We believe that one should generally use the right tool - or tools - for the right job. Over the years, that has led us to develop 2~3 standard “loadouts” for travel depending on the expected mix of mobility required, work expected and general purpose of the trip (leisure versus pleasure). In general, however, one rule more or less holds true - the lighter the gear, the more compromises need to be made.

Recently, technological advances such full frame sensors in small compact cameras such as the Leica Q and unimaginably light full-fledged computers such as the 12” retina Macbook have opened up the possibility of benefiting from ultra-light packing weights without having to give up the pro-level standards of performance. The question, however, is what compromises remain with such a kit?

Positives

  • It’s (as might be expected) super light weight the rMB is not only light weight itself, but also offers additional savings in the teeny tiny AC Adaptor. It is true that one needs an additional USB-C adaptor for most things - a not-inexpensive $79 USD - but it is lightweight, rugged, and takes up almost no space in even a lightweight kit.
  • The Leica Q itself is both rugged (we have ours wrapped in a tight neoprene case to protect against undue scratches and impacts, but it would probably survive on its own) and relatively lightweight compared to a DSLR, although the almost mandatory separately-sold 1st party hand grip adds a significant amount of weight, and the included (and overall quite excellent) lens hood also increases the overall physically depth of the camera.
  • The battery of the Leica Q charges relatively quickly (though not in camera - see below) and as does the battery of the 12” rMB. The 12” rMB also features a long enough battery life - whilst not as excellent as some of Apple’s other MacBooks - that it can last a day out without requiring at the AC adaptor to come along for the ride.
  • The 12” rMB keyboard is not as bad as many people make it to be - with the sole exception of the arrow keys which still take some getting used to ([LINK]). The travel depth is relatively short and the sound is a bit noisy, but overall it is comfortable to type on (reminding us of the [new lighting Magic Keyboard] which we reviewed) and gets the job done with relatively few errors after a short learning curve.

Negatives

  • Rendering images on the rMB takes forever - this is exacerbated by the [ridiculous 45MB uncompressed DNGs] that the Q spits out. It literally took 3+ hours (see our side-by-side comparison of end-to-end rendering times [here] versus the Macbook Pro) to render 389 images and the computer was fairly unresponsive in the interim.
  • The single USB-C port is actually a pain in the ass - running the T3 SSD [reference link].
    • Normally packing light means that we just bring a single AC adaptor - normally charging the other from the computer USB port.
    • However, the super long rendering times on the 12” rMB means that we end up usually just letting the images render over night - but that’s exactly the time we want to charge both our Apple Watch and iPhone.
    • The Apple USB-C adaptor only provides a single USB port, so that’s a no go as it’s occupied by the SSD.
    • So the solution is either to borrow our Anker USB power port (which negates some of the weight savings of the smaller rMB AC adaptor) from our mid-to-heavy weight kit OR search for a separate USB adaptor (see our [review of the Seatech USB-C Adaptor here].
  • The battery life of the Leica Q is short - really, really short. We had this problem to a limited extent with the similarly small FF Sony RX-1 but only ran out of battery after a full day of shooting. The Leica Q on the other hand, ran down a completely fully battery after just 2 hours of walking around in Kyoto, leaving us with a heavy metal weight hanging around our neck for the rest of the day.
    • Carefully making sure to turn of the camera when not actively shooting and judicious usage of the viewfinder vs the LCD screen can extend this time, but the slight lag in startup time (and the annoyance of having to always turn the camera on and off via the small, finicky switch that too easily slides into continuous shooting vs single shot mode when activating) only adds friction to a camera that seems designed to reduce friction from the act of photography
  • The Leica Q does not do in-camera battery charging, requiring instead a separate external battery charger. This adds additional bulk and takes up unnecessary space in a lightweight travel pack.
    • When we first encountered in-camera battery charging in the RX-1, we found it annoying (after all, it then required the purchase of separately-sold AC adaptor to charge a backup battery, part of Sony’s bad habit of nickel-and-diming for necessary accessories) but after a few short trips we became sold on the primary merit - it lets one save space that a bulky external adaptor would require in a lightweight travel kit - instead relying basically on a USB cable one likely has on hand already.
    • The Leica Q battery charger is both bulky and requires a clumsy, equally bulky AC adaptor cable which is annoying. The adaptor itself at least is lightweight, and if one is brave, it is possible to do away with the AC cord and adapt the removable plug from the macbook charger to fit the Leica-Q AC adaptor. We have done this before and can confirm it works - coupled with the relatively fast charging time for the Q battery and the long-enough battery life for the 12” rMB means that this is less annoying than one might expect.