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Leica Q3 review: the quintessential Leica

Leica’s Q series is the company’s best-selling digital camera to date and it’s not all that difficult to see why. Kevin Carter looks at the latest iteration, the Leica Q3

Small, light and unobtrusive the Leica Q embodies all that’s attractive of the Leica M with added the benefit of a Kabe-designed Leica autofocus 28mm F1.7 lens.

This is the closest we have to an autofocus M series camera, and unless you’re adept at using one of those you’ll be more successful shooting at the initial aperture or close to it and far more discrete using a Leica Q. What’s more, the latest iteration the Leica Q3 is the fastest and easiest to use yet.

To the casual observer, the Leica Q3 looks like a mild makeover of the Q2. Pick it up and take a few pictures and, except for the flip-out screen, it doesn’t seem much different. But nothing could be further from the truth. Nearly everything in the Q3 has been either tweaked or reworked.

Admittedly, the lens hasn’t changed it’s the same fixed 28mm F1.7 lens found on the original Q but the extra pixel count from the Leica Q3’s full-frame 60MP CMOS sensor (up from 47 MP in the Leica Q2) makes even more sense in the development of the series.

Features like the Leica Q3’s framing options – effectively digital crops – that neatly emulate the Leica M’s rangefinder frame lines, benefit from an increase in resolution over the Q2’s. Admittedly, the 75mm and newly added 90mm frame options would benefit from more to start with, but the 35mm at 38.6 MP is great and even the 50mm at 18.9 MP is still entirely viable. Previously the Leica Q2 offered a very usable 30 MP at 35mm but a less convincing 15 MP at 50mm.

Like the Q2, the electronic viewfinder displays the frame lines with each successive button push, and just like the optical viewfinder of the Leica M you can still see outside the frame, which is unbelievably helpful when timing is crucial.

Those extra pixels even help with the camera’s in-built lens profile correction; more resolution equates to less pixel stretching and extrapolation to remove vignetting. Not that it was ever an issue in the Leica Q2. Thankfully, that’s all taken care of with out-of-camera JPEGs and in your chosen editor when using RAW.

While there are detractors of built-in digital lens correction like this, it’s here to stay and more pixels are always a plus. As for noise and dynamic range, the sensor behaves like the Leica M11, which is unsurprising given its related design. Image quality then is outstanding, and slightly better even than that of the Leica Q2!

Leica Q3 showing the screen extended
Leica Q3, showing the screen extended.

But what about that flip-down LCD? When the Leica Q3 was announced various online commentators claimed that the screen looked ‘deep’ and a bit ‘outdated.’ Presumably, they were also thinking it would interfere with the handling. Well, that’s just not how it is. Unlike most digital cameras the Q3 body is incredibly slim. It’s the narrow body that makes the screen look that way but at least it’s substantial. In use, it’s not noticeable up to the eye and barely affects the handling negatively in any meaningful way.

Admittedly, things are a bit different compared to the previous model, when navigating the menus away from the eye. The left hand is redundant as the controls are now all on the right-hand side. More importantly, the large FN button of the Q2 has been moved to the upper edge of the top plate alongside a second programable FN button, where they can be easily accessed with the eye to the viewfinder.

Leica Q3 rear showing the control interface, which has been moved around since the Q2
Leica Q3 rear showing the repositioned controls (over the Leica Q2, which had three large buttons to the left of the screen). Note the two custom (FN) buttons at the rear of the top plate.

Naturally, with the rear screen flipped out you can use the Leica Q3 at waist level or even overhead. If there’s a slight downside it’s that the screen can’t be pulled out quite far enough for it to be levelled, which admittedly is a bit awkward if the camera is to be used at ground level. Still, the LCD’s quality is excellent and the resolution has even been upped from 1.04 to 1.84 m-dots making it easier to confirm focus zoomed in.

The screen remains touch-sensitive for numerous features including positioning of the AF point. However, some users like myself might now leave it alone anyway as the new updated ‘hybrid’ AF system includes depth mapping and phase comparison.

While the Q3 includes the eye/face AF detection of the Q2 only now it seems much more sensitive and even faster to acquire. The camera no longer requires any prompting from the user (using touch AF to help acquire a face initially) and it can detect both eyes and track head movements easily. Body detection and tracking are now included as well, with the face/body/AF detection area apparently linked to exposure metering.

In use, the new AF detection can be relied upon in most situations with people photography, only tripping up occasionally under the most extreme high contrast lighting conditions (such as dimly-lit indoor portraits against strong backlighting from a window). For landscapes though placing an AF point is still necessary or, if you prefer, you can switch to the Q3’s nicely weighted manual focusing.

Other improvements over the Leica Q2 include a higher-resolution OLED viewfinder up from 3.68 m-dots (1280 × 960 pixels x 3 colours) to 5.76 m-dots. For the most part, though, a lower res is used for composition and only the full res is realised during playback. Nevertheless, it has a slightly higher magnification (0.76 vs 0.79x) which is always a benefit and around the same eye relief (21mm). The eyepiece isn’t that well shielded against stray light but it’s rarely an issue even with glasses and remains easy to clean – a real plus that other manufacturers often overlook.

Panorama of two RAW images showing thatched cottages stitched in Capture One.
Panorama of two RAW images showing thatched cottages stitched in Capture One Pro. Handheld at 1/125 sec, F5.6, at ISO 400. Resized to 1200px.

For me personally, one of the highlights of the Q2 and now the Leica Q3 is its low-light ability. With the combination of optical image stabilisation and whisper-quiet, low-vibration leaf shutter, I can hand-hold the Leica Q2 at 1/8 sec and still get super-sharp images using low ISOs (typically no more than ISO400).

Maybe that doesn’t sound like much but I can’t do that with any other camera. For me, knowing I can handhold a small super-discrete camera in the ‘blue hour’ is a phenomenal capability.

Low light shot of a public house and restaurant.
Low light shot of a public house and restaurant. Handheld at 1/250 sec, F5.6, at ISO 400. Processed from RAW in Capture One Pro. Resized to 1200px.

Given the higher pixel density, I wasn’t expecting the same with Leica Q3, but the same 1/8 sec was the lowest I could handheld that as well. Others with better technique than me may well get away with even slower speeds. And, that’s especially the case now as I’ve since discovered the Leica Q3’s vibration-free electronic shutter option is available over a much wider range including slow speeds, not just ultra-high shutter speeds as in the Q2.

In summary, the Leica Q3 naturally builds on the success of the Q2 and is without a doubt an even better camera overall. Indeed, there’s so much to it I haven’t even looked fully at its video capabilities which demand more time to assess.

Perhaps best of all, if you’re on the fence about upgrading from the Q2, is that you can pick up the Leica Q3 and it feels immediately familiar. However, it’s a lot more ’rounded-out’ in its spec and capability. AF is faster, more sensitive and reliable and the pull-out LCD is a welcome improvement when used away from the eye. While the Leica Ms are great, no question, to my mind the Leica Q3 is the most compelling Leica camera in the range.

What’s Hot

Faster, more reliable hybrid AF over Leica Q2
Outstanding IQ with wonderful rendering
Low-light capabilities (IS/LS)
Useful 35mm and 50mm crop options
Discreet operation
Fold-out screen for low and waist-level shots

What’s Not

Comes at a price


With an RRP of £5,300 inc VAT, the Leica Q3 is available at the following retailers [some links are affiliates]:

Added: WEX Photo (UK)| Park Cameras (UK) | Leica Camera (UK)

Added: B&H Photo (US) | Adorama (US)


Disclosure: The camera was supplied for review by Leica UK.

Sample Images

Large thatched cottage located on a green
One of the Capture One processed RAW frames used for the stitched panorama above. The Leica 28mm F1.7 Summilux has a wonderfully attractive drawing style or rendering. Handheld at 1/125 sec, F5.6, at ISO 400. Resized to 1200px.


Approximate 35mm crop from 28mm in Capture One Pro, showing wonderful light striking a tree in a village setting.
Approximate 35mm crop from 28mm in Capture One Pro, showing wonderful light striking a tree in a village setting. Handheld at 1/320 sec, F5.6, at ISO 400. Resized to 1200px.


Low light shot of a pretty-looking cottage.
The Leica Q3’s 28mm F1.7 Summilux has a wonderfully attractive rendering. Handheld at 1/200 sec, F5.6, at ISO 400. Resized to 1200px.


Low light shot of a tree with golden-coloured leaves.
Low light shot of bushes and a willow tree beside the River Lea for a personal project. Handheld at 1/8 sec, F2.8, at ISO 400. Resized to 1200px.


100% crop, actual pixels showing sharpness at 1/8 sec
100% crop, actual pixels, from the shot above, showing excellent sharpness and high detail levels. Handheld at 1/8 sec, F2.8, at ISO 400. Resized to 1200px.