One Year with my Leica Q1
Today, I would like to share with you my experiences from my first year with the Leica Q Typ 116. A camera that doesn't always make it easy for you, but, when used correctly, ranks among the greatest treasures in the world of photography. Ever since I took it on a big journey last winter for the first time, I had been planning this blog post - now, a year later, thoughts turn into words and images.
the story behind.
I have been working as a professional photographer since 2015, specializing in weddings and portraits. If you've been following my work a bit, and are occasionally here on my blog, you know that every winter, when the workload is a bit quieter, I ponder the big question of the camera for the heart. So, whenever I'm not shooting professionally every day, I want to have a camera with me that I'm really excited about and that doesn't weigh a few kilos, like my fantastic combination of Sony cameras, such as the A9ii with the 24 1.4 or the 50 1.2. Yes, I know, Sony cameras are the greatest and lightest for us professionals, but they are a bit too bulky when they need to fit into hand luggage or when I want to walk through the dunes with the kids all day. Besides, they give me more of a feeling of bringing my work along, compared to a camera I use less for commercial purposes. Can't I just use my smartphone then? Yes, technically I could. iPhones are fantastic and can especially film very well, something a Leica Q really can't do. However, during vacations, I always try to either leave my phone at home or use it minimally. You know the feeling. The mind really starts to let go when we let go of our "damn" smartphones. In recent years, I've addressed these and similar questions frequently, and the answer was, for a long time, a camera from the Fuji X100 series. For the longest time, I had a great Fuji X100t. You can find the whole story about it here.
the switch to Leica.
I love the photographic work involved in reportages. From my perspective, wedding photography is primarily documentary photography. I aim to capture real moments, real stories, genuine laughter, and authentic chaos, which is why this work brings me so much joy. I believe it was after my switch to Sony in 2018 that I started to use a wider focal length than 35mm more and more at weddings. Initially, the Sony 28mm f/2.0 - then the significantly better Sony 24mm f/1.4. The 35mm focal length (on full frame) is, of course, fantastic: versatile, minimal distortion, suitable for close-ups, and always charming—nothing stretches, everything looks beautiful. The combination of 35mm and 85mm is, therefore, the most common combo for wedding photographers. But: 35mm is boring. When telling a story, a lot is left out. It's as if I have blinders on. Nowadays, I simply can't enjoy reports shot with a 35mm lens. In the early years, the 35mm on the Fuji (equivalent to 23mm on crop) didn't really bother me. However, later on, due to my other photographic work, I became so accustomed to something like 24mm or 28mm that I simply couldn't get along with 35mm anymore. So, I needed something new.
28 mm is more like 25,5 mm
I always found the Leica to be very sexy, but I hesitated to buy it for a long time, partly because I always had the impression: What the camera produces doesn't really look like 28mm. For many years, I thought I was the only one who felt this way. Later on, however, more sources on the internet confirmed my suspicion, and even my fantastic colleague Karlis from Bremen (the comparison images above are from him) confirmed: The focal length of the Leica Q is more like 25-26mm than 28mm. So, forget all the scandals of this time; the real scandal is that "our German company" Leica is spreading misinformation here, isn't it? ;-) As for the "why," one can only speculate; it seems the lens provides even less focal length, and the camera compensates for it by cutting a bit. If you're a user of Capture One, you also have the option to read out the cropped areas of the sensor.
Here I come to an important tip: Don't shoot with the Leica Q like it's a 35mm, not even like a 28mm; pay attention to the necessary distance and converging lines, rather shoot as if it's a 24mm. I often see portraits on the internet taken with a Leica Q, treated as if it's a 35mm, and they turn out quite terrible. This applies to many Leica Q pictures on the internet because many people don't know how to sensibly shoot with a true wide-angle lens.
Halte Abstand bei Portraits oder bei Gesichtern, wie hier in der Reportage.
the Leica Q1 as a used camera.
I purchased my Leica Q for approximately 2200 euros through classified ads from a private seller. I had the opportunity to test the camera here in Hamburg and confirm that everything was okay. It was in very good condition, and it even came with a second battery. 2200 euros for a genuine Leica with a real Summilux lens is a great deal, even though the camera is from 2016. The Leica Q1 can still hold its own well with current requirements, as I can attest, despite having the latest generation of Sony cameras.
The autofocus on the Leica Q works quite well and is adequately fast, although I find it annoying that the focus field cannot be automatically set to the center in the menu. However, you need to get used to the fact that the base noise of the camera is noticeably higher than in modern cameras. When used correctly, it creates a beautiful, almost cinematic look. This look may not be as razor-sharp as with modern Sony cameras, but I personally believe that the value of the first Leica Q generation will likely decrease somewhat but will never completely plummet. So, you can expect a certain level of value stability. The batteries (I have two original ones) are sufficiently good. Typically, a day of vacation can be managed with one battery. When shooting a wedding, two batteries usually last for about 6 hours of intensive documentary work, which may not be on par with the latest Sonys, but it's manageable.
why no Leica Q2 for now?
Before making my purchase, I naturally did some research and initially saw little reason to spend about 1500,- euros more on a camera without knowing if it would suit me. I was aware that the Q3 would eventually be released, but the new price, even if I could have deducted the VAT, was over 5000 euros. While the Leica Q was important for my wedding reportages, considering I intended to use the camera more for personal projects, the price seemed too high. However, the perspective is a bit different for the Q3. Due to the further improved autofocus and the swivel display, I could envision using it more effectively for weddings. If I decide on it, you'll be the first to know.
In the first year with the Leica Q1, I haven't regretted the purchase for a second. The camera shares many similarities with the Q2, and 24 megapixels are entirely sufficient for me. Only one aspect intrigues me about the Q2: it is waterproof. If you tape up the openings for the microphone (which you rarely need), you can protect the Q1 quite well from dust and water. My Q1 has even gotten a little wet on vacation and survived it perfectly fine.
what I love about the Leica Q.
I have been photographing for 15 years now, more or less ambitiously: Never before have I enjoyed taking a camera off the shelf and carrying it everywhere, even when I'm supposed to be 'done' with photography – for example, after 20-30 consecutive weddings. It is the one tool that I take, even when I don't want my smartphone or other gadgets.
First of all: The Leica Q is a highly professional camera that I can use as such. It gives me a great feeling that this camera is no compromise in terms of image quality. With the small Fujis or a Ricoh, I always have in the back of my mind: No matter how good the image is, my Sony would have solved it even better. Even though the Q is not an all-around camera (more on that later) – I could solve almost any job with it.
The Leica Q is quiet, almost silent. When I switched to Sony and could shoot silently with my first A9, it was one of the most comprehensive innovations in reportage photography ever. While the Leica Q is not silent, the 'Leafshutter' is ultra-quiet; I haven't experienced banding or rolling shutter after around 10,000 images in the first year.
Image quality and white balance of the Leica Q are truly world-class for me. The files may not have the sharpness of modern Sony cameras with GM lenses, but the almost cinematic 'look out of the camera' is simply enchanting. The images are relatively flat in the original, but they can be easily pushed a bit in Lightroom. Especially the depths in the image have a lot of substance. Therefore, I often expose a bit under and carefully search for good light. This observation also follows the next images.
The colors of my Sony cameras are also great. The old myth: Only Canon produces good colors has been debunked many times, for example, here. However, what doesn't work as well with modern mirrorless cameras is the automatic white balance: It is noticeably more unstable than with my DSLRs (my last one was a Nikon D750). However, the Leica Q handles white balance really well. The colors are authentic, artificial light is usually well identified by the camera. You can see this in the images in this post, right?
Even though photography enthusiasts know the value of the camera, it is not as conspicuous in public as, for example, a larger mirrorless camera. In some situations, for example, when I had my eye on some interesting people at Lake Garda, this has helped me a lot.
Is the Leica Q a magic camera? Certainly not. Sometimes, at weddings, I have a scene in front of my eyes, put on the 50 1.2 GM lens, and everything is enchanted and looks 'better' than reality. As wonderful as that may be sometimes - it doesn't align with my philosophy in photography. A Leica Q with a wide-angle lens captures what is there. It is the one stable tool that works really well.
what the Leica Q is not.
You know it. Basically, we all seek that one camera that does it all: it should capture portraits, holiday pictures, videos, be compact, fit into a pocket, and look good. Well, the Leica Q doesn't do it all together. Therefore, I'd like to describe once again what the Leica Q is not.
The Leica Q is not a camera for action and moments with a lot happening. Your daughter's volleyball game, your son's dance ball – when it comes to speed, you should have alternatives. The Leica does have a burst shooting function, by the way – which you accidentally turn on quite often because the "On-Off" button is poorly designed. (This is better resolved in the Q2 and Q3) – even if you have a fast card: continuous autofocus and burst shooting function comparatively poorly. It happened to me twice last year that the camera crashed when taking too many pictures at once.
The Leica Q is not a camera for filming. It has no input for an external microphone. While it does provide HD quality at 30 fps, everything is jerky, the autofocus follows with difficulty, and the sound is poor. You don't need to test it. The Q2 and Q3, however, are much better equipped in this regard. With the Q2, connecting an external microphone is also not possible, perhaps it will be different with the Q3 via USB-C.
For me personally, the Leica Q is also not a camera for weddings. My Sony cameras have two slots for memory cards. This gives me a lot of security. Besides, they are simply much faster. For 80% of a reportage, this is not crucial – but when the bridal couple runs out of the church, hundreds of guests form a guard of honor, throw rice, and children run into the frame in between – a Sony A9ii allows me to capture 10-20 images per second, where the autofocus sits on every image right where I want it. The Leica Q cannot do that, and that's okay. But I must admit that I would like to test larger Leica cameras like the SL2 at weddings.
The Leica Q - and this includes the Q2 and Q3 - is not a camera for "headshot portraits." If your goal is to constantly photograph faces, create great portraits with a lot of background blur, then 28 (25.5) mm is not the right choice. This applies even if, for example, a Q2 simulates more millimeters – switching to 50 or 75 mm in crop mode does not make the effect of the 28 mm disappear. However, this does not mean that you cannot capture portraits with a Leica Q, on the contrary.
what is the Leica Q for me.
The Leica Q is a professional documentary camera for photographers who already have some experience with wide-angle photography. It is quiet, lightweight, light-sensitive, and inspiring. It is the one, value-stable tool. Here are a few more images from my year with the Leica Q.
my Wedding Work and a sweet little movie about it.
Tell my about your thoughts to the Leica Q!