal focus range extends from 30cm to ∞ (infinity).
Another unique feature of the lens is a built-in macro mode. It is activated by turning the last dial, located closest to the camera at the rear of the lens. As you do so, the distance scales just above this ring slide up and away to reveal a new scale! This is very slick. When active, you can focus down to 17cm - which combined with a 28mm focal length, gives a respectably high magnification.
The lens itself, overall, feels very solid and robust. It is constructed entirely of aluminum and is black anodized. The knurling on the rings is both pronounced and deep, running the full circumference of the rings with the exception of the macro mode dial, which is only knurled on the sides. All actions are nicely damped and aperture detents crisp. One thing Leica really excels at are lenses, and this one is no exception.
Finally, the lens features a trim ring out front to give the smallest, cleanest profile. The camera comes supplied with a custom metal lens hood, which can be screwed onto the lens by first removing the trim ring. It stops at the end of the threads and is perfectly aligned. A neat, modern design - it goes from round to rectangular in a space of about 1.5cm. There is one lens cap provided, which neatly works either with or without the hood and is of a push-on type. Fear not however, as it's tight-fitting and would be quite hard to lose.
Be sure to check out the Sample Photos section to see results from this lens, including 100% crops.
Auto Focus and Modes
As if auto focus isn't jarring enough, looking at the Q from the perspective of an M shooter, there are some interesting modes available that borrow from the T. The performance is snappy, even in dark conditions - thanks to the bright lens and MAESTRO II image processor, and is a contrast-based system. We didn't have to struggle with auto focus at all - the modes just worked; though we tended to prefer the ultimate control of using a single focus point. The available auto focus modes are:
- Multi Point
- 1 Point
- Face Detection
- Touch AF
- Touch AF + Release
The Multi Point and 1 Point (single) modes are fairly straightforward... Multi Point will appeal to those seeking a fairly point and shoot experience - whereas the 1 Point mode will let you be very precise, able to choose any point of a 13x13 grid, for a total of 169 focus points! You can select using the directional pad on the rear of the camera directly, which is very intuitive. Tracking mode will follow your subject, such as a child playing or a dog running, while Face Detection does just that; it detects (human) faces in the scene and will focus on them. What's neat is that you see auto focus points surrounding detected subjects and faces in realtime when framing.
The two modes that really stand out are the Touch AF and Touch AF + Release modes. Two things to note; one, they're inspired by the T obviously and secondly, the LCD on the rear of the Q is touch sensitive! They do exactly what you might imagine. When framing your shot on the rear LCD, you can point at your subject and the camera will focus there. You'll need to use the shutter release to actually take the picture. The second mode does both in one action - frame, select your subject by pointing at it and the camera grabs the shot once focused.
While you can pinch and zoom during playback, at least at this time - other touch controls are not enabled. That is, you can't make menu selections or some of the other gestures as you can with the Leica T. If you look closely at the images of the LCD above, you'll note a rather course grid pattern. This should be plenty of resolution however, and perhaps at some point a firmware update will enable additional touch functions.
New 24MP Custom Sensor
The sensor at the heart of the Leica Q is indeed very similar to the Leica M/M-P (Type 240) in that it is a full-color, 24MP unit... As it turns out, the similarity ends there. The Q sports 26.3/24.2M (total/effective) megapixels for a net DNG resolution of 6000x4000px - a few pixels larger in the X and Y dimensions over the Leica M/M-P. We suspect the pixel pitch is also 6 µm. A new sensor needed to be designed for the Q because of the need for a faster readout of the data. The reasons for this are several - to support auto focus, a steady live view and the high resolution EVF. There's also a greater demand for timely data due to higher video and still frame rates over the M. The Leica Q is capable of capturing HD video, not only 720p 30fps but also 1080p 30/60fps! These represent marked improvement over the M's paltry 720p 25/24fps and 1080p 25/24fps capabilities. VGA (640x480) video is no longer supported, however. This same boost in speed allows the Leica Q to shoot at a whopping 10fps in still capture mode.
Helping speed things along with still and video processing is a component borrowed from the Leica S. The MAESTRO II image processor. The MAESTRO I contained in the Leica M just wouldn't cut it. It is described thusly:
Leica MAESTRO II has been built upon the latest technology from Fujitsu’s Milbeaut series. It features improved image processing algorithms and faster CPUs. The combined faster operation of both software and hardware enables superior image processing performance and low-power consumption.
The ISO capabilities of the sensor are also markedly higher than the Leica M, and extends from a base ISO of 100 up to 50,000 ISO. That's a three-stop improvement over the latter's limit of 6,400 ISO. With its Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH lens, the Leica Q is a very capable low light performer.
In our early intel on the Q we were told the sensor was based on the M/M-P. While Leica won't say who made the sensor, it is suggested that neither CMOSIS (maker of the sensor in the M/M-P) or Sony did. In any event, it's tuned closely to the Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH lens. So we have to wonder if that won't affect the possibility of seeing other focal length versions of the Q (a la X cameras) or an interchangeable lens version (basically an M camera; but we have different information about that).
Leica has traditionally been of a minimalist approach with the cameras - and as a result, the camera menus tended to be sparse. The Leica M/M-P (Type 240) expanded them over the older M9-class generation, and the Leica T (Type 701) added its own set of unique options to the menus. Combine the two, more or less, and you have the Leica Q. We won't explain every option or sub-menu here, rather we'll just show you each screen's worth below:
As with anything, you'll quickly get used to the menu and where things are located. Thankfully, as mentioned earlier - about a half dozen of the most common settings (white balance, exposure compensation, scene mode, file format, exposure metering mode, WLAN (WiFi) or the self timer) can be assigned to the Fn (function) button - or have a dedicated button (e.g. ISO and Zoom).
Ports and Connectivity
As mentioned earlier, the only physical ports on the camera are located under a hard flap to the right side of the camera (when viewed from the rear) and include micro-USB and micro-HDMI. The real functionality is wireless... As perhaps the most connected Leica camera to date, the Leica Q has both WLAN (WiFi) and NFC built in. These allow not only image transfer, but full remote control via the all-new Leica Q App.
The app is available at launch for both the iOS and Android platforms through their respective online vendor stores - Apple App Store and Google Play. Unfortunately, we only had a chance to quickly preview the app in use and not actually use it during the review. Suffice to say, the full remote control is as-billed... You can see what the camera sees, adjust aperture, shutter speed, etc. and even tap on the screen to focus (and optionally release). The images (JPEG only) are backed up to the mobile device.
This is why there's no shutter release cable port... Unlike certain Leica M models (e.g. M9 Ti or M60) the Q doesn't require using the self timer as an ersatz release. You can still use that trick if you wish - or just in case you left your cell phone at home!
Pairing of the camera and mobile device(s) is simple and straightforward; choose a SSID and password and select "Remote Control" or "Backup" connection options. Either brings up a QR code that the Leica Q App will scan - and automatically pair from there.
Q & M Comparison
Let's take a quick look at how the Leica Q physically compares to a Leica M9. To make it a fair fight, we opted to mount the Summicron-M 28mm f/2 ASPH lens on the latter and removed the lens hoods from both lenses. As you probably are aware, the hood on the Summicron is a beast (though it works fantastically because of it). On the Leica Q, the trim ring was installed in place of the hood to keep things neat. Disregard the Harry Benz camera strap, Walter Leica Eyepiece and the Match Technical Thumbs Up and Soft Release on the M9 - that's just how we roll.
Overall, both cameras have very similar dimensions - but for rather different reasons! Most obvious is how thin the Leica Q body is but how large the lens is. The reverse is true for the Leica M9 as the body is fairly thick (much to the chagrin of many) while the lens is tiny. In the end, the overall dimensions work out to be a wash.
From the front, the differences are less clear... Both cameras have essentially the same height and width. Only the lenses particularly stand out. The Summilux is faster and has both macro and auto focus capabilities over the Summicron, so a lot of the size difference is because of that. All things considered, the size seems to be pretty much in line with what you'd expect, then.
What's not so obvious from the comparison images are the weights of the two cameras. All the brass bolted to the M9 in the form of the Eyepiece, Thumbs Up and both the top and baseplates of the camera itself really does add up! The difference would be even larger with a silver Summicron fitted, which uses brass rather than aluminum for the barrels. No, the Leica Q is far lighter in comparison because of the choice of aluminum for the top and baseplates as well as the lens barrels and magnesium for the body shell. Furthermore, the much thinner body of the Leica Q just makes the camera feel more nimble in hand.
While out and about with the Q, it was a joy to carry. You barely feel it over your shoulder, and it's easy to handle all day long. Thankfully there's no plastic involved, so it never feels cheap or fragile - rather solid and tight. The controls are also typical of Leica, though that can be said of both cameras with one exception; the d-pad on the back. Whereas the M9 feels a bit... Weird... That of the Leica Q has distinct, tactile and not a "hollow sounding" action.
Just for the sake of the inevitable comparison, here is the Sony DSC-RX1 compared to the Leica M9 via the Camera Size site (since we don't own an RX1). As you can see, the Leica Q, being as large overall as a comparable M camera - will be larger than the RX1 one way or another:
We have to admit, we're rather smitten with the Leica Q. It's compact and handy, has both the aesthetics and intuitiveness of an M camera and adds (essential) modern features like auto focus and an EVF. The latter wouldn't be worthwhile if they didn't perform, and we're pleased to say that they do - and rather well at that. The feel in hand and build quality, it goes without saying, is true to Leica. The camera is sublime; it's all metal and the controls are crisp and precise. It's nimble to shoot with the new function and zoom buttons available.
So what's it like being restricted to a 28mm fixed lens? The Summicron-M 28mm f/2 ASPH lens is one of our favorite M lenses, so it was a fairly easy adjustment in that regard. Of course, it really comes down to how and what you like to shoot. Obviously you have to get closer than you might be accustomed to if you're a 35mm or 50mm shooter normally. This is where we struggled a little. One thing you need to wrap your mind around is the way the Leica Q "zooms" images to 35mm and 50mm. Technically, it crops down rather than magnifying up - and therefore, just like cropping a DNG during post-processing, you'll be losing resolution (35mm/15MP and 50mm/8MP max). This is preferable as high image quality is retained, or left to you to control. Granted, 15MP for a 35mm FoV is still quite excellent and you could go about shooting this mode all day long. We'd have to think twice about using 50mm though. When you pull up the Q's DNG files in ACR, the 35/50mm crops will be resident, making it easy to adjust after the fact. Nevertheless, a 35mm lens might've been a better idea - even if it meant being a little larger.
So how does the lens actually perform? We have to say, the performance of the Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH lens is very, very good. From the closest focus distance of 17cm in macro mode to landscape-encompassing wide shots, details are sharp and crisp, and from wide open. Using all of the available 24MP, you can easily and clearly discern hairs on plants, bugs, animals and people at close to medium range. Stepping back, you can make out intricate details of flowers and assorted foliage, even at 100% magnification on-screen. We detected no vignetting, even on untouched DNG files shot wide open. Distortion was likewise absent, aside from the expected sort of shooting a 28mm at close range - which of course is not corrected. This makes certain photography at closer ranges a bit problematic. Finally, despite being a 28mm lens, the fast speed of f/1.7 makes for easily obtained and very pleasant bokeh. We couldn't fit in a technical evaluation, but going by the eyeball meter, this is one impressive lens and should not disappoint even the pixel peepers.
The default, and our favorite Scene Mode (if you want to call it that) is "PASM." It stands for the ubiquitous Program, Aperture [priority], Shutter [priority] and Manual. There's an "A" (Auto) on the lens' aperture ring and the camera's shutter speed dial. When both are set to A you're in Program mode. Activate only one on each, and you'll have Shutter and Aperture priority, respectively. Finally, take both off of A and you're in full Manual mode. As simple as can be, intuitive and our favorite way of operating a camera. There's simply no need for PASM dials on cameras.
Just a quick observation, speaking of dials... We're not sure why Leica chose to make the d-pad so small. It really is tiny. However, it was easy to use and the feedback from clicks were reassuring. So unless you have unusually large fingers, it probably shouldn't be much of an issue.
How about high-ISO shooting in dark conditions? As mentioned earlier, the EVF/LCD is snappy - but does bog down slightly when things get dark (every current camera does). Even at its "worst" it's leaps and bounds better than anything else Leica has on offer currently. In an extreme test, we tried the camera in a pitch dark room. The EVF/LCD wouldn't display anything, but a half press of the shutter release activated the AF assist light (which can be enabled/disabled) and the camera was able to lock on. With Auto ISO enabled, the camera handily captured the shot at 1/4s @ f/1.7 and ISO 12,500 (our configured max). The optical image stabilization helped ensure the shot was steady. Auto focus in general, using the various modes, works as advertised. We were able to get fast, predictable locks and each mode worked as billed. The ability to engage and disengage AF using the little button integrated into the lens' focus tab is brilliant, and we applaud Leica's inclusion of one... Something we've come to rely on.
Manual focus is just as slick. After disengaging AF mode you can use the aforementioned focus tab just like on any M camera. You can optionally enable a magnification mode that activates (automatically) as soon as you turn the focus ring and furthermore, optionally enable focus peaking in one of four different colors. Scale and zone focusing methods are just as easy.
One thing that's not obvious from just looking at the camera - specifically the shutter speed dial - is that it has both a mechanical and an electronic shutter. While the dial maxes out at 1/2000s on the mechanical shutter - the camera goes up to 1/16,000s, albeit electronically. The shutter attains these speeds automatically in full auto and aperture priority modes and can be set manually in manual and shutter priority modes (by turning the thumb wheel). This is why, if you look closely, the shutter speed dial actually says "2000-" on it. This goes a long way towards reducing the need for an ND (Neutral Density) filter when shooting at or near wide open in daylight. We didn't have any issue with shooting wide open on an overcast day in aperture priority mode... There was no blinking 1/2000s in the viewfinder, taunting us. Though we do wonder what the net shutter speed works out to be; for example, on certain Fujifilm cameras (such as the X-T1 or X-E2) the net speed works out to be about 1/15s. Any motion that cannot be captured in that timeframe will show a rolling shutter effect and the Q is no exception, with no way to disable it (bad for auto modes). One more thing worth pointing out is that while the shutter speed dial is in full stops, you can use the thumb wheel to adjust in 1/3 stops. Max flash sync speed is an impressive 1/500s.
The photos have a great feel to them... That "Leica mojo" if you will. The details are crisp and the colors pop. Auto white balance, by and large, is quite good. The files, as we've become accustomed to, are quite malleable - featuring a 13 stop dynamic range. If you're into that sort of thing, the Scene Modes give you a lot of options for out-of-camera JPEG snapshooting; sport, portrait, landscape, night portrait, snow/beach, candlelight, sunset, digiscoping, miniature effect, panorama and time lapse. The time lapse mode is particularly useful. Panorama works as advertised; it rapid fires shots and stitches them together (but looks like you're shooting video while framing). We ended up with a large 38MB JPEG on one test.
Unlike an issue with the recent Leica M Monochrome (Type 246) camera's files - at least as far as Apple's Photos and Aperture applications - the DNG files are compatible out of the box with all your favorite software. No waiting on Adobe to update ACR (Adobe Camera RAW) for either Photoshop or Lightroom. As far as the latter, the Leica Q comes with a free copy of Lightroom 6, which is downloadable after registration in the Leica Owner's Area.
It's hard to find fault with the Leica Q; it is what it is. A fixed focal length M camera, you might say. Okay, so it doesn't have an optical rangefinder. We get that. For dyed-in-the-wool M shooters, this camera isn't for you. But if you're comfortable with mirrorless cameras, you'll feel right at home with this one. The implementation of EVF and LCD with eye sensor control was done well by Leica; it works. The high resolution and low lag of the former puts on a good show and is very usable - unlike the EVFs offered for the Leica M and T models. We hate to say it, but those are an abomination... An expensive, ill-performing, bulky add-on. No, Leica got it right with the Q. In fact, the Q seems much more fully-baked overall than the Leica T when it was released... Which took several firmware iterations afterwards to work out the quirks.
Overall, and to make a long story short - we were very impressed with the Leica Q (Type 116). Its cross-bred Leica M/T inspiration, snazzy lens and snappy performance set it apart from Leica's other offerings and should prove to be quite popular. In fact, depending on its reception, it may portend future directions of the Leica M system as a result. As we indicated at the beginning of May, the future of the Leica M may borrow from the Leica Q in several ways. Most notably, the decision to put the Leica M camera on a diet. One way this might be accomplished would be eschewing the use of a traditional optical rangefinder in favor of an EVF. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
The Leica Q is an interesting camera. Combining the design aesthetic of both the M and the T and even borrowing technology from the S allows it to break new ground in a compelling fashion. Its price of $4,250 USD (4,000€) surely won't win over the cost conscious shooters out there, but those seeking Leica design, build and image quality can find a lot to like here. It does away with some traditional Leica M features in favor of new technology, and unlike the T which we felt fell a bit short in several key ways, the Q pulled together all the right ingredients successfully. Form factor, overall quality of the design, build and image - combined with new technologies of a high enough spec to pull it off.
Could the Q replace our M cameras? We don't think so, for a couple of reasons. You'll surely have your own reasons. But it would make a fine addition to the tool set, offer an attractive alternative to those considering the M and not yet invested in the system - or perhaps the younger generation not interested in Ye Olden Ways, favoring a mirrorless camera. The Q is very usable indeed for both camps and we predict it will be a hot seller (in Leica terms). If the Sony DSC-RX1 was any indication, there's definitely a market for a camera of this spec and Leica's take on it is solid.
Final verdict: If you can get on with a 28mm lens for your intended subject matter, or don't mind the resolution hit when "zooming" - the Q is a solid performer with good ergonomics that should be familiar to Leica shooters. While it seems pricey, compare it not to the competition so much as an alternative of buying an M camera and either Summilux-M 28mm f/1.4 ASPH or Summicron-M 28mm f/2 ASPH lenses... Throw in modern features like an EVF, AF and OIS and you come out even farther ahead.
It will be available in many Leica stores tomorrow.
Unfortunately, we didn't have too much time to spend with the Leica Q so we just shot what we could, when we could - snapshot style. So we apologize for having neither art nor technical material here. With two exceptions, they are all post-processed DNG files; nothing radical. Just your basic straightening here, highlight adjustment there. Typical processing as you might do to your own files. What you see represents what you can expect from the Leica Q as if you were shooting it yourself while out and about.
If you'd like to have a play, here are four DNG files (162MB, ZIP) from the Leica Q. The first represents a medium range landscape shot, stopped down to f/8. The second is a macro shot at close range and stopped down to f/4. The third a close range shot, wide open at f/1.7 and finally, a close to mid range shot at f/8. Not the sharpness across the frame, the details wide open even at f/1.7 or at macro distance and the bokeh. The shots included are L1000050, L1000051, L1000077 and L1000101 which can be seen below.
Before we get into the regular, full-frame images - let's take a quick look at two 100% crops from post-processed DNG files. These two were selected at random just to show you what this lens is capable of. The first was taken in macro mode at minimum focusing distance - the second at a more moderate range of about 10' or so. While the images were mildly post-processed, there was no sharpening done... Needless to say, even with a mild USM (UnSharp Mask) pass, they really pop.
Here are the full specifications of the Leica Q (Type 116) as provided by Leica:
|Camera type||Leica Q (Type 116), digital small picture compact camera|
|Picture format/aspect ratio||24 x 36mm/2:3|
|Lens||Leica Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH, 11 lenses in 9 groups, 3 aspherical lenses|
|Digital frame selector (digital zoom)||Selectable approx. 1.25x (corresponding to 35mm) or approx. 1.8x (corresponding to 50mm)|
|Image stabilization||Optical compensation system for photo and video recordings|
|Aperture range||f/1.7 to f/16 in 1⁄3EV increments|
|Picture sensor/resolution||CMOS sensor, 26.3/24.2 million pixels (total/effective)|
|Dynamic range||13 aperture stops|
|Color depth||14 Bit|
|Photo capture format||Selectable: DNG + JPEG, JPEG|
|DNG/JPEG resolution||24MP (6000x4000px), 12MP (4272x2848px), 6MP (2976x1984px), 1.7MP (1600x1080px)|
|Video recording format||MP4|
|Video resolution/frame rate||Selectable: 1080p with 60fps or 30fps / 720p with 30fps|
|Sound recording format||AAC|
|ISO range||Automatic, ISO 100 to ISO 50,000|
|White balance||Automatic, default settings for: daylight, cloudy, halogen lighting, shadow, electronic flash, two manual settings with measuring, manual color temperature setting|
|Color space||Selectable for photos: sRGB, Adobe® RGB, ECI RGB|
|Focus/saturation/contrast||Each selectable in 5 steps, for saturation also in B/W|
|Focusing working range||30cm to ∞, with macro setting from 17cm|
|Focus modes||Auto focus or manual focus, optional magnification and focus peaking available for manual focus|
|Auto focus system||Contrast-based auto focus system|
|Auto focus modes||Shutter release only after successful focus lock or at any time, AF setting can be saved|
|Auto focus metering methods||1-field (adjustable), multi-field, face recognition, subject tracking, optional setting/shutter release by touching the monitor|
|Exposure modes||Automatic program, aperture priority, shutter speed priority, and manual|
|Scene modes||Fully automatic, sport, portrait, landscape, night portrait, snow/beach, candlelight, sunset, digiscoping, miniature effect, panorama, time lapse|
|Exposure metering methods||Multi-field, center weighted and spot|
|Exposure compensation||±3EV in 1⁄3EV increments|
|Automatic bracketing||Three pictures in graduations of up to 3 EV, can be set in 1⁄3EV increments|
|Shutter type||Mechanical and electronic|
|Shutter speeds||30s to 1⁄2000s with mechanical shutter, 1⁄2500s to 1⁄16000s with electronic shutter, in 1⁄3 increments, flash sync up to 1⁄500s|
|Continuous shooting||Optional 10/5/3 fps (H/M/L)|
|Self-timer||Delay time either 2s or 12s|
|Viewfinder||Electronic LCOS display, 1280x960 RGB (3.68MP), aspect ratio: 4:3, adjustable ±3 diopter, with eye sensor|
|LCD||3" TFT LCD monitor with approx. 1,040,000 pixels, touch control possible|
|WLAN (WiFi)||Satisfies IEEE 802.11b/g/n standard (standard WLAN protocol), channel 1-11, encryption method: WLAN-compatible WPATM / WPA2TM, access method: infrastructure mode|
|NFC||According to JIS X 6319-4 standard / 13.56MHz|
|Connections||Micro USB socket (2.0), HDMI socket|
|Power supply||Leica BP-DC12, lithium ion battery, rated voltage 7.2V (7.2V D.C.), capacity 1200mAh|
|Charger||Leica BC-DC12, input: 100–240 V AC, 50/60Hz, automatic switching, output: 8.4V DC; 0.65A|
|Body||Leica design of extremely light magnesium and aluminum, carrying strap eyelets, hotshoe|
|Lens filter thread||E49|
|Tripod thread||A 1⁄4 DIN 4503 (1⁄4-20)|
|Dimensions||Approx. 130 x 80 x 93mm (WxHxD)|
|Weight||Approx. 590/640g (without/with battery)|
|Scope of delivery||Camera, carrying strap, lens hood, lens cap, accessory shoe cover, battery (Leica BP-DC12), charger (Leica BC-DC12), power cable (EU, US, local power cable), USB cable|
|Software||Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® (free download after registration), Leica Q App for iOS/Android (remote control and picture transfer via Apple® App Store®/Google® Play Store®)|