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Leica Q2 Monochrom First Impressions: A Perfect Camera for Dad

The Leica Q2 Monochrom is really good. I liked using it, I think it takes great photos, and I think people who buy it will be incredibly happy. It’s just not the M10 Monochrom, and I need to stop expecting it to be.

I had the Q2 for just a brief few days, only enough to give hands-on impressions rather than a full review. In that time, I took just a few photos given the situation of the United States in 2020 and the state of the coronavirus pandemic.

I also think I only took a few photos because, in my mind, I couldn’t help but compare it to the M10 Monochrom I reviewed earlier this year. Both are high-megapixel, dynamic range beasts housed in a simple, compact body. Both have a beautifully simple menu that is easy to use and understand, but there are crucial differences that I think resulted in me feeling less compelled to make art with the Q2 than I did with the M10. That’s not a slight against the Q2 by any means, and I want to make that clear. Instead, I think it highlights how much of an achievement the M10 is that something as good as the Q2 feels like all it can do is stand in its shadow.

In hand, the Q2 is weighty without feeling heavy. It’s easy to use and isn’t uncomfortable to hold. But much like Fujifilm cameras, it’s not exactly comfortable to heft either. It looks good in photos, but it isn’t the most pleasant feeling camera to take photos with. There are of course accessories you can add to the experience to make it a bit better – like a leather wrap case, for example – but out of the box, it’s a bit too cold for me.

The Q2 Monochrom works well both as a manual focus camera as well as an autofocus one. If I’m given autofocus, I generally use it out of habit. I think that may have been to my detriment, as the manual focus experience is very good thanks to easy-to-see focus peaking.

Autofocus is pretty standard for a contrast-only system with no deep-learning algorithms in it: decent, but nothing to write home about. It is, generally, fast and accurate but your experiences will vary depending on the subject matter and light availability. During the day in bright light, I had no problems. At night, it took longer to get a subject in focus and I would in some cases just revert to manual focus – it was faster.

The Q2 Monochrom sees the M10 Monochrom’s 40-megapixel sensor and adds on even more, giving us a pretty gigantic full-frame 46.7 megapixels behind a gorgeous 28mm f/1.7 Summilux fixed lens. That lens has a secondary trick up its sleeve: a macro switch that reduces the maximum aperture to f/2.8 but lets you get significantly closer to your subject for the unusual wide-angle macro shot.

I spent most of my time shooting as wide open as I could because it’s a look that I enjoy when I’m given the opportunity. From what I experienced, the sharpness is fantastic, if not a bit challenging to perfectly land due to that razor-thin plane of focus.

I have no complaints about the image quality, and that’s probably because many of the problems we complain about in digital photography are eliminated when colors are removed. We won’t see any chromatic aberration and perceived sensor noise is dramatically reduced at high ISOs.

Much like with the M10 Monochrom, the art of black and white is much more forgiving. Most images look more interesting through the monochrome perspective simply because it’s different than what our eyes see. As a result, shooting with the Q2 is fun in ways many other digital cameras are not. I don’t take myself seriously when shooting with the Q2 and because of it I enjoy taking photos I would otherwise disregard.

Straight out of camera JPEG
Edited to balance shadows and highlights

I shoot with the Q2 Monochrom with the ease I do with my smartphone, but the images I make I find myself looking at as more than just a record of an event. So, it gets me in the feels more than my phone does, which is important.

Still, the Q2 did not quite enchant me the same way the M10 did, and I think a lot of why that lies with the lens.

28mm is quite wide, wider than I think I would have chosen for this camera were I able to select my own fixed lens. It’s a bit more distorted vision of reality than I think my mind likes to see, and I wasn’t as compelled to push that shutter button the same way I was with the lens options I had on the M10. Sure, there are in-body crop options that allow you to get 35mm or even 50mm if you wanted, digitally. But we all know that a cropped 28mm to 50mm does not a 50mm actually make.

As I said, I think this is more of a statement on the triumph of the M10 than any particular problem with the Q2.

I think the Q2 Monochrom is a really good camera for someone who doesn’t want to fiddle with multiple lenses or manual focus but still wants a Leica experience. My dad loves street photography and shoots for black and white anyway. The autofocus, very quiet shutter, and wide-angle are actually a perfect match for what he likes to do, and I think I could confidently recommend this camera to him. I think he would likewise be very happy with it.

Perhaps no one but me is going to make a comparison between the Q2 Monochrom and the M10 Monochrom, and that’s probably a good thing. These cameras should not be compared. Unfortunately, I just cannot extricate them from one another in my mind despite knowing this. One is a rangefinder, one is not. One is a fixed lens, one is not. One offers autofocus, the other does not. They are clearly for different people, and if what the Q2 Monochrom offers is in line with your expectations, then by all means I wholeheartedly recommend it.

It’s a really nice, high-quality point and shoot. If you’re into black and white photography, it’s likely the nicest camera you can get in this category.

But for me, the Q2 Monochrom was just a constant reminder that it was not the M10 Monochrom. It reminded me how much I miss that camera.

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