Hands-on with the Leica Q2 Monochrom

It was perhaps only a matter of time before Leica made a monochrome-only version of its popular Q2, and here it is! The Q2 Monochrom is a stealthy, niche camera aimed at black and white enthusiasts, and we’ve had one in our hands for a few days. Read on for all the details.

Newly-developed 47MP mono sensor

Contrary to some of the opinions occasionally posted in comments, making a dedicated monochromatic sensor is not a simple matter of just removing the color filter layer. While the base silicon of the Q2M’s sensor is the same as the conventional Q2, Leica has redesigned the microlens array, to account for the different thickness of the optical stack.

More resolution, more sensitivity

The removal of the color filter layer means that the Q2M’s sensor captures pure detail, without any need for interpolation (basically, the clever process by which neighboring RGB values get turned into a single full-colored pixel).

It also makes the sensor more efficient from a light-gathering point of view, since no light is lost to any color filters (the Q2M’s maximum ISO is 100,000 compared to 50,000 from the conventional Q2), and results in a claimed ~2EV improvement in terms of low light image quality and dynamic range, but it’s unlikely to be that simple (we’d expect a benefit of more like +1EV) and it’s something we want to test that as soon as possible.

And before you suggest it, yes, dedicated mono cameras are more than just a gimmick.

Same 28mm F1.7 lens

The Leica Q2M uses the same 11-element Summilux Asph 28mm F1.7 as its predecessors, and Leica assures us that while the lens has been around for a while, it’s more than capable of meeting the resolution potential of the monochrome sensor. If you’ve ever used a Q or Q2 you’ll know the deal here, but this is a fixed lens, with a large focusing tab, and an easy-to-use switch to move the lens into a close-focus range. While the Q2M’s autofocus performance is very good, this is also one of the best manual focusing experiences (despite actually being ‘focus by wire’) that you’ll find on a modern camera.

Q2-style ergonomics, per FW 2.0

You’ve probably already got the message, but functionally, the Q2 Monochrom really is just a Q2 with a modified sensor. That means it shares the same control layout (updated over the original Q) with a touch-sensitive rear LCD. One thing to note is that the Q2M launches with the same features that were added to the Q2 in FW 2.0. That’s things like a redesigned menu system including a ‘quick touch’ interface and the addition of exposure control in video.

Like the Q2, the Q2M is dust and moisture-sealed, and is IP 52 rated.

3.68M-dot OLED viewfinder

One of the biggest upgrades in the Q2 compared to the original Q was in the viewfinder, which moved away from the field-sequential technology used previously, in favor of OLED. While the 3.68M-dot panel (with 0.76X magnification) in the Q2 and now the Q2M is fairly standard for high-end cameras at this point, it’s still a great experience, offering a crisp, contrasty and detailed view. One small disappointment remains: there’s almost no eye-relief and the optically flat glass panel can create distracting reflections in some conditions.

BP-SCL4 Battery

The Q2 Monochrom’s BP-SCL4 battery is the same as the Q2 and should give comparable battery life. The BP-SCL4 is rated for 350 shots (CIPA) and in normal use, we’ve found that you can expect at least this many, and usually more images per charge, provided you stick to stills capture.

The small door on the opposite side of the baseplate (lower in this image) conceals a single SD card slot. The Q2M can be used with standard SD cards and faster UHS-II versions, but there’s no performance benefit to using UHS-II.

Summing up

And that’s it, really. The Q2 Monochrom is exactly what it sounds like: a monochrome version of the Q2. The only major difference is the modified sensor, but you’ll probably also have noticed that there is no color anywhere on the camera either. There’s no red dot on the front, and all markings are shades of gray on black. As such, the Q2M is one of the most discreet cameras around, almost as discreet as the taped-up M6 shown on the left in the image above.

The Q2 Monochrom will begin shipping immediately, at an MSRP of $5,995.

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