First impressions

By Dan Bracaglia

I can't lie, I really liked the original Leica Q. I might even go so far as to say that it's one of my all time favorite cameras of the digital era - and it's definitely my favorite fixed lens camera. The enjoyment of shooting with it actually lead me to seek out and purchase a cheaper, yet conceptually similar camera in the Fujifilm X100F (plus, I do prefer 35mm to 28mm).

The Q2 is no half-baked update, nor a watered down version of its predecessor

What's so amazing about the Q - other than its excellent design, sharp lens and great Raw image quality - is that owning one is a means to an end. Once you have one, that's it: there's no new lenses to lust after, just silly overpriced accessories. It's the kind of camera you can reach for when running out of the house without a second thought, because there's no question of whether you brought the correct bits of kit - it is the kit.

So when rumors started circulating of a Q2, I became nervous. 'What if Leica screws this up?' I thought. After all, it's not uncommon for brands to muck up a refresh of hugely popular cameras by either launching a half-baked feature update (thank you Ricoh GR II), or changing too much of the original camera's DNA.

Raw photo processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw.
ISO 50 | 20 secs | F5.6

Fortunately, Leica knew better. After shooting with the Q2 I am pleased to confirm that it is no half-baked update, nor a watered down version of its predecessor. Simply put, Leica got it right - the Q2 is a perfect example of how to do a refresh. They fixed the most complained-about pain points, added some new tech and new features and didn't change anything they didn't have to.

While keeping the size and form factor the same, Leica made serious improvements to the camera's battery life, dust/weather sealing, sensor resolution, electronic viewfinder and overall controls. They also gave it a new processor for faster bursts and speedy overall operation, better high ISO noise reduction and 4K video. And to top it all off, the camera sports a redesigned leaf shutter for faster flash syncing (up to 1/2000 sec!).

Leica also addressed controls that were easy/annoying to bump on the original Q (like video record, or the drive mode/power switch) by either moving or redesigning them. And despite shedding a couple of rear buttons, I actual found the Q to offer a greater level of user customization and a more straight forward shooting experience.

Individually, these improvements might not sound like much, especially from a marketing standpoint. And that's possibly because Leica was less interested in increasing sales through marketing hyperbole, and more interested in making a justified version 2. Keep in mind, Leica told us the original Q was an experiment for the brand, and even they'll admit they were blown away by its success. To date, the Q is among the most popular models in Leica's lineup.

Interestingly, Leica also admitted to us that the most difficult aspect of making the Q2 was adding proper dust and moisture sealing, the most-requested feature from Q users. And doing so required a complete camera rebuild from the inside out, which was done with strict orders to keep the size and shape the same. To me, that is truly impressive.

Out-of-camera JPEG = unflattering colors and skin tones. DNG converted in Adobe Camera Raw = nice colors and skin tones.

Also impressive is the camera's new sensor. I didn't think I needed or wanted 47MP files, but then again and I don't always want to shoot 28mm. And so I appreciate the ability to instead shoot a 35mm equiv. frame - using the camera's crop mode - and still have a 30MP file, higher-res than the original Q's sensor. And while we have yet to test the Q2's dynamic range, I'm hopeful that its new base ISO of 50 gives it a noticeable DR advantage over its predecessor.

There are however aspects of the original Q brought over into the Q2 that I wish Leica would have addressed. For instance, its JPEG profiles are some of the absolute worst I've seen in a modern digital camera. Perhaps this is Leica's way of subtly insisting you take the time to process your own. But it seems odd for such a pricey camera to have such an unpleasing out-of-camera offering. Leica also changed a few things for the worse: I'm also not a huge fan of the decision to remove all the ports from the Q2's body - in-camera charging would've been a nice feature.

Those grievances aside, the Leica Q2 seems to be a solid update of an already excellent camera. While I enjoyed the little bit of time I got to shoot with one, I truly look forward to getting one back in the office to finish up testing and scoring. Until then, I'll make do with my X100F.