Home Feature Articles Leica Q2: The perfect full-frame travel camera?

Leica Q2: The perfect full-frame travel camera?

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A few weeks ago I was about to set off on a long-postponed vacation to the UK and Italy, cautiously optimistic that the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic was behind me and hopeful that at its conclusion I would test negative and be allowed to return to the US. Drooling over the prospect of stellar photographic opportunities soon coming my way, I agonised over which camera gear would accompany me on my travels.

Decision time

Should I select a camera body/zoom lens combo, such as the Lumix S5/20-20mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, or the more upmarket (and heavier) Leica SL2/24-70mm f/2.8? Or, should I load up my camera bag with a collection of prime lenses covering the same focal length range? Since I would be travelling light with unchecked luggage, would it be sensible to restrict myself to a more compact option?

I chose the minimalist approach, took my Leica Q2, had a wonderful vacation, and captured hundreds of photographs. I made my choice knowing that although the Q2 is a fixed focal length compact camera, it is an extremely versatile performer, with a killer f/1.7 lens and monster 47-megapixel full-frame sensor. I was confident that landscape, architectural and street photography would all sit comfortably within its scope, digital zooming would enable the occasional long-distance shot, and shooting wide open would cover those planned visits to dim wine cellars.

Kit and caboodle

While compact, the Q2 is no pocket camera and so it accompanied me tucked snugly into a Billingham 72 camera bag, strap slung safely across my chest. I did take it off to sleep, but otherwise it was my constant companion. I am pleased to report that not once did I leave it behind at a restaurant or on a train.

I took a spare battery, borrowed from an SL2, and three labelled 128 megabyte SD cards, ensuring I was never short of power or storage. I had purchased a 13in MacBook Air ahead of the trip so that I could download photos to its 512-gigabyte solid-state drive and do some processing in Lightroom back at the hotel. The processing speed of the M1 chip-enabled MacBook Air is phenomenal; it has since displaced an aged Mac Mini as my go-to device for processing photographs.

On the road

The Q2 performed superbly throughout, tackling diverse conditions and subjects with aplomb. Only once or twice did I miss having a longer focal-length lens. I have selected examples from my collection and grouped them thematically below for your inspection. I will leave it to you to judge how well the Q2 performed in each of these settings.

London street photography

I love London! It is awash in history, art, architecture, pageantry and performance, and a happy hunting ground for photographers. Having lived in London as a student and visited as both a tourist and business traveller I know it well, enjoying nothing better than roaming its streets looking for photographic inspiration. On this trip, I took a deep breath and tried some street photography – asking people to pose for me and snatching candid shots where the opportunity arose.

I bumped into Royal Marine veterans on their way to a commemorative service in The Mall, hotel receptionists and restaurant greeters with distinctive hairstyles, synchronised schoolgirls enjoying sushi on High Street Kensington, Borough Market fishmongers and paella chefs, and Lilliputian loungers in Paternoster Square. I even bumped into myself in a mirror at The National Gallery.

The Q2 acquitted itself superbly as a quick-fire tool in mostly low-light settings, isolating each subject and delivering crisp images in colour or black and white. People did not seem to be intimidated by my proximity as I framed them tightly with the 28mm lens. When I photographed at a distance, digital cropping of its 85-megabyte RAW files in Lightroom delivered nicely framed, high-resolution images.

Hallowed hallways

I have a soft spot for architecture captured in black and white and am always hoping to stumble across new eye-catching examples worthy of a photograph. I encountered several spectacular hallways that scratched this architectural itch whilst also speaking to my fascination for symmetry. Is it better to capture perspectives like these bereft of human figures, or do they help convey a sense of scale?

I happened to arrive at Burlington Arcade before it opened, and so it was deserted, but snagging a shot of an empty Uffizi Gallery hallway or Venetian Hotel Lobby was beyond my planning skills. Photos of hallway ceilings at the Vatican or National Gallery avoid this dilemma of course. In each case the wide field of view supplied by the 28mm Q2 lens was just what the doctor ordered. Confession: the photograph of the venetian hallway with the chequered tile floor was taken in Las Vegas a week after my trip, but as a faux Italian scene it sort of counts doesn’t it?

The Doors

As well as people, cars and noise, cities are full of doors and windows. Some of them are photogenic, especially if a bit of symmetry takes your fancy. Here are a few I considered worth photographing: an Earl’s Court mews home in London, mediaeval buildings in Siena and San Gimignano, and a museum in Capri. Because the camera was not always horizontal when the photograph was taken, several of these shots required perspective adjustment using the geometry controls in Lightroom.

Arts and Crafts

Throughout my travels, I was on the lookout for examples of local art and culture, both distinctive to the region and worthy of a photo. Those I decided to feature encompass some roguish brogues in a Jermyn Street window, a rainbow of leather goods in a Florentine market, and an art installation in Sorrento celebrating the local diva – Sophia Loren.

No compilation of Italian art and style would be complete without a couple of Fiat Cinquecento – a deconstructed armchair version and a brick-coloured model apparently in good running order.

On the move

Since the Q2 afforded me control over shutter speed, I tried to capture a flavour of the ubiquitous motor scooter culture pervading the narrow streets of Sorrento. Whilst contributing mightily to air and noise pollution, they clearly represent a very popular means of transportation for young and old alike. Electric bikes, which would address both forms of pollution, seemed much less common.

So, I positioned myself at an intersection where I could hear vehicles approaching and had a reasonable chance of tracking them once they appeared. I chose a shutter speed of 1/30 or 1/60 and gave it a whirl. It was great to see a few classic VWs racing past too.

Tourist at large

The last set of photos consists of typical tourist shots: famous or picturesque locations where the Q2 served the more prosaic role of creating photographic evidence proving I was actually there.

Of all the stops on the itinerary, Venice was my favourite: a unique, magical, and extremely crowded city! You can almost point a camera in any direction and snap a beautiful photo.

Florence and the nearby mediaeval cities of Siena and San Gimignano, set in the beautiful Tuscan countryside, came second.

The Amalfi Coast, including Sorrento, and ferry rides to Capri and Positano rounded out the trip.

Italy is a spectacular country!

The Leica Q2: Quintessential travel camera

I can wholeheartedly recommend the Q2 as a one-camera solution for your travel photography needs. It delivers a superb integration of size, weight, subject scope, image quality and ease of use. Its RAW image files are large, but with a modern, powerful and lightweight laptop as a companion, managing these is straightforward. The ability to use it in fully automatic, point-and-shoot mode, or to exert manual control over focus, aperture and shutter speed leaves the travel photographer no excuse for missing that memorable shot!

More foreign travel is on the horizon — especially since a negative Covid-test is no longer required for re-entry to the US. By way of comparison, I plan to travel with one of those interchangeable camera bodies and lens combos I referred to above. Let’s see how that goes…

Read more from Keith James

Read more on photography in London

Read more photography in Italy



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51 COMMENTS

  1. Bali for a Week – 2023: I have been bouncing between the D750 and the newly purchased D850 plus lenses, the need for a new and improved larger camera bag if I went that way, weight factors, lens changing OR my Leica Q2….
    Your article is excellent and the image styles and approaches are similar to my own, so that helped the choice even more!
    In conclusion the Q2 is up to the task of capturing all there is to capture in Bali, including land and sea scapes.

    • Hi Greg – glad to hear the review was helpful! We would love to see your photographs of Bali, taken with your Q2. Why not put together a brief article? Thanks again and all the best! Keith

  2. A great review and it convinced me to go out and get one!

    A question though.. is there a function to select “spot” colour as shown in your photo of the green combi Van against a B&W background. Or did you do this in Lightroom? its a function I had on an old Canon G2 and have missed ever since. I’d love to know… and I am blown away by the q2 having owned almost every brand over the last 40 years..

    • Hi Paul,

      Welcome to the Macfilos (and Leica) community and I am pleased that you are enjoying the Q2. Keith James wrote the article you are referring to and I will leave it to him to answer your specific question, although I think the answer is no. You will be glad to know you are joining our already extensive Australian readership!

      Mike

    • Hi Paul, I just saw your comment. I am glad my article helped you in choosing a Q2! Regarding your question, I use an iPhone app called Color Splash. It is a free download from the app store as I recall. When you load a photo it converts it to B&W and then you ‘color in’ the area of interest using your finger. I use it for posting images on Instagram primarily. The resultant saved image is quite small, but is sufficient for social media posts etc. Hope that helps! Keith

  3. hola.. una pregunta como s e logra la combinación de una foto en color y blanco y negro en la misma fotografía? lo hace la leica q2 o el programa de edición =¿?

  4. Hey Keith – you sure you’re not my brother? I am going on an Alaska cruise next year, and have already started thinking about whether or not I take my Nikon D850 and gear, or my Leica Q2 on the trip. I have just returned (Brit living in San Diego) from a three week trip to Cornwall and the South of France, and the Q2 covered EVERYTHING I needed. Nevertheless, we didn’t come across any polar bears in Cornwall. Your article convinced me that I only need the Q2 – as you well know, it is a “photographer’s” camera, and the more you get to use it, the more it becomes part of your eyes and brain. I am also a Mac person, take two batteries, three cards, but I also take my dedicated 3 TB portable hard drive. Same thing, Lightroom back at the hotel, but I don’t want to fill up my Mac with gobs of pics I will never see again. When I get home, I edit all the pics, delete the losers, then process them all to no more than 6 mb to put into my Photos app. Thanks again for the great article, have read it twice and it’s a keeper.

  5. Hi Jono, thanks so much! That is incredible! You already know what an outstanding camera this is, so no surprises in store for you – just unalloyed pleasure from owning it and using it on those regular trips to Crete! Cheers, Keith

  6. Hi There Keith
    What a great article! Lovely photos. I quite agree with you about M1 macs (I have a 14″ MBP) they work fast and the battery life (especially with Lightroom) is a revelation after the old Intel Macs.

    I spent a lot of time with a Q2 round the release date . . but I didn’t buy one. . . You’re lovely article finally booted me into action, and I’ve just placed an order for a Q2 Reporter edition. (I’ll send you the bill!)

    Great article!

  7. I think you’re confusing yourself. Which is it?

    Leica M with autofocus?

    or

    Q2 with an optical viewfinder?

  8. A rangefinder is a way of measuring distance. An optical viewfinder is is either a SLR with a ground glass screen, or simply an optical device to view the image. I have a 21mm lens for my Leica, it comes with an optical viewfinder. No rangefinder.

    • I’d be curious to know how many people out there want what you want and do Leica see that as a business opportunity?

  9. It’s not clear which one you want: rangefinder or OVF. And I have no clue what the benefit of a non rangefinder OVF would be over an EVF. Can you explain please?

  10. A version with an optical viewfinder would be lovely, though incorporating parallax compensation could be complex aka expensive. It would add genuine M experience to the camera.

    • I suspect the costs would be prohibitive. It’s already complex with the integrated shutter and lens that I’m not sure where it would fit and what impact that would have on size and weight.

      • Or you could just take an M11, throw out the rangefinder and give it a fixed (weather sealed) 28mm lens? The sensor would take care of the focusing, and a focal length selector the framing 🤔

  11. It is the semi-ideal fixed lens camera. If it had a tilting lcd and a couple of other well known features it would truly be perfect. I purchased the Fujifilm X100v to replace my Q-P for a tilting LCD camera in my Leica world. Stephan; did you read this lost Leica sale?
    I loved your images – they have an alive rendering.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • I purchased and used every model of the Fujifilm X100 in the hope that they would be able to be used as my “go-to” travel camera. As I became older I found none made the cut because of the limitations of a single-focal length lens on a cruise. My ideal camera became the Leica CL equipped with 3 fixed-length lenses and one telephoto zoom. When I left the ship, it was usually with just two fixed-length lenses and no camera bag. I carried the zoom only when I absolutely needed it. Now I will receive on Monday the Canon R7 with the Canon RF f1.8 35mm Macro and the new Canon 18-150mm zoom. These two lenses weigh 10 ounces each and they’re nearly the same length. I plan to keep the f1.8 35mm Macro mounted on the camera most of the time, but always have the zoom in my pocket when I’m shooting outdoors. If Sigma releases their 56mm f1.8 in the RF mount, I’ll happily add this to my kit because it was the lens I found myself using most of the time on my Leica CL. It’s the size and weight of the Canon f1.8 35mm lens and I think it will be all I need to complete my kit. Including a small camera bag, I will be a 4-pound kit that will nicely serve me anywhere in the world.

      • Hi, it sounds like the Fixed focal length Q family does not suit you either. Whatever suits you, I am delighted that you found an option.
        Cheers,
        Brian

    • Thanks Brian! I recently acquired a pre-owned SL2 followed by a pre-owned 24-70mm Vario-Elmarit, and so I am going to try this combination out on my next foreign excursion – a little wider field of view than the Q2 at the bottom and a significantly longer focal length at the top. Much bigger though! I am looking forward to comparing the experience of traveling with this gear vs traveling with the Q2. All the best, Keith

      • I also have both the Q2 and the SL2/24-70 combo. The latter is absolutely excellent for “event” photography, for instance your July 4 assignment or at a car show. But most times I look at both rigs and eventually pick up the Q2 because it is just so convenient. While I love the SL2, it is a definite strain in my ageing muscles and neck. A great pity. But let’s see what you think. You are younger and will find it less of a burden.

    • Hi Edward, I agree – it is almost perfect but not quite! A sacrifice I understand was made to achieve its weatherproofing. I have another camera with USB-C in-camera charging, which is indeed very convenient. Since Leica did not include a second SD-card slot, there might be room for a USB-C socket behind the door at the bottom of the camera which encloses the card slot. Perhaps in the Leica Q3? Cheers, Keith

    • I agree that the lack of USB-C charging is the one disappointment with the Q. But an sure it will be incorporated in the next version. The M and the SL both now have in-camera charging, as did the T and CL. So I think it was a mistake not to add it to the Q2 spec.

  12. Hi George, thanks so much! It was fun thinking about the best way to organize the photos according to some unifying themes. Mike has a masterful touch when arranging these galleries, and I think he did an ace job with this set. All the best, Keith

  13. I also agree those groups of photographs have a bit more than just Q image quality. Italy taste is unsurpassable, and they are prettily shot and displayed. Q2 for me? … probably not, just refining my sight right now. Thanks

  14. Such an enjoyable article – thank you. And completely relevant pondering about fixed focal length for me, as I have just recently taken the much more modest X2 out of several years hibernation and been amazed at the pleasure in NOT zooming!

    • Thanks John! It was no hardship being restricted to just one fixed focal length camera when the camera concerned was the amazing Q2, but it did mean foregoing some opportunities when the subject was a little too distant. I concluded this was a minor price to pay for the simplicity of carrying around just one camera with so many other attributes. Thanks again for the encouraging feedback. All the best! Keith

  15. Hi Keith-that is a super shot of the washing and Sophia Loren. For many trips I had just the Gf1 or the LX100. Both very small cameras. The Q2 would be my choice of travel camera if I had one, seeking photo opportunities that would bring out its best. Quite frankly I’d leave the tele-zooms at home.

    • Hi Farhiz, I concur with your mention of the LX100, I had one new…. moved on to Leica, but could not get this little blighter out of mind, I kept wishing that it was that LX100, I guess there are uses for zoom lenses that this little thing covers most of the time, so I picked up a used one to accompany either my latest Leica, the Q2 or occasionally my DP3.

    • Hi Farhiz, many thanks! I was fortunate to stumble across that art installation displaying the poster of Sophia Loren together with all manner of items of women’s clothing, including underwear. I handed over 5 Euros to gain access to a sensational street photography collection of black and white images by a local photographer, depicting Italian life over the last 30 years. The bonus was access to a balcony with an incredible view of Vesuvius across the Bay of Naples together with the art installation tucked around the corner.

      I assume you are now all set for travel photography with your new collection of Leica gear – an M11 and really fast 50mm as I recall. All the best! Keith

  16. You do realize it is a conspiracy, you Mike, today John S and others with q2, are messing with my head saying Q2 all u need, forget my Q2m dream! Or since I know where there a couple new Q should I skip the 2 and just have q w b/w and one color! Why do you make my head hurt on week ends! Loved the article glad you enjoyed yourself.

    • Ever since the launch in 2015, I’ve found the Q/Q2 to be my travel camera of choice. Before a trip (not that there have been many of them recently, I always go through the motions of evaluating M, SL, S5 and even the GRIII. Then I pick up the Q2 because I can’t decide. And I am never disappointed…

    • Hi John – what a great idea! Two Qs, one color, one B&W. The would fit neatly into the same camera bag. You would just have to remember which one was which when you hauled them out! All the best, Keith

  17. Thanks Keith. A wonderful article and set of images. You made your Q2 really shine. My travel camera is a Ricoh GR2. It is small, unobtrusive just like the Q2. I’m in Tuscany at the moment and like you I reckon there are lots of photo opportunities (street, architecture, paintings and and landscape). I particularly like the way you organize your images. The shoes and the bags shops pics are wonderful. Having a laptop must be great to process your images on a daily basis whatever the brand. Looking forward to your future articles
    Jean

    • Hi Jean, thanks so much! The rainbow colored collection of leather goods is one of my favorites too. The stall owner took a lot of care to arrange everything so beautifully. All I had to do was frame the shot and press the shutter! All credit to our fearless editor for arranging the photo galleries so tastefully. Enjoy the Tuscan landscape and wine! Looking forward to seeing your photos.

  18. Thanks Keith. I have a trip back “home” to England for the first time in four years and my dilemma was whether to take the Q2 or the CL with the 11-23 and a Sigma 56mm or TL 55-135. I think you just solved my dilemma.

    • Hi Le Chef. Glad to hear you too are traveling again after this long hiatus. I hope your visit to the UK goes well and that you get to put your Q2 through its paces! Looking forward to seeing your photos in a future Macfilos article! Cheers, Keith

  19. Thank you Keith for sharing some wonderful image from your travels. I agree about the M1 Mac’s. I bought a Macbook Air as an early adopted purely to replace my ageing 2012 Macbook Pro. And it has proven to be a really decent acquisition. My work computer is a 2020 Intel Macbook Air, and the differences are startlingly clear in everyday use.

    I must confess that there is some wonderful colours captured by the Q2 in your images too.

    All round a nice start to the weekend.

    • Hi Dave, many thanks! I wish I had invested in an M1 chip enabled device sooner. The improvement compared to my old Mac Mini is astonishing. I continue to be impressed by the sensor in the Q2. Although its amazing lens receives a lot of praise, I think the sensor captures an enormous amount of detail and is just as important a factor in the camera’s success. I love its color rendition. All the best, Keith

      • At least you have joined those of us who went in early. They are a true competitor to other sensors, and for those of us who are comfortable in Apples ecosystem, then we can benefit.

        The Q2 truly fascinates me, as did its predecessor. If my finances release safely at some point, I will get a Q camera of some kind.

  20. Yes, it is a wonderful camera. I had it for a very short time as i felt the file sizes were just too large for the kind of photography i do. Even for travel or street photography, I don’t need 85mb files.. M11 produces only 85mb files at 60mp. Else Q2 becomes an expensive jpeg shooter if i choose not to shoot raw. It would be great if Q2 can have the multiple options like M11(60/36/18) megapixels.. i would go for it again.

    • Hi Kannan, I too was a bit concerned initially about the file sizes it produces but, having owned it for a few years it has not really been an issue, and having recently upgraded to a faster Mac, I encounter no difficulty processing and storing the RAW files. I also find I can extract more detail, especially from shadowy areas, from these RAW files compared to those generated by the 25 megapixel sensor in my Lumix when processing in Lightroom. All the best! Keith

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