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Leica Q vs Sony RX1rII - My in depth impressions

I\'ve gotten a number of messages asking about my thoughts on the Leica Q having come from the RX1 and A7 series so I thought it might be on interest to share them here with everyone. After the RX1rII stopping being available to purchase new, I went ahead and bought the Q (got a good deal on a used one) on a leap of faith, after the opportunity to shoot with a rental RX1rII for a few days. It was a bit of a gamble as I was going to also rent the Q, but that would of added a few hundred dollars for the rental fee\'s, and the deal on the used Q certainly would of been gone, so crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

To cut to the chase; its a simply fantastic camera!

Now I\'m not going to fill this post with comparison photos, edge crops etc. You can find plenty of that on the web, but really, that doesn\'t tell you much about actually shooting these cameras. Both can produce great files, but they are worlds different in shooting experience, and looking at images really isn\'t going to tell you that, so I\'m going to try to focus a bit more on what it was like actually using them, though I will say I\'d suggest trying to rent one or both.

AF and MF experience...

First and foremost the biggest difference is AF; the Q AF is fast and I\'m talking m4/3 Panasonic fast, which makes sense given they designed it. Set it to touch AF and anywhere you touch on the LCD the camera instantly focuses on, even in low indoor light. Its probably the fastest focusing camera I\'ve ever owned, at least for AF-S. The RX1rII (hereon out called the RX2 as its easier to type) is pretty good in decent light, and feels faster than the original, but indoors it really slowed down, and also wasn\'t that accurate even when it confirmed focus. Better than the original by a mile, but man... in anything but good daylight its a night and day difference between them, and really that was the main thing that swayed me to the Q.

Q has some odd implementations for its AF though in some modes. In the point AF mode, you can use the d-pad on the back to move the AF box around anywhere on the screen. You don\'t need to double tap a direction first or anything, its just always assigned moving the AF around, and works with the camera to your eye as well. Can\'t change the size of the box though which hasn\'t proven an issue, but is something I\'d like as an option.

Now in face detect mode, the camera reverts to area AF if it doesn\'t pick up a face, which is pretty common, but I do like the RX2 ability to set the camera to point AF, and then turn on eye detect/face detect via a custom button. With the Q its like the original RX1, if you want face detect, you need to have multi area AF.

Then there is touch AF, which again is a little odd....if you have the AF assigned to the shutter button when you touch the screen, the camera focuses on that point and you can take the shot. However, if you half press the shutter again it won\'t AF, you need to touch the screen again. If you have the AF on set to the back thumb button though, then it works in what I\'d call normally. You touch the screen to move the AF point around and press the back button to focus. Works great and really touch AF selection is something I really did miss on Sony cameras. Only thing I do wish it offered was the ability to use the touch screen with your eye to the EVF, but Panasonic didn\'t want to give every feature away I guess lol.

Finally, you can\'t assign a button to switch AF modes, you need to hit menu, then the AF mode option, which is just one extra button press, but I would like the ability to customize this instead of having WB or Exp Comp or File Size as the limited options.

Now it might seem like I had a lot of complaints about the AF and its limitations, and some of the implementation leaves me scratching my head, but I can deal with all of it because the AF is fast, and its accurate and that trumps all for me. The Sony\'s give you a lot of options and customization, but then in use, I got a ton of hunting and missed focus indoors with the RX2, so in the end, which is better ?

For the way I\'ve worked with the Q though, the AF modes get the job done. I normally like the AF on a back button anyways, so for me, using the LCD to move the point around and the back button to focus works perfectly, BUT, someone else might find this an issue.

Given the 28mm focal length I really don\'t find I miss eye AF either. Awesome feature for sure, but one that I really like more on a lenses like a 55/1.8 or longer. If the face is in focus, the eyes are in focus at 28mm, and honestly, I think the camera might actually be trying to focus on the eyes anyway, just not specifically telling you that it is. Again, I would prefer an option to switch to face detect on the fly like the Sony, but I\'m just as happy touching the rear LCD and putting the AF point where I want it on the face, and this works much better with animals as well. Basically for me, the face detect is for when I hand the camera off to others, at least on the Q.

One thing I didn\'t touch on is AF-C, simply because I don\'t really use it on this style of camera. The Q has a tracking AF mode like the RX2, and its also got AF-C, and it seems to work pretty well in the little time I played with it, but ultimately like any mirrorless system, its not a DSLR, and its not going to work that well, at least to my standards. Same goes for the A7rII et al., its nice to have, it can get you some keepers, but I\'ve got a nice D3s sitting on the shelf which I\'ll grab with a 70-200/2.8 when I want to shoot the dogs running around etc. I\'m just not going to use a RX2 or Q like that, so really you\'ll have to look elsewhere if you want some feedback on how either camera will work tracking the kids running around etc.

One final thought regarding the AF as well, and that is the Q lets you save all your customization in the user profiles, so if for example user 1 can be face detect with the AF assigned to the shutter, and user 2 can be touch AF with focus assigned to the back button, which makes it really easy to switch how I use the camera. I really dislike how Sony gives you a ton of customization, but then doesn\'t let you have multiple profiles for all that customization! I so wish I could have a MF optimized setup with peaking etc, and then another with eye detect etc but all the customization is global and really the user slots are near pointless.....

Finally, some peoples favorite AF mode, or lack there of.....Manual Focus. The Q pretty much nails this one, with one issue. Unlike a focus by wire setup on the RX2, the Q has a proper direct MF ring, with a real focusing scale, and its got the same feel as a M-mount lens. You just push the thumb tab on the button all the way to the right to go into AF mode. Simply brilliant, and this means you can zone focus, have your focus settings saved when the camera goes to sleep or turns off etc. If you wanted to pretend its a MF only camera and you\'ve got just a M-mount lens attached, that is exactly how it will work. Very well done and I think for some people this really will be a huge selling point.

Another area where Leica really got it right is focus peaking. It actually works the way you think it should and shows you just what is actually in sharp focus highlighted, not a vague area of relative focus like Sony provides. You can actually critically focus with it and get in focus results, how about that! . Furthermore, on the Q you can have just peaking, just a magnified view or peaking AND a magnified view. This is nice because I don\'t want/need a zoomed in view and peaking together and want peaking just with the normal view. I\'m not certain if Sony fixed this on the Rx2 or not, but on my RX1, you can only get peaking when your zoomed in, which was lame. The one issue with the Q\'s MF though is that you can\'t move the zoomed in portion around, its just in the center, which is really all I\'d ever use, but still would be nice to move it around as an option as I\'m sure some people like that.

In a way its almost ironic that the camera has such great MF ability and feel given how fast and accurate the AF is. The AF is so good that I don\'t know if I\'ll ever really use the MF, and for those who enjoy the MF experience, this camera really delivers, but then such a fantastic AF system is going to waste. Nice to have choices though right ?

To sum up, the Q has what I consider a much better overall AF system in terms of speed and accuracy than the RX2, and far more enjoyable MF experience.

To be continued....

Jan 02, 2016 at 07:32 PM

  Previous versions of millsart's message #13355571 « Leica Q vs Sony RX1rII - My in depth impressions »