Home Cameras/Lenses Leica Sensor Size: Resisting the siren call of the Leica Q

Sensor Size: Resisting the siren call of the Leica Q

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  Ladies Wot Brew... When it comes to pondering over a new camera, the advice is Keep Calm and Carry On. Image by Mike Evans and Leica Q taken in the church tearooms at   Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate  , York
Ladies Wot Brew… When it comes to pondering over a new camera, the advice is Keep Calm and Carry On. Image by Mike Evans and Leica Q taken in the church tearooms at Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate , York

“Get thee behind me Satan”. Just hold that admonition for a while. I’ll try to explain.

Friend and Macfilos correspondent John Shingleton (aka Mr X1) arrived home last month after travels in the Irrawaddy Delta region of Myanmar. I’m sure that you’ll soon see some of his photography as he prepares something for Macfilos. I spoke with him over coffee shortly after he landed back and he sang the praises of his Leica Q. Since then I’ve seen a portfolio of the pictures that he brought back, and I do admit that the Q has produced some outstanding images. 

Taunts

But the friendly taunt that I then received from him three times in the next 24 hours was “So, when will you be getting a Q?”. Even in the last hour he has just sent me a link to a Q review in another attempt to influence me .And I also cast a glance over Mike Evans’s gushing nine-months-with-Q story. Temptation, temptation. Diagonally however, that has set me thinking about the difference between Image Quality and Quality of the Image.

To my thinking, and I may well be wrong, Image Quality is a function of the camera alone. Certainly different cameras render images differently. Diverse sensor sizes, varied pixel sizes, lens properties and firmware characteristics are probably the main parameters determining image quality. There is no doubt that the Leica Q scores highly on all of these criteria regarding IQ. 

  Above and below: The Leica Q produces high image quality and can also provide high quality of image (both pictures from Myanmar, courtesy of John Shingleton).
Above and below: The Leica Q produces high image quality and can also provide high quality of image (both pictures from Myanmar, courtesy of John Shingleton).

Scientific approach

However, Quality of the Image is different. Again, I’ll preface this with my disclaimer that I might well be wrong, but I see Quality of the Image as the overall combination of image quality along with subject and light(ing), all combined with the photographer’s eye (perspective, framing, talent).

 In simple mathematical terms let’s formulate the equation as 

QI=IQ + S + L + PE

where QI is Quality of Image, IQ is Image Quality of the equipment, S is Subject interest and uniqueness, L is Light (ing), and PE is the Photographer’s eye.

Now, let me get my feet back on the ground, and my head out of the clouds. Considering the Leica Q images that I’ve seen from John I’d score them very high on overall QI. They are great on IQ, excellent on S and L and PE is pretty darn good too (but don’t tell him I said that last one). To me the overall score for QI of his images is high, and actually much more important than just IQ alone.

  This image and the two below taken by the Leica X2 with its relatively long-in-the-tooth APS-C sensor. With careful use a Leica X2 can also produce quality images, even if it doesn’t have the image quality of the Q (Images by Wayne Gerlach from his recent Vietnam travels)
This image and the two below taken by the Leica X2 with its relatively long-in-the-tooth APS-C sensor. With careful use a Leica X2 can also produce quality images, even if it doesn’t have the image quality of the Q (Images by Wayne Gerlach from his recent Vietnam travels)

Photographer’s Eye

Which brings me to John’s taunt of when will I buy a Q? Well, I do have and use a Leica X2 and a Leica D lux 109, amongst some other Leica and Fuji kit (and I did sell the X Vario a year ago — silly me). I’d score the X2 and 109 reasonably high on Image Quality and have been quite happy with them. Almost certainly not as good as a Q, but for my photography I’d probably gain more if I first ramped up in areas of Subject, Light and my Photographer’s Eye. Maybe there are greater gains to be achieved there, if I’m quite honest with myself.

  These images taken with the Leica D Lux. Even this camera can provide images of quality, even though its 4/3 sensor might be on the small size for exceptional image quality. Recent photos from remote South Australia by Wayne
These images taken with the Leica D Lux. Even this camera can provide images of quality, even though its 4/3 sensor might be on the small size for exceptional image quality. Recent photos from remote South Australia by Wayne

I do cast a covetous eye at the Q. But I just can’t quite justify a new one on a cost/benefit basis for myself at this stage, when my current equipment gives me quite acceptable results at the image output sizes that I pursue. And for a two year old camera the used, mint examples of the Leica Q that are coming on to the market are holding value extremely well, almost too well. But gee, it would be nice to have a Q !

Therefore, in answer to the strong temptation to get a Leica Q, at this stage all I can keep uttering to myself are the words of the prophet: “Get thee behind me Satan”. 

Three final images. Even a small sensor is capable of quality of image if the light and other conditions are right. The advantage of a long zoom demonstrated by the old Leica V Lux 4 in Eastern Europe (Wayne)

 

36 COMMENTS

  1. Could not agree more, Wayne. As a barely competent amateur, any additional resources spent on my part would best utilized at a local community college or other venue to improve my limited observational and technical skills. Still, I have been looking for an addition to my sole camera, an X Vario purchased after some helpful advice from Mr. Evans. With used Q’s selling for north of $3k, I’ve got my sights set on a used X, if I can find one. In the meantime, more time behind the viewfinder will no doubt improve my results more than any new toy. Thanks for the post and the great photo

    • Hi Mike, I own and use regularly an X typ 113, that was bought preowned. I would recommend it, more so if you are use to the X Vario. Dave

      • Hello Mike P, Dave is right. Pick up a good used X113 or the earlier X2 or X1 when you can. They will hold value, be usable for years and provide images of quality. They stack up well on a cost/benefit analysis. And for me there’s something perversely pleasurable about getting a great image out of a previous generation piece of kit.

  2. As Q cameras are holding their value, if tempted, bite the bullet and buy new.

    As an aside, I think of my Q as two cameras; a Q28 and a Q35, the latter equating to an X but with a stunningly good EVF.

    • I’d go even further, David. The Q performs well at a 50mm-equivalent crop and I suspect it is then not far from micro four-thirds. Fewer pixels, I agree, but larger pixels which bring better low-light performance and enhanced dynamic range. I recently did some test shots with the M10 and 35mm Summicron and was impressed at the quality of even quite large crops. The Q will be much the same.

    • Thanks for message David. I agree that the EVF is quite impressive, as is the fast autofocus. Maybe, maybe, possibly….

  3. Yes, Mike, I am inclined to agree. However, for stock purposes, 10 mega-pixels seems to be the accepted baseline accepted by libraries. Q50 is more than adequate for personal and blogging duties. HAPPY EASTER!

    • Hello David. Not being a Q owner (yet!) I do wonder whether it would change my approach to capturing the image. The wide 28mm will always capture the instant image and then often more, helped by the fast autofocus. Then postprocessing will produce the exact frame whether it be Q28, Q35 or Q50 or points in between i.e. Just instantly catch the picture that the eye sees, then sort it out accurately later when processing the image. Naive perhaps, but it’s like an approach sometimes taken in the old days of the darkroom.

  4. Chalk another agreement up from me, too! I was amazed to look at ny own pictures as a digital starter with a D-Lux 4 in Syria in 2010 (mourn the beauty of people and places destroyed in the years that have followed). I only thought of adding zoom when I realised there was a point in cropping where pixellation set in ! That led to the V-lux 1 (bigger sensor than your 4, Wayne !), and I could wonder why I thought I should go a-whoring with Sony (apologies, Nexes, you’re very nice really – all three of you!). I think if I were to try and justify the excessive number of cameras which an unexpected windfall brought to my cupboard, I should like to add one further item to your equation. This would be DE (delight in equipment) which certainly doesn’t make for better pictures on its own, but does add a spicey tang to the mixture!!

      • Hi John N and Mike E. Yes, DE is certainly a major factor for the purchase and ownership of a new toy. Your comment has set me thinking that it should indeed also be included in the equation for Quality of Image. DE will promote a positive keenness to photography, resulting in more likelihood of searching out interesting images and perspectives – CC as indicated by Brian (above) is an important factor in DE. So, yes, add it into the equation.

  5. Hi Wayne, Thank you for your views, I too am wanting something with a little more oomph. And I agree with your equation on what makes a decent image. I love my X, but am currently saving for my next camera, in my sights is possibly the CL, Q, or dare I say it, an M. Dave

    Hi Mike, Have a nice Easter break. Dave

  6. Dave – love the X Vario I’d be perfectly happy to find an X 113 as a alternate. They seem to be quite rare on the used market, which tells you something about their appeal, I would say.

    • Yes I looked at this a few months ago – I was curiously interested in how much value mine had lost over the period of ownership. It hasn’t lost a lot at all, about 2 or 3%, which suggests they have become a bit rare.

      If I come across one during my research I will let you know. Red Dot is my favoured place to look, but there are a few others.

      Dave

      • Gday Mike P and Dave S. Yes, the X series Leicas do provide great images. X1, X2, XV, X(113). And at a cost of 20-25% of a new or mint used Q I’m not sure how what business school consultants would conclude. In fact, a 35mm crop of the Q is 15megapixels which is of the same order as images from any of the X series Leicas…….but the Q does have bigger pixels, excellent EVF, lightning fast autofocus……but it weighs twice as much as most of the X’s…….and there I go spinning my wheels again….

        • Ha ha ha – you are going to have bought that Q before you know it. Regardless of what you said above in the article. Dave

  7. I would like to add one more addition to the equation which I feel is a multiplication factor to the rest of the equation. The factor is CC which is Carrying Camera. I loved the Leica SL for everything but it’s size and weight precluded going everywhere with me so I often missed amazing opportunities that my M240 did not miss. So CC is a zero if you have no camera so QI becomes zero no matter how high other elements in the equation. Hence, my recent decision to go Panasonic G9 was impacted by this equation. I think this post with the equation brought out the the best way for an individual to think through their needs to make the best decision for their individual requirements.

    • Hi Brian. The original equation relates to just quality of the image. However, you are right that it can be adapted for consideration of camera choice by including an overriding factor of, well, let’s call it CE = Camera Enjoyment, which could be a combination of your CC as well as menu interface, haptics and visuals. I include visuals aka "the look" cos the bendy Sigma quattro cameras have never turned me on even tho I understand that the provide great image quality.

      • Surely another factor is simplicity or “the essential” as lauded by Leica in das Wesentlich. The W factor, perhaps. It’s one of the main reasons photographers choose Leica and it typifies all the X cameras as well as the Q.

    • Hello Mike. Aaaarrrggghhh ! You’re tipping the balance. I have to keep going back to the first and last sentences of the article!
      …..and to the other Mike (Evans), do enjoy your Easter. It’s good to see that you are keeping a watful parental eye on Macfilos while you take a break. W

  8. Hi Wayne, stop trying to resist the siren call of the Q – resistance is futile! The Q has the critical LL factor; lust and love. Leicas are gorgeous to look at and to handle. The Leica design and mechanical engineering is a joy to those with discerning appreciation for excellence of execution. I love my Panasonic G9 and glass but the Panasonic is not a Leica but it cannot be for the price.The Leica Q is my next purchase for it’s purpose. Pull the trigger!

    • Thanks for the positive advice Brian. Of course all you say is correct. Now, let me see, I just need to go back to Editor Mike’s first picture and re-read that plaque on the wall. 🙂

  9. Hi Wayne, you made me hear the siren call of the Leica Q and I just pulled the trigger on a mint Titanium! So I hope you feel bit of guilt and join the club…

    • Hello BLQ Nicol. That’s commitment ! Exciting. Enjoy it. And do share some of your first pics and impressions with the Macfilos family.
      As of today I’m still standing on the bank of a raging torrent, not yet jumping in to swim to the Promised Land on the other side. (But keeping a careful watchful eye on the ‘Bay).

  10. I thought for a long time about acquiring the Q but resisted each time. After all, I have a Leica SL and a Leica CL. But, I felt a pocketable high IQ camera would be handy. Problem. The Leica Q is not pocketable, even in a trench-coat. Alternative? The Ricoh GRII. It is very pocketable and the IQ is stunning. Yes, it’s APS-C so no very fine DOF if that’s what you want and, yes, it’s low light capability is slightly inferior. AF very quick, doubt if there’s a difference. Yes, it has no EVF although a manual VF is available. Otherwise, unless you are printing poster size – ie JC Decaux poster size – I bet you’d be hard pushed to tell any difference in IQ. And it costs about a sixth that of the Q. Pretty easy decision for me.

    • Yes, I agree. I’m a great fan of the Ricoh and it’s the camera I carry when I don’t want to carry a camera! The results are much better than anyone would imaging. But I"m not sure where it fits into Wayne’s equation….

  11. Hi Wayne, my Leica Q purchase is not happening at the moment as it turned out to be a fraudulent ebay seller wanting me to do bank transfer directly into his account – I informed ebay so it is certainly buyer beware! I will continue to watch ebay but have not seen deals other than fradulent one; I knew it was too good to be true. I never see a deal so it shows how desirable the camera is.

    I owned the Ricoh GR for a year as a carry all the time quality camera. I purchased it because Ming Thein was happy with it at the time. However, I never got on with it due to the lack of built-in viewfinder. It had beautiful haptics and file quality but I hated its lack of viewfinder so always ended up carrying my M240 most of time which irritated my wife at times. I sold it after a year to a professional photographer as a carry all the time camera and less than a month later she won a photo competition in the UK and shared the gorgeous image with me and thanked me for the pristine low mileage fabulous deal. It shows that what works for one person does not work for another!

    • Quite correct re the Ricoh GR – one man’s meat is another man’s poison.
      Regarding the Leica Q on EBay in the past week, I saw that ad as well and thought that it was a scam when I saw that the seller was selling it on a very short timeframe, had a lot of other gear advertised the same way with exactly the same timeframe and end of auction, and insisted on being contacted for Buy It Now. I decided not to pursue any of it, it was all just too good to be true. Buyer beware.

      • …..and had coffee with John Shingleton aka Mr X1 this morning. He also saw the scam, and we remembered a couple more points about the ad and the "seller". 1. Here in Australia the location of the item was listed as Australia, Australia not (Placename), Australia. Not sure if you saw the same ad elsewhere or whether it was a worldwide hit 2. The seller had a 100% positive Ebay rating on over 500 transactions, but it looked like many of the transaction details for that rating were cloned somehow in his profile. 3. And John also noticed that many of the other items that the seller listed for sale on the identical short timeframe were cloned somehow from legitimate ads that could be found elsewhere on Ebay.
        Certainly worth doing some homework when looking to buy substantial items on the "Bay.

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