Leica Q2 Monochrom

Easily the best camera I’ve ever used, and the most fun I’ve had with a camera in a decade or more.

My wife recently picked up a Q2, and within a few minutes of holding it, I was sure I needed a Q2. And then I saw the images it was producing, and I had to have one.

Side note: my wife’s much better review of her Q2 will hopefully come some time this year. The photos she is making with it are astounding.

But instead of a Q2, I snagged a barely used Q2 Monochrom and took it with me to the beautifully colorful Italian coast. This is one of the best cameras I’ve ever used, and absolutely the most fun I have had with a camera. And it can’t even take a color photograph.

Specs & Monochrom

Here’s the spec dump from B&H Photo Video:

  • 47.3MP Full-Frame B&W CMOS Sensor
  • No Color Array or Low Pass Filter
  • Maestro II Image Processor
  • Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH.
  • 3.68MP OLED Electronic Viewfinder
  • 3.0″ 1.04m-Dot Touchscreen LCD
  • DCI 4K24p, UHD 4K30p, Full HD 120p Video
  • ISO 100-100,000, up to 10-fps Shooting
  • 35mm, 50mm, and 75mm Crop Modes

Ok, let’s first break down a few things:

  1. Yes, this only shoots black and white, as the sensor only captures black and white. It’s not a software gimmick, it’s a hardware decision.
  2. It’s a fixed focal length of 28mm, with digital crop modes for 35/50/75 — using each reduces the effective megapixels.
  3. Yes, it’s 47.3MP, or about INSANE megabytes per image.
  4. It’s a full frame sensor.

With that out of the way, there are two important things to know here. The 28mm Summilux lens on this camera is widely considered one of the best out there, and likely makes up the majority of the price. Leading to a common joke within the Q2/Q3 community, being “buy a 28mm Summilux, and get a free camera”.

Now let’s talk about ‘Monochrom’ — which Leica has been producing in special editions for quite some time now. Effectively (as I understand it in simple terms) the base sensor on all cameras is light only, (aka black and white) and then a Color Filter Array (CFA) is placed on top of that sensor to give you color. Thus, what Leica have done is removed the CFA, which of course makes the camera black and white only. But another side effect (from what I can see, and smarter people report) is that you gain sharpness/clarity, and light sensitivity. So if you put this side by side with a standard Q2, the images from the Monochrom might out resolve the color images, and for sure will require less light for the same exposure.

It’s pretty wild, and technically impressive. I have two Q2s, but the resolution of this lens and sensor on both, is beyond my ability to tell you definitively if one out resolves the other. So I can only for sure tell you, that the Monochrom will shoot at a lower ISO and faster shutter speed in aperture priority than the color Q2.

In Use

I had no idea what to expect with this camera. I knew it would have amazing images, but could I capture black and white images well — and even further, could I be happy with black and white? After having this for some time, traveling with it, the answer seems to be: I like this camera a lot.

I actually find myself wanting to take pictures with it. I love looking at the images it outputs. And I do miss color, but I don’t actively think about it. Where it impacts me the most is when I am taking a photo of someone, for that someone, as they typically don’t want a black and white only image. (Common refrain from Erin when we were in Italy: “Wait, was that with your camera? So it’s only black and white? Dammit, Ben.) And then of course it makes it hard to take images for items I review here, because apparently y’all like color.

Putting all that aside, here’s what shooting with it has been like: a true gem. One thing not listed above, is that this camera is IP52-rated and is effectively designed to be used anywhere/everywhere you need to take photos. To that end, even though this is an expensive camera — it’s not made to be babied by any means. I took it on a boat trip, and I wouldn’t flinch at using it in any conditions — it feels like a tank.

In almost everyway, the Q2 body design is perfection. It is no larger than it needs to be, and small enough that you can easily handle it with one or two hands — large or small hands. The LCD and EVF are tremendous to look through, with me slightly preferring the EVF (as I do on most cameras). There’s no weird add on, no range finder BS, just a straight up nice viewfinder reminiscent of the SLRs I learned how to shoot on: you see what the camera sees. And yes, the viewfinder is black and white, because again this camera cannot see color.

The battery is rated at 350 shots, and the camera has no ports, so you have to fully swap the battery if you run low. I found that the battery lasted me days of shooting throughout the day, without worrying about turning the camera on and off a lot. Which is good, since the batteries are $250 each, and you need to charge them with a dedicated charger.

Running a 128GB SD card gave me around 900 shots when shooting at the highest resolution RAW+JPG. Transferring the images can be done in a painstakingly slow fashion with the very nice Leica FOTOS app, or by using an SD card reader. (The Q3 adds better/faster options for this, but not the Q2.)

The resolution on this camera, when stopping down to f/11 or so is amazing. The sharpness being produced blows my mind even now. I can zoom in on landscapes I’ve taken and see faces on people which on other cameras would look like a small blob of a head. I don’t need this resolution/clarity, to be clear, but that level of clarity means that the entire image pops in a way that your iPhone images simply can never match. This is the difference between what I’ll call direct photography, and the computational photography which a lot of smaller cameras are doing now — iPhone and Pixel phones chief among those.

When you take a landscape with the iPhone, it looks quite amazing. Really good even, but as soon as you start zooming around the image, or reviewing it on a larger screen it gets slightly less impressive looking. When you view an image being produced on this Q2, even on the smaller iPhone screen, there’s some level of unreal clarity that makes you stop and stare. I have no better way to describe it. It doesn’t feel real, and when you zoom it, it gets better — somehow.

And then we get to the bokeh, and it blows my mind. Opening up the lens to f/1.7 and shooting portraits in the full light of day — the camera fires away and created a tack sharp spot (hopefully on the eye) while making the background look like something that someone spent hours making perfect in photoshop. And yet, it was nothing more than a snap by a rather untalented photographer named Ben. Astounding. 28mm focal length, full frame sensor, f/1.7 is a rather thing depth of field at a framing distance for headshots. I found myself constantly stopping down the camera to make up for the lack of patience/precision I have with portraits. (Erin shoots wide open or max f/4 — and the shots are stellar.)

Moving this camera into manual focus takes a week or so of getting used to. There’s a button you push, while you rotate the focus ring to move from AF to MF. At first I found this hard to do, but by the end of my trip is was easy. Which is good, because if you set this camera for hyperfocal length shooting, you can easily fire landscapes hanging out the side window of the car. And the results are fantastic. Not that anyone would do that on the Italian roads of the Amalfi coast — but if they did, they would get some shots.

There’s only a handful of issues I ran into:

  • More often than not, the camera would get switched on taking it out of a bag, or stowing it away. It doesn’t seem to matter at all. But it was a thing.
  • The shutter speed dial on the top has a tendency to get knocked a bit, as does the aperture setting on the lens. So it’s best to check those quickly before you start shooting.
  • The lens cap is comical in how poorly it stays on the camera (though with the lens hood, it’s not really that necessary except for maybe when transporting the camera, which is the only time I used it). But for something this expensive, it’s a little absurd the lens cap doesn’t secure better.
  • The face detect can be a bit spotty, so you’ll need/want to be adept at switching the AF modes on the fly. I found that it was easier not to use face detect, but the downside is that I missed focus on a handful of images with my kids in them. Day to day, I left face detect turned to get impromptu snaps of the kids, but for travel I left it off.

Those are my only complaints. I found, and continue to find, shooting with this camera an absolute joy. It’s built like a tank, and feels amazing in your hand. But more than that, after you get used to it, the camera itself really disappears from the act of taking photos — more so than any other camera I’ve used. It fully gets out of the way, you can fly through the controls, and fire away as you please.


Bottom line: this camera has ruined any other camera for me. I almost certainly cannot bother owning anything which isn’t Leica now. I get it, they are amazing. Next level. The Q2, and likely the Q3, are absolutely outstanding cameras.

But what about the Q2 Monochrom? Well it too is outstanding, but it’s less versatile for the average person. If you already have a Leica or something you love which shoots color, then the Monochrom would be an amazing addition. But if it is going to be your only camera, or your only Leica, it’s going to be a tough sell.

I want to keep this Q2M, but it’s not overly practical as my only camera. So I am planning on moving to a normal Q2 or Q3, and selling this Monochrom, but when that day comes, it will be missed.

Oh, and as for taking this to the colorful Amalfi Coast? I have no regrets.

Buy here, $6,200 or so.

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