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The Leica Q2: Nine Days In Hong Kong

I travel a lot, and by a lot, it is on average three weeks out of every 4 in the month. I do two things as soon as the wheels touch down in the destination I find myself landing in. When the plane lands, the first thing I do is set my watch to the time zone I am in. Out of superstition, I only set my watch when I land and never in the air or before getting on my flight. The second thing I do is open my Filson backpack and reach for the camera in my bag.

We live in such a fast-paced world, and we rely on tech for everything. Taking photographs allows me to slow down; it requires me to think about the time and place that I am currently in. I often travel alone, and I have the opportunity to see the fantastic people, places, and things in the world. Taking photographs allows me to capture these moments and experiences, and in a way allows me to stop time.

Before we get into the Leica Q2 and why I chose to shoot this camera and felt compelled to provide my opinion on this piece of equipment, let me provide you with some perspective as to why I became interested in photography, and why this has become a significant part of my life and travels.

"Selfie" The "Jet Lag Mind Fuck Boogie" is what you get as a result of a 13hour flight paired with a 15 hour time difference... My mentor always encouraged me to photograph myself when Im on the go to capture what I myself am experiencing and feeling

I was introduced to Analog film photography about 2 years ago by a very close friend who has ultimately become my photography mentor and one of my closest personal influences. When I asked him why he was so into photography and always carried a film camera, he said something that stuck with me – which is also very relatable to one of the things that drew me into timepieces and horology as a whole – his reason for carrying a camera was the concept of time itself which is quite complementary to watches and the study of time itself .

What led me to start Craft +Tailored was the design, history, and culture that surrounds timepieces, and when I asked my future photography mentor the question as to why he always carried an analog camera with him he said:

"When you take a photograph you stop time in that moment, when you look back at the photograph you can revisit that moment in time over and over again"

He also said that “when you take a photograph you have to immerse yourself into your surroundings and leverage all of your senses to properly tell the story of that moment”. These simple ideas completely changed the way I travel, experience the world, and ultimately live my life.

I recently spent nine busy days in Hong Kong and although I love shooting a full-blown analog M series like a 35mm Leica M2 or a digital body like the M240 or M10, I wanted to experience and leverage something that offered flexibility in format and function without sacrificing quality and the analog feel and feature set that allow me to fully experience my time out in the world. For this 9 day trip to HK, we partnered with Lensrentals.com to shoot the new Leica Q2 for this trip specifically to run the Leica Q2 through its paces.

Why the Q2

The reason I wanted to shoot the Q2 is that the Q and the Q2, in general, has received some mixed reviews both good and bad from Leica M purists but also has a very loyal and devoted cult following. So I was curious as to how it would compare to the M series of Leica cameras which is what I trained on and also have become immensely familiar with to the point of it being an extension of myself. Additionally, I have been looking for a camera that could be a grab and go type of camera that would give me everything I need in a camera without sacrificing form, function, and of course design.

However, the Q series and more specifically, the Leica Q2 offers the ability to be as automatic and or as analog and manual of a camera as you want it to be. The significant drawbacks to using an M body is that you need to carry with you a few different lenses that can accommodate the moment you are trying to capture. When you are on the move sometimes a 35mm lens is better suited for the situation over a 50mm. Or maybe you need a lens that has a broader aperture range to accommodate a wide array of lighting conditions and situations. Additionally, the M body only offers the range finder focusing which is something that I have learned to love, but when you are on the move sometimes it proves to be tricky to focus properly especially when trying to capture shots moving fast and quickly. The ability to automate some of these elements without sacrificing quality was what lead me to choose the Leica Q2 as a test subject on this trip to Hong Kong.

The Good

The camera feels like a Leica when it’s in your hands, I know where everything is from a mechanical perspective and after shooting the Leica M240 and M10 M body’s almost exclusively when using digital, there is a familiarity when using the Q2’s feature sets via the software interfaces and buttons on the body of the camera. In typical Leica fashion the physical features and software always very easy to navigate and use.

During my time in Hong Kong, I shot the camera on both full auto and in fully manual modes. The sweet spot for me was setting a fixed ISO and shutter speed while leveraging both the autofocus and manual focusing modes. I have a bit of experience shooting film and high-end Leica’s like the M10. So, even though the full-auto ISO/Shutter Speed/ Aperture works great and you can capture killer shots without knowing much about cameras and or photography, the photographic output in the photos was all over the place because of the software adjusting the settings automatically to offer the best settings for capturing the shot. For me, as I’m sure you can tell by now I’m particular and like a consistent vibe and feel that is predictable within the output of my photos. Additionally, I was trained to adjust the shutter speeds and aperture stops manually as I move through my surrounding environment so a “hybrid” mode was the most comfortable for me personally and this is how I shot the camera after trying out all of the features in auto modes.

Another huge requirement for me that I have yet to find in a camera that is more of a grab and go camera is that it’s full-frame. Let me say that again, IT’S FULL FRAME. There are a ton of lightweight compact camera options out there that offer a cropped sensor, and I have tried these cameras I shot a Sony A6 during a trip to Bali last year and although the camera performed perfectly the one major drawback for me was the cropped sensor. So cropped sensor-based digital options.. No thanks, not for me. I need to shoot a full-frame sensor. The Leica Q2’s 47.3-megapixel full-frame sensor that captures both richly-detailed still pictures and 4K video in brilliant quality at ISO sensitivities up to 50,000 checks this box for me. Did I leverage all of this functionality – no of course not, I mainly shot with an ISO of 400 and didn’t use the video feature at all but if you need any of this it’s there in the camera without all of the added bulk.

The lens is awesome. The Q2 leverages a killer fixed lens (Summilux 28mm f/1.7) the “range finder style” focusing ring can be locked into an autofocus mode of clicked out to operate as a range finder for focusing. The f/1.7 Summilux offers enough flexibility to shoot in low light conditions and also provides the ability to get as sharp and or as soft and you want. I was actually able to get some killer Bokeh from this lens which was surprising even while leveraging the AF feature. The other super cool thing is that you can slide the lens into a Macro position for close up detailed shots. This is awesome because I am of course taking wrist shots and shooting specific details on the watches I am wearing all the time. So to have all of this functionality in one lens is insanely awesome. When shooting in the daylight I did leverage an ND filter which the lens does accept to make my images a bit more punchy and to provide a bit more dimension and depth of field. I also was traded to shoot any lens as wide open as possible so the ND filter allowed me to leverage a wider aperture with my preferred iso even in direct sunlight. What’s crazy though is that there is a small circular button close to the viewfinder that allows you to change the frame size from the full-frame down to 35mm, 50mm, and 75mm. Did I use this.. Yep! I sure did it came in handy for a few situations, I shot the camera in the normal full-frame mode but I did leverage the other frame sizes on occasion which basically is like having a wide array of lenses in your bag without actually having to swap out a lease and to have the extra weight in your bag. The one downside is that when you go from the full-frame mode into the 35mm, 50mm, and 75mm modes you do lose resolution as you move through the different focal lengths but this is ok in my opinion as I found I only leveraged these focal length mods in a pinch and randomly.

The entire body is lightweight and weatherproofed. The brass body of most M cameras can get heavy after a while, the body and the lens feel very much solid as you would expect from anything Leica. The weather can be unpredictable while on the road and the Q2 provides a weatherproof body which came in handy while in HK the first 5 days it was pouring and the temp was in the 80’s everything was damp including me I was drenched in sweat. Knowing that the body was sealed gave me the confidence to take the camera everywhere with me without worrying about the weather conditions with also just allowed me to shot and be present in the moment.

The camera is quiet. I mean almost SILENT. Coming from an M2 which has the most beautiful and also notable shutter sound can be distracting and also can draw attention to you. I have learned to get over this as if I take a photograph of someone on the street and they look at me after I take the shot or even during I just smile and give them a thumbs up which in most cases bring a smile back and I just keep moving. But the Q2’s shutter is dead quiet. Matter of fact the first few shots I took with the camera I thought that the shutter wasn’t even actuating that’s how quiet it is.

The not so good

Lens Cap – The fucking lens cap is worthless. I have actually been using silicone covers for all of my cameras which do a great job of keeping dust and water off of the lens while early folding up into your pocket which is great for someone who travels and when pocket space is at a premium, but the lens cap barely sits on the lens and it more than one time came off the camera to clang down the floor in an airport or walkway.

Auto Focus Lock – The focusing ring auto-lock can take some getting used to, I primarily shoot with vintage lens’s even on modern M body Leica’s and I’m used to an infinity lock, but unlocking and locking the focusing ring on the Q2 can be tricky I almost wish that the camera would lock into AF mode every time its brought back into the infinity position like a vintage lens form say the 1960s do. This way when you pick up the camera to get a quick shot in AF your there to capture the moment as if it’s out of the locked position at infinity it kinda sits there and can be confusing if you are going from the manual to AF function of the lens. Not the biggest deal but worth noting as it did take me a minute to get used to this..

Price – Its a $5k camera, is it worth $5k. Yes, 100%. I don’t think there are many cameras that compare to this one, to be honest, the reason I know this is because I have been looking for one and I have also tested what some would consider comparable. I’m not saying that the $5k price tag isn’t a tough pill to swallow and I think for that money you could get a Leica M 240 and a couple of good vintage non-Leica lenses that are modified to fit the Leica M mount and be totally stoked. But in the point and shoot category which this functionality this price point is really hard to beat for what you actually get with the Q2. If you were to buy a comparable Leica 28mm Summilux Aspherical M lens it would cost you $6k. So to be honest if you really break it down – yeah this camera is worth more then $5k respectively for what you tangibly get. But I think for someone who is looking to get into higher-end photography without knowing much about the equipment I think they may scoff at the price a bit. It’s not an entry-level price point which is what I am trying to get at here..

Non-optical viewfinder – The digital viewfinder wasn’t something that I hated but also wasn’t something that I totally liked either. I shoot rangefinder cameras that use a traditional optical viewfinders so I think for me this is something that was more of a preference than something that I actually disliked but I think its worth noting that it is different and is “M Like” but to me gives a different feel as a Digital viewfinder and not a true optical viewfinder, especially if you are shooting with polarized sunglasses on which is something that I do on occasion.. with an optical viewfinder there isn’t any screen distortion you see the actual subject through a set of glass Lenses that form the image your eye sees, the digital is well digital and if you are showing with a set of glasses on it can distort and offer another challenge while capturing a moment..

Fixed Lens – For me this isn’t a negative but it is worth noting that the 28mm lens is great for street photography and close up captures but again you are limited by having a fixed lens this lens isn’t the best for landscapes but I don’t really think that this is what this camera was intended to be used for, to begin with. This camera to me checks a lot of boxes for someone looking to check most of the boxes for what is needed as a travel camera without caring a bunch of different gear and lenses.

Conclusion

As an M purist, and as one who started shooting on the M body, I can confidently say that I am a fan of the Q2. Would I buy one, yeah I would, will I buy one, I for sure am considering it, do I need one, probably not because I like shooting the M systems with my vintage lenses, but with that being said, my intent by bringing this camera to Hong Kong with me was to provide a perspective and to hopefully inspire someone to pick up a camera to feel and experience the same things that I do when I am on the road and or moving through my daily life. Additionally, this camera would make a great grab and go option for me personally while on the road. But even still for me I also brought a vintage M2 body on my trip to Hong Kong and 2 additional M mount lens. So I may not be the perfect candidate for the Leica Q2 because I am a gear nerd and like to make things more complicated then they need to be sometimes!

I would also encourage those reading this to check out lensrentals.com to try this camera or others that you have interest in. Before we at C+T even started to collaborate with lensrentals.com we used and leveraged their service. The cool thing for me personally about the service that lensrentals.com provides is that it is relatively inexpensive to try out this equipment before you actually plunk down the cash. For me, a camera becomes an extension of one’s self and you need to find what personally clicks and jives with you individually from a form factor perspective. Shooting a camera based on its tangible experience is what allows me to capture a moment vs a technical set of standards. So the ability to “test drive” equipment so to speak I think is really awesome. And at the Leica price point, this stuff can get expensive so again to have the option to “try before you buy” I think is super cool and also a necessity at this price point. It also makes it nice for wanting to use specific gear for a specific period of time and or for a specific trip such as my trip to Hong Kong meaning this Q2 was perfect for my trip to Ing Kong and to have this incredible piece of equipment for a 9 day trip would have only cost us a few hundred bucks. lensrentals.com is a partner of C+T and they have given us a code that we can share with our fans and customers that we will provide below! Feel free to give them a shout and don’t be afraid to let em know we sent ya!

Looking to try out Lensrentals.com? Visit their site and use the code CRAFTANDTAILORED15 for 15% off your orders. Make sure to tag us in the results of your rentals and reach out on IG or here!

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