You don’t need to buy a Leica to get professional-level photos. It certainly won’t hurt, but a Leica is an object that tells the world you are either quite serious, have a ton of cash to burn, or a little bit of both. So, if you’re going to buy a Leica, why not buy a weird Leica?
On Tuesday, Leica announced the launch of its first autofocus Monochrom camera. The company has previously offered cameras that exclusively shoot black and white in its manual M-series, but it’s now bringing a dedicated monochrome sensor to its Q2 line of compact cams. If you like the Q2 body standard and features, they’re all here except for the signature red logo—it’s a monochrome camera inside and out.
The 47-megapixel full-frame sensor in the Q2 Monochrom has been tuned to capture more detail in a black-and-white image than its color-focused counterparts. Leica says it has an ISO range of 100-100,000, while the color model tops out at ISO 50,000. But Leica insists that this isn’t about comparing apples to apples, rather the Monochrom sensor is a total redesign, and, in turn, it’ll cost you around $6,000—a bit more than a color Q2.
In addition to its body and autofocus capabilities (less than .15 seconds), the Q2 Monochrom sets itself apart from the M series in that it includes the ability to shoot 4K video at 30 or 24 FPS. Further specs include a fixed 28mm f/1.7 lens, a 3.68-megapixel OLED viewfinder, Bluetooth LE for connecting to a smartphone, an IP52 weather-resistance rating, and the ability to capture up to 13 stops of light. The fixed lens also has the ability to switch to macro mode, giving users a close focus distance of 17 cm.
The audience for this camera is tiny. If you’re a professional, you don’t need me to tell you if it’s what you’re looking for—check out the specs for yourself. Anyone looking to get into high-end photography would get a comparable and more versatile camera at a cheaper price with Sony’s A7S III. But beginners with money to burn could benefit from being forced to focus on black and white composition as they get acquainted with the finer points of the craft, and having the autofocus option also makes it a little friendlier for newbs.
Versatility isn’t everything, and there’s something very satisfying about ogling a dedicated tool for a specific job that is finely crafted and costs an obscene amount of money.