Little but mighty Leica Q Digital Camera is a $4,000 pocket powerhouse

Little but mighty Leica Q Digital Camera is a $4,000 pocket powerhouse
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While it won’t do anything for people without a laughable amount of money, it’s a point-and-shoot camera with a fantastic full-frame image sensor, stunning 28mm f/1.7 Summilux lens, and features like 10fps burst speed, autofocus, 1080/60p video, and WiFi.


At over $4,000 it’s clearly not for most, but it’s a milestone nonetheless. For Leica, in particular, it’s an extremely successful attempt at marrying the company’s storied attention to craftsmanship and build quality with the kind of convenience and alacrity that Leica has typically failed to deliver with its newer digital cameras.

Despite its diminutive stature, the body still feels practically barren compared to most cameras on the market, even with a bevy of ports and dials, plus a 3-inch LCD and an electronic viewfinder (EVF).
Though past Leica-branded point-and-shoots offered autofocus, it’s usually come at the expense of the fine manual control that Leica M owners desire. Not so with the Leica Q, and that’s thanks entirely to the beautiful 28mm f/1.7 Summilux lens paired with the Q.
From a design perspective, it looks like any other Leica lens. It’s expertly crafted, offering supreme build quality and attention to detail. Unlike most Leica M lenses, the aperture and focus controls here are “by-wire,” meaning they don’t physically alter aperture or focus directly, but send commands to the camera.


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While “by-wire” is usually a watchword for “low quality” lens design, that isn’t the case here. Leica’s done an incredible job of designing a focus ring that feels as smooth and responsive as any mechanically coupled focus ring we’ve used. That’s essential, because though the Q offers a fast and accurate autofocus (even in dim light), it’s designed with manual focus shooters in mind.
For most Leica M-series cameras, listing the features doesn’t take all that long; they usually don’t have many. For the Leica Q, however, there are tons. In addition to the physical hardware—the 3-inch LCD, the 3m-dot EVF, and the 28mm f/1.7 lens with its macro/normal focus range switch—there’s lots of digital features worth discussing.

The first is definitely the WiFi integration. This lets you use your smartphone as a remote viewfinder and control, while also allowing you to shuttle photos from the camera to your phone and on to services like Flickr and Facebook.
The Q also comes replete with a full suite of video controls, letting you make adjustments on the fly while recording video in 1080p at 24 or 60 frames per second. It’s not on par with similarly priced video options, but it’s a nice extra.
My favorite features, by far, are reserved for shooting stills, though. Manual focus, especially, has been given some nice enhancements in the form of focus peaking and magnification, putting the razor-sharp EVF to good use.


For more fast-moving subjects you can also swap to autofocus. The system is entirely contrast-based—so it slows down a bit in low light—but it’s highly accurate. The Q even offers 10fps maximum burst speed, letting you snap off a torrent of stills when necessary.
When I first picked up the Leica Q, I was astonished that it managed to pack a quick, quiet autofocus with well-done physical controls geared toward photo geeks.
Once I got the Q back into our imaging test labs, it excelled in nearly every performance test we threw at it. The lens is incredibly sharp, the bokeh is beautiful, and the sensor offers expansive dynamic range and color performance on par with some of the best cameras on the market.


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Add it all up and you have a camera that offers image quality that is the equal of many high-end full-frame DSLRs, but in a package that’s still smaller than the best point-and-shoots. The lack of 4K video means it isn’t quite as future-proof as other options in this part of the market, but we seriously doubt people are buying the Leica Q for its video chops anyway.
But as is always the rub with Leica, the price is far beyond what would typically be a “sane” budget for a single camera—even one this good. But aside from that (admittedly significant) hurdle, it's everything we love about the Leica M shrunken down, with all the annoying bits sanded down
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