The Leica Q2 Monochrom, or why not to get into Leica

I’m a Leica fan. I like photography, but am not generally so serious about it that I need regular access to 50 knobs and dials found on a mirrorless from Canon or Nikon. Leica’s perfected a specific brand of enthusiast camera with all the right features (full frame, fast lenses, compact body, weather sealing) but unique in their minimal design, with easy access to just the most critical buttons and dials. Their products are beautifully built and designed, and feel solid and durable in your hands.

But, I’m also a Leica hater. Late last year they released the Leica Q2 Monochrom. It’s identical the original Leica Q2 which came out in early 2019, except with a restricted sensor that shoots only black and white. There are some claims of improved dynamic range and low light performance, but comparison shots seems to show that the difference is pretty nominal, if any.

If waiting two years for the same camera with a reduced feature set wasn’t bad enough already, Leica also went ahead and bumped the price another thousand bucks from an already high $4,995 to an eye-popping $5,995. So to re-iterate: same camera less a feature. Original Q2 still for sale. A thousand dollars more expensive.

The original Leica Q2.
The original Leica Q2.
The new(-ish) Leica Q2 Monochrom. Same thing, minus a red dot, and all black and white.
The new(-ish) Leica Q2 Monochrom. Same thing, minus a red dot, and all black and white.

I’m begrudgingly forced to admit that their seemingly self-defeating pricing and product strategies work so well because they know their audience. Of course the cameras are overpriced, but Leica’s not selling to moderate-income enthusiasts or pros. They’re aiming squarely at a segment of well-moneyed hobbyists who are willing to pay a lot to get a little, in the form of small improvements in quality and UI simplicity.

A lot of the photography review industry is complicit in hyping their products, even when they know they’re not particularly good buys. They make money through affiliate links, and are hugely incentivized to sell Leicas to people who can afford one. The complicity varies from mild dishonesty where reviewers aren’t as critical as they should be, all the way up to very bald-faced disingenuity where they sell the cameras as the best thing since the invention of film.

Luckily, there are so many product reviewers out there nowadays that you can find honest ones. I found this Youtube review quite balanced, concluding reluctantly that the Q2 Monochrom is not worth it compared to the original.

Leica Q2 and Q2 Monochrom comparison. The original also has a monochrome mode.
Leica Q2 and Q2 Monochrom comparison. The original also has a monochrome mode.

Some people might compare Leica to the Apple of cameras, but it’s not a fair comparison because although the products of both companies share a high price tag, Apple’s product quality is generally head and shoulders over competitors, and the relative price premium is nowhere near as high. A better comparison is Bang & Olufsen, who make high-end designer electronics which although are only nominally better than the competition, sell at markups two orders of magnitude higher.

Still, I thought about it. I love my original Q and would love a weatherproofed version (and with a few other quality of life improvements), but just can’t do it.

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The Leica Q2 Monochrom, or why not to get into Leica

Published
February 20, 2021

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