By Faizal Westcott
Street Photographer / Boston, MA
The Leica Q2 is a full-frame mirrorless camera made by Leica that sports a built in Summilux 28mm f/1.7 lens. It’s one of the most intriguing options in the compact fixed lens camera market as it’s one of the few to have a full frame sensor and boasts one of the most impressive lenses available in the Leica ecosystem.
Even though this camera first released in 2019, there is still a ton of hype around this camera, so is it still worth the hype?
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
Let’s not beat around the bush; this camera is expensive. Retailing at $5,800, this camera has only gotten more expensive over time due to Leica’s known price bumps.
It’s hard to not factor the cost of a camera when it comes to your opinions of it because that’s naturally what we do as consumers. We factor in the value of what we get for what we paid. That being said, let’s just say because of the mystique and awe Leica has made for themselves as a brand, I went into using the Leica Q2 with a lot of high expectations. Whether or not those expectations were met…well, you’ll find out.
The Leica Q2 has a fixed 28mm f/1.7 Summilux. That mean’s you can’t change this lens, but after using this lens you probably will never want to. The lens on the Leica Q2 is arguably the main selling point of the camera. In fact, a lot people argue that the lens is worth just getting this camera for.
If you look at Leica’s closest available lens option, the Summilux 28mm f/1.4 ASPH and it’s north of $7,000 price tag, you can look at the Leica Q2 and it’s $5,800 price tag as a better deal. It’s like getting close to the same lens for a little bit less, AND you get a free camera attached to it.
I honestly think this lens is going to be the ultimate deciding factor for anyone purchasing a Leica Q2. It has a 28mm focal length but 28mm is not necessarily for everyone.
However, having used some 28mm lenses in the past, the lens on the Leica Q2 feels a slightly wider. It’s somewhere in between a 24mm and a 28mm. This could be a deal breaker for someone who loves shooting 28mm. You probably would want it to feel exactly like all the 28mm lenses you’ve used in the past, but it does feel wider in my experience using it. It’s why it makes a lot of sense for anyone interested in purchasing a Leica Q2, to first consider renting the camera out first and seeing how they like it.
This isn’t something a little bit of cropping and lens correction can’t fix though, but it’s worth bringing up because 28mm is a widely popular focal length for street photography and why a lot of people might gravitate to this camera.
I mentioned before that 28mm is not for everyone. I would personally put myself in that category as I mainly shoot 50mm on most of my cameras. So that’s reason enough for me to not want to buy a Leica Q2. The focal length you shoot with is largely tied to the style and approach you have in street photography, and the 28mm lends its self to more candid documentary and environmental images. If you love documenting large events, architecture, or just like the “wide look”. This lens might be for you.
That said, I’ve heard from a few previous Leica Q2 owners that they sold their Q2s because they grew tired of the wide focal length and didn’t enjoy shooting it as much as they initially thought. A fixed lens camera like this at this price point calls for a pretty good understanding of how you like shoot.
IMAGE QUALITY & THE LEICA LOOK
Out of all of the cameras I’ve used in the past, none have the image quality that his lens and camera produce. You don’t exactly notice it’s incredible image quality while shooting in the field, but once you’ve imported these 47 megapixel files onto your computer and start working with these images, you really see the power of this camera lens combo. As I mentioned earlier, I had a lot of expectations for this camera, and the image quality certainly did not disappoint.
With all of that resolution I found myself cropping a lot of images and I could do so, quite heavily at times and still have a usable image. However the camera really shines when most of that 28mm frame is used. I did try out Leica’s digital zoom feature which adds initial crops for 35mm, 50mm, and 75mm and I found all of these to still provide a nice looking image. I’ll talk more about this digital zoom feature later on.
Leica users often talk about the “Leica Look” and while there isn’t a real definition of what it is, it’s somewhere along the lines of how Leica lenses render images and how “dreamy” and “cinematic” they look when shot with wide open lenses. If we’re talking strictly in terms of a shallow depth of field look, that’s going to be difficult to produce out of the Leica Q2 because of it’s 28mm lens. In order to create a lot of separation between subject and the background, you’ll need to get extremely close to the subject you’re photographing.
I tried shooting wide open at f/1.7 in many occasions shooting street photography and it was quite difficult to produce this “Leica Look”, at least to the effect that you would if you used a longer focal length like a 50mm. You can’t really blame the camera for this though since this is just how lens optics work with wide focal lengths.
This street portrait I took was the closest I could get to showing off the Leica Look, but still, in this situation I would have had to get a lot closer to create more separation between subject and the background. I already thought I was pretty close to my subject when taking this photo, getting any closer would have made him feel uncomfortable in my opinion. Regardless, I still think there is something dreamy about the bokeh and how the subject seamlessly transitions to the background yet retains all of it’s sharpness at f/1.7
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DIGITAL ZOOM & EVF
One of the Leica Q2’s highlighted features is the integrated digital zoom, which brings up digital frame lines in the EVF and LCD for 35mm, 50mm, and 75mm focal lengths. On top of that, shooting in any of these modes will apply an initial crop to your image that will be applied when you open the images in your preferred editing software. The good thing is you don’t lose any of that 28mm frame were you to change your mind after the fact.
Although it’s an interesting feature, there’s nothing entirely special about it other than it bringing up these different framelines for you to better visualize shooting at longer focal lengths.
When shooting in the digital zoom feature, there’s no way to get an instant preview of what your image looks like in these crop modes unless you have the JPEG setting enabled. So if you only shoot RAW like I do, you’ll need to shoot RAW and JPEG together.
Since I really like using 50mm lenses I mostly used the 50mm framelines while testing the digital zoom. While the image quality from this feature is still useable, I couldn’t help but feel like I was using only half of the camera in the sense that I was neglecting the full capability of the 28mm Summilux.
Also, shooting with the 50mm and especially the 75mm framelines can be a little bit difficult especially on sunny days. It’s not quite the same as looking through a optical viewfinder of a traditional rangefinder. It’s a tiny OLED screen that you’re looking through so all of the details within the small framelines can be hard to see clearly.
This brings me to the quality of the EVF on the Leica Q2. In 2022, the 3.69 dot EVF is nothing to write home about. It’s the same quality EVF in many digital mirrorless cameras you see today but at a third of the price. Having used a Sony A7Siii’s 9.44 dot OLED EVF in the past, I’ve seen how much greener the grass is on the other side and boy does it make a difference. The Sony A7siii came out a year later than the Q2 did, so I can’t really blame the Q2 for having technology improve over time. If anything, the new standard for Leica should be something along the lines of 9.44 dots. Hopefully we see that in a Leica Q3.
The Leica Q2 offers a decent amount of customization options, however when it comes to its physical function buttons, there’s a bit left to be desired.
If you’re used to using back button focusing on other cameras like me, you will be disappointed with the Q2 because there’s no real way to do it. The “back button” where you would traditionally set to auto focus for proper back button focusing can only be set to the digital zoom, AE-L, AF-L, or AE/AF L. Now you technically could set it to AF-L, but that’s not quite the same.
It’s also worth mentioning the button itself is practically flush to the camera body so it’s not tactile enough to always be pressing if you were to use it for back button focusing.
So in my time using the Q2 I’ve strictly been using the standard shutter AF, and setting this button as AE/AF-L. To be fair, I think this is the most common way people set their cameras up, so I had no issue using it this way. I’m just one of those who likes using back button focusing on my cameras. Unfortunately it’s not something I can really do on the Q2.
The D-pad of the camera brings up a few issues as it’s right where my hand digs into the camera when holding it. This is a problem a lot of cameras face, but usually you can lock the functionality of the D-pad so if you do accidentally press into it, nothing happens. That’s not the case with the Leica Q2. You can’t lock your focus point. Since I like shooting with a centered focus point, accidentally pressing into the D-pad is going to move my focus point off center. That happened a few times using the Leica Q2 and it can be really annoying, but more importantly it can potentially lead to missing a shot.
On a more positive note, the FN button is very useful. Rather than programming this button to just one thing like you usually are only able to do on most cameras, this button lets you add up to 8 different functions that you can quickly access. I found it really useful in my time using the Q2.
I could go from setting it as the digital zoom to switching my AF mode. I actually think this is something more camera brands should adopt and it definitely makes up for the lack of other customizable buttons on the camera.
THE LEICA FEEL
People rave about Leica’s design in their cameras. It’s why they’ve made such a name for themselves as a camera manufacturer. Precision is everywhere and shooting with the Leica Q2 I can’t help but feel that high level construction.
It’s most apparent in all of the dials. Turning the shutter speed dial or adjusting the aperture ring has a really nice feel to them. They require more force to adjust in comparison to other cameras I’ve used so it’s unlikely you will accidentally adjust something. They have a really nice responsiveness to them and are a joy to use.
Leica’s high level of precision was also noticeable in the manual focusing of the lens. It’s incredibly smooth to operate and I found the lens to respond really well to small, precise adjustments. Now I mostly used this camera with Auto Focus in my testing, but for anyone who likes to manual focus, this is a great lens for it.
The back of the camera has a simple concave indent the size of a thumb, so at first I was a bit skeptical of the ergonomics. Using it all day, in hand, it really wasn’t an issue for me. All hands are made different, so experiences could vary, but I found that “grip” to be enough for me. A lot of people swear by the thumb grip hot shoe attachment, but I did not have access to one during my testing. I do think this camera is better suited for larger hands, but at the same time, it’s still a “compact” camera compared to bigger DSLRs.
Loading up the camera is incredibly fast. It’s almost instant in the time it takes turning this camera on and having it ready to take photos. That’s a huge plus for street photography in my opinion as well as if you’re trying to preserve battery life.
I only had one battery to use with the Leica Q2 and I was able to make that one battery last me around 5 hours, turning the camera on and off to preserve battery. Leica lists it’s battery as capable to shoot 350 shots. That’s not that great, so like most cameras, it’s best if you have more than one with you when you shoot.
There’s also no way to charge the camera internally. You’re required to use the Leica charger, which is a bit bulky, so more reason for anyone interested in this camera to invest in more batteries. Although they cost $285 a piece.
The fact that you can’t charge the camera internally is a bit odd to me seeing as this is a camera marketed for extensive field use and documentary work. Being able to charge the camera on the spot would make a lot of sense, but it isn’t an option.
I had a lot of expectations going into this. Leica has created this high standard for camera design, and while this camera is fantastic in a lot of areas, there are still some questionable quirks. Whether or not you can live with those quirks or not is up for you to decide.
As I talked about earlier, I really think it comes down to the lens of the camera and whether you enjoy shooting 28mm (and of course if you can afford the camera). In the Leica family of cameras and lenses, the Leica Q2 remains a “good deal” to anyone who loves 28mm.
Of course, this camera will not make you take better pictures. It all comes down to the experience you have using the camera and whether it works for you. It’s why I highly suggest you get your hands on one to see how you like using it before you set out making a purchase.
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