Leica Full Frame Fixed Lens!

Originally Posted, Sept 7, 2015
Leica quietly announces the new “Q” full frame fixed lens camera. This 28mm camera has a f/1.7 lens, amazingly fast with an almost silent leaf shutter. The only other camera on the market that is similar is the Sony RX1 but the Q has what the RX1R failed to deliver; a rangefinder experience in an EVF format. In addition to this, it is a Leica built camera with a Leica built and designed lens. The Sony RX1R comes in at $2999.99 CAD making it $2310.01 CAD cheaper. However, when you add back the viewfinder at $649 the gap between the cameras narrows to $1660.
If one wanted to attempt to construct a similar quality with the A7 series, you could buy an A7II for $1698 US and a Zeiss Batis 25mm f2 lens for $1199.00 US. This combination would cost you $2,897 US versus the $4250 US and save you $1352 US. However, the lens would be bigger and would have less long light capacity at f/2 and the camera would also be bigger, in addition, you lose the advantages of a fixed lens system. If one was to translate that into the Canadian market the Sony package would be $1999 CAD (A7 II) plus the Batis lens at $1699 CAD est. (f/2 25mm) totalling $3698. Compared to the Q at $5310 a difference of $1612.
I think though if you were going to look at the A7 series as an alternative to this camera you would not buy the A7II with its camera noisy shutter shake problems, rather you would be looking at the A7RII. The A7RII is silent. Here the numbers change as this would mean the A7RII plus the Batis lens would cost, $5099 CAD (est), making the difference $211. This is not really a significant amount.
I think when you consider this is a Leica Lens and a Leica camera and it is within range of the Sony cameras which are now the best buy in the market, this is significantly tempting. The jump to Leica has now become somewhat affordable, for those who want to shoot with a full frame sensor.

Some Key Features of the “Q”

  • Although the camera is not weather sealed, in a number of test with the camera have reported that it performed well under wet conditions.
  • It has a Leaf shutter which allows the camera to go up to 1/16000 of a second. It also has better access to bokeh and shallow depth of field, in different lighting conditions. A feature that is usually reserved for medium format cameras. A leaf shutter also reduces vibrations and is virtually silent, so fantastic for street and other types of photography where shutter noise is problematic.
  • The “Q” has only two ways of recording images either JPEG or JPEG + DNG. For those who want DNG only, this is not possible, however, a simple firmware upgrade could change these options.
  • The Leica “Q” is simply easier it operates like a camera, unlike the Sony cameras that are more like a computer with endless menus. The Leica is simple to set up and shoot.
  • Leica has decided unlike Fujifilm and Sony to provide a more realistic bracketing system, their bracketing is in graduations of up to 3 EV, in 1⁄3EV increments
  • Although the Leica does not have split screen focusing, it does have a focusing assist options and focus peaking. The focusing on this camera is quite reliable and extremely fast so unless you are a manual focus person, you may be leaving the autofocus on all the time. In terms of automatic focusing the camera has single point, tracking and continuous options.
  • The “Q” has the best low light capacity of any of Leica’s cameras to date. It also has optical stabilization which provides additional assistance in low light.
  • The quality of the LCD on the back of the camera rivals any camera on the market but with one surprise, it has a touchscreen, but not only can you touch to find a focus point you can also touch and trigger the shutter! The touchscreen also has double tap to zoom in and out; swipe to next image; drag and release to move around zoomed in image; swipe down to move between shoot and review and pinch to zoom.
  • In terms of the Electronic View Finder, it now has the highest resolution viewfinder on the market at 3.68 million pixels.
  • Yes, and the lens is, in fact, a Summilux-Q and specially made for the Leica “Q,” in-house from the ground up. Reviews have commented that this lens is every bit as good as the M lenses. It is also sharp corner to corner at all apertures and distances, with good bokeh.
  • The camera has a 24mp CMOS sensor designed and built exclusively for Leica. Although some reviews have suggested it is a CMOSIS or Sony sensor this is not the case but they are not saying who exactly did the manufacturing. Given that this is a Panasonic/Leica collaboration of engineers it is anybody’s guess.
  • The “Digital frame selector” mode is uniquely Leica and mimics the optical rangefinder by using a function key to toggle between 28mm (24mp) 35mm (15mp) and 50mm (8mp). This function button is a small button on the rear of the camera. Unlike the Leica M, it shoots all the DNG files at 28mm but produces the jpg files at 28, 35 or 50. I found this a unique and very interesting solution to the fixed lens issue. Keep in mind without an anti-aliasing filter the resolution is going to be slightly more than advertised.
  • The camera’s aperture is adjusted on the lens barrel including the automatic mode, the manual and automatic functions are also on the barrel, there is a dial for the shutter speed and the ISO, unfortunately, is accessed using a button on the rear. There are some odd things about these controls as the aperture ring is in 1/3 stops, the shutter in full stops, the ISO is in full stops and the exposure compensation dial is in 1/3 stops. Ideally, as you adjust your ISO you would want to be able to adjust by 1/3 stops. Here again, a firmware upgrade could change this setting.
  • The camera also has a fantastic macro mode right on the barrel of the lens and in either mode, you have a depth of field scale, should you want to do zone focusing.
  • Set on DNG and the continuous shooting will shoot at a blazing 10fps for about 12-13 shots with a fast card, with virtually no blackouts before returning to live image. After this the camera shots at one shot per second.
  • Some reviews report that the Maestro II image processor seems to facilitate an excellent battery life, so in the field, around 600+ shots per battery have been reported. 
  • Leica Rumours has provided a list of reviewers from which I created this summary. I have also made a few additions.
  1. The Camera Store
  2. Ming Thein
  3. Jonathan Slack
  4. Kristian Dowling (part 2)
  5. Jay Cassario
  6. Brian Hirschfeld
  7. Walkingphotographer
  8. Camerawest
  9. Reddotforum
  10. Photography Blog
  11. Dpreview (hands-on)
  12. The Verge
  13. Mirrorlessons
  14. Steve Huff
  15. Luminous-landscape
  16. Soundimageplus
  17. Henry’s Note
  18. Emily Loke
  19. Macfilos
  20. Cnet
  21. Digitalversus
  22. Bloomberg
  23. Gizmodo
  24. Techradar
  25. Focus-numerique (translation)
  26. 500px
  27. Laptopmemo