Leica’s compact-yet-powerful Q was one of the most interesting cameras released in the past few years. A true photographer’s camera, the Q combined a large full-frame sensor with a fast, sharp lens in a camera small enough to be carried almost everywhere. Nearly four years later, Leica is back with the Q2, which retains the compact design and overall appearance of the original, but with some significant performance improvements.
The headlining feature of the Q2 is its new sensor, which has the same full-frame size as before, but comes with an increase to 47.3 megapixels of resolution over the 24 megapixels of the original. That puts the Q2 in line with some of the higher resolution cameras from Sony, Nikon, and Canon that have come out since the original’s launch, and even has it in spitting distance of medium format cameras from Fujifilm, Pentax, and Hasselblad.
The new sensor also comes with an upgraded processor, which enables things like a slightly expanded ISO range of 50 to 50,000, 4K video recording at 24 and 30 frames per second , and 1080p video at up to 120 frames per second, while maintaining the snappy response, continuous shooting, and autofocus of the original. The Q2 also uses Bluetooth LE and Wi-Fi to connect to a phone for image transfer; there are no ports for USB, HDMI, or any other output on the body of the camera.
The Q2 has the same 28mm f/1.7 optically stabilized lens as before, but the higher resolution of the new sensor offers more cropping flexibility after the fact. Leica has added a new 75mm digital framing crop, in addition to the 35mm and 50mm options that were available on the Q. Even with the 75mm crop, which discards much of the information captured by the sensor, the Q2 can still offer a 7-megapixel image.
Externally, the Q2 looks nearly identical to the Q, but Leica says the inside of the camera has been completely redesigned. And if you look closely enough, you’ll find a variety of tweaks and changes to button placements, dials, power switches, and more on the outside of the camera. Most notable is the customizable button inside the thumbwheel on the top deck — the dedicated movie recording button is gone — and the simplified arrangement of buttons to the left of the touchscreen, brought over from the M10. The touchscreen itself has the same specs as the prior model, but Leica says it is a newer generation panel. Likewise, the Q2’s viewfinder has the same resolution as before, but it is now an OLED screen with a higher refresh rate and greater magnification.
One of the big upgrades to the Q2’s design is weather sealing, which allows for IP52 dust and splash resistance. It’s not the kind of protection that lets you completely submerge a camera or get it soaked, but it should give peace of mind to shooters who occasionally find themselves stuck in a rain shower.
The Q2 also has a larger, upgraded battery that adopts the trick magazine loading system Leica debuted on the SL. The company says it has 30 percent better battery life than before.
I had an opportunity to use the Q2 ahead of today’s announcement and found the improvements to be largely positive. The camera hasn’t lost any of its charm or appeal, but feels faster in use and is easier to handle thanks to the refined controls. The new viewfinder is noticeably better to look at, and the high-resolution files provide a lot of flexibility for cropping and editing. Despite the new video recording capabilities, the Q2 remains a stills camera first and foremost — the lack of articulating display, mic input, or fine-grained video controls will put off most videographers.
Leica says the Q2 will be available to purchase at dealers and online starting today and it expects there to be high demand for the camera, much like the first model. (The Q was famously on backorder with varying delays for the entire first three years of its existence.) That anticipated demand is in spite of a price increase: the Q2 sells for $4,995, $500 more than the original. That’s certainly not cheap, but if you want to own one of the most unique and enjoyable to use cameras on the market, that’s what it will cost you.