Leica Q2 Review with Full-Res Sample Images

Leica Q2 Review
Review

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the Leica Q2 is a follow-on from the Leica Q. Like the original Q, the Leica Q2 (Type 4889) is a compact camera, which means it has a fixed lens. In both cases, a 28mm f/1.7 optic. However, unlike most compact cameras, the Q and Q2 have full-frame sensors. Whereas the Leica Q (Typ 116) has 24.2Mp sensor, the Leica Q2 has a 47.3-million-effective-pixel sensor. That’s the most significant difference between the two cameras, but there are a few other changes here and there.

Despite looking a bit like a small M camera, complete with traditional exposure controls, the Q2 can focus automatically and has an electronic viewfinder (EVF) built-in. In addition, the screen on the back of the camera is touch-sensitive.

Like the original Q, the Leica Q has superb build quality. The handling is also a delight and the images look great at up to around ISO 6400. It’s a dream compact camera.

Leica Q2 Review

Key Features

Camera type35 mm digital compact camera
LensLeica Summilux 28 mm f/1.7 ASPH.
Lens construction11 elements in 9 groups, 3 aspherical elements
Digital Zoom28mm, 35mm and 50mm
Aperture rangef/1.7 to f/16 in 1⁄3EV steps
SensorFull-frame CMOS sensor with 50.4Mp (total), 47.3Mp (effective)
Dynamic range13Ev
Colour depth14-bit
File formatDNG, DNG + JPEG or JPEG
Video Resolution4K: 30 or 24 fps. C4K: 24 fps. Full HD 24, 30, 60 or 120 fps
Video formatMP4
StorageSD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards Recommended: UHS II memory cards
SensitivityAutomatic, ISO 50 50000
JPG settingsNatural, monochrome, high-contrast monochrome, all with further settings for contrast, saturation and sharpness in 5 steps
FocusingManual or Automatic (Single or continuous)
Focus range30cm to infinity, 17cm in Macro mode
MeteringSingle field (moveable metering point), multi-field (49 fields), face recognition, subject tracking, optional setting/shutter release by touching the monitor screen
Exposure modesAperture priority, shutter speed priority and manual setting
Scene modes: Automatic, sport, portrait, landscape, night portrait, snow/beach, fireworks, candlelight, sunset, digiscoping, miniature effect, panorama and HDR
Exposure
metering modes
Multi-segment, centre-weighted, spot
Exposure compensation± 3 EV in 1/3-EV steps
Shutter typeChoice of mechanical, electronic or hybrid
Shutter speed60 s to 1⁄2000 s with mechanical shutter, 1 s to 1⁄40000 s with electronic shutter, in 1/3 steps
Max Continuous shooting rate10fps with mechanical shutter, 20fps with electronic shutter
ViewfinderOLED with 1280 x 960 pixels x 3 colours (= 3.68Mp). 4:3 ratio 100% with 21 mm eye relief.
ScreenFixed 3-inch 1,040,000-dot TFT touchscreen
ConnectivityWi-Fi and Bluetooth
BatteryLeica BP-SCL4 lithium-ion battery, rated voltage: 7.2V, capacity: 1860 mAh
Battery life370 images
Dimensions (W x H x D130 x 80 x 91.9 mm
Weight718g / 637g (with / without battery)

There was a time when the majority of compact cameras used 35mm film. Which means they were full-frame cameras. Making a full-frame digital compact camera is a bit more involved, so they’re not common and they’re quite a bit more expensive. The Leica Q2 is set to retail for £4,250 (over $5000), for example, and the 42Mp Sony RX1R II has an RRP of £3,450/$3,299.

So what’s the big deal about a full-frame sensor? Well, it allows the photoreceptors (also referred to as pixels) to be larger than they would be on a smaller sensor. That means that they gather more light so less gain needs to be applied and the image quality is better. Or, in the case of the Leica Q2, it enables more pixels to be squeezed onto the sensor while still enabling each on to gather enough light to produce high-quality images.

A larger sensor also gives more scope to restrict depth of field than with a smaller sensor.

The downside to using a full-frame sensor is that the lens needs to be capable of producing a large image circle. And unlike with film, the structure of each pixel means that the angle of the light rays is important. If the light hits the sensor at an oblique angle there can be a serious loss of image quality towards the edges of the frame.

Leica Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH. Lens

Like the Q (Typ 116) the Leica Q2 (Type 4889) has a Leica Summilux 28 mm f/1.7 ASPH lens. However, according to Leica, this has been tweaked for the Q2 to optimise it for use with the higher resolution sensor.

A 28mm focal length is a nice choice for everyday photography. However, there are crop settings that produce framing equivalent to 35mm, 50mm and 75mm. These result in 30.0Mp, 14.7Mp and 6.6Mp images respectively.

Unlike Leica’s M cameras, the Q and Q2 can focus automatically. Leica hasn’t changed from the Q’s autofocus (AF) system for the Q2, it has the same 0.15sec response time.

Like the Q, the Q2’s lens has three rings. The aperture ring sits at the end closest to the front element. Behind it is the manual focus ring. This has a small lock that needs to be unlocked to enable manual focusing. Rotating the ring all the way to the furthest focusing point until it clicks, sets the lens back to autofocusing.

The ring closest to the camera body is to select Macro focusing. When this is selected, the minimum focus distance reduces from 30cm to 17cm.

Leica Q 2 Review

Processing Engine

Leica has paired the Q2’s 50.4Mp (47.3Mp effective pixel count) sensor with an updated version of its Maestro processing engine.

This enables a sensitivity range of ISO 50-50,000 and a maximum continuous shooting rate of 10fps (frames per second) in Continuous High Speed mode or 20fps in Continuous Super Speed mode. The latter uses the electronic shutter to enable the faster speed. The focus is set at the start of the sequence.

Shooting modes

Leica doesn’t tend to go in for lots of fancy shooting modes, but as well as the enthusiast’s favourite PASM exposure modes, the Q2 can shoot in Full Auto or one of 12 scene modes. These include Sport, Portrait, Landscape, Night Portrait, Snow / Beach, Fireworks, Candle Light, Sunset, Digiscoping, Miniature Effect, Panorama and HDR.

Images may be recorded as DNG raw files or Jpegs, or both simultaneously. The appearance of Jpegs can be set using the Film Style settings which are Standard, Vivid, Natural, Natural, monochrome and High-contrast monochrome. The contrast, saturation and sharpness settings of each of the colour settings can be adjusted across 5 steps (Low, Medium Low, Medium, Medium high and High). The contrast and sharpness of Monochrome settings can be adjusted in the same way.

Other Features

While the original Q can record MP4 Full-HD video at 30 or 60fps, the Q2 can be used to shoot 4K (3840 x2160) video at 24/30fps or C4K 4096x 2160 at 24p. There’s no port to connect an external mic (or headphones), so audio must be recorded via the built-in mic.

Optical image stabilisation is built-in and can be set to cut in automatically when the shutter speed drops to 1/60sec or slower.

In addition, both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity are built-in. The Bluetooth connectivity enables easier pairing with Leica’s Fotos app and speeds connecting to the Wi-Fi system for image transfer and remote control. It also allows the camera to be woken up remotely and for the camera to be set to match the phone.

Helpfully, the Leica Fotos app shows images on a black background if they’re on the camera and white if they’ve been transferred to the phone.

Leica Q2 Review

Build and Handling

Leica has made the Q2 the same shape as the original Q, but according to the specifications, it’s a little shallower. The Q measures 130 x 80 x 93mm (WxHxD) whereas the Q2 is 130 x 80 x 91.9.

By popular demand, the Q2 is also weather and dust resistant to IP52 standard. That’s good news given its a camera that’s more likely to be used outside than in a studio.

Leica lovers will approve of the ‘made in Germany’ inscription on the back. And nobody can fail to notice the high quality, durable feel that comes with it. You can tell it has a metal construction the moment you pick it up.

The top plate is made from machined blocks of aluminium while the body is made of magnesium alloy. All the lettering and setting markings are laser-­engraved.

A smooth indent on the back of the camera forms a thumb rest while the flat front of the Q2 has soft, textured coating that gives a little grip. The Q2 never slipped from my hand during the days that I shot with it, but I wouldn’t dream of using it without some form of strap. It has the type of build that suggests it will survive a drop on some ground, but you really, really don’t want to risk it.

A quick glance across the body of the Q2 reveals some small changes to the control layout in comparison with the Q. There are now three rectangular buttons to the left of the screen on the back of the camera, for example. These are marked Play, Fn and Menu.

The Q has 5 small round buttons on the left of the screen.

Menu

Leica has designed the Q2 to allow you to concentrate on the most important aspects of photography. That means the aim is to make it easy to adjust key features without having to use the menu too often or wade through loads of quirky features.

Pressing the Menu button reveals those features that you’ve signed to your ‘Favourites’. These are selected via the Customise Control option in the 4th page of the main menu. You can assign up to 15 features to the Favourites menu but any more than 8 makes it overflow to a second screen. You can either access these options by scrolling down or by pressing the Menu button again.

A third press of the menu button takes you to the point you were last at in the main menu. Subsequent presses take you through each Menu page (1-5) in turn, excluding the Favourites page.

Leica Q 2 Review

Exposure Mode

The Q2’s menu has a Scene Mode option for setting the exposure mode. When this to set PASM, the exposure is set using the shutter speed dial on the top plate and the aperture ring on the lens. Selecting one of the other options sets the camera to Full-auto or an automatic scene mode.

There are settings running from 1+ to 1/2000sec in whole stops on the shutter speed dial. Fine adjustments can be made in 1/3Ev steps using the thumb wheel that sits at the far right end of the top plate.

When +1 is set on the shutter speed dial, you can use the thumb wheel to set a shutter speed from 1 second to 30 seconds.

The aperture ring on the lens has markings of f/1.7, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11 and f/16. There are click stops in-between to allows you adjust aperture in 1/3Ev.

Both the shutter speed dial and the aperture ring have A for automatic settings. If both are set to A, the camera is in program exposure mode. If just the aperture ring is at A, the camera is in shutter priority mode and if just the shutter speed dial is set to A, the Q2 is in aperture priority mode.

Alternatively, you can shoot with the Q2 in manual exposure mode by setting a specific value on both the aperture ring and the shutter speed dial.

Thumb Wheel

By default, the thumb wheel can be used to adjust exposure compensation. If the shutter speed dial is set to 1+, however, exposure compensation is set via the main or Function menu.

In addition, a long press the button at the centre of the thumb wheel reveals up to 8 parameters that can be adjusted. A short press reveals the option for the selected setting. It’s a clever way of being able to adjust two settings very quickly via one dial. And it only takes a fraction of a second longer to be able to adjust another 7 parameters.

The Fn (function) button works in a similar way. A long press reveals up to 8 features that can be adjusted. A short press shows the options for the selected feature.

Both of these lists are customisable via the main menu.

Leica Q 2 Review

Pressing the button to the left of the thumb rest toggles through the crop settings of 35mm, 50mm and 72mm

Viewfinder and Screen

Although Leica has stuck with the same 3,680,000-pixel resolution for the electronic viewfinder (EVF), it’s now an OLED device. It delivers a very detailed, smooth view and replicates the appearance of images very well.

On the back of the camera, there’s a fixed 3-inch 1,040,000-dot TFT touchscreen. This also provides a clear view and has a wide viewing angle, but it would be nice if it could be tilted.

The screen is generally responsive to touch, which is useful for setting the AF point or zooming into to check the sharpness of images. However, the gesture control can be frustrating. There were a few occasions, for example, when I swiped to switch to video mode and it took me several swipes to get back to stills mode.

Although it’s not possible to select features in the main menu via a tap on the screen, you can select settings from the thumb wheel and Function menu. Oddly, it’s not possible to select parameters such as White Balance or Sensitivity by touch, you have to use the navigation keys. But once the parameter has been selected, you can pick the value you want with a tap.

The dioptre adjuster is next to the EVF. It has to be pressed to release it for adjustment and can then be pushed back home to prevent it being moved accidentally.

Performance

It’s a while since I shot with the Leica Q, but it’s one of my favourite cameras. The Leica Q2 is just as appealing.

The first thing that struck me about the images from the Q2 in its default settings is that the colours are quite muted by modern standards. I noticed it as soon as I put the camera to my eye and looked through the EVF.

In some instances, the results look similar to those from a Fuji camera in Classic Chrome mode. That happens to be my favourite Fuji Film Simulation mode, so I’m quite happy about it.

If you want to give colours a bit more oomph, the Q2 has a Vivid Film Style. It works well without overcooking the saturation. The Monochrome options are also worth trying.

The Leica Summilux 28 mm f/1.7 ASPH lens on the Q2 is a high-quality optic. Even when the aperture is wide open it captures an impressive amount detail and there’s only the slightest fall off towards the corners. Closing the aperture to f/2.8 gets the whole frame sharp.

Like the Q, the Q2 is not a camera that suffers from flare on a frequent basis. It’s very well controlled. If you include the low sun in the frame you may spot a flare highlight, but you won’t see a major drop in contrast.

There’s also no need to worry about distortion, chromatic aberration or vignetting. Straight lines remain straight and high contrast edges don’t suffer from fringing. If you shoot something against a plain background at f/1.7 you may see a slight fall-off in brightness to towards the corners, but it is smooth and subtle.

Image Quality

As you’d expect with a 47Mp full-frame sensor, the Q2is capable of capturing a lot of detail. At low-to-mid range sensitivity settings, it’s very good. What’s more, the detail looks very natural, even at 100% on-screen and in both raw files and Jpegs.

Noise is handled well at ISO 12,500. When images are sized to fill a 15-inch screen for example, there’s just a hint of texture in the uniform tone areas of raw files. The same areas of simultaneously captured Jpegs look smooth but there’s a slight softening of the detail in those sections with the finest texture.

Zoom into 100% and the texture in the raw files becomes more obvious. However, it’s uniform, with no clumping or banding. It’s not offensive. Meanwhile, the Jpeg has just a suggestion of texture in some areas at 100%. And the trickiest areas, where fine details are out of focus are just the right side of being smudged.

Jump up to ISO 25,000, however, and the balance swings in the wrong direction. Noise and its removal become more evident and some shadows have a magenta or purplish cast.

I recommend making ISO 12,500 the maximum setting. However, I noticed that when the sensitivity is set to Auto, the Q2 never goes above ISO 6,400, so it seems that is the maximum that Leica recommends.

Autofocus

Although it’s possible to focus manually with the Q2, there were no occasions when I felt the need to during the few days I had the camera. Even in low light conditions, the AF system got the subject sharp. And in most cases in Single AF mode it does so quickly. In Continuous AF mode its prone to adjusting the focus unnecessarily, especially in low light. It’s more stable when you’re recording video.

The AF point selection mode can be set to Multi-Field, Spot, Field, Tracking or Face Detection.

Of these options, I find Spot and Field the most useful. Multi-Field leaves the camera to decide where to focus, and I prefer more control.

The Face Detection setting can be handy with people photos, but if you turn to shoot something else you need to change mode. Also, you can set the AF point with a tap on the screen on Spot, Field and Tracking, which is quick and easy. Then if you need to move it, you can use the navigation pad. There’s no joystick or trackpad option with the Q2.

I find the Tracking AF setting useful in some situations. It allows you set the AF point by tapping the screen but you can then adjust the composition and keep the subject sharp. It doesn’t work with every subject so it’s worth experimenting with it.

Exposure and Dynamic Range

I stuck with the Leica Q2’s Multi-Field metering for the duration of the time that I had the Q2. As the electronic viewfinder (EVF) shows an accurate preview of the image as it will be captured, this is a good choice for most photography.

In ‘average’ conditions, the Multi-Field metering proves reliable, delivering correctly exposed results. However, the exposure compensation control does not go unused. I made fairly frequent but not excessive use of it.

It’s worth noting that the Q2’s highlight alert is a little over-protective. It flashes when the highlights are getting close to burning out rather than actually burning out. In some cases, the difference is a whole stop or more.

I have a few landscape images where the highlight alert was flashing away in the sky, but I later found it was not burned out. If you’re not prepared for it, this may encourage you to underexpose a scene to protect the highlights unnecessarily.

However, the Q2 also has good dynamic range, so if you’re shooting at a low sensitivity setting, dark images can withstand a fair degree of adjustment. I found it possible to make adjustments of around 4Ev without significant loss of detail or the introduction of noise becoming problematic. A 5Ev adjustment is a bit too much.

Stabilisation

Examining my images at 100% reveals that around 80% of those I shot at 1/8sec are acceptably sharp. Of those, the majority are absolutely spot on.

Decreasing the shutter speed to 1/4sec reduces my hit rate to around 20%.

The stabilisation also operates in video mode, but I still noticed some small movement in the footage I shot when hand-holding the camera. It can’t iron-out movements as well as the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II for example.

Sample Images

Follow the link to browse and download full-resolution images

Verdict

Leica announced the Q in June 2015. Three and a half years later, it’s still a highly desirable camera. However, the Leica Q2 makes some attractive upgrades, not least the boost in the resolution from 24.2Mp to 47.3Mp. In addition, the weather-sealing is welcome.

The new sensor, combined with the tweaked Leica Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH. lens delivers superb quality images. The results are typically Leica, understated and attractive with noise that’s controlled very well up to around ISO 12,500.

Leica has also streamlined the controls and handling a little. After just a few minutes familiarisation, you really feel in control of the Q2. It takes next to no time to work out where everything is, how to adjust the key settings and how to customise the camera to suit your style.

Its interface, with its clever use of short and long presses on a couple of buttons, is very nice to use.

The only aspect that’s likely to fox you if you don’t read the manual, is how to switch between stills and video mode. That takes a side-swipe on the screen. And this introduces a disappointment with the Q2, I find the gesture control a bit hit and miss.

I’d also like to be able to use the screen to move the AF point when I’m looking in the viewfinder, and perhaps to select the Menu and Function Menu options as well.

I love the solid feel of the Q2. And while I know that it would be hard to incorporate a tilting mechanism for the screen that would match the overall build quality, I’d still like one. It just makes low and high-level shots that bit easier.

 

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Leica Q
Author Rating
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