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Posts from the ‘Leica Everything’ Category

First Impression of the LEICA Q “Hemingway” (Typ 116)


O and I were able to get the Leica Q (Typ 116) full frame mirrorless compact camera with a fixed 28mm Summilux f1.7 lens loaner for a week. Many thanks to Ebehard “Ebi” Kuehne (Leica District Manager) and the notorious Tibor Szilagyi (Samy’s Camera, Los Angeles).


DISCLAIMER!!!: My review is only based on the images I take and how user friendly the camera is. Images are post processed with pushing or pulling on the contrast, darks, brightness, and highlights. That is about the only post work I do. And, my bias is based on if the camera helps me capture the image I envisioned. I am not knowledgeable about equipment from any technical point of view. So if any one expects to read detailed specifications or any tech reviews, there are other sites that have the expertise. You can go to L-Camera Forum here to find out a list of all the reviews of the Q. You can check out all the specifications at the Leica site here.


ISO 400 – 1/1000 sec – f5.6

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. – George Bernard Shaw

For the past year, my love for photography and Leica suffered a huge set back due to a confluence of energy consuming family issues. I felt stuck. And this blog got stuck too. I know you all have had this experience. Whether it is something personal or professional, we all go through this phase at some point or another in our lives. I realized I needed something greater than myself to inspire me. I needed to change the status of ‘stuck’ so I can progress.


ISO 400 – 1/800 sec – f5.6

The last time I made improvement in my photography and deepend my love for it was when the Leica M Monochrom was launched. So I’ve been looking for something similar to help reanimate my two loves again. I thought Leica’s pretty T-model would lure me back. But it was a fleeting rendezvous and like a wisp of wind, its shining beauty faded as fast as it came. So I waited for the next camera development. Before it’s announcement in July this year, Leica was secretly developing their own solo project. It was code named ‘Hemingway’, after the writer Ernest Hemingway who was bold, no nonsense and extremely efficient with his words. When I heard rumors, I knew this one would be a game changer for Leica. Come on, with Hemingway as inspiration, it had to be. And sure enough, when Leica announced the new Q model (Type 116), I got excited.


ISO 400 – 1/1600 sec – f5.6

I couldn’t wait to make the first photos. The first time I pressed the shutter, I knew Leica finally made it. This is Leica’s own venture and not some repackaging of a Panasonic camera. They say they have ‘redefined the compact camera’ and this time, you bet Leica has. Now let’s see what they did:

The Leica Q is a not so compact 24-megapixel CMOS sensor full-frame camera with a 28mm f/1.7 Summilux fixed-lens. Video records at HD 1080/60p. It is by far the most intuitive mirrorless camera I have had in my hands. I did not have an instruction manual so I tried everything by feel. And it wasn’t hard to navigate the menus.


ISO 400 – 1/3200 sec – f1.7

Although I had it for a week, I really used it for about 2 short days on account of my day job. But in the brief time I was more than pleased with the experience and especially my results. Now don’t expect major testing in this post. That’s for pixel peeps and I’m not one of them.

We all know that often, initial inspiration comes from having the right tools. You know- change of mindset, change of environment and ahem, and of course change of equipment. In this case the Q. But the real spark comes when you see the results of the shoot and you can say ‘Hell yeah! I took something worth looking at.” It makes you want to shoot more. We love to be rewarded for our efforts. And the ease with which you handle a camera makes it more fun. O and I both shot with aperture priority.


ISO 400 – 1/6400 sec – f8.0


Let’s start with the physical characteristics: The design team at Leica headed by Peter Kruschewski and Vincent Laine did an amazing job. They distilled the essentials of a Leica camera and the result is a modern Leica aesthetic and not a kind of copy. It recalls the mastery of Dieter Rams of Braun who created classic simple designed products. And the Q rates up there.

The Magnesium body is covered with leatherette. The hatching pattern is subtle and beautiful similar to the one on the Titanium M9 which I always secretly hankered for. The top and bottom plates are anodized aluminum. The top plate is thin rather than the bulky M. And the ergonomic thumb rest indent that cuts the top plate is a beautiful design touch. It helps the grip. Although, with the heavier lens, you’ll still need a purposeful wrist strap or shoulder strap as back-up. This is where design was primary over ergonomics.


ISO 400 – 1/6400 sec – f8.0


Leica paired a 28mm f/1.7 Summilux Aspherical lens to the Q body. And that was a stroke of genius. Leica glass is by far the best you can ever buy for any camera– bar none. The Summilux is their flagship top-of-the-line series. The 28mm is the most compact of all their lenses. You’re guaranteed beautiful sharp images with that signature Leica look. It makes the Q the best full frame fixed lens compact camera ever built. I don’t think there are many out there except the Sony Cyber-shot RX1R. Since it is a fixed lens, Leica decided to add digital zoom to 35mm and 50mm with the touch of a button on back of the top plate just below the shutter speed wheel. Frames pop up in the electronic viewfinder showing the crop lines of each focal length in typical range-finder fashion. The crop reduces the Jpeg image size to 15.4 and 7.5 Megapixels respectively but leaves the DNG RAW file in tact.

FYI- A curious thing happened in post production. I loaded these images into Lightroom 5 and pushed the contrast slider just a tad. I loaded it into this blog and realized I may have been heavy handed. But when I pushed the Reset button on the 35mm and 50mm images, they went back to full frame. When I hit the Previous button, I could not recover the 35mm framing but was able to recover the 50mm framing.

Leica Q 28mm

28mm ISO 400 – 1/5000 sec – f8.0 (click image to see full frame)

Leica Q 35mm

The image above is the full frame image of the 35mm because I lost the framed shot which I was able to save a lower resolution of it before I pressed the dreaded Reset Button in Lightroom. (click the above image to see full frame)

The image below was framed in camera. Obviously, there needs to be a fix by both Leica and Lightroom in Firmware and updates.


35mm (digital zoom reduces the JPEG to 15.4 megapixels) ISO 400 – 1/5000 sec – f8.0

Leica Q 50mm

50mm (digital zoom reduces the JPEG to 7.5 megapixels) ISO 400 – 1/5000 sec – f8.0 (click image to see full frame)

I have been shooting street and all kinds of photography with the Leica’s 35mm f/1.7 Summilux lens. But since playing with the 28mm, I am enjoying the wider angle.


I love the built-in Macro allowing you to focus as close as 6 inches. It has a nifty distance ring that slides past the regular distance ring when you turn the macro dial around the lens. It has a very nice resistance feel and sound to it. This little addition makes the camera more of a go-to camera for everything from wide shots to detailed close-ups.


ISO 400 – 1/5000 sec – f5.0 (indoor shot)


The camera takes advantage of a full-frame (24 x 36mm) CMOS sensor with 24.2 million effective pixels with no filters. That means it’s clean. And for a compact camera, it has a powerful professional Leica Maestro II processing engine similar to Leica’s S camera (medium format for professionals).


ISO 25,000 – 1/640 sec – f1.7


Its range is from ISO 100 to 50,000. Combine that with f1.7 aperture and its low light capabilities is better than my Leica M240. It delivers images with detail even in the high ISO range without too much noise. I was pleased with Hand-Held images up to 25,000 ISO in low light. However, the grain started to creep in after ISO 25,000. BTW, Like all Leica cameras, it’s always better to under expose as the sensor allows you to pull details out of the shadows.


ISO 400 – 1/200 sec – f8.0


Up until now, Leica either never installed auto focus and if they did, they did so on the smaller compact cameras and they were painfully slow. The Q’s auto focus (AF) is the first one that is precise in real time. It does lose its precision when in extreme dim light situations. But that’s true of all auto focus that measures contrast.

I know you know what I mean when I say I lost so many potentially keeper images, all because I was fumbling with my focus, so I tend to zone focus (setting my aperture at f8 or f11). With the Q, I did try a few shots using manual focus, but I mainly shot in AF mode. It really enhanced my photography experience because for the first time I could concentrate on making the shot and not on focusing. I am convinced without the Q’s autofocus I would not have been able to capture the hand behind the curtain in my first image above or the woman walking in the background through the car window.


ISO 400 – 1/250 sec – f8.0


For a compact camera, the Q has a powerful professional Leica Maestro II processing engine similar to Leica’s S camera (medium format for professionals). This allows high speed continuous burst shooting at 10 frames per second in full resolution.


ISO 400 – 1/2500 sec – f8.0


The 3″ LCD multi-touch screen has 1,040,000 pixels which is higher resolution than the M. You can zoom in and out of photos by pinching. It also allows you to move the focus point with the touch of a finger which comes in handy. I have to say, I used this option rather frequently.

The internal EVF has 3,680,000 pixels making it extremely clear and bright. I prefer this than the Live View in the LCD screen, which is bright but glare sometimes bounces off it.


ISO 400 – 1/2500 sec – f5.6


The basic functions are pretty intuitive. The most intuitive of all Leica menus by far. However, I find that the menu in general has much too many options that are buried. I’m the type of person, out of sight, out of mind. There are so many functions that I just don’t know what to do with it. But I guess Leica erred of the side of more is better.


Super quiet.


ISO 400 – 1/5 sec – f1.7


This is Leica’s first camera to have a optical image stabilizer. This is perfect for someone like me who always tilts the camera when I press the shutter release, causing my images to often be blurry. See the night shot above? I shot it wide open at 1/5 sec. Now that’s image stabilization!


ISO 400 – 1/80 sec – f4.0


ISO 400 – 1/15 sec – f4.0


I did not have time to test the connectivity, but the idea totally intrigues me. It’s definitely an option I would like to explore.


ISO 400 – 1/25 sec – f4.0



In the big picture, I think it’s actually quite a bargain. Let me explain: A brand new Summilux 28mm F1.4 Aspherical lens is selling for $5950. The Q lens is a Summilux 28mm F1.7. The difference is hardly negligible. For $4250, you get a fabulous lens and a camera attached to it.


ISO 100 – 1/500sec – f1.7


So what do I think about this camera? I love it. It’s the perfect street photography and all round camera. I am tempted to consider it as my back-up. It is like having a better mini M240. But as a Leica friend of mine summed it up so aptly: “if I bought a Q, I would never use my M.” I’m inclined to agree.

I hope this is the beginning of Leica working its way back to the forefront of camera technology that its original brand and reputation was built on. I understand they make handmade products and therefore need to stay in the luxury range for financial reasons. And because of that, they should be selling the ‘state of the art’, which has been slow in coming. But with the Q, I look forward to seeing Leica’s forward development.


ISO 100 – 1/250 sec – f1.7

Leica Akademie Street Photography Master Weekend Classes

Peter Turnley kids in boot© Peter Turnley

I love to learn and share. It’s the reason I have this blog. But this time, instead of just reviewing after the fact, I’ve decided to tell you about it before hand so you have a chance to join in the experience and give some feedback.

For those of you who have read my review of Leica’s Los Angeles Leica Gallery Opening (you can read it here), you will know that Leica wants to create a cultural Center for Photography. They envision a place where photographers, local and internationally can gather, hang out, share ideas, images, and experience.

This year Leica Akademie and it’s North American Manager, Tom A. Smith, the engine behind this grand plan, has put together a few street and photojournalism lecture/hands-on classes taught by photographers whom I’ve either taken a course or want to take a course from.

Now, I’ve taken a couple of Leica Akademie Master Class Weekends and they are really enlightening and raise your photography skills to a new level with the help of a guest Lecturer/Photographer. Last time I took one with Craig Semetko (you can read my review from my old blog here), I walked away taking better photos than I ever did before I walked in. And that’s because I had a greater understanding on what to look for and how to compose.

Leica Akademie Master Class Weekends

May 16th -17th – Los Angeles – Craig Semetko

Craig Semetko Monroe© Craig Semetko

Craig Semetko Who AM I© Craig Semetko

May 30th – June 1st – Los Angeles – Peter Turnley

Peter Turnley Kiss© Peter Turnley

Peter Turnley Eiffel© Peter Turnley

June 6th-8th – Washington, D.C. – Richard Bram

bram_FoggyWindowSoho© Richard Bram

Richard Bram Cones© Richard Bram

And what’s really great is that you don’t have to own a Leica camera. They’ll have a bunch of various Leica camera bodies like the M (240) or the M Monochrom and a huge array of amazing lenses you can borrow for each day you’re out shooting. It’s a great way to test and learn at the same time.

I’ve never tried it before but for those wanting a longer workshop experience, where you can bring your entire family or a group of friends, Leica Akademie’s  Tom A. Smith has organized three different destination locations. You can check them out at

Please share! I’d appreciate if you could leave your opinion on any of these courses as well as the week long workshops by leaving a comment below.

Leica Store Los Angeles Grand Opening


I had the honor to attend the grand opening of the new Super-Sized LEICA store located at 8783 Beverly Boulevard in West Hollywood last Friday night. It’s the only one of it’s kind in the world, for now.

If you want to make an international destination and push a global brand, you have to think big. Leica made sure they did just that and spared no expense. They opened with a big splash – and apropo to this town, Hollywood style. All the managing directors around the world and key players in their company flew in to help get the new store and the party up and running. Of course, Leica’s very own celebrity entourage was on hand to help bring attention to their new space.

You knew the party was super-sized when you drove up, and 30-40 valets stood in line ready to take your car. Then a throng of greeters tapping iPads to “log you in” descended upon you, not to mention the countless security personnel. But the best part was, Eberhard Kuehne, Leica’s West coast regional manager who invited me (Thanks Ebbi!), was standing to give me a big hug. I couldn’t wish a warmer welcome. How I wanted O to be with me but when you’re married, one has to work and, well…O was in Budapest….So I had to endure the event all by my lonesome…sort of.

L1022300Ebehard Kuehne (center)

There were no name tags, or rubber stamping on the back of the hand here. No- I had to wear the ubiquitous chic black rubber wristband with the Leica dot. Then I had to run down the red carpet and be confronted by a battery of press photographers and papparrazzi. But, as a kind greeter told me, if I’m not comfortable, I could walk behind the cameras. Ahem, is that a subtle hint that I’m not a celebrity? Okay, my street shooting buddy, Rinzi Ruiz, did recognized me at the time. He was working as a second press photographer for Chris Weeks who was shooting for G-Star Raw, the co-host of the event. I turned to the kindly greeter, nodded and walked down the red carpet anyway – you know, to feel the love. I did notice from the corner of my eye, photographers were changing SD cards, chimping through their screens to see if their last shot looked good, comparing notes and cameras, anything but snapping a picture of me. Then I realized, I had survived the red carpet horror. :-)

The building is great. The new General Manager of the Leica store, James Agnew, told me it was a last minute convergence of all the elements of the universe. Leica had been looking and looking for a place to call home but found nothing that fit their criteria. A leaser of the space dropped out and Leica nabbed it right away – just a few months before they opened. It was meant to be.


They did a nice job of converting a furniture store into something very special. Thanks to Roland Wolff, Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, Steffen Keil and Kathy Goldman, it has its own brand identity in the well known design center of West Hollywood near Robertson Boulevard. Taking cues from the images its cameras make, the black part of the facade frame the activities inside like a big picture frame. The modern, clean and sleek store reassures you that design and aesthetics are mantras and a way of life for Leica. Nearly 8,000 sqft/900 sqm of open space. There is a VIP lounge in the back. But frankly, being in an, albeit cushy room without windows, may sound cool and exclusive, but you’ll miss out on everything. If you want the Leica experience, the real view is looking through the store and out to the front of the street. There is an outdoor lounge upstairs that also overlooks the street and entrance, making it a very L.A. kind of place. And it goes without saying, they have an espresso machine. Hanging out has never been made more enjoyable. They even have their own valet parking lot in an area where parking doesn’t come cheap. So there’s no excuse not to check it out .


One of the first people I met was Dr. Andreas Kaufmann. Like a good host, he was out by the front door greeting guests. You could see he was proud of the realization of one of his long time dream.

L1022310Dr. Andreas Kaufmann

When you walk into the store you immediately come upon Liao Yibai’s giant FAKE LEICA sculpture. It’s a a fun piece of glossy objet d’art and appropriately named. It reminds me of Claes Oldenberg’s classic giant sized replicas of every day objects such as binoculars, rubber stamp, bowling pins. But this one is made of stainless steel and is imbued with lots of detail from the Leica MP #253. I love the story behind Liao’s inspiration for the name. He grew up in a military factory in China. The cameraman in the factory used a ‘fake Leica’ to record the factory’s missile tests – the successful ones. As a child, he was allowed to press the shutter and was fascinated with cameras ever since. He can’t remember which Chinese make of camera it was- could have been the Seagull or Hua Ying, but he remembered the reference to Leica. China also made the Shanghai, another ‘fake Leica’. This is like Russia’s Fed, Zorki. Japan’s Cannon III, Minolta 35, Nicca, Yashica YE, Tanaka IIC. England’s Periflex and America’s Kardon. All Leica copies of their time. But the Chinese don’t mince words. It’s called a fake Leica because even then, the camera was exclusive and legendary and those who couldn’t afford it, bought the look-alikes. As you can see here, the Leica camera in any form, is still sexy and seductive.


Beyond the sculpture is the main floor split into two by the glass staircase. On the left is a library of books curated by Martin Parr. What a treat. Lots of interesting and unusual photography books. Finally, books that are worth discovering. They also sell accessories and gifts like specially designed Leica T-shirts. On the right side are glass cabinets filled with Leica cameras and Leica optics. It’s like opening one treasure chest after another.

L1022352 Seal standing with hard core Leica fan

The party drew all kinds of people from the movie, fashion, music and photography world. In front of the camera like actors, and singers and rockers.

L1022320Nikki Sixx (Mötley Crüe) with a photographer

Behind the camera like journalists, photographers, cinematographers and supplier/vendors of cameras, movie cameras and equipment. There were gallery owners, collectors and photography enthusiasts.

L1022342Award winning photographers Nick Ut and Mary Ellen Mark (behind is her exhibit)

Photography was at the heart of this opening with the whole upper floor dedicated to the display of images. The opening exhibit featured amazing and prolific images from Mary Ellen Mark, graceful ones by Yariv Milchan, and even Seal’s capture of an intimate moment. You have to see the images up front and personal. They are truly inspirational.

In Hollywood fashion, loud music pounded while beautiful people adorned modern furniture next to the suits.


I had the chance to feel the 50mm Summicron-C cine lens. Wow, what a hefty piece of glass. It’s the same elements as the regular Summicron but the gears to support flawless and silent follow focus is more demanding than the ones still photography requires. It’s incredibly smooth. Also the housing needs to withstand the weather elements in a more robust way. I can’t wait to be able to spend some time with it and the Summilux-C lenses. I was talking to Leica’s CW Sonderoptic’s Managing Director, Gerhard Baier and he’s extremely proud of the work they accomplished with the entire prime lens series of both the Summilux C and the Summicron C. They had one mounted on an M240 and another on Arri’s Alexa (movie camera) and both were sweet.

L1022312-EditLeica M240 with 50mm 2.0 Summicron-C

I also met several Leica store managers whom I talked about the pros and cons of Leica cameras. What I especially noticed is that they still have very strong opinions about Leica products good and bad which give them the independence I feel help Leica in a positive way. What I mean is, they aren’t just ‘yes’ people. Thank goodness.

Then came the Leica X Vario, which David Farkas (Red Dot Forum), let me play with. Some of you may know, I poo poo-ed the X Vario when it first came out as it wasn’t meeting my expectation of a mini camera with an M- mount. But when I laid my hands on it, my opinion started to change. Contrary to textbook opinion of slow aperture equals difficult to use in low light, the camera surprised me on how it captured details in just such a situation. And in a cinematic way, when the zoom lens follows focus, the bokeh transitions soft and smooth, unlike many zoom lenses where the transition is clunkier. I have yet to render my full judgement until I really review it, but my mind is open for more surprises.

L1022382Leica X Vario with Leica M240 in background

As I mentioned, G-Star Raw co-sponsored the opening. They worked together with Leica to create the Leica D Lux 6- Edition G-Star Raw. It has a cool rough and tumble look about it. I like the muted grey tones mixed with the dark brown leather case. It also has a military feel to it.

gstar leicaLeica D Lux 6 – Edition G-Star Raw

Tom Smith and Justin Stailey of Leica Akademie USA told me the idea behind the opening of this store is to create a ‘center’ for Leica and photography. Of course they will sell, but they want a cultural center. A place where local and international photographers can come together and share their work with others. They want to emphasize the final product of the print. Leica Akademie will play a bigger role in our Leica future. They don’t just want to educate us on how their camera works but on the whole process of photography and resulting ideas. So there will be lectures, workshops, as well plain and simple hangouts for amateurs to learn from professionals. It’s what Leica should be about. A true corporate sponsoring of the arts. I love it. The camera will sell if the images inspire. I only wish they did this sooner.

L1022380David Farkas (Red Dot Forum and Leica Miami) & Chris Moore (Leica marketing)

I also had the chance to meet one of my Twitter followers, Chris Moore. He’s a Leica marketing specialist focusing on social media and all things media from analogue books to anything digital. His first advice to me was to get my photography business card straightened out. I was walking around with my day job business card, writing on the back my Leica Liker info. Was I a doofus or what?

The neat thing about the opening party is the mixture of all kinds of people. It’s like going to the candy store and meeting Willy Wonka and his entire crew and all their customers from different walks of life.

L1022387Street photographers Chris Weeks, Rinzi Ruiz, Frank Jackson

People had fun at the party.


What’s a grand opening without a ribbon cutting?


Out came the giant scissors.

L1022354Leica Brass (L to R): Steffen Keil, Alfred Schopf, Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, Roger Horn

Annie Seaton, the Gallery director told me the next day that nobody wanted to leave the party. They had to kick people out. The ‘stammplatz’ (the usual hangout place) is already happening. ;-)

Leica has come a long way in a relatively short period. When you think about it, they were about to go bankrupt in 2006 because they didn’t know how to survive in the digital age. Stubborn people within Leica didn’t want to change back then. They could have gone down the same path as Kodak: A distant memory of the past and no one would have new Leica products to play with today. Now, they’re building factories, opening stores and generally implementing a grander, albeit, glitzier vision of Leica. Some die hard Leica fans think it’s too much about bling and not about the good old fashioned Leica camera. But in today’s social media and brand-centric society, they are simply cultivating the same reputation they had before World War II: exclusive, high quality and expensive. They’re just now using what was once more word of mouth as a direct marketing tool to build their brand on. If they need celebrities to help market their products, then they should get all the help they can. Look- they are not just surviving, they are leading and forging their own future, thank you very much. We’ll always gripe about whether one Leica camera or lens is better or not than another. But I for one am glad Leica is doing what they are doing so we can have something to talk about and most importantly, cameras that inspire our creative selves.

I want to thank Tom Smith for introducing me to everyone.

I wish the new Leica Store LA and Leica Gallery all the best of luck.

Here are all their links.

L1022368-2The L-word


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