Home Cameras/Lenses Leica Leica Q goes pro on naked bike ride, baptism of fire and...

Leica Q goes pro on naked bike ride, baptism of fire and brimstone

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First day with the new Leica Q and what to do? Fortunately there’s always something to do in London Town. So I donned my best grubby mac and headed down to Hyde Park where I promised Quentin the Leica a sight of a strange collection of birthday-suited eccentrics on bikes. Today was the annual London Naked Bike Ride and eco-minded cyclists had gathered from all four corners of Britain to demonstrate en masse, preferably wearing as little clothing as possible. Quite by chance, I discovered that at least half the spectators (all with cameras) were Chinese. “Why?” I asked a couple. “Because it isn’t allowed in China.” Good enough reason. But not everyone approved:

This, I thought, would be a good opportunity to get some snapshots with the new Q and the 28mm f/1.7 Summilux lens, its only lens in fact. I set the new guy to autofocus but played around a little with the aperture occasionally, never on full auto. Focus is blitz schnell; out of the day’s shooting I had only five OOF disasters. I reckon it is faster than the Fuji X-T1, certainly faster than the Sony A7II and will give the Olympus OM-Ds a run for their money.

It’s the results that matter and today they exceeded my expectations, high as they were. In fact, if I had bought the new 28mm Summilux-M lens and fixed it to an M240 I am not sure I would have seen better results. 

Although only one of these pictures was taken with manual focus (the one with the lock marked “Faithful”, below) I confirmed later that the focus implementation on the Q is the best I have experienced on any mirrorless camera. It is quick, precise and feels just like focusing an M lens. If you can get over not having a split image, this version of focus peaking is something you can rely on. 

 Full frontal shutter release
Full frontal shutter release

I shot DNG+JPEG because, as on the X and T cameras, there is no option to shoot RAW alone.  However, these files are from RAW and have had minimal tweaking in Lightroom, just a bit of extra sharpening and presence. The Q felt really natural in the hands, just like an M7 or M6 rather than the current M which is a bit more portly. Frankly, if you are happy with this one focal length then the Q is just as good as an M with a 28mm Summicron. 

 Something unusual for the holiday snaps
Something unusual for the holiday snaps

Leica had supplied an 8GB SD card with the Q and I was rather surpsised to find it full halfway through the afternoon. When I checked later I realised that the DNG files are huge, all of 43MB, while the sidecar JPEGS range from 7 to 12.5MB. Since there is no RAW-only option, you are looking at at least 50MB per shot. I do not think there is any in-camera compression on the RAW files so you need the odd spare card in your bag. Later, even my speedy 5K iMac with 32GB of RAM made heavy work of importing 300-plus shots into Lightroom. It’s another reason why the new, slow MacBook might not be the ideal travel companion. Incidentally, I formatted a 64GB SD card and the Q tells me I have 1,000 shots to play with. 

 That Santander logo gets in everywhere
That Santander logo gets in everywhere

Another surprise was the battery life. I clocked up 324 shots during the day and by the time I returned home the battery was all but dead. So add another battery to your list. This is one area where the M240 and its up-to-1000 shots excels although, it has to be said, the M battery is battleship size. The Q uses the same battery as the V-Lux and Panasonic FZ-1000.

“Does it come off,” I asked. “Not sure, we’ll find out later when I jump in the Serpentine.”

The Q has an interesting crop feature, similar to the system I am used to with the little Ricoh GR. On the Ricoh you can select native 28mm, 35mm or 46mm with the screen view zooming in as appropriate. The Leica does it differently. Instead of offering a zoomed view, the screen and viewfinder display M-like framelines, one set for 35mm and one for 50mm. This works well and some of these shots were done using the crop (see the close up of the “Faithful” bike lock which was snapped at 50mm). This digital zoom is effective and almost the equal of an optical zoom, despite the smaller file size. At 35mm the picture size is down from the full-frame 6000×4000 to 4800×3200 but the resulting 15.36MP shot is perfectly acceptable and will compare with, say, a full-size APS-C picture. At 50mm we are down to around 8MP (3360×2240) but, again, it is still quite usable.

 I thought I
I thought I’d better crop this shot at the bottom. Don’t want to frighten the horses

This crop feature offers no better results than you could obtain by cropping in Lightroom but the framelines do aid composition. At 50mm there is a wide area outside the frame which permits anticipation of moving subjects, just as with an M. However, I am not convinced that the frameline solution is the best.  On balance, I suspect a zoomed view might be more useful long term. For the moment, the framelines are an interesting gimmick and I am enjoying playing with them.

“Can you take your mask off,” she asked, grateful that she had had the foresight to don a jumper to match Pinocchio’s hat. “No,” came the reply, “I don’t want my picture all over the internet.” Pinocchio is just hoping he can avoid telling any lies for the duration of the event
 Bums on seats and a faithful lock. This was taken at the 50mm cropped focal length using the widest f/1.7 aperture to demonstrate  the surprisingly narrow depth of field. This is the only shot in this collection where I used manual focus to be sure of nailing the blue lock
Bums on seats and a faithful lock. This was taken at the 50mm cropped focal length using the widest f/1.7 aperture to demonstrate  the surprisingly narrow depth of field. This is the only shot in this collection where I used manual focus to be sure of nailing the blue lock
 Bulldog spirit, veteran of many naked bike rides
Bulldog spirit, veteran of many naked bike rides
 Above and below: This enterprising couple hail from Cockermouth in Cumbria. 
Above and below: This enterprising couple hail from Cockermouth in Cumbria. 

 A fair amount of leering took place
A fair amount of leering took place
 This camera really does excel at quick snapshots. Just the job for the holidays. But this reminds me that 28mm is not the ideal portrait focal length because it can sometimes create a less-than-flattering perspective. On the the other hand, this f/1.7 Summilux makes a pretty good fist of bokeh when pressed
This camera really does excel at quick snapshots. Just the job for the holidays. But this reminds me that 28mm is not the ideal portrait focal length because it can sometimes create a less-than-flattering perspective. On the the other hand, this f/1.7 Summilux makes a pretty good fist of bokeh when pressed
 Pow-wow on a Boris bike 
Pow-wow on a Boris bike 

“Oh my god,” said the owner of this Konica Hexar RF and 1956 5cm Summarit, “a Leica Q, can I hold it.”
 London
London’s entire stock of rental Boris bikes must have been out for the day. Will they ever recover from the shock? Hope they wipe the seats, though

 The lady in red
The lady in red

 Hmmm, iPads are more interesting than all this eco-warrior stuff even if mummy is acting a bit strange today.
Hmmm, iPads are more interesting than all this eco-warrior stuff even if mummy is acting a bit strange today.
 Didn
Didn’t know the CND was still in existence
 Appreciative audience for the big strip off. Just remember, this is Hyde Park, London, not Bei Hai Park in Beijing. You wouldn
Appreciative audience for the big strip off. Just remember, this is Hyde Park, London, not Bei Hai Park in Beijing. You wouldn’t really know on this evidence.
 Let battle commence...
Let battle commence…
 Meanwhile, on the deserted streets of nearby Mayfair, Boris bikes had disappeared. Never has Boris been so booked out. 
Meanwhile, on the deserted streets of nearby Mayfair, Boris bikes had disappeared. Never has Boris been so booked out. 

3 COMMENTS

  1. Love your choice for subject, and bollocks to all the people that are ashamed of their naked bodies that they would judge these people for having a good time. I know you were probably trying to be somewhat modest but the different aspect ratios throughout were more distracting then all the penises. Still, a great photo essay with a awesome camera.

    • Ah, thanks. I agree and, yes, I was trying to balance matters for a general audience. Love Pinocchio, though.

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