The main difference between the Leica Q2 vs Leica Q2 Monochrom is of course that the latter can only shoot black and white? There’s a few more important differences than that, read on to find out what 5 things you need to know before you buy.
The Leica Q2 is one of the most popular cameras Leica has ever made. It’s like a M camera with a fixed wide angle lens, and it’s much more affordable. What’s not to like? But when it comes to Lecia Q2 alternatives, it stands pretty much on it’s own besides the Sony RX1.
Enter the Q2 Monochrom which is pretty much a direct alternative from Leica themselves. It is the first non rangefinder monochrome camera from Lecia. So whether you are deciding on a second body or this is your first one, here’s what you need to know to make the right decision.
Leica Q2 vs Leica Q2 Monochrom
1. It’s the exact same body
Let’s get something out of the way first. Both the Leica Q2 and Leica Q2 monochrome are identical. Besides a few minimal changes (see below), Leica didn’t bang their heads trying to come up with a new design. It is the same Q2 Body with a few painting changes.
The lens also did not changed, it is the same. The Leica Q2 monochrom sports a Summilux 28mm f/1.7. Same optics, same size, same lens. Everything is the exact same once it comes down to the camera itself.
2. The specs are identical too
It’s not just about the camera’s looks, the insides, the guts of the Q2 Monochrom are the Leica Q2’s same amount of megapixels, same viewfinder, same screen, same everything inside and out.
3. The extra feature no one talks about
When it comes to Leica Q2 vs Leica Q2 Monochrom, there’s no bigh news. However, there is one new feature that the Monochrom has above the Q2, it’s a bit better at video because it adds H.264 recording on top of MP4 recording. I am not a video guy so I am not sure if this is a software thing where this can be added to the Q2, in any case the Monochrom has 2 file recording options.
4. It’s pretty stealthy
Leica Q2 vs Leica Q2 Monochrom, they are both pretty much the same but the one area where the Leica Q2 differs with it’s older brother is the colors. Leica is a well known company so when you pull it out in the streets, your eye goes directly to the red dot.
It signals too much, it detracts. The Q2 Monochrom, while distinctive removes the red logo completely and the contrast yellow lens markings with a cool grey tone. In short, it looks like a cool camera but not a Leica.
This might sound like a small deal, but it is a bigger one then you think. Red really pops out on White and while you might encounter random cameras in the wild and trying to figure out what brand they are, just one little flash of the red dot and you know what it is.
Street photographers who want to be stealthy really want to take note here as this will allows you not to bring attention to yourself.
5. Why the Monochrom is special
It’s kind of a letdown, for Leica Q2 vs Leica Q2 Monochrom: There’s two ways Leica could have went with this, make an upgraded Q and add Monochrom to it, or keep it the exact same and remove the color filter. They went for the second option. So what does that mean in practice?
Color photography is quite the complicated process. Your sensor acts like thousands of small boxes near each other. The light hits the little boxes and you have an image. But that image is black and white.
In order to get color, there’s a filter over these boxes that only allow certain colors to pass trough, like red, green and blue. The camera then does it’s magic and brings back that information to make the final image.
It is a bit like your TV, it’s a few colors at different itensities that make up the imagey ou see on screen. All of this means two things: There’s less light entering the sensor (caught in filters) and loss of resolution (There’s some technical wizardry going on to interpret the light hitting the sensor into digital images).
What happens if you remove the filter? Well you have a monochrome image of course but there’s much more light hitting the sensor so it increases high ISO and dynamic range. Since there is no color information to process the final image is of a higher resolution then a color image.
Long story short: The Leica Q2 Monocrom is much better suited at making black and whites. Not only this, if you are a color photographer you are forced to shoot in BW and at a certain point your mind will adapt and you will start seeing in terms of black and white. This is great if you always default to color even if you want to shoot BW.
6. Why the Leica Q2 Monochrom fails
So when it comes to the Leica Q2 vs Leica Q2 Monochrom, is the Q2 Monochrome a slam dunk? Far from it. See here’s the thing, as a black and white photographer the irony of the matter is, color photographs are better to make black and whites. There are two reasons for this.
First is, there is more creative possibilities. Let’s say you shoot a red and blue plate in monochrome, whatever you have you are stuck with. However, say you shot in color and then put it into black and white, in Lightroom you can process it and command each of the colors to be a certain shade of grey.
So if you found a grey to be too light, you can bring it down with a Lightroom slider. You cannot do this with the Monochrom, and let me tell you, most of the time when you shoot the relationship between the greys are seldom ideal. So color is the way to go.
So it’s really ironic when it comes to Leica Q2 vs Leica Q2 Monochrom: The better one for BW images is the color one. There’s also another issue. With a color image, there’s some wizardry that happens so that you can recover some blown highlights because it takes it from the different color channels. So your blown highlight might still have some detail in the red channel for example and you can bring it back.
Very often under very strong conditions, there’s times where you NEED to rely on the recovery slider because the sun is so strong that you need to underexpose by a LOT. In the Monochrom, there is nothing to recover because there are no channels to draw from. So there is no room for mistakes or room to shoot very high contrast situations.
I can’t tell you how many times I have shot high contrast scenes and made the decision to overexpose so that I can get some shadows and recover in post. So it’s not all rosy when it comes to that sensor.
Yes, you get better ISO and resolution but you also have an image that will be hard to process in post production.
7. Leica Q2 vs Leica Q2 Monochrom: Which one?
Now for the million dollar question, which one should you get? Leica Q2 vs Leica Q2 Monochrom? Without a doubt the original Leica Q2, even if you want to do black and white images. Because you get more control over the monochromatic images and you have the possibility to recover some parts of the image.
Is the Monochrom worthless then? Absolutely not. If you are a dedicated black and white photographer or street photographer and want the absolute best image you can get and don’t want to fiddle with post processing the Monochrom is hard to beat.
Except for a specific few, when it comes to Leica Q2 vs Leica Q2 Monochrom most will be better off using the Leica Q2 and shooting it in BW mode. The screen will be identical to the experience of the Monochrom version, and as for the little red dot…there’s always black tape. All of the images in this article are from the Q2. Just saying.
You can’t go wrong with either camera but just don’t go expect your black and whites to be as plastic as a color raw file.
Leica Q2 vs Leica Q2 Monochrom: Conclusion
So what’s the verdict with Leica Q2 vs Leica Q2 Monochrom? Unless you really want it, (and it that case, there’s nothing I could say to dissuade you) the Leica Q Monochrome simply isn’t worth it. It’s pretty black and white (pun intended) in my opinion because the truth is, you will make better black and whites from a color file then you will ever do a straight monochrome file.
Because you can manipulate the shades of grey depending on the underlying color and you can also recover some data in case you blow your exposure. The Monochrom will give you straight black and white files with little room for creativity, and if you blow your exposure there are no color channels to try to recover blown highlights and shadows.
Bringing it together about Leica Q2 vs Leica Q2 Monochrom: If you want a Leica Monochrom, get a Leica Q2, and put it in RAW+JPG and in monochrome mode. If you are a dedicated BW photographer, the Monochrom might be the one, just don’t go expect the flexibility you get from a color RAW file. It’s as simple as that.