Am I The Only One Who Doesn’t “Get” The Leica Q?

Leica Q

Leica made huge waves with the announcement of the new Leica Q. The full frame compact camera with a Summilux branded fixed 28mm lens sounds like a grand slam for street photographers. So why am I left scratching my head and wondering what the heck Leica is doing? Hit the jump for more info.

The New Leica Q (Typ 116)

Leica Q (Typ 116)

On paper, the Leica Q sounds pretty good. It’s using a 24 megapixel full frame CMOS sensor from an undisclosed manufacturer that can shoot at ISO 6400 comfortably. Fast auto-focus using a Summilux branded 28mm f1.7 lens that Leica claims is “precisely matched to the sensor” and can be switched to true manual focus (not fly by wire). Throw in a 3 megapixel EVF, a touch screen, and leaf shutter and the Leica Q sounds like a winner.

So why am I still not convinced?

The initial round of first impressions and full out reviews make the curious Leica Q sound like the next Jesus cam. Steve Huff raved about the Leica Q and tentatively nominated it as the camera of the year. Gadget blog Gizmodo called it a drool worthy camera that’s more than just luxury design. Petapixel’s hands-on review is essentially a product brochure that lists the camera’s features in a way that feels a bit like talking points.

Here’s a roundup of Leica Q reviews from day one:

Gizmodo: Leica Q Is A Droolworthy Camera.
Petapixel: Leica Q Is A 24MP Full-Frame Compact Camera.
Petapixel: Hands On With The New Leica Q.
La Vida Leica: Introducing The Leica Q.
The Verge: Leica Q Is No-Compromise Technological Wonder.
The Verge: Leica Q Greenwich Concours Photo Essay.
Leica Rumors: Leica Q Is The Future Of German Camera Engineering.
Steve Huff Photo: Leica Q Real World Camera Review.
Engadget: Leica Q Is A Compact And Stylish Full Frame Camera.
Gizmodo: Leica Q Is Drool-Worthy.
Ming Thein: Leica Q Premiere And Review.
Bokeh By DigitalRev: Full Frame Leica Q.
The Phoblographer: Leica Q Review.
DP Review: Leica Q First Impressions.

Leica Q Hype

There’s a ton of hype surrounding the launch of the Leica Q. Many of the initial reviews seem to be describing the various features of the camera without talking about how the camera actually operates. What’s the startup time? Battery life? Low light auto-focus performance? So far, I don’t know.

Even the official Leica press release is filled with hyperbole. Here’s an example:

Yet again refining the way the world takes photographs, Leica Camera unveils the Leica Q today, a trailblazing camera design concept that proudly combines all of the high performance qualities of a full frame sensor in a beautifully designed and highly innovative compact – a milestone for the brand and the photography sector. Equipped with the fastest lens in its class and an interface that makes for easy and intuitive handling, the Q is the perfect instrument for instantly capturing the decisive moments of life and turning them into lasting memories. The Q boasts the ability to shoot full HD video, instantly share content socially via built-in WiFi, and features an extremely fast autofocus, putting the Leica Q into a category of its own.

Think about how that is written. The Leica Q isn’t described as a trailblazing camera, it’s a trailblazing camera “concept”. It doesn’t have a high performance full frame sensor, but has the high performance qualities of a full frame sensor. This is hyperbolic narrative designed to sell the sizzle, not the steak. It’s the very definition of hype.

This may or not be related to the fact that Leica has hired M Booth PR Agency to handle its press relations. This effectively means that Leica is now “advertising” to members of the press and might explain why so many gadget blogs reviewed the camera on day one. There’s nothing wrong with getting the word out about your product but there’s such a thing as too much hype!

Leica Q Reality

Leica Q

While the Leica Q sounds great as an upscale lifestyle product, the reality is something a little less desirable for actual street photographers. It’s a fixed 28mm lens that I personally find a little too wide for street. Like Alex Webb, I’m a dedicated 35mm shooter and feel it is the closest to the way our eyes see the world.

Now the Q will crop the sensor to give you a 35 mm field of view but there’s more to it than that. the 35mm focal length accurately represents the way we see depth in the world. Have you ever taken a picture of a plane in the sky and wondered why it looks so much smaller in the image than it did in real life? Wide angle lenses “stretch” reality and virtually push objects in the distance farther away. The 35mm focal length does this in a very natural way for me but 28mm stretches everything out a bit too much for me.

No matter how good the Leica Q ends up being it’s a closed system. You have no options to expand beyond what it currently is. Now I’m a one lens, one camera kind of guy so why should that matter? Well, I dabble. There are times I throw a 50mm lens on my M if I’m shooting a quick portrait or just want to see the world differently. If you’re spending this kind of money on a camera you should at least have that option.

And finally you can’t ignore that price. We’re talking about a glorified point and shoot camera that costs over $4000 USD! It’s a tough pill to follow for anyone – street photographers rarely have that kind of change to throw at a point and shoot and photojournalists and pro photographers are likely to look at a system based camera like the M or even a DSLR. I’m just not sure how the Leica Q fits in the market?

You can pre-order the Leica Q online at your favorite online retailer:

Leica Q AT B&H.

Pre-Order Leica Q At Leica Store Miami

Pre-Order Leica Q At Adorama

UPDATE: Eric Kim went hands-on with the Leica Q at the Leica Store, Bellevue:

StreetShootr’s Take

As you know, I shoot with a Leica M 240 but I’m not what you’d call a Leica fanboy. As I see it there’s really only 2 reasons to shoot with a Leica M.

The first is that it uses a true optical rangefinder that frames the world in front of your lens without getting in the way. When I bring the camera to my eye I’m automatically seeing my subject and looking for the right moment to create a photograph. EVFs have delays and lag and I always feel like I’m watching the scene on TV rather than seeing it as part of the world. But this comes down to personal preference and I know a lot of street photographers that are perfectly happy shooting with an EVF.

The second thing that keeps me shooting Leica is the high quality of the Leica M lenses. They’re expensive and they’re amazing. I’m not talking about technical graphs and elaborite tests. Leica M lenses have “personality” for lack of a better word. There’s a tangible quality to them that you can’t reproduce in post.

The new Leica Q has Leica glass but it’s a newly designed lens and I’m not convinced that it’s going to have the look I’m after. Plus the fact that it’s a fixed lens means you don’t have the option to change focal length any point in the future.

Am I saying the Leica Q is terrible? No, in fact it’s probably going to be quite nice but it’s going to cost you a bundle. Do I dare use the words over-priced? Well, there’s a difference between expensive and over-priced. Expensive means you got what you paid for whereas over-priced conveys a lack of value. If this camera is half as good as it sounds on paper it’s probably going to do fine. But Sony’s recently announced A7RII proves you can get a lot more camera for much less than this pricey point and shoot.

This being said, I reserve the right to change my mind and get one at any time. :)

What’s your take on the new Leica Q? Is it an excellent picture taking tool or just another expensive point and shoot from Leica? Post your ideas in the comments below and keep the conversation going!

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  • Shannon Atkinson

    Interesting take with some great points. The biggest fail for me is the lack of optical rangefinder. It’s a personal preference I’m not willing to give up… especially at a $4000 price point.

  • SK Saito

    I think this is the start of Leica implementing electronic and/or optical viewfinders in their future cameras. I personally prefer rangefinders but it’s costly and sensitive. I hope this does’t happen but the next generation M’s may not have rangefinders anymore.

  • John Lockwood

    Given that the Type 240 costs $7K and a 28mm Summicron-M another $4K, I’d say the Leica Q is a HUGH bargain! The only question is how long people will pay the premium for a removable lens mount and optical RF?

    Similarly a Monochrom Type 246 is $7450 and a 28mm Elmarit-M another $2K. My answer for B&W? Film!

  • GazzarooniiRaw

    As you are a 35mm shooter who doesn’t like EVFs you probably wouldn’t get it. Sounds like this is a none starter for you but that doesn’t mean this is not a huge deal. I’d ave preferred 35mm but everything else seems solid to me. German made, german glass, real digital features, AF or MF, macro .3 regular .7, all controls handy, good ergonomics etc. all sounds great and all sounds like a very advanced digital camera. The only thing that comes close is the Sony RX1, which is also a stunning tool.

    You kinda having a lot of negative thoughts about something that, from what I am reading, you haven’t tried. You think the advanced EVF powered by the S processor that refreshes at 240 times a second will have a lag. You think the lens won’t have the look you want, even though it’s Leica. Sounds like this is not for your tastes and that is very reasonable but despite that I think the furore about it is justified. I do “get” the new Q and I am in the Q to get the Q. I hope it will be hear by Wednesday. It won’t replace my M’s but I am sure it will be a lot of fun to shoot. My friend and street shooter is having a ball with his. I am looking forward to some of that fun time for myself. I went out shooting with a 28mm cron on my M246 today to see how that feels.

    I just discovered your site and while I may not agree with you on the Q I do love your content!

  • arbus

    If the Q makes money for Leica, which allows them to keep making the traditional M with an optical viewfinder, I hope they sell a lot of them. Personally, I don’t get it either. An EVF is the same thing as an SLR when it comes to viewing. The reason to get an M is for the rangefinder way of seeing.

  • Toe Cutter

    No, your not alone wondering what Leica was thinking in introducing the Q. I own several Leicas and love using them, even though I also have Sony and Canon DSLRs with more than enough lens to keep be busy. I often find myself grabbing one of my Leicas to go shoot events, etc, vs the backpacks full of Sony/Caanon cameras and lens because I can obtain some excellent photos with any of my Leicas, assuming the shots are within the range of the Leica’s abilities. Regarding the Q, I was stunned when I read the announcement and saw the price of the camera that could never provide the flexibility of a DSLR, regardless of its large sensor. I had hoped for a “super compact” like the D-LUX or the V-LUX, but with a full frame or even APS-C sensor and perhaps a small selection of lens (or, compatibility with existing lenses) that would provide me with a single, go to camera to would provide Leica results under different shooting conditions. I’m not completely clear on what the Leica Q is intended to provide? I’ve seen the test shots and they are what I’d expect from Leica, but they’re nothing I can’t get from my V-LUX in RAW and some light post processing in Lightroom? I’ve been using Leica cameras for years, and it seems they’ve decided to go back up market by offering cameras for affluent customers who prefer owning a Leica camera without even taking any photos?! How about a Leica Z with a full frame sensor, mirrorless with interchangeable lens and a built-in viewfinder? I’d pay dearly for such a camera, considering ever other camera manufacturer in the world is offering one of these at a fraction of the cost of the Leica S (before someone brings up the similarities in my request). So know, I go back to looking at the new line of f/2.8 lens from both Sony and Canon….

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  • John Canavan

    Lieca have got away with murder in the digital world , they have traded on the film cameras they used to make even though they were good they were always overpriced.
    can anyone name a lieca digital camera that hasn’t been an overpriced experiment?

  • John Canavan

    Leica make great lenses but very questionable digital cameras , but people with more money than sense will always buy them and thats what they depend on.
    I can’t think of any digital cameras they have made that even approach value for money ,but people don’t buy them for that i think,its more status the same type of people who pay hundreds of pounds for a bag with a badge on it in the fashion world.
    So it goes there are far better cameras for the money , anyone i have known that owns a Lieca never used it in the open air for fear it may be scratched.

  • I had one for 4 weeks. Loved almost everything about it, apart from the sensor banding and distortion in the EVF. Oh, and the high ISO performance is nowhere near as good as the reviews would have you believe. It was nice, but not £2000 nicer than the Fuji X100T. Loved the concept, scratched my Leica itch, but Fuji is good enough.

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  • Petr Cech

    I was going to buy Leica Q. I had money ready, but what turn me off, was the local store, and Leica’s customer service in Germany. Very unfriendly bunch. I complaint about their misbehaving. I just do not buy stuff from rude people.

  • Wayne Matthews-Stroud

    I’m a working professional using Canon DSLRs for everything (1DX, 1DS3, 5d3 etc) with prime lenses… I wanted a camera I could take everywhere, like my iPhone. I didn’t want to make one single decision about lenses every time I took it out with me. So the Q came along and I had the chance to try a copy, in store at Leica Hollywood. First impressions were that 28mm wasn’t going to work for me. My favoured lens for street material was 35mm or 50mm. So I shot for an hour, in and around the store and was really taken by the sense of minimalism the camera presented me with. I wasn’t really thinking about the camera at all, just the pictures I was starting to make. So I went away and thought it over… but I was able to take away the dng files (my own card in store camera) and when I started processing these I was so amazed at the fidelity and ‘look’ of the images that I started to really think about how a Q would work for me. It’s a lovely object, no question, but I’m not into the loveliness of any of my kit, just how close the kit in question can reproduce what’s in my mind’s eye when looking at the world around me. I was initially put off buying a Leica because of the status symbol connotations. But I liked the look off the images so much. Anyway, suffice to say I went for it and bought the Q. 6 months on and I literally take it everywhere I go: walks, family days out, the pub (!), on working shoots where I have my day kit; holiday – wherever. I’ve shot thousands of frames and have to say it’s my all-time favourite camera. It’s such a simplified joy to use and its ability to resolve light and contrast… its wonderful colour… the pin sharp consistency… it all adds up to the perfect companion camera. It is expensive compared to cameras generally, especially the class it sits within, but not for what you get. My storing feeling now is that I will always shoot on a Q (or its successors). A couple of my friends shoot on X100T’s and other Fuji cameras – which also look great. One obvious difference to me when handling those is the busy-ness of the experience. There feels like there is lots going on on-screen and the menus feel fussy… the Q disappears in my hand leaving me free to shoot. This is just my own bias opinion :)

  • Karl and all of you. I’m only a hobby photographer. My work takes me to places that few can ever see or vist so I like to bring a camera and shoot when possible but I need a discreet tool. Today I use a Sony RX1 (without EVF) and I love it. However I’m intrigued by the sharp images Leica seams to be able to produce and I want to try some thing new.

    Questions: Will the Leica Q be an upgrade? Will it deliver sharper images and better colors? What about battery, can hardly be worse than on the RX1… Apart from 28 vs 35 what are the pros & cons? I like to think the Q is better but I’m not convinced. The auto focus on the Q is faster on the Q compared to the RX1 in my opinion.

    Or should I get a M system. If so what M? But I like the idea of the slowed down process and rangefinder seams interesting but tricky to learn.

    I like the 35mm format so if I get the M system would you opt for a 28mm or 50 mm as a second option?