After the largest complaint you’ve got regarding a camera issues that the picture quality at ISO 25,000, you know that you are in possession of a first world issue. This is true when comparing two compacts: also the Sony RX1R II along with the Leica Q.
()Yes there are differences between the cameras (that I will get into), however with camera is a pleasure and if your objective is a high quality, lightweight “point-and-shoot,” you will not perform any better than one of these poor boys. I’ve been using the Sony RX1 and it has traveled with me providing the body that was surreptitious and little that I wanted in a travel camera. Yes, there are times when I pull out my DSLR, but those times are getting to be more and more rare.
As great as the RX1 has been, I have two chief gripes: 1) autofocus is slow in low light, and 2) the mechanical leaf shutter tops out at 1/2000s with apertures bigger than f/5.6 — not a problem for most photography, but on bright days if you wish to shoot wide open for that street fashion photo, it is a letdown. Others have complained about the dearth of built-in EVF (I got used to using the LCD display), bad battery life (I carry at least two spare batteries with me), and the barrel distortion (easily addressed with a Lightroom lens profile). I had great hopes for the RX1R II.
I was unexpectedly surprised by the utility of RX1R II’s articulating screen. Prosumer cameras have had such a feature for years, but it is somewhat rare on higher end cameras (the uber-popular Nikon D750 has one). Shots that used to require me to crouch down were visualized, and the birdseye view of food didn’t require a plate to stand over. This version will continue to be popular with the food bloggers.
The RX1R II features the identical sensor as the a7R II — a 42MP beast that churns out an 84MB RAW file. I rolled my eyes, as soon as I saw the spec. However, in fact, when using the compressed mode, the files are 43.2MB in size, which is pretty darn close to the Nikon D800’s 36MP (which clocks in at about 45MB). The detail of the files is incredible as you may imagine, and having so much resolution provides you file size or significantly detail.
The EVF replaces the job of the RX1’s built-in flash. I suppose when your sensor can shoot at ISO 104,000 the demand for a flash is diminished. The EVF has a whole lot of detail and the refresh rate is high, so Sony includes an eyecup accessory but the viewport is a small. However, if the eyecup is attached, you can’t lower the EVF back in the body, which increased the camera’s volume. However, as I found it hard to observe the EVF field of view. I did find myself using the EVF a few times when ambient light that is bright made it hard to observe the screen.
Sony claims a 30% boost in focusing speed along with a 399 focal-plane phase detection system. Is it faster than the RX1 (a contrast detection mechanism)? Yes. Nonetheless, it’s still slow in low light (I’m talking >=ISO 6400), and the lens seems to rack through its focus range to attain a focus lock, which chews up valuable time. When employing the AF Assist lamp that was dreaded, I discovered the focusing. Slow autofocus is the camera’s only disappointment.
Which brings us to the Leica Q.
The Q isn’t cheap at a retail price of $4250. On the flip side, the RX1R II is $3,898 — so neither camera is cheap (but neither is a full-frame DSLR that has a great slice of glass). The Q is bigger, but the height is identical, when the RX1R II’s EVF is deployed with the eyecup. The Q is heavier by about 150g, but curiously the density of the RX1R II makes the units feel about precisely the exact same weight.
I didn’t find the Leica’s touch screen to be terribly revolutionary. Yes, it’s wonderful to swipe between photos, and touch the screen for menu choices that are different, but the software doesn’t enable touch. The exposure compensation dial of the Q is unmarked — you do not understand how much compensation you have pinpointed in without triggering EVF or the display. The payment dial of the Sony is superb. It is labeled and it’s the most satisfying of clicks.
The Q’s EVF is fantastic, albeit a bit contrasty. The viewport is huge — not problematic for eyeglass wearers — and boasts 3. 68 million pixels to Sony’s 2. 36 million, but really, we’re splitting hairs. I don’t have the visual acuity to tell the difference whilst out.
The Q has a 28mm f/1.7 lens, which I found to be a little wide. There’s a bit of feature exaggeration which I found unappealing when taking photos of people from a few feet away. However, the quality is ridiculous. The DNG has an integrated lens profile, therefore it’s not possible to tell what type of barrel distortion might exist. I don’t care what type of voodoo happens in Lightroom because the photos look great.
And the Q’s focusing is ridiculously fast. In low light, and especially with the AF Assist lamp. Comparing focusing speed is oranges and apples. The Q is much faster.
Ultimately, picking a camera is a personal choice because everyone has different goals with their photography and criteria for important capabilities. So size is a problem, I travel a lot. I shoot so focusing accuracy and speed matters. So I didn’t bother trying the features of either camera I don’t care about video. My photography don’t impact, so the variable filter of the Sony doesn’t really excite me much. Last, my images are posted by me on PhotoShelter and on Facebook. No exhibition prints for me. Both cameras are more than qualified for those tasks (which is also why I’m not providing 100% crops. DPReview has a studio scene comparison for technical types).
I wish the Q had a 35mm lens. I wish the RX1R II focused. I wish the Q was smaller. I wish the RX1R II had a menu system that is more intuitive. I wish the Q had a mode. I wish both had more easy ways to transfer images.
So which camera did I choose and why?
I picked the Leica Q first and foremost because of the focusing speed. It was a pet peeve issue for me, and I couldn’t look away for another 3 decades. The issue is the EVF. I never used the EVF on the RX1 that was original, and I said I didn’t need it. But I do, but not for the reasons you may think. You see, I’ve gotten a little older and I’m having more trouble focusing my eyes close up (presbyopia for the opthamology inclined). That has meant peering over my glasses to see the LCD screen. But it’s No Problem. I know I’ll miss the RX1R II’s body.
The camera is merely a tool, and both the Sony RX1R II and the Leica Q are fine tools. It’s on you if you can’t make photos with these cameras. I believe I’ll go make some pictures.
This post was updated to accurately reflect the purchase price of the Sony RX1R II.