For the past two months I have been using an Arte di Mano leather half-case designed for the new Leica Q2. It is a beautifully crafted design incorporating a typically ingenious approach to accessibility while maintaining the high standards set by this Korean company.
The Q2 case, like all Arte di Mano products, is not cheap, especially when you take shipping costs and taxes into account. But it is arguably the finest protector you can buy. It complements the Q2 perfectly and soon becomes an integral part of the camera. I love the way it looks.
Accessibility is important in any case designed to fit snugly on a camera. Flaps to access the battery and SD card compartments are fairly commonplace, and that is the minimum level of accessibility that I demand from any half case. It is frustrating to have to remove the case to gain access to the battery or to remove the card.
Sejun Kim and his team in Seoul have previously displayed ingenuity with their cases for the M10, M10-P and M10-D. The case for these cameras is designed to fit the camera with the metal bottom plate removed. The flap on the case thus gives direct access to the battery/card compartment. In fact, with the case attached, the M10 family of bodies is more accessible than it used naked, in which case the bottom plate must be removed to change consumables.
The Q2 presents fresh challenges because of the two access points — the card door and the battery compartment. This conundrum has been solved by Sejun in a very ingenious way by using an articulated, magnetised case bottom.
The battery compartment is revealed by one pull of the bottom (there is a small tab for the fingernail to slip under). A further tug and the entire base of the case swings back to reveal the SD-card door.
What’s more, the fit is absolutely precise and the magnets are sufficiently strong to drag the bottom of the case back into place without fail. When closed, there is nothing to suggest the thought that has gone into the mechanics of designing an articulated leather base-plate such as this.
Of course, the more complex the case bottom gymnastics, the more possibility is there of failure in the long run. While the folding bottom looks like it will have years of life in it, the fixed bottom on less adventurous designs may presage a longer life. On the other hand, again, this case is specific to the Q2 and I image that it will more than outlast your interest and use of this camera.
As usual with Arte di Mano products, the workmanship is exemplary. The quality of the leather is superb and the stitching is totally regular. Indeed, the fit is so good that you would be forgiven for thinking that the case is made by a robot to a very precise template. That isn’t so, of course. It is fully hand made.
The shallow front grip is enough to add further stability to the camera when used in conjunction with the built-in thumb rest indent on the back of the device.
The review case, at my suggestion, was made in a tanned hide in natural brown colour. It has a fine patina and is smooth, supple and wholly alluring. Choosing this colour took a bit of imagination on my part since I usually end up with the easy option — black. I haven’t been disappointed and I love the retro look of this case.
While the case adds 7mm to the height of the camera, this is a small trade
The construction of the rear, allowing easy access to the three control buttons and the D-pad, is extremely well executed and regular. Nothing looks worse than misalignment of the leather edges on the back of a camera case. It annoys me and takes away the pleasure of ownership.
I do find that the case makes it a little awkward to press the right-hand button on the D-pad. On the other hand, it reduces the tendency for the five buttons to be pressed inadvertently with undesirable results.
Fit on the camera body is just right, neither too loose nor too tight and the case can be attached or removed without difficulty or straining. When in place, it is secured by a screw which fits into the tripod thread on the base of the camera, thus assuring that the protector remains firmly in place. This screw needs a coin to tighten or loosen, but it isn’t something you’ll be doing often.
Usually I find this type of fixing annoying, but you won’t need to remove the case from the camera, except occasionally for cleaning. Just one small criticism — the screw isn’t retained so it is very easy to lose it, especially when out on a job.
A very nice quality touch is the matching resin edging to cover the raw edge of the leather. It is
The two press-stud restrainers at either side — what I call the ears — add further support and, incidentally, help protect the upper corners of the body. The cut-outs below the “ears” are big enough to accommodate all split-ring fixing straps. They could perhaps be a little higher to offer full protection.
Arte di Mano didn’t supply a matching strap with the case (they can do so if you wish) and this particular shade of brown leather is difficult to match with a third-party strap. I used a Rock n’ Roll simple leather strap in a similar shade of brown and also one of Gordy’s wonderful (and inexpensive) rawhide wrist straps in natural tan leather. Neither matches exactly, of course, so if you are choosing a case colour other than black it could be a good idea to buy the matching strap when you order.
Not everyone likes or wants a camera case. DSLR owners, for instance, have never been tempted, perhaps for good reasons. But cases are traditional for Leica rangefinder cameras and have been adopted by owners of other mirrorless cameras such as Fuji or Sony. For one thing, a well-engineered case such as this Q2 protector, adds security and protects the camera from knocks. On another level, the case actually improves the handling of the camera, providing a useful level of improved grip.
The shallow leather grip is just right in my estimation. But if you want something more substantial, Arte di Mano can incorporate a leather-covered grip that adds further to stability and handling. It’s a matter of choice; in this instance I’d go with the standard shallow grip.
Over the years I have used Arte di Mano cases on many of my Leica bodies, from the M7 onwards, and all have been just right from the moment I lifted them out of their rather nice red boxes.
Every case is made to order, to your own specifications of leather, accessibility options, built-in grip sizes, leather quality and colour and, even, the colour of the stitching and the plush inner lining. This means a short waiting time, usually up to four weeks, but, once produced, the result arrives in Europe by courier within a few days. If you don’t wish to wait and are happy with a standard set-up, you can find ready-made on sale in some stores and on the internet.
When it comes to choosing colours, I would advise caution. Some years ago I ordered a black case with red stitching for my Leica M7 à la carte edition camera. It was a mistake; the red stitching is pretty hideous now I look at it. This is not the fault of Arte di Mano, of course; you pays your money and you takes your choice. Just think it through before pressing the button.
Dealing with Sejun Kim is a pleasure and you can have confidence in the quality, the delivery time and the satisfaction you will get from a first-class product. The base cost of this case is $369 (US) but you should factor in shipping costs, local handling and taxes. It all mounts up. But then, you’ve spent over £4,000 on your camera so perhaps it needs a little pampering.
As I made clear at the outset, this is a premium product and it is right at the top of the price window for a leather half-case. You can get less expensive cases, but if you want one to give the same sort of tactile and visual satisfaction as you get from the Q2 itself, I cannot think of a better choice.