My camera situation can get pretty out of hand sometimes. Iíve been an avid photographer most of my life and if you catch me out in the world thereís a pretty good chance Iíll have a camera hanging on my shoulder.
Most of the time, if Iím shooting for myself, I shoot a Leica M (a Typ 240 M-P, to be more precise). But with the hyper-specific needs of watch photography, if Iím shooing for HODINKEE I could be holding any number of Fuji or Canon rigs, or even a Hasselblad from time to time. Often when I travel I end up lugging multiple systems with multiple lenses, and itís a giant pain in the butt.*
The Leica Q2 might be the perfect solution to my very specific, totally insane problems. Leicaís latest all-in-one camera builds on the success of the 2015 Leica Q (which I also reviewed when it was first released) and offers enough new power under the hood to be the best all-purpose camera Iíve ever had the pleasure of using.*
The Set-Up

It's the same Q, just...better.
The Leica Q2 officially dropped on Thursday, March 7, but ahead of the launch I had the opportunity to borrow a demo unit for a week and take it for a spin. Reviewing cameras is something Iíve always struggled with in certain regards. Youíre making things with the camera, so your ability to fairly judge it is, to some extent, dependent on the circumstance in which you choose to review it. Additionally, I tend to find that quirks good and bad tend to only reveal themselves week or months into using a piece of kit, so keep that in mind as you read the rest of this story.
I went into this review with a pretty direct question I wanted to answer: Could I, if needed, replace all my other photo gear with this camera and still get the results and shoot experience I enjoy from my multi-system set-up. The answer? Well, youíll have to read on to find out.*
The Basics

If youíre familiar with the Leica Q, youíre probably looking at the Q2 and thinking ďWait, it looks exactly the same.Ē And yes, it does. The basic physical specs of the camera are nearly identical to those of its predecessor. The lens is 2mm greater in circumferce - the only size change needed to make the whole package weather resistant Ė*and it can now handle dust and splashes, though I wouldnít recommend shooting in a downpour or getting it too close to a swimming pool. Youíve got the same matte black magnesium body, the same brightly colored markings, and the same textured wrap for added grip. The button configuration and menus have changed a bit too, now being much more in line with those found on the Leica SL and CL, two of the companyís more technologically advanced cameras.
The biggest changes are under the hood. The sensor has been upgraded from 24MP to 47.3MP, which on its own would be more than enough to substantially change how this camera shoots. Thereís a faster processor to help with the resulting massive images, which come in at a totally insane 8368 px x 5584 px.
Where this really matters is when you start to utilize one of the Q and Q2ís most distinctive features, which is in-camera cropping that simulates different focal length lenses. The lens itself is a 28mm Summilux with a maximum aperture of f1.7, but youíre not limited to shooting at just that focal length. With a tap of a button right near where your thumb naturally sits on the camera you can add frame lines to the electronic view finder to frame up 35mm, 50mm, and 75mm shots (with the last option being new for the Q2). This essentially gives you in-camera digital zoom, though in a way that feels much more natural to those used to shooting prime lens.
One important thing to note is that while youíll see your ďcroppedĒ images when playing them back on the camera, the master RAW files give you the option to zoom out and see the full 28mm frame should you want to later.*
Importantly, the Q2 maintains the macro capabilities of the Q, focusing down to 17cm (approximately 6.7 inches) when you twist the lens barrel and put the camera into full on macro mode. More on this in a bit.
There are a number of other new features too, including a brighter and faster OLED electronic viewfinder, a higher capacity magazine-style battery (the same used by Leica's SL), and integration with the Leica FOTOS app, which lets you pull images from the camera to your phone using Bluetooth Low Energy instead of Wifi and even lets you trigger the camera remotely too. This is a thoroughly modern camera through and through.
My Experience

On the original Q, the focal length simulations were interesting but had limited practical use. The 35mm focal length worked just fine as long as you didnít want to make massive prints, but at 50mm you started to see a real drop in image quality, even if you were just looking at images on a computer screen or iPhone. With the Q2 though, these become genuinely excellent. In fact, at 35mm the Q2 still offers more resolution than the original Q at 28mm (30 MP) and at 50mm you get an image at 15 MP, still more than big enough for most uses. Sure, at 75mm you drop down to just 7 MP, but it's worth noting that this gives you a 3136 px by 2096px file, which can be cropped to a square and show zero degradation when uploaded to Instagram. I personally didn't find myself using the 75mm crop very much, despite generally enjoying 75mm and 90mm lenses, but it's there and capable if you want it.
First off, I took the camera out for a visit to the Met Breuer museum in New York City to see how the camera fared in day-to-day situations. In a word, it worked great. The autofocus is snappy and accurate, the viewfinder turns on faster than you can raise it to your eye, and I didnít have any issues with the various manual and automatic modes. Personally, I find 28mm to be much wider than I typically want to shoot Ė I much prefer 35mm and 50mm, and shot most of my photos with the Q2 at those focal lengths.
The camera ended up being almost invisible, letting me get the casual shots I wanted without any friction. All of the automatic modes work great, but you can also go into full manual mode (including manual focus) when you want to put in the work. Itís pleasing in the hand, and those with an appreciation for a well-made watch will immediately recognize the sort of weightiness that inspires confidence.
But I could do all of that with my M system. The real question: Could I shoot watches with this thing? Yes, and then some.*
Before I get into my thoughts on shooting watches with the Q2, take a look at a few photos:
As you can see, the results are pretty great (if I may say so myself). The 13 stops of dynamic range you get from the Q2 really show, as the highlights and shadows both carry tons of detail, and the sharpness off that 28mm lens is apparent no matter how close in you zoom. All of these images were shot with the 50mm crop turned on, and I left the cropping as-is to best show off the feature. One of the things that impressed me most was the lack of distortion you get Ė typically, shooting this close with a 28mm lens you'd expect some distortion, but the geometry looks spot-on throughout. I think 50mm is the perfect focal length of wrist shots, and the Q2 makes taking a beautiful wristy easy and fun. None of this surprised me.
Where I was a little more caught off guard though was the results shooting watches on a table top. Again, shooting with a shorter lens often results in casting weird shadows over the subject or having to approach from strange angles. That wasn't an issue here. Additionally, I love how the lens and sensor renders the details of movements (NOMOS seemed an appropriate demo subject here).
Now, the Leica Q2 is a premium camera and it's priced like one, coming in at $4,995 ($500 more than the original Q). While that's not cheap, I think you still get a lot of camera for your money. You're getting a massive sensor with a killer lens (that essentially functions as four lenses), plus a well built body with weather sealing, and great software, all in a package that feels so good you'll want to take it everywhere. The old aphorism "the best camera is the one you have with you" is very, very applicable here.
Conclusions

Realistically, am I going to get rid of all my other photo gear and go to shooting strictly with a Q2. No, Iím not. Personally, I still enjoy the experience of shooting with an M when it comes to everything but watches, and at HODINKEE I likely need the flexibility to use other lenses from time to time. However, I do plan on adding one to my arsenal, using it as my go-to wrist shot camera and my choice for more basic, straightforward watch photography where I donít need to start messing with piles of equipment. I expect it to be a huge boon in the chaos of future trade shows like Baselworld and SIHH, where half the battle is just having something ready to go that requires as little fuss as possible.
But Iím a professional. I quite literally do this for a living. I have very idiosyncratic needs and preferences, and usually canít afford to miss a shot or not have the right equipment for the job. For most people though, I do truly believe that the Q2 is the best all-around camera you can by Ė*and that goes twice for people who love watches.*
If you want to capture incredible pictures of your friends and family, but also be able to sneak a killer wrist shot on that next vacation, the Q2 is for you. If you want to spend as little time worrying about your photography set-up, instead focusing on the world around you and the things youíre shooting, the Q2 is for you. If you just want a damn fun camera thatís going to deliver you outstanding photographs and offer you tons of room to grow as a photograph, the Q2 is most certainly for you.
For more, visit Leica online.


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