A month with a Leica Q by Nico van Malssen

A month with a Leica Q

by Nico van Malssen

Leica Q_Production_2_cmyk

I am a seeker. In more than one way. But this is about cameras, so I’ll focus on that. Over the past 5 years I have owned more than 30 different cameras. I buy them (mainly second hand), use them, sell them to buy new ones, etc. Sony (A7, NEX 5 & 6, RX100), Fujifilm (X-E1, X100s, X20), Panasonic (GM1) and the occasional Nikon, Canon and Sigma. And Leica. Lots of Leica: IIf, Leicaflex SL, M4, M6, M8, M9, X2, and X Vario. That doesn’t mean I am a dentist, or an architect, or rich, or drive a BMW or an Audi. I am an archaeologist, don’t have a car, live in a small house and have just one hobby: photography. I sold most of my books, LPs/CDs, guitars and a collection of Roman coins to finance this hobby.

From the moment I used a Leica, I was spoiled. Not by the IQ per se, but by the way they feel and handle (haptics). The build quality of the Fujis I used is iffy at best, that of Sony is better. Panasonic is good, and Leica is absolute top quality, especially the M. You can feel it when you pick one up. I can’t explain why, but it feels good. I kept picking up my M9, not just to take pictures, but to hold it… it’s crazy. But picking it up leads to taking pictures, so it’s a win-win situation. I never do that with other cameras. Having said that, I recently traded my M9 (and a Summicron 35mm) for a Q.

L1000190

While the Q doesn’t have an M-feel, it’s a great camera in its own right. Not too big, not too small, it fits in my ONA Bowery snugly. It’s well balanced and easy to operate. For me, that is the essence of a good camera (sensor-wise most cameras are good, so that’s not an issue): the less menus/options the better. I don’t need (and therefore don’t want) a lot of in-camera options. I want to be in control. It has to be me who takes the pictures, not the camera. I shoot DNG, set the aperture and ISO manually (I usually select ISO before I go out and leave it like that during a shoot), and focus manually. I leave WB and shutter speed up to the camera, most of the time that is.

Versie 3

About the 28mm on the Q: Do I feel limited by it? No, not at all! Bokeh is excellent (you can also shoot decent enough portraits with it), I don’t mind getting close, and I like to have a lot of things going on besides the main subject. I love to crop, so one shot sometimes has enough in it to create more than one photo out of it! You could say it has broadened my view instead of limiting it. Before the Q I preferred 35mm. I did have a 50mm Summilux, which is a great lens, but 50mm is too narrow for me. I never use anything over 50mm.

Versie 2

In other words, I use the Q like I used my M. And it works great, in some ways even better than an M. Focus peaking maybe cheating a bit, but it’s bloody easy and convenient! As much as I like the M9, I was not able to fully use the flexibility of the M-system, i.e., one body and 3 or 4 lenses. I can afford just one lens, and there is no way I can ever buy more. That means the Q was an excellent option. IQ is on par with the current M (240), it has a lovely lens, great built quality, is easy to operate, I mean, what’s not to like?

Does this mean I have finally found what I was looking for? Maybe. The lure of the M remains as strong as ever. So much so that I recently traded my Summilux for an M2 with Summicron lens… 🙂

(See Steve Huff’s quick review of the Leica Q HERE)

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28 Comments

  1. Nico, Great article. I must say that since owning an X Vario I really haven’t picked up my fuji’s. Te X is lovely to hold and makes you want to go out and shoot. The images are beautiful.

  2. Just another thought. Your article made me think how 28mm seems to have gone up in the world in very recent years as compared with 35mm focal length. And Henri Cartier-Bresson had 50mm as his normal lens. Where will it end?! On the other hand I don’t think I could put that much cash into one focal length. The Q is the FF version of the first X, so I’ll be writing to Peter Karbe and asking when he is going to give us a Q-Vario, (well, not exactly “give” of course!) and I won’t be complaining if the lens has to be 3.5 to 6.4 to keep the size down!

  3. @ just me: if/when I sell my Q it will not be for the next shiny thing, but for a second-hand M9 with a Summilux 35… 🙂

  4. @Nico (no straight replies possible for some reason): Crop (or back) to square (1).

    Let’s put it this way: thirty cameras in five years is obviously a sign of a severe personality disorder, but fortunately of the harmless variety. And, for comfort: cameras are cheaper than therapists.

    Would you be interested in a working Contax RTSIII, 1.4/35 Distagon and 1.4/85 Planar, all in exc+ condition? Let me know…

  5. I must say if anything…I have always leaned towards Fuji. That said after owning an X-T1 the X100S and an XE-1 way back I finally gave up on Fuji due to the Xtrans sensor. It just made everything a bit soft IMO. So like the rest of the world I got into the Sony A series. I owned the A7S which still may be my all time favorite Sony A camera as to IQ color ..low light obviously AMAZING.. Got the bug for more megapixels sold it for an A7R, I feel a mistake. Fast forward got an A7II, finally I currently own the A7RII and pretty much love it. Oh we are talking about the Q. Oops! Well I have a good photography friend who is also in constant search for “THE” camera. Of course we all know there is no ONE camera that can do it all. In any case he got a Q early on” Somehow” and has been blown away by it. Like me, my friend would buy a whatever camera..keep it a while then sell it cause it JUST wasn’t right or good enough. Well he’s had the Q for months and seems he won’t part with it till something truly revolutionary may come out. The point of this novel is he sent me so many amazing files from his Q damn him…I took the plunge and got one about a month ago. It’s a magical camera..I love love it!! I also had an RX1R prior which may have been my second overall favorite camera as to IQ, BUT the Q just has something BETTER, and you WANT to use it. The EVF is the best I ever used, the feel of the camera..oh that lens OK stuck at 28mm but…the IQ is out of this world. You can take a pic of a garbage can cover and it can look like art.:) Sure $4200 is not cheap…like all Leicas this thing is expensive! But even if it’s just a bit more than subtle, the Q takes pictures like I have never been able to take before. When I saw the RX1RII was coming out I almost got the bug to get one. That said, having the Q already it may be the only camera I ever need..WELL plus the A7RII for having the ability to change focal lengths…The Q is ‘AMAZING” I’ll leave it at that.

    Steve I should have out THIS up front. You are right you can’t find the damn Q though!, it’s like t doesn’t exist… BUT I have good news! You need start searching the Q in stores you would never THINK to search. As I write this it’s IN stock where I bought mine a month ago..of all places it’s the Herrington catalog store. What? YEP..Apparently they are a huge authorized Leica dealer. When I bought mine “they had 14 Q’s in stock”. If the site is correct you can grab an in stock NEW Q now!! Hope this helps someone who wants a Q..

    http://www.herringtoncatalog.com/products/leica-q?q=Camera

  6. Just curious Steve, would you give up your Sony’s for your Leica M 240 if you could only have one camera.

    • Well, I did for almost a year. Have not had an M here for longer than 3 weeks in the last year or so, until yesterday. I once again have an M and 50mm Lux. I have my Sony’s and a Leica SL will be here within a couple weeks (for review, loaner) – But the M – I took a log break from it, and started to miss it 2 weeks ago. Hard to say which I would keep if I had to dump one. I know if this website was done and over with, and I quit tomorrow..chances are I would just keep an M and 2 lenses. Simple. Then again, there would be times I missed the a7SII for clubs or low light so I would probably need one of each. 🙂

  7. No kidding. Leica must be waiting for a better Euro-Dollar exchange rate. I’ve had a pre-paid Q sitting at B&H since (what?) June. Planned to take it to Hawaii. Missed. Now simply hoping it actually does become a Christmas present. All my camera purchases are proposed to my wife as “Christmas presents” no matter what time of year they occur. I’d be happy for a real one this year. Nico mentioned how he accomplished the “30 hat trick.” He says he bought them used. That means that most of the new purchase price is already gone, so that when he sells it himself he may only be paying what amounts to a decent rental fee or less. I met a guy one time that only does that: buys new ones at reduced price after the next model comes out. Again, then again. Makes sense, but takes great GAS discipline which most of us don’t have. The Q ticks off all the boxes for me. We forget that a 28mm frame always includes the same 35mm and 50mm frames that you’d get with those lenses. That won’t work well with film or say 6 MP sensors. It works for the Ricoh GR 16 MP camera, and it will only work better with the Q’s 24 MP sensor. Most web publications only allow an image that is 7 inches on the long side, 1 GB or less image. Same for photo books. Cropping the 24 MB’s will easily allow for high resolution 12×18, 11×14, and 8×10 “cropped” images. Many misunderstand the selected framing lines on the Q, thinking you can get the same thing afterwards. You can, but the 50mm frame lines will keep your shot in the middle of the 28mm frame and make sure you avoid the distortion that might come from just taking a 28mm picture of the same (say portrait) image within the 28mm frame lines. It will force you to back up, in other other words. So, for those of us that like to get more and crop anyway, the Q helps us avoid buying 2 extra high quality lenses. I’ve already been doing that with the GR anyway. Now, why can’t the US get any of those cameras?

  8. Thanks for the replies!

    Yeah, 30 cameras in 5 years… it’s ridiculous, I know… 🙂

    I’ve never used a Hasselblad, but I love square photos, so I should try one, shouldn’t I?

  9. Q is a great camera by all accounts. But seems like you work very hard to rationalize all the camera gear you go through. I suspect the Q will soon be sold for the next shiny thing. But hey, you enjoy what you’re doing and not hurting anyone, so in the end I wish you the best.

  10. “I kept picking up my M9, not just to take pictures, but to hold it… it’s crazy.” Not crazy! I feel just the same about my X-Vario, so I know exactly what you mean. Suspect it would be the same with the Q. But I’m not about to sell my X vario to get it! Should I get a Q or a bargain new M-E with two lenses for roughly another 1800 dollars?

  11. Thanks you for an interesting and honest write up on your photographic journey and the Leica Q. Some photographers are gear junkies others not. The women photographers I know seem to just invest in something good and get on with it -guys are the opposite in my experience.

    Me -I would be overwhelmed by trying to get to grips with all those different cameras so I tend to stick it out as long as possible with one model.
    Thank you also for pointing out that you are not rich and yet are still into good cameras -all my fellow Leica shooters are as poor as me !

    Last but not least -NICE IMAGES -enjoy your Leica Q seems to be a great camera by all accounts.

  12. I traded a boatload of cameras for the Q as well. I really don’t miss any of them. I love the Q. I deliberately chose to limit myself to the 28mm to bring me out of my comfort zone. It has completely re-inspired me and catapulted me out of a year long rut. I am still working with the Q to get the most out of it but I am loving every minute of it. Cheers!

  13. I do not doubt that if sales go well enough, Leica will introduce a Q with a 35mm f2 which is probably where they should have started. I am not one for fixed lenses so this would never work for me. But a standard 35mm would have attracted a lot more photographers. Give it 18 months to arrive. But for $4,200, there are so many other choices available like…

  14. I am very impressed of the pictures from the Q. I do only 8 different cameras as well. I agree only leica M (240) or even the X-Vario impress me when I just hold the two. The IQ from leica is excellent with a unique 3D pop. I don’t get the feel when I hold other cameras just as you described.

  15. Nice write-up Nico. The U2 song “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ comes to mind regarding your Gear Quest. 🙂 Hopefully the Q is it. Beautiful images!!
    BTW my son is currently at U of T studying archaeology. Would love to see any related photos if you have any.
    All the best.

  16. Nice images. A kind of, I have gone through a lot of cameras the last three years. After all, I see the camera as a tool to make an image. I would like to purchase a digital camera, as of May this year I have not found one to my satisfaction. I have not tried the Q yet. So back in February, after all my tries and hunt for a camera I got an M7. I am very satisfied with it.

  17. Great passion you have there! Thank you so much for sharing.

    BTW, I notice that two of your photos are square. Have you used one of the classic Hasselblads? A 500C/M with a 50mm or 60mm Distagon is an awesome combo. It feels like no other camera … unique haptics … peering downwards into that mesmerising square screen … and a great quick action fitting for a tripod …

  18. It’s difficult to find a balance sometimes, especially when you feel so passionate about Photography, but other things can add to your work and be a positive influence. So please don’t sell all your coins and music and books, you might find that you need them some day.

  19. 30 different cameras in five years? Oh well.

    I like the images though, and the Q sounds like a great camera, if you can live with that one focal length. Wouldn’t work for me.

  20. Dear Nico,
    Thank you for your beautiful story; and for sharing your passion for photography.
    Beautiful pictures coming out of your Q.

    I moved from M to Q and love it.
    The ease of making the pictures; the simplicity of the controls.
    Just one complaint, the image in the viewfinder is always a lot lighter/more dynamic than the actual shot.

    I hope you will find your peace in the Q. …
    My mind is dreaming of the RX1R mk II … 35 mm; 42 Megapixels … and incredible solid build.

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