Product shots: Dan Bracaglia
The Leica Q2 Monochrom is Leica’s latest dedicated black-and-white camera, joining the M Monochrom and the M10 Monochrom manual-focus rangefinders. The Q2 Monochrom has a 47MP sensor that only produces black and white images, a fixed 28mm F1.7 ASPH lens with 17cm (6.7 in) macro mode and a claim of better dynamic range and noise performance compared to the color Q2. The Q2 Monochrom certainly won’t be for everyone, but for dedicated black-and-white shooters there is a lot to love about this camera.
ISO 6400 | 1/30 sec | F9
Photo by Jeanette D Moses
- 47.3 MP CMOS Monochrome Sensor
- 3.68MP OLED electronic viewfinder with 0.76x magnification
- 3″ touchscreen with 1.04 million dots
- 60s – 1/2000s (mechanical); 1s – 1/40,000s (electronic)
- 28 mm F1.7 ASPH lens with 11 elements, 3 aspherical
- Splash and dust resistant body up to IP52
- ISO range of 100 – 100000
- Up to 4K/30p, 1080/120p video capture
- Bluetooth and WiFi capabilities with Leica Fotos app
- Additional toning settings (sepia, blue, selenium)
What’s new and how it compares
The one significant difference between the Q2 and Q2 Monochrom cameras is, as you’d expect, the ‘specially designed’ 47MP sensor that comes without a color filter array (CFA). On color digital cameras, the CFA filters incoming light so that each photosite captures information on either red, green or blue light, and the camera’s processor interpolates that data to produce a full-color image.
On the Q2 Monochrom, there’s no CFA, so each photosite captures a single ‘true’ tone, with no loss of resolution through interpolation. And, because CFAs absorb some incoming light, the lack of one means the ISO sensitivity of the Q2 Monochrom gets a boost when compared to the color Leica Q2.
From an aesthetics standpoint the Q2 Monochrom has a more discreet design when compared to its color counterpart and a slightly simplified menu interface.
ISO 800 | 1/500 sec | F2.8
Photo by Jeanette D Moses
Compared to the M10 Monochrom, the Q2 Monochrom is a much simpler and easier camera to operate, thanks primarily to its electronic viewfinder and reliable autofocus. The downside is that you’re stuck with the 28mm lens on the Q2 Monochrom (though there are some crop modes we’ll discuss a bit later). The price points of these two black-and-white cameras are… well, high. The M10 Monochrom costs $8295 USD for only the body, whereas the Q2 Monochrom comes in at $5995 USD.
|Leica Q2 Monochrom||Leica M10 Monochrom||Fujifilm X100V|
|Sensor||47MP full-frame monochromatic||41MP full-frame monochromatic||
|Type||Fixed-lens||Rangefinder interchangeable lens||Fixed-lens|
|ISO range (native)||100-100000||160-100000||100-25600|
|Viewfinder type||3.69M-dot OLED electronic||Rangefinder optical||3.69M-dot OLED electronic / optical|
|LCD||3” fixed||3″ fixed||3″ tilting|
|Weather-sealing||Yes, IP52 rated||No||No|
|Max. burst||20fps (elec. shutter)||4.5 fps||20 fps (elec. shutter)|
|Max. shutter, mech | electronic||1/2000 | 1/40000||1/4000 | N/A||1/4000 | 1/32000|
|Video||4K/30p, 1080/120p||N/A||4K/30p, 1080/120p|
|Battery life (CIPA)||350 shots||~210 shots (based on color M10)||420 shots|
|Dimensions||130 x 80 x 92 mm||139 x 39 x 80 mm||128 x 75 x 53 mm|
|Weight||734 g||660 g||478 g|
But if price is a blocker, the Fujifilm X100V is a camera that is conceptually similar, but much more affordable. The X100V shoots in color, but thanks to Fujifilm’s film simulation modes you can set it to see the world in monochrome (albeit not at the same resolution possible with a dedicated mono sensor). The X100V has a fixed 35mm (equivalent) F2 lens instead of the 28mm lens F1.7 lens and a smaller APS-C sensor, but it also only costs $1399 (MSRP).
It’s also worth mentioning the $899 (MSRP) Ricoh GR III, which also offers an APS-C sensor, but it has a 28mm-equivalent lens that matches the field of view of the Leica. It’s a great pocket camera, but be aware that it doesn’t include a viewfinder (an optical finder is available but there’s no provision for an EVF) and battery life is on the short side.
Body and handling
|The command dial on the right has a center button that can be customized with a variety of functions.|
The Leica Q2 Monochrom has a discreet subtle black and neutral gray body to match the monochromatic images that it captures and is wrapped in a classic grained leatherette. Leica has removed the iconic ‘red dot’ Leica badge and the engraved script on the top of the camera. Inscriptions on the lens and the shutter speed dial are all gray and white-on-black, and the camera’s name is engraved around the hot shoe.
The ergonomics and button layout are identical to the Leica Q2. On the top of the camera you’ll find the power switch and shutter button, a shutter speed dial for selecting full stop shutter speeds and a command dial for selecting third-stop shutter speeds. On the back of the camera you’ll find a four-way controller, a 3″ fixed touchscreen, and the Play, Menu and Function buttons.
|The controls on the Q2 Monochrom are pared back and basic, but in a refreshing way.|
The Function button is customizable, and can be quickly reassigned to another function with a ‘long press.’ During my time with the Q2 Monochrom I kept this button set to swap between the EVF and the LCD screen (the eye sensor to auto-switch was pretty sensitive, even with the sensitivity set to ‘low’). Above the LCD you will find the camera’s diopter, which can be pressed in to prevent accidental adjustments, and a rear button that sits directly below the shutter speed dial.
By default this button is set to activate digital crops within the camera, but can be customized to be an exposure or focus lock as well. The in-camera crops can be made at 35mm, 50mm and 75mm, but retains the full image when shooting in Raw. A rangefinder-style frame appears within the EVF to show you what will be included in the cropped frame (but those crops can’t fill the EVF). The Q2 Monochrom features the same subtle indent on the right hand side as the color Q2, which ends up being a very comfortable place to rest your thumb while shooting.
On the bottom of the camera you will find a single SD card slot and the battery door. The Q2 Monochrom uses the BP-SCL4 battery found in the Leica SL and is CIPA rated to 350 shots per charge. In use, you can expect far more shots than that, though lots of playback and Wi-Fi use are big battery drains. In our experience (which includes switching the camera off between shots), we found the battery would easily last a couple of days of moderate shooting.
The Leica Q2 Monochrom’s fixed 28mm F1.7 lens has 11 elements including three aspherical ones, which is a pretty complex optical formula. The lens can be clicked into macro mode to shoot closeup photos as close as 17cm (6.7in). The updated 3.68M dot OLED is incredibly bright and gives you an accurate live view of the black-and-white images without having to remove the camera from your eye. However, there’s not much in the way of an eyecup on the Q2 Monochrome, so glasses-wearers might struggle a bit with it.
Overall the camera feels very good when it’s slung over your shoulder, wrapped around your wrist or up to your eye making pictures.
The Q2 Monochrom is lightweight, easy to use, and since the lens is fixed to the camera there’s no fretting about what camera gear you’re bringing when you leave the house. It has a quiet shutter and the understated body design makes it great for shooting in public without having to have a conversation about your Leica.
In a different era, I would love to see what this camera could do at a low-light rock show
Overall, the Q2 Monochrom has an excellent design, an easy to navigate menu system and dependable autofocus. As soon as I popped a memory card into the Q2 Monochrom I couldn’t wait to start shooting.
But why limit yourself to black and white images?
Of course, a camera like the Fujifilm X100V set to the Acros film simulation will give you a similar shooting experience for a fraction of the price (so long as you like the 35mm equivalent focal length), and with that camera you still have the option to process your Raw files in color. So why wouldn’t you stick with that? Why get a monochromatic camera at all?
|Out-of-camera JPEG in 75mm crop mode.
ISO 200 | 1/250 sec | F1.7
Photo by Jeanette D Moses
Well, the Q2 Monochrom offers full-frame image quality, and a significant increase in pixel-level resolution, thanks to how the sensor and processing work. From a purely creative perspective, I’ve found that eliminating color as an option altogether has a positive impact on me creatively, too. Put simply, this is a camera that allows photographers to focus on the basics: how light, shadow, and action interact to create an image.
The three customizable buttons on the Q2 Monochrom are a smart design choice and offer a lot of flexibility depending on a photographer’s needs. The fact that the Q2 Monochrom has weather and dust-sealing is also a selling-point. Fall weather in New York City is known to be unpredictable, and it was reassuring to know that the Q2 could stand up to a little bit of moisture when the skies inevitably opened up. The autofocus makes it faster and easier to use than the manual-focus M10 Monochrom and creates a shooting experience that is more approachable for all levels of photographers.
Image quality impressions
ISO 640 | 1/125 sec | F4
Photo by Jeanette D Moses
I loved the subtle tonality shifts in the images that I shot with the Leica Q2 Monochrom. The camera’s noise characteristics at high ISO paired with that fast lens make this a great choice for shooting late at night. I used Auto ISO, meaning the camera picks the ISO value and I picked the aperture and shutter speed settings.
Even letting the camera select the ISO for me, it rarely veered into the highest ISO range, but images shot at ISO 12500 don’t exhibit that much noise or grain. In a different era, when it was safe to gather inside poorly lit and ventilated spaces, I would have loved to see what this camera could do in a low-light setting of a rock show.
The flexibility of the Raw files is outstanding
The level of detail found in every file is impressive, and although these images are all straight out of camera, the flexibility of the Raw files once you’ve dropped them into Adobe Lightroom is outstanding. The in-camera crop ended up being handy while shooting with the Q2 Monochrom, though I also appreciated that I had the option to uncrop the Raw images once imported them into Lightroom.
Pairing the Q2 Monochrom with the Leica SF 60 flash makes it a nice choice for capturing high-contrast black-and-white images. Although using a camera with a 28mm lens for shooting portraits might seem counterintuitive, the in-camera crops actually worked quite well. If you use the flash with Leica’s remote control flash unit you can easily create beautiful black-and-white portraits with the Q2 Monochrom with a very small kit.
It might initially seem like it would be limiting to use a digital camera that only shoots black-and-white images, but in the end I found it to be quite freeing. I really enjoyed that the Q2 Monochrom’s excellent EVF only allows you to see the world in monochrome, which I found helpful for paying attention to patterns, textures and light quality within a scene, especially in comparison to something like an M10 Monochrom with its optical (and therefore, full-color) viewfinder.
|Do you need color photos? Even in black and white, it’s clear that this is a photograph of a humanoid hot dog.
ISO 250 | F4 | 1/125 sec
Photo by Jeanette D Moses
Is the Q2 Monochrom for everybody? Of course not. Leica has never been known for the affordability of its cameras and, arguably, their exclusivity is part of their appeal.
The Q2 Monochrom is certainly a niche camera, but for a shooter who prefers to see the world in black-and-white it ends up being surprisingly versatile and usable. While we’ve still got to do our full testing with a production model, I found that shooting with it is simply a joyful experience, and ultimately, that’s what photography should be about.
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