Leica Q2 Monochrom Viewfinder
I think that one of the best features of the Leica Q2 Monochrom is the EVF. Unlike the Leica M10 Monochrom, the EVF gives you the ability to preview an image before you press the shutter button. This is really helpful at times when you are not sure if an image would work in black and white. This not only helps with composition but with the exposure settings as well as the EVF gives you a representation of the overall exposure and you can quickly check your highlights and shadows and make sure you are happy with the exposure settings. From my brief amount of time with the Leica Q2 Monochrom sensor, protecting your highlights seems to be extremely important. You have almost no ability to recover overexposed areas of an image so you need to make sure you get your exposure correct. With a Leica M10 Monochrom, you would either have to use the backscreen and check the exposure before you click the shutter button or you would have to chimp afterward.
With these monochrome sensors from Leica, it is far better to underexpose an image than it is to blow the highlights and the Leica Q2M EVF means I can shoot the camera in aperture priority and use exposure compensation to control the exposure and protect my highlights as I am getting realtime feedback in the EVF. This is fantastic. It is exactly why I started to use EVF cameras at work as well. The electronic viewfinders are fantastic with helping you see an image before you take it but not all EVF’s are created equal. My first EVF experience was with the original Fujifilm X100 and it was ok in the day but unusable at night. I avoid all mirrorless cameras for years because of how bad the EVF was in the original Fujifilm X100. It took the Fujifilm XT1 to change my mind on EVF’s but I still had my doubts about them when shooting in low-light environments.
It was the Nikon Z6 EVF that convinced me that the technology was finally ready to be used in all environments and it is the Nikon Z6 EVF that I will compare to the Leica Q2 Monochrom.
In normal lighting conditions, The Leica Q2 Monochrom is fantastic. Seeing an image in black and white before shooting, helps so much in composition and it also helps train your eye. It helps you learn what type of shot will work in black and white and what type of shots will not work. This provides you with an immediate feedback loop and if you are new to shooting black and white, this is fantastic. When I started shooting black and white with film, there would be times at the beginning where I would take a shot, not knowing if the image would work out and it would take some time before I got the film developed and got back images to review and learn from. This how most people who started on film learned. The feedback loop of reviewing your images and making corrections took a long time to complete. Using an EVF speeds up that process and helps you develop your eye much faster. The fact that the EVF shows you a monochrome picture, allows you to ignore color in your composition as well. Color can be very distracting at times.
A weakness that all early EVF’s had was lag. Thankfully most cameras have solved that problem in good light. The Leica Q2 Monochrom EVF is fantastic in good light. It is butter smooth with no lag at all. At night, a lot of EVF struggle with lag, and the Leica Q2 Monochrom is no exception here. My Nikon Z6 EVF is perfect in the dark, there is no lag which is why I use it at work now, but shooting the Leica Q2 Monochrom at night is not as good of an experience. There is lag and while that lag would not affect the type of photography I plan to do with the camera, if you were to try and shoot moving subjects at night, such as street photography, you would struggle with the lag. My best guess is that the Leica Q2 Monochrom EVF is on par with the Fujifilm XT1 EVF with regards to lag when shooting in the dark. That means it is usable but you will not enjoy the experience. I will say I was very disappointed with the Leica Q2 Monochrom EVF the first time I used it at night.
But the Leica Q2 Monochrom does have a trick up its sleeve to help out in this situation. The EVF has a boost mode in the menus’ which increases the frame rate of the EVF from 60 to 100. This significantly improves the EVF and makes the image in the EVF butter-smooth during good lighting situations and acceptable in low light situations. Even with the boost mode turned on for the EVF, it is not up to the Nikon Z6 EVF standard but it is significantly better than any of my Fujifilm cameras that I have used before. This is great but it does come at a cost, and that cost is the battery life. The Leica Q2 Monochrom battery life is not great with the EVF set to the normal 60 frames setting and changing to the boosted 100 frames in the EVF, the battery life is terrible. With only using the standard EVF settings, I got around 210 photos before I had to recharge the battery. This was not great but I did update the firmware on the battery and I chimped a lot while taking test images. So I was happy with it. Setting the Leica Q2 Monochrom to the boosted EVF, I only got 158 photos before I needed to recharge the battery. This is extremely low and I can understand why Leica leaves the EVF in the low 60 frames per second option as the default.
I don’t really want to get too much into battery life in this blog post because I have ordered a second battery so I can test to see if my results are the same with a new battery. Maybe my battery is faulty and not holding its charge. Once I have shot on the new battery, if my results are different, I will come and update this blog post to reflect that, but if I have not updated this blog post, then it means I got roughly the same results.
So where does this leave us with regards to the Leica Q2 Monochrom, well I think the EVF in boosted mode is great but I think the hit to battery life is unacceptable. So I will be shooting the Leica Q2 Monochrom in the standard 60 frames per second in normal light and I will manually switch the camera over to the boosted setting in the evening. This way I should be able to squeeze more images out of the camera. Unfortunately, Leica Q2 Monochrom batteries are extremely expensive so I cant order 3 or 4 batteries and carry them around with me. Usually, battery life does not matter much with the smaller mirrorless cameras because I can buy a couple of batteries and carry them around with me but the batteries for the Leica Q2 Monochrom are extremely expensive.
I guess how you will feel about the EVF on the Leica Q2 Monochrom, will depend on how you shoot and what type of photography you do. If you shooting mostly in good light, then the EVF will be fantastic for you. If you shoot at night, then lag could be an issue for you with moving subjects unless you use the boosted mode. So a street photographer shooting at night would need the boosted mode. Luckily I am not a street photographer. I plan to mostly use the Leica Q2 Monochrom as a replacement film camera and most of my shooting will be landscapes and cityscapes. I also think that toggling between the normal EVF mode and the boost mode is not a big deal. Overall I would say that the EVF is great and it is the second-best EVF that I have ever used. If it sounds like I am slightly disappointed with the Leica Q2 Monochrom, I am not but I do want to give accurate information. A lot of the information that I read about the Leica Q2 and the Leica Q2 Monochrom was absolutely fabricated by some fanboys and this not want any photographer needs when trying to make a decision on a camera. Personally, I am very happy with my purchase of the Leica Q2 Monochrom so far but I need many more months with the camera before I could even dream of giving the camera a review
I forgot to talk about the sensor that switches between the EVF and the LCD screen. This is really good with the Leica Q2 Monochrom and switches between the two very quickly. I have never had to wait for the camera to catch up with me. When the Leica Q2 Monochrom EVF is raised up to my eye, the EVF is one and the camera is ready to shoot. This is significantly better than any mirrorless camera I have used before. I would say that this switching between the EVF and the LCD screen is way faster than the Nikon Z6. The second issue that I have found with the EVF is something strange and I have never seen this on any camera before. If you are displaying the histogram in the EVF, there is a reflection of the histogram in the opposite corner of the EVF. This would not be an issue the EVF was in color but when shooting a monochrome image, having a white histogram reflecting in the EVF is very distracting. I have never seen this type of reflection before but I guess it might be caused by the glass plate that protects the EVF screen. Maybe an eyecup for the Leica Q2 Monochrom would help with this I am not sure if one even exists right now and I doubt I would order one as I don’t particularly like using a camera with an eyecup on it. I am still testing the battery issue with the boosted EVF setting but it will be a few days before I would be able to update this blog again.