Leica Q Typ 116 camera review

This Leica Q Typ 116 camera review is by K. Chae (Blog | Instagram | Website).

If you have an interesting idea for a guest post, you can contact me here.

A year with Q

I’ve been a long time Leica M user, and as much as I love Leica brand, I never was as much intrigued in Leica cameras other than M. That all changed when Leica Q arrived, however. While Leica hasn’t been so successful at delivering truly magnificent ‘digital’ cameras, they finally got it right with the Q. Upon testing it at out Leica store I knew I wanted it. And since one August day in 2015, I’ve been carrying it with me around the world to capture moments never to be duplicated. Here, I’d like to share my experience using the Q during the last year and a half. Share photographs I’ve made and how I went about getting them.

See Things In 28mm

I am first and foremost a street photographer. First challenge I’ve face using the Q was its focal length, which is set at 28mm. I think this is the most unpopular feature about the camera. Most Leica users use 35mm lens as a default. Myself, 50mm is my comfort zone. 28mm is kind of focal length that is not wide enough, but also not close enough either. So the first challenge for me was getting my eyes to see the world in 28mm. Recognizing type of scenes that calls for the use of Q. I’ve come to realize the best way to utilize this focal length is by getting close to my subjects as close as possible. In your face, if you will. Getting close ups of my primary subjects and yet getting what’s going on around the whole scene. I felt this was a strong suit of the Q I could play with, and it resulted in some marvelous images.


Don’t be afraid to shoot in darkness

Using Leica Q also changed the way I shoot, with its ability to make such smooth high ISO images. As much as I like my Leica M240, I rarely went over using ISO 1,600. I would go up to 3,200 in the most dire situations but no more. The Q provided me images I could work with all the way up to ISO 12,500. Surely by then it was kinda noisy, but was perfectly usable for my street photography. This opened up doors of taking photographs in ways I was not able to before. Built-in lens having the brightness of f1.8 was also a plus. It gave me crisp images when I tried out some long exposures on a tripod. Image sharpness, color vividness, it was all there. To be honest, I almost felt the lens were little too sharp. As I'm not a type of photographer who's too crazy about getting razor sharp images. I know this might sound weird to some of you, but for me photography is not about getting it as 'real' as possible. It's about getting my perspectives expressed, telling a story. But I'm not complaining. It's just that I don't have to use 'sharpen' option in Lightroom anymore. It's already that sharp.

Focus Fast. Focus Well.

One thing I was the most impressed with the Q was its AF systems. To be honest, Leica was never good at making a good AF system. They never needed with M, it being a ranger finder. But other guys wasn’t so lucky. I used to have Leica X, the latest version, and I took it for my Asian journey for 100 days. It too was used for moments where using M wasn't an option. Countless times, however, I failed to get the shot I wanted, because X had really horrifying AF system. It couldn't focus well enough. Not only it was slow at focusing, sometimes it just got it wrong, or couldn't focus on anything at all. Once I got the Q to myself, those days were over. Q is the fastest auto focusing camera Leica has ever made. It's fast, and it's accurate. It also provides handful of different focusing options. I'm more of a manual photography worshiper, as you can expect from me being an avid M user. But when I use a camera with AF system I use them for a reason and I expect them to be reliable. Many Leica digital cameras didn't deliver in this regard. Q finally did.

Good For Extreme Weathers

I was chosen as the Korean representative of the Polar Night Magic campaign, run by Finnish tourism board. I was able to experience everything Finnish winter had to offer and it was a perfect chance for myself to try the Q out in the extreme weather. I didn't know what to expect. I've never been to a place where it's colder than -20 degrees celsius, let alone taking pictures in those kind of weather. I've got to use it up to the temperature of -40 degrees celsius and that wasn't easy for me, and for the Q also, I believe. To my surprise however, it never went out. All things functioned normal up to -20. It was one night where the night temperature went below -40, where I was staying outside for hours to photograph auroras, that finally Q seemed to slow down. Auto focusing failed, and LCD screen started to show strange colors. And yet, it still worked. And next day, the camera warmed up and was back to normal. I think it's safe to say Q is a battle proofed camera. Getting the job done at -40 celsius is good enough for me. What do you say?

Being Small Pays Off

If you’re a Leica shooter than you’re already a bit like me. You don’t want to show off your camera on the streets. One of the nice things about using Leica M has been that you don’t scream out you’re a photographer. Unassuming. Leica Q delivers in this regard as well. For me, it's important that I make myself look like a nobody. It is for that reason I do not like carrying a huge camera. Therefore the Q complements my appearance very well. Looking like a simple point and shoot camera is an advantage that any street photographer would appreciate. It helped me in countries like Lebanon and Iran, where more people are sensitive about being photographed.

So in the end...

This is not much of a technical review, per se, but more of how I felt of using it and how I used it. Leica Q for all its specifications can't beat out Sony cameras in terms of features. But I guess you know it if you're a Leica user like myself, it's not just for the features you use Leica. It only applied when it came to using a M. But Q became a first non-M that I really like from Leica. I think it will keep on supplementing M on my works and they make a great duo. For some people it can be their primary camera too, I do not doubt it. I truly believe this is one of the best digital camera Leica has ever made. When I look at all the images I've got with it, I'm just glad I took a chance with this guy.

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  • Fabulous photos! Seem like it can withstand extreme weather quite well!

  • Lance

    I am very happy with my Q. So much so I find it difficult to justify buying the new M 10!

  • eric

    nice photos…i think comparing the q and m doesnt really work though. the m requires manual focus, the q doesnt. its a completely different mindset in my opinion. it seems like a lot of people who have a q also have an m, which makes it more of an additional tool rather than a better one.

  • lobotomisedjournalist

    “First challenge I’ve face using the Q was its focal length, which is set at 28mm. I think this is the most unpopular feature about the camera. Most Leica users use 35mm lens as a default. Myself, 50mm is my comfort zone. 28mm is kind of focal length that is not wide enough, but also not close enough either.”

    yes. But the lens also sticks out too much for a good ergonomic package.

    If Leica made this with a pancake 35 0r 40 f2 it would sell very, very well, but perhaps too well for Leica’s liking, such that it cannibalises their other camera sales.

  • Calvin

    Hey K. Chae ,

    1. Is this a camera review or a marketing of your travel photos?
    2. When you post a camera review, you shouldn’t post these photoshop-processed images. Leica Q doesn’t produce these over saturated photos with high contrasts like yours. If you do, please show the original photos or provide what you changed in the photoshop.

    • K. Chae

      I was going to ignore this but what you say seem to be a perfect example of ignorances those so-called purists display, so let me answer it.

      I personally do not get this hate for photoshop and your obsession with what is ‘real’. There is no ‘unprocessed’ images when it comes to digital photography. Your camera sensor does what we used to do in the darkroom when we printed. Why would you want your work to be made solely by digital process than by dictating it with your own eyes and tastes is beyond me. I do not like photoshopping to a point where you erase something in the image, move something around, or make its colors totally different. But saturating images, burning, dodging and so on, these type of editing existed from film days. A lot of people hate it now because anybody can easily use the skills unlike back in days. I don’t understand it.

      In film days, different films produced different images. positive films were known to have greater saturations and contrasts. Does that make it fake? No one picked on photographers for choosing some films over others. Is that ok because you didn’t do it yourself but films did it? How about black and white images? The world is never black and white. If you want to talk about making ‘unreal’ photographs you should never photograph in black and white. Seeing things in black and white changes how it makes us feel. No one says that’s ‘fake’, and yet when images have more pop, people are quick to point out it’s photoshopped. Sure it is. It’s supposed to be. Every professionals photoshop their images. It’s just at how much extent you should be doing it. I’m a color photographer so I chase colors. I make colors pop, sure, but I don’t create colors. I can not make an image with gray, white, black subjects to look vivid. I have to discover colorful moments. And that’s what I do.

      I don’t believe in this whole photography should capture what is ‘real’. There is no real in photography. Just because you don’t photoshop image and let your camera produce it for ya doesn’t mean it’s ‘real’. Just because you use yours images right out of your camera doesn’t make it ‘real’. To me photography is all about perspectives. Expressing your creative vision. Two people can be at the same scene and document it in totally different manner. None of them would be telling lies. It just depends on how you look at things, what you decide to focus on, what you feel is important and what is not. Was early 20th century America was all like how Robert Frank photographed? Definitely not. It’s a point of view he had. That’s not showing what it was for ‘real’. Oh and you know even these old master photographers like Bresson and Erwitt all had great printers who knew how to print these images best. They didn’t print these films ‘as is’, and no one calls them out and cries for foul because their works are not as ‘real’ as it should look.

      Oh and I should answer your first question. Sure it’s a camera review. As I said it’s not a technical review but more of how I made use out of it. I don’t think there is an industry standard for making a camera review just as you have described it to be. There can be a different types of reviews, you know? And promoting my work? I sure hope so. Can’t I do both? I don’t take a dime from camera manufacturers. I am not a hobbyist. I pay my bills with my photography. Whether you like it or now I’ve been doing this more than 15 years so I think I am allowed to say I know what I’m doing. Being a photographer is my job. I don’t suck up to big companies, I don’t get paid by advertising some gears. I do what I do to express my vision. Willy Ronis said when you photograph you don’t see what is real. You see yourself. That is exactly what I do. So why not. You still have an option to ignore me and not do anything. Doesn’t see much harm in there, can you?

      Hope that was enough answer to you.

      • kahiri78

        Agree with you. But there are other pros who doesn’t do post processing of their images. You might not believe me but there are some. Some of these people are like me – terrible skills at photoshop or other photoediting software.

        No offense, but I do think that your set of images here taken with the Q looks like they have undergone Instagram filter. The content of these images are superb though.

        My 2 cents

        • K. Chae

          Hey Kahiri, thanks for your opinions. Sure there are photographers who just use the images straight from their cameras, as there were in the film days as well. I am not saying you ‘must’ post process your images. My point is why should it matter? I don’t think photography is something there’s a definite answer to it. You should be allow to try everything you feel you can do find your true style.

          It’s ok that you don’t like the colors in my images but that’s just my signature style and something I’ve worked on for a long time. I’m not expecting to make my work something that everybody likes. And thus, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. I certainly respect your two cents. No problem there. =)

      • EvilTed

        People actually pay you for this?
        Maybe your rich friends are having some fun with you 😉

        • K. Chae

          Oh yes they do thank you very much. thankfully for me, those who actually pay money for good photography are not here, hiding their identity, and talking shit about other people just to make themselves feel like somebody. =)

      • Calvin

        K. Chae,

        you totally misunderstood my points. (partially my fault not sharing my points in detail) Here are my points.

        1. I have known your name and photos for a some time. I do respect your photography works as they are your own works. I do not care whether you use photoshop or instagram-like filters at all. It is totally your choice and freedom to present images you observed to others. To be 100% clear, I’m not arguing this at all.

        2. If you name the title of this article as “one year with Leica Q” and make an essay, that is fine. But you named it as “review”. So the readers expect experience from who actually use the camera. You mentioned several points in the article. It is fine, too.

        3. However, your images with high contrast and saturation can mislead readers to expect and guess like “oh if I buy Leica Q, I can take this kind of gorgeous photos with high contrast and saturation”. In real, they cannot make the photos from Leica Q because they are heavily retouched by lightroom presets or photoshop filters. That makes problems and that’s why many reviews written by professional photographers show original images or/and (if necessary) processed images with what the reviewer changed (e.g., contrast, sharpness, noise reduction, etc.,)

        4. We all know no one can pass a blind test of photos taken by different cameras. They will look exactly same at same camera settings. Leica Q, Nikon, Canon, Sony, Leica M whatever. Leica Q is a good digital camera, but it cannot make distinguished, differentiated and extraordinarily great images over others. when you share your photos, you didn’t mention this. That’s a problem. Your other travel photos taken by other cameras including Leica M are very similar with these. But your “review”(not “essay”) pretends to say that my photos taken by Leica Q are different. If this is not your intention, you real intention can be a marketing of your works.

        Hope this is clear.

        • K. Chae

          Hello again Calvin,

          I see your point here more clearly. I’m sorry if I took you as some kind of a troll, but you did left out a lot of details in your first post.

          Regardless,

          I don’t think camera ‘review’ has to show what the camera can do ‘out of the box.’ Some people write reviews in such manner, but a type of review I wrote here, albeit a shorter version than the original on my blog, is to show what the Q can accomplish if you use it in certain way. Surely Q doesn’t make my photographs just with anyone. But it ‘can’ make those images, and it did, with me.

          Personally myself, I enjoy this type of review more. i like seeing other photographers taking a camera to limit, trying out all the things a photographer would do to maximize its potential. I might not use it the same way, but I still like to see how it’s used in certain way. It helps me to figure out what I might be able to do if I do get that camera.

          I think I’ve illustrated this point in my first answer as well. I don’t think there has to be only one kind of review. This is still a review. Not a type where I chart everything and shows you exactly what images it make in certain conditions. It’s a review I’ve done by actually using it, not by using it to review it, so to speak. Not everybody might find that to be helpful, but I’m sure there are those who does. Again, I don’t see camera reviews all has to be the same. So I don’t see any problem there.

          Hope that clears it up a bit. And even if it doesn’t, that’s how I intended it to be. I guess we all are entitled to our own opinions and visions. I hope you see my point.

          K.

          • I have the opposite philosophy to yours – I almost never post-process my images, because I am absolutely terrible at it. Every time I’ve tried post-processing I’ve felt the processed images look worse than the originals.

            I think the one valid thing about your critics, though, is that if you are reviewing the camera, it’s good to see what the straight out of the camera images are like, since that will give people a better idea of what’s up. Since you didn’t mention your post-processing strategy, people wouldn’t know that these photos are not representative of actual results. So in future reviews you might want to make that clear.

            However, I actually think your perspective is forgivable in this case, because there are so many Q reviews available and so much information about it. So anyone who doesn’t know what a Q image looks like by now probably cannot be helped … LOL :).

          • K. Chae

            I respect your way of doing photography. Again, I believe there isn’t a single absolute rule to go by when it comes to photography. I have my philosophies but I don’t plan on forcing them onto others. I guess you’re right about the fact that I didn’t mention much of the post processing in the review, which ‘could’ confuse some people. Thanks for your opinions. =)

          • Calvin

            Unfortunately, you still don’t understand my points.
            While you’re saying this is a “camera review”, not a “photo essay”, you don’t show the images originally taken by Leica Q at all.
            As a result, your comments on the camera’s performance in this article became a non-sense (or a unproven argument). You did see and have the images recorded by Leica Q, but hide them and then show the artificially processed images saying they are taken by Leica Q. This is a problem.
            Your retouching is far beyond the widely accepted level in camera review, (not an essay). What did you expect readers to watch your photos in this review?

          • K. Chae

            Nope, unfortunately, you still don’t see MY point.

            I keep on saying this. ‘camera review’ doesn’t have to show what images it takes right out of the box. The images I made are my own, thus it has my style on it. Post processed, yes. That does not have to mean it’s not a ‘review.’ I’m not gonna agree with you that a camera review has to show sensor’s produced images without any alternations. There can be reviews like that, but there are also other types of review. If you don’t agree, that’s fine. I don’t agree with you either.

            I pointed out what I wanted the readers to see when they see this review, and according to some of the response here and from my other outlets, they took it as what it is. There might be some who don’t, like you, but that doesn’t mean what you think is an absolute. I’d end this discussion here, as I don’t see me and you agreeing on this. It’s just going in circles.

            K.

          • June-Woo Juhn

            First I really love your photos. They look truly beautiful. And I also totally agree that there is no one rule to make a review. However I agree with many others’ opinion that people expect straight results of the camera when they’re reading reviews. Again I don’t insist this is the only way. But to be a better review, I suggest you firstly present the original ones and once it is done then it is totally your choice if you present the ones beyond the camera gives us in straight. This is because the doc is not an pure art but a technical review with information that people can learn about. Since you didn’t this, we are arguing about this, not about camera itself although we’re reading a camera review.

    • Hi Calvin, with due respect I think Chae did a great job in demonstrating what the camera is potentially capable of doing (in good hands).
      I guess it’s a personal preference but travel photography kind of user reports are more interesting to read than plain charts and diagrams.

  • soundimageplus

    Excellent images. I agree that the Q is a somewhat different Leica and with it’s speed, quietness and size it’s excellent for your kind of work and any other situation that requires ‘discretion’. Personally I have no issues with 28mm and have never understood all the fuss about the 35mm focal length. I have these too wonderful tools that deal with focal length issues. They are called feet.

  • EvilTed

    I was going to let this go, but you really need to read this and understand a few basic facts.

    Owning a Leica does not make you a street photographer.

    Traveling the world with a Leica doesn’t make you a travel photographer either.

    Wearing a Leica to show off is probably one of the most asinine comments I’ve read from a Leica owner and is probably why a lot of people hate Leica owners.

    As for your images, these are probably the most unimaginative set of bland, over processed, badly composed and just plain uninteresting “snapshots” that I’ve seen in a long time.

    You can claim to be making money all you want, but photography is a visual art and I’m sorry, I see nothing of merit either in the set you have posted here or on your Instagram feed.

    You can quote famous photographers all you want – that doesn’t make you a photographer either…

    • K. Chae

      I am sorry you’re so upset and angry at me or others just because they spot leica cameras and you don’t.

      I’ve never proclaimed that I was a street photographer, or any photographer for that matter, just because I have a Leica, and that I travel the world. I’m a photographer because I do it, I think I’m good at it, and enough people find me to be good at what I do.

      It’s totally your freedom to dislike my work and see ‘nothing’ in my images. To be honest, I’m thankful you see nothing. It actually proves to me that my images are good, if you know what I mean. =)

      Nonetheless, I don’t claim to be a photographer. I just am. I make living out of it. Published couple of books in Korea, worked for big companies too but they don’t matter. The real point is, you can’t tell me I’m not a photographer just because you don’t like my work. You can dislike my work all you want. I’m not knocking on your door and throwing my images at your face.

      But I am a photographer who’s livelihood depends on it. You might think a Leica user is all these rich brats but I truly am not. I crawl all my savings to buy one because I love it, no matter how unpractical that might seem. And I use all my earnings on my travels. I’m not sponsored by anybody. Life as a photographer, for me, is not a luxurious one. You talk about people hating on Leica users. It’s their fault, not mine. i don’t see why someone has to be ‘hated’ just because they do what they like and they buy something they like.

      Again, I truly feel you can devote more of your time on things you like. I do see that you dislike me, my images. I have no problem with that. I have aplenty others who do. I just think if I were you, I’d rather spend the time looking at images you like, rather than trying to bring down some other photographers just because you don’t like them. Why is it so much fun to hate on others? I don’t think it is. =)

      K.

      • Gerard Jan Oldenbeuving

        very well put K!!!! That’s what envy will do to a person….

  • Ragz

    I am a hobby photographer. I have just sold off my sony a7 mk2 body…I have the zeiss 35 f1/4 and a voigtlander 15 M mount..that was used with it… I am now eyeing the leica Q. I have no issue with the 28mm as I find myself shooting pics from my iPhone daily and that is a similar focal length. Will I get similar (shallow) DOF like the zeiss 35 1.4 on the 28 1.7? Thats most important for me.

    Is the Q now due for an upgrade as its almost 2 years old? It would be a pity that I go and buy one and find an upgrade in 3 months.

    • I do not expect a Q refresh in the next 2 years. For the depth of field, use an online calculator for the exact numbers (I think the 35mm f/1.4 has a shallow depth of field when compared to the 28mm f/1.7).

      • Ragz

        OK thank you. I will keep reading more about the Q before I bite the bullet.

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