Home Cameras/Lenses Leica Q2: The bits Leica got wrong

Q2: The bits Leica got wrong

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Despite the nitpicking, the Leica Q2 remains one of the most satisfying and enjoyable go-anywhere cameras to use. This is one of much-vaunted 75mm crops which is perfectly acceptable for most purposes

Leica’s Q2 upgrade is an impressive camera and no mistake. There is not much to dislike. But the designers did get one thing wrong and it is a big bad thing. In simplifying the user interface, Leica has introduced a booby trap for the unwary.

The designers deserve full credit for simplifying the control system on the Q2. The CL-style three-button layout is much preferable to the earlier control incarnation on the original Q, but simplicity can have its limitations.

Despite the nitpicking, the Leica Q2 remains one of the most satisfying and enjoyable go-anywhere cameras to use. This is one of much-vaunted 75mm crops which is perfectly acceptable for most purposes
Despite the nitpicking, the Leica Q2 remains one of the most satisfying and enjoyable go-anywhere cameras to use. This is one of those much-vaunted 75mm crops which are perfectly acceptable for most purposes

Display toggle

The four-way pad does what it is intended to do — it scrolls through menus, it moves the focus point around the screen. Unusually, though, the centre button on the pad is not there to confirm settings but to toggle through the display in the absence of a dedicated DISP button. Wonderful idea, but…

The back of the Q2 is impressively minimalistic, with just three main buttons and a four-way pad. The central button of the pad acts as a DISP button to toggle through the required level of information on the screen or in the viewfinder.
The back of the Q2 is impressively minimalistic, with just three main buttons and a four-way pad. The central button of the pad acts as a DISP button to toggle through the required level of information on the screen or in the viewfinder.

So if you want to adjust the level of information on the screen or viewfinder display, you press the pad centre button until you see what you need. So far so good, except that plumb in the middle of these display options is a video screen. Oddly, this is the only way to access the video function. There is no dedicated video button with the option for it to be disabled.

But what's this? On of the DISP options is this screen, video mode, which is the only way of enabling video. Press the shutter while this screen is active and you make a video instead of taking a picture
But what’s this? One of the DISP options is this screen, video mode, which is the only way to enable video. Press the shutter while this screen is active and you make a pointless video instead of taking a picture as you intended

Nonsense

What’s wrong with this? Well, a lot actually. It is all too easy to select the video screen by mistake. I do it on every outing at least once. This means that the next time you press the shutter button you start shooting video. My SD cards are littered with impeccable footage of my feet as I continue unwittingly to run down the battery.

This is an egregious decision and should never have got through the beta stage. What on earth were they thinking of? I can imagine the design boffins, having removed all the rear controls except for three solitary screen-side buttons, a diopter adjustment, a frame-line toggle and a four-way pad, sitting back with satisfaction. Until someone mentioned video. How on earth can we switch to video, they probably wondered. There are no buttons left! Bereft of sensible ideas, they decided to make video an option in the display toggle.

The manual confirms that the only way to start video is by using the display toggle button or by using touch control
The manual confirms that the only way to start video is by using the display toggle button or by using touch control

As an aside, video is in any case an afterthought in most Leica cameras. Whether or not Q2 owners (or owners of any Leica camera for that matter) really want video is a debatable point. The factory has already given in and removed video from the M10. Everyone I know who owns a Q or Q2 uses it for stills only. If they need video, I suspect, they can afford to buy a good video camera such as the Lumix GH5 in addition to their Leica.

The Q2 is definitely not a camera for video enthusiasts, irrespective of the quality of output. There are no ports so there is no way of directly streaming output. Nor is there a flip-up selfie screen which is increasingly important for dedicated vloggers who need to see themselves as they drone on.

Video on the Q2 is there to keep up with the Jones’s. Yet the Jones’s have parked their uninspiring little car right in the middle of the still-photographer’s display selection. It is a constant and unwanted intrusion.

HMS Belfast flanked by the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, seen from Hay's Wharf. Just another snap from the versatile Q2
HMS Belfast flanked by the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, seen from Hay’s Wharf. Just another snap from the versatile Q2

Centre focus

My second gripe with the Q2 is an old chestnut that will be familiar to Macfilos readers. There is no way to lock the focus point (either spot or field) to the centre of the screen. It is well recognised (by everyone except the factory, it seems) that many Leica photographers, weaned on the rangefinder, prefer to focus and recompose. I certainly do, but Leica doesn’t make it easy. Fuji and some other makers recognise this need and provide a menu option to disable unwanted buttons.

All Leica mirrorless cameras in recent years have suffered from the wayward focus point, moving unbidden as the ball of the thumb brushes the four-way pad. The X Vario was an incorrigible offender. The CL is even worse. While it is undoubtedly an individual problem, I find the ball of my thumb constantly jiggles the pad to cause the focus point to move around the screen unbidden. Even an accessory thumb grip doesn’t solve the problem for me.

The SL, too, had this same problem of dancing focus point although here it was the joystick at fault. The joystick is easily nudged and moves the focus point around the screen.

Lockdown

For some reason Leica (or, more than likely, Panasonic which is probablt in charge of the electronics) refuses to provide a lock to keep the focus point dead centre in the frame. It’s a common fault on Lumix cameras as well, which isn’t too surprising. Daddy Panny doesn’t like it.

However, Leica, of all manufacturers, should realise that many customers prefer centre-focus-and-recompose shooting as they have been used to with the rangefinder. Yet, time after time, the company argues that a lock is not necessary. At first, then comes the inevitable surrender to user dissatisfaction.

Lockdown on the D-Lux 7 stops inadvertent pressing of buttons, thus ensuring a locked centre focus point. Yet during lockdown there is still physical access to all the controls you need -- aperture, speed and exposure compensation
Lockdown on the D-Lux 7 stops inadvertent pressing of buttons, thus ensuring a locked centre focus point. Yet during lock-down, there is still physical access to all the controls you need — aperture, speed and exposure compensation

In the first or second firmware upgrade, the company invariably bows to this pressure. An option to disable video on the M240, a lock for the joystick on the SL, a curious lockdown for the CL — an oddity which is all sledgehammers and nuts.

The lockdown on the CL works in the same as that on the D-Lux 7 (proving, if proof were needed, that Panasonic has its hand in the pie). The difference between the CL and the D-Lux 7 is that the D-Lux sports physical controls for aperture, speed and compensation. You can therefore work happily with the camera locked (thus preventing inadvertent presses of the direction pad and subsequent movement of the focus point). You can still adjust the main exposure parameters while wayward buttons are in lockdown. It’s a good solution.

Lockdown on the CL works in exactly the same way as on the D-Lux 7. The only problem is that there are no physical congtrols (other than, in this case, zoom). Aperture, speed and exposure compensation are also locked. This is Leica's sledgehammer to crack a nut.
Lock-down on the CL works in exactly the same way as on the D-Lux 7. The only problem is that there are no physical controls (other than, in this case, zoom). Aperture, speed and exposure compensation are also locked. This is Leica’s sledgehammer to crack a nut.

But what is a good solution on the D-Lux 7 is a Frankenstinian kludge on the CL. Locking the camera prevents any adjustments to exposure settings. The camera is locked, stock and barrel. TL lenses do not have aperture rings and there are no physical adjustments for aperture, speed or compensation on the camera. All these functions, performed admirably by soft controls, are locked when lock-down is selected.

This is all very well if you are not planning to change settings and, I admit, I use this total lock-down a lot of the time because I am fed up with the focus point dancing around the screen. But it is not a satisfactory solution. The lock even switches off when the camera is powered down, something which further annoys many users, including my friend Don Morley. Why not simply provide a menu option to lock the four-way pad and make it a sticky feature?

Learning from mistakes

As I’ve said, some of these faults (for, indeed, they are faults in my book) can be tackled by firmware update. But why does Leica (or Panasonic) not learn from past mistakes and get it right on launch day? Most Leica owners want a centre-focus lock option. It’s as simple as that, yet Leica designers refuse to listen, camera after camera after camera. It’s depressing, really.

In fairness to the Q2, despite the absence of any type of lock, I have had few problems with this particular four-way pad. Because of its placing and perhaps thanks to the useful thumb indent, I don’t find myself nudging the focus point overmuch. It does happen on occasion, and that’s why we need a lock, but it is by no means as frustrating as it is with the CL or was with the SL or X Vario.

Minimalisation of controls, as in the harmonisation of the Q2 layout with that of the CL, is all very laudable and, in general, I approve of what has been done. But throwing video into the middle of the display toggle system is a ridiculous solution that is already upsetting me and, I suspect, will upset most users. The sooner we get a firmware update to allow optional skipping of this destructive video screen the better.

And, while you are at it, Leica, a focus centre lock would be appreciated.

I admit there is a lot of nitpicking here. This is the nearest I get to a rant, but it demonstrates my strength of feeling. I also realise that not everyone agrees with the need for a centre-lock for focus. The Q2 is a wonderful camera and continues to delight. But it isn’t perfect. Yet.

If you own a Q or Q2, what do you think?

Related Articles

Jeff Mellody’s review of the Leica Q2

Jonathan Slack’s review of the Leica Q2

Leica Q2, the joys of crop to focus

22 COMMENTS

  1. The wandering focal point on the CL drives me nuts and I see no reason on the surface of it, why the focal point being locked is not the default. If you actively want the focal point to wander you would actively select that option.

    Either the factory is ignoring all these complaints or they’re not explaining why we can’t have what we want. In either case some response would be helpful.

    • So true and I have to wonder if the factory even care? Maybe instead they have already just moved on towards making the next money spinner? Don

  2. I am a Leica M shooter and have recently thought about purchasing a new Q2. However, you have given me pause with the shortcomings that you mention on the Q2. I also shoot with Fuji and use the lockable center focus which I find very handy. Additionally, my BIG gripe is that most of the camera manufacturers insist on adding video in all the new cameras. I don’t shoot video and really don’t want video on my still cameras. I know, the rest of the World wants video and every other gizmo that can possibly be added to a camera. However, just give me a very capable, well built and simple tool.

  3. Back button focus is also broken, i.e. can’t press back button to focus, release to lock and then recompose (shutter button focus is reactivated). And exposure compensation in manual exposure mode with auto iso also does not work. Both of these worked perfectly on the Q.

    • Thanks for adding this, Rob. Since I don’t normally use BB focus it hadn’t occurred to me. But I will add it to the list.

    • BB foucsing is one of the best features I have discovered on my Nikon Df. It makes image taking more fluid, more so for those of us who focus and recompose, as it takes the part pressed shutter button out of the equation.

  4. I am perpetually baffled by Leica’s inability to resolve the centre lock issue with either the CL, and now the Q2. Surely it aint hard, and I am certain that most users must be almost shouting this in Leica’s direction.

    Its such a simple thing to do, and would move excellent camera’s in to epic status, it might even add a few more sales of them.

    On sales I am still curious if it is possible to work out CL sales.

    • See my earlier comment also note several top German and Austrian Leica shops are selling numerous suposedly ‘Ex Demo’ CL’s with a £1350 starter price on ebay, but with a ‘best offer’ facility as well, meaning buyers might well be able to buy at as much as £1000 below the CL’s UK new price.
      Having seen this same pattern with exactly the same dealers before it does make me wonder if a CL2 is just round the corner? And if as I suspect it is, then I also suspect we can forget any idea of Leica improving the existing CL as by then they will just move on to selling the new model.

      • I don’t know whether or not there will be a CL2 around the corner. There could be nothing around the corner. As you imply, the CL isn’t exactly dropping off the shelves. One of the factors (other than the price, of course) is the lack of stabilisation, either in camera or in the range of lenses. We both know what it’s possible to take photographs without these aids — we’ve both been doing it long enough — but for potential buyers, it is something they like to tick off on a list. It is now almost an essential feature in marketing terms. Unfortunately, for better or for worse, Leica failed to include stabilisation in any of the current lenses (Peter Karbe: It’s to keep the size down”) so the only way forward is in-body stabilisation, something which would undoubtedly increase the size of the camera. With the opposition (in particular Fuji) offering seemingly every known feature, the CL faces an uphill battle even before the buyer sees the price tag.

        • Mike I am sure you are right, certainly about such as the Fuji range several of which I have owned and always been highly impressed by, they are by design a ‘Photographers’ tool, and they are not on their own nowadays so for one I am rather conscious my continued loyalty to Leica may well be misplaced. Best wishes, Don

  5. I don’t understand this.. don’t purchasers try a camera before buying it..?!

    I thought that a nice brand new Canon RP – at half the price of the Canon R (both of them mirrorless, and a with a really silent electronic shutter option – would be great for my wonderful-for-portraits Canon 85mm f1.2 lens. (I’ve used it on the Sony A7RII, with an adaptor, and with the Sony’s silent shutter, and it’s a-l-m-o-s-t great, but sometimes doesn’t quite get perfect focus. And I don’t like the clatter of the Canon SLRs, so silent mirrorless is exactly what I was looking for.)

    So I went to a shop ..those bricks’n’mortar tangible venues with a door on the front and a cash register inside.. and I tried an RP, with my lens attached, having first downloaded the RP instruction manual and read it through, and having the manual with me in the shop on my computer (..it could just as well have been on my iPad).

    Yes, the RP has a silent mode, using only the electronic shutter! Great!
    Yes, the 85mm focuses nicely sharp on the RP! Wonderful!

    BUT: the silent electronic shutter can only be engaged in a Scene mode ..and that renders the camera fully automatic, so there’s no personal choice of which aperture to use – the camera generally chooses f5.6 – which completely negates using the 85mm at f1.2 to blur away backgrounds!

    Only the (more expensive) R allows personal choice of aperture when using the silent electronic shutter! ..But these oddities have to be tested for real, and not just by reading a review, or looking at the spec sheet, or imagining that it’s all bound to be OK.

    If there is no way to fix a focus point (..I, too, use just the central focus point – or else ‘EyeAF’ – on digital cameras because I want the camera to focus where I want the camera to focus..) so then I don’t buy the camera. It’s obviously not the camera for me.

    If I like everything else about the camera, I don’t buy it, and I write to the camera-company CEO and say why I haven’t bought it ..and why ! haven’t given my money to them!

    When they know why they’re not making sales to discerning customers they often change their tune, and may make firmware improvements. But where’s the incentive for them to make things better if they’ve already got your money?

    • Glad I am not the only one who still tests a camera by holding it, researching it, and then seeing if it suits me. My Df is an example of how I do it, I actually went to grays of westminster, held the camera I bought, discussed it with the staff, took images on it with my own memory card. Went home, reviewed images, thought about it.

      And then bought it. Happy customer and now well loved in my camara family.

      And then to contradict myself. I bought my Leica X blind after reading online reviews, and having never bought a second hand camera in my life. I just trusted Red Dot’s reputation, and my own instinct. I love the X, and will keep using it alongside my Df.

      Cannot believe that new Canon will only allow you to use the eletronic shutter in scene mode – I cannot even think about how that would come about in an R&D session at big company – “I know we are going to do this!”… “Our customers will love it.”

  6. Hello, I’m a Yank, retired Combat Photographer who served in Vietnam 🇻🇳,68-69. After Signal Corps design cameras failed; Leica M3 Military Kits and Arriflex MOPIC Cameras were procured and employed for immediate use by myself and all of our, employed Combat Photographers.

    All of our photographers, were above average intelligence; and successfully mastered the (NEW CAMERAS), WITH OUT; “Pouting about: SPOILED ATTITUDES, “TELL LEICA TO PUT THIS FEATURE HERE!!!”WHO DO THESE: Creatures think they are?
    Do they poop differently than, Leica mortals, THERE FORE , have their; piss ant 🐜 RIGHT: to dictate their; Spoiled dumbness UPON GREATNESS

  7. Hey Chris, I also graduate Rice Paddy U, class of TET 67/68 Dust Off , leica M2 first one I ever saw Katherine LeRoy, in my book best female photog there, in the school of Capa photography, she was very close, she jumped w 173rd, was captured by Charlie and escaped. She was wounded NEAR DMZ and swears the cameras she had around her neck saved her life taking the brunt of shrapnel. She died of lung cancer 2006, in California, as a retired American Legion lung cancer is a presumptive for those of us that were there in uniform. She had boots on ground and trudged with rest of us thru Agent Orange! I think of her often and respect any reporter who goes in harms way!

  8. I agree the focus point drives me crazy when trying to perform in the ‘decisive moment’with this otherwise fabulous camera.
    It bugged me with the CL recently and previously X-Vario. Surely this can be addressed please.

    The movie button also needs change but the focus point is higher on my priority list.

    • At least with movie buttons on previous cameras, you could learn to avoid pressing them. And, in-time, Leica would introduce a firmware update allowing you to disable the pesky button. But I see no such salvation with the Q2. I’ve tried to imagine what other control could be used for movie access (given that the current choice of using a display screen is crazy) and can’t think of a solution. There just aren’t any spare buttons. It could be possible to offer movie mode as an additional option on the zoom/lock button. But more likely would be a movie option on either of the two Fn buttons. But those who do use video would be appalled by this because it would require an extra click. Can’t think of a solution this time around.

  9. I wasn’t going to comment here as I have no interest in the Q2 or the CL (modern version anyway). The next interesting Leica for me will be the M11, although improving on the M10 will be difficult, except, perhaps, for the EVF situation.

    I have two main comments here. Firstly, Leica has for some time put style over function in its newer designs. More traditional photographers will accept this so long as they can set up the camera in a way that works for them. The M3, IIIf etc, etc always worked the same way every time you picked up the camera. Leica needs to look into its history to learn from that about things that made its own cameras attractive to generations of users. Just saying ‘Das Wesentliche’ is not enough. The company has to deliver this.

    The other point relates to Don’s point about discounting. With the slowing cycle of demand for system cameras and stand alone cameras, there is a pattern of created demand (lack of supply with chaps salivating on waiting lists etc) followed by general availability sufficient to satisfy demand. At the second stage, discounting is common, not only with Leica, but also with other makes. Canon, Nikon, Sony and Fujifilm all do this. With the every decreasing demand for system and stand alone cameras these patterns are likely to get even more noticeable. They are very much market driven and as a famous British PM once said ” You can’t buck the markets”.

    Leica AG should listen to what its customers are saying.

    William

  10. Mike, you are wrong in stating that you cannot lock the focus point on the X Vario. Well you can on mine. I use single point focus and I cannot move the focus point square unless I hold down the focus button whilst using the four way control pad to move the point.

    On the Q, yes it is possible to move the focus point with the control pad but it stays firmly put unless you use the control pad. I have never found that to be an issue. It had not occured to me that it is a possible issue until I read your Q2 review today and I have been using my Q for over 2 years now.

    I obviously don’t know how it is on the Q2 but on the Q you can make the focus point go back to the centre of the frame by tapping on the LCD twice. As I have never moved the focus point from the centre I have not had to use this facility but it does work.

    Perhaps of more importance I have cracked how to lock the focus point on the Q.
    Press the delete button. It locks the focus point wherever it is. To unlock it press the delete button again. Patents pending. This should make some people happy. Sadly it does not work on the Q2 as I understand that there is no delete button. If there is a delete button on the CL it may work there. If it does even more people should be happy.

    • John, I agree with you that the four-way pad is not as irritating on the Q and Q2 as it was on the XV and is on the CL (and the D-Lux 7 for that matter). For some reason, the pad doesn’t seem as vulnerable on the taller Q body.

      As for the XV, This was a big problem originally but I have a vague memory that it was improved (as you explain) by a subsequent firmware update. John Nicholson, who first contacted me all those years ago about this issue, will probably have chapter and verse on this.

      The tap screen to centre focus possibly does work on the Q2 as on the Q. I think it also works on the SL and CL but I haven’t tested it. The reason that isn’t at the top of my mind is that as a left-eye shooter I always disable the touch screen because my nose does strange things. I work mainly with all my cameras in viewfinder mode and pay little attention to the screen. It’s one of the reasons I love the M10-D!

  11. Hi Mike, you are not nitpicking! I used to have the SL and I missed a number of fleeting moments due to wondering where my centre AF point had gone and usually it had moved to the edge of frame somewhere. I almost had to take a course on stress and crude language reduction. How can they get this so wrong when they get so much perfect. Then there is the video button that I do not want, cannot turn off and can not assign to something more useful.
    They get so so much right and then add third class video to a purist camera to get the video checkmark but they want to minimize the menus and buttons. Eek! 🔥 the product management team and hire a real Leica photographer or even me. However, I still love my Q-P and 24MP is the sweet spot for me for street photography and your additional issues have made me even happier with my purchase decision. Lady Di will be with me until at least the Q4 comes out.

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