Crazy Comparison! Leica Q2 vs iPhone XS vs Canon EOS-R

Crazy Comparison! Leica Q2 vs iPhone XS vs Canon EOS-R

By Steve Huff

Man, it’s been a long time since I have done one of these silly crazy comparison posts…a LONG time! I used to do these every few weeks and today I was inspired to take out the Q2, iPhone Xs and Canon EOS-R (which has been my workhorse for video and photo for the last several months). Since the Q2 has an in camera crop mode I decided to shoot it at the 35mm crop for two reasons. One, because I had a Canon 35 f/1.8 RF lens on the EOS-R and  also because I thought it could be cool to show the difference in DOF between a cropped 35mm frame of a 28mm lens vs a true 35mm lens on full frame.

The Leica Q2 has a 28mm lens, but can be cropped in camera to 35. 50 or 75mm. By the time you hit 75mm you are down to 7MP of resolution but it could be useful for some. Many have asked “Why crop in camera”? I say “why not”? If you want more reach the cool thing is you can press a button without taking your eye from the EVF and crop in to one of the three extra focal length crops. This allows you to frame the shot within the camera as well. You lose megapixels of course, and you will not have the depth of field of a 35, 50 or 75mm lens but it will give you more reach if you need it in a pinch.

Now, as I said in my 1st look of the Q2, when I open the RAW files I have no option to get the full frame file if I shoot in crop mode. If I shoot in 35mm crop, my RAW files are given to me cropped. But I use Bridge and ACR/Photoshop. Yea, I am an OG in this regard. I have my reasons but this is how I always worked and still do. So in Bridge, you have no option for the full frame 28mm file that I can see when opening the RAW files, if you shot in a crop mode. There may be a way to do it, but I have not seen it so my RAW files are cropped. In Lightroom you can of course bring in the full 28mm frame even if you shot it in a crop mode.

My EOS-R has been my workhorse mainly for video since the day it was released. I recently added a Canon C100 II for some video work, and have a slew of video related cameras for that purpose alone. I have also used the EOS-R for photo work and have found it is actually like a slightly better 5DMKIV. Better shadow detail even though it is supposed to be the same sensor. Swivel LCD. Smaller. EVF. It’s not as good as the 1dXII in IQ or low light though. Even so, I have been shooting it with the 16-35, 24 1.4, 50 1.2 and 35 1.8 RF lens. Never a hiccup or issue.

The iPhone Xs...I just upgraded to this phone and decided to see how the portrait mode would do with everyday bland shots, to compare against these two photo cameras.

As always, these are JUST for FUN. As always, I shot each lens wide open (on the cameras) and let the phone do its full auto thing. This is not a test to match DOF, it is a test to see what comes out of each camera, and more specifically what comes out of the Q2 in 35mm mode vs a 35mm lens on the full frame EOS-R.

See which shots you prefer. These are right out of camera. Some from RAW, and a couple of JPEGs as well. BTW, I also shot the Q2 at one of my low light concert locations this past weekend and it did not do well in low light. The JPEGs were pretty mushy and it couldn’t seem to handle the lower light as well as the Canon EOS-R (which is not a low light champ itself). I will have more in my full review of the Q2 but so far, think of it as a higher res Q1 with a better battery and EVF and more resolution.

On to the comparisons!

Click the images for larger and full crops! 

These are right form camera and with the Q2 and EOS-R they are from RAW. The Leica Q shot at f1/.7 wide open and the Canon at f1.8. The Leica was shot in 35mm crop mode. The iPhone Xs shot is right from the phone. 

Image set #2

Same as above in regards to settings, click them for much better view..which do you prefer?

Full size files

These are not marked but image #1 is Leica, #2 is Canon and #3 is the iPhone. These are FULL size out of camera images. Click them for full size. You can see the more shallow DOF on the Canon as it is using a real 35mm lens where the Leica is cropping into a 28mm lens. 

More…

1st shot is from the Leica, 2nd from the Canon and third from the phone. Wide open, and same settings but these are JPEGS. 

and more…

1st image in each series is from the Leica Q2, 2nd from the EOS-R. Click them for larger. 

So there you go. Just a few random shots to try and show the differences in these cameras. Which do YOU prefer? Now of course all of these are different when shooting. The Leica is simple and almost feels like shooting an M in many ways. The Canon feels like shooting a Canon, almost DSLR like with an EVF and the iPhone is as basic as it gets. The Leica offers and all in one solution, the Canon IC lenses and the phone is well, another all in one solution. I will also be testing the Leica Q2 side by side with the Sony RX1RII this week. Probably taking a drive up to Sedona to do so. Should be fun ; ) Stay tuned…

56 Comments

  1. Been reading Steve’s web site for years! You have great articles and are very helpful. This is a great comparison. The differences are not as dramatic as I would have expected. Pretty amazing. The fact that a pocketable smartphone compares favorably with both a Leica and a Canon tells you a lot. It also tells you how far they have come. In terms of absolute quality the standalone camera is better for sure.

    I saw another photographer’s web site where he took a Fuji and an iPhone X and took the same pictures. Than had them printed large. He admitted that he could barely tell the difference even when printed large. He did a video as well and the results were pretty amazing. I think people need to realize that the smartphones are changing everything very rapidly. I dont think it they will ever replace cameras for pros for people like Steve but for the average consumer standalone cameras are toast. Apple, Google, Samsung, etc.. are shoveling billions into smartphone development. Its bound to produce something.

  2. Hey great comparison and as someone said the best phone is the camera you have with you!!! I meant to mix that up. I have an Iphone and use it for pictures but there is no comparison with an actual lens on an actual camera. Even a little Ricoh GR is better than an Iphone. I was at a Raptors game and sitting in very close seats to the action and all I had was my Iphone and took a bunch of pictures of different players and the Iphone just does not capture it the same was as a camera. But it is an easy camera to have on you all the time for times you want to record life. Anyway great comparison and I think the end of camera’s is not even close. Imagine paying two milennials $5,000-$10,000 to shoot your daughters wedding with their Iphones. When you are ok with that that is when the end is nigh for cameras.

  3. I much prefer the Leica images. Nicer colours. Richer tones and sharper (in a nice way). How much of that is down to the lens. The iPhone is ridiculously good – for a smartphone.

  4. It’s funny, but when I “click for a much better view” I can only really read the “227” model number by the exhaust of the tractor on the iPhone picture. Something does not seem right.

  5. Well.. i need to jump on and say something here. Steve, i always liked your reviews which let the output speak. Some of your test images are .. exhibition photos, in composition and message (like Eric Kim’s), but ..let me get back to the subject – my key points below re cell phone photography.

    1. I get stupendous results with my P20, when processed to Kodachrome / Ektachrome from raw .. So good that it sort of treated well my GAS.. A link attached at the end to illustrate this

    2. Up to ISO800 i get acceptable and actually pretty “film like” results from the P20. At ISO800 I get somewhat worse results with my L1/Leica !

    3. On the subject of viewing them at 100% and discovering the shortcomings .. Why would one do this ? At A3 print sizes i see film grain in the images, not 100% slide film grain, but far from digital rice / digititis !

    4. And finally, and with all i put above, the subject of the frame, the light, and the PP – is so much more important, i feel, than ‘was it shot on a phone’

    Link as promised above – few just baked shots :

    https://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/4381248#forum-post-62525280

    Regards,
    Ilko

  6. I don’t get the iPhone hype. Yes, it’s sensational for a phone, but if you look close, those images are full of weird artefacts and, depending on the subject, the texture looks quite brittle. I don’t want that in my images so there’s no point, that they look pretty good most of the time if you’re not looking too close.

    • The problem is 95% of people do not print, or care about artifacts at 100%. Most photography these days is done for the web..social media, web sites, youtube reviews ; ) No one really cares when looking at a photo if there are artifacts when zoomed as the only ones zooming are pixel peepers who are trying to knock down a camera. In the grand scheme of things, nearly everyone today uses a phone for photos, and none of them care about 100% crops or viewing. They see an image for 2 seconds and move on, never to see it again. It’s a rarity these days for one to print and display their work, in which case I have seen some phone shots that look better than some camera shots, but for some of us, like you and me, a phone could never replace a real camera no matter how good they get.

      • You’re right, if someone just looks 2 seconds at an image, but you’re wrong, that it’s a pixel peeper issue. Look at the image with the hydrant: even without clicking it, you can see the background cut out beside the needles on the right. If you click (not 100%, just a bit larger), it looks like grass is growing out of the hydrant on the left side (background detection failed). Inside of the chain links it looks weird, again background detection failed. I agree, you need to look longer than 2 seconds and you need to care about image quality, but you see these things without peeping and that’s why a camera and a real lens ist still more reliable and superior.

  7. Interesting comparison and for me highlights that cell phone photography is the base point (censor size) to which all other systems (sensor sizes) should be compared. Then I think the commentary around cameras with MFT and APS-C size sensors would come with fewer caveats.

  8. Fun comparison. I’ve always thought of phones as image capture devices and cameras as photographic tools. I’ve explored the iPhone and its myriad incredible apps for a long time and recently gave it up. A phone can make some incredible art that is really difficult to achieve through Photoshop or other photo editing tools. But it’s almost too easy, and I realized I just think differently when I look through a camera, any camera. The IQ is getting really close (so long as you don’t print), and if that’s the main goal, I’m not sure +$5000 is worth it. But it’s just not the same thing.

  9. Hi Steve,

    Nice article, took my time reviewing the images, but of the three nothing is even close to the Leica, those rich blues, vivid greens and the images look (in my humblest of opinions) just a little sharper. Is it me or does the canon look a little bland and washed out in its colouring – or is it just set up that way.

    Good to see the comparisons back.

    Dave

  10. The iPhone has 25% the resolution of the Leica Q2 and it also costs 25% of the Q2’s price…
    Yet it creates photos that are almost as sharp, with better dynamic range and colors that are similar and almost as good.
    I think the end of Stand-alone cameras is very nigh.

    • …with better dynamic range? Really.

      I use my iphone 7 plus for a lot of creative images, and I’ve tried some of the latest and greatest to see how far they’e come. They’re fun for instagram or VSCO posts but no replacement for a standalone camera. You’re either trolling or have no idea what you’re talking about.

  11. never owned a mobile phone and never will. Leica Q2 seems to have the best cards now, also because of light weight.

  12. Hmmmmm…

    Take away? Horses for courses. Nothing will fully replace anything, unless of course sales of products mean certain products go away by attrition.

    Phones and smaller formats Can’t do what larger formats do and larger can’t what smaller can.

    But just when I think I have to have a FF or even a LF Film set up, I see this and I decide all over again how much I enjoy MTF…perfect compromise.

    Prediction? – since all formats can make great photos now…the future is ALL ABOUT USER EXPERIENCE

    The most intriguing stuff will always sell

    But what do I know…?….I’ll probably buy $50000 worth of stuff I don’t need but will enjoy over the coming years! No apologies. It’s fun.

  13. Hi!

    About ten years ago, I predicted in my photo club that in ten years, everyone would be walking around with the equivalent of a 70mm cine camera, weighing about a pound. Well, we passed that point, didn’t we?

    Digitally, I have an Olympus PEN EP-5 and an Olympus Tough 5. Well, The Tough 5 is better, more fun, but much more intense than the PEN with a fixed lens like the 75mmf/1.8, because with the Tough I have more possibilities.

    Now, I predict, that in the next five years (I think much faster), cameras will come, on drones or such, where you dial in what kind of photo’s you want, (wedding, landscape, weird, classic or crazy composition) and send them on their way. Artificial intelligence will make them return with photos which are better than what 99,9% of photographers are capable of making. The AI will even learn to shoot what you want from the shots you like and view most!

    These ultra cameras with 100megapix and more: all very nice, until you want to show what they ‘re really capable of. A show with 30 big prints costs at least $4,000. Larger sensor size is great for the different image rendering, not for more megapix, and cell phones are beginning to emulate that.

    16 bit per channel makes a huge difference. I’d vastly prefer a 12 megapix 16 bit/channel digital camera to a 50 megapix 8 or 10 bit. Of course, there you have it: film!

    Dirk.

    Dirk.

  14. I have to disagree with those saying the iPhone holds it own – it may have sharpness but there is no mojo, soul or feeling to them. Not a surprise as that is the point of larger sensor cameras – but for me there’s no comparison between the phone and the “real” cameras. The revolution is not here yet.

  15. Maaaaan this iz craaaazy.

    Seesh imagine Computational Photography in a Modular Ricoh GXR style system.

    Fuji Sony partnership ? Leica Huawei partnership ?
    producing mirrorless computational camera.

    Who gonna be the first ones to do it ?
    Olympus ? To make up the gap to FF

  16. Yep, the camera in the iPhone is amazing, especially considering the size. But all these comparison shots were in full light. A comparison of shots at a jazz club would be much more telling. The tiny lens on the iPhone camera loses out when in low light.

  17. It’s funny, no one compares the image quality in a physical print. That is the true measure of how good a camera really is. Without a print to compare, all these cameras reviewed are only as good as the screen you are viewing the images in. The purpose of imaging and photography ( they are not the same) is to produce a physical print. images in virtual galleries on the web or in clouds all look good,images produced with phone in particular, look good. How do they measure when printed? That’s when you will see the real truth in image quality. When viewing images in RGB on a scene. Printing is CMYK weather dye or pigment. How do these cameras fair in CMYK?

    • “The purpose of imaging and photography…is to produce a physical print.” WAS. And only true for photography, not cinematography. Things have changed. And so will exhibition. Imagine museums of photography in 20 years. You think it will be physical prints? Doubtful.

    • My review of the Q2 will be soon, and as this said it was just for fun. Nothing scientific. Also, I do not hire models to do reviews…if you want that there are 1001 YouTube channels that do this. But there will be portrait compassions against the RX1RII in the Q2 review,

  18. Fun Comparison!

    The best camera is the one you have with you. And as your comparo shows, the differences are becoming harder to discern over time. Computational photography is just in it’s infancy. That’ll close the gap even more. How about a low noise phone shot using AI based NR? The EM1X brings the power of photoacute to the masses by stacking shots for higher rez, lower noise and better dynamic range. How long before that’s a computational option on the phones? Throw in some dial in bokeh on demand and the old fashioned machines we used to call cameras will seem like quaint antiques like the T bar holding flash powder or the development tent brought along to develop plates. And we are just the start of this transition.

    And if your publishing location is FB, is there a need for a dedicated camera at all?

    I shoot 3 formats these days but most are taken with my phone. It’s going to be tough for the camera manufacturers to all stay in the camera business as their wonderful machines become more and more niche products.

    It’s and exciting time and a sad time. I’ve got an OM-1 I pull out of my cabinet and wind and release just to feel the very dampened shutter and jewel like construction.

    My other 3 main cameras all are set to electronic shutter…sigh. Can’t even get that sound anymore.

    But vinyl is making a comeback of all things so who knows. Still, the Q2 is a wonderful looking machine!

  19. Stunned! The results are what i’ve been seeing with my daughter’s images when i visited!
    Her phone was giving significantly better images, than my digital cameras..
    Images at a Nature reserve with fairly near encounters with wild animals,
    hippo, rhino, buck and wildebeest.etc.
    I prefer working with a “camera” as i have major problem working with “touch” screens.
    I am invisible so often!

  20. Steve, maybe you’ve already done one, but I’d like to see a review of the iPhone Xs camera. Just looking at these photos, it holds its own against far more expensive gear than I would have guessed.

    • I agree! The computational nature of cell phone images should make all camera manufacturers nervous. In addition, we’ll soon be seeing compact, optical zoom in cell phones. I can’t afford Leica, but have both Canon full frame and APS-C cameras, along with some Olympus gear. Frankly, after seeing this and images from friend’s iPhones, I think my next acquisition will be from Apple.

  21. Hi Steve, I’m glad you are back to the crazy comparisons. Your webpage is not the same without them. To me, phones are winning the battle, and this is a good example. Of course you could test them in worse light conditions, but phones rock for general use. And I love my Leica. But more and more I see my cameras unnecesary for most of cases, for most of pics.

  22. I too was impressed with the iPhone images. The Leica JPGs are a bit meh (imo) but the raws are just spectacular. Just look at the first image for example: the Leica image pops out in glorious 3D whereas the other two look flat and lifeless. The Leica colours are also superb.
    The Leica lens technology is truly what sets the camera apart.

  23. Hi Steve! I always enjoy these crazy comparisons; hope to see more of them here in the near future 😉 In this CC post, the Leica almost mutes those famous Canon colors making them look passé. In fact, I liked the Leica color so much that I applied ICC profile to a Sony raw file I’m working on in Capture One 12…gorgeous. Thank you!

  24. I think that such comparisons aren’t that crazy but instructive. This one demonstrates boldly why for many users smartphones are the best choice now. The iPhone’s performance is quite impressive, at least in your sample images. I expect the classic interchangeable-lens camera market to shrink back to a smaller enthusiast’s and pro market, like it was with expensive SLRs and rangefinders back in the old days. The old point-and-shoot camera market is today taken over by much more capable smartphones, directly connected with social networks.

  25. Look forward to comparison with RX. Used to have RX1R following your recommendation and always thought of getting version 2.

  26. I just love the depth of colours straight out of camera from the Q2. In general though there does not seem to be much difference between the canon and Leica in these conditions

  27. Wow. The phone is unbelievably good. The other two don’t differ as much as their prices would suggest.
    It gets more and more down to the act of shooting and what one prefers to hold in hand than image quality – as Steve has been pointing out for years.

  28. The 2018 iPhone cameras are quite amazing, given their sensor size. They’re a big step up from the 2017 models, including the original X. I wouldn’t use the portrait mode, although I do like the portrait lens per se.

    When you consider how good the image quality is of the new models, and the features that you’ll never get in a bigger camera, you’d probably be tempted to use them for professional use. In fact, some video producers actually do use iPhones professionally, and have been for some time now.

    I have probably shared this Flickr album before, but this compares the iPhone X 2017) to the iPhone XS (2018):

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/gruber/sets/72157700003327111/with/44107166434/

    I’m also looking forward to the Q2 review. 🙂

  29. Good Morning Steve!

    Have been missing those crazy comparisons. For me, easy win for the Q2…crisp, fine details and lovely colours, not looking so digital as the iPhone images.

  30. Your crazy comparisons are fun. I think they demonstrate almost any camera or even phone can produce good results – except in demanding conditions like low light, need for wide or tele lenses, sports action, or harsh environments. Yes there are some IQ differences, but not enough to really matter to most people if the shot itself is interesting and well crafted. I was hiking today and shooting wildflowers and landscape in a California desert using both an A9 and an iPhone! Both worked well.
    However, some of us do see and appreciate that little bit better IQ and want a satisfying shooting experience so our interest in gear like the Q2 continues. The Q2 may also appeal to the dream of simplicity and freeing ourselves from the anxiety of missing a shot,

  31. I like all of your crazy comparisons. I think my macBook screen has a little over 1 Mp with not a lot of dynamic range so I think we should enjoy these but not over analyze the results.

  32. Wow! I’ve gotta say, the iPhone really held it’s own against the two cameras, in fact, I preferred the color rendering on the iPhone shots in a most of the images (appeared a little cooler, maybe too warm for the Leica and Canon) – and the sky appeared to have more blown-out highlights compared to the two cameras in some of the shots.
    I’m a Leica fan, but at $5K the difference in image quality between the Q2 and an iPhone should be a lot more obvious.

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