Leica Q typ 116 review

Discussion in 'Leica Q Forum' started by dalethorn, Jun 27, 2015.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Guest

    (Note: No sub-forum for the Q as yet, so posting here)

    Video review:

    Photo: http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Leica_Dlux/Camera_Leica_Q116_01.jpg

    This review covers my use of the new Leica Q (typ 116; 'Q-116' hereafter) camera for general-purpose photography, shooting JPEG format images only. This is a personal non-commercial review, so for full details of all of the camera's options and operations, check the major photo websites including Leica Place, Photographers' Lounge (formerly Serious Compacts), Red Dot Forum, Steve Huff, Ming Thein, Kristian Dowling, TechRadar, and Luminous Landscape among others. Note that a small part of the $4250 USD price for this camera is for the Lightroom software included with the purchase (and free to use perpetually), downloadable from the Leica Q-116 registration site. The Q-116 isn't directly comparable to many other premium compact cameras, primarily because of the combination of features (built-in high-res EVF, full-frame sensor, Summilux f1.7 lens etc.) in the small-ish camera body, as well as the advanced photographer options using the camera's various control rings, switches, and buttons.

    The Q-116 lens has a fixed focal length of 28 mm** and a maximum Aperture of f1.7. The ancestry of this camera includes the M9 (or 'M') for the full-frame sensor, the X1/X2/X-113 for the body and fixed wide-angle lens, and some collaborations with Panasonic for the high-resolution EVF. Leica previously created the X-113 as an advancement over the APS-C X1 and X2, with a new faster (and larger) f1.7 lens, in a much larger body than the X1 and X2, but with the same size sensor. My sense of the Q-116 is that it's the full-frame sensor equivalent to the X-113, and to keep the camera body to a more-or-less compact size, the Q-116 lens had to be limited to the 28 mm focal length. While I see the Q-116 as a compact camera, the thickness of 3.5 inches due to the lens projection means that it's compact compared to full-size cameras such as DSLR's etc., but nowhere near pocket size. The Q-116 can be used with one hand to some extent, but with a weight of 1.5 lbs, one-hand use has its limits.

    **The Q-116 has a couple of in-camera crop options, and while that feature may seem redundant when most people crop their images with computer software, I've found it pretty handy in use, since it shows the crop-frame lines on the screen and EVF, and is easily toggled using the Zoom/Lock button.

    Since I generally shoot JPEG format only as noted above, and I prefer to have the camera automatically select Aperture and Shutter values for me (I tend to keep the ISO fixed at 200 for daytime shooting), it's a real annoyance that the Q-116 prefers to select too low on Aperture and too high on Shutter speed by default. Out-of-focus areas in images are good when composed that way by the photographer, but when the Q-116 selects f1.7 and 1/1000 second in daylight situations, the out-of-focus areas become unpredictable and a nuisance in many instances. Hopefully that can be fixed with a firmware update. Manufacturing of the Q-116 is done mainly by Leica, as is the case for the 'T' typ 701, the X Vario, and the X1/X2/X-113 cameras. All of these except the Q-116 have APS-C sensors, while the Leica compact cameras manufactured by Panasonic (ex: D-Lux typ 109) top out at the 4/3 sensor size.

    I've been posting images from the Q-116 camera to my dalethorn website, and there are currently about 25 photos posted there. I think these images will speak for themselves, but bear in mind that these were shot as JPEG's only, so if you're willing to work with the DNG-format images that the Q-116 produces when the DNG option is selected on the camera menu, you should get even better results than I have posted there. My experience with the Q-116 so far says that the image quality is better than the best of the previous compact cameras I've owned, including the Leica 'T', X Vario, X1, Panasonic GM1, and the Nikon Coolpix A. The Q-116 has a better lineup of physical controls than the cameras just noted, but it's actually very similar to the D-Lux-109 that's made for Leica by Panasonic. I'll leave most of those details to the commercial reviews while I describe a few of the anomalies I've found.

    The only serious problem I have with the Q-116 is the auto-Aperture feature noted above. A secondary problem is the lack of a compact camera case for this compact camera, like the 18821 case made for the Leica D-Lux-109. The last issue I have is not having a way to keep from losing the lens cap, via a lens cap string - another nice feature of the D-Lux-109. The Leica Q-116 comes with a skinny neck strap but no wrist strap, which I consider to be the opposite of what's appropriate for a compact camera. But since I don't have a compact carry case yet, I purchased a similar Leica strap that's 1.6 inches wide at the back of the neck. In every day carry, I have the neck strap and a Leica wrist strap attached, and when I get a compact carry case, the neck strap will move to the case where it will beome a shoulder strap, then when I remove the camera from the case, the case will remain on my shoulder and I'll use the wrist strap to keep the camera secure.

    The battery capacity is better than what I've experienced with those other small cameras. The backup Leica battery was delayed for 17 days from when I got the camera, but it's on the way now. I'd recommend against taking the Q-116 out for more than an hour of shooting without a second battery. Leica supplies an external charger, which seems to charge from completely exhausted to full in about two hours. The connection to the computer is via the micro-USB port, or you can remove the card and copy from it directly. The camera doesn't come with an SD card, and you'll want to get a really fast card for it. I tried shooting bursts with JPEG-plus-DNG enabled, and those 8-9 shot bursts took 30 seconds to write to the card and clear the buffer. I've used a Lexar 64 gb SD card labeled 300x and (1), and also a Sandisk 64 gb MicroSD card in an SD wrapper labeled Ultra and (10). I think a 'UHS' card is supposed to be the fastest, but I don't know if the Q-116 can write as fast as the fastest cards can accept data.

    The HD videos (1080x1920) I've taken seem to have good exposure in low light, whether I use auto-ISO or leave it fixed on ISO 200 that I use for stills. A problem I've experienced is the camera doesn't seem to focus on what I point it to using the "1 Point" setting, so either I'll have to try using Spot focus for video or just focus manually. One feature I use a lot with the Leica D-Lux-109 is the Highlight-Shadow exposure option, and I don't see anything quite like that on the Q-116 menu.

    Camera forums are rife with complaints about the price of replacement batteries, and I always recommend carrying at least a second battery so shooting can continue if the first battery runs down. Contrary to what many people suggest - saving money with third-party batteries, I consider the price difference and if it's huge, I need to know why. Before I could even consider a very cheap battery, I would need several independent reviews that affirm the quality of that particular battery as well as the reliability of the manufacturer of that battery. On top of that, I would need to know that if their battery damaged my camera, they would pay to replace my camera promptly. Lithium-ion batteries can be very dangerous. If the price difference were less than my expenses in replacing a defective battery (packaging, shipping, time wasted, loss of battery for a period of time), I would certainly get the camera manufacturer's battery.

    The tripod socket is one inch from the battery door, so if your mounting plate is small like mine (2 x 1.5 inch), you'll be able to change the battery with a tripod attached. Some manufacturers warn about attempting to use a tripod mount with a thread that's too long, so that's probably something to be careful of. Summarizing, the Q-116 should be a great camera for a person who wants a full-frame sensor with corresponding high image quality, a 28 mm non-removable prime lens, simple but flexible design and operation, and a minimum set of high-performance features that most semi-pro or pro users require for their work.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 21, 2016
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  2. carlb

    carlb Leica Place Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    May 1, 2013
    Someday ... Someday, one of these will be MINE.

    Nice review, Dale. With the auto-aperture behavior favoring a bit-too wide-open, are you instead using fixed aperture for most shooting?
  3. dalethorn

    dalethorn Guest

    Someone recommended this review:

    So In this one he points out a few things, like defaulting to f5.6 instead of auto, and that way you get more of the spontaneous shots in focus. I was already on that course, so a lot of the review made sense.
  4. Paul Pavot

    Paul Pavot Leica Place Rookie

    Dec 26, 2015
    Paul Pavot
    Don't be afraid to push your camera. The Q gets extremely nice resolution even at ISO 3200. This shot I did at night let me handhold the camera at 1/60th with an aperture of f4.0. The 3D quality is amazing and even has a nostalgic look to it.

    Attached Files:

  5. dalethorn

    dalethorn Guest

    Nice image. I've noticed that architecture and other things with strong lines do much better at higher ISOs. I've also noticed that if a scene is dark enough, nothing will save it unless I make some radical change. I tried some moonscapes (full moon) with the Monochrom and Noctilux, ISO 320 I think, and no matter how good the exposure at f0.95 and 30-40 seconds time, all I got was noise. There must be a technique for such extremely low light, but I haven't found it fumbling around myself.
  6. Paul Pavot

    Paul Pavot Leica Place Rookie

    Dec 26, 2015
    Paul Pavot
    Longer exposures are going to allow noise. Also wider apertures are going to have have a tendency to be soft. Point your
    Camera meter at shadow detail you want to get, close down a little on your aperture and shoot at a higher ISO. Yes, you will get a little more contrast, but allowing a little more depth of field and a faster shutter will help bring in a little more detail and less ambient noise. These Q's are great at higher ISO's.