Leica Q2, Sony a7rII and Morocco: The long and short of it by Joseph Koh

Leica Q2, Sony a7rII and Morocco: The long and short of it

By Joseph Koh

I guess like many people, I’ve heard so much about the legendary ‘soul’ of Leicas, and have always wondered how much is true and how much is hype. Unfortunately, Leica prices are arguably just as legendary, and have always held me back. But when the Q2 came out this year to mostly rave reviews, I figured it was time to take the plunge and check out the fabled ‘Leica magic’ for myself. In comparison to other Leicas, it was relatively cheap (‘relative’ being the operative word here): the Q2 is priced at around the same level as a standalone Leica lens of similar specs, so ‘you pay for the lens and get the camera for free’, as some commentators pointed out. But more importantly for me, the fixed lens meant that I wouldn’t end up spending inordinate amounts of money on additional lenses, no matter how much I ended up being spellbound by Leica’s siren song.

So I ordered the darn thing. And fortunately, I took delivery of it in time for a holiday to Morocco as part of a group tour. I also brought with me my trusty Sony a7rii, and a 70-200mm f4 lens to cover the telephoto range (and a few other lenses, which I ended up not using much). This combo was surprisingly versatile and enjoyable to use for travel photography; I almost never lug around the 70-200mm lens when travelling, but the focal length allowed me to get a little more abstract with my photos and opened up a whole new area for me to explore photographically. Meanwhile, the compact form of the Leica was great for walking around the bustling streets of Casablanca, Fes, and other towns, and for doing street portraits.

I don’t mean to do a review of the Q2, so suffice to say that it autofocuses very fast, handles really well and the lens is tack sharp. I love its discreet, compact form, which is unintimidating for people I’m photographing (whether fellow travellers or locals). And yes, it looks drop. dead. gorgeous.

One oddity I struggle with slightly is its ISO settings on manual exposure mode: it only allows for whole stop increments (even though the camera has 1/3 stop increments when on auto ISO). I find this a hassle, as I generally set my aperture first, then shutter speed, and finally my ISO when manually exposing. With the Q2, I now have to do all that, and then re-adjust my shutter speed to fine tune my exposure. I really wish Leica would offer a 1/3-stop option in their settings. I’m now changing the way I shoot with the Q2, setting my ISO before shutter speed, but then I sometimes find that I’m not shooting at precisely my ideal shutter speed (which is more of an issue when I’m getting down to the lower shutter speeds).

I did have one major disappointment with the Q2: its so-called weather sealing (‘dust and water splash proof’, according to its marketing). When I brought it with me to the Sahara, some sand got into the dials which made them quite stiff. I wasn’t in a sandstorm, and I hadn’t dropped it in the sand or anything; it’s just that in a desert, sand gets everywhere. No problem, I thought — the camera still worked, and I would just bring it back to the shop so they can help clean it. Well, Leica sent it to their service centre, who said that sand had gotten into the camera and damaged the lens elements, the warranty was void and it would cost more than A$2,700 to fix! Needless to say, I was somewhat… upset. Fortunately, after a few emails and calls to the manager of the store I bought from, who escalated the case, Leica decided to fix my camera for free as a gesture of goodwill… (It still took about four months to get my camera fixed and shipped back). While I completely believe it should have been covered under warranty, I guess the end result is the same. But, a word of warning if you’re thinking of buying the Q2 for its weather sealing: don’t. At least, not if you’re planning on visiting a desert any time soon.

Enough of words; below are the pics I got.

First from the Q2

Next one from the Sony…

Sony

Sony

Q2

Q2 Macro Mode

Q2

Q2

Sony

Sony

Sony

Q2

Q2

Q2

Q2

Q2

Joey (Insta: joeywkoh)

36 Comments

  1. Great shots! And yes Leica service is absolutely awful – been there, done that. They have only one tech to cover the entire United States – unbelievable.
    Anyway, your shots are magical and that’s what counts.

  2. Your Fez shots are triggering some 20 year old memories of mine. I imagine most tours probably still hit a lot of the same spots. I remember when we met our guide he told me to call him Mohammed “because everyone here is named Mohammed”.

    • @Jamie Yes, there were a lot of ‘Mohammed’s! Did you go to Marrakech, too? It was the one city I was most looking forward to visiting, but where I hardly took any photos: the locals were very aggressive, and demanded money if a photo was taken anywhere near their vicinity. It sucked the joy out of wandering around and taking any photos.

  3. I fail to see how getting sand into your camera should ever be a warranty issue? It’s not a defect specific to your camera. That’s no different than getting it wet and then asking for a warranty. A warranty is not supposed to save people from user error or accident. You got lucky…

    • @Dan Indeed! Except when there is no user error or accident, and when the camera is advertised as dust proof (certainly, on the Australian website: https://au.leica-camera.com/Photography/Camera-overview ) it strikes me that there was indeed a defect (whether in my camera unit specifically, or the model range generally).

      It’s not like I dropped it (and the store guy agreed given the lack of any scratches whatsoever), or got sand into it when changing lenses.

  4. I posted an appreciative comment which seemingly didn’t make it through moderation. I learned a lot about composition just seeing how you used the possibilities of the two cameras you had with you. I was particularly fascinated by the two “blurred portraits”, if I may call them that, where you have focussed closely on the activity but not lost the person. Which of us would dare to do that?! Also your abstracts and semi-abstracts are a treat for the eyes. Thank you.

    • Thanks x2 John! Looks like your original comment came through in the end.

      With the 2 blurred ‘portrait’ photos, I was mostly interested in the activity, but the wide 28mm lens forced me to include background elements, so I tried to include the person as best I could. The lady pouring the tea was slightly harder, because it was a dark room and so I needed a large aperture (to keep ISO and shutter speed reasonable) but still wanted to be able to make out the person. I think maybe I barely got there.

    • I can only fully agree. That’s what struck me in all the images, although I think I prefer the colour of the Q.

      But that sand problem? Ugghhh. Not good. I used a D700 years ago on my honeymoon in Dubai, desert, sand, changing primes every now and then. No problem whatsoever.

  5. Great photos. The dunes look amazing. The last photo contrasting the tourists with the local boy on the donky is a real winner. Both cameras look great BTW.

    • Thanks @Paul! I do feel though that the pictures don’t quite do justice to the cameras, in that I had to re-size the pics down for this website, and then still had to use even poorer JPG conversion because my email wouldn’t allow me to send all the photos together (they were too big together, until I reduced the JPG quality to 95%).

  6. You really possess an artistic eye for creating stunning pictures. Your compositions truly feels unique and makes it interesting to watch. Very inspiring.

  7. I really enjoyed your pictures and the differences in composition between theSony and the Leica. Good you took both cameras! I must say that was pretty courageous of you splashing out on the Leica! The two deliberately blurred Q2 portraits with the focus on the activity are very fascinating. The abstract compositions with the Sony likewise. I’ve learned quite a lot from just looking at your images. Thanks for sharing.

    • @Zaphod — Hahaha! (Not) posting dark photos seems to be a thing here! And yeh, the dunes are one of my favourites too. Thanks

  8. Great write-up. Really kind of disappointed in Leica’s “warranty is void” garbage. REALLY expect more from a $5000 camera. Glad you got it taken care of for free.

    • @Steve Yeh, I was super disappointed about that warranty issue. Would love to have the service people explain, in front of others (even a judge!), how they could possibly say the warranty was void. And for such an expensive camera, with so much marketing of the weather-proof sealing… The store manager seemed to be much more understanding, at least, and he was good to deal with. Have to say, it’s kept me from falling in love with Leica, although I do really enjoy using the Q2. Maybe that’s for the better in the long run!

  9. Great set of images!
    As Leica piece, sell it!
    When I recvd my M3 (new in box) it lacked parts to make rangefinder visible or work..
    3 signatures on warranty. It was Finally Assembled by agent in South Africa..
    9 months later I received a letter to my complaint.
    “Some customers are too “fussy”.
    Desert sand and some beaches very fine, easily damage cameras..but ?

    • @Jason — Yes, I’ve since come across a lot of negative feedback from others who have needed to get their Leica cameras fixed… Shame that they spend so much effort on the marketing (and no doubt, design); I had a great purchasing experience from the store, and the camera was (and is) a joy to use. But as for the repairs department… I wonder if there’s just a lack of accountability from them…

  10. Great images. Pity about the Leica being so porous, especially considering their cost. Nevertheless the ‘Leica look’ is their in your photographs.
    But “trusty” Sony A7…? You never got through the piece without a cliche.

    • @des Thanks! And yeh, a pity about the Leica. It makes me nervous about taking it out to the beach or in even the lightest drizzle… As for my ‘trusty’ Sony, I guess it’s just because I’ve used Sony for a few years now, and it hasn’t let me down apart from a couple of minor instances.

  11. Gorgeous!….I suspect that your strong images have just as much to do with how you see, as it does to do with your great equipment

    • @Michael Hah! Thanks — I was trying to make the dunes as… stylistic as possible. If you zoom in (tho the low res photo quality isn’t the best), you can make out the fine, ridged patterns in the sand, especially in the Sony pic of multiple sand dunes. I figure I could point to that if people say it’s just an art graphic.

Leave a Reply to Zaphod Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.