Comparison of the Leica Q2 and Leica M10
Comparing the M10 and the new Q2
For the past 5 years, the Leica M (M240 and M10) was my camera of choice. I love the M because there is nothing like it. But when the new Leica Q2 was announced it caught my attention. Could the new Leica Q2 fill some needs that the Leica M10 missed?
Most of my photography can be described as travel photography for our travel blog. So size and weight are very important. But I also enjoy adventure nature and street photography. You can see a sampling of my photography in the galleries section of this site.
The weather proofing caught my attention as did the high resolution (48 Megapixels) and the digital zoom. When I took a raft down the Grand Canyon I left my M10 at home because of sand and water. I used my iPhone. If I had the Leica Q2, it would have been the perfect camera. The autofocus also intriguing. Was this a camera a novice photographer (my wife) could use? I decided to purchase the Leica Q2 and compare it to my trusty Leica M10 on a trip through Europe.
A special thank you to the Leica Store in Bellevue Washington. They are always helpful and they came through this time as well. My new camera arrived just in time for our Europe trip.
I am not a professional camera reviewer like Steven Huff or Ken Rockwell. It is not my intention to replace or duplicate the many quality reviews of the Leica Q2. Instead, this review is intended to describe how a Leica M10 lover (me) perceives and uses the new Leica Q2. Does it have a home in my bag?
I immediately noticed the Leica Q2 is light and quiet. Of course, the Leica M10 shutter is very quiet but the Leica Q2 shutter is silent. The build quality and ergonomics are up to Leica standards. Both cameras feel natural and comfortable in my hands as I compose an image and release the shutter.
The camera is very responsive, turns on quickly and autofocus is locked instantaneously. In auto mode it really is a point and shoot.
The camera’s ease of use in manual mode is impressive. The simple but deliberate AF lock is located on the focus ring. It is simple to move to manual mode for both focus and exposure. Shooting in manual mode feels very similar to the Leica M10. The electronic view finder (EVF) is natural and feels similar to the rangefinder window on my Leica M10. Easy to see rectangles highlight the lens framing similar to the Leica M10 rangefinder. The EVF also provides an integrated display which allows the photographer to monitor important exposure information (shutter speed, ISO, focus point, aperture) as the image is composed.
My initial impressions were positive, but would this small beautiful camera perform?
I need to discuss the workflow used in this review. It is the same workflow I use for all my photography. I rarely use a tripod as I like the subtlety and unobtrusive nature of a handheld camera. Most images in this review were taken handheld with both cameras.
I always shoot in RAW (DNG) and use Lightroom for my digital darkroom processing. While every photographer has their own personal processing philosophy, I believe that digital darkroom is part of digital photography. It is the photographer’s job to make the final image. The final image is the result of both the camera and the darkroom processing. I processed all the comparison images in this review. Not with identical processing, but with the processing I felt each image needed.
On white balance, I usually set the camera to AWB and use “as shot” in Lightroom as a starting point. Sometimes I use Lightroom AWB or the other preset configurations as appropriate. For these comparison images I used “as shot” for most of them. I notice a difference in color between the Q2 and M10 images that is perhaps attributed to white balance or camera color profiles. I used the Leica M10 camera profile in Lightroom. There is not a Leica Q2 profile in Lightroom so it used the embedded profile in the camera. Since the Leica Q2 is new, perhaps an updated camera color profile may be available for Lightroom in a future release.
Image quality is obviously very important to any photographer. Image quality is a combination of resolution, color fidelity, dynamic range, and noise. Below are technical comparisons of the Leica Q2 and the Leica M10 showing the noise on the M10 is better than the Q2. The website Photonstophotos provides interesting interactive charts to graphically represent the technical performance of the sensors for both noise and dynamic range.
As an engineer, I like these charts. The charts indicate the 50 ISO Leica Q2 is about the same performance as the 200 ISO Leica M10. But in higher ISO they are closer, so a 3200 ISO Leica Q2 is about equivalent to a 6400 ISO Leica M10. They also indicate some strange behavior going from 400 to 800 ISO in the Q2 where the noise seems to improve at higher ISO.
But what do these charts “really mean?” Can you see the noise? Can you bring out details in the shadows or highlights in difficult lighting? This is what really matters and is what I attempted to evaluate in my testing.
Comparison Daytime Images
Most of the images are compared using the 35mm or 75mm (digital zoom) from the Leica Q2 and the 35mm Summilux or the 90mm Summarit on my M10. For the first images I used 50 ISO for the Q2 and 100 ISO for the M10 based on the testing data in the charts above. To my eye, all these daylight images all look quite nice.
The first two images are of a Matterhorn hiking trail. I focused on the climber statue with the lens wide open to get maximum bokeh. Notice the F 1.4 bokeh is a little more creamy soft but both images are very pleasant.
The images below are from the Swiss village of Horgen. As used f8 to get a deep depth of field bringing both the tree and the church steeple in focus. I focused on the tree with the Leica Q2 and the steeple with the Leica M10 so the focus is a bit different in these images. The colors look a bit different. White balance was “as shot” with both images. I like the colors with the Leica M10 a little more but they are both pleasant images.
Shooting in snow is often a challenge. The brightness of the snow makes the shadows very dark. These two images are both at 35mm. I leaned out the train window traveling from Visp to Zermatt. In this difficult lighting with bright snow and dark shadows, both cameras performed well. It is possible to tease out more detail out of the shadows if desired with both cameras.
The next sequence of images really shows the image quality that both cameras produce in handheld shooting. These images were shot from Baluherd above Zermatt looking towards the Matterhorn. The light conditions were extreme with the bright snow and the dramatic sky. A hang glider adds to the scene and provides an interesting subject to zoom in on. Notice the detail of the hang glider’s ropes in both sets of images. This really shows the quality of both Leica cameras and the lenses. The image quality in both images is simply stunning when you consider these are shot handheld and without a tripod.
Let’s crop just to the hang glider. What amazes me about Leica glass on both cameras is with this tight crop you can see the ropes on the hang glider. Even though these images were taken with a 35mm and 28mm lens. Leica cameras continue to amaze me!
Does the Leica Q2 digital zoom perform at the extreme? I evaluated the 75mm digital zoom. I don’t have a 75mm lens for my Leica M10 so I compared the 75mm digital zoom of the Leica Q2 to my 90mm Summarit lens on the Leica M10. This comparison isn’t exactly fair, the advantage goes to the M10 with the 90mm lens but it is the best comparison I could do with my equipment.
The 75mm crop is 3128x2094 pixels (6.6MP) compared to the Leica M10 image of 5976x3984 (24MP). Clearly blowing these images up with the M10 provides better resolution. To see the effect of the increased resolution I cropped both images very tight of the Matterhorn summit to have an equivalent zoom. The effect of increased resolution using an optical lens on the 24MP sensor with the Leica M10 is clear. However, I’m quite impressed with the clarity of the Leica Q2 image zoomed in so tightly, especially when you consider these are handheld images and not steadied with a tripod.
One thing to bear in mind is most of the images I publish are not printed in a large format. Most are published on the web. When I publish an image on the web I usually scale to 2000 pixels on the long side to reduce file size and load time. So for most of my images the digital zoom on the Q2 should be more than adequate for web publishing.
Color and ISO
These images from a store contain a plethora of color and seem a reasonable test. I steadied both cameras on tripods in order to compare the images at 100 ISO and 3200 ISO for both cameras. I used an f stop of 8 and 9.5 to get a deeper depth of field. The white balance for all images is “As shot.” The Leica M10 images use Lightroom’s “Leica M10” camera profile. Lightroom uses Q2 “embedded” camera profile. To my eyes the Leica M10 colors appear cooler and the Leica Q2 colors a bit warmer in these images.
The comparison of 100 ISO and 3200 ISO shows similar colors with the 2 ISOs. But the 3200 ISO has a little more noise visible in the shadows. Still, I think the 3200 ISO performed quite well with both cameras.
I love night photography. A high quality camera can extract detail in the night sky that is almost magical. I wanted to see how both cameras perform. These images were taken at the Kulm Hotel high above Zermatt at 10,170 feet. On these 2 images I let Lightroom set white balance with “auto.” I increased clarity and contrast for both images to bring out the detail on the starry sky.
One issue I had with the Leica Q2 is focusing in the dark. The Leica M10 easily focuses at infinity by turning the focus ring. The Leica Q2 is not so easy. You need light to operate the autofocus. Focusing manually you need sufficient light see the image in the electronic viewfinder (EVF). At night this proved difficult. I ended up focusing on the moon with the Leica Q2. Without the moonlight focusing the Leica Q2 was extremely difficult.
I am pleased with the night images from both cameras. But I definitely found it easier to use the Leica M10 because of the focus. I used a tripod to take the Matterhorn images below.
Next, let’s compare using both cameras at night in handheld mode. I took the 2 images below while strolling through St. Moritz past the famous Hanselmann Conditorei. Both cameras performed well.
Cropping in tightly allows you to notice the excellent detail in both images.
I wanted to see how the Leica Q2 performed with difficult lighting so I asked the waiter to take following photo. It appears he had the exposure set on the candle or the light because the scene is very dark. I used Lightroom to brighten up the image and pulled out a bit of detail from the shadows. Included are screenshots of the Lightroom settings for the photo for before and after processing.
All of these comparison images on this page are at a reduced resolution to speed the loading of the web page. You can inspect the full resolution images here.
What the Q2 does well and the M10 doesn’t
Two things in particular stand out…Macro photography and ease of use. The Leica Q2 also takes videos but I am a photographer not a videographer so I did not test this feature.
Both images were taken with the Leica Q2. Macro photography is possible with the Leica M10 using a $645 Macro Adapter. The Leica Q2 contains a built in Macro adapter which is easily accessible on the lens.
Ease of Use
I love using my Leica M10. But my wife finds the Leica M10 frustrating since it is manual focus and requires knowledge and skill to use properly.
The Leica Q2 is easy for just about anyone. During our European travels she enjoyed using the Leica Q2. Photography is now an activity we can do together.
What the M10 does well and the Q2 doesn’t
Photography in the Dark
Mentioned previously in the Night Photography section. Because some light is required to use the EVF and the AF, the Leica Q2 is difficult to use in complete darkness. I use the Leica M10 enough that changing lenses, setting focus, and exposure in almost complete darkness is routine. Capturing this image of dimly lit monasteries in Meterora, Greece was near impossible with the Leica Q2. The Leica M10 capture is pleasing.
The lens of Leica Q2 is a great lens but it is only one lens. The digital zoom is very effective but is still limited compared with the Leica M10. Lenses provide texture and qualities that are unique to the lens. So if you desire a special quality that comes from a 135 Apo-Telyt-M, or a 50mm APO, or a Noctilux, you simply can not duplicate that texture with another lens.
What I love about the Leica Q2
It is compact and light. Therefore, it is the perfect camera to use when you want to minimize size and weight.
It is weatherproof. I enjoyed walking with it in the rain more than once.
My wife shoots with the Q2. The M10 intimidates her.
It is great for the “quick shot.” I preferred grabbing the Q2 rather than the M when I wanted to capture the moment without thinking too much.
With 48 MP, the digital zoom takes exceptional images.
Excellent image quality. The 28mm Summilux lens is fantastic.
Easy to connect to the Leica FOTOS app.
While these are minor issues, here are a couple quirks about the Q2
The autofocus has a couple different modes. The default AF setting is multi-field. In this mode the camera chooses something in the foreground to focus on. This mode has some unpredictability on what the camera chooses to focus. I found the “spot focus” mode more to my liking. Spot focus mode has a small cross that marks the focus spot and is easily repositioned using the controller on the back of the camera. There is also a face detection AF mode and a single field mode.
I really like the ISO wheel on the Leica M10. I miss having it on the Leica Q2. To change ISO you use the menu controls. This is not as simple as the ISO wheel on the M10.
The camera has both video and still image capability. It is possible to toggle between these 2 modes by swiping the touch screen on the back of the camera. While this is easy to do, it is also easy to do accidentally. On more than one occasion the camera was in video mode when I planned to take a photo. I suggest having a deliberate mechanism like a mechanical switch to toggle between photo and video.
The lens cap was knocked off more than once. It would be nice to have a more secure attachment for the lens cap.
Summary and Closing Thoughts
What are my impressions after 5 weeks of shooting with the Leica Q2 compared to years of shooting with the Leica M10? If it is just me, and there is not rapids and harsh weather then my vote goes to the Leica M10. It is still my favorite camera in the world. If there is bad weather, or if there are novice photographers, or if there is simply no space for extra lenses then I would unhesitatingly bring the Leica Q2. The Q2 will never replace my M10, but it is an excellent camera.
To be fair, comparing a Leica Q2 to an Leica M10 is like comparing a new Tesla to a vintage Ferrari. A Tesla is quiet and drives itself. A Ferrari has manual steering, brakes and transmission. Ferrari driving engages all your senses and you are immersed in the sounds and sensations of being a driver. There is no doubt you are driving a Ferrari. In a Tesla you can relax. You can literally check your emails as the car quietly drives itself down the road. They are both great cars but very very different.
The Leica Q2 design makes shooting easy and automatic while also being a fantastic manual camera. I enjoyed shooting the Leica Q2 primarily in manual mode. I would manually set shutter speed, ISO, aperture while manually focusing. This feels quite close to my Leica M10. The manual focus was extremely accurate and the EVF was simple and natural to use. My wife always shot the Q2 in automatic mode.
The single best feature of the Leica Q2 is simplicity. The Leica Q2 makes it possible for my wife and I to enjoy photography together. Something that we never never did before.
I will not give up my Leica M10. I love it. But the Leica Q2 has features the Leica M10 doesn’t have. I see myself taking only the Leica Q2 on trips where minimal size and weight are important. I’ll take the Q2 on raft trips or use it in difficult weather when I would leave the M10 home. And of course, Cheryl easily uses the Q2 with great success.
In summary, the Q2 has a slot in my camera bag …next to the M10.