Having just returned to dusty, brown and hot Doha after three glorious weeks of travelling trough beautiful, green Croatia, it's finally back to reality and time to reflect on the many charming offerings that Croatia dishes up to travelers and photographers. An obvious place to start is ... at the beginning!
Those who follow my posting will know that I'm still highly attached to my trusted Fuji X100s and never travel without it. Even after purchasing a Leica Q a few months back, I still could not completely detach myself from the X100s. I can now report that I've finally made a complete switch and decided to take only the Q along. Well, technically I also took a Fuji Instax Wide 300 and old Rolleiflex film camera, so let's just say the Leica Q was my only digital companion for the past three weeks. More about the two film cameras in future postings.
I wish to express again that my opinions about the cameras I use are completely subjective and from a user experience perspective. I do not pretend to be a technical reviewer. There are many others who are way better equipped than me to provide the best technical reviews and advice. Having said that, the Leica Q served me well in a large variety of circumstances. On the positive side, it impressed in a number of special conditions:
1) Low light performance is excellent, especially if the ISO is controlled for long exposures. When the ISO is kept low, noise levels are minimal and post-processing manages to bring out a lot of pleasant details and tones.
2) The 28mm fixed lens really comes in handy when shooting in narrow alleyways, although I still miss an ultra-wide lens at the 18mm equivalent range that I used to be so fond of when I was still using a DSLR and M43 CSC. Ultra-wide lenses are especially handy when shooting architecture in confined spaces, as long as you can deal with the visual distortion in some creative way.
3) The quiet shutter really does allow for close-up shooting without a subject being alarmed. This is a real advantage when shooting street photography, but suits me equally well when (by example) visiting a cathedral or other quiet buildings.
4) Battery life was acceptable and I could easily keep going on one charge per day. One has to be a bit anal about conserving battery life on the go, but all in all it's gives acceptable battery life performance.
5) The Leica Q auto focus never failed me and I always got the shot. The exception was a few candid shots I took on the move, completely unprepared and shooting from the hip, which is the only reason that the focus was not spot-on.
Under certain other conditions, the Leica did show its limitations a lot more clearly.
1) Under candid street shooting conditions, where I prefer to set the ISO to "Auto" (capped at 12500), low light performance was less impressive. Images taken under these conditions are too grainy and noisy for my taste and difficult to successfully recover through software without loosing too much detail.
2) The excellent wide, fixed 28mm lens is well suited for the type of photography I currently desire to produce, as long as you are prepared to use (or can use) your feet to zoom. However, there are times when a longer lens, or even a zoom, would've been the more convenient option. This is especially true when wanting to (by example) isolate architectural details or interesting characters and features that are at a distance. I've decided to rely on the Q's 24MP pixel count to attempt some post-processing cropping. This is an acceptable solution to a point, but still remains a compromise. I have to admit that I still haven't fully explored the Leica's in-built lens cropping (35mm and 50mm equivalence), which I find finicky to use and it doesn't seem to have any affect on RAW files. Perhaps this is a reasonable function if you're a JPEG shooter, but it remains a second-class compromise in my opinion.
3) The fact that the Leica is not weather sealed pissed me off immensely on a number of occasions when it started raining. Paying the sort of money Leica demands for the Q, surely justifies weather sealing! The lack of it is upsetting when you really need it. I didn't feel comfortable at all using it for wet weather shooting, resulting in having missed out on a few rainy day shooting opportunities.
4) Leica still uses a separate charger, which again - considering the cost and level of technological refinement of the Q, should've been done away with in favor of a single plugin cable. In this day and age where almost everything we own needs to be charged, Leica should assist be reducing our travel loads instead of unnecessarily increasing it by adding more dedicated charger units.
5) Feeling a bit self conscious with the distinct red dot on display. Maybe it's just me, but I don't like showing off that red dot. A spot of black insulation tape will become a permanent fixture on mine. Thankfully an easy fix if you are that way inclined.
6) Being a bit obsessed with travelling as lightly as possible, the Leica Q is a compact camera, but nowhere near as compact as the Fuji X100s. Even when the Fuji is adorned with an adapter lens, it is still more compact and lighter to carry around. Though I did start getting used to the feel of the Q in hand, I still find the Fuji to be more comfortable to carry around and hold for long periods while moving around. I prefer using a wrist strap, which works perfectly well on the Fuji. I haven't yet found a suitable wrist strap for the Leica and am using the provided neck strap to wrap around my wrist while on the move. Perhaps this adds to my discomfort, but where the lighter Fuji can easily dangle from my wrist when I need my hands free, I've noticed before that the heavier Leica is not that comfortable to do the same with. I'd want to hang it over my shoulder or neck when I want my hands free, thus I'm still undecided about what kind of strap will be the most comfortable and suitable for my purposes.
I guess it boils down to having to answer the big question: Can I recommend the Leica Q as a travel camera? The answer is a reserved "Yes", but greatly depends on your personal shooting style and needs. It's not perfect for that purpose. The Leica Q (as for the Fuji X100 series) fixed lens cameras remain fairly specialized niche cameras that really will not suit everyone. There are times when fixed focal length lenses just cannot deliver the shot you'd like to get. A compact system camera with a small selection of compact, choice lenses (or a quality zoom) is probably the more suitable travel companion, thereby showing my personal distaste of large, heavy DSLR's. As a street photography camera, I'd say that it is absolutely perfect. As a travel camera, great, but with a number of "buts".
I started writing this post with the intention to give my impressions of Croatia as a travel destination, but have instead digressed into pondering the virtues and disadvantages of the Leica Q. Will soon dedicate another posting to Croatia.
Please note that all images posted here were processed "on the go" in Lightroom, Snapseed and (sometimes) VSCO on my iPad. I still have to do my post-trip final processing, which may result in better quality final images. Nonetheless, hoping these will illustrate my points.