The Leica Q (Typ 116) is a high-end lightweight fixed-lens camera with a full-frame 24MP sensor and a stabilized 28mm F1.7 Summilux lens. For Leica, it reflects a new product range, which was the first full-frame Leica to implement an autofocus system.
The Q is similarly styled to the high-end M-series rangefinders from Leica, but with a high-resolution electronic viewfinder and touch-sensitive LCD screen attached. The Q’s touchscreen is largely optional, which operates in concert with many traditional physical) control points, unlike the Leica T, where Leica found the touchscreen completely integral to the handling experience. This traditional and contemporary mix is fundamental to the Q, which fluidly combines manual supervision with technological assistance in its ergonomics.
Leica Q: Price
Leica Q: Specs
Although the Leica Q recently got an upgrade in the form of its successor (the Leica Q2), its features and overall performance are still very impressive.
First of all, the combination of a 24.2-megapixel full-framework sensor and a fast 28mm wide-angle lens provides outstanding results. Moreover, the camera works great in different light environments because of its wide ISO range that goes from ISO 100 to 50000 both for photography and video recording.
Another thing that places the Leica Q at the top of the list is its fast and reliable autofocus system and high continuous burst shooting rate of 10 frames per second. The video capabilities are not bad either since the camera allows you to record 1080p videos at either 30 or 60 fps.
The Leica Q also has Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity so you can easily connect the camera to smart devices and instantly share the images you take.
Leica Q: Body
The Leica Q has a very authentic look. It comes in black, titanium grey and silver colour while the whole design is very retro. The camera is built out of magnesium-alloy, and it includes a super-strong body so it should work like a charm in years to come even if you use it every day.
There should be no doubt about the quality of this camera. Even if you drop it, the Leica Q survives, though I wouldn’t recommend dropping a $3,800 camera! For a traveling camera, this is very important since we all know fragile things usually get broken in our pockets and suitcases while we are traveling.
Check Out: Best Camera for Travelling Photography
Another advantage of this camera is usually its compactness. It measures 5.12 x 3.15 x 3.66 inches and weighs 1.41 lb, with battery and lens included. Because of this, you can always carry it around prepared to capture important moments of your life.
The camera has a built-in electronic viewfinder with a resolution of 3.68M dots. Additionally, you can compose pictures by using a 3″ fixed touchscreen LCD with 1.04 million dots.
Leica Q: Image quality
The Leica Q’s photo quality is definitely, of course, terrific; however, Leica’s processing decisions and options are not as mainstream as its feature set. You should probably always shoot DNG+JPEG because the JPEGs have minimal processing and you’ll want to edit the DNGs.
Leica doesn’t perform any noise smoothing in the JPEGs, however, so the photos look grainy starting at about ISO 6400. I prefer this approach, but it won’t be to everyone’s taste, as it’s different from what we’ve come to expect from most cameras. Additionally, at the two highest ISO sensitivity settings horizontal striations appear in the noise. If that’s a problem for you, I’d wait to see if it’s something Leica can (and will) address with a firmware update. It would be great if the camera had some options for the JPEG processing, as just a little smoothing would help at the higher sensitivities.
The 28mm f1.7 lens delivers beautiful bokeh, with smooth out-of-focus areas and round highlights. It displays excellent sharpness, across the entire aperture range and from edge to edge, with little fringing. Although Leica warned me that the optical picture stabilization could degrade the corners somewhat, not an uncommon problem, I didn’t observe any issues. If you do, you can turn it off.
All that’s great; the moire, not so much. (Moire is an interference-pattern artefact that appears in high-frequency patterns, like fabric, as shown below.) It’s everywhere. Normally, I have to search for examples of it in my photos, but for the Q I experienced to narrow down an example from a wealth of choices. While I expect it with a sharp zoom lens and an antialiasing-filter-free sensor, the camera should at least offer some moire reduction for the JPEGs.
Leica Q: Performance
Given Leica’s relative lack of experience with autofocus systems, the Q acquits itself very well. It powers on, focuses and shoots in under a second; it’s extremely tough to accurately measure startup time because of the camera’s design. In practice, though, it never slowed me down and never missed a shot waiting for it to start.
It takes 0.2 seconds to focus and shoot in good light and 0.3 in a dim, good performance for this type of camera, as can be its 0.4 second period to shoot two consecutive photos in both JPEG and DNG+JPEG formats.
Continuous shooting speed with autofocus for JPEGs is great for its class. In testing, it sustained a rate of 4.7 fps for over 30 shots. While it can burst DNG+JPEG at 5fps, it can only do it for nine photos before slowing. The camera doesn’t offer a raw-only mode.
The tracking autofocus is a little rough, though. Like most older contrast-autofocus systems, the focus areas are in the centre of the body and it loses the subject easily. However, using centre-area autofocus and panning I got a reasonable number of in-focus pictures, and it locked concentrate quickly while street shooting. Its manual focusing is certainly everything you’d expect: easy and easy, with accurate focus peaking to aid you.
Leica Q: Conclusion
The Leica Q’s most notable alternative is the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1R, a similarly designed full-frame compact with a 35mm f2 lens which costs over $1,000 less ($2,800, £2,600 or AU$3,500). The Sony is about two years old now and its feature set isn’t nearly as good as the Leica’s, plus it doesn’t have a built-in viewfinder. The Q’s only serious drawback for some people is the more you’ll spend a lot of time eradicating. So as the Q is expensive, it’s not unreasonably expensive. Just sadly unreachably expensive for many of us.