Test Driving the Leica Q… the first shots from a potentially long and happy relationship.
By Howard Shooter
So I have been waiting for a Sony RX1 replacement for about 2 years now, sold my Fuji X100s (which I really enjoyed), and waited quietly for the rumor mill of the RX whatever to start gaining momentum. As a proper user of the Leica M240 rangefinder with various lenses, I wanted a point and shoot version to complement the system. There have been occasions when I might have missed shots or, quite frankly wanted a more instant snapper instead of the M240, which is a commitment. As a full time food photographer I want to state now that I use my Leica, I don’t put it in a glass cabinet, I don’t look at the beautiful brass German engineering before I go to bed lovingly (maybe once or twice!), but I drag the M240 around with me and really appreciate the quality and user experience, which for me is second to none. Sometimes I just want to pick up a camera and snap away. I am in a position where, as a professional I can afford and justify (at least to my wife), the extraordinary cost, but I haven’t found anything that suits my style or work flow better out of the studio than the Leica M240.
And then came the Q.
I saw the various rumors and was initially tuned off by the 28mm fixed lens, but then I thought, what better compliment to my wonderful 35mm and 50mm primes than a 28mm fixed lens camera. The initial reviews were excellent and last week I phone up the Leica Store in Mayfair and put myself on the waiting list. I was told I was one of the first and two days later; I received the Leica Q, which without question has the potential to be one of the best cameras I have owned.
My advice if you buy a new camera is to test drive it…. don’t wait for the special trip, the holiday, the wedding or whatever… go out and shoot the camera in a variety of conditions because there is always a steep initial learning curve. Understanding lens characteristics, sensor anomalies, the feel of the camera in the digital age is something which is organically learnt through enjoyed practice and repetitive use. It’s easy to get a correct exposure nowadays but less straightforward to get the best out of a camera until you understand it’s signature. For example the move from the Leica M9 to the M240 was a steep learning curve as the colour signature was completely different but, once understood it was a camera, which is more adaptable than it’s predecessor.
I decided to forgo breakfast this morning, waved goodbye to my children and wife and jumped into the car. My studio is in Camden, London… so I know the market and local pretty well. I wanted to get there before the lovely tourists got in the way of a good chat with the traders and an intimate shot. I arrived at 9.00am on a Saturday morning….
It was unnervingly quiet which is perfect shooting conditions for what I wanted, but the light was directionless, muggy, cloudy, flat and miserable so I started shooting indoors to test the ISO performance. I shoot in Aperture Priority mode using exposure compensation and this time kept the ISO on auto. The autofocus is exceptionally quick, the EVF viewfinder is as good as I’ve seen (still not as good as a rangefinder), and the camera is built and responded beautifully. After shooting for a couple of hours I’ve processed them in Adobe Lightroom and added a little here and there but not much. I always shoot and use RAW and they’ve been a pleasure to convert. That’s as much technical detail as I want to go into.
The Leica Q is a wonderful camera and will change the direction and perception of Leica as a business as it surpasses or equals most Japanese rivals. Here is the future of Leica. I must say that it isn’t an M240 replacement, it still doesn’t have the same simplistic user experience but the image quality is exceptional. The camera isn’t perfect and the EVF viewfinder has a quirky way of hiding the top and bottom parts of the image, which may be a setting I have failed to see as nobody else, seems to have picked up on this. But it’s such an enjoyable camera to use and displays pop and the Leica signature, which is filmic and creamy and old school loveliness in a modern camera which works for me. What more could you ask for…… As incredible coincidences go I saw a Japanese man using a Fuji X100T eyeing up my camera and so I said hello and asked him what he did and if he was enjoying photographing Camden. It turned out to be the Global Marketing manager of Fuji cameras, just having a break after a European conference on the future of Fuji. He was obviously very pleased to see the Leica Q and seemed very impressed with the EVF.
Thanks you to the traders in Camden for being so accommodating. I’ve shot both colour and black and white to demonstrate how they render and also because some of the artificial tungsten was so dreadful that converting them to black and white seemed like the only option. These are Jpegs from the Tiffs, converted from the Raw files…. the originals look even better. You can see more examples at my blog.
as always, thanks for reading