My Views on the Leica Q2 - and Why I Won't Be Getting It
I always felt I missed-out in not getting the Leica Q. From the perspective of convenience, the Leica Q always made sense. Essentially, you’re getting a backup camera and a fast 28mm lens that can focus closer than 2.3ft (or 0.7m) for roughly half the price of the current digital Leica rangefinder and a Summicron lens. So, I decided halfway through the Leica Q’s production run that I would get the Leica Q2 when the folks at Weztlar finally get around to releasing it. But then, something happened to me along the way.
What happened is a classic case of “it’s not you, it’s me” scenario. To be fair to the Leica Q2, it’s exactly what I thought it would be - a 28mm f/1.7 Summilux lens paired to a much higher resolution sensor. Everything else - being the bells and whistles fluffing up the spec sheet - really isn’t that important when you put the Leica Q2 into perspective. It’s essentially the same camera with a faster autofocus system and more resolution. For me, the improvement the Leica Q2 offers isn’t convincing enough for me to consider it.
In our contemporary world, what qualifies as improvements must be measurable in quantifiable terms. More resolution and newer features are both demonstrable and desirable attributes. The fact is, more is more, and newer is newer. But in the greater scheme of needs, how does more resolution and newer features really help one take better photos typically intended for screen use? To explore what I mean, let us first examine what the benefit of more resolution really means in practice. Is it really an advantage or is it just a number.
If you follow the blog on Facebook, then you’ve read my blurb on how higher resolution benefits the Leica Q2. Unfortunately, my math has never been particularly proficient on the fly. So after some calculations and online verification, the numbers would contend that the Leica Q2 is a 3xs cropped frame 15 megapixel camera with a 50mm lens, or a 1.5xs cropped frame camera with a 35mm lens. In that way, the Leica Q2 is more than just a 47 megapixel full frame fixed lens beast, given how higher resolution offers the option of usable digital zoom.
Obviously, I’m being overly buoyant in interpretation. The Leica Q2 is a 28mm imaging device that will always capture overly bloated image files - assuming one is saving in RAW format, and not digitally zooming to more manageable focal lengths. From that perspective, the image size of the Leica Q2 makes it very encumbering. I mean, it is likely to be brilliant at the 28mm focal length in low light and tight spaces. But then, what happens when you want more (or rather less) than just 47 megapixel files shot at 28mm?
From that perspective, the Leica Q2 appears much more manageable at 35mm or at 50mm. Employing digital zoom at the moment of documentation would do away with the larger file sizes in RAW format. But then, there is the question of how the zooming affects the image capture. When shooting at 50mm with the 3xs crop size, the actual coverage is only 30% of the entire sensor. At 35mm with the 1.5xs crop size, the actual coverage is a little more than 60%. When framed in that way, the benefit of digital zooming seems much less certain.
Digital zoom at different focal lengths is not the same as shooting full frame with different focal length lenses. When you are digitally zooming up to 50mm on the Leica Q2, you are not capturing a 50mm full frame image. And when you are digitally zooming up to 35mm, you are not capturing a 35mm full frame image too. Instead, what you are really capturing is an image taken at 28mm, and then cropping it to the 35mm, 50mm, or 75mm equivalent. Because of that, accepting digital zooming as anything more than cropping is far-fetched.
Fundamentally, that is the point. The Leica Q2 is not a 47 megapixel full frame camera at the 35mm, 50mm, or 75mm focal lengths. It is only a 47 megapixels full frame camera at 28mm. Tighter than 28mm, the Leica Q2 is only simulating an impression of a chosen angle of view, as oppose to documenting a true image taken at the actual focal length with a native lens. Because of that, a digitally zoomed image made from cropping differs in characteristic from an optically zoomed image photographed on a full frame camera.
For example, a digitally zoomed image taken on the Leica Q2 at 50mm and f/1.7 from close shooting distance will not look the same as that image if it were taken with a full frame camera and a 50mm lens under the same shooting situation. At the 3xs crop factor, there will be less shallow depth of field rendered on the Leica Q2. In addition, a digitally zoomed image taken on the Leica Q2 at 75mm from further shooting distances will render less definition from upsizing in crop than one shot natively on a full frame camera with a 75mm lens.
Frankly, I find the argument of digital zooming to be immensely unsatisfactory and its ensuing benefits greatly exaggerated. The Leica Q2 is a high resolution full frame overkill with a fixed 28mm lens. Bumping the sensor count to a whopping 47 megapixel is the least technically challenging way to offer the appearance of variable focal length to a digital camera. I mean, for most who will treat the Leica Q2 as a 28mm full frame camera, the burden of 47 megapixel file sizes will become tedious - especially for images intended for social media.
I know I shouldn’t be disappointed with the Leica Q2. As I have already expressed, it is exactly what I expect it to be. It is a product refresh of a proven formula pumped-up with a higher resolution sensor. I mean, Leica will hit this baby out of the park - because as I’ve already pointed out - more is more and newer is newer. But from my perspective, stuffing the Leica Q2 with more resolution and some newer creature comfort doesn’t seem to be a compelling enough reason for me to add myself to the waiting list.
Is there really a more compelling reason than more is more and newer is newer? In debunking the rationale of digital zooming, what else is left inside the Leica Q2’s bag of trick? More resistance to dust and spills? A touch screen user interface? Faster autofocus? An OLED viewfinder? Improved wifi and bluetooth connectivity? Or a faster processor? Certainly, I can do without all the bells and whistles. I mean, improved creature comforts are always nice. But, it is all cosmetic. It’s not as if the Leica Q2 offers anything substantive over its predecessor.
There I said it. The Leica Q at around 24 megapixels is a more honest camera. It is a camera with a 28mm lens. It does not try to be anything more than that. No overreaching boasts of digital zooming supported by a brand new high resolution image sensor or any misplaced fawning over technological upgrades in bringing the user experience to the 21st Century. Because of that, the original Leica Q continues to be a better camera for those who truly understand what an imaging device with a fixed 28mm lens should be.
The 28mm focal length is best intended to photograph foreground subjects at closer shooting distances from between six to twelve feet (or two to four meters). And because it is a wide angle lens, it is best intended to be shot no less than six feet to alleviate bloating of subject details closer to the lens; directly onto the subjects on the same focal plane to reduce perspective distortion; and with the subjects positioned away from the edges and corners to avoid optical distortion - all of which disfigure the subjects in-frame.
Or alternatively, the 28mm focal length is also best intended to photograph wider background expanses from further shooting distances, where the issue of distortion is much less impactful to the image capture. Usually, incidents of the environment stretching beyond its actual dimensions in photographic documentation are not cause for concern, since no one really cares if a specific plant, boulder, or lamp post is captured as true to life as possible. I mean, does it really matter if a tree is captured with or without distortion?
In other words, the true calling for a full frame digital camera with a fixed 28mm lens is to photograph friends and family on vacation, at get togethers, and at any other personal functions worth remembering. When put in that context, is 47 megapixels really mandatory? Perhaps I am being overly pedantic, but isn’t a camera with a fixed lens just a compact camera. If so, aren’t compact cameras made primarily for convenience? Thus, does it make sense to burden convenience with 47 megapixels? Seriously, the high resolution just doesn’t add up.
There are more sound solutions to make the Leica Q2 a better camera. But, Leica Camera is a business. In the final analysis, whatever product they make must make business sense. Mind you, what I want in a camera can adversely impact their bread and butter M-mount rangefinder business - that being a smaller camera with a more compact 35mm f/2 Summicron and an in-camera flash. However, the camera I want would cannibalize sales from Leica’s more profitable M-mount rangefinders and 35mm Summicron lenses.
If Leica cannot offer us what we truly desire, then what else could they really offer us? A full frame camera with a fixed 28mm f/1.7 Summilux lens is the really the most logical choice. I applaud Leica for coming up with that conclusion. I mean, it’s too big to take away sales from M-mount 28mm f/2 Summicron lenses and too slow to take away sales from faster M-mount 28mm f/1.4 Summilux lenses. And a 28mm lens on the Leica Q and Q2 is not going to impact sales of 35mm and 50mm lens - being Leica’s core M-mount revenue stream.
But, I digress. If I were to get the Leica Q2, I’d probably set it permanently to the 35mm digital crop. Files sizes would be more manageable, as would the dimension of its frame be closer to APS-C sensors. But if I am open to shooting the Leica Q2 as a 1.5xs crop factor camera, then why even shoot full frame at all? By comparison, the Fujifilm X100F is a more practical alternative? Natively, it is an APS-C sensor camera with a fixed 35mm full frame equivalent lens and in-camera flash. Overall, it is just a more compact and sensible choice.
That said, a Fuji X100F is not a Leica. So, I don’t think that Leica is at any risk of its core customers jumping ship in favor of a much better shooting experience. For the sake of Leica Q2 buyers, let us just hope that a firmware update comes out with the option of smaller size DNG files.
All images were digitized and cropped on a Pakon F135 scanner, and tweaked in Adobe Lightroom. Shared on this blog entry are B-roll images shot on a secondary camera. Personally, I find this a better solution than high resolution and digital zooming - although the reason for the last image set was for the sake of using different film.
The title image has been digitally zoomed without the benefit of 47 megapixels. By the way, this isn’t suppose to be my post for this week. But, it made more sense to write about this. The Leica Q2 is a better camera than the Leica Q. But, why did the folks at Wetzlar ruin it with 47 megapixels? I can’t get over it. Still, I suppose I’d be going ga-ga over the Leica Q2 if I hadn’t found peace with shooting film. Like I said earlier: it’s not the camera, it’s me!