Leica Q (Type 116) review: Everything you expect from a Leica, from sharp photos to a high price

Shooting speed

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III
0.3
0.1
0.5
0.5
2.0
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100
0.2
0.2
0.4
0.5
2.5
Leica Q
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.4
0.9

Legend:

Shutter lag (typical)
Shutter lag (dim)
Typical shot-to-shot time
Raw shot-to-shot time
Time to first shot

Note:

Seconds (smaller is better)

Typical continuous-shooting speed

Leica Q
4.7
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100
4.1
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III
2.1

Note:

Frames per second (larger is better)

Design and features

While it doesn't share the exact design of another Leica, it certainly shares the design aesthetic of all the company's cameras. It's somewhat large and heavy thanks to the all-magnesium-and-aluminum construction. Though solid, it's not dust or weather-sealed.

The main body is textured to help you hold it; one of my few complaints about the design is the lack of a grip, though there's a carved-out thumb rest in the back that makes it just comfortable enough to shoot single handed. Leica offers a clever optional grip with a silicone finger grip that makes dangling the camera in your hand more secure and comfortable.

It takes a 49mm screw-on filter on the lens and comes with a lens hood that you'll probably just want to leave on the camera if you shoot a lot in daylight. The lens cap fits over the hood, which is nice, but it has a velveteen lining that had already begun to peel off in the short time I had the camera.

On the top is the shutter button, with a power switch that rotates to single and continuous shooting modes, a movie record button, an adjustment dial and the shutter-speed dial; as with most cameras that have physical shutter speed dials, you can dial in the third-stop increments with the adjustment dial. Also a common convention, rotating the dial to A puts you in full automatic mode if the aperture dial is also set to A or into aperture-priority mode if it's not. There's also a hot shoe; the camera has no built-in flash. One notable spec for flash photographers: it has a fast sync speed of 1/500 second.

In back it has play, delete, menu and ISO sensitivity buttons down the left side of the LCD, along with a programmable button which you can set for white balance, exposure compensation, program exposure modes, file format, metering, wireless and self timer. The lack of direct-access buttons for these would be more annoying if it weren't so easy to switch the Fn button operation by simply pressing it and holding it. On the right is an oddly small but functional four-way navigation switch. A small, flat button by the thumb grip controls autofocus/autoexposure lock.

I really like the viewfinder -- it's big and bright with a shallow rubberized eye cup, and when you're shooting in one of the 28mm or 35mm crop modes it displays framing lines (as does the LCD). It can strobe a little when you're shooting video, but that didn't bother me much. The fixed touchscreen LCD can be difficult to see in direct sunlight but is responsive to swiping through images in playback and touch focus.

Under the right cover are standard Mini-USB and Mini-HDMI connectors. It's too bad that Leica put the SD card in the battery compartment. It's close enough to the tripod mount to make it inaccessible if you have a large mounting plate, though a small one should be okay.

leica-q-01.jpg

The lens is very well designed.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Unsurprisingly, the lens is beautifully designed and operates fluidly and precisely. The clicky aperture ring (f1.7 to f16 and auto) sits on the lens end, with the focus ring in the middle. There's a button you press to rotate the ring into and out of autofocus, and the button doubles as a rest so that the camera sits flat when you put it down rather than leaning forward on the lens. On the mount side is a macro toggle ring; when enabled, it switches the distance indicators for closer shots.

The Leica Q's menu system is pretty sparse -- no tabs here. It comprises four top-level screens that scroll continuously. More mainstream options include various autofocus modes (multipoint, single point, tracking, face detection, touch autofocus and touch shutter AF) and a handful of scene program modes plus a tilt-shift effect, panorama, time lapse and a Digiscoping mode for working with Leica's spotting scopes. The panorama mode, which shoots continuously while you move the camera and then automatically stitches the shots together, isn't very good. But the basic time lapse, which builds a movie, is fine.

You can set many video settings separately from still options, including focus mode; constrast, saturation and sharpness; and image stabilization. there's also an option for shooting stills during recording, a wind filter and microphone gain.

The camera supports Wi-Fi with NFC for both image transfer and remote shooting, but the app wasn't available to test when I had the camera. It ships with a download coupon for a free version of Adobe Lightroom.

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 moire you'll spend a lot of time eradicating. So while the Q is expensive, it's not unreasonably expensive. Just sadly unreachably expensive for many of us.

Comparative specifications


Leica Q Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1R
Sensor effective resolution 24.2MP CMOS
n/a
14-bit
24.3MP Exmor CMOS
n/a
14-bit
Sensor size 36 x 24mm
35.8 x 23.9mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.0x 1.0x
OLPF No No
Lens 28mm
f.1.7
35mm
f2.0
Closest focus 6.7 in
17 cm
7.9 in
20 cm
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 50000 ISO 50
(exp)/ ISO 100 - ISO 25600
Burst shooting 10fps
n/a raw/unlimited JPEG
2.5fps
24 JPEG/15 raw
(with fixed exposure and focus)
Viewfinder
(mag/ effective mag)
Electronic
100% coverage
3.68MP LCOS
n/a
Optional
OLED EVF
Hot Shoe Yes Yes
Autofocus n/a
Contrast AF
25-area
contrast AF
AF sensitivity
(at center point)
n/a 0 - 20 EV
Shutter speed 1/2,000 to 30 secs (to 1/6,000 with electronic shutter); bulb; 1/500 sec x-sync 1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb
Shutter durability n/a n/a
Metering n/a n/a
Metering sensitivity n/a 0 - 20 EV
Best video H.264 MP4
1080/60p, 30p
AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28Mbps, 1080/24p @ 17MBps
Audio stereo
stereo; mic input
Manual aperture and shutter in video Yes Yes
Maximum best-quality recording time n/a 29 min
Clean HDMI out n/a n/a
IS Optical Optical
LCD 3 in/7.5 cm
Fixed touchscreen
1.04m dots
3 in/7.5 cm
Fixed
921,000 dots plus extra set of white dots
Memory slots 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC
Wireless connection Wi-Fi, NFC None
Flash No Yes
Wireless flash n/a Yes
Battery life (CIPA rating) n/a
(1,200 mAh)
270 shots
(1,080 mAh)
Size (WHD) 5.1 x 3.1 x 3.7 in
130 x 80 x 93mm
4.5 x 2.6 x 2.8 in
113 x 65 x 70 mm
Body operating weight 22.6 oz
640 g
17 oz (est.)
482 g (est.)
Mfr. price $4,250
n/a
$2,800
£2,600
AU$3,500
Release date June 2015 June 2013

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