Test Driving the Leica Q… the first shots. By Howard Shooter

Test Driving the Leica Q… the first shots from a potentially long and happy relationship.

By Howard Shooter

Leica Q_Production_2_cmyk

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.

Girl with percings

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.

Man in rug shop colour

Man in Hat shop 2

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.

Man in jewelery shop

Man in hat shop

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

Howard Shooter

You can buy the Leica Q at B&H Photo,, Ken Hansen, Leica Store Miami or PopFlash.com


  1. The Q is indeed a fine camera. Have it for over a week now. But there are some quirks though. For speedy street photography the switch from LCD to EVF is a tad too slow. Using only the EVF helps but the LCD is completely shut off until you set it back which requires looking through the EVF.
    The Ricoh GR still wins when it comes to pockability and responsiveness.

  2. Review over at Dpreview is showing some nasty banding, limiting dynamic range. I hope it’s just a bad copy. The Nikon D750 runs circles around it, even the D5300 is showing more DR. The banding is horrendous, for any modern camera, let alone a $4300 camera.

    • I did not experience any of that but I use it for real life photos, not in a lab doing things that no one would ever really do. I shot it at all ISO’s as well. Not one issue. Unless they are shooting in the dark at ISO 50k, not sure where banding is coming in. When I get one for longer than 3 days I can check it out 😉

  3. Who would change their name to Howard? (Sorry – couldn’t resist it!)

    By the way, there’s a Shooters Hill near me.

    Thanks for the very informative review. It might swing me.


  4. Nice write up and lovely pictures. thanks for posting. FYI the q’s sensor is not Sony, nice to see some healthy competition on the sensor front. Cannon, Leica and Fuji are all producing great cameras without using Sony. Would think Nikon will stop soon as well if they view Sony a real threat.

  5. I held one in my hands today at Red Dot cameras and was very tempted. The lens looks fantastic. I’m very fond of the fill in flash on my X100 though. How did you find the higher ISO settings?

  6. Best photos from the Q I’ve seen so far and thanks for being frank about not always being able to resist eyeing the beautiful brass German engineering of the M 240 before going to bed at night. I can totally relate to that. Just curious, why covert the RAWs to TIFFs first and then to JPEGs? Do you apply some other effects before the final image or are you not happy how LR exports to JPEGs?

    • Hi W.P. thanks for you lovely comments… My workflow is to always shoot in Raw and then convert to Tiffs as they are the highest quality non-raw converted files. Jpegs are fine but as they are compressed ultimately won’t give you the theoretical quality as a Tiff. I always work on the tiffs in photoshop and then convert them yo jpeg so you have two copies, one for printing with and one for the web….

      thanks again,


  7. Is there a rehab for compulsive Leica buying?
    Now I just bought and received the Leica M typ 246 and now just bought the Q and will have in two days. Now I have Ten Leicas. Mama Mia!!
    I need help but Man am I living it.

    • I just sold my Sony and getting the Q, it will be my fourth Leica. I dunno what it is, each time I buy one thinking I will sell one to balance it out.. I’ve not sold a single one yet.

      • In my collection I have two Leica T’s and am selling one. Maybe. They’re so cool I may hang on to both. Yes it’s hard to part with Any Leica. Even my D Lux 6 G Star

  8. Howard:

    I read Steve’s and DP’s reviews and took the plunge. And now have read your review and agree with your findings. I picked my Q up at the Washington, DC Leica store last Thursday. Out of the box provided stunning results! I also have the RX-1 (and Oly E-M5II). Love the RX-1 but a bit too small for my hands and will sell it. Only quibble, just like with the RX-1, a bit of over saturation with that (Sony?) sensor, so I’ve increased exposure compensation in the Menu by +⅔ stop.

  9. I’m impressed and eager to get my hands on this camera. Very sharp images. Theses were auto focus shots, correct? I’ve been trying to sell my 240 for the very same reason you mention, which is that – sometimes I just want to take snaps without too much effort.

    Would it be crazy of me to sell my 240 and get the Q? I must be going mad, but the photos look so good. I love the rendering. Yes I agree the future is Q…the light bulb went on in Wetzlar for sure.

  10. Really nice environmental portraits – very impressive, I was thinking 28mm was a tad too wide, but these look great.

    • Thanks Jeremy…you do have to get a bit close and personal but a quick smile normally does the job… It’s a nice learning curve for me too btw… not my usual focal length for portraits.

    • HI Dan, I’ve never really liked using histograms as I think it makes the whole process to technical for me… I prefer to trust my eyes… so I have only used the EVF. thanks for the question.

  11. Hey Howard,
    good article and nice pics.
    Thanks for sharing!

    I am a proud owner ox the RX1r and very interested in the new Leica Q.
    Everywhere I read that the colours are so much better than the colours from the Sony. Is it possible for you to share a one in one comparison with same condtions of the two compact full frames? That would be very interesting 🙂
    Thanks and best regards from Hamburg,

  12. Excellent piece and stellar shots. Sounds like the camera really suits your style and your equipment lineup.

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