Back in 2009, Leica was the first to introduce a full-frame digital rangefinder camera. All the fun of a DSLR, but in a more compact form. This was very appealing, considering the optics that came with the camera. Move on a few years and the Leica Q2 follows on from the highly capable Leica Q model, with extended features.
This time around, Leica made the Q2 model with weather protection, increased the sensor resolution by almost double, and improved its design to make it even more appealing than what it was.
With all these high-quality features, you can expect the price to reflect that. The Q2 is not cheap and definitely an investment. The price might scare you a bit but let’s break down what you are paying for and if the Leica Q2 is worth buying.
Simply looking at the Q2, the original Q was obviously the blueprint. Even if there is not much of a difference when it comes to the look and feel – it is not exactly the same. Holding the Leica Q2, it has a sturdy feel. The German-manufactured camera is made with a metal exterior shell that is wrapped in a material similar to leather.
This leatherette material has a diamond pattern that feels a bit rough but helps grip the camera. Along with that, there is a rear indent that allows your thumb to rest. Even with this material around the camera, it’s still comfortable to the hand.
The Leica Q2 is wrapped around a 47MP full-frame CMOS sensor, with a fixed Leica Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH lens and Maestro II image processor. Other goodies include optical image stabilization, CINE-4K video, and plenty of manual control.
Simplicity is the name of the game with this camera, both with physical features and functionality. Shooting modes include Program, shutter, aperture and fully manual, with Leica film styles and creative effects also as options.
The other main features come with 10fps of continuous shooting with the mechanical shutter or 20fps with the electronic shutter. Also, as this is a fixed lens camera, there is a 75mm digital zoom function, which will crop an image, but with loads of resolution at your disposal, this shouldn’t unduly affect image quality.
‘Minimal’ is the operative word for the camera design. It features just the basic external manual controls to get the job done. The camera chassis is made from magnesium alloy, which is fully weather-sealed and feels extremely high quality, coming in at 734g. Lightweight enough to be a good travel companion or for street photography.
On the rear of the camera the button layout has been simplified to just a play, function, and menu button. The four-way controller is still present, accessing a bunch of features such as engaging the rear screen and also swapping between photo and video modes. There is also a macro dial, which also updates the focus distance markings and has a closest focus distance 17 centimeters.
The Q2 has a three-inch LCD that is touch sensitive with 1.04 million dots along with a 3.6m-dot electronic viewfinder. In addition, the viewfinder has an OLED panel which is an upgrade from the LCoS-Style panel that has been used before in previous models.
As for the LCD, it is a fixed screen as Leica prefers to keep the model simple. Even though many other cameras now have a tilt screen, the visual quality of the LCS screen has great clarity which is beneficial when viewing images.
One of the main changes the Leica Q2 has in comparison to the Q is the IP52 weather-resistance. Though, this feature does not necessarily guarantee the camera to be completely sealed against dust and water but it does prevent damage while in tricky environments.
There is also a newly developed 47.3-megapixel sensor in the Q2 which is almost double the size from the Q’s 24-megapixels.
Although there isn’t any USB ports or other ports for that matter, the camera does have Bluetooth LE and WiFi for remote control of the camera and sharing of footage.
Although Leicas of old focused on still images, the Q2 camera is equipped with DCI 4K 24p video recording, along with UHD 4K 30p and 120p. Quality footage is guaranteed with the fixed Summilux 28mm f/1.7 wide-angle prime lens, which features three aspherical elements for reducing any lens anomalies. A macro mode has also been incorporated, which helps enormously with the optical image stabilization system.
WiFi is available within the camera which allows users to transfer files or use as a remote control. You will need to download Leica’s Fotos app, which is available for Android and iOS.
The Q2’s battery life expectancy can go from 270 to 370 images, which is an increase from the Q. It uses the same battery that can be found in the Leica SL, a BP-SCL4. Just like the camera itself, the batteries are not cheap and go for $250 each.
Lastly, ISO sensitivity now ranges from 50 to 50000, with an automatic setting. Light metering also has a bunch more options with Center-Weighted Average, Multi and Spot making for an all-round solid package.
The Leica Q2 In Use
With dimensions of just 130 x 80 x 91.9mm, the Leica Q2 is a nice lightweight solution which can be easily carried around all day. Having a fixed lens may seem initially prohibitive, but once you get into its methods of working, it’s no different than strapping on a prime lens for the day, with a few more options on the Q2.
You will be able to see the difference in quality between the original Leica Q and the Q2. There is a jump in pixels which is evident in the sharpness and the strength of the processor. The 28mm delivers extremely sharp images with lots of detail. The 28mm is generally too wide for portrait shots, but works great for scenic views.
Shooting in RAW, the images produced were very natural looking, but that also meant vibrancy and saturation needed to be increased in post-processing. However, you cannot fault the level of detail the lens can produce.
If you need to get a more telephoto look to images, then there is a digital zoom facility. This provides 6.5MP images at 75mm, 14.6MP at 50mm, and 29MP at 35mm. Digital zoom is always a second best option, but it’s there if you need it.
Although sensitivity starts at ISO 50, the most dynamic range starts at ISO 100. Images are noise-free up to ISO 800, but start to show color noise at ISO 1600 and upwards. Built-in noise reduction is less heavy than in competitive models, but at least the noise produced is more like old school film grain, rather than the harsh colored sand look of some digital outputs.
The white balance is also reasonably accurate when set to automatic, but can be thrown off under artificial light. Therefore, it is more useful to use manual white balance to keep everything in check.
Although Leicas feel predominantly like still image cameras only, the addition of 4K video at 24fps is a helpful addition. There isn’t any advanced features and no HDMI output, but at least there are film color options. Just like the RAW output, footage will need to be tweaked to increase vibrancy, with a more natural rendition to footage. The image stabilization helps out heaps in this area, but the built-in microphone can be susceptible to wind noise.
How Does the Leica Q2 Compare?
An obvious comparison to the Leica Q2 is with the previous Q model. Pixel count has been increased on the new version, with a wider ISO range, but still features the same lens. This is an important point for Leica enthusiasts, where the lens is half the story. Video facilities on the new camera come in at 4K, rather than HD on the older version.
This means that the Leica Q2 is a worthy upgrade, but it’s also a good deal more money. Roughly another $1,500 for the upgraded privilege at current recommended retail prices. For those with deep pockets this is not an issue, but if you’re looking for the most bang for your buck, Leica is probably not the best brand in the first place in this area.
Another option is the Sony RX1R II. Have a look at how they compare:
|Leica Q2||Leica Q||Sony RX1R II|
|ISO||50-50000||100-50000||50-25600 (expands to 102400)|
|Wireless||WiFi and Bluetooth||WiFi||WiFi and NFC|
If you are upgrading from the original Q version, then the Q2 brings a lot more features to the table and is more fully rounded. The 47MP full-frame sensor has plenty of resolution and does a a fine job of rendering detail to a professional quality. The 28mm f/1.7 can’t be faulted, but if you want to dig into more advanced exposure settings, the menu has to be accessed. This means that the simplistic layout is very useful for basic or ‘set and forget’ workings, but not so good for on-the-fly changes.
Which brings us to the question, is the Leica Q2 a worthy purchase? For those who get the Leica methodology and the exclusive nature of the product, this is a fantastic camera. It offers top-end build quality and fantastic images and video. However, you have to pay for the privilege. Which means as with most Leica products, this camera is in the exclusive bracket.
If you’re looking for a more affordable Leica camera, there are a few options. There are also cheaper alternatives on the market with arguably the same levels of resolution and high-end optics. But, they are not Leicas. Maybe it’s reputation or that certain extra something that only a Leica can provide. Plus, Leicas hold their price extremely well, no matter the age. Worthy, yes, as long as you buy into the Leica way of doing things.