Leica T's and Q's

I am writing my first impressions of the Q, as a T owner, with comparisons to the T, and summaries of what I love and don’t love about the T. This is an experiential review. Obviously I love the output of both cameras, but this is about the cameras themselves.

Q and T. Yin and Yang. Gen X and Gen Y. Acceptable and Advanced. Familiar and Novel.

Q and T. Yin and Yang. Gen X and Gen Y. Acceptable and Advanced. Familiar and Novel.

I have enjoyed my Leica T more than any other camera I have ever used. It remains unique, wonderful, and fun. Long after I stop using this version of the T (the 701), I plan to have it sitting on a shelf to admire. Or maybe I will just keep using it until the aluminum wears out.

The T was announced towards the end of my PhD work. As you can read about here, my doctoral research focused on the measurement of elegance in design. The core attributes of elegance, usability and aesthetic characteristics, are featured in the design of the Leica T in a unique and prominent way. This is not to say that the Leica T nails those characteristics, just that the Leica T acknowledges that those characteristics exist as a driving force in design, and makes a good attempt at optimizing towards those characteristics. In other words, if companies focused on the same things that Leica focused on in the creation of the Leica T, the world would be a more elegant, more futuristic, more wonderful place.

T++

I have had the Silver T and the two original lenses for a year now. I purchased a Summilux-M 35mm FLE earlier this year, and started using it on the T. I love the 50mm focal length on the T.

I had been seriously considering getting an M 240 this year, but decided against it due to its cost, bulk and "non-T-ness”, whatever that means. Like I said, I am a huge fan of the T. My plan was to purchase a Black T, and use that exclusively with M lenses, and to get the other T zooms. This proved to be an even better plan once the 12% discount was announced.

Then the Q was announced. After consulting with “Top Men”, I decided that rather than buy a second T to use with my M lens, It would be better in almost every way to trade in the M lens, and buy the Q.

Usability of M Lenses on the T Is Not As Good As It Should Be

While I love the output of the M lens on the T, I had several issues. First, the lack of focus peaking on the T. No idea why this is missing. Second, given the size and weight of the T, I think I would be better off using a lighter lens. The Summilux plus "block of aluminum" T is heavy, and dense. (the T looks very “steam punk” with the Summilux, and looks more T-like with a Summarit). Third, when looking at my favorite T shots, almost all of them have been using the Summicron-T or, surprisingly, the 18-56 zoom. The 18-56mm zoom is proving to be quite fantastic.

Leica T Output with the Summilux-M

Leica T Output with the Summilux-M

One of the endearing qualities of the T is that it quickly shifts from a very minimal look to a fully outfitted contraption, kind of like a Mecha robot with multiple hidden missile pods.

Leica T Outfitted

Leica T Outfitted

The Q

I had my doubts about the Q, since I had not seen one in person. The folks at Bellevue were very helpful in getting me acceptable trade-in value for the M lens, and then shipping me the Q, which arrived a few days ago.

The Q makes a fabulous first impression. While it has some shared parts with the T (the knob, on/off/shutter, movie button, microphone cut-outs), the Q comes across as almost an entirely different camera. It is a bit taller than the T. The T is a bit wider. The Q comes across as a Mini-M, albeit with the tech of the T (a word that comes to mind is “adorable”). My first “real” Leica was the X1, and the Q comes across as a much more substantial, and more powerful, X1.

I’m amazed that Leica was able to release two "similar" cameras (T and Q) that are almost completely different within the span of 1 year.

Q First Impressions

My initial observations. Everything you've read about the Q is true. Its performance and output are world class. It is super fast. Incredible ISO capability. Small issues so far: The Q does not have USB charging (which I love on the T). The Q's screen is noticeably smaller than the T. It is nice to have the touch functionality, but much tougher to use due to the size of the screen. The cameras are similar weights and dimensions, although the Q feels much bigger and is slightly heavier. While I am a big fan of 28mm, I am going to have to spend considerable time learning about distortion, keeping the camera level, etc. The Viewfinder is amazing, but it feels smaller and more cramped than the T Visoflex. Not sure if it is, and it may be because the T periscope really puts you above the scene, while the Q viewfinder puts you behind the camera.

Leica Q Output

Leica Q Output

If you have ever owned a Leica made by Panasonic (such as the wondrous Micro 4/3 45mm/2.8 lens, or the D-Lux cameras), you are used to the experience of definitive power and speed that those tools provide right out of the box. Similar experience with the Q.

The State of the T

So the Q is great out of the box. The T is lovable, but really needs some attention. What the T needs:

  1. Bug fixes and software updates. Code optimization. Auto-focus optimization. Seriously, it is annoying that this has not been done.
  2. More lenses. I hope the Noctilux 35mm rumors are true. But T also needs a pancake to make it truly portable. And a portrait telephoto. The T is smaller than the Q, and stands in nicely for an X-Vario, or an X 113. It needs to also be an X-1 (Pancake/Collapsable) or the X-portrait.
  3. And focus peaking! Yes, no reason for the T not to have this. Or Fuji style split focus/virtual range finder. Either one. Both. Something entirely different. Anything.
  4. Accessories. T to R adapter. And a newly designed T-Snap. And more strap options. etc. More colors, more personalization.
  5. The T iOS app has still not been updated for the iPhone 6/6 Plus screen sizes. Seriously, this is a premium product. On another note, both the Q and T iOS apps work completely differently. No idea why. There really should be one, and only one, Leica iOS app, that works with all of the cameras.

The Next T

  1. The T does not have built-in sensor dust removal. Not cool. Have been burned by this. After getting the sensor cleaned by one Leica store, I was advised (in jest, I hope) to “not change the lenses”. LOL.
  2. Given the amount of labor that goes into making the T’s Aluminum casing, I would love for Leica to debut a T upgrade program, where the innards of the camera and screen could be swapped out for the next revision of processor, sensor, and screen, and the T body (with its hours of hand labor) could be reused. Would be a major step towards sustainability.
  3. Leave the EVF off. The future of cameras are smart phones. Smart phones do not have EVFs. Good smart phones have better screens, more responsive UI, etc. That is what should be focused on.

Two Elegant and Wonderful Cameras

These cameras are both awesome and unique. I applaud Leica’s willingness to take risks. And I am happy to see one camera company really thinking about the future of photography in a world of iPhones.

As someone who identifies with both Gen X and Gen Y, and with both right brain and left brain activities, I find a lot to like in both camera systems.

Through his company SFL Concepts LLC, Stuart provides solutions to companies and organizations to further the creation of elegance in strategies, concepts, and technologies. He provides services related to strategy and program development, product and concept visualization, and digital design.