As many of you know (Mainly because I drone on and on and never shut up about it) I have made the switch to shooting weddings with the Leica M full time. And it’s been one of the best decisions I have ever made. Sometime ago I even wrote a review on shooting with the M and I can say, now after spending a lot of time with the M, it’s absolutely worth every penny. Every.Single.Penny!
However, this is about the Q. Leica dropped this little fella on us a few months back and the internet has been a buzz with reviews, unboxing videos, and videos and reviews of people using it. And for the most part people have been really pleased with it. There is, with most Leica products, those who question it’s cost. But to me, if it works, and it does what you need it to, then why does it matter what it costs?
Anyways, let’s get on with it. Let me tell you what this review won’t be. A pixel peeping, explanation of every single minor detail technical detail that the camera does or can do. What it will be, is a straight forward, honest editorial on how it worked for me as I went about my work day. I shoot weddings so there are some pre-requisites that a camera has to hit before I will even consider keeping it.
1. It couldn’t inhibit the process of creating
2. It absolutely had to push me beyond the place I was currently in. I didn’t want to spend money on something that would allow me to just keep doing what I am doing. What’s the point in that?
The second point can be a bit vague, I know. Basically, I don’t want to buy new gear for the sake of buying new gear.
The Q is a 24MP Full Frame, Fixed lens camera. With a Summilux 28mm 1.7 ASPH that is incredible… more on that later. It also has a 3” LCD, Full HD, Aluminum & Magnesium body, AND Wifi/NFC Connectivity. Far more in the feature department compared to the M. I will say the EVF is nice. It was kind of confusing at first. I felt like I was staring at a television while taking the picture. I generally keep both eyes open when shooting, so that messed with me at first but I got used to it.
I was really disappointed with a few things. I will start with that. Let me explain. I was incredibly excited about the features, I was excited about the full frame, and even excited about the 28mm 1.7! But as soon as I took it out of the box, I thought to myself “Oh… this is it?” Maybe it’s unfair to compare it to my M. But maybe not. Why shouldn’t I expect it to feel beautiful? And it looks clean, don’t get me wrong. But I hate how it feels. Leica missed the biggest no brainer when it comes to tricking people into thinking they need to spend $4500 dollars on a camera! It needs to FEEL substantial! And it doesn’t. It's light and plastic and it feels light and plastic.
BUT I can get past that. "It’s a Leica, and it WILL produce beautiful images.”, I thought to myself. And from the first click I was impressed. It DOES produce great images. However after speaking with my friend Sam Hurd, I began to see what he saw as a problem. The more I shot with it the more I found myself thinking "These are too perfect. Is that possible? How can this be THAT sharp? The tones are solid. Great color and contrast… MAN that is SHAAARP”.
That isn’t a bad thing. But I don’t feel like i had to work to take a good photo. And again, that isn’t a bad thing. But a totally different experience from the M. I have had my M for a year now and I finally feel like I am just now beginning to get into a groove with it. The Q, out of the box, will produce very clean images. But will it work for me?
Let’s get to the actual part where I begin to use it. I had my Canon 5D MK3 with me and my M as I always do. One or the other always equipped with the 35 or 50. And wouldn't you know it, my MK3 died. (not really sure what happened to it but its dead) Fortunately it forced me to really focus on shooting with the Q! So I did. And in the beginning it shined. The photos of them getting ready, that tight space, and shooting wide open in low light… that camera kicked that part of the wedding's ass! It was fantastic. And the time it takes for you to focus and fire is as fast as it is with my MK3. (the technical term I generally use fois “really fast)
As we moved to the portraits I started to see the problem. 28mm is a weird focal length for portraits. It was ok for those wider groomsmen, and bridesmaids shots. Even family stuff was ok. But the portraits of the bride and groom, or just one of them on their own was a strange experience. I love my 50mm because of how personal I can be with the client during that time. And the opposite is true, and the reason why I don't like shooting with the 85. Its too impersonal for me. The 28mm, for all of it's wonderful rendering of images was far too personal… offensive even. But I worked with it, and I am somewhat happy with what I got. And as we moved to the ceremony, again… 28mm was really limiting as far as what you can get in that situation. And I figured that going in. I was more concerned with how it would handle low light and movement. And it did really well.
I was really REALLY excited about using it during the reception... again, lots of low ambient light, and lots of motion. A perfect time to see how it would do. Except, right as they entered the reception the battery went from 3 bars to dead. I got maybe 5 hours of use out of it. I admit, you may squeeze more out of it if you fine tune some of the features, and don’t play with the WiFi as much. But I am used to shooting two days with no charge on the M. So I don’t have much for you there. I got some detail shots, and some dancing, but that’s it. I will say, again, it focuses well, handles movement well, and shines in low light.
I will start with this… I am not sure it’s for me. However, I do see what the excitement is all about. The images it produces are incredible and its a flawless process. The battery life sucks, and the EVF is weird. Being able to post images directly from the camera to Instagram was really great. (although I do that with my EyeFi Card and my M anyways). Overall I was pleased with the camera itself.
The Leica Q is a camera that is absolutely all on it’s own. There isn’t much out there like it. For me, a wedding and portrait photographer, its was limiting me in what I was able to do. However, the image and it’s quality is always paramount. And there is no question that the Leica Q is about creating a beautiful image. The question I keep hearing (seems to be the theme with those who are considering the Leica brand) “Is it worth the money?” And the answer simply is, It depends. But if you move yourself past such a subjective question, and to a place of asking yourself "Will this allow me to be about what I want to be about as a photographer?" you can really appreciate what the Q does and doesn't do for YOU.
(Below is a gallery of portraits from the wedding and an engagement session I shot with the Q)