Hands-On With The Leica Q – It’s Not Horrible

Leica Q Hands On

I was pretty critical of the hype surrounding the Leica Q when it was announced yesterday. I mean, come on! The camera can’t be that good! Well, I got to record a hands-on first impression video with one today and I can safely say… It’s not horrible. Hit the jump for the video and my thoughts on Leica’s new wonder cam.

Hands-On With The Leica Q (Typ 116) – It’s Not Horrible

My friends at Downtown Camera in Toronto got in touch to let me know they had a Leica Q in stock so I hopped on a streetcar and headed over to record a quick hands-on video. Patrick Ng shot the video using my iPhone so excuse the lack of focus from time to time! There must be some kind of Leica reality distortion field at work because as much as I wanted to hate this curious little camera it really wasn’t horrible at all.

Leica Q First Impressions

Leica Q (Typ 116)

My first impressions of the camera were generally positive. Not a “hands down best camera I’ve ever used” kind of positive, but more like “I can see why people like this” kind of positive. Here’s my thoughts:

Build Quality
The Leica Q is built with the same quality as an Leica X2. It’s light weight without feeling cheap. There are no creaky doors or wobbly bits and even the battery door feels solid. The lens barrel is plastic (again think X2) but everything was smooth and precisely assembled.

The body is smaller than you might think but the lens is bigger than you might think. Definitely not pocketable but you’d have no problem walking around all day with this around your neck.

Manual Focus
It uses true manual focus (not fly by wire) but the mechanism was a touch stiff – not buttery soft like my 35mm Summicron. Focussing was very quick with the help of auto magnification (the EVF automatically zooms in when you adjust focus) and peaking. Zero trouble focussing and it felt very precise.

The lens has distance and depth of field scales on the barrel so you can set up zone focus quickly and easily without having to bring the camera to your eye. There was a little oddness to the way the camera worked with zone focussing but I’ll cover that a little later.

Auto Focus
Wow. I shot with a Fuji X100s for about a year and that camera’s auto focus was “okay” but I never trusted it. The Leica Q was accurate on and fast – think Micro 4/3 fast and you get the picture. I actually think I would have no problem using this camera on auto focus for most shooting situations. But for street I’d go manual with zone focus all the way.

The EVF on the Leica Q was simply the best looking EVF I’ve seen on any camera. It’s really that good. Quick pans will reveal a bit of lag and some artifacts but for normal shooting it was clear and didn’t have that video look that so many EVFs force you to live with. I set the camera up to be EVF only and always on. That way any time I bring it to my eye it’s ready to go. I imagine you’d burn through a ton of batteries shooting this way but it felt pretty seamless to me.

Oh, and the EVF has a diopter. Why they didn’t put a diopter on the M 240 I’ll never know!

Recessed Thumb Area
The Leica Q has an unusual recessed thumb area on the back of the camera. Think of it like a negative thumbs-up. It gives you some place to rest your thumb and provides a pressure point for handling the camera. Works way better than I thought it would and it sort of disappeared after a couple of minutes. Makes me wonder why all camera’s aren’t designed this way!

Leaf Shutter
The leaf shutter is whisper quiet but there’s enough tactile feedback to know when the shutter is fire. You can actually “feel” the click. This is helpful when you want to be discreet but still need some confirmation that the shutter has fired.

This is the deal breaker for me personally. I know a ton of street shooters that live for 28mm but 35mm is where I’m at. Ya, I know you can crop the sensor to simulate a 35mm field of view but I still don’t like it.

Shooting With The Leica Q

Leica Q First Impression
Shot With Leica Q – Click To Enlarge

The color from the Leica Q is interesting. The reds are super in control for digital – check the red cars in the background in the above shot. Reds are the toughest color for digital cameras but the Leica Q handles them with aplomb. The greens seem a bit too vibrant for my liking and I’d probably adjust green saturation -5 to -10 to get a look that I liked. Very minor but there you have it.

I noticed a couple of things in the few minutes I had to shoot with the camera. The EVF on the Leica Q adjusts its exposure electronically and keeps the lens wide open until you half press the shutter release. If you’re zone focussing (as street photographers often do) the viewfinder will be out of focus until you half press the shutter and the lens stops down and depth of field kicks in. This is a very minor thing but something I noticed right away.

I also had the camera set to use EVF only with no image review. But the EVF still showed an image review with histogram after every shot. This was a little disconcerting but I may have had a menu item set wrong or possibly this was just a minor bug that can be fixed with a firmware update.

Apart from these two little complaints the camera generally felt responsive and almost begged to be used. It’s a funny thing but cameras sometimes have personalities and the Leica Q was a real charmer. I can definitely see why people like it but would I switch from my trusty M 240? Naw. Not for this… If I was deciding between a Leica Q and another camera it might be a different story.

So there you have it. I hate the hype but the Leica Q actually seems to be a decent little shooter. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s not horrible at all.


What’s your take on the Leica Q hands on video? Are you excited by the Leica Q or is it just another over-priced Leica that nobody can afford? Post your ideas in the comments below and keep the conversation going!

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