Leica Q2 Monochrom Vs Ricoh GR iii
We have just gone back into lockdown here in China so while I am stuck at home, I figured that I would compare the Leica Q2 Monochrom and the Ricoh GR iii as they both have a similar field of view with their lenses and might be of interest by some people who are looking for a fixed lens compact camera system. But I better preface this with a warning. I looked a the Leica Q2 and the Ricoh GR iii at the beginning of 2021 and I choose the Ricoh GR iii over the Leica Q2 for a number of reasons. But now that I have a Leica Q2 Monochrom, I can compare a number of different things between the two cameras, not just the sensor. Although a sensor is now the heart and soul of any camera, there are a number of other factors that can make or break a camera. For this quick comparison, I will look at the following things
- Viewfinder / LCD screen
- Battery life
These seven aspects will cover most of the differences between the Leica Q2 Monochrom and the Ricoh GR iii but it will also be useful for people who are looking at buying either the Leica Q2 or the Ricoh GR iii.
The sensors on the Leica Q2 Monochrom and the Ricoh GR iii are completely different from each other in many different aspects, not just the obvious fact that the Leica Q2 Monochrom is a monochrome camera. When looking at these two sensors, you have to keep in mind that the Leica Q2 Monochrom is a full-frame sensor with no color array built into it. The Ricoh GR iii is an APS-C sensor so this should immediately give you some hints to the camera’s low light abilities. Most full-frame sensors will outperform a smaller sensor in the dark. While I can’t speak for the Leica Q2, I can say that the Leica Q2 Monochrom is a beast in low light. I have never seen any camera come close to the abilities that this camera has in low-light. I have gotten usable results from ISO 25000, which is insane. The Ricoh GR iii is not a great camera to use once the light gets a little low. Personally, I would never shoot the Ricoh GR iii over ISO 2500. Even at ISO 2500, the image is going to be extremely noisy and it will need to be correct in your post-processing.
Luckily both cameras have in-body stabilization built into them, which is very useful when shooting in the dark. You can handhold some very slow shutter speeds and get images that are sharp. I would say that on average, the Ricoh GR iii has a much better stabilization system compared to the Leica. I have gotten consistently sharp results with shutter speeds of around half a second. The Leica Q2 Monchrom seems to be good until you get around the 1/4, at which point the images will start to get a little soft from camera movement.
If you look at the resolutions of the two cameras, clearly the Leica Q2 Monochrom has a huge advantage with nearly double the resolution. The Leica Q2 Monochrome has a 47.3 Megapixel sensor which is a massive amount of resolution but that is enhanced by the monochrome sensor which gives the perception of greater resolution, while the Ricoh GR iii has a 24-megapixel sensor. I would usually say that 24-megapixels is the perfect sweet spot for image resolution and I have never had any reason to go bigger than 24-megapixels but with these single-lens cameras, resolution can become important. Both cameras offer a crop mode, which allows you to digitally zoom into 35mm, 50mm, and 75mm for the Leica Q2 Monochrom. This is where the greater amount of resolution really helps the Leica Q2 Monochrom. On the Ricoh, I would sometimes use the 35mm crop as you don’t lose too much resolution but I tended to avoid the 50mm crop option as you lost too much information with such a big crop. The beast that is the Leica Q2 Monochrom(and I am sure it is the same for the Leica Q2), cropping to 35mm and 50mm is no problem. 75mm gives the same problem as the Ricoh GR iii but having the option to crop into 35mm and 50mm is really handy at times. What is important to remember is that this is not a zoom. You are just cropping into the actual image, but the field of view stays exactly the same. This is no different than cropping into an image during your post-processing. The one nice thing about the Leica Q2 Monochom raw files is the fact that you can adjust the crop or undo it while doing the post-processing. The crop will only be permanent in the Jpeg. I strongly recommend that you shoot Raw+jpeg on the Leica Q2 Monochrom as this allows you to chimp the image that you just shot with the crop being visible otherwise you will just get the uncropped raw file on the back of the LCD screen.
The one obvious advantage the Ricoh GR iii will have over the Leica Q2 Monochrom is color. Seems pretty obvious but it needs to be said that sometimes color is better than black and white. I love shooting in black and white for most things, but a black and white photo can never really capture the magnificence of a sunrise or sunset. See the example below.
I was shooting downtown one evening after some rain and I noticed the light and color in the sky, I first took a shot with the Leica Q2 Monochrom but I really liked the color in the sky so I quickly took a snapshot with the Ricoh GR iii.
Color does have its place in my shooting and having a color sensor is very handy at times but my heart belongs to black and white photography and this is where the Leica Q2 Monochrom really shines for me.
Viewfinder / LCD Screen
Well, this seems like an easy win for the Leica Q2 Monochrom as it has an EVF. The EVF is okay-ish on the Leica Q2 but not the best EVF on the market. While the Ricoh GR iii has no viewfinder. While that is technically true, I do you an external viewfinder with the Ricoh GR iii when I need one. Sometimes when shooting outside in direct sunlight, it is nearly impossible to see the LCD screen, using an external viewfinder in the hot shoe really does help with the Ricoh GR iii. A camera with an EVF is the future of photography, there is no doubt about that, as they make getting your exposure fairly easy and allows you to preview a shot before you take it. So no doubt, the Leica is superior to the Ricoh GR iii in every way here. The LCD screen is pretty much a tie though. Both support touch and do a good job if you want to shoot from the LCD screen or view the menu system.
The Leica Q2 Monochrom and the Ricoh GR iii both have a 28mm lens which is why I was drawn to both cameras. I personally hate the 35mm focal length now as I would not have bought both cameras if they had a 35mm lens attached to them like a Fuji X100. It was the focal length of the lens that was important to me when I was looking at these cameras. But you need to remember that the Leica is a true 28mm lens shot from a full-frame sensor while the Ricoh GR iii is a 28mm equivalent lens shot from an APS-C lens. This will affect the depth of field in your shooting. If you want to shoot stopped down with everything in focus, the Ricoh GR iii will be the much better option, but if you are looking to play around with the depth of field and get some bokeh in your shot, then the Leica Q2 Monochrom is the perfect choice for you. Most of my black and white shooting is stopped down. I usually shoot my film cameras stopped down to F8 mostly to help me with the focusing but I also prefer more details in my shoots with film so having more depth of field is important to me. If we look at the quality of the lenses, both of them are good, but… The Leica lens is beautiful. It is sharp wide open and even stopping the lens down, does little to improve what is already great. Leica’s reputation for great lens is well deserved. I am not sure if this is true or not, but I have read a lot of blog posts that state that the 28mm lens on the Leica Q2 / Q2M is sharper than the 28mm lens that you can buy for the M cameras. The Ricoh GR iii lens is sharp at f2.8 but it does improve slightly around f4. But one thing that I did notice with the Ricoh GR iii, is that you don’t want to really shoot above F8 as diffraction sets in at around f11. So the Ricoh GR iii is the best shot from wide open up to f8. Both lenses on the cameras are nice and I have no complaints about them but the Leica is clearly the better lens. It is faster and generally sharper. I am not sure if the Leica Q2 Monochrom is the sharpest 28mm lens that I own but since I am in lockdown right now, I might do a comparison of all my 28mm lens soon.
This is a difficult section to write as both cameras have good autofocus but the Ricoh GR iii does have the snap focus option which is much faster than any autofocus system on any camera system ever produced. In good light, both The Leica Q2/Q2M will nail focus fairly quickly. Not as fast as my Nikon work cameras but the difference between them is almost irrelevant in today’s age. All cameras have good autofocus in good light. There are no more dogs out there when it comes to autofocusing cameras. When the light gets a little dark, things do change a bit. The Leica Q2/ Q2M can hunt a little in very dark conditions but it still manages to lock focus on a subject. I can’t recall a single image that was out of focus with the Leica Q2/Q2M when I was controlling the focus point. The Ricoh GR iii has hunted a lot in the dark and I have had occasions where I was not able to get focus on an object. But the great equalizer is snap focusing. Snap focus is basically zone focusing done with a digital system. It works incredibly well and it is perfect for snapshots on the street. I think this is one of the reasons why the Ricoh GR iii is so popular with street photographers. Both cameras offer face-tracking but to be honest, they both suck at it. I don’t really like to use face tracking, I like to be in control of the focal point and decide what should be in focus, so face-tracking is not important to me and I never use it on any of my cameras.
The Leica Q2/Q2M and the Ricoh GR iii can be used to manually focus on a subject if you need to, but the Leica Q2/Q2M manual focus system is far better. But both systems have more than adequate autofocus systems so I doubt that many people would want to manually focus the camera. The one place where manual focus is good to have is when using either one of these cameras in macro mode. Controlling your depth of field manually when you are shooting a subject from close up is much easier when you are manually focusing. If you need or want to use manual focus, the Leica Q2/Q2M is clearly leagues ahead of the Ricoh GR iii in this regard. The Leica lens manually focuses very smoothly and the finger tab on the lines makes it feel very natural. Both cameras use focusing peaking to help you get focus but it is much more difficult to focus manually on the Ricoh GR iii and I avoid it as much as possible.
It is hard to compare the handling of these two cameras because they are really made for different kinds of photography in my opinion. The Ricoh GRiii is a tiny pocketable camera that you can take with you where ever you go. Although the Ricoh GR iii is tiny and is fairly light, it is not perfect in the hand, to be honest. I found that I have no place to rest my thumb when shooting and I had to buy a thumbs-up attachment to make the camera more comfortable when shooting. Especially when shooting from the LCD screen, it is very uncomfortable to use without a thumbs-up adapter. The Leica Q2/Q2M is a much larger camera in comparison and is substantially heavier. You are not going to be able to fit the Leica Q2/Q2M into any pocket, you will need a bag or a camera strap to take the camera out with you. The Leica Q2/Q2M feels great in the hand, and you have no need for thumbs-up attachment with this camera but it is not exactly “grip friendly” either. I was consistently worried that I would drop the camera and my fingers that wrap around the body did not have a good place to grab. I eventually bought a grip for the Leica Q2/Q2M and that helped a lot. So overall I would say though that the Leica body is slightly better when it comes to ergonomics but both the Leica Q and Ricoh GR iii will need some extra attachments to feel great in the hand.
In my previous blog posts, I have complained about the Leica camera menu’s and I will still maintain that Leica has to be one of the worst cameras when it comes to menu design. But I have to say that the Quick menu that you get when you hit the menu button is very nice on the Leica Q2 system. It works well with the touch screen and you can change a lot of the camera settings with it. The real problem with the Leica Q2 Monochrom menus happens when you go deeper into the main menu system. The menus are not well organized, there is strange terminology used that no other manufacturer uses and it takes a while to sort through the menus to find what you are looking for. The only camera system that has a worse menu system has to be Sony. The Ricoh GR iii has a far more robust and complex menu system compared to the Leica Q2 Monochrom but the menu layout is far more logical and easy to navigate. The Ricoh GR iii is an extremely customizable camera and there are menu settings for almost everything you can customize but it is easy to navigate and understand. I by far prefer the menu system of the Ricoh GR iii but that should not be such a surprise though. I personally think that Pentax has consistently had the best menu systems out of all the digital cameras so there is no doubt in my mind that some of that expertise was used with the Ricoh GR iii. The saving grace for the Leica is the quick menu system. In the beginning, when I first got the Leica Q2 Monochrom, I skipped past the quick menu and went straight to the main menu, but that is a mistake in my opinion. The main menu is terrible and you can avoid using it and just do most of your camera adjustments with the quick menu. The software in the Leica Q2 Monochrom is very frustrating, to be honest with you. The mechanical aspects and the over design of the camera is beautiful but the software is horrible. The two design philosophies of the mechanical camera and the software UI just don’t mix well together which makes me believe that Leica must have outsourced the software design to another company because the design language of those two systems is completely different.
The poor software design in the Leica Q2 Monochrom continues with the connectivity of the camera and connecting the camera to your phone or tablet computer using Bluetooth and wifi. Both the Ricoh GR iii and the Leica Q2 Monochrom have the ability to connect to your mobile device with their respected apps. The Ricoh GR iii connects and pairs up with your device fairly quickly and you can download the images off the camera or control the camera with the app. The Leica Q2 Monochrom app offers the same features but omg, it is so slow to get it to connect. It would be faster for me to take out the SD card, boot up my PC or tablet, copy the files onto the device than have the Leica Fotos app do the connection between the two devices. It is ridiculous how bad the Leica Q2 Monochrom software system really easy. It is actually better to shoot with a wifi SD card than use the Leica connectivity system. Without a doubt, this is the worst implementation for connectivity I have ever seen on a camera system. I used to think that my Nikon Snapbridge was bad, but the Leica is clearly the champ of bad software design and implementation. How a simple wifi SD card can outperform such an expensive camera system is beyond me.
If there was an Achilles hill that both cameras have in common, it would be its battery life. Both cameras have terrible battery life. I get around the same number of shots with both cameras. But the battery in the Ricoh GR iii is tiny compared to the Leica Q2 Monochrom so it hardly seems like a fair comparison. I usually take a spare battery with the Leica Q2 Monochrom when I go out shooting but I tend to take a handful of batteries for the Ricoh GR iii and dump them in my camera bag and leave them permanently there. The Ricoh GR ii batteries are so small and cheap so you can easily take as many batteries with you as you need. I do wish that the battery performance was better on both cameras, to be honest with you especially with the Leica Q2 Monochrom as the camera is so much fun to use, but battery life is always something you have to be aware of and you need to monitor the battery all the time.
So which camera is better? Well in this very quick and dirty comparison, it is very hard to declare a definitive winner. Both cameras have their own strength and weaknesses. If you shoot black and white, the Leica Q2 Monochrom wins hands down. There is no question about that. But if you need color, then it gets more interesting. If I had to pick between the Ricoh GR iii and a normal Leica Q2, I think I would actually go for the Ricoh GR iii. The biggest advantage the Leica Q2 Monochrom has over the Ricoh GR iii is the sensor and the crazy ISO abilities that it gives you. But take away that advantage and then both cameras are on more even footing. At that point, the price would come into the equation and I would pick the Ricoh GR iii, which is what I actually did at the beginning of this year. I purchased the Leica Q2 Monochrom out of frustration with the current state of film photography in China right now. I really enjoy shooting in Black and White but I simply can’t get undamaged film at the moment in China so I ended up with a monochrome camera. But over the last few weeks with the Leica Q2 Monochrom, I have started to think that the Ricoh GR iii and the Leica Q2 Monochrom work great together as a pair. They both have the same focal length, and the Ricoh GR iii is small enough to be easy to cram into any camera bag that I want to take out with me. Both cameras work well together for me and I would not replace the Ricoh GR iii with a normal Leica Q2. Without the monochrome sensor, the Leica Q2 has very little interest to me and the Ricoh GR iii is a much more sensible camera to own and use.
As I slowly write these blog posts, I am starting to realize that I have a love/hate relationship with the Leica Q2 Monochrom. I love using the camera, I love the images I get off the sensor and the lens, but I dread each and every single time I have to go into the main menus. I have always been curious about the Leica M cameras but my experience with the Leica Q2 Monochrom has made me very hesitant to try an M camera now. Perhaps the Leica M10-D would be interesting to use as there is no LCD screen so I don’t have to worry about the menu system but then I guess I would have to use the horrible Leica Fotos app to change settings and that is just as bad. I know Leica is a small company and they simply don’t have the budgets of the big Japanese camera manufacturers but getting software right on a digital camera is very important in the modern area of photography. Hopefully, the Leica M11 would be much better in this regard and it would be of more interest to me in the future.