The Leica Q: Why didn’t Sony make it first?

Inspiration, Q&A, Teaching point

Leica Q - Prosophos

Why didn’t Sony take the RX1/R and turn it into the Leica Q before Leica did?  Sony was so close the first time…

Sony is a behemoth with deep resources and Leica is a tiny company with relatively limited resources, yet Leica out-Sony-ied Sony.

I keep wondering: Why?

(Nikon and Canon haven’t shown an interest in this class of camera — yet.  So forget them, as they seem to be sleeping.)

Either way, I’m glad Leica pulled this off first because Sony would have messed up the haptics.

On a related note, every decade people are willing to write Leica off, but Leica manages to re-invent itself.  As I stated in point #20 of My Photography Truths:

Never bet against Leica.


30 thoughts on “The Leica Q: Why didn’t Sony make it first?

  1. I agree Sony’s haptics are ordinary, I don’t understand why they are not fixing that.

    Canon and Nikon I don’t think are sleeping just sensible when it comes to making money, their DSLS still out sell world wide mirror less cameras. They will enter the mirror less market as soon as their accountants tell them to.

    1. Perhaps…in terms of the insides.But can’t see Sony changing their way in terms of haptics. Too many buttons, dials and a strong correlational to a computer for my liking.

      You do have to give them credit though for their sensors (better in CMOS land than Leica and guessing just more mature in terms of producing them) and teaming up with Zeiss for producing what will be a very nice line of native glass for their A7 series and RX1/2 compatible lenses.

    1. The very positive point I see in the Q, is it’s operational simplicity. IF all you want/need is manual focus. an aperture ring with distance markings on the lens, and a shutter dial where you can input your aesthetic desire without digging into a bunch of menu’s, then the Q is great compared to the RX1. I’ve got the same opinion regarding my Leica M, versus any Sony mirrorless body. When new, I seem to remember the RX1 being about $1000 less than the Q. Going back in-time to operational simplicity (and accuracy IMO) to me, is worth the extra $$. I agree with andygemmell on his computer analogy..

  2. I would love a Q but price and cal length aww making me hesitate. I have a couple of M Summiluxes so if I am spending large, do I go M or do I jump in at the Q? What are peoples thoughts on 28mm?

    1. I shoot commercially and make about 95% of my imagery using the M. 28mm is the one hole I need to fill in my arsenal; I jump from 21 to 35mm, which is a huge jump for certain situations. It’s really a “view of perspective”, and the distortion that one-lens-or-another will create, that right now I’m lacking for certain situations. So, do I spend almost $4K on an M lens (less for Zeiss) or $4K on a sealed, dust proof second body with a beautiful fast 28mm lens that in-a-pinch, I could use as a great carry camera? The only potential negative I see with 28mm, is shooting portraits close-in on the subject. Even 35mm can be a problem in that scenario if the subject is not properly positioned in the frame. I will say that if I didn’t make $$$ shooting (and I do enjoy the craftt immensely), I’d say to hell with alll of it and probably use my iPhone 🙂 Think of the money we’d all save!

    2. The Q does things that even a M with 28mm Summilux can’t do, like autofocus, provide live view in an EVF, macro focus down to 17cm, and shoot up to ISO 50,000. The Q is also a fair bit lighter than a M240 body, and slimmer like a film M. I prefer the physical feeling of the M7 over the M9, and I also prefer the feeling of the X Vario and X113 in the hand, so that might have some bearing as well.

      As for the 28mm question: 28mm is my minimum wide angle. I often prefer 25mm and 21mm due to their ability to capture more of the scene in one image. I use 50mm as a short tele and a 35/1.4 as my fast wide when necessary. I am very happy with the Ricoh GR, which is a 28mm equivalent, and for me is a ‘normal’ focal length. It is wide enough to capture a fair amount of any given area but not so wide as to introduce too much perspective distortion.

      A question you didn’t ask is whether you would like the look of the images. Peter is a big proponent of the unique look of the Kodak/Truesense CCD in the M9/E/Monochrom, and I’m inclined to agree. I’ve downloaded some sample DNG’s from the Q and I can’t quite get a ‘M9’ look from them yet. Maybe my mind is tuned to the M9 look and any Leica that doesn’t produce this look doesn’t seem ‘right’ to me. I’m not sure. That may speak more to the limitations of my Lightroom skills than the internals of the Q. But it does bear some thought.

  3. Note – test AF carefully. Have read a few people having issues with “soft” results with AF once downloaded. Appears the AF should be carefully tested at 1.7 through 4. Either not great for just these cameras these people have purchased or the AF box might be a larger than other competitors and hence not as accurate.

        1. Yesterday I was taking photos of a beautiful sulfur crested cockatoo in a large white cage. With the M9, manual focusing on the bird’s eye was a cinch. Not quite as easy with an autofocus camera or with MF and peaking in an EVF.

  4. When I shot with any Canon EOS body with a fast lens wide open, the AF was never a sure thing. Trying to manually focus a Canon branded lens was equally as problematic. I don’t have focusing issues with my Leicas, using the EVF or the rangefinder. I’d like to think manually focusing the new Q would be equally as accurate.

  5. As many have suggested, the RX2 could be a possibility. But all I know is that I am glad that many people do not limit themselves to the mediocre choice of Canon or Nikon. The notion that two competitors are all the market needs is dangerously naive.

    Before mirrorless cameras were available, your only choice for a DSLR was either Nikon or Canon (and later, Sony). Thank goodness companies like Sony understand, more or less, that digital cameras have to be digital 100% of the way, not 50% of the way which is what DSLRs are.

    The irony IMHO is that SLR viewing is already out-dated, but RF viewing is not. The former can be replaced with live-view; the latter cannot.

    I suppose, as a footnote, it says a lot that the most popular cameras on Flickr are iPhones.

  6. Have any of you guys actually used the Q?
    I own it, I find the sensor/colors/evf/af/lcd way better then anything Sony currently offers.
    I’m ridiculously happy with it. Wishing it would have been a 35/2 or at least if they would have come out with a 75/XX version as well as the 28/1.7.
    And to anyone saying they’re having AF problems.. I’m pretty sure you’re doing something wrong. I’ve used 4 copies thus far (2 at the launch event, my own, and my friends). They’re all spot on accurate, and the fastest I’ve used in an AF body (and I use 1Dx, D4 cameras on a regular basis). They don’t hunt with backlit subjects, and they don’t hunt in light that requires 60th shutter and ISO50,000 at 1.7 CLEARLY Leica did something right with this camera.

    Peter, I originally came on here to find out what you thought of the Q sensor and colors (if you’ve had time to try it out) but of course I find myself defending the Q from people who haven’t used it. Although I don’t agree with all of your CCD vs CMOS points (entirely subjective), I do appreciate that you’re discerning enough to stick with CCD despite the quirks of the M9. So I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the Q vs M240 vs M9. It’s no M9, but man the colors are nice straight out of camera. If you haven’t tried it, see if you can book a demo or borrow one for the day.

        1. By the way #2, my view of CCD vs. CMOS may be entirely subjective (though I don’t believe that, of course!), but I believe more and more people are realizing just how bad the M240 colour signature is/was.

          1. I actually like it a lot. The color signature of the M240. Though I don’t have anything against the M9, and wouldn’t have minded if the colors were the same.. As in, instead of the CMOS if they released a M240 build CCD and with iso 3200 that’s clean and 6400 that’s usable. That would have been fine with me, I don’t need LV or movie mode.

            Just out of curiosity, what do you mean WAS? Do you think firmware updates have improved the color, or did you have some other meaning for the word was?

        2. Oh yeah, I didn’t get that impression.. I was just asking if anyone has used it.
          And my AF comment was in relation to another comment about AF having problems. I was just saying that 4/4 were amazingly accurate and quick. So I don’t think theirs a problem with AF, unless someone is doing something wrong, or their are QC issues that I’ve not heard about?!

          1. Also my “I find myself defending the Q from people who haven’t used it” was more in response to the RX2 comment. And just in general around the internet. But I suppose you’ll get negativity with a price tag like that!

      1. If the files coming out of the Q are “more M9 like”, did they change chip manufacturers for the Q, because of customers’ negative critiques about the M240? I use my M240 more frequently at the expense of the M9, but when I do shoot the M9, I can see the difference immediately. Would like to get my hands on a Q raw file.

        1. Well Chris, I find that you can get almost the exact results from the M240 vs M9, but the amount of work you have to put into it may not be worth it.. As in, I’d sooner shoot with an M9 if I wanted the colors of the M9. Peter doesn’t agree from what I’ve read, and that’s fine, as he may be looking at something specific that I’m not seeing in my shots from camera to camera (though I’m not saying that there isn’t a difference SOOC, because there is, and it’s noticeable).

          As for the Q, it’s not CMOSIS and not Sony, as confirmed by Leica. But they will not say who it is, and apparently aren’t done with CMOSIS sensors in their M cameras. I don’t know if they find this new manufacturer to commonplace for their M system (as in, maybe this manufacturer produces sensors for other camera bodies), or if they’re just testing the waters in hopes of building a more long term relationship… GOD I hope they’re not lying, I hope it’s not a Sony sensor. Just because I would hope Leica retains their individuality from the rest of the market (I suppose much like Peter wishes for a CCD sensor). Though if it is a Sony sensor, they did a good job with color profiling. I think they were aiming for a M9-esq look. They didn’t quite capture it, but they gave us something unique enough from the rest of the market place.

          1. Hello Caleb: I don’t want this thread to take a left turn to begin focusing on CCD, vs CMOS. I’ve never had a problem with color of my M240 files vs the M9. The difference I see is right after the initial import when looking at comparable files before any sharpening is applied in LR. The M9 files just look crisper, color or B/W. I have no issue with the color coming out of either camera. I’ll end my thoughts there and focus on the Q. I entered the LFI antique car photo contest, with the Q being the grand prize. Hope to have some definitive results on the Q’s image quality in short order :))

            1. Um… I think the crispness you see is more in relation to the lower DR of the M9, and higher apparent contrast. Though this is important to note, as digital contrast enhancement doesn’t affect colors like native contrast does. So you’re never really getting that richness from the M240 without a LOT of hassle. And that’s the point right there, why hassle trying to make a M240 look like a M9, when you can just use an M9 😀

              The Q lacks the M9 contrast out of camera, but the color profiling is similar.. So you do get “similar” colors, but without the pop/sharpness. Though, the sensor seems easier to coax contrast out of.. Perhaps the lens itself is the reason for this. As we all know lenses act differently on different sensors. Another point. The 75APO lacks contrast (especially on a M240 sensor), but it takes really well to being manipulated in LR. So much so, you can actually coax better colors/contrast out of this lens then any other lens in Leica’s lineup. Even the 50APO (which is marvellous on it’s own without any LR help).

            1. The thinness you’re seeing comes from the sensor having more dynamic range. As I said, we’re actually not LR experts, we do what we think needs to be done to create an image. We’re usually doing the wrong things. Because getting an image to match another image is more then just the basic tricks we employ. Hence the thinness that we end up thinking of when playing with M240 files. The M240 is one of the more malleable sensors out there, if not the most malleable. Which is why I always claim that Leica has a far better sensor then anything Sony.

              For you to get more accurate matches, you need to have profiling software/hardware (I’ve spend a lot on it. Not to match the M9, but just to get my cameras and lenses to match up for consistency purposes). It’s a lengthy process, and something not easily done. The kind of work it takes, is equal to the kind of work the engineers over at Leica would have to put into color profiling the camera. Hence me saying, if you want M9 colors, buy an M9. And I’m probably the last person who should be even attempting color matching, I have no background in this.

              Another point would be that the S-system CCD and the M9 CCD aren’t similar, it took me a long while to get colors from both systems to match. Both are CCD units, both are profiled by Leica. Even still, I feel my M240 matches the M9 better then the S matches the M9. Probably more due to lenses, as lenses have an effect on overall color/tone etc.

              Just things to think about. And this is coming from someone who believes Leica should be doing everything they can to differentiate themselves from the mass market image makers.

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