Leica Q2 Camera Review: From Hesitation to Appreciation

Leica Q2 Camera Review: From Hesitation to Appreciation

Camera Review

Leica Q2 Camera Review: From Hesitation to Appreciation

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Leica Q2 Camera
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Leica Q2 Camera

Leica Q2 Camera

The Leica Q2 review was never originally in my plans. In fact, I’d convinced myself that I wouldn’t purchase this camera unless they introduced a 35mm variant as opposed to the existing 28mm. If you’ve read my post on the 28mm Summicron, you’d understand my hesitance to use the 28mm frequently. However, in my quest for creativity, I ventured to experiment with a variety of options, including the 24mm, 28mm Summilux, Widelux, and Pentax 67II. Now, I believe I may have been mistaken, and I’ll explain why.

As we journey through different life stages, our preferences evolve based on our experiences, the people we meet, and how our priorities shift. For instance, in college, we might have lusted after flashy JDM sports cars, then as working professionals, we may lean towards luxurious coupes. Once starting a family, especially with kids, a practical 7-seater might become appealing, a common trend in Hong Kong.

I’ve noticed amongst my friends, especially those with children, a commonality of owning a Leica Q, Q2, or Q3. Sometimes, all I desire is to relish a quiet moment with a loved one, to take a leisurely walk with a trusted camera in hand, capturing a few snapshots of our daily life. Using a film camera or a Leica M often fuels my hunt for the next photo opportunity, which can be both a blessing and a curse.

Despite being a devoted Leica M enthusiast, I must admit, this camera is impressive! This statement doesn’t stem from any sponsorship by Leica – though I do wish they’d let me test the Leica Q3. Who knows, I might end up adding one to my collection!

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Fire Dragon Dance, Hong Kong

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Leica Q2 Spec

The Leica Q2, although superseded by the Q3 in 2023, remains a highly capable camera. This full-frame, fixed-lens camera boasts a 47.3MP sensor and a sharp, stabilized 28mm F1.7 Summilux lens. It carries the traditional aesthetic of a Leica M rangefinder, and it succeeded the incredibly popular original Leica Q (Typ 116) introduced in 2015.

While the Q2 retains a similar exterior to its predecessor, it has seen substantial upgrades internally. Notable enhancements include an IP52 rated dust and water resistance, extended battery life, a faster processor, and a significantly improved 3.68MP OLED electronic viewfinder. The pixel count has nearly doubled, elevating its image quality potential.

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Leica Q2 Camera
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Leica Q2 Camera

Key features of the Leica Q2 include a native ISO range from 50 to 50,000, 4K video capture, a leaf shutter up to 1/2000 sec and an electronic shutter up to 1/40,000 sec. Its magnesium-alloy body houses a 3″ fixed touchscreen LCD with 1.04 million dots and it features fast autofocus along with a smoothly damped manual focus ring. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities are integrated, enhancing its connectivity options.

While the Leica Q3, the latest iteration, offers a new 60-megapixel sensor among other upgrades, the Q2 still holds its ground as a reliable and advanced camera, retaining all the features that made it outstanding in its class.

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Normal distance mode
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Macro mode
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Reflx Lab 800
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Reflx Lab 400D
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Reflx Lab 500T (35mm Film)
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Reflx Lab 500T (120)

The Essence of an Ideal Travel Camera

What elements make a camera ideal for travel? Is it autofocus? Wi-Fi connectivity? A fast lens? A full-frame sensor? The Leica Q2 houses most of these features, with the sole exception being the ability to change lenses. However, when it comes to travel, do we really want to be switching lenses? The essence of travel lies in mental relaxation.

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Leica Q2, China
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Color tone on Leica Q2, China

I’ve previously embarked on journeys laden with an array of cameras and gear. For my trip to New Zealand, I carried my Hasselblad Xpan II alongside 45mm and 30mm lenses, and the Plaubel Makina 67. More recently, on my trip to Scotland, I brought the Pentax 67II. Undeniably, these medium format film cameras can deliver exceptional image quality. However, the trade-off lies in sacrificing the flexibility and mobility offered by a single-camera system.

The dream for many is a single camera and lens setup, a topic we frequently discuss. For me, the Leica M10-P already serves as an excellent travel companion, with its only shortcoming being the lack of autofocus. But I understand that these two models occupy different segments in the product lineup.

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Q2, Golf, China
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Q2, Golf, China

To me, a good travel camera is one that allows me to unwind and enjoy the moment. It should be easy to operate and capable of delivering high-quality images. A great example of this was when I took my camera on a trip to Foshan, China, to visit a friend. I carried this camera with me to local food spots and a golf course, capturing an array of spontaneous photos that I fell in love with.

The simplicity of not having to consider additional lenses, decide on the appropriate filter to pair with a lens, or worry about packing the right film was liberating. All I needed to remember was the charger. A 128GB memory card proved more than sufficient for my needs. With these essentials taken care of, I was all set to explore.

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Q2, Golf, China
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Q2, Golf, China

The 28mm versus 35mm Debate

I’ve found myself continually questioning why Leica did not release a 35mm version of the Q, similar to the Fujifilm X100V, which performs excellently. However, a friend presented me with a concept that significantly altered my perspective.

When peering through the viewfinder of a Leica Q2, you’re greeted with a 28mm viewpoint. Yet, when you switch to viewing via the LCD screen to capture a photograph, there’s a perceptible shift in the focal length and perspective. Suddenly, your subject appears closer by a few millimeters, mimicking the feel of a 35mm lens. This revelation was mind-boggling and served to convince me that there might be more to the 28mm lens than I initially appreciated.

While it’s true that the perspectives offered by 28mm and 35mm lenses are inherently different, this experience made me realize that the 28mm view on the Leica Q2 is closer to a 35mm perspective than I had previously thought.

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High speed railway, Hong Kon
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Railway station, China

The Lens - Summilux 28mm f/1.7!

The standard Summilux lens usually has an aperture of around f/1.4, as seen in the Summilux 28mm f/1.4. There’s a common saying that buying a camera like this is essentially receiving the Summilux 28mm as a gift. Why? Well, if you consider the individual price of a Summilux 28mm, it’s quite expensive. However, for a similar cost, you not only get the lens but also a camera body equipped with autofocus and a versatile macro switch mode.

The switch that transitions the focus scale from normal to macro mode is impressively designed, boasting an elegance that left me thoroughly impressed. The lens offers both autofocus and manual focus modes, which is a fantastic feature. The quality of the f/1.7 lens is comparable to my Summilux M 28mm f/1.4, with less vignetting. I suspect this is why they designed it with an f/1.7 aperture, which also facilitates faster focusing.

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Shot @f/1.7, Hong Kong
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Railway station, China

At f/1.7, the depth of field is buttery smooth, creating a pleasing bokeh effect. When you stop down to f/2.8 to f/5.6, the sharpness is exceptional, ideal for those who prefer to crop in post-editing. In my experience, I’ve found that the DNG files from the Q2 are richer than those from the Leica M10-P. With minimal editing, I was able to produce stunning images with a high contrast ratio.

Leica Q2 vs Leica Summilux 28mm f/1.4 asph

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Leica Q2 @f/1.7, 1/250, ISO400
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Leica M10-P @f/1.4, 1/250, ISO400
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Leica M10-P @f/1.8, 1/250, ISO400

Leica Q2 Autofocusing

Coming from a background of manual focusing, I find the autofocusing feature of the Leica Q2 to be a significant advantage. It broadens the range of scenes I can capture and I’ve noticed that the focusing speed is impressively swift, barring a few exceptions in extremely low-light conditions. In return, it changes the way I shoot too which impact my photography style.

The Q2 offers five distinct autofocus modes, each requiring some practice to fully comprehend and apply appropriately. Personally, I often rely on the ‘Spot’ mode, but there are certain situations that necessitate the use of other modes.

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Outside Sogo, Hong Kong

The ‘Multi-Field’ mode allows the camera to decide the focus point, while the ‘Spot’ mode provides a tiny focus point, ideal for precise focus on specific elements like eyes in portrait photography. The ‘Field’ mode offers a medium-sized focus point suitable for general shooting scenarios. ‘Tracking’ mode is designed for moving subjects with its auto-tracking focus feature. Lastly, the ‘Face Detection’ mode proves useful when photographing people, as it keeps faces consistently in focus.

The Q2 quickly acquires focus in single autofocus mode, clocking in at approximately 0.15 seconds. While this isn’t the fastest on the market, it’s sufficient for the majority of situations, and I’ve found it to be nearly 20% faster than its predecessor. This is more of an observation than a quantifiable fact, though. 

When capturing portraits, the face detection mode is invaluable. It maintains focus on the face, freeing you to concentrate fully on the composition and timing of the shot.

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Macro AF focusing
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Macro AF focusing (Minimum focus distance)
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Electronic Viewfinder (EVF)

OIS Mode

A fresh Auto OIS mode activates stabilization only when shooting at 1/60 sec or slower. This mode is likely to help conserve battery life and mitigate any chance of Image Stabilization (IS) compromising the image quality. However, considering the hefty 47.3MP resolution, you might prefer to have the OIS active at somewhat quicker shutter speeds as well, to guarantee utmost sharpness. I don’t frequently use slow shutter speeds, preferring to operate above 1/125 sec, but videographers and those who prefer to maintain lower ISOs will undoubtedly benefit from the enhanced image stabilization.

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Fire Dragon Dance, Hong Kong
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Fire Dragon Dance, Hong Kong

A Comparative Analysis of the Leica Q2, Fujifilm X100V, and Ricoh GRIIIx

Comparing the Leica Q2, Fujifilm X100V, and Ricoh GRIIIx might seem unrealistic, especially as my experience with each model varies. As a user of the Ricoh GR for over 7-8 years, I’m familiar with its feel, although I’ve only briefly tested the Ricoh GRIIIx. I’ve also had a hands-on experience with the Fujifilm X100V, courtesy of my friend Anakin, and previously owned a Fujifilm Xpro2. Based on these experiences, I can offer a brief conclusion and some comments. My analysis is based on three factors: 1) Purpose, 2) Budget, and 3) Picture Quality.

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Cafe in B&W mode, Leica Q2, China
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Guangzhou station China

1) Purpose

What do you plan to do with the camera? Are you a beginner looking to explore the Leica world? An existing Leica enthusiast seeking an everyday camera or a device for family photos? Or are you a passionate street photographer in search of the perfect camera?

For capturing priceless moments of your children, the Leica Q2 is a fantastic choice due to its fast autofocus and macro functionality. Its compactness and aesthetic appeal make it an excellent travel companion and family camera.

As a street photographer, determine whether you prefer to blend into the scene or take candid photos discreetly. For the former, the Leica Q2 and X100V are excellent choices. If you prefer stealth and unnoticed candid shots, consider the Ricoh GRIIIx. The Leica Q3, with its flip screen, might also be a good option.

From personal experience, I recommend using film during the day and the Leica Q2 at night, making the most of its high ISO capabilities for low-light photography.

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Leica Q2, China
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Bad coffee and liquor club, Hong Kong

2) Budget

The Leica Q2 comes with the highest price tag but also offers excellent resale value even after a year or two. The Fujifilm X100V is currently a hot commodity, while the Ricoh GRIIIx has the lowest price point among the three.

3) Picture Quality

If you’re seeking depth of field and smoothness in your photographs, the Leica Q2, with its high resolution of 47.3 megapixels, is your best bet. This resolution allows easy cropping to 35mm, 50mm, or even 75mm. The Fujifilm stands out for its presets, particularly the film simulation presets available for RAF raw files.

However, these specifications are just numbers on paper. As a film or digital user, your personal style and habits will play a significant role. All three cameras are excellent in their own right. The Leica raw files typically have a cooler tone, and the Q2 may have superior high ISO performance (though correct me if I’m wrong), as both the Ricoh GRIIIx and X100V have smaller sensors.

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Testing high ISO performance, Foshan China
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Dog @f/1.7, China

Room for Improvement in the Leica Q2

While I appreciate most functions of the Leica Q2, there are a few areas where it falls short. The crop mode, for instance, only provides framelines to indicate the captured area, rather than zooming into the specific area in the viewfinder or LCD screen. This is a feature I hope is revised in the Leica Q3. Although this design might be an attempt to mimic the Leica M’s framelines, I believe an enhancement is due.

Another area for improvement is the battery life. At its best, the battery lasts about 1.5 days, and that’s without continuous use. If you’re using the camera all day, the battery life is likely to be even shorter. This necessitates having at least one spare battery on hand, especially for serious street photographers. 

The startup process also seems slower than my preference, and the camera takes a noticeable amount of time to switch off – both areas that could be improved for a smoother user experience.

Finally, I’d like to see an enhancement in the refresh rates for the Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) between shots. This is a common issue with all EVFs, potentially off-putting for those used to optical viewfinders. While the Q2 has made improvements from the original Q, I hope Leica continues refining this aspect in future models.

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28mm
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35mm crop mode
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50mm crop mode
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75mm crop mode

Final Thoughts on the Leica Q2

My overall experience with the Leica Q2 has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, it has exceeded my expectations to such an extent that I find it difficult to part with it.

As of 2023, were I to choose a travel camera, the Leica Q2 would be my pick, considering its market price and the specifications it offers. Its convenience and performance have instilled in me a confidence that few other cameras have. The ability to capture stunning images anytime, anywhere, with excellent picture quality and a fast aperture speed is unparalleled. Neither the Ricoh GRIII, GRIIIx, nor the Fujifilm X100V can match the buttery smooth depth of field and perspective that the Q2 provides.

When Leica first released the Q series years ago, I was skeptical, given its unconventional 28mm focal length, as opposed to the more traditional 35mm. However, I now understand the purpose behind this design choice and appreciate its heritage from the Leica M design. With the substantial upgrades from the Leica Q to the Q2, I believe the upgrade is worthwhile.

However, as a current Leica M user with a range of lenses for both my film and digital M cameras, I don’t plan on purchasing the Q2 at this moment. I may hold out for the Leica Q3. For those considering the Leica Summilux 28mm f/1.4 asph lens, the Q2 could be a more cost-effective and versatile choice. It’s a well-rounded compact camera capable of capturing a wide range of shots, even offering macro functionality.

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Railway station, China

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