Leica Q Image Quality

Yesterday, Leica launched their Leica Q full-frame compact camera, getting Leicaphiles all over the world excited. There was a press event here, and one of my friends Wilson Wong of WilzWorkz sent me a DNG file of a test shot that he has taken in the event. He was rather concerned about the presence of banding lines in the dark areas of the shot.  Here is the original file:

Leica Q @ ISO 100. Photo courtesy of Wilson Wong of Wilzworkz and used with permission.
Leica Q @ ISO 100, 1/4s @ f/2.8. Photo courtesy of Wilson Wong of Wilzworkz and used with permission.

Initially, I didn’t really see any banding, so I decided to boost the exposure in Adobe Camera Raw to +3.6EV. The following is a 100% crop of the area shown by the red box above. Wow! OH WOW. JUST LOOK AT THAT!!

10)% crop of Leica Q @ ISO 100 Boosted +3EV (Red box in the full shot above.) Photo courtesy of Wilson Wong of Wilzworkz and used with permission.
100% crop of Leica Q @ ISO 100 Boosted +3EV (Red box in the full shot above.)
Photo courtesy of Wilson Wong of Wilzworkz and used with permission.

We were also puzzled by a rather weird phenomenon. The bokeh “balls” appear to have some dust in them. Look at the black spots in the bokeh below. Since this was a ISO 100 shot at f/2.8 and it’s a fixed-lens camera, it is probably not sensor dust.

Dirty Bokeh from Leica Q (Yellow box in the full photo above.) Photo courtesy of Wilson Wong of Wilzworkz and used with permission.
Dirty Bokeh from Leica Q (Yellow box in the full photo above.) Photo courtesy of Wilson Wong of Wilzworkz and used with permission.

Just to give a comparison, here’s a shot from my Fujifilm X-T1 @ ISO 1600. First, the entire image.

Fujifilm X-T1 @ ISO 1600
Fujifilm X-T1 @ ISO 1600

Now, let’s look at the area in the red box, also boosted by +3.6EV.

Fujifilm X-T1 ISO 1600 Crop
Fujifilm X-T1 ISO 1600 +3.6EV

Let’s take it up to +5EV.

Fujifilm X-T1 @ ISO 1600 +5EV
Fujifilm X-T1 @ ISO 1600 +5EV

You can see that it’s mostly noise. Bear in mind this is ISO 1600 compared to the ISO 100 of the Leica Q.

Just for kicks, here’s a ISO 1600 image from a Nikon D100 shot in JPEG mode.

Nikon D100 @ ISO 1600
Nikon D100 @ ISO 1600

Here it is again, boosted by +3.6EV. LOTS and LOTS of chroma noise, but hardly any banding. Bear in mind this is a 13-year old camera.

Nikon D100 ISO 1600 +3.6EV
Nikon D100 ISO 1600 +3.6EV

Yes, it’s not the same lighting conditions, but regardless of that, the banding should not appear. This is not the kind of image quality which a US$4,000 camera should deliver.

I’ll be meeting up with Wilson to get a more hands-on experience and to get further tests done. But at the moment, it sure looks disappointing.

Many thanks to Wilson for letting us post his sample.

YS: Once again the Emperor has no clothes. I’m looking forward to the flames.

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