Been spending the last week (plus one more week to go) in Sri Lanka, at the southern coastal town of Galle. This is my second trip to Sri Lanka this year - I really like this place, its wonderful, friendly people and the island lifestyle. As always, my trusted Fuji X100s, a constant travel companion of circa four years, accompanied me. However, having also recently acquired a new Leica Q, I was interested in seeing which one of these tools suit me best. Admittedly, my heart layed with the Fuji before the trip, as my short time with the Leica has been slightly unimpressive to date.
Much have been written by other (infinitely more experienced) tech-heads about both of these cameras, so for me this is only a personal accessment based on my own real life user experiences and not necesserily the technical qualities. My close acquaintance with the X100s obviously made for a most comfortable experience, while the Q needed some getting used too.
In terms of usability and travel-ability, the Q is a significantly larger, bulkier and heavier camera. Much has been written about the beautifully designed thumb rest, but I still find that the slight bulge grip, lighter weight and smaller dimensions make the X100s a more comfortable travel companion. I use only wrist straps on both, hence I have to grip both in my hand at all times. The 28mm F1.7 fixed lens on the Leica is also much larger than the flat 35mm (equivalent) f2.0 of the Fuji. Over the years I found that a 28mm suits me better, and even with my 28mm (equivalent) adapter lens almost permanently fitted to the Fuji, the Fuji still takes the crown for general ease of companionship.
My fondness for the Fuji is further enhanced by highlighting a few irritations that I have with the Leica. Despite both cameras sporting rather solid, positive top plate control dials, for some unknown reason the Leica exposure compensation dial turns unintentionally. This frustrates me, as in street photography, it's mostly about capturing a moment. I don't want to be checking, resetting and fiddling with dials before shooting. Another annoyance is that the Leica's power switch toggles from "off" to "single shoot" (S) to "continious shoot" (C). When flicking the switch to "on", one invariably almost always push it to "continious" mode instead of carefully stopping at "single shot". These two settings should've been the other way round to make it less fiddly.
Another shortcoming on the Q, which probably can be fixed with a software upgrade, is that there is no "viewfinder only" mode, meaning that the screen is always / mostly on and the viewfinder is activated via an eye sensor. I'm not a "chimper"' so would prefer to have access to the screen only when I choose to do so.
I'm not going to analize the highly technical, pixel peeping qualities of both, other than just mentioning that the Leica sports a 24.2MP fullframe CMOS sensor with lots more pixels than the Fuji's 16.3 MP X-Trans CMOS sensor. However, I don't really mind that too much, as the Fuji packs more than enough punch for my purpose. What I do observe though is that when pushed under certain post-processing conditions, the Leica DNG files are more prone to "banding" than the Fuji files. The more clever people will probably know why, but I suspect it has something to do with Fuji's unique pixel arrangement. Whatever the case, I feel that I can push the Fuji files much harder without loss of quality.
Having said all that, my opinion finally scewed in favor of the Leica Q when I encountered a rather contrasty beach scene. I immediately reached for the X100s first before swopping it for the Q after a few shots. Wow! The quality of the Leica's electronic viewfinder just bowled me over! Under these contrasty conditions, the shooting experience with the Leica just completely excelled, and coupled with that ultra-sharp lens, litterally opened my eyes to its many benefits. It was a pleasant experience!
So, I quess the Leica Q has finally won me over, though it is by no means goodbye to the Fuji X100s. The Fuji still is a more pocketable day-to-day companion and I will continue to hold the X-series of cameras in the highest esteem as arguably THE finest tools around today. Dollar for dollar, the Fuji is unbeatable and remains the best choice. The Leica has won the battle for my more serious travel and street work, but only just.
As for my first week of two in Sri Lanka, it's been a highly rewarding experience sofar. The weather has been great, and I'm humbled by the friendly, warm and humble Sri Lankan people. Shooting conditions are generally quite contrasty, as for personal reasons it's difficult for me to shoot during the softer early morning and late afternoon times, but that's just fine with me. Being here and being able to shoot often is what matters most to me, and Sri Lanka offers that luxury in truck loads.
The shots throughout this posting are from week 1, while week 2 will follow soonest. All were processed on iPad with Lightroom and Snapseed, my on-the-go quick processing tools of choice, but I suspect that I will get more out of these files when I process it on my laptop upon my return home.
Oh, and Merry Xmas to everybody!