Leica has moved from M to Q.


The camera looks gorgeous. More minimal than the classic M whose chassis has turned 61 this year. Is Leica planning to kill the rangefinder and follow the steps of Sony? I doubt it. Especially when the Q has a fixed lens with an electronic shutter built in it, And it is precisely this otherwise excellent optic that makes the Q less than perfect. It’s too big and fat and looks more like an R lens or a Zeiss that is fitted on a Sony RX.

Leica has corrected lots of the shortcomings found on its previous experimental designs – the X, the T and the Vario – and it has added an electronic viewfinder. Actually there is nothing missing from this body which is only fractionally smaller than an M9, the shutter dial is there (alas, only 1/2000) the exposure compensation dial is there (no markings, but who needs them anyway, they add to the visual clutter of the camera) and there is a dedicated movie button, the second red dot on the camera. There is no flash unit (thank God) but there is a hot shoe. The power on/off has the typical Single mode or Continuous found on the digital M models too. There is also a clever indented thumb resting place at the back that gives some balance when holding the camera, nice touch. Weird look though.


The Q claims to be made in Germany at Wetzlar (that’s the new factory). The back looks similar to the M with 5 buttons on the left and a arrow pad on the right which some folk may find too small. Play is on top, I would put it at the bottom, ISO should be on top or Menu with Play and Delete a bit lower. That’s how my mind works anyway. You don’t want to fiddle by searching blindly where ISO is when your eye is glued to the viewfinder. The EVF by the way is large (probably designed for users who wear glasses) but it has an adjustment wheel next to it. There is an Fn button (now common to modern cameras) that ought to be customised. The LCD screen is generously big and bright and it has touch sensitivity which I find pretty pointless on a Leica. There is Wi Fi too for both iOS and Android phones. Not bad.

The magnesium alloy Q is a beauty, to be honest, if only…

Yes, there is always an “if only” when it comes to camera design. If only then the Q had an interchangeable lens mount that would fit older Leica lenses. This is my proposal to Leica: You didn’t really need a full frame sensor. This made the lens too big and the price of the package too high. The 24Mp is a great idea but unless you print big you could make do very nicely with an 18Mp, like on the M9. This again would drop the price. You didn’t have to go to 50,000 ISO as long as you gave very clean 6400. Using an image stabilisation and a fast lens (f1,7) on a mirror less camera you can shoot in very low light conditions indeed with never having to go above 6400. Ask any serious photographer who doesn’t have Parkinson’s disease. By the way Summilux lenses are f1,4 and not f1,7. That was the tradition, is Leica changing this? An f1,7 is closer to an F2 for those who can do optical arithmetic, but never mind.

The Photoshopped image below is my kind of Q, behold:

Q with S28

This is the Summicron M 2/28 Aspherical lens which is an amazing optic. You don’t really need a MACRO setting on a Leica, although the Q’s dual range trick (also found in Zeiss) is very clever indeed. But have a good look. The Q looks better and lighter already. Compare this with the image below of the actual Q: this looks more like a Lens with a camera stuck behind it, not a Camera with a lens in front of it.


I find this lens size grotesque, no matter how brilliant it renders colour and sharpness, which it does. Haptics should be the priority in camera/lens design, not resolution and automation. Patience, I am sure in a year or two Leica will rethink its Q and perhaps come up with a QM or Q2 or something, that changes lenses and doesn’t cost over $4000 (body only). I will be the first to go out and get one, promise.

A fat big lens makes you feel fat when you hold it. A smaller one makes you feel like a watchmaker, more precise and more focused on your subject. Leica made a name for producing the best miniature lenses in the world (circa 1950-2000) and for those who know a bit of history that was the reason why the R system (the reflex Leica) never caught up in sales. Remember, Leica is all about lenses, not bodies really, unless you are talking classic film bodies like the M3, M2 etc. It is Leica’s optics that never depreciate in value and never break down, digital Leicas, on the other hand, have a very short life indeed, both functionally and as second hand items. See what happened to the X and the T (the Vario as well), they are pretty relics of little interest nowadays when compared with the new Q baby.

Finally, what was this business of working with Panasonic making the cheap and expensive version of the same thing? Did Leica learn from Panasonic electronics? I doubt it. The David and Goliath allegory here is totally out of place. Somehow I get the feeling that camera manufacturers love to shoot themselves in the foot at least once a year.

I find it very comical to see and read about all the excitement bloggers have over the Q. Any fixed lens camera is doomed to fade away no matter how stupendous it is. It happened to the Fuji X100 series, to name one brand. Lovely camera the X100s and T etc but not flawless. A fixed 35mm is not a bad idea but seriously folks, we are photographers and we love lenses, lots of them. Are we supposed to carry a bag with 3 cameras each sporting one fixed lens, 3 chargers and 3 back up batteries? This idea is completely against the principles of minimalist photography – let the professionals who carry tonnes of equipment on their backs follow this path. Leica is a “street” camera, and this means purist journalism ideology, philosophical minimalism, solid performance, reliance and an inconspicuous tool that fits in your hands like a glove.

At $4250 per Q, and under these design circumstances, I would expect at least a short zoom objective, say from 28 to 50mm, and I would have been happy with an F2 constant. The Q as it stands right now gives me an empty stomach feeling, once again “if only…”.



Leica M8 and 28mm


Because of the M8’s cropped sensor the Elmarit 28mm gives an angle of view that is equivalent to a 36.5mm lens. The rangefinder will bring up the 35mm frame lines too and if the lens is 6-bit coded (mine is) information will go into the metadata file of each photo.

The Elmarit 28mm f2,8 aspherical lens derives its essential design from the faster 28mm Summicron lens – the after aperture elements are identical in both lenses and the before aperture groups too with the exception of the front element which seems to have more of  a positive curvature. This translates to practically zero distortion for this lens, a feat in wide angle lens construction, and superior to most lenses of its kind, including the venerable Biogon 28mm by Zeiss. When compared to the much more expensive 28mm Summicron the Elmarit wide open at f2,8 does not have the amazing crispness of the Summicron but by f4 and all the way to f16 both lenses can be called equal. Still, the Elmarit is smaller, lighter and has a very affordable price tag.

To see the exceptional micro contrast of this lens you must use it on a Leica. Adapting it to other cameras, like Sony Alphas, Olympus OMDs, Fuji Xs etc, will simply not do. The M8 sensor was built with Leica M lenses in mind, and not the other way round. The Elmarit is perfect for landscapes focused at infinity with an aperture of F8 or thereabout. It also works beautiful with subjects closer than 5 meters because the edges of the lens are cropped out by the M8 sensor. The aspherical element raises the resolving power of this optic quite a bit and successfully minimises flare and coma at almost all apertures. The aperture sweet spot is from f4,5 to f8 with f5,6 being the best choice, which is not news really – most camera lenses behave best at these apertures. However, fully wide open this lens will outperform most 28mm optics besides those made by Leica. A great improvement also on the earlier 20th century Elmarit which was much bigger and had some minor issues.

Somehow the Elmarit 28 agrees and “weds” with the Leica M8 very nicely. Clicks and rolling of the rings are smooth and neither too loose or too hard. One small issue is the nearness of the aperture ring to the focus ring which can confuse your fingers sometimes. The knob under the lens is the basic way in which we focus but I found retracing a bit awkward so I glued a narrow rubber band on the body of the lens on one side which solved this problem. Unlike most other Leica lenses this one does not have those nice grooves on the barrel that helped your fingers (or nails) in focusing.

plate 28mm-3

Typical use of the Elmarit 28mm lens – zero distortion whatsoever.

plate 28mm-4

Shooting at close range with the 28mm will give you a fair DOF but don’t be fooled, at anything wider than f5,6 (focus distance of 2,5 meters) your depth will be too shallow. The above image was cropped in Lightroom, the magentas were not corrected.

The colours of the Elmarit 28 are excellent. Better processed in Capture One 8 though as the Adobe products based on Camera Raw are slightly biased toward the magenta when working with Leica DNG files. C1 gives more green tints to the image which is better for landscapes of course but not so much for people; this is easily fixed though. Sharpness is also much better on C1 than in Lightroom. I think that Phase One is the friendliest software that exists out there for Leica photographers. I have tried DxO, SilkyPix, Lightroom, Aperture and even Gimp (a few years ago) but always returned to Capture One.


Here is a test on depth of field plus the dynamic range of the Leica M8. The sky was too bright and the barbed wire too dark so I exposed for the sky putting at zone 6 (instead of 8 where it belonged) hoping that I would rescue the shadows later. And I did. The aperture here was f4,5 (although Lightroom* states it as f5,6) so there is quite a blurry effect on the buildings in the background. [* I am not sure why Lightroom does this, never gives you the correct aperture in which the photo was shot; it could be MY Lightroom, I don’t know.]

detail 28mm-1

above: detail

below : Man on stilts. F4 at ISO 160

plate 28mm-6

detail 28mm-6

Shooting against the sun.

Used the lens wide open to see how it behaved with the setting sun quite low in the frame. F2,8/1000 at ISO 160. Highlights and shadow detail were rescued in Lightroom this time.


below : detail


below – Narrow Street : F8/250  ISO 160. Extra saturation was given to emphasize the wall.


Below : Beach in infrared – f2,8 at 1/15s exposure. A very deep IR filter by B+W was used that blocks practically all visible light. The IR violet tint was removed and contrast was raised in Lightroom 4. Out of the lenses I have used for infrared photography the Elmarit 28 seems to be the best one. Its IR focus coincides with the F4 mark on the focus scale on the lens. For a sharp result you need to rest the camera somewhere and use 2 sec timer delay on the Leica.

ir1Below is another example of infrared. A full 1 second exposure at ISO 320 wide open lens on the M8. Extra blacks were added later in Lightroom, quite surreal. The M8 is the only digital Leica that does IR so well and so easy. If you spend some time in post your IR images can come out pretty impressive. Shoot in DNG of course and save in B&W for best results.


 Below an IR shot which was tinted lightly in post. An iron-sepia kind of preset that I have built myself in Lightroom. Same exposure as in previous picture.

ir3It should be obvious from these IR samples that the Elmarit 28 has no hot spot at all, which is pretty rare for a wide angle lens. I have tried IR with an old Super-Angulon 21 and a Cosina Heliar 15mm and both exhibited strong hot spots that ruined the picture.

The Elmarit is also the most user-friendly lens when it comes to street photography, both on the M8 or the full frame M9. It has a good DoF but without losing its inherent wide angle properties and still being able to capture bokeh if needed. The shot below was at about 1,5 meter focus at F4 and 1/1000s exposure. One thing to remember is that the light meter on the M8 is center-weighed but quite large in area so it can be easily fooled by sky or bright buildings which are in the frame. This was the case here in the picture below so I had to meter the shot from the girl’s back, keep the shutter half pressed, raise, frame and shoot. You can always dial in a +2 compensation but this doesn’t always work. The M8 meter is not one of the best in the market, nor is its White Balance if set to Auto.


The seascape below was shot at F8/250 and Iso 160. My standard values when I shoot landscapes. If I have items quite close to the lens I may shut down to F11 or F16 if necessary, the Elmarit behaves very well at these small apertures, but I rarely do so. I find the image quality of this 10Mp sensor, which is of course quite “outdated” in 2015, very good and adequate for my work. I do not print BIG so I don’t really see the point of a full frame camera. There is a certain glow and three-dimensionality to the Elmarit images, especially the landscapes, In 2014 I began processing my DNGs in Capture One instead of Lightroom 5 and I saw quite a bit of difference in quality. I don’t think I am going back to Lr5 unless I am planning to do some “effect” processing using presets.


Final word: About dust spots. If you keep changing lenses in open air and the street you are bound to bring dust into the camera which of course settles on the sensor. I always have these spots and I rarely clean the sensor. However, they will show only if your lens is closed down to f5.6 and higher, extremely sharp and annoying at f11. If you are going to shoot landscape (like above) with lots of sky make sure your sensor is relatively clean. Most software nowadays provides tools to erase spots and even save the cleaned up state to copy/paste (sync) it to the next picture. Lightroom does this quite well and I use it a lot.

Re-edited in May 2015

Leica M8 and 28mm


Some photos here are at full size, some are reduced. All monochromes were raw files rendered to B&W using Capture One v8 software by Phase One. I believe that C1 does a much better job on Ricoh’s DNG files than Adobe software, like Lightroom v4 or 5 or Photoshop CS5 which mutes a bit the colours and sort of degrades the Ricoh image quality. However, if one shoots in sRGB instead of Adobe RGB it stifles the tones a bit and probably this is why Lightroom loses some of the GR’s intensity in the colour space. I may be wrong but I suspect this has to do with Adobe’s “generic” profile for this camera. If you use Capture One v7 you might get better colour fidelity than in v8. I don’t know how this works either. Occasionally my v8 intensifies the blues and the greens of the Ricoh DNG to an unrealistic tone. I use both an iMac 24 inch and a Macbook Pro 17 inch with different OS (Snow Leopard and Mavericks) and I find the Ricoh files look better on the iMac running SL. Many of my photos have been processed using my own presets which I built in Lightroom, those processed in C1 are without. Do not attempt to process files in Lr5 and then try to open them in Lr4, they won’t appear. Somehow Adobe does not work backwards.

(click photos for bigger sizes)


Sitar player having a break. Exposure f7/500 at ISO 100. Probably in Snap Mode. That’s my shadow on the left holding the camera at waist level.

man in tram-c1v8

Old man in an empty tram. He is looking at me actually but not at my camera which is a small black object resting on my dark navy blue jacket. Exposure f4,5/90 at ISO 200. Av Mode. Considering the light outside was very strong the Ricoh has managed to keep the shadows intact.

pools marina-c1v8

The pools of water were made the previous night when it rained heavily. The contrast here was very high, so it was a challenge. Exposure f8/1000 at ISO 100. Perhaps others would have chosen f11, but for a 28mm lens it wasn’t necessary.

ricoh Sunsets-3

Dead stalk of a cactus by the seaside. Exposure f5,6/1500 at ISO 200 with fill in Flash. Otherwise the stalk would have been all black like the foliage further away. I like the easy control you have on the intensity of the little flash unit on the Ricoh. This one was ½ strength. (the “grain” in this photo does not come from the camera itself, I put it there using a Lightroom preset)

GR works-5

After I took the picture the cat went indoors through the open window. Animals are more observant than people. Exposure was f4,5/90 at ISO 200 or 400, I am not sure. I worked the DNG file in Lightroom this time instead of C1. Added some of my own presets too for more impact.


Another cat waiting under a restaurant table for some customers to turn up. Exposure was f5,6/1000 at ISO 100 in Av mode. Lots of light in this part of the world. Desaturated the image a bit to give it a bit of an “antique” look.


A Cafe. This part of town is heavily illustrated with graffiti and stuff. Exposure was f5,6/320 at ISO 100. Well, you probably guessed by now, my favourite GR aperture is 5,6.


Beggar outside bakery. We get a lot of that nowadays. Exposure was f4,5/60 at ISO 100. This is one of my first pictures taken with the GR and I wasn’t much acquainted with it. Probably Snap Mode at 2,5 meters.


Tiger’s eye in macro mode exposed at f5,6/100 at iSO 100. The test here was the camera’s bokeh, so, being an APS-C sensor I expected the background to melt away if I focused at 20-25cm from the subject. It didn’t.

crutch down-c1v8

It was Christmas 2014 and all the city beggars were out hoping for money. Most of them hang around diners, bakeries, coffee bars and fast food places. Many of them are professional impostors. Exposure was f4,5/250 at ISO 100. The subject is not 100% in focus and it shows at full size, but this is the advantage one has when shooting with a 28mm lens – things seem sharper than they are. Depth of field is relative to sensor size of course, it’s not only how wide your lens is.

~ The enthusiasm on the internet about how the GR renders B&W is not just rumour. It’s a fact. This is something rare to find in a digital camera, any digital camera, I can’t tell if it is the lens that does this or the sensor but turning raw files to monochromes is quite easy with the Ricoh camera. Perhaps some contrast must be added, a little underexposure to darken the skies, some highlight recovery and “clarity” raised a bit to get that glow that is typical of real B&W pictures. I found that extra blacks and extra whites need to be added to the basic B&W image when it is desaturated, something that is usually absent in colour photography. The tonal range is there but it is not obvious most of the time. It is like printing on harder grade paper to raise the contrast a bit. The GR files need this.

Thanks for reading.


Ricoh GR vs Lumix LX7

~ Street photographers always wished and searched for the smallest, fastest compact camera with good image quality. However, there are too many “other parameters” in camera design and often some minor details that make or break a deal.

There is battery life, LCD screen quality, menu arrangements, general ergonomics and “haptics”, and finally the built quality of the camera itself. Many users know that there are no perfect machines in the world but most manufacturers don’t, or they just experiment with new models at our expense.

~ Panasonic works with Leica for its optics, hence the Lumix logo, and Ricoh works with Pentax. Sony does the same with Zeiss optics but I have no experience with those cameras. I have used all the LX series by Panasonic since 2010 but this is my first Ricoh camera and I find it fascinating. Today I own both the LX7 and the GR and use them interchangeably, so here is my opinion.


The images above and below show an actual size comparison of the two cameras with their dimensions.

The LX7 is taller than the Ricoh GR by about 6 mm but shorter in length by 6.5 mm. This is insignificant. The LX7 is “fatter” because of its high speed zoom, a Vario-Summilux 24-90mm optic designed by Leica. This makes it more difficult to drop in a pocket than the flatter GR. There is also another little issue with the LX7 which is not visible here: its lens cap. Badly designed, plastic and very easy to drop when you remove it. Panasonic has given us a string for this lens cap that attaches to the body but this is no solution folks. Who needs a cap dangling from a camera when you shoot? When the LX7 zoom extends the camera gets much “fatter” again (than the Ricoh) and the zoom mechanics also slow it down; on the GR the “in and out” of the lens is almost immediate. This could be important for some street photographers who do not (or cannot) anticipate their capture before the subject “arrives” in place. It doesn’t bother me much but it could bother other people.


The LX7 lens has apertures and aspect ratios on it, no such thing on the GR. The Ricoh has another trick up its sleeve: smart Fn buttons that can be customised to do things for you. By default aspect ratios are given by pressing the Fn1 button and self-timer settings by pressing the Fn2 button. So, as far speed is concerned perhaps the LX7 is a fraction faster in this respect. This means that when working on A Priority one can preset his exposure on the LX7 and also decide upon the aspect of his shot. At the side of the Lumix lens there is also a switch for changing the focus style from Auto to Manual to Macro. No such thing on the GR again. In other words, the LX7 is designed with the lens as its center of action, something that older photographers may appreciate. However, as the LX7 is basically an automatic camera with a tiny sensor there is hardly any difference in depth of field at any given aperture. To get a decent bokeh on the LX7 you need to have your subject very close to the lens, so the F1,4 aperture had sensitivity in mind, not DOF. Hence, better bokeh management on the Ricoh.

A small piece of info here: An f1,4 working on a 1/1.7″ sensor will NOT have the standard f1,4 DOF that full frame users are accustomed to. Multiply it by x3 to be more realistic! In plain English the f1,4 will give the correct light admission but its DOF will be more like an f4,5 or perhaps more.

The GR has a 28mm lens at f2,8 and that’s that. Wait! There is a trick here. You can crop this 28mm lens angle with a switch and get 35mm or 45mm angles instead. You lose some pixel count by doing this but for an APS-C sensor area this is not totally bad news. This is good news for purists who want to concentrate on action and would rather walk closer or farther from their subject than stand still and zoom in or out. Zooms are notoriously inferior optics than primes (too many elements) but not that much on the excellent Panasonic-Leica optic. If you forget about the noise levels of the LX7 (at all ISO) the quality of this Summilux optic wil surprise you. One wonders how did Panasonic manage to squeeze so much beauty out of such a tiny sensor with a “meagre” 10Mp! The GR Pentax optic is also amazing but we have a great APS-C sensor here with an extra 60% megapixels on it. Ricoh claims that the 9-blade diaphragm of its lens offers awesome bokeh. Possibly, but I haven’t seen it so far. The Ricoh also writes in Adobe’s DNG format which is easier for popular software to read and digest. The LX7 sticks to its peculiar RW2 format which may present color issues with some computer software. Every different Panasonic camera has its own RW2 which is quite ridiculous, in my opinion. One point plus for Ricoh here.

~ As you can see from the image below the position of the Mode Dials of the two cameras differ. Ricoh adds a lock to it for security (it says) but the stiff LX7 dial will not be tripped out of its setting by accident, no way. On the other hand, I did find that changing the Mode on the Ricoh by having to unlock it wasted some time or mixed up my fingers, I never had this with the LX7. Small details.

Personally I am an A-man, hardly ever using S (or Tv) and only occasionally using the P or M modes. I also love customized modes (my1, my2, c1, c2 etc) because they give me more creativity without having to dive into menus. What’s wrong with the Japanese and their labyrinthine menus? In my opinion the LX7 custom settings are easier to set and to use but the Ricoh has far more choices for a creative photographer. Actually the GR is a monster of presetting buttons and dials, but one needs to have a good memory.


Both cameras have similar LCD screens and buttons on the rear part of their bodies. The LX7 has a brighter LCD more usable in strong daylight and it will display your raw file at full size (jpg of course) without noise. The GR won’t. In other words, the GR needs a viewfinder more than the LX7 does. The LX7 also takes an electronic VF which is great for 90mm portrait shots, the GR has no such capability. I do have an optical VF for the LX7 which is 24mm of course but I use it occasionally on the GR too despite the inaccurate coverage. Ricoh offers its own 28mm VF but its price is ridiculous. By the way, both cameras can be fitted with extra (adapted) ultra wides or telephotos which may be attractive for some users. The GR can take a 21mm and the LX7 can take a longer tele.


Here are some virtues and evils found on these two cameras.

The LX7 has an easier and better macro and can get closer to your flower or insect, etc. However, you may need an f5,6 there if you want some decent DOF, and this may mean higher ISO or some fill in flash to stop motion or beat the probably low light situation. The LX7 macro, therefore, works better when there is plenty of light.

The GR has a brilliant Snap Focus mode at 3 different distance settings plus a DOF counter showing on your LCD to know what you are doing. The Snap is a great idea but in my experience it works only 90% of the time, which is not bad really. The GR struggles to focus in the dark (even with its green laser beam on!), the LX7 does a better job at this. So, here is the paradox. The LX7 has a rather poor ISO range and its B&W renderings are not that nice either. I know many photographers will fight the noise issue by shooting 3200 ISO with B&W in mind, the Ricoh can do that and its mono images are fantastic. Not so with the LX7. For two different reasons, therefore, both cameras are weak in night time photography and will deliver top quality images only if sitting on baby tripods.

The LX7 battery lives a little bit longer than the GR’s. It recharges externally, as usual, not so with the GR which charges via a USB cable either directly from the mains or through computer connection. I prefer the first choice. What beats me though is why manufacturers who build bodies of such high quality keep their memory card / battery compartments so cheap and plasticky?

Well, you can avoid screwing up your battery compartment door on the GR by uploading pictures and recharging by using the USB instead. It’s a bother but it is also a relief.


~ These are excellent street cameras, travel companions, second backup point and shoots. Either of them will satisfy the creative photographer, those who need to be inconspicuous and stealthy, those who want to have their hands and shoulders free.

At production date both had similar price tags, the GR perhaps a bit more expensive, but today you can get either at a very nice price indeed as the eyes of the consumer crowd are focused on other newer models. The LX7 has a glossy Leica version, for those who like the red dot, but it’s the same camera. The LX7 and the GR are similar and yet different, as for versatility and creativity this is mostly up to the user himself/herself of course, no argument there. The final colour quality of the GR is a bit colder than the LX7 but there is more clarity and sharpness, thanks to the APS-C sensor and that beautiful Pentax optic. Still, I have some very lovely images from the LX7 that glow as if they were taken with a Leica M camera.


On the left the LX7 sensor (1/1.7” or 7.44×5.58mm) CMOS Venus engine 13Mp of which 10Mp are effective. @2012. On the right the Ricoh APS-C sensor CMOS (23.7×15.7mm) no AA filter. @2013.

Added note (June 2, 2015): Well, now we have the LX100 which is an MFT camera, not very pocketable and far too expensive for what it is. Good idea to change the dials on the body and add a VF but I don’t think it is worth the money, the LX series from 3 to 7 were already fantastic compacts with perfect ergonomics, the 100 breaks this rule, alters the design and if I showed you photos taken with the LX7 and LX100 side by side taken at F2,8 I doubt if you could tell the difference. There is a loss of 1 aperture stop on the LX100 plus a shorter telephoto just to keep the camera small, some people may find this sacrifice worthwhile, I don’t.


Have a nice luminous day…

Ricoh GR vs Lumix LX7