Five months ago, I continued a journey that began 15 years ago and purchased a Canon R5 for $2900 (Refurb + loyalty discount from Canon USA) after selling my Canon 5D Mark IV for $2000 used. I had bought the 5D Mark IV for $1,850 just a few years ago so I have continued to sell old hardware in order to upgrade to the latest. This all started with a Canon Point & Shoot in 2008. I would love to hang on to old camera gear but selling it is always how I funded my upgrade to the latest gear.
After five months and many thousands of shutter clicks, the Canon R5 is the best full frame camera I’ve ever used. AutoFocus being the major enhancement followed by a size reduction from the 5D and the speed of the camera. You would have to be actively trying to not get the shot to miss it. The R5 makes me look good in any environment, motorsports, animals, people, still life, landscapes. It’s a thing of beauty.
Shot on Canon R5:
This isn’t a review of the Canon R5 but I wanted to be clear, I LOVE the camera.
15 years into this ‘upgrade-strategy’ and I’ve bucked the trend completely. I bought a Leica Q2 and sold nothing to get it. I just bought it. I spent $4900 for a Leica Q2. It was an open-box from a man who, on business in Germany, walked into the Leica Store and purchased a Q2 because he collects fine things. He already had a Leica Q2 but this special “ghost edition” was cool looking so he spent $5,795 before VAT for this camera and flew home to New Jersey then did nothing but unpack the battery and take a few photos and sitting next to his original black Leica Q2 with the trademark red dot, he didn’t feel an emotional link to it and decided to sell it before installing the camera strap, pulling off the plastic coverings or even charging the battery. Back in the box it went and on-sale online with free shipping and no sales tax.
That day he listed his camera, I had finally decided to purchase from B&H Photo a $5,000 Leica Q2 Hodinkee Ghost Edition that was ‘open box’ and it was literally bought out from under me disappearing from my cart after I hemmed and hawed for about 5 minutes on finally pushing that button to check out. I was thrilled to find one for $100 less in addition to the sales tax savings just one hour later from our friend in Hoboken.
You’re reading this waiting for a Leica Q2 review. We’ll get there but with the Q3 arriving any day now, let’s be honest, you’re not here for a review. There are plenty of those so let’s meander for a bit if you don’t mind?
I have never touched a Leica in person. I’ve seen them in some cities held usually by men dressed a bit too dapper for whatever year they were living and donning a demeanor that can only be described as fussy. A certain watch, a certain facial hair, a specific pair of shoes with thin black socks and pants rolled up and fussing over their Leica as they manually focused and exposed whatever they were shooting onto film or an SD card usually the Rangefinder models. That look/style/fussiness never appealed to me. I honestly don’t have any friends who own Leica cameras or dress / act like people who own Leica cameras. No shade but I’d rather drink with the plumbers and landscapers than your run-of-the-mill hipster. I also have zero interest in any manual exposure camera. I’ve never in 25 years of photography manually focused on any subject and don’t intend to start.
What did draw me to the red-dot brand was the quality of the craft. I watched a video where a German technician spent 2 days assembling by-hand a Leica Rangefinder just like you would see a Swiss watchmaker do. This ‘affordable craft’ guaranteed a reasonable resale value many years later and the timeless design meant you’d always fit in even if your Leica was 50 years old.
Every year, I looked at what Leica had, read reviews, added a few items to my cart and saw the price was more than one of my motorcycles and closed the page. I’ve been doing that since 2013. I never prioritized my money to just buy one already. There were always other things like vacations, motorcycles, fancy beers (yes seriously), clothes, shoes and motorcycle accessories. A Leica remained a pipe dream. Even as recently as November 15th when I started this job, I sent a link to my wife of the Ghost Edition Q2 that had just came out and asked “Christmas present?” And she laughed me off the iMessage conversation.
Why the Q/Q2? As indicated above, I LOVE my Canon R5. I have a fantastic digital SLR with a lot of Canon L-Glass. This camera goes with me everywhere. It lives in my motorcycle tank bag on trips, my backpack at work and home and in my truck’s center console when on day-trips. The only place I don’t use the Canon is at events or specific trips where it would be too large and flashy and eye-catching to have on like a concert where professional cameras aren’t allowed or a trip to DC or NYC where we’re on foot all day and I’m toting around my camera with one heavy piece of glass for 15 shots. The last area the Canon isn’t used is around the house. My R5 is usually buried in my bag so the cute family moments or things I see as worth photographing are usually relegated to the nearest iPhone.
Before finally purchasing the Q2, I decided it was time to get a travel camera that can live on the kitchen table every day waiting for great moments. This travel point & shoot had to have auto-focus, a fixed lens (for concerts that don’t allow detachable), a full frame sensor, good battery life and ideally produce photos that were so good that I wouldn’t regret either just using my iPhone already in-pocket or slogging around the R5. I needed a camera that took R5 quality photos without the heft.
Most point & shoots are just incrementally better than an iPhone with all of the added fuss of taking up more space in your pocket and then requiring removing an SD card and importing into Lightroom before you could see them. It’s very hard to find a good pocket point & shoot and once you set your sights on full-frame, you are essentially limiting yourself to 3 cameras.
I looked at dozens of totable fixed-lens cameras. Only the Ricoh GR-III was close. This camera I can get on eBay used for $400 or new for $1050. I could buy five of these for the price of one Q2. So why didn’t I just accept the APS-C equipped Ricoh that could fit in my pocket and once again put the Leica on hold?
I wanted to be proven once and for all that the Leica was a waste of money. I spent the next month pouring over videos and written reviews on the Leica Q (originally $4,000, now selling used for $3-$3500) and the newer (2019) Q2 that was selling for $5800 and selling used for $4500-$5500. I spent many hours on Flickr looking at photos taken by both cameras. I even randomized the images to see if I could tell the difference and almost 100% of the time, the Leica was the clear winner for look, quality, depth and emotional warmth across every kind of photography and subject.
Fully prepared to sell the Leica if I hated it, I made the jump. I ended up buying the Q2 and not the Q because auto-focus was faster, it was weather sealed (this has already come in handy 3 times) and the resale value should hold up better in 5-10 years when I’m ready to buy a Q4 at that point. It also came in the “GHOST” moniker from Hodinkee that looked like it came out of a Jony Ive’s LoveFrom design lab and would look perfect next to an Apple MacBook Air in silver. The Q was also less megapixels and a few other things that all but sealed the deal on paying at least $1000 more for a good condition used example.
Then came multiple failed eBay swipes and lots of rejected offers. I spent another month hunting a Q2 that I could afford and wasn’t beat completely to crap. There is still a $3500 that I was tempted to buy that is basically worn down black paint on every square inch. It has a questionable history for sure and is out of warranty.
When the Q2 arrived, I looked it over meticulously. It truly was an open-box purchase with the Leica receipt in the box and a never-registered warranty card. I put it all together and snapped a selfie. The focal length is identical to the 1X camera on your iPhone so the selfie-ability is super easy even with my arm currently wrapped in a sling.
A few days later, my sister arrived and we took it to a Rodeo and then to a day out for lunch. I took it to Washington DC on a day trip, used it around the house to capture family moments that I’ll keep private for now such as my wife on the riding lawnmower, gaming on the Xbox or cooking dinner. I then used it for two days at a dance festival where, before the Leica, I would have only had the iPhone due to a restriction on professional cameras.
After the rodeo, the Leica was completely covered in dust. I washed it off in the sink (it is weather sealed, right?). In DC, it was rained on all day while slung over my shoulder and the hood kept water off the lens and it continued firing up every time I asked it to capturing some lovely rain photos around the Jefferson and Lincoln monuments.
The camera is a piece of art but more so, it produces great art. I have been shooting almost exclusively in auto mode. That’s why I bought it. I wanted to shoot photos without fussing. I know how to manually adjust a camera. That’s how I shoot my Canon R5 with auto focus but everything else on manual but with the Leica, it’s about maybe adjusting the aperture on the lens control ring and then clicking the shutter button. I adjust the aperture more when I’m doing portraits or shooting in low light. I also manually set the ISO in day or night shooting but still, exposure is always set to auto. It has not steered me wrong of over or under exposing any of the images and with DNG files, I just edit that in post anyway.
It took a few days to adjust my shooting with the Leica Q2’s shortcomings. First, the focal length. Even my iPhone can zoom to 50 and 77mm with its additional lenses / stacked CMOS setup. My default canon lens is 24-70 (almost identical to iPhone’s setup). Leica is fixed at 24MM but with 47 megapixels at my disposal, a 25% crop is still a usable (almost) 12 megapixel image. Thanks to almost zero fall off at the edges even at wide-open f/1.7, I can crop the bottom right 25% and the image looks totally flat. It’s quite amazing.
The autofocus is pretty bad. I’ve set it to spot-focus and I just do it old school where I focus dead center on the person, then re-frame with the shutter half way pressed to a more rule of thirds frame before clicking the shutter. This works surprisingly well and avoids some mis-focuses which happen all too often. This will supposedly be fixed by the Q3 but they said that about the Q1 to Q2 upgrade so I’m not going to spend what will probably be $6500 to find out.
The only other shortcomings would be if you over expose, the camera will do its job and capture it and for some reason, it’s way easier to extract data from underexposed photos than overexposed. The highlights are really bright. Another shortcoming has to do with the comparison to the Ricoh GR-iii which is the Q2 is not pocketable. It’s too large and the lens doesn’t retract. This is an over-shoulder camera and if you’re in a place where you may get robbed, you probably will with this thing versus a Ricoh which won’t cause attention hanging out in your front pocket. Finally, the ISO sensitivity is not as high as my R5. I shot a concert at ISO3200 and that was as far as I’d go. 10,000 ISO on my R5 still produced usable images. 3200 is where I hung out on the 5D Mark III but this is a 2019 camera so it makes sense that it’s not as good as more modern sensors. You can push the Q2 to 6400 but I wouldn’t recommend it. Blacks are white-noise havens.
One last thing, no GPS, very low-light screen and the ergonomics can be tough but all small cameras suffer from having nowhere to grip. I have a Leica Q2 case that adds height (for my pinky to hold) and a small front grip. The thumb grip I received with the Q2 is great but digs into my side when wearing the camera over my shoulder. The thumb grip just sort of pierces into my love-handles all day.
This camera was supposed to be one I bought, used for a week then returned or sold. I just can’t do that now and even though that $5,000 credit card statement was hard to swallow when I paid it off, I’ve found a camera that has me putting a lot of 2023 purchases on hold. No new iPhone or iPad or MacBook Pro this year. I’m basically going to skirt by with what I have feeling completely justified with what is the finest point & shoot camera ever made. it’s not the smallest, most portable or best auto focus but it’s the only travel point & shoot that has a Leica lens, an f/1.7 aperture, a full frame sensor, 380 (by my testing) shots on a battery charge and finally, was hand made in Germany by one person oh and the only camera that will not lose more than 50% of its value when I sell it in 5 years. The $1050 Ricoh that’s used for $400 with no scratches on it is going to get cut by 50% when a new one comes out. That simply won’t happen with any Leica camera, even the ones universally hated by fans. These are collectibles even with some wear marks.
Leica purists will hate that I shoot in full auto mode and they’ll hate that I bought the one without the red-dot and that it’s living on my kitchen table and being used to take photos of my wife doing yard work or kitchen selfies but that’s fine with me.
The only moments of regret were paying $4900 and waiting 4 days to receive it hoping I had not made a terrible financial mistake. The results are clear. This camera freaking rocks and there is truly no other camera like it in the world.
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