Looking longingly at the Q3 but looking more seriously at used SL2 camera bodies.

No. Not my house...

 It's all about what you'll really end up using. The most.

Reader, JC left a comment yesterday grousing about the price of a Leica Q3. He said he would feel guilty splashing out for one. I wouldn't feel guilty but at this junction I don't see much advantage to me of spending more money to get a Q3 versus optimizing my use of the already really, really good Q2. As usual with cost analyses of cameras JC suggested that buying a $6,000 camera (which, to be fair, would probably be most people's secondary niche camera. A camera bought as an adjunct to an already existing system of cameras from one maker or another) would be akin to dropping serious cash on a Ferrari. And he could not see how he could justify the cost of either, given that there are so many ills in the world that could be cured by donating money instead... He stated that he "could" purchase a Ferrari if he wanted to but.....

I'm pretty light-hearted about the whole idea of buying cameras. I buy some new cameras if I want them and I don't worry much about the price. What I do worry about is ending up with so many choices that the fun gets lost in the constant decision making process. Which camera to pick up now? Which camera to take street shooting? Which camera for landscapes? Which camera for portraits? How many different camera batteries will I end up stocking? Which lenses do I want to use today? And so on. 

While our knee jerk reaction is always to default to budget when considering cameras I think it's red herring and that the real questions should revolve around how we want a new camera to fit into an existing infrastructure of cameras and lenses, coupled with how we see a new camera really adding anything to the fun and quality of our hobby/passion/avocation. 

I think many of us in our mid-60's and onward have benefitted from many good economic periods in our  country's history and also from the power of compound interest. I dare say that a good proportion of our readers here could, if pressed, come up with the cash for an inexpensive but new Ferrari (say, a Ferrari Roma at a mere $226,000...+TTL). I could swing it but the purchase would make a dent in my retirement savings. But I never would spend anywhere near that much money on a car. You know that if you've read about my progression of Subaru Foresters, a car that's almost hard to spend more than $30K on. Even if you try. 

By the same token I could pre-order a Q3 today if I was so inclined but when I stop and think about it the idea makes no sense to me at all. I want, first, to suck out all of the potential value from my Q2 which is basically brand new. But the real reason to hesitate has nothing to do with budget and everything to do with the way I use cameras. When I look at my real, day to day usage of the cameras I've surrounded myself with the time spent with the Q2 is at the very bottom of the graph. Why? Because the 28mm lens would rarely be my first choice of lenses; even for a casual walk. It's a nice camera and works well but it exists in the middle of a whole system of cameras, many of which are much more functional for me. I really like my older Leica SL cameras. They are a little beat up and they were relatively cheap to buy so I have no fear of taking them out during erupting volcanos, sun flares, raging dust storms, forest fires, civil disorder or a gentle rain. When I do go out with one of them I mostly stick to using 50mm lenses and greatly enjoy manually focusing the lenses so, as a result, the most expensive 50mm lens I have for the whole system is actually the voigtlander 58mm f1.4 which I bought, used, from a friend for $400.

I would nearly always choose from the SL line of cameras if I go out and I'm at all serious about photography being the primary reason for my foray. The Q2 is nice to bring along when meeting friends for coffee ---- on the off chance that I'll see something I'd like to photograph while out. I'm spoiled for choice so I'm more or less constantly adjusting as to what will be my EDC or "every day carry" camera and lens. Sometimes, every once it a while, it actually is the 28mm and its permanently attached camera.

In retrospect it was a bad purchase for me. I should resell it but I won't. I'll try to learn to love it, but I won't. I'll take it on one trip or another hoping that it will be the perfect travel camera but I already know I'd also want a fast 50mm in the mix. And even though there's more than enough resolution for a crop to 50mm my subconscious mind will also regard that intentional crop as a compromise both of the optical performance of the package and of my basic vision for photos. And the momentum of my history shooting with 50mm lenses for oh these last 48 years.

So, my photographer friend, Paul, texted me this morning to ask if I pre-ordered a Q3. I sent a text back saying that I thought the Q2 was already a fine "niche" camera solution but that I would be more interested in some of the other choices. To wit, an updated SLx which combined a smaller, lighter SL body with the new Maestro processor and which stayed with the 47.5 megapixel sensor. Why? A selection of 12-15 L mount lenses and a smaller collection of M mount lenses and even some Nikon mount lenses that I love to play with. All of which work well on SL style cameras.

Stepping outside of the Leica family for a moment I also have to admit that I still like the Panasonic cameras very much and would be interested to pick up a Lumix S5iix. It's a camera that now features an equally fast processor. My preferred 24 megapixel sensor resolution. Forced air cooling for the West Texas Desert in the Summer. The ability to take all of the same lenses as my Leica system cameras. A "half priced" battery = equal in power to the "new" Leica battery ---- why do I think they are the same, under the hood? The S5iix also features the new PD-AF sensor stuff for faster focusing, etc. and is an acknowledged low light champ. And nearly one third the cost of a Q3. Less than a third the cost of an SL2 without a lens. 

So, it's not a question of whether or not I can afford to buy a Q3. That's not an issue. The issue is what would it add to my overall system of cameras and lenses that I can't squeeze out of the Q2 already? Better video? Better than what? I'm not really in the full scale video production industry anymore. Higher Res? Will y'all really see a difference in the material I post on the blog? Nah. The newer battery? Why? Since I can buy the new battery a la carte and use it in four of my existing cameras.

But I never delude myself into thinking an acquisition is all about budget or "getting my spouse's approval." It's always about -- "will this make my photo life better? Will photography be more fun? Which camera will I move down on the usage graph as I embrace this new one? How can I better use $6,000? 

JC wants to cure Tuberculosis. I want to change Texas politics for the better. Porsche owners think expenditures on Ferraris are insane. Subaru owners think Porsche owners are insane. Bicyclists think car owners are insane. It's all a very slippery slope to start categorizing discretionary purchases by their moral implications. Soon we'd all be eating ramen, sleeping on the roofs of our un-air conditioned houses, and peddling out to search for discount groceries. But if you want one and think you'll use it enough a Q3 isn't going to break the bank for most people who find themselves in the target market. 

As my financial advisor once said, "If you put a purchase on a credit card and then pay it off at the end of the billing cycle chances are you can afford that purchase. On the other hand if you are paying for a luxury good over time on your high interest credit card then it's pretty obvious that you made a bad choice." Words to live by. 

In the end who is the Q3 or even the Q2 really perfect for? I can answer that one. It's for the person who really, really wants to eliminate all the clutter in their photography life and who really, really likes and uses regularly 28mm lenses to make their preferred art. I know I am not (right now) that person. Hypothetically it would be quite wonderful to be totally happy with just one "perfect" camera and a permanently attached lens. It would reduce daily decision making to nothing. It would calm the ever chattering brain when it comes to making lens choices and accessory choices. It could be a one time purchase. The final distillation of purpose. An intimate tool. 

But for a nerdy, 50mm fan who sometimes thrives on the friction of the process? Nah. Not me. 

But little by little I'm winnowing down the inventory. Some day I'll be a mature adult and walk the world with one camera body and a 50mm lens that's perfect. But not today.


Steve Miller said...

Hi Kirk,

My intro to Leica was the Q2 and now I shoot with the Q2M. I've sold a bunch of gear lately and have pre-ordered the Q3 (will most likely sell the Q2M but that isn't a certainty). I've mentioned this before on your blog but what I love most about the Q2 and will like even more with the Q3 is that I truly feel like it's the one camera that allows me to walk out the door and be good to go for 90% of my photography (street, environmental portrait, candids of friends and family) - all while not carrying multiple lenses or a slower zoom.

I was historically a 35mm and 50mm shooter, but the more I got into shooting on the street, the more I loved the wider perspective of the 28. I've already felt like I had a 28/35/50 when using the Q2. With the increased resolution of the Q3, this is even more true (and even allows for a 8 MP 75 if I want it). It's important to point out that I shoot in DNG so whenever I use the in camera crop setting, I always have the full resolution file to change any crop in post (and I've used this countless times). So with the Q3 I get a camera that effectively has a:

60 MP 28mm f/1.7
39 MP 35mm f/1.7 (with the DOF of a 35mm f/2.1 lens)
19 MP 50mm f/1.7 (with the DOF of a 50mm f/2.8-ish lens)

The great thing with the in-camera crop is that you can visualize what will be in the 35/50/75 frames and compose based on that (rather than guess what a crop of a 28 will eventually look like. The addition of a tilt screen which I find very helpful for street and casual shooting is a big improvement while I'm sure the new PDAF auto focus will be a welcome addition (though I'm sure it won't be on par with Sony). Can I use it to blow out the background like I could with a 50 f/1.4 for portraits? No, but that's in the 10% of my shooting category which I can do with another camera if needed.

Long winded way of saying I'm sold.


Steve Miller said...

Forgot to mention that I use Lightroom so any in-camera crop applied to the DNG shows when you first pull up the image in LR. Hitting "R" allows you to see the full image with the in-camera set crop lines so you can remove or change the crop.

Bill Bresler said...

I've never understood the attraction to cameras welded to a single focal length lens. (Says the guy who still wanders about with a Rollei TLR.) A client bought a couple of Fujifilm X100vs for his staff to shoot snapshots and record photos in their facility. He handed one to me and asked what I thought about it. I used it for a few weeks and liked it a lot. The 35mm field of view is still my fave, having carried a battered M-4 with a 35mm Summilux for about 10 years. But I really missed a longer lens for the occasional portrait. 90-105mm would be perfect. I don't want a zoom. I want a multifocal lens. 35mm and 90mm. I don't want a cropped image. That's just lame.
I may have posted the same lament previously, of maybe that was on MJ's blog.

Malcolm said...

I was thinking about this. Whilst I could technically afford a $6,000 camera (£5300 in the UK) I would never drop that much on a camera. I have so many to choose from that bring me joy that it would never get the use it deserves. Also, 60 MP would fill my laptop in no time flat.

Instead, the other day, and for less than £20, I got a photobook printed for my God-daughter's 18th birthday, showing pictures that I had taken of her throughout her life. She loved it, and so did her Mum. I now want to do one for her brother and sister too. I think doing something with my photos is where I prefer to spend my photography money these days.

adam said...

it looks appealing, it's not high on my list, there are some things that look like they might annoy me from reviews, getting a discount on top of the open box price would make it more appealing, not that far fetched a notion, maybe I should check if leica do refurbs... only dropped twice

Kirk, Photographer/Writer said...

I have never seen a "refurb" page on any of the Leica sites. As for them reselling a dropped camera? Wouldn't believe that until I saw it on tape. I've bought two used cameras from Leica Store Miami that had both been to Leica Germany for CLA and they've been perfect and also came with a year's warranty. I get that the Q3 is expensive. But faulty? Hmmmm.

adam said...

I just looked, they have a used store, px etc, can't see any refurbed dealer returns, some intriguing looking stuff


Kirk, Photographer/Writer said...

Adam, That's a great link. Thanks for that!!

Gary said...

I applaud your perspective. "Would I use it $6k worth?" Another comment, related to but not about price: When I see or read a recommendation in photo media for an expensive camera, I often say to myself, "Dude, you can deduct the purchase price as a business expense."

adam said...

the auction site has a whole section for classic prints, not sure I want to bid 4 grand for an index card from the leica museum though

adam said...

they sell the $4k index cards to make the cameras look cheap

Anonymous said...

I think having a lot of money sounds as stressful as not having enough. There is always something else to buy.

Kirk, Photographer/Writer said...

Anonymous, I've done it both ways. Having a lot of money is like....ten times better than not having enough. You don't HAVE to buy something else. But you CAN if you want to. You can also donate to good causes, eat better food, live in safer places, etc, etc, etc.

All those things go a long way to eradicating any real stress.