Leica Q2 Monochrom Overview
After the recent unveiling of the Q2 Monochrom, Leica adds up to the general consent that black and white offers something special when it comes to photography. More than a format, monochrome photography is a particular way of rendering both light and perception. And after the appearance of digital photography, something of the aesthetic was dramatically changed forever.
With more capable photographic sensors, black and white photography transformed into something that happens in post-production rather than in camera; and with the overall Monochrom line-up, Leica takes us back to those days in which black and white was purely a management result from blending optics and light sensible materials. And with the Q2 Monochrom, Leica gives photographers unbiased access to this captivating form of visual expression.
With a resolution of 47.3 megapixels, outstanding sharp and fast Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH lens, quick and precise autofocus and acute OLED viewfinder, this camera is a truly intuitive tool for timeless black and white photography with an inherent attention to the essentials for the contemporary photographer. It is true to form with its resilient matte-black body and time- honored engravings inlaid in discreet grey and white; and the conscious omission of the classic red dot marks the dedication of the Q2 Monochrom's commitment to black and white.
How is it Different from Others' In-Camera Black and White Results?
Today we want to do something different before diving right into the specs and further overview of the new Leica Q2 Monochrom. Here, we want to get a bit educational, and debate around this happening. Many cameras come with built-in color modes or simulations, which "black and white" is quite standard to find these days.
Therefore, why bothering with a true black and white sensor anyway? Well, with black and white modes in regular cameras, what really happens is the following. The resulting image is a desaturated grayscale rather than a pure black and white rendition of light. Therefore, the images look dull and flat rather than rich and contrasty. Why is this?
In order to answer that we need to travel a bit back in time, landing right in the days of film. With each brand and sensitivity, films had the power of rendering light in particular ways; and if one wanted to achieve certain specific looks, for example darker skies, one had to use color filters in order to achieve that. Long gone are the days in which colored filters are needed for results like this to happen, but the mechanic is still strongly mimicked during raw development stages with color channels fine tuning.
Said that, we can now illustrate our point. The Leica Q2 Monochrom is capable of rendering pure black and white, just like film used to do by interpreting colors in a truthful black and white, and not just a desaturation like other sensors do. This, of course, results in a particular issue; you won't have color photographs out of this camera, which of course, is quite pricey.
Why Black & White is So Special?
If there is one certain thing about all the things within the field of photography, this one should be it. For a long time, black and white has been benefiting from a privileged position regarding this place. And this has reinforced an everlasting and too much seasoned debate around color and black and white when it comes to making photographs.
It was hard for photography to become accepted in the world of fine art, and when it finally happened, it was mainly reserved for the monochrome imagery. Leaving color for photojournalism and domestic usages. Nowadays, long after color has become both, very well accepted and respected, in the world of fine art, black and white is still capable of triggering some unique aesthetic experiences in the viewer's mind.
This is not a truthful insight, but is the result of a very passionate debate we all had the other day after a couple of drinks. Black and white is so fascinating, because it is capable of showing us reality in a different way, in a way which is completely impossible for us to perceive. Although, there are some people (in healthy or normal conditions) who are capable of seeing in black and white terms. Honestly, we don't believe them. What we do believe, is that black and white has something special in fact.
That, combined with the timeless quality that monochrome is capable of rendering in our minds, and the distraction-less experience that results from subtracting color from the scene, make black and white photography a one of a kind visual experience; even today.
The new Leica Q2 Monochrome has been designed to deliver outstanding performance, via exceptional images. The trick is made possible thanks to a state of the art, brand new specialized sensor developed exclusively for this camera. A sensor which, unlike it's chromatic counterparts, features no color filter array. Therefore, there's no need for interpolation, and just the pure light levels are captured, resulting in truly sharp black and white photographs.
Beyond that particular optical engineering, the full frame 47.3 megapixel sensor is more than capable, even after extreme cropping in post-processing stages; making it a powerful tool for any photographer benefiting from this magnificent piece of gear. And if you feel a bit constrained by the fixed 28mm, the camera comes with a digital zoom which provides simulated focal lengths of 35mm, 50mm and 75mm for the JPEGs while the DNG file of the original image is always preserved at full sensor resolution. Last but not least, the Q2's unique sensor also boasts significantly broader dynamic range, with extremely low image noise, even at very high ISOs levels.
Designed for outstanding performance in any light, the built-in fixed 28mm f/1.7 ASPH Summilux lens is the fastest optic in its segment; and is perfectly suited to the sensor of the camera. Built with eleven elements, including three elaborately constructed aspherical parts, it ensures the highest possible image quality. Making both textures and details able to be seen like never before in tones and shades of crisp and contrasty B&W.
With a resolution of 3.68 megapixels on the OLED viewfinder, we can say that it truly ensures photographers full compositional control. An eye sensor automatically activates the OLED viewfinder, precisely displaying the scene or subject, with an absolutely lag-less feeling to it. And of course, Leica ensures every detail to be covered, featuring a retractable dialed diopter wheel which avoids accidental changes in it. Simply calibrate it to your eye, lock it, and forget about it. The state of the art technology of the Q2 Monochrom provides a better overview, higher contrast and exceedingly clean rendition of the viewfinder image while consuming minimal power, positively impacting a maximum battery life.
At $5,995.00, we couldn't expect less from Leica, the Q2 Monochrom has been bravely designed for any weather, to shoot anywhere. Built with dust and splash protections, you can be sure that this camera will always be ready for you to capture meaningful moments, even under harsh environmental conditions.
For the Geeks: The protection on this camera is IP52 rated, therefore withstands dripping water when the body is tilted at an angle of up to 15°.
The straightforward design delivers an intuitive user experience, meaning a fast and simple operation right away. Just like in the regular Q2, the physical dials and rear touchscreen provide a simple overview and direct access to the main shooting parameters. Everything you need at the place it is meant to be.
Unlock more with the Leica FOTOS app, which enables photographers to share images instantly and from any location right from an iPad or smartphone. And if social posting doesn't impress, this app also allows the camera to be used via remote control from any mobile device. And a seamless integration of Adobe Lightroom allows after editing and organization of the captured images on the go.
And as we already contextualized, no true black and white (pure, from the film era) experience would be complete without the existence of filter effects. Especially developed screw-on E49 color filters complement the Leica Q2 Monochrom as the perfect black and white photography set-up. The yellow, green and orange lens filters open up new possibilities for creative expression and exploration, each modifies or tweaks colors and contrast of the human visible light spectrum when recorded as precise gray-scale values on the sensor.
Using them result in uniquely aesthetic photographs you won't find elsewhere or could take forever to reproduce in post processing development. Time which one would rather use to shoot more. The result is unique, with a broad range of contrast from harsh to subdued. The multilayer coating on these filters reduces reflections, ensuring high light transmission without vignetting for extremely high quality images.
And last but not least, the Leica Q2 also delivers extraordinary black and white videos. Something quite interesting when talking about such a pure-photography brand. In combination with its outstanding lens, this camera captures black and white videos imbued with a stunning aesthetic at 4K and Cine4K modes with respective frame rates of 30 and 24 fps. Videos can also be recorded in full-HD format at 120, 60, 30 or 24 frames per second.
How Does it Feels?
Everything around this camera has been designed to fulfill one single task, deliver a distraction-less photographic experience for creating the most noticeable photographs of all, the ones in black and white. This sober model comes with just the right amount of physical boundaries between the photographer and the scene.
Weighting a bit more than 700 grams, this camera is sturdy, and feels extremely well-built. Everything is in the right place, and despite its compact size, it feels secure even for the large- handed photographers we've had the opportunity of talking to about this beautiful camera.
The battery feels a bit odd, but nothing you can't get used to, and with 350 at a single charge, you might feel it a bit short; or not, depending on your triggering rhythm of course. In simple words, the Leica Q2 Monochrome feels like an extension of our eyes, and with such a sturdy design, the experience is not tiring at all.
Who Should Buy This Camera?
Such a precise artifact, corresponds sharply to a very well defined market niche. Beyond the obvious, which is people with a true black and white photography passion and understanding, the Leica Q2 Monochrom has been designed for those photographers who are constantly getting the benefits from embracing the challenges limitations like this one impose. Limitations which, when properly confronted, have the overwhelming power of transforming themselves into genius creative solutions. Yes, the large sensor compensates that challenging situation; but having a fixed lens with such a particular visual output, is definitely an interesting challenge to overcome.
Therefore, if you are willing to invest in such a fine piece of equipment, but have the slightest desire of shooting in color from time to time, then you should aim your budget towards the regular Q2, which is still a fantastic camera of course. But if you are absolutely certain that you won't feel the need of shooting a single frame of color, then this camera is a perfect solution for you. Leica has other Monochroms, but surprisingly enough, this one is quite cheaper than any of those.
And a final thought on focusing which you might feel relevant if considering the Q2 Monochrom as your next camera. Leica has been long known for their purist approach towards photography, making it no surprise that the focusing capabilities on this camera aren't the most swift of them all. So, if extremely fast focusing is crucial for your photographic needs, then you might leave the credit card alone for a while, or check out some cameras from Fujifilm or Sony instead. But if you are on board with alright focusing speed and precision, and even keen towards manual focusing, then this camera could be a great experience for you without a doubt.