When you cast loving eyes over your Leica Q, can you imagine stripping it down to its smallest component? And then contemplate putting it all back together again? It’s not a job for the faint of heart, but luckily we know a man who can.
It’s all in a day’s work for Leica’s expert technicians. At a Leica Society meeting in Leica’s London showroom last week, technical expert David Slater did the seemingly impossible before our very eyes. I didn’t time him, mesmerised as I was by his dexterity, but I think he took just 45 minutes to reduce the Q to its smallest components, all neatly laid out on a tray. It takes about four hours for the complete repair process, including the stripping down and final checking and resetting.
Most Leica compacts, including the D-Lux, C-Lux, V-Lux and previous X-generation cameras, can now be fully serviced in London, thus avoiding the time and expense involved in sending the dodgy device back to Wetzlar. The Leica Q is included and owners will be content to hear that David can put things right on the spot.
Owners of the new Leica Q are not so lucky. Because of its weather sealing, the Q2 has to be sent back to the factory if dismantling is thought necessary.
During the dismantling process, David kept up a running commentary, explaining every step. The first surprise for most of us was that the leather body cover must be scraped off. It’s a dead duck then, because it stretches and is more than likely damaged, so every strip-down involves supplying a new cover.
As David points out, this isn’t a problem because they hold stocks of body covers and can even tackle the more common special editions. You’re out of luck, however, if you have modified your precious camera body with a third-party fuchsia-hued lark-skin covering.
Why does the leather trim have to be removed in the first place? It’s because some of the vital screws are hidden beneath the cover. So to get at them, off comes the leather. Fortunately the screws are protected by a recessed insert so that they cannot be felt through the thin coating once reassembled.
When the leather has been removed it’s then a methodical but painstaking general dismemberment of the camera, right down to the smallest part. The main board comes away as a unit but, as David pointed out, the SD card slot is firmly attached to the motherboard. If the slot is damaged, perhaps by an over-enthusiastic owner forcing in a card the wrong way round, this could mean replacing the motherboard. So be warned, treat the SD card slot with care since damage will be costly.
The sensor is a particularly delicate component that needs careful handling. According to David, in most Leica cameras the sensor represents fully half the cost of the camera — which I take to mean the production cost rather than the eventual retail price. It is the single most expensive bit of any Leica camera and it’s one of the reasons why sensor replacement, if necessary, can hit the wallet so hard.
The f/1.7 Summilux lens is the one part of the camera that cannot easily be dismantled. David took it as far as he needed to for demonstration purposes, although some of the additional electronics at the back end can be removed if necessary. Nevertheless, the lens remains a discrete unit which is actually one of the most costly parts of the camera. When pushed, David estimated that it represents around thirty per
Much of the electronics are Panasonic sourced but the whole camera is assembled in Germany to exacting standards.
Itsy bitsy layout
I had the opportunity to photograph the components once the camera was fully stripped. As a person who can strip a screw thread merely by glancing at it, I cannot but marvel at David’s expertise and confidence. The layout of the tray, with all the components in serried ranks, follows a pre-ordained pattern, a subterfuge which is especially important when dealing with a new camera. After a time, though, he says he can strip down and reassem
David dismantles Leica Qs three or four times a week but many of the cameras that come in for repair get a similar treatment — so that’s three or four cameras per day when you include all models from the C, D, V, X series to the Q.
Are there any common components between the Q and other cameras? As an instance, David picked up a minute cog as the only common feature between the Q and the D-Lux. The rest is unique to the Q. However, the general layout and method of assembly is very similar to that of cameras such as the X1 and X2 and the more recent X models. They all conform to an established Leica methodology.
The demonstration was extremely effective and offered a window on the unique quality of Leica as a company. Being able to take your camera to Leica and know that it can be repaired efficiently, even after a decade, is a great comfort.
It is one of those factors which ensures that Leica digital cameras have a longer active life — and thus greater value retention — than cameras from some other manufacturers. It’s this personal touch that is often lacking with other cameras. Even the X1, introduced alongside the M9 in 2009, is still fully serviceable in London by David and his colleagues.