People who love cameras and the art of photography are likely more than familiar with the “Leica” brand and the inherent cost of owning one, but a new advanced compact could find that middle ground and still keep the quality in just as high regard.
Over the course of your life, it’s likely that you’ll own quite a few devices. For instance, these days you’ll probably upgrade a phone every year or two, sometimes sooner. You might change headphones every few months, or every few years.
With cameras, it’s a little different. You upgrade, but usually far less, keeping elements of the original purchase, like the lens.
In fact, once you buy into a system, you’re there until you decide to make the jump to something else, and that’s because you’re not just buying a camera for one lens, but for many lenses — plural — with the more to come later on as you stick with the lens system. Canon, Nikon, Sony, Samsung; you buy the body and a lens, and later on you buy more lenses to make the camera better and more capable for various situations.
The same is true of Leica, a camera company that celebrated 100 years in 2014 and certainly picks up attention when you mention the company’s name. This is a camera company steeped in heritage and history, producing cameras for people who like photography, and who demand quality.
Checking out the price of Leica cameras throughout the year, it’s easy to see that you need to love cameras and have no problem spending money to invest in a Leica camera, with the Leica M (Typ 240) fetching around $8300 for the body alone — no lens — and another $5300 for a 28mm lens. Yes, that’s $13600 on photographic equipment.
Not all of us have that sort of change to spend on cameras. This journalist doesn’t, and so Leica has been working on something else.
Last year we saw that in the Leica T, an unusual full-metal bodied aluminium camera that looked like Micro Four-Thirds but wasn’t, and required its own specialised lenses. That was interesting, but it didn’t elicit the feel of an old Leica, not like the M series pushes out.
Leica M cameras tend to look like the film cameras from yesteryear, and these days come packing 18 and 24 megapixel sensors, enabling you to take digital images on a body that not only looks the part, but is built to survive, rocking a similarly strong full metal body.
But they’re expensive, as we’ve just noted, so what do you do?
You make something a little smaller, and slightly more cost effective for everyone else.
Just recently, Leica introduced the “Q”, a new camera that takes the style and design synonymous with Leica’s M series of cameras and applies a full-frame 35mm sensor and a lens that you cannot take off, making what we would regard as an advanced compact with a 28mm F/1.7 lens.
That style of lens is fairly wide and should offer a lot of light coming in, meaning some versatility in low light, but just in case F/1.7 isn’t enough, the ISO sensitivity support goes up to ISO 50,000, which should provide a reasonable hit in noise, but will also mean working in some very dark situations.
The sensor will also help out here since it is a full-frame sensor, pulling out 24 megapixel images that are processed with Leica’s own image processor, displaying the results on either the 3 inch touch-enabled LCD on the back or the 3.68 megapixel viewfinder, the latter of which is higher than any other camera we’ve seen or heard of.
Wireless tech is found inside this camera, used for not just taking images off the camera and transferred to your phone or tablet, but also to wireless control the camera, providing you an off-camera viewfinder, almost like a waist-level, except this one could be used anywhere.
And then there’s the control, and the Leica Q practically screams manual from its look and design, offering a manual control ring on the lens, a manual shutter speed dial on the top of the camera, and focus controls on the lens.
You don’t have to be a manual photographer to appreciate the camera, with auto-focus also working here, automatic aperture speed, automatic shutter speed, and automatic ISO if needed, making the Leica Q ideal for both amateur and enthusiast photographers.
We do need to point out that the lens is fixed to 28mm, but Leica tries to solve some of the dilemma a fixed lens camera might bring with a button for “digital framing” which will crop the image to either 35mm or 50mm with an in-camera indication of what that crop will look like.
That means the 24 megapixel image will be cropped on a JPEG, providing 15 megapixels on the 35mm image or 8 megapixels on the 50mm, but if you use RAW images with Adobe’s Digital Negative format (DNG), something that is supported, you will find the full image available to you merely cropped in the preview.
Testing out the camera, we were greeted by a beautifully built body that is hard to suppress admiration for.
Put it in your hand the first impression is nothing other than excellent, with a fair amount of heft, but a build that lets you know that a lot of care went into this, and it has been built to survive, with one of those full-metal aluminium designs Leica is known for.
Not just that, but the lens is metal too, and beautifully designed, feeling like a lens from an old camera. But this isn’t an old camera, and there’s a solid little sensor lurking underneath.
The full image cropped to our website above, and a 100 percent crop below. Look at the detail from that lens!
We don’t want to give too much away ahead of an upcoming review, but almost every shot we got out of this camera has been gold, and it produces lovely colours and even features a very striking monochrome mode that if you know how to use can produce some pretty detailed and brilliant little images from.
Now for the price, and that’s the part you might be dreading: $5900.
Yes, it’s nearly six thousand bucks for a camera with a fixed lens.
Granted, it’s a pretty solid design with an excellent lens, but is still nearly $6K. For some, this will be an easy one, and we can see photographers and enthusiasts with money to throw around diving in without thinking, but if that’s a lot of money to you — and it’s a lot of money to us — stay tuned for our review, because we should have it along in the next week or two.