OMG so much rambling.. Don't read it if you're not interested in hearing about AF, and minor complaints. Bottom line, it's the best AF mirrorless camera I've used to date. And I've briefly to extensively tried or owned most (save for samsung and panasonic). It's definitely going to give DSLR cameras a run for their money, especially if you compare a XX + 24G or XX + 24L vs the Leica Q. You can just skip my writing and ask me anything specific you'd like. Since honestly, this is just rabbling. I donít want to work on boring client stuff, this is taking my mind off of it.
So I went out and picked up a Leica Q. I paid for it, it wasn't given to me. So my first impressions review is going to be honest and unbiased. I'll put up pictures in a few days if I have time, and will also answer any random questions anyone has. So feel free to ask!
I went to the Leica Q launch event. It was dark, in a chic cigar smoking Edison bulb lit hipster kinda way. The bar was dark (I covered that) but we're talking 125th of a second @ 1.7 iso12500 or 25000 kinda dark (I don't often shoot under 125th because most of my subjects are quick moving, IBIS wouldn't work in such a situation). The fact that there were Edison bulbs scattered about on the bar counter there was enough light in some cases to shoot people at 3200/6400 if the subject was in the right spot 2ft from a table bulb. This is something you could have shot with your iPhone, but probably wouldn't have liked the results very much. Or at least wouldn't have been able to use it other then to be an instagram bragger.
Just to explain myself.. I went to the Leica event with one goal in mind. To test the cameras AF abilities. I shoot weddings with M cameras, and I use to use 35FLE / 75APO. Lately I've been needing a change, so I've decided to go 28??/50APO/90APO but it was a tossup between getting the 28Lux or buying this little Q. The primary purpose of any 28mm for me is to capture quick shots while in the thick of things. Say people laughing and clanking glasses together. Or the nagging aunty of the bride who wants a photo with every single one of her friends and relatives. Or even shots of the bride and groom while dancing (but not intimate shots, sweeping shots). Also establishing shots of the venue and tables. People clapping at speeches etc. So basically a camera I put up to my eye when I don't have time or the space to back up. This is something a 35mm can also cover, but with a less crowded venue.
With that said, lets get onto the AF first. So for me, I find that a 1Dx / D4 (I've used them all). All seem good but not excellent with the following situations. A strongly backlit subject that's wrapped in directional light. You'll find a lot of the time, you have to focus on the chest of a person because there's less light wrapped around their wider parts, and thus more contrast in the scene. This is something that I have to do with 1/3 of the backlit shots I take (with Canon/Nikon), but I always try for the face first. Especially if the bride has big hair, that makes things easier. The second is a lowlight situation where someone is being lit on one side, but the other side isn't getting much light, though with movement it flickers back and forth between high and low contrast face. In situations like this, for some reason cameras get confused. The last, and most annoying situation is when the subject is walking towards you very fast in very dark areas with little to no light, maybe a bit of rim, accent light.
With that said, I've used the Sony A7, A7R, A7s and A7II for dark/hazy weddings. I've also used an A6000 briefly at a semi well lit event. These cameras suffer the worst from the things I mentioned above, but the backlit situation is almost impossible for the A7 series cameras to cope with. Even at the beach on a hazy day, I have that problem.
How did the Leica Q do?
Well it was definitely the right environment for dark moving subjects, and while using the test camera for an hour, I didn't have problems hitting focus at all. It wasn't sharp as some people were moving faster then 125th could handle, and I was almost at MAX iso which as you know would degrade sharpness, especially on the Leica Q screen. I don't think it hunted once during that test.
The side lit subject that keeps moving in and out of the shadows in the most annoying of ways, the Leica Q seemed quick enough to nail them without getting confused. Here the camera hunted once or twice, but I believe that was due in part to the light of an Edison bulb being directly behind the subject and the subject was getting hit with wrapped light from far away, which can confuse any Camera with a wide angle shot from 15ft away.
The last test I am going to discuss, which was the first thing I tested for... The dreaded backlit strobe or disco light, or spot light etc.. These lights pop out of nowhere all the time, and they're GREAT to have at weddings because they add interest to the scene, and give everyone a beautiful hollywood looking rim light. BUT they're a bugger to shoot into. So how I did the test go? Fist I found a really fancy floor lamp. I stood in front of it, and I focused on the lamp then on my hand with my fingers splayed outwards. A lot of light was coming through the spaces between my fingers.. I must have looked like I was doing magic hands to the onlookers (or shadow puppets), but the camera would focus on my fingers most of the time. Out of the 20 times I did this, looking like a crazy person, I think it focus racked 4 times, and the second I jerked the camera (center focus) to the palm of my hand, instead of the fingers, it instantly grabbed the palm, which is a feat in its self, I have smooth palms with no shadows (what I moisturise).. I will add, it finds it's footing much faster then a 1Dx does with 24/35/50L primes (the 24-70II and 70-200 IS II are really snappy lenses, but I rarely use them in ballrooms). Oh and don't get me started on the 1Dx + 85L II combo, it's in a different "slow" league focus wise to anything currently on the market with known speedy AF. So yeah, the camera was quick, and quick to snap back into focus.. I dare say, as quick as a D4/1Dx with almost the speediest of AF lenses... I haven't done side by sides, and I haven't shot a 15 hour wedding with the Q, but I look forward to doing so. Keep in mind, generally **** gets bad lighting wise when I'm on my 12th hour of shooting two 1Dx cameras straight.. So you have to understand my if my technique suffers a bit by then. But I'm young and fit, so it's not like I'm the primary cause of focus issues with a 1Dx/D4.
Now, with all that said.. I had set out to test the cameras AF and it passed. So what I did next was I took the models and I placed them in front of the 15 Breeze Para (they had a CONTINUOUS LIGHT setup in one corner). Once the models were in front of the light, and the light was shining directly into the camera. I started shooting. Of course the camera was on auto mode at that point (as I somehow ended up with another Leica Q, my first one I gave up to some fellows as I felt bad), and they were silhouettes. But the bit of wrap light that hit there lashes or noses were sharp.. The camera locked focus PERFECTLY. I then realised the models wanted to see the images.. So being embarrassed, I switched the settings to full manual and shot (125th, iso50,000 @ 1.7) that's how dark it was on the models faces, of course the breeze at this point was practically wrapping around there hair and cheeks but their eyes and foreheads were properly exposed. The background was white washed, and yet the camera kept nailing focusÖ The models were really impressed with the photos.. My wife was laughing at me with her friends. Because geez I just canít switch off. Now I have to admit they had a diffuser on the Breeze (lame) but the light was still more directional then anything non-man made and of course the harshest of sunny evenings. As in, it was directional enough that I think if I was using a wide angle lens, it may have panicked a D4/1Dx. I've had it happen, exactly how I mentioned in my studio with a 5D3 and D800. But without a diffuser on the Para. So again, I was stunningly impressed. So much so I ran out the door towards the reception area and told them to reserve a set, as I wasn't leaving without one and I had already seen one or two chaps buying the camera and running off.
Afterwards, satisfied with the focusing, I started playing around with the wifi settings.. They're smart, but when you have a room full of iPhones and about 20 Leica Q cameras, it's a bit difficult to lock a signal... Actually I deduced later, that it was probably due to the fact that six or seven people had been linked to the camera I was using... To many people with the app running and it fails I suppose?
Anyway, once we reset the wifi code, I tried the app out and it worked. I feel it's a good start, but can be improved somewhat. Visually more then anything. I think it serves its purpose function wise, and it's pretty easy to setup. But could be a little prettier and sleeker in use. Their is also lag on the iPhone, kinda like youíre using an M240 and EVF-2 (hehe).
Then at that point I just wanted to get the camera and go to dinner. So I bought the camera, and left for dinner. Once at dinner I started to use the camera.. The lighting was pretty terrible but the camera locked onto focus. The shots I took looked awful, but obviously at that point it was just not flattering light. That's when I should have put my SF24D on (BTW I brought it with me to the event so I could test it). The flash works in M and A modes only, but not in TTL mode. I suspect the SF-58 will react the same way.. The good news is Leica has a decent SF26, the bad news, the SF26 does not do TTL with M or S cameras.. Yeah so if you use both, you now need two different flashes
Anyway, I suppose what I'm saying is. If you're shooting crappy images, the camera will lock focus but the shots will still be crappy.. If you're shooting good images, the camera will lock focus (and do it fast) and your images will be good. I bet you could shoot sports with this, the only problem is, youíd get smashed by the athlete since itís a 28mm lens.
Playing with it for a few hours, I'm starting to regret the 28mm focal length.. But I would have felt the same way about the 28Summilux. I did sell my 28 Summicron last week (not because of the Q, because I don't like 28mm lenses, though the 28cron and 28elmarit are awesome!).
So in all fairness I think this will get use, but it'll be limited at best. Not because it isn't a REALLY capable camera, the most capable I've tested.. A600/EM-5II included even though it was brief (whatever the name of the new Olympus one is, I was playing with it at big camera while in Japan a month back, and the predecessor my friend has and Iíve used it at a wedding).
The only drawback now, the fixed lens, which you'll either love, or hate. I donít know yet, because I havenít had enough time with it to tell.. From the samples Iíve seen online, it doesnít have plastic bokeh for the most part.. Though I did see some of it myself tonight, which I dislike passionately.
In the very close future, I think I would buy a 90/2 version of this Q camera.. And probably be able to shoot with it for the next 5 years along side my M + 50APO. And honestly, my S-system is big and heavy, any time I'm out shooting an editorial with it and the 70mm, the Leica Q will make a good holstered companion.
Ok, long and not really edited as I wanted to just get my thoughts out there RAW.
So more ramblings, so I donít have to answer basic questions:
Now that I'm holding the camera in the comfort of my home, I've noticed that while off, if you shake the camera gently it rattles, this is probably normal as the rattling goes away when the camera is powered on.
Also I'm pretty sure that we've all been swayed into believing that the focus is manual as in geared and mechanical. I'm fairly certain it's focus by wire.. BUT a really responsive version of.. With really dampened focusing that feels like a smooth but firmer Loxia lens. Still I feel a smidgen of FBW lag. Nothing you would complain about.. Although I met some older fellows tonight (die hard M fans) who passed on it, simply for this reason alone.
Camera is super light.. But I just picked it up to check for that, and again, that rattling really makes me feel uneasy, especially after the price I paid.
In the had it feels great. And that thumb wheel isn't as far back as I thought.. Pretty easy to rotate while still shooting if needed.
Buttons are smart, but I noticed that it lags when you review an image. I don't know WHY this Leica would lag, it's got 10FPS, yet the monitor takes one second to go from a pixelated file to a sharp file.. Like something so M9 of themÖ I really dislike that, luckily I donít chimp at weddings.
Physical shutter dial can be overwritten by hitting the thumb wheel, if you have it set that way... I think that's stupid but whatever.
Camera isn't that grippy, but it does look sexy, and it's so light weight that you wouldn't notice the lack of grippy vulcanite. Plus who doesnít use a strap or at least a finger loop?
The lens seems big, the camera isn't something that could go in anyones pocket, unless you could also smuggle large oranges.
The shape of the EVF box annoys me.. It just looks stupid like a sad robot. Itís not a 16:9 EVF so WTH?
I can see dust getting caught in the lens or dirt when shifting from Macro to regular mode... But it's a damn cool way they've hidden the macro scale. But really, I hate that, and it worries me since my Singapore home is dusty due to MRT construction and my LA home is also dusty due to it being a desert and also under construction.
A friend of mine who also happened to be at the event, she kept hitting the movie button accidentally.. So it was all photos and movies the whole night for her. Even after I corrected her, I think the buttons are just to close, but where else would you put it?
The two custom buttons are a must.. There are a few things you're going to not want to have to dive into the menu for.. One is EVF/LCD related and the other is AF type related.
MY #1 BIGGEST GRIPE: And this is something I'm going to email Leica about RIGHT NOW. When you have the camera set to EVF only, two things should happen. One the EVF should be off until you put your eye to the sensor (saves battery). And the other.. You should have the option to set it, so when you click on the menu or play button, you don't have to stand there like an idiot reviewing photos or looking through the menu using the EVF.. It should automatically bring up the LCD so you can scroll naturally like you would on any M camera or S camera. I can't even get my thumb onto the buttons while looking through the EVF, so how would I switch menu items.. I wouldn't.. And that sucks. This is such an amateur SONY move.. It's unbelievable that Leica wouldn't think to just add this function... But really folks, if this is the thing that bothers me most about the Leica Q, then I think Leica did a good job.
I actually got into a heated argument with someone from Leica about this at the event.. He couldn't see my point of view, and I felt he was overly rude about my need for this feature, so I decided to also not be polite about my dislike of this. He kept saying it was unnecessary and that itís vital to not remove your eye from the viewfinder ever. I really hope Leica can see my point of view. I know this has bothered people on the A series cameras since Sony started with this EVF technology.
The sensor, IQ, ISO all all that other BS, I'm sure you've all seen on review sites. People have DNGs out for you to play with.. I don't really need to get into that tonight. I'd confidently use it up to 6400 ISO and just laugh it off as grain.. And honestly, the grain is WEIRD, it doesn't go all coloured and messy.. It's little fine black dots.. Almost M9 CCD-ish.. The problem, you can see those little fine dots at 100% view on most ISO speeds.. Nothing bad, again just very CCD-ish, or old tech CMOS.. Which really has me wondering who's making their sensor.. If it was Sony (even though Leica says it isn't) then they did a good job with color profiling, because I don't really get a Sony color vibe from this camera (and generally I dislike Sony sensors, even in Nikons).. I will amend that tomorrow after going out and about with the camera. If it looks suspiciously Sony to me, Iíll let you all know. BTW, I wouldnít hesitate using this thing at MAX iso, itís really very nice in black and white.
They give you a leather strap with it.. It feels fake, but my leather straps come from either Luigi and are ďmehĒ construction wise, but soft.. Or come from the same supplier who supplies Hermes with their birkin leather... Apparently. So I'm a bit picky when it comes to leather and leather goods. But good on them for not suppling that horrid rope burn material. Charger, cables, books.. Nothing exciting. Lens hood seems weirdly not as you would expect.. Actually I'm a bit upset it's not cool like the 21SEM or 35FLE.. It doesn't have that little zigzag notch to lock into place.. It more just stops screwing.. And you have to be REALLY hard on it, or else the hood doesn't sit straight.. And even then, I have a sneaky suspicion mine is a slight bit crooked.. I'll have to check this tomorrow at the store with the display model. I wouldn't use the hood anyway.. It makes the camera look more phallic then I want. I have the thread ring on, and it's fine. I also put a filter on it, because why not.
Aside from the rattling which again is bothering me, and FlyByWire (although again, the best implementation of), I think I like the design.
EVF is super smooth.. Visually way better then anything I've seen before.. It's like going from SD to 4K or from home tv to IMAX. And when I spin the camera around like a banshee in decent light, I donít see jello... I wonder if the video is good?? No 24FPS though, what's up with that?? Seriously Iíll have to test the video for rolling shutter, jello ect. I have a suspecion itíll be good IQ wise.
Again, why couldn't it have been a interchangeable system, or at least a 35mm cron? Hmmm, maybe we'll see a 75cron or 90cron Q soonÖ Please, Leica, please.
BTW - I grumbled a lot the past couple of days about Leica (and my again, not stellar CS/Repair job). I still think their service/repairs need improving. Let's hope the Q doesn't break.. This was also something I heard mentioned by 3-5 people.. People I had just met, I asked what they thought.. Most answers were along the lines of "we're weary to buy anything fully electronic from Leica, they don't have a good track record" Also "if the camera goes bad, you also loose a lens along the way". BUT I still bought the camera, because I want to show Leica that I can be an M user, love rangefinders and mechanical lenses. But I can also be a Q or whatever interchangeable camera replaces the Q user..
Basically, I can't complain about the "lack of technology" from Leica, and then not buy the most advanced mirrorless camera I've ever seen, heard of, or touched. It just wouldn't be fair to Leica, and would make me a hypocrite for criticising them and then not giving them a chance... Hmmm I'll raise hell if this thing breaks though, I really will.