Leica Q2 Review - Miltiathis

People have been waiting for months for the Leica Q2, and it’s backordered until who knows when. Well I ordered the camera 3 days after launch, got it a few weeks ago and ended up returning it. I’m actually extremely disappointed I couldn’t keep it as I wanted this camera even before it was announced. I had the original Q which I liked. I’m not going to list specs or anything like that, I’m sure you know what they are by now. This isn’t that kind of review. So why did I return the Leica Q2? Let me tell you. (I apologize for any typos in advance)

I currently shoot with an Olympus EM1 Mark II with all the PRO lenses. Best camera I ever owned, and there isn’t anything it can’t shoot. I wanted to replace my wide angle glass with the Leica Q2 and I wanted a second camera for my shoots. Basically I figured I would go from 28mm to about 40mm with cropping. Switching between primes during a shoot isn’t always an option and I wanted something with higher resolution and better image quality for certain situations. I was super excited when I received it. The packaging as you might have seen is really nice, but as I unwrapped my camera I was surprised to see the lens had a grease stain on the left side and the viewfinder had more oil on it from a finger print. No, the camera didn’t appear to be used or opened by anyone other than me. I was quite surprised as I never in 15 years got a new camera and have it dirty out of the box. But I kept cool and cleaned it and it was fine, still not what I expected for $5,000. Leica needs to step on their quality control check points as the camera should have never left the factory that way.

Now that that’s over I was excited to use it. Menu is similar to previous Q and pretty simple to use and setup. The first thing I noticed is that the rear screen isn’t that great. The screen on my Olympus looks better, yeah shocking but true. Fortunately the viewfinder looked great and was easy to use even with my glasses. When I took it outside, the Leica Q2’s rear screen looked even worse in direct sunlight, not good for a $5000 camera. I immediately started using it on my first assignment. The camera felt great, it was nearly silent and was lighter and smaller than my EM1 Mark II with 17mm F1.2 lens. That’s pretty crazy to comprehend that a full frame 47 megapixel camera is smaller and lighter than a 20 megapixel micro four thirds camera. I was very happy about that. I did notice that the Leica’s lens made much more noise when focusing than the Olympus, but nothing overbearing. It’s extremely well balanced in the hand and it felt great to shoot with. So how did it do on my first assignment? Eh, not so good. You see, I’ve been spoiled with the amazing, accurate and lighting quick autofocus on the Olympus, and now with firmware 3.0 it’s in the same league as the Sony A9. The Leica Q2’s autofocus was decent, but not great. Face detection works okay, but not great. Continuous autofocus was poor. Tracking? forget it. In low light the Olympus destroys it. Disappointment filled my heart as the day went on. I left like I was using a camera from 2014. I missed a lot of shots that I would have nailed with my Olympus. I customized the camera so I could quickly change autofocus modes without having to diving into the menu. I quickly realized, there’s not quick way to do it. The camera has only two custom buttons and they can be used for everything, unfortunately there isn’t enough on the camera. So not matter what I did I had to stop, and take a lot of time to change things like ISO, exposure compensation, autofocus mode, and autofocus points, etc. The fact that you can’t customize the zoom button is a mistake as the Q2 needs the extra button. This camera isn’t really designed for a professional who needs to change things quickly for various subjects, situations and lighting. Ironically, I always felt the Olympus had too many buttons, but after using the Q2, I appreciated every one of them. Even the ones I didn’t use. I realized, I can’t use this camera for all my shoots which was a real punch in the gut. You can’t tell your client, hey hold on, I gotta change some settings give me a minute. Something that’s extremely stupid is if you have face detection on, if the camera doesn’t find a face it switches to multi-point automatically and you can’t touch to focus in this mode. So basically it ensures your subject will not be in focus, so you have to stop, go into the settings, change it to spot, and then tap to focus. But now it’s too late because the moment is gone. On my Olympus in the extremely rare case it doesn’t find a face, I can control where the camera focuses, not so on the Leica. No wonder Leica fired a bunch of people and is hiring new ones. When I got home and looked at the images on my computer my heart sunk. I had a bunch of important group shots that were shot at shutter of 1/250 that were blurry! The subjects were completely static so it made no sense. It wasn’t motion blur, the entire image was blurry, yet the next 10-15 were fine and then you’d getting another blurry one. Needless to say I was furious. Someone in a forum told me to make sure image stabilization is on Auto rather than on. So I did that on my next shoot. I was still getting shots that were blurry. Shocking on 28mm with a leaf shutter. Never had this issue with any other camera, ever. I also noticed on some images the camera didn’t nail focus. Also 50 ISO should be a part of the auto ISO option since it provides better image quality than 100 ISO.

Let’s talking about image quality. The Colors on the Leica are fantastic straight in RAW without any adjustments needed. Everything was accurate and beautiful. Definitely a nice and noticeable upgrade from the Olympus. I was like thank god, something positive. Of course the resolution is much higher as well and I really liked how it rendered everything. Skin tones looked excellent and accurate. The jpegs are atrocious, without question the worse jpegs I’ve seen on a modern camera. You might be saying, just shoot RAW, and I was a guy who never shot jpeg. But, when you become a pro and the client wants images instantly without editing you have to shoot jpeg. The Olympus has fantastic jpegs, the best in the market in my opinion and it has saved me on my shoots where I needed hundreds of great images immediately that need to go to press. High ISO image quality is better on the Leica Q2 but not by the amount you’d expect. Since the Q2 tends to under exposure compared to the Olympus, when you equalize the images the difference kind of evaporates. Shadow recovery is pretty much identical on both cameras throughout the ISO range. Shockingly the dynamic range is identical between both cameras as well. The Leica Q2’s Lens is sharp in the center, but when it comes to the corners the Olympus 17mm F1.2 is without question sharper in the corners when both lenses are stopped down to the same equivalent F stop and the Olympus more consistent throughout the frame with much less distortion. The final issue I ran into is that the spare batteries are completely sold out everywhere. I need 1-2 spares for a full day of work, and since they are unavailable it makes it impossible to use for a long shoot. The batteries are $250 each, so you'd spend $500 for two spare batteries. I tried to bring the charger with me on location, but it was impractical. 

What a two weeks it’s been. Talk about not appreciating what you have till it’s gone. I used the Leica Q2 as my main work camera for all my assignments and as every day ended I realized how amazing the Olympus is for a camera that came out in 2016 compared to this brand new ultra high end 2019 luxury camera. I’m actually surprised and sad. Because I realized my dream camera didn’t do really anything better and my older camera. Seriously, the only real upgrade is the color quality at Low ISO, higher resolution, and that the camera is smaller and lighter. The Leica Q2 was a huge downgrade in autofocus performance, and functionality. Is that worth $5,000? People kept asking me if I’m shooting film and it looked better on me, but getting the shot is more important than looks and comments. I decided to return the camera, but I’m happy I bought it because it made me appreciate what I have and how great it is. The fact that micro four thirds camera from 2016 has better auto focus, better functionality, the same dynamic range, and shadow recovery as a new $5,000 is pretty sweet.