The Opinionated Leica Q

The Opinionated Leica Q

By Jonathan Simcoe / Published by Jonathan Simcoe
When many people hear the word "opinionated" they often think of something (or someone) that is negative or critical...

...regardless the connotation isn't always positive. When it comes to the design of physical products, particularly those that are made to be used on a regular basis—day in, day out—having opinions is worth it's weight in gold.

Leica (short for LEItz CAmera), founded in 1849 in Wetzlar, Germany, was first called  "Optical Institute". Then it was renamed "Ernst Leitz Optical Industry" in 1869, a name which it held until 1986 when it was renamed Leica GmbH. Today, the camera division is called Leica Camera AG. (Source)

Medium and large-format "box cameras" were the prominent way to take pictures in the day when the first Ur-Leica camera was invented.

"The Leica was extremely compact and could be fitted with a very high quality lens that enabled photographers to work in ordinary outdoor settings with available light."

While Leica made famed microscopes and huntingscopes, it was the camera division that had become the most profitable by the mid-1930s.

Leica has (since its inception) done a masterful job creating lenses and camera bodies at extremely compact sizes that are capable of creating powerful, crisp images. The Leica Q, a compact 28mm full-frame digital camera, is no exception. It is an incredible compact camera with no lack of distinct opinions. At my request Leica loaned me a Leica Q for a month to review. Here is what I found...

The body of the camera feels incredibly solid in the hand and is made of magnesium and aluminum. It feels much heavier than my Fuji X-100T but the solidness is welcome. Carrying it around in an urban context and shooting with it, I was never worried about its durability, or about it holding up to abuse. In fact, it seems made to take abuse and develop a beautiful and natural patina—brassing that comes from using a black, metal camera.

Another thing that stands out about the Leica Q body is the attention given to every detail. From the textured pattern on the lens controls to the precision cut and painted numbers on the various camera controls, no detail went unnoticed. Everything bears the mark of a master craftsman. This has long been, and will continue to be the Leica way.

Whatever the Leica Q is, it is opinionated. The lens has a focal length of 28mm (f/1.7). No zoom. No interchangeable lenses. It forces a perspective on you that is very constrained. But those constraints can help pave the way to creative expression and freedom.

I could go on about the build quality of the Leica Q and its sublime feel and execution. From the satisfying click of the shutter release to the notched grooves for your fingers while shooting, or the macro dial on the lens. Everything is thought through and feels "right". Craig Mod has done a much better job than I could going into depth about the Leica Q's features and range.

Instead I want to share an anecdote and let some of the pictures I captured speak for themselves.

After sending the Q back to Leica I had a renewed appreciation for my Fuji X100T. The Leica is a beautiful camera for sure, but I wasn't convinced it was that much different than the awesome compact camera I already have. I firmly believe that any good photographer can capture a great image from any camera. Because a great image is about composition and lighting and any camera worth anything will perform decent at these basic tasks.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I know the Leica Q is good. Like, really good. But is it that good?! I wasn't sure.

Then I edited some of the pictures I had captured in DNG (Leica's RAW file format). The sublime ability of this camera to capture light and express emotion is incredibly complex and nuanced. It has astounding reach and is a tool that I only began to scratch the surface of. The Leica is really that good.

Without further adieu, here are some images I shot during my time with the Leica Q.

* * *

Peering down a dark hallway into cerulean blue green.

The marvelous interior of The Anglican Parish of Saint Mark in NW Portland.

A dense moody shot from a rainy fall day in Portland's Pearl District.

Fall leaves enthroned in light at roadside in Sherwood, OR.

A narrow beam of light hits some dead leaves on the pavement.

* * *

I would highly encouraging any photographer to give the Leica Q a serious look. It is incredibly focused and its handling of light is incredibly rich and nuanced, a depth that most cameras could never dream of conjuring.


Get the Dwell Newsletter

Be the first to see our latest home tours, design news, and more.