Recently, several representatives (myself included) from Leica retailers in North America were given a unique opportunity to visit Leitz Park; the newly opened manufacturing and corporate headquarters for Leica Camera AG in Wetzlar, Germany. The purpose of the visit was to immerse the group in company history, observe the design and manufacturing process, and to learn about the vision and future direction of Leica Camera.
During that trip, our group was allowed to briefly preview the newly announced Leica Q Camera. Although we only had a few minutes to quickly handle, test and assess the camera, we were all in agreement; the Leica Q is insanely great.
Leica Camera proudly introduces the Leica Q (Typ 116), a symbiosis of design and superior technology. With its fast lens, easy and intuitive handling, the Leica Q gives the photographer the creative freedom that makes the difference. With a full frame sensor and the Summilux 28 mm/f1.7 ASPH lens, the Leica Q is ideal for street, architecture and landscape photography. – Leica Camera AG, Wetzlar Germany.
BODY AND DESIGN
The body is similar in profile to the Leica X Camera (Type 113), though slightly taller. The camera body is all metal in black paint and has a textured black leatherette body covering.
The fixed 28mm f/1.7 Summilux lens has a manual aperture ring, and a manual focus ring with a locking focus tab. The camera comes with an optional screw-on lens hood similar in design to that of the new Summarit-M Lenses.
There is a large touch LCD display on the back of the camera, a set of buttons similar to that found in the M and X cameras, and the soon to be VERY popular electronic viewfinder.
The ergonomics of the camera are awesome. The thickness of the body feels just right, and the cast magnesium frame with aluminum top and bottom plates make for a solid but not heavy camera. Perhaps my favorite feature of the body design is the thumb rest. Conveniently located where your thumb normally sits is a finger-shaped indentation which gives the camera a great sense of balance and comfort when shooting, especially when the optional handgrip is attached.
The camera features an all new, custom designed 28mm f/1.7 ASPH Summilux lens. It feels like an M Lens, and has several features that make it so much more than a simple point and shoot experience.
The aperture ring can either be set to manual selection or automatic. The lens features both manual and automatic focus with in-lens optical image stabilization. Manual focus mode is accessed by unlocking a small focus tab, which looks and feels much like the focus tab found on several M lenses. I found it thoroughly convenient and comfortable to use, and Leica enthusiasts will appreciate this “homage” to historical design. This is a small, but very charming feature of the camera.
A very novel feature of this lens is macro mode, which is accessed by rotating a dial on the lens. As you rotate the dial to Macro, the depth of field and minimum focus distant markers move down revealing a second set of designations, changing the minimum focus distance to a minuscule 2.04 inches. This immediately reminded me of the old dual-range summicron and I love the thought that went into this aspect of the design.
This is a serious viewfinder. At 3.68 Megapixels, it is the highest resolution built-in EVF for a camera this size on the market, and provides the shooter with the cleanest, sharpest viewing experience available. As with the Leica Visoflex Viewfinder, the built-in EVF features a diopter dial and a proximity sensor for automatic activation when you bring the camera to your eye. For a full-frame sensor camera, a high resolution EVF is critical, and the Leica Q has one of the finest EVF’s I have ever used.
MENU SYSTEM AND SETTINGS
The menu is accessed via an all-new touch screen, high resolution LCD. The look of the menu is very reminiscent of that of the X and M cameras but also takes some aesthetic elements from the T menu system. It features the ability to navigate and make selections using either the round navigation button or the function dial which sits recessed into the top plate and can be accessed using your thumb, much like the two dials on the T camera. Several menu functions also use touch-interaction, such as “pinch to zoom” when reviewing photos as with the T camera. I found it very user friendly and it keeps the simplicity of interaction that Leica users will find familiar.
As with the Leica C, D-Lux, V-Lux and T Camera, Leica has released a dedicated APP for the Q camera. It connects directly to the camera via wifi and allow you to remotely control the camera from your device, as well as shuttle images from the camera. I had no problems pairing the camera with my iPhone and shuttling the images is very convenient.
This camera is a joy to use. It feels great in the hands, the fit and finish are superb, and as with all Leica cameras, the simplicity of operation allows the shooter to focus on capturing the moment.
As an avid M-Camera shooter, I rarely have the luxury of using auto-focus. Having the ability to switch between manual and auto focus is a very convenient feature of this camera. I found myself using the manual focus for more carefully composed shots, such as portraiture, architecture, close-up, and various street scenes. For people, animals, and objects in motion, the auto-focus is super fast and accurate. The camera’s fast focus capabilities also make it possible to track a moving subject when in continuous shooting mode.
The lens is the real show-stopper of this camera. Moving the aperture ring and focus ring of this lens feels every bit like using an M Lens. I also love the 28mm focal length, and this version combines high sharpness in the focal plane and a shallow depth of field at low apertures. In this way the subject being captured can be isolated from their surroundings with great clarity and the resulting images have a distinctive look. This 28mm Summilux provides the shooter with an opportunity to compose some very creative and stunning images.
After using this camera for a few hours, I felt like I was holding a very close relative of an M camera, albeit in a slightly more discreet and compact package.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS / CONCLUSION
During my preview of the Q in Wetzlar, I only had enough time to briefly snap a couple of test shots. It was enough to pique my interest but not enough time to really connect with the camera. After spending an afternoon shooting the Q around downtown San Francisco, I can say that this is something very special. This camera feels very personal, and truly embodies the essence of photography. From the locking focus tab on the lens barrel to the thumb rest on the body, you can see that great attention and care was taken in designing and producing the Leica Q. There are many more features to the camera that are not covered here, (high ISO performance, dreamy bokeh, time-lapse shooting) but my overall impression of the Leica Q is this; as with all Leica cameras in the last 100 years, the beauty is in simplicity. You need only set aperture, shutter speed, look through the viewfinder to focus and click the shutter. You’re going to love what develops.
Myles Kusaba is a sales associate at the Leica Store San Francisco and a Leica enthusiast. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.