Leica Q2 Review

I’m really grateful to Leica Camera for issuing me the first Q2 in China last Thursday night (they had someone deliver it to me at 10pm local time - I guess to match the global launch events). Leica releases new “full” models (as opposed to their “P”, and many custom finish and packaging versions) only every 4-5 years, so it’s always a major event in the photography world, and something I’d been looking forward ever since hearing about it at Leica Rumors.

I’ve used a Q (and recently a Q-P) as part of my regular setup along with my M’s since it was launched back in June 2015, as it is a great backup/complement to an M. Although cheaper than a Summilux-M 28mm lens, it still has a great f/1.7 lens, a light but solid magnesium-alloy body, fast auto-focus, and macro functionality. The EVF and real focus ring also allow for precise manual focusing.

The Q2 now improves on the original in many ways: higher sensor resolution (47.3 megapixels vs the original 24) - which allows for “digital focal length” (in-body crop) options of 35mm, 50mm, & 75mm, a much longer battery life (it uses the same very nice quick-release battery as the SL), weather-proofing (though my Q survived 45 deg C in the Afar Desert to minus 25 deg C in Vladivostok even without this), ISO 50-50000 (the Q had a base of 100), 10 fps, and a much clearer OLED EVF. My favorite fix is the removal of the C-Continuous shooting mode from the power-on/shutter release - I can’t tell you the number of times on the Q I accidentally had it set to C instead of S-Single mode, and ended up with numerous duplicate shots! Another great fix is the diopter-correction knob next to the EVF is now recessed, so that it won’t easily be accidentally nudged - which happened a lot with the Q in my case, requiring almost daily adjustments.

Leica Q2 vs Leica Q: Physical Comparison

I’ve posted physical comparison shots below, of the Q2 vs the original Q (almost identical, with small differences, such as a longer lens, and separate battery and SD card compartments, and a displaced thumb depression - the Q ThumbsUp is usable but doesn’t fit snugly, and my Arte Di Mano half case slips on without any problems, but of course the cut-out at the bottom for the battery compartment now doesn’t fit the new shape and location of the SL quick-release battery and SD card compartment), and also one against the M10-P.

Leica Q2 vs Leica Q: Indoor (and Enlargement) Comparison

Here are also a couple of indoors comparison shots I took using the Q2 vs the Q-P - part of my bookshelf from about 5 feet away. Both cameras were set at ISO 1600, f/8.0, 1/8 sec. The second image is the blown up portion from the center of the bookshelf image, where I attached a name card sized WhiBal grey card. As you can see, at the normal magnification it is really hard (with the naked eye) to tell the two images apart. When blown up however, you can certainly see that the Q2 image is quite a bit less fuzzy than that of the Q.

Leica Q2 Photowalk Experience and Test Images

Finally, I took the Q2 along with me on a few photowalks and while with my family this past weekend. I’ve posted a selection of the images here below. Subjectively I found the tones in the images seem to benefit from the wider dynamic range, and without too much additional noise, compared with the original Q.

In actual use I certainly found a few small differences, as pointed out above, between the Q2 and the Q. Firstly, manual focusing seemed easier, with the very sharp and responsive OLED EVF. The auto-focus seemed to be faster - even when the IR assist lamp was turned off. Although I much prefer manual focusing I have to say that the AF was really useful when I was taking that shot of our baby son - as I had to use one hand to play with him!

I did miss the dedicated ISO button on the left of the screen - as I change ISO pretty frequently for my low-light photowalks (depending on the illumination of each location). Not a big issue though, as I was able to map the middle button for ISO, but it did take a bit of getting used to. The other (small) issue is that the thumb dial is now very recessed to prevent accidental shifting - but perhaps a bit too much for my half case - as it was not so easy to flick it with my thumb while holding the camera single-handed as before. I’ve mapped zooming (for photo review) and also exposure compensation to this dial, and use it a lot, so it annoys me a little (I guess I’m going to have to contact Sejun Kim for a new half case if they can’t adjust my Q one for me). On the plus side, this thumb wheel now has a new button set within it that allows one to change its functionally on the fly.

Battery life was really much better than with the Q. Certainly felt like the 30 percent or so longer time as promised. And I really like the quick-release compartment. And with the SL battery the Q is now truly the perfect companion/backup camera for someone who already has an SL. I’m sure I’m not the only one who hopes that Leica also implement this battery system for their other cameras soon!

It was raining most of the weekend, so it was comforting to know that the camera is now weather-sealed. However I have to say I miss the nice “non-slip” feel of the matte finish on the Q-P - which I’m 100% sure is on the horizon (but maybe 3-4 years away, as per the Q-P!).

The Leica FOTOS iOS App (which allows for direct wireless transfers (and some control) with Apple devices) hasn’t been updated for the Q2 yet, so there’s currently no easy way to directly send images to your iPhone/iPad - but Leica have promised to do this by the end of this month/early next month (April 2019). One thing I am looking forward to is potentially faster transfer times with the new Bluetooth functionality - which is the main gripe I have with using Lightroom Mobile on my iPad/iPhone before this!

Speaking of (Adobe) Lightroom - you’ll be glad to hear that RAW processing for the Q2 files went without a hitch. Of course, given that the files are up to 88mb each (up from the original Q’s 45mb ones) import and processing times are a tad longer now (this might justify a computer or hard drive upgrade, or both).

Conclusion

In summary I really do think Leica have cemented the Q’s position as the leading choice for photographers who want a full-frame, weather-sealed, all-in-one camera that can do double-duty as an extremely easy to use point and shoot travel/family device, and also as a camera for professional use with full manual controls. That it retains and improves upon the original’s understated and ergonomic design elegance is just icing on the cake!

The Q2 will now accompany the M10-P in my regular bag (I sold my backup M10-P yesterday). In fact, for social events and family vacations it may very well be the only camera I need to carry!

I will be posting more Q2 images over the next few days at my Instagram at @jon.she.

Shanghai / Hong Kong, China. © Jonshe 2019.

#leica #leicaq #leicaq2 #leicam10 #leicacamera #newcamera #cameragear #leicaphotography #camerareview

Exhibition at the Leica Store Gallery, Shanghai, China

If you happen to be in Shanghai, you might be interested in checking out my solo exhibition at the Leica Store in Xintiandi, which has been showing since last November. Not quite sure how long more it will be up for though! Here’re some of images from the opening and the small workshop I ran at the Capella Hotel.

New Gallery: Tencent WeChat X Leica Campaign 2018

I was delighted to be invited as one of three photographers from Mainland China to participate in the first joint campaign between Leica and Tencent WeChat (the largest social media platform in China), during the Autumn of 2018. I was given less than a week to capture new images that represented how the use of mobile phones had changed society - both in good and in not so good ways (for the final series I did use one old image from 2016). I’ve also included a video introducing the two organizations’ thoughts behind the collaboration, with some thankfully-brief cameos by yours-truly…

Strong Hearts in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has been very successful in developing its economy over the past decade, with a GDP growth rate of about 10% annually (this is double that of most of the region), despite being land-locked and without meaningful oil resources. While over half of Ethiopians lived in extreme poverty in 2000, by 2011, this figure had been reduced to about one-third - a significant achievement when one considers that the country is the second most populous on the continent, with about 100 million citizens. However, at the individual level, Ethiopia is still one of the poorest countries in the world, with a per capita income of only US$590.

As stated by the World Bank, "the main challenges for Ethiopia are sustaining positive economic growth and accelerating poverty reduction". The government is already devoting a very high share of its budget to pro-poor programs and investments, but large scale donor support will continue to be vital in the near-term to finance the levels of spending required to meet these challenges, and also the front-line efforts of government-approved independent charitable organizations that are able to channel resources appropriately.

The capital city of Addis Ababa is fortunate to have the presence of several large NGOs - the regional headquarters of the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) for example, is based here. UNICEF, US Aid, et al also have representation here. However, these "super-NGO's" typically have their hands full managing large-scale crisis situations elsewhere on the continent, so it falls to smaller local organizations to fight the day-to-day skirmishes with poverty within the city itself. I was honored to be invited by one such organization to work with them for a few days earlier this month.

From a Rubbish Dump: Love and Charity

Laborers work to build a new future, in the rubble of a landslide that killed many families that lived atop the largest garbage landfill in Ethiopia earlier this year. The "mountain" in the background is formed completely of garbage that has been collected here over the past few decades. The building atop it is a new biomass energy plant being developed to convert the organic waste to usable fuel. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. © Jon She 2017.

Strong Hearts is a government-approved independent charitable organization focused on supporting the community in the district of Kore in southwest Addis Ababa, which contains the poorest slum in the city - at and around the country's largest garbage landfill at Koshe. This area has Ethiopia's largest number of households affected by urban poverty, and also the largest number of those affected by HIV, AIDs, and leprosy. Earlier this year (2017) the landfill was the scene of one of the largest man-made disasters in recent local history, when a landslide at the massive rubbish dump reportedly killed "dozens of families", according to local residents I met there (The Guardian's and Al Jazeera's latest reports in March said the death toll had reached around 60 to 80).

In the Kore landfill slum in the poorest district of Addis Ababa, a mother has traveled hundreds of miles from her hometown in the far north of Ethiopia, to care for her son and his wife, who are both severely ill and bedridden in their one room windowless hovel.  She has herself been ill with a goitre for over twenty years.  She contemplates their immediate challenges while her son's thoughts are lost in the middle distance. Fortunately for them, the government has in recent years become more supportive of independent charitable organizations such as Strong Hearts, that work ceaselessly to give succor to the needy in the fast-growing and rapidly modernizing capital city in Africa's second-most populous nation. The mother wears a cross, a symbol of her faith - Orthodox Christianity is the most popular religion in the country, present since the ancient empire of Aksum in 300AD. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. © Jon She 2017.

Founded over ten years ago by Getinet Terferi, a visionary Baptist pastor who himself grew up in the district, Strong Hearts states as its mission statements the following:

  • Promote physical and spiritual development among marginalized and disadvantaged people to bring about holistic transformation “from the inside out” for individuals and communities.
  • Inspire hope and grace into the lives of individuals, and nurture the values of sharing, caring, self-respect, self-confidence, and community ownership.
  • Support the growth of community health awareness and assist in establishing safe environments to help communities achieve their development goals for education, health, housing, jobs creation & business development.
Under Mary's Eyes

Under Mother Mary's watchful eyes...

In the poorest slum in the poorest district of the otherwise economically booming Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, a bedridden woman contemplates her future under the loving gaze of Mother Mary - the only decorative item in her dark and windowless one room hut. Fortunately for her, the Strong Hearts Foundation, a government-supported charitable organization provides day-care for her young pre-school daughter, ensuring that the sick and poor in the city are not left-behind. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. © Jon She 2017.

Specifically, the organization, which is run by a small team of both volunteers and full-time staff, try to achieve the above by operating the following programs within the community:

  1. Education: Pre-school and primary education for the children of households affected by poverty and/or illness
  2. Day Care: Day-time child care for the children of affected households - allowing for respite for ill families, or to allow parents to work in regular jobs where possible
  3. Hospice Services: Community-based hospice programs for the sick and dying
  4. Church Services: While the religion of its "clients" are not a requirement for the provision of its services, Strong Hearts does operate a well-attended protestant church within the community, that aims to provide spiritual support

My Visit

As Getinet himself was traveling, his colleague (and brother) Amare was my host during my time with them. From the very start he was extremely open and welcoming, stating up-front that I would be given full-access to any and all of their operations.

I was very touched by the warm hospitality extended to me by some of Strong Hearts' clients. This lady and her teenage daughter welcomed me into their one room windowless shack for a cup of coffee and for shelter from the torrential rain that day. They were preparing food on the ground of the alleyway just outside their doorway. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. © Jon She 2017.

Together with Amare, and/or his colleagues, I was able to spend time with many of the children at their Day Care Center, at their school (including trying my hand at teaching an impromptu "math class"!), and also with several of their families in their homes in the Koshe slums. Unfortunately while I also visited their Pre-School it was largely empty during my time there as this was during their summer break.

A day-jobbing female laborer and her teenage daughter welcome a new feline family member to their tiny one room hut, in the poorest slum in Addis Ababa's poorest slum, situated next to the largest garbage landfill in the country.  While the city as a whole is growing very quickly, there are sub-populations (many of whom migrated to the capital city from the country's vast countryside who need financial and other assistance.  This hut, while extremely modest, would still be beyond the means of this woman, if not for the help of the Strong Hearts Foundation, a government-approved independent charitable organization, who also provided education to the daughter. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. © Jon She 2017.

I will always remember this lady and her daughter as my first hosts in this beautiful country - the first to welcome me into their home. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. © Jon She 2017.

While I do not consider myself an NGO expert by any means, I do have some experience in the management and provision of healthcare and education services, and everywhere I looked, I saw evidence of an organization that tries to do the best it can to achieve its goals despite being on a shoestring budget. Most importantly, the children I was lucky enough to interact with were as well-cared-for as one could expect, and obviously happy to be under the care of Strong Hearts. The teachers I met (although admittedly only two this time) were well-trained and enjoyed their work - I was able to get a refresher lesson in the differences between proper nouns, pronouns, and other nouns while I was in their English class! The care-givers too, clearly cared deeply for their charges, and seemed themselves appreciative of their careers with the organization.

This wonderful lady has managed to build a relatively "middle class" quality of life for herself and her two children, by weaving baskets from recycled plastic strips and selling them at a nearby market near the Kore slum. This family are not clients of Strong Hearts, but still grateful for the work that the organization does for other members of their community. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. © Jon She 2017.

Through hard work and perseverance, this strong lady has forged a (relatively) middle class existence for her two children in the slums of Kore. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. © Jon She 2017.

I have to admit that it was an emotionally disorienting experience. My time with the children, especially the infants and pre-schoolers, was extremely joyful and uplifting - except for a few tearful moments when I was "swarmed" by a number of them clinging on to me, asking to be lifted up, and calling me "abat" (Amharic for father) - as many of them were from single-mother families perhaps they found a male parental figure to be an entertaining novelty. Their happiness in having an opportunity to interact with someone as "unusual" as myself (I was possibly the first Asian person most of them had ever met) was infectious - I could have spent days just playing with them. On the other hand, my visits with some of their parents at their homes in the slums (some of whom also receive hospice services from Strong Hearts) and witnessing first-hand their many challenges, were often emotionally very draining. Having said that, with the physical, spiritual, and financial assistance provided by Getinet and his team, and together with the economic progress of Ethiopia, their futures look much more hopeful than before.

Feeding the Future. Lunch time at Strong Foundation's Day Care Center, which provides for the children of the very poor or of very sick or dying parents living in the community, the poorest slum in the city. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. © Jon She 2017.

Strong Care. One of the dedicated care-givers at Strong Heart's Day Care Center. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. © Jon She 2017.

A Strong Education. The Strong Hearts Foundation primary school, where children from the adjacent Koshe slums receive education from passionate teachers. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. © Jon She 2017.

Next Steps

God willing, I hope to continue to assist Strong Hearts to enable them to continue to provide for their community. While my short visit cannot of course be interpreted as a full due-diligence effort (e.g. with regard to their management or funding efficiencies), I can unequivocally state that I came away with ample evidence that Getinet and his team are doing some very good work, in a small but important corner of Ethiopia that might otherwise go overlooked. They are making a significant, positive difference, in the lives of dozens of families and hundreds of children every year, and who I am confident will one day contribute to building a brighter future for this amazing country.

Amare Terferi of Strong Hearts with some of "his children" - these from a special needs tuition class they conduct during the summer school break months. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. © Jon She 2017.

I would encourage any reasonable support you or your own organizations can give to Strong Hearts. Please feel free to contact them directly, or if you have any questions I could help with, send me an email (jon.she@icloud.com).  As always, you can follow my future updates on Instagram (jon.she).

Lastly I would like to again express my gratitude to Getinet and Amare Terferi and the rest of their wonderful colleagues at Strong Hearts, for their kind invitation to me to visit and work with them, and for the warm hospitality extended to me during my stay with them. I am also grateful to the children at their education and day care centers, and their families, who made me feel so welcome in Kore. I look forward to my next visit there!

Jon She. August, 2017.

A Strong church. The outside view of the church in the Kore slum operated by the Strong Hearts Foundation. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. © Jon She 2017.

Visit to F11 Foto Museum, and Dinner with Andreas & Mrs Kauffman

I'm very grateful to Leica and Douglas So for inviting me, Huang Jing, Mark Liu, and a few other photographers and enthusiasts to visit Douglas' F11 photography museum and his upcoming new project in Hong Kong yesterday. We also had the opportunity to chat with Leica Chairman Dr Andreas and Mrs Kauffman over dinner. For photography enthusiasts, F11 is a must-see! It is a beautifully restored 5-storey heritage building in Happy Valley housing an incredible collection of vintage cameras, photography books, and prints. The current exhibition is of Werner Bischof's work in Hong Kong in the 1950's. Douglas’ new project nearby is even more impressive! Since it is still a work-in-progress (he plans to open later this year) I will only share a few images of parts of the amazing interior design already circulating on the Internet, perhaps to act as teasers! Suffice to say, I believe it will address the needs of photography enthusiasts at the very highest end of the market, not just for Hong Kong, but also for mainland China and Asia! Thank you Douglas and Leica Asia/China (Jane Cui and Siegmund Sudek)!

F11 Foto Museum
Website: http://f11.com
11 Yuk Sau Street, Happy Valley, Hong Kong

If you like, you can follow my Instagram for more frequent updates.

My "Neon Taxi" Photo in LFI!

For more than 60 years, Leica Fotografie International, or LFI, has been THE independent magazine for the Leica world. I’m therefore absolutely delighted and honored that the newest issue (2/2017) features one of my photos as a double-page spread. Coincidentally, this issue also introduces Leica’s newest digital rangefinder camera, the fantastic M10, which I tested during my recent trip to India. The photo is my “Neon Taxi” from July last year, with which I tried to capture as many iconic elements of Hong Kong as possible within a single frame, and while keeping one of my favorites movies, Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner, in mind. This photo was one of the first in my current general goal, of trying to achieve the retinal impact of monochrome images, but in color, with a combination of in-camera and development techniques. I’m still working on it, so am grateful for the ongoing advice from my friend and mentor Patrick Zachmann, and also the support of Leica China. I also want to acknowledge the original location recommendation from Cheng Wai Hok of Meteor HK. If you enjoy photography, do pick up a copy - this issue also has great features from some of my own favorite photographers out there today: Giovanni Del Brenna, Fulvio Bugani, Tomeu Coll, William Daniels, Jo Fischer, Zachary Roberts, Matt Stuart, and Ed van der Elsken. I’m honored to be in the same publication as them, if only with a single image this time! Thanks Carol!