Hands-On Review: The New Leica Q2 Monochrom

Black-and-white photography and the name Leica have a synergy unlike any other medium and camera company, which is why it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Leica has introduced its fourth camera in eight years to wear the Monochrom nameplate. What is interesting is that with the introduction of the new Leica Q2 Monochrom, Leica has expanded the Monochrom brand beyond its fabled M-series bodies to now include Leica’s popular Q-series cameras.

Photographs © Allan Weitz 2020

The Leica Q2 Monochrom is a black-and-white-only camera based on Leica’s extremely popular Q2 color camera, and features nearly identical specs, including a 47.3MP full-frame sensor, Maestro II processor, high-res EVF, and so on. The Q2 Monochrom also features the same fixed Leica Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH. lens, which was specifically designed for the Q-system. Unlike Leica M-mount lenses, which are designed for rangefinder cameras and do not focus close, a flip of a switch on the Q2 lens barrel enables close focusing down to 6.7" from the sensor plane.

If you love black-and-white photography, you’re surely going to love the image files produced by Leica’s new Q2 Monochrom.
If you love black-and-white photography, you’ll love the images created by Leica’s new Q2 Monochrom.

And this lens is sharp—real sharp, and with a pleasing degree of bokeh when set at wide apertures. Rather than a tulip-style lens shade, the Q2 Monochrom comes with a forward-tapered metal screw-on shade that does a very effective job of blocking stray light, while maintaining the sleek form factor of the camera.

The Q2 Monochrom’s Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH. focuses down to 6.7" from the sensor plane.

For the times that 28mm is too wide for your tastes, you can go into the menus and digitally set the camera to record the fields-of-view of a 35mm (30MP), 50mm (14.6MP), or 75mm (6.6MP) lens. The files become progressively smaller as you “zoom in,” but with the possible exception of 75mm (6.6MP), the files have plenty of meat on the bones, considering the 47.3MP resolution of the full-frame sensor. Truth is, for online sharing, all of these file sizes are perfectly fine.

If 28mm is too wide (top left), you can set the Q2 Monochrom to capture the scene at 35mm (top right), 50mm (lower left), or 75mm equivalent focal lengths (lower right).
Even at high ISOs, at night, the Q2 Monochrom captures amazingly detailed image files.
Even at high ISOs, at night, the Q2 Monochrom captures amazingly detailed image files.

Design-wise, the Q2 Monochrom, which is manufactured in Germany, is minimalist and seductively gorgeous. Unlike the Q2, which has a black chrome finish, with white and red paint engravings on the lens barrel and that famous Leica red dot on the side of the lens, the Q2 Monochrom sports a flat black paint and textured black leatherette akin to the M-series Monochrom cameras.

The new Leica Q2 Monochrom features the same stealthy matte-black finish and detailing as the Leica M10 Monochrom. Neither camera sports the infamous red dot logo on the front plate, which might disappoint some but, in my humble opinion, makes the camera that much more enticing. As an exam-ple of exquisite industrial design, both cameras are as seductive-looking as it gets.
The new Leica Q2 Monochrom has the same stealthy matte-black finish and detailing as the Leica M10 Monochrom. Both are examples of exquisite industrial design and as seductive looking as it gets.

The Q2 Monochrom also features gray and white painted engravings on the lens barrel instead of red and white paint, and there’s no red dot. The camera is as stealthy as it gets. You even have to look hard to find the nameplate. (It’s engraved in matte black on the accessory shoe.) If you seek attention when wandering about taking pictures, this is not the camera for you.

You have to look hard to find the nameplate on this camera, and that’s part of its charm.
You have to look hard to find the nameplate on this camera, and that’s part of its charm.

Like the Q2, the body of the Q2 Monochrom is weather sealed (IP-52), as is the lens. The Q2 Monochrom is also the first Leica Monochrom camera that shoots 4K video—M Monochrom cameras shoot stills only.

If 28mm is too wide you can choose to shoot at 35mm, 50mm, or 75mm crops (above image @ 75mm).
If 28mm is too wide, you can shoot at 35mm, 50mm, or 75mm crops (above image is at 75mm).

For composing and reviewing stills and video, the Q2 Monochrom features a 3.68m-dot electronic viewfinder and a 1.04m-dot, 3.0" fixed touchscreen LCD. Both viewing options are fine, though I personally wish the LCD were a tilt screen for low-angle and above-the-head shooting.

This street scene includes the side of a building brightly lit by unfiltered sunlight and street activity in deep shadow, which is typical of city streets during the late autumn, early winter months. Regardless, it’s a piece of cake to open the shadows while maintaining fine detail from the Q2 Monochrom’s hefty DNG image files.
This street scene includes the side of a building brightly lit by unfiltered sunlight and street activity in deep shadow. It’s a piece of cake to open the shadows while maintaining fine detail from the Q2 Monochrom’s hefty DNG image files.

Internally and function-wise, the Q2 Monochrom is one and the same as the full-color version of the Q2 Monochrom. Being monochrome-only, there are fewer menus to scroll through, but, otherwise, if you’ve shot with a Leica Q or Q2, you’ll have a zero learning curve. And if you’ve never shot with a digital Leica, you’ll find the Leica menus to be among the most user-friendly in the industry.

The heart of the Q2 Monochrom is a full-frame 47.3MP CMOS sensor that, while similar to the sensor found in the standard Leica Q2, features a new micro-lens design and does not have a color array or low-pass filter.

The new Q2 Monochrom is ideal for street shooting and travel.
The new Q2 Monochrom is ideal for street shooting and travel.

Unlike conventional color sensors in which individual pixels record specific color channels, which reduces the overall resolving power of the sensor, every pixel in Monochrom sensors is dedicated to recording only grayscale, which greatly increases the resolution and detail of the final image. This also increases the dynamic range of the sensor compared to the dynamic range of the standard Q2 (13 stops vs 11 stops on standard Q2 at ISO 200). Eliminating the color array also expands the sensitivity of the sensor from ISO 100 to 100,000, which is a stop higher than the Q2.

The range of tonality combined with incredible detail separates Leica’s line of Monochrom cameras from the black-and-white conversions you get from conventional RGB sensors.
The range of tonality combined with incredible detail separates Leica’s line of Monochrom cameras from the black-and-white conversions you get from conventional RGB sensors.

Aside from the new monochrome sensor, the Q2 Monochrom shares all of the features and specs of the Q2, including a choice of JPEG, DNG (raw), or a combination of the two; burst rates up to 10 fps; DCI and UHD 4K video, as well as high-speed Full HD at 120 fps recording; optical image stabilization; and a leaf shutter with flash sync at speeds up to 1/500 second for all you fill-flash enthusiasts. And to facilitate sharing your pictures on social media, the Q2 Monochrom is Bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled.

Being a black-and-white-only camera, you won’t find any color settings in the camera’s menus, but you will find Sepia, Blue, and Selenium toning filters for adding a bit of mood and atmosphere to your stills and videos.

The tones captured by the Q2 Monochrom are absolutely lifelike.

The Q2 Monochrom is compatible with all of its sister ship accessories, along with a few new toys of its own. New for the Q2 Monochrom is a Q2 Monochrom Handgrip (highly recommended if I may say so myself!) and three 49mm black-and-white filters: green, orange, and yellow.

So how does the new 47MP Q2 Monochrom stack up against the 40MP M10 Monochrom? Interestingly, according to initial tests (as well as my own test comparisons), the dynamic range of the files is quite close, but the files from the Q2 Monochrom have a slight edge when it comes to resolution. It’s not a major difference, but a difference, nonetheless.

Leica Q2 Monochrom Sample Images

The new Leica Q2 Monochrom should be available at B&H as you read this. Are you a fan of black-and-white photography? Have you had an opportunity to try any of Leica’s Monochrom cameras? If so, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject in the Comments section, below.

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20 Comments

Marketing madness at its finest! a sucker is born every minute!

I was skeptical at first of not having the ability to change lenses, but after watching the presentation I really appreciate what they've done. I would be curious though to see what portraits looked like. I do like the expanded dynamic range and range of tonality that you just cannot get from a color sensor. That remains unique to Leica, as far as I know. I still love my M-A typ 127's though. Those will be buried with me, along with some Tri-X ;-)

ummm.....ok 

I'm confused on why someone would limit themselves to a B+W camera when it's so so easy to do this in post. $6k for a handicapped camera seems insane. 

It's not a 'handicapped' camera if Black & White is in fact what you're looking for. Using a Black & White only camera let's you skip the process of conversion. It removes the distraction of colour, letting you focus (pun intended) on Black & White. Limitations can make your workflow and vision much clearer. 

I've never really been much of a still photographer, but in the first few decades of professional color videocameras, the viewfinders were black&white (may still be). Composition seemed easier-especially in the split-second moments of electronic news gathering. Later, when I took up still photography, b&w seemed more expressive. I needed the limitation to climb down from all the hyper-vigilance of ENG. From a distance, I endorse Marc's statement.

I want to echo what Marc K. said. B&W photography is fascinating and can be highly addictive. You can ask Ansel Adams or Clyde Butcher in the Florida everglades. MAy professional photographers consider color a distraction.

This sensor is uniquely designed for B&W. It will give you a dynamic range you can't otherwise get. If you want the option of color, then it's definitely a non-starter. But for some one like me who can live quite happily with an expanded tonal range in BW, this might be an economical alternative to an M10 Monochrom.

Hey Chris!  I can definitely understand your confusion over something that seems trivial.  There is an important distinction here if you read up in the description where it explains the mechanics of how this cameras captures images vs a color camera...  The long of the short is that, because this camera doesn't need to support color,  its dedicated sensors are able to capture a much higher fidelity image then its color counter part.  So while it seems like a simple thing,  just flipping a color image grey scale would be inferior to what this camera would deliver.

Too much money for a limited lens camera

It’s a ridiculous price. Leica claim it can capture 13 stops of dynamic range and that is 2 stops more than the color variant. Flipping the color off on an A7RIV would provide a higher resolution and dynamic range, also without an A.A. filter, and with the ability to change lenses (along with a whole host of other features not found in the Leica) for 2 grand less. So, since color science is out, and resolution is very average for the day, and dynamic range if anything is a bit poorer than other less expensive offerings....am I missing something?

You should definitely stick to Sony, and then ponder why this camera will be difficult to find, anywhere. 

It'll be difficult to find because of limited production (compared to more mass-market cameras) and because Leica fan boys will gobble them up to add to their collection of eye candy.

Actually, you can't compare the resolutions.  You do gain a lot here.  His 4x5 comparison is not far off.  The Sony has to dedicate a third each of it's pixels to RGB each respectively.  This one doesn't.  So a Sony would need triple the resolution to compete.  I own Sony, Leica, Nikon, Mamiya and Fuji by the way.  And my next purchase will be a Sony, so no bias here.  But simply switching off the color on a Sony won't do the same thing.

actually one fourth-RGBG, so 47 Mp vs 12 Mp

Buying this camera means you have a lot of disposable income but not much anything else. I own a Canon 5DsR and the legendary 85mm f/1.2 AND can rival or exceed anything that toy can capture.

Ooooh. Intimidating. 

You can buy a VW to get from point A to point B.  Or you could buy a Porsche for 5 times as much money.  Both are well made, dependable vehicles, but one is decidedly more interesting, more performance based, and more niche than the other.  Does that make buying a Porsche a stupid decision or buying a VW the sign of a cheapskate?  No. Each serves a purpose and a particular market.  In the hands of an artist the Q Monochrom will be a specialized tool and those shooters will get why in many ways it is a superior product.  BTW, people don't buy Rolex watches because they tell time better than a Seiko.  Maybe they want something that is more like a piece of jewelry or that is an investment. And to some degree of course it's about having something not everyone else can have.  My spouse may not be "better" than yours, but I certainly don't want you to have mine. Nothing wrong with that a little exclusivity.  But that sensor in the Q2 Mono really can do things a Canon or Sony or full spectrum Leica can not.  The extra cost, though, is also for other things like the incredible optics (basically a $4000+ piece of glass), robust build, refined styling, and esoteric qualities that not everyone can appreciate or afford.  And I've owned the legendary 85mm L 1.2 twice.  It produces a very unique look, but it's NOT an incredibly sharp lens and it suffers from terrible CA, especially on backlit subjects.  The newer 85mm L 1.4 is a better lens.  Who would be foolish enough to pay $400 more for an inferior lens?  ; )     See what I did there?  Buy what YOU want and shoot with it.  But judging others because they can afford something expensive (relative to your budget) or because they like what it offers just seems like jealously or ironically kind of like a snob.

Most dedicated deep space astrophotography cameras come usually in two versions: one-shot color and monochrome. All monochrome cameras cost ALWAYS more than the one-shot color ones. For any astrophotographer it is a well know fact that monochrome cameras are superior cameras and the one-shot color cameras are the "handicapped" ones. The reasons are well explained by other posts here. So much for "handicapped". Just sayin!

Additionally, monochrome cameras are not just more expensive, they demand from astrophotographers way more knowledge and about 3x-4x more work than the one-shot color cameras! Because instead of taking one shot (hence the name one-shot color) they need to take for every image 3-4 shots, i.e. per image. Very often to get a great deep space image they are taking 15 minute exposures per image and then making 30 or 40 images to stack them. All that times 3-4 per image. Then, its way more work in post etc. Plus they need expensive color filters and filter wheels and software to control all that. Why all that extra time, effort and cost to get one image? They want to achieve the best images they can get. And that is shooting monochrome to begin with. Just sayin!

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