Leica Q2 Lens vs Leica 28mm APO Summicron-SL Lens
Here we go! The Leica Q2 lens vs Leica 28mm. Today we’re going to compare two 28mm Leica lenses: The 28mm Summilux attached to the Leica Q3 and Q2 and the 28mm Summicron SL that’s part of the Leica SL line of mirrorless cameras.
I’ve been using the Leica Q2 as part of my wedding photography kit for the past couple years alongside a pair of SL2-S’. Check out a post all about that here. I was originally drawn to it because of it’s size and the fact that it has a battery that’s interchangeable with the SL’s, but mainly because of the lens fixed to it – the 28mm Summilux.
Also – in case you’re interested, all these photos (aside from the obvious iPhone photo below) were taken with the 35mm APO Summicron-SL on an SL2-S.
My Current Kit
One of the cameras in my current wedding kit is an SL2-S attached to a 35mm SL. This pair never changes. I use a 35 for the majority of photos I take, so this lens always stays attached and is always on my right-hand side ready to go (I use Hold Fast’s MoneyMaker straps).
The second camera is another SL2-S that gets either a 75mm SL or 90mm SL, depending on the situation.
And the third was the Q2. This lives in a small Filson field bag that I wear cross-body. It’s tiny size fits perfectly and is super easy to snatch in a moment for a wider shot.
Some of you might ask why I carry three bodies rather than simply switch lenses like a normal person. And that’s fair. Back in the Canon days, I used to just have a pair of 5D4 bodies and would carry a couple lenses in a shoulder bag and that system kind of worked, but I’d often find myself missing a moment or passing up on a creative opportunity simply because of the friction involved in changing lenses – like the time it takes, the risk of dropping a lens, or even just the downside of exposing the insides of the camera to dust and debris while the lens is off.
It’s overall easier for me to have three bodies. One with a 35, one with a more telephoto lens, and another with a wide lens, always ready to go.
Why The 28 Summicron?
This setup has worked super well for me the last two wedding seasons, but ever since Leica released the 28mm for the SL, I’ve been wondering if a third SL2-S paired with the 28 might be a better choice. I ordered both and have some thoughts.
There are three main reasons I decided to replace Q2 with the third SL2-S and 28.
The first is the two card slot situation. The Q2 only comes with one, which is honestly fine. I’ve only had a dual card slot arrangement come in clutch once in 12 years of photographing couples, but it would still be a terrible thing if a card issue arose that could’ve been prevented by having that built-in backup. Replacing the Q2 with another SL2-S solves that problem.
The second reason is the inherent flexibility and backup provided by having another main backup body that can wear more lenses beyond the fixed 28mm the Q2 comes packaged with. A couple months ago, the battery release lever on one of my SL2-S’ broke at a wedding. Thankfully it was at the very end of the day and there was enough charge left in the stuck battery to get me through to the end of the wedding. It would’ve been really nice though to have a backup had this happened at the beginning of the day.
But there’s also another benefit to having a backup, very related to the broken battery release lever – sending in for repair. If you’ve never sent a camera to a manufacturer for repair, this might not mean much to you yet, but for those who have, you know it can sometimes take months to get your camera back, and in the middle of a wedding season, this can be a huge disruption. I sent that broken SL2-S back to Leica in January as soon as it broke, and I’m just assuming I won’t see it again until April. Not a problem though, since I have the back-up. All it means is that I’m back to two SL2-S’ and the Q2 that’s been a tried and true setup. (And this lead time isn’t uncommon with other manufacturers either. Canon took months to turnaround repairs too.)
And the third reason – Editing efficiency. The Q2 is a fantastic camera, but the photo it puts out isn’t nearly as clean as the photo an SL2-S paired with an APO SL lens is capable of producing, especially in low-light. Examples below. And this makes sense too. The Q2 is $5000 for both the body/lens combo, whereas an SL2-S body and SL lens can be more than double that. You *do* get what you pay for, even in the Leica world.
So what this difference means is having to spend more time editing Q2 files. I could be cruising along editing photos from the two SL2-S’ and then run into a Q2 and get slowed down because the Q2 colors are a little different (a bit more green, IMO), less sharp, lots more noise at ISO 3200 and above, and in extreme cases, even a bit of chromatic aberration to clean up. Point is, it stalls a rhythm and breaks my editing stride.
Editing photos all taken with the same body is a big efficiency improvement, and with the number of photos I edit in a year (~ 200,000 in 2022), the time savings alone will be huge. Not to mention the improvement in image quality and the usability of photos in super low-light situations.
So with all that context, let’s get to the review.
Form factor between the two lenses couldn’t be more different. The Q2 is tiny whereas the 28SL is a big kid by comparison. Fun fact, all of the SL lenses are designed with the same external dimensions. The way this is helpful is that all the lenses fit in the same pouch for storage, filter sizes are the same, and caps are interchangeable. Plus I think it’s just helpful always having a balanced load on each shoulder. When I was using Canon, I remember fondly (/s) the awkward weight imbalance of having the super heavy 85 1.2 on one camera and something like the 24 1.4 on the other. It’s not a huge deal, but with anything Leica, you pay a lot for the little things.
Both lenses have autofocus. Both AF systems are fast. I know there are faster AF lenses out there. I’ve heard great things about Sony lenses. I’ve never had an issue with AF on either lens, and can’t really think of a time where I even gave the AF system any thought. It just does it’s job and does it well. That’s my experience though, yours might vary. The one thing it absolutely is though – is silent. The AF makes essentially no noise. Great if you’re wanting to use these for video.
Manual focusing on the Q2 is SUCH A JOY. It’s just a wonderful “Leica” feeling, so much so that I find myself manually focusing 90% of the time I use this camera. It’s just beautiful. I never manually focus on the SL lenses, but the focus ring is super nice, it’s just not typically the reason why someone would buy this lens. If you’re into manually focusing all the time, might be a good idea to get an M lens to toss onto the SL2-S.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Q2’s 28 has a macro function. I barely use it, but it’s handy that it’s there if you might find it helpful. Side note here – if you have a Q2 and you’re freaking out for some reason because your camera isn’t taking photos and it appears broken, check that this macro ring isn’t accidentally positioned halfway between normal and macro mode. It happens sometimes, and if it is, the camera behaves like it’s having a meltdown.
The lowest aperture on the Q2 is 1.7, and lowest on the 28SL is f/ 2.0. Despite the Q2 having a larger maximum aperture, I found myself often stopping down to f/2.0 anyway to keep the corners sharper.
It’s funny, before switching to Leica, I never would’ve entertained the idea of getting a lens with a maximum aperture smaller than f/1.4, but the way these lenses are designed, the depth of field, on the SL lenses is actually… better? …such a scientific term… to my eyes at least, than any of the Canon L lenses at 1.4. There’s a lot of data-driven reviews you can google to see how the science of all this works and how the engineers achieved it. Pretty wild.
Colors on the Q2 are a bit more green tinted than they are on the SL2-S and the 28SL. This is constantly a pain point while editing the mix of them. It just slows down progress a bunch having to make a special little edit whenever a Q2 photo pops up. This isn’t a big deal when editing only Q2 photos together, it’s just annoying when editing a mix of photos from the two different bodies.
Low-light on the SL2-S absolutely smokes the Q2. There’s just no comparison here. It’s not because the Q2 is bad, it’s just because the SL2-S is just so good. Here’s some photos to compare. You can see ISO 6400 getting a little grainy on the Q2, while the SL2-S seems to be unaffected. And yes, this isn’t an SL2-S vs Q2 review, but reviewing the Summilux 28 necessitates some comparison with the body it comes with.
Chromatic aberration is absolutely non-existent on the 28SL, but you can see in extreme cases that some purple friends are up in the tree tops with the Q2. It’s an easy fix in Lightroom, but again, it’s just more time to edit something out that isn’t there with the 28SL.
The Canon L lenses are SO bad about CA, to the point where even after “fixing” it, instead of purple tree tops, you’re left with gray ones. Better, but not really. Here’s what I was dealing with before switching to these Leica APO lenses. The below was photographed on a Canon 5D4 with the 24L lens attached. SO MUCH CA. Purple and green all over. Fixing this for nearly every photo used to add so much time to editing.
I don’t use lens hoods on the SL lenses; in my opinion the Summicron primes are already biggish lenses anyway, adding the hoods makes them way too big for my tastes. I do use it on the Q2 though because it’s tiny, metal, looks dope, in my opinion, and since I just throw this into a bag, I prefer the protection it offers.
Also fun fact, the amount of rotation the SL focusing ring turns can be adjusted in-camera. So if you prefer a short throw, you can set the lens to go through it’s entire focusing range with just a quarter turn, or if you prefer a longer throw, you can set it to be a full 360. Out of the box, it’s a progressive action.
And lastly, let’s mention the thing keen eyes may have noticed when comparing the photos between the two. The Q2 files appear wider than the 28SL. There’s a ton of speculation and theories all over the Leica forums about the Q2 functioning more similarly to a 26mm lens, but whatever the reason, whatever the explanation, the Q2 photos are indeed barely a bit wider than those taken on the 28SL, despite being the same focal length.
Which should you buy?
A lot of you probably landed here because you’re trying to decide which setup to buy for yourself. The Q2 and the 28 Summicron? Or the 28SL and one of the SL bodies? I can speak from a wedding photographer’s perspective here and 100% affirm that the Q2 is super great in a wedding photographer’s kit. It’s small, it’s light, and the image quality is outstanding.
If you edit your own photos though, and you photograph a lot of weddings, there are some major efficiency improvements gained from all your photos being taken by the same body and lens system. There’s no functional difference in color or anything between the SL lenses that I’ve noticed, and I have most of them.
For what it’s worth, I use an original Q for day-in-the-life photos and pack one around almost everywhere I go. The 28 Summilux in that small package really makes for a great photojournalism camera, or street/travel photo companion.
Now, all this this doesn’t mean I’m getting rid of the Q2 or removing it from the wedding kit. The use case we haven’t talked about yet is it’s usefulness capturing dance floor photos at a reception. It’s size is just the best thing ever for this role. I put an SF 60 flash on the top, which is absolutely dwarfed compared to most other flashes. I’m looking at you Canon 600. My shoulder isn’t dying at the end of the night from keeping a beast held overhead for hours. And the entire package just looks so much less PHOTO GUY than something comparable on a bigger camera.
I know it’s a fairly niche match up here, but it just does’t seem like there’s much info out there to help someone decide between the two systems. Hopefully this comparison is helpful to you and you found the overall perspective useful. Definitely reach out in the comments below if you want more clarification on something I might’ve missed, or if you have an opinion having used either one yourself.
At the end of the day, if you’re deciding between two Leica cameras, you’re already deciding between truly world-class systems. The difference lies mostly in the way you plan on using them.
If you’re interested in seeing more taken with the Leica SL2-S and Q2, follow along on Instagram @hellobrandonscott.