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.
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.