The M Monochrom and the M10 Monochrome manual-focus rangefinders are joined by the Leica Q2 Monochrom as Leica’s newest dedicated black-and-white cameras. The Q2 Monochrom is a black-and-white-only camera with a 47MP sensor, a fixed 28mm F1.7 ASPH lens with a 17cm (6.7 in) macro mode, and better noise and dynamic range performance than the Q2 Color. The Q2 Monochrom is undoubtedly not a camera for everyone, but it has a lot to recommend it to those who are serious about shooting in black and white.
After using the M10, M Typ240 and M35mm Summilux FLE, M50 Summicron, and even a 50-year-old 35mm Summicron for shooting, one will understand that Leica is unlike brands like Sony where excelling in the technical prowess department is their perennial focus. As a result, I frequently feel it is superfluous to talk about specifications when Leica is involved.
But in any case, Leica wants you to be aware that, in contrast to the Q2 monochrom’s colour-capable counterpart, the 47.3 Megapixel CMOS monochromatic sensor lacks a color filter array, negating the need for interpolation and enabling sharper and superior rendering than any of its predecessors. According to Leica, this design increases the Q2 Monochrom’s light sensitivity, which results in at least a 30% increase in sharpness. The Q2 Monochrom has a dynamic range unmatched by its “color-able” competitors and an ISO range of 100 to 100,000 thanks to the clearer, cleaner tones and details that are captured at every single pixel.
In plainer English, this means that the Q2 Monochrom was able to pursue the quality of its imaging output to the maximum, which is significantly higher than what the Leica Q2 is capable of.
The time-tested Summilux 28 F1.7 ASPH lens, which debuted in 2015 on the original Leica Q, is distinguished by its razor-sharp clarity and the characteristic bokeh of a Leica lens that has been tuned and paired with the body’s sensor.
One has very little to criticize when given 11 elements in 9 groups and 3 aspherical elements with a 0.3 meter minimum focusing distance (MFD). (If you shoot Leica, you are aware of how amazing an MFD of 0.3m is.) Additionally, the MFD of this Summilux 28mm F1.7 in macro mode is 0.17m.
Physique and handling
The Leica Q2 Monochrom is covered in a traditional grained leatherette and has a discrete subtle black and neutral gray body to match the monochromatic images it takes. The renowned “red dot” Leica badge and the engraved script on the camera’s top have been removed by Leica. The name of the camera is engraved around the hot shoe, and there are gray and white-on-black markings on the lens and shutter speed dial.
The button placement and ergonomics are identical to those of the Leica Q2. The camera’s power switch, shutter button, command dial for choosing third-stop shutter speeds, and shutter speed dial for choosing full stop shutter speeds are all located on the top. A four-way controller, a 3″ fixed touchscreen, as well as the Play, Menu, and Function buttons are all located on the camera’s back.
With a “long press,” the Function button can be quickly changed to perform another task. The eye sensor to automatically switch was quite sensitive, even with the sensitivity set to “low,” so for the duration of my time with the Q2 Monochrom, I kept this button set to switch between the EVF and LCD screen. The camera’s diopter, which can be pushed in to prevent unintentional adjustments, is located above the LCD, and a rear button is located directly below the shutter speed dial.
This button can be configured to lock the exposure or the focus as well as activate the camera’s digital crops by default. When shooting in Raw, in-camera crops can be made at 35mm, 50mm, and 75mm, but the entire image is kept. To show you what will be in the cropped frame, a rangefinder-style frame appears in the EVF (though those crops can’t fill the EVF). Similar to the color Q2, the Q2 Monochrom has a slight indent on the right side that makes for a very cozy place to rest your thumb while shooting.
One SD card slot and the battery door are located on the bottom of the camera. The BP-SCL4 battery found in the Leica SL is used by the Q2 Monochrom, which has a CIPA rating of 350 shots per charge. Even though heavy playback and Wi-Fi use significantly drain batteries, you can expect to take many more shots in actual use. In our experience, the battery easily lasted a few days of moderate shooting (which includes turning the camera off between shots).
The fixed 28mm F1.7 lens on the Leica Q2 Monochrom has 11 elements, including three aspherical ones, making it a fairly complicated optical design. The lens’s macro setting can be activated to take up-close pictures as close as 17 cm (6.7in). Without taking the camera out of your eye, you can accurately view the live black-and-white images on the updated 3.68M dot OLED, which is incredibly bright. However, the Q2 Monochrome doesn’t have much of an eyecup, so people who wear glasses may find it difficult to use.
When you’re taking pictures while holding the camera up to your eye, around your wrist, or over your shoulder, it feels great overall.
The Q2 Monochrom is portable, simple to use, and since the lens is permanently attached to the camera, you won’t need to worry about packing your camera equipment when you leave the house. It is perfect for shooting in public without having to bring up your Leica because of its quiet shutter and understated body design.
The Q2 Monochrom has a solid build quality, an intuitive menu system, and reliable autofocus overall. I was eager to start shooting as soon as I put a memory card into the Q2 Monochrom.
But why stop at just black and white photos?
Of course, if you prefer the 35mm equivalent focal length, a camera like the Fujifilm X100V set to the Acros film simulation will provide you with a comparable shooting experience for a lot less money, and you can still process your Raw files in color with that camera. Why then wouldn’t you continue doing that? Why even purchase a monochromatic camera?
Because of how the sensor and processing operate, the Q2 Monochrom provides full-frame image quality and a significant boost in pixel-level resolution. From a purely creative standpoint, I’ve discovered that completely removing color as an option has a positive effect on me creatively as well. This camera enables photographers to concentrate on the fundamentals: how light, shadow, and action interact to create an image.
The Q2 Monochrom’s three programmable buttons are a wise design decision that provide a lot of flexibility based on a photographer’s needs. Another selling point for the Q2 Monochrom is that it has weather and dust sealing. Given the unpredictability of the fall weather in New York City, it was comforting to know that the Q2 could withstand a little bit of moisture when the skies inevitably opened up. It is quicker and simpler to use than the manual-focus M10 Monochrom thanks to the autofocus, making it a more user-friendly camera for photographers of all skill levels.
Impression of image quality
I adored how the photos I took with the Leica Q2 Monochrom had subtle tonal changes. This is a fantastic option for shooting in the late hours of the night due to the noise characteristics of the camera at high ISO and the fast lens. I chose the aperture and shutter speed settings while the camera chose the ISO setting when I used Auto ISO.
Even when I let the camera choose the ISO, it rarely went above ISO 12500, but pictures taken at that setting don’t have a lot of noise or grain. I would have loved to see what this camera could do in the dimly lit environment of a rock concert back in the day, when it was safe to congregate in poorly lit and ventilated areas.
Although these images are all straight out of the camera, the level of detail found in each file is impressive, and once you’ve dropped the Raw files into Adobe Lightroom, the flexibility of the Raw files is outstanding. While using the Q2 Monochrom, the in-camera crop proved to be helpful, but I also valued the ability to undo it once I imported the Raw files into Lightroom.
Using a digital camera that only captures black-and-white photos might at first seem restrictive, but in the end I found it to be quite liberating. In contrast to a camera like the M10 Monochrom with its optical (and thus full-color) viewfinder, I really liked that the Q2 Monochrom’s excellent EVF only allows you to see the world in monochrome. I found this helpful for paying attention to patterns, textures, and light quality within a scene.