Why I Sold My Leica Q

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today in memory of Kristen's Leica Q, and to remember it's life and photographic contributions.....

Ok, the Q didn't die, but I did sell it. And after writing an initial impressions review where I was totally smitten with the Quirky Q, I owe you an update as to my decision to sell it.

First, let's be clear - the Leica Q is an awesome camera. There are a lot of happy users, and it makes fantastic images. The "bang for buck" is absolutely there. It's a great travel companion, and is a real treat in the lineup of cameras offered by Leica. I have no complaints about the Q. 

But I sold it because it wasn't for me.

I really learned to be a patient photographer when I got into Leica rangefinders. When I shot Nikon's, the camera drove me.... I didn't drive the camera. I let the Nikon think for me, focus for me, read the light for me, and I was lazy. Leica rangefinders - the emphasis on limited manual controls - put me back in charge of the photography, and I became a better photographer because of it.

When I used the Leica Q, I felt myself becoming lazy - slipping back into the camera-think-for-me land. Sure, with the Q you can shoot totally manual and control every setting, but I found I wasn't using the camera that way. I was letting autofocus and aperture priority drive me. 

I already have an autofocus camera - one I adore - called the Leica SL. For those times when I need or want autofocus, I found myself reaching for it. I reached for the Leica Q when I was feeling lazy, and it shows in my photographs. 

If you asked me to select my 100 favorite and best photographs that I've ever taken, the Leica Q wouldn't be represented amongst any of the selectees. That's not because the camera can't produce a result worthy of a top 100 spot - I didn't use it that way. 

I love a rangefinder. The sensation of looking through the precision glass instrument and seeing the world is my crack-cocaine. I'm a rangefinder addict. The Leica Monochrom is one of my favorite cameras to reach for when I need a fix. The feel of the shutter, the slide of the lens barrel focus ring, the stealthy size.... snort. 

The Q never gave me the same excitement. I never got a quiver down my spine when I picked it up. My toes never tingled. It is a fantastic camera, but it never got me excited to take photographs, so my photographs taken with the Q lack excitement. I wholeheartedly believe that a photographer who feels emotion with their camera can better capture emotion with their camera. 

As the announcement of the Leica M10 drew closer, Leica held some killer promotions for saving money on a new Leica M240, so I decided to trade the Q into Leica and get a M240 to feed my rangefinder addiction. I previously owned the M240, but sold it when I got my Leica SL, so it was nice to be reunited with the camera yet again. 

There are times when I miss the simplicity of the Q, but it's been 4 months since the Q and I broke up our relationship, and I have no regrets. I would still recommend the Q to anyone shopping for a great compact travel camera, it just wasn't for me.

Winterland

I am just three days away from my around-the world move back to the United States, so I've been busy packing, sorting, organizing, and freaking out! But I'm going to surface from my moving-induced panic to share a few more photographs from our last trip to Finland.

As part of our overnight dogsled adventure, we trekked through deep Finnish forest, seeing a wilderness untouched except by winter. I could have spent hours photographing all the landscapes, but that wasn't an option.... I was riding on the back of a dog sled! So to take any photographs, I had to balance on the sled, take my hands off the steering, and hope to time up a good composition. And that's what I did.

I carried my Leica M240 under my heavy down jacket to keep it warm, retrieving it whenever I saw a photographic opportunity ahead. I used the 28mm f/5.6 Summaron lens, which was a great choice given it's small size to sit under my jacket, wide field of view, and large depth of field. Rattling off snaps as we whooshed past on the dogsled, I hoped there was something in focus and well composed in the mix!

Focusing a rangefinder is already a two handed task, and it's certainly complicated when a dogsled is involved, but I was able to zone focus and get sharp images--- much to my delight! 

Review: Thumbie for Leica M (Type 240)

I never used a lot of the thumb grip accessories available for Leica cameras until I got my Leica Q. The Match Technical Thumbs Up grip for the Q has made all the difference in the world, and I can't imagine shooting without it now.

When I got my Leica Monochrom (Type 246), I wanted to get another Thumbs Up grip, but the problem was that I wouldn't be able to use the Thumbs Up and the Leica EVF-2 in the hot shoe at the same time. Since I use the EVF-2 whenever I shoot my favorite lens, the Leica f/0.95 Noctilux, it was a non-starter to consider the Match Technical Thumbs Up grip.

Thankfully there is no shortage of inventive people out there! An English gentleman has designed a different product for the Leica M bodies called the Thumbie that provides the same grip benefit, but without hogging the hot shoe. The Thumbie is also significantly cheaper than the Thumbs Up grip (around $30-40), but it isn't available at mass retailers like the competition. I found mine on eBay and it was delivered to my home in the UK two days later.

The Thumbie arrives in a silver box - although it's not a Leica silver box - but seriously, who is that snobby? Inside is the Thumbie grip, some spare adhesive strips, and instructions for installation.  Nothing fancy. 

Of note, the Thumbie fits a whole range of M bodies - the Monochrom uses the same version as the M240. Versions are also available for the M8, M9, film bodies, etc.

The Thumbie as delivered. Nothing fancy, but it is a silve box, in true "Leica fashion" 

The Thumbie as delivered. Nothing fancy, but it is a silve box, in true "Leica fashion" 

The instructions are fairly straightforward and suggest that the double sided tape (which is apparently designed for use in the automotive industry) will not damage the finish of the Leica body, assuming you remove it without a jackhammer. 

Inside the box is the Thumbie, some spare adhesive strips, and instructions for installing the Thumbie onto a Leica M240 style body

Inside the box is the Thumbie, some spare adhesive strips, and instructions for installing the Thumbie onto a Leica M240 style body

Thankfully the adhesives for the Thumbie are pre-cut, which is good, because the actual flat surface isn't a simple rectangle. The little notch fits above the scroll wheel on the back, and the provided adhesives are cut pretty close to size. Good, I don't want more arts and crafts projects! 

The Thumbie, as it comes out of the box. Construction is metal coated in a black paint. 

The Thumbie, as it comes out of the box. Construction is metal coated in a black paint. 

Before installing the Thumbie, I wiped the back of the Monochrom body down to ensure there was no oil or grease from my hands on the surface that could interfere with the adhesive. The instructions call for a very tiny amount of dish soap added to a bowl of water and to lightly coat the adhesive in this soap water mixture prior to adhering the Thumbie on the camera. This allows you to carefully setup the Thumbie in precisely the right location before the glue sticks. Clever. 

Preparing to install the Thumbie. The instructions call for using some water with a little soap to help position the Thumbie into the correct location before the adhesive sticks.  

Preparing to install the Thumbie. The instructions call for using some water with a little soap to help position the Thumbie into the correct location before the adhesive sticks.  

The adhesive on the back of the Thumbie, just prior to installation. 

The adhesive on the back of the Thumbie, just prior to installation. 

The installation overall was very easy, and took less than 5 minutes (including time spent taking photos for this review). The instructions suggest waiting 30 minutes after installing to ensure the adhesive is fully stuck on - after 30 minutes the attachment felt pretty strong. 

The Thumbie nests right next to the scroll wheel on the back of the M bodies, so I was a bit concerned that it would interfere with the operation of that dial. However, I was pleased to see that the Thumbie's smaller size and profile keeps it from interefering with the dial's operation.  

In all fairness, the Thumbs Up grip certainly is beefier and feels more solid on the M than the Thumbie...but it is also three times the price, and hogs the hot shoe. I played with the Thumbie for awhile after installation and it did a satisfactory job of giving my right hand more tactile control and surface to hold the camera body. It may not be as sexy as a naked camera, but I'm a real photographer, who really uses their camera to take real photographs. And if an inexpensive attachment prevents some hand fatigue and makes it easier to carry my Monochrom with the Noctilux all day, then sign me up.  

Thumbie installed on the M Monochrome (Type 246) 

Thumbie installed on the M Monochrome (Type 246) 

Thumbie tucks around the back scroll wheel and does not interfere with the operation of the dial (which I have set to control exposure compensation) 

Thumbie tucks around the back scroll wheel and does not interfere with the operation of the dial (which I have set to control exposure compensation) 

Time will tell on the durability of the Thumbie. Assuming that rubbing along my pants and side doesn't cause it to rub off into the street gutters one day, I think I'm a satisfied customer. And if that ever does happen, I'll update the post to let you know. 

Overall, for the money, Thumbie may be one of the best purchases I've made for my Leica!

The finished result.... Thumbie installed, EVF-2 in the hot shoe, and Noctilux on the front. Everyone wins! 

The finished result.... Thumbie installed, EVF-2 in the hot shoe, and Noctilux on the front. Everyone wins! 

Quick Shot: Long Black Road

Photography is all about the capture of light - which is a hard thing for many photographers to really embrace - and it's something I'm always working on improving. Visualizing and studying light!

This photograph is all about the light. I shot it in Venice and it's an indoor courtyard. I intentionally underexposed the inside hallway so that the light from the courtyard would flood in, creating a more dramatic and powerful image. I didn't want to loose that set of shiny metal chairs at the end, so I had to be careful not to totally loose the shadow detail. To emphasize the drama, I converted the final image into black and white - leading to a long black road.

Shot with the Leica MP (Type 240) and a 35mm lens.

Quick Shot: The Perfect Laundry

I don't particularly enjoy doing laundry, but I love photographing the laundry of Europe. That may sound creepy and weird, and I'll totally embrace that - but I love the look of a clean line of laundry hanging outside in the wind. You could say I'm a connoisseur of laundry. I particularly love laundry hung across a street. I love laundry that contrasts with the side of the building. 

In Europe, where most people don't have a clothes dryer, it's easy to find lots of photo-friendly laundry. But to minimize my creeper stats, I try to only photograph the very best laundry. One of the best spots for laundry spotters is Venice, Italy, so I was questing for some fine laundry while there for several days.

On the third day of hunting laundry, I finally started to get some results. Granted, it had been raining the previous days, and I understand its not good to dry your laundry outside in those conditions. To get to the finest laundry, I have to exit the tourist areas and explore the parts of Venice where real people live. We embarked on a walk to the far side of Venice and I found lots of laundry, but none of it was perfect.

Then we turned down this street. As soon as I saw it, it was like I was a kid in the candy store. That is some FINE laundry! Part of the appeal came from the perfect size order of the laundry.... that takes some dedication! 

Shot with my Leica MP (Type 240) and a 75mm lens. With this shot, I can say I've finally found my perfect laundry!

Quick Shot: Greek Boat

We ate at a restaurant on the water outside Corfu, Greece, when I looked up to see this boat tied to a nearby pier. I grabbed my Leica MP (Type 240) and shot it with a shallow depth of field to highlight the tip of the boat. Although the colors were wonderful, I liked the final image better in black and white.

Quick Shot: Venice Sunrise Finale

For the past several mornings, I have awoken early and gone out in the bitter cold and rain hoping to catch a colorful sunrise over Venice. And for the past several mornings, my efforts have been rewarded with grey skies and rain.

Today was different. Although it was the coldest morning here, the rain had passed and a thin layer of light and fluffy clouds dotted the horizon. The sky began to turn a magnificent orange and I had a few seconds as the sun poked over the top of the horizon to get these shots with the famous Venetian gondola's in the foreground.

Here's the best part...... this image is natural! No HDR here folks, just a little crop and some sharpening. It really was spectacular! Shot on a Leica MP240 with 24mm f/2.8 lens.

Quick Shot: Natural Illusion

Here's something you don't see everyday...... the Campanile di San Marco (aka the San Marco Square clocktower), twice.

Wait. What?

With the exception of a crop and conversion to black and white, this image is 100% authentic as it came from the camera. Any guesses what is going on here?

Shot with a Leica MP240 and Leica 24mm f/2.8 lens.

Quick Shot: Hidden London

I have been working on cleaning up my laptop's hard drive for the next photo adventure, which will be a BIG one and unearthed several shots from London that were hidden in the depths. They are all interesting photos with some cool stories, so let's explore what lingers in the dark corners of my folders.

An old church in downtown London was converted to an outdoor park after burning down

A classic outside the Portobello Street Market

Back entrance to the Apollo Theatre

A construction project silhouette against the bright white clouds on an overcast London afternoon

Keeping with the construction theme - some scaffolding raising up from Soho into the grey skies


Quick Shot: Wings

It is airshow season here in the United Kingdom; every weekend brings a host of interesting and often historic aircraft flying around our house, so whenever possible, we try to go catch the show.  Last weekend was one of our favorite shows at the Shuttleworth Collection. This show features a collection of mostly pre-1950's aircraft and historic cars, given it the name "Wings and Wheels Airshow."

I went armed with the Leica's to get some 35mm film shots of the cars in black and white and some digital shots of the aircraft. I wasn't planning to shoot much of the aircraft in flight and wanted to focus on shots of the aircraft on the grass runway. I'll showcase some of the wheels from the show later and today am focusing on three of the wings.

All of these aircraft were photographed with the Leica M-P 240 and Summarit 35mm f/2.4 lens.

1917 Bristol M1C
This is one of the few replica aircraft in the collection as most are originals, but it's hard to find many aircraft form 1917 that still fly! This aircraft was actually built in 2000 but carries the markings of an original Bristol that flew with the 72 Squadron Royal Flying Corps in the Royal Air Force.

1934 Hawker Hind
I have always had a soft spot for the shine of the aluminum on these World War II biplanes. This Hawker actually saw service in World War II as a bomber and training aircraft and in the 1930s was part of the Royal Afghan Air Force.

1934 DH88 Comet Racer
Unlike the other aircraft in this series that were designed for wartime, this beauty was meant to participate in the popular air races. Specifically, she flew from England to Australia. Three of the comets participated and G-ACSS (this aircraft) won the race.

Quick Shot: City Reflection

Reflective surfaces are one of the most fun things to convert to black and white - especially if there is something interesting in the reflection. I took these photographs walking through downtown London with my Leica M-P 240 and converted them to black and white in Nik Silver Effects. All were taken with the Leica 35mm f/2.4 lens, which is one of my favorites for city shooting. 


Quick Shot: Hustle and Bustle

London's King's Cross rail station is certainly one of the busiest I've ever been to and rivals some of the stations in Washington, DC and New York City. The hustle and bustle of people coming and going from regional and international trains makes it a great place to people watch, which is what my Leica and I did! To get this photograph, I went to the upper deck of the station and held the camera on the railing for stability. I set the shutter speed for 1 second and click...... a conversion to black and white and here's the result.

Quick Shot: Train Lady

Over the weekend, I took the train down to London's King's Cross station (where the platform 9 3/4's is run by enterprising  Brits happy to make a buck on folks dying for a photo op). My last trip through London was to purchase the Leica M-P 240, so I hadn't become familiar enough with the camera to shoot at the speed and comfort I wanted. For this trip the goal was simple -  capture some interesting photographs of life in London.

This quick shot embodies the interesting photograph goal; I was sitting on the train as we rode home from a full day of walking and was enjoying being off my feet for the first time in hours. I stared out the window dazing off in reminiscence of the afternoon I'd spent in town. In the reflection of the window I could see the woman sitting two rows in front of me looking out the window, also deep in thought.  I debated what sort of adventures her day had included; she was dressed rather well and that only furthered my speculation. Did she see a play? Was she out on a date? Was she visiting a lover?

I decided to try and photograph the woman's reflection - the seats in front of me totally obscured any view of her, but her reflection with the context of the train chairs is what intrigued me. I rarely use a live view function on any camera, but this was the perfect occasion - I needed to line up the camera's angle relative to the sun and window to maximize the reflection without creating obstruction from the chairs. I selected an aperture with a narrow depth of field so that only her face would be in focus and took one shot. A quick black and white conversion in Nik Silver Effects and I had my train lady!

Comment and let me know what you think the "train lady" was doing in London.

Quick Shot: Lavender

This weekend I found myself knee deep in lavender at a local lavender farm in Hitchin, England. The farm was full of lavender pickers and people enjoying a beautiful day surrounded by purple plants and I was eager to explore the photo opportunities. There's a bit of irony to these photographs - the lavender fields are full of bees pollenating the millions of plants, so I wore jeans to protect my legs as I shot. As we walked through the rows of lavender, my friend commented that the bees will only sting if provoked and are more interested in the plants than in the people walking around. Not two minutes later, I bend down slightly to get a better angle on the lavender and when I stand up, I have a bee stinging me in the knee. Apparently the little buggers can sting through jeans! Two days later, I am nursing a very swollen and red knee, but I still got the images I wanted and that's what matters!

Using the Leica M-P 240 and the Summarit-M f/2.4 35mm lens, I captured what I thought was the essence of purple (and red, if you count my knee)! 

Leica Film Modes - A Quick Look

One of the features built into the Leica digital camera series is what they call "film modes" - it's probably the only gimmicky feature of a camera otherwise built for a serious shooter. Although I am not usually interested in gimmick settings, I was curious to see how the Leica film modes looked and to see if there was any value in incorporating them into my workflow.

Quick background: I shoot RAW. Always. No exceptions. If you don't understand what "shooting in RAW" means, then take a quick detour here and come back. The main reason to shoot in RAW is to take advantage of all data without the camera making any decisions about sharpness, contrast, color vibrance, etc for you - you have all the data to edit to create the photograph you want later. The Leica film modes are settings that apply presets for a particular look to the photograph, which goes against the nature of RAW. This means that you have to shoot in .jpg to have any of the film modes actually save and write properly, but they still work in DNG / RAW mode. I find this a little curious - why not grey out the menu?

Anyway, back on subject.... the Leica M-P 240 has three film modes: Vivid, smooth and black and white. The idea with vivid is that the colors are very vibrant, while smooth has the look of a color photograph that has yellowed slightly due to age and black and white is, well, black and white.

For this test, I shot two scenes in the church yard behind my house here in England. The files were set to save as a .DNG and .JPG at the same time and I would then use the RAW image to try and create an image either similar to or better than the one pre-made in the settings. Here's the results.

Be sure to click on the examples for a full size version!

Smooth Film Mode

The .jpg file made by the camera. The door is lacking in any detail or texture and it is too dark.

The .jpg file made by the camera. The door is lacking in any detail or texture and it is too dark.

The door .jpg file generated in Photoshop by editing the raw image. I was able to preserve the detail in the door while still making a lovely image.

Vivid Film Mode

Once again, the file made by Leica in camera has lost the detail in the door. The colors are more punchy than in the smooth film mode, but I'm still dissatisfied with the overall look since the subject (the door) is lost.

Once again, the file derived from the .DNG RAW file is superior to the in camera .jpg.

Black and White Mode

This is the setting I was actually most interested to see. With the monochrome sensor that Leica uses on some of their other models, I figured they may have some interesting black and white results. What I found was certainly interesting, but also a bit disappointing. 

I chose this subject for this test due to the wide dynamic range and shadows / highlights. The camera generated an acceptable black and white image, but it's fairly "routine" black and white.

The result from sending the RAW file directly to Nik Silver Effects without any other edits first. I actually had to stop and do a double take - it was the same image. Exactly. Seriously, look! The default "neutral" setting in Nik Silver Effects is the same as the .jpg B/W setting.

Outcome

I went into this experiment with no expectations, but even still, I am a bit surprised and disappointed that the black and white setting was the same as the "neutral" black and white from Nik Silver Effects. What this means is that I have almost no use for the film modes. For me, the black and white has the most promise on name alone, but it generated a result I could repeat in 5 or less seconds myself. The only way I could see myself using these is if I had a deadline that required me to produce only acceptable black and white photos without any post production - that occurrence has never happened for me in my career, so I'm seeing this as very limited application. 

Do I think less of my Leica M given this "meh" result? Nope. The Leica is a precise machine, designed to render top of the line images. But even the most precise machine needs help to generate the fine art we're after! Using photoshop on a RAW file is not a deficiency of the camera, it's part of the art process..... and my early results editing RAW files have provided some very interesting and exciting prospects for future artwork.