In the simplest terms, the Leica Q3 camera is a simpler version of the famous Leica M cameras. It comes with a fixed lens instead of the interchangeable lens camera system on the earlier models.
That said, the Leica Q3 is by no means a lesser camera in terms of the image quality that the German imaging company is known for.
The new camera has the same magnesium die-cast metal construction and comes in a beefy 80.3 x 92.6 x 130mm frame.
Like any well-made Leica device, the Leica Q3 ticks all the right boxes, from the tactile feel of the jog wheels to the subtle click of the shutter. In a world of throwaway smartwatches, the Leica Q3 is a Swiss automatic.
That said, the camera isn’t flawless. In making the camera sleek-looking, Leica has made the surface a little too smooth to feel secure when you hold the camera.
I’d use a wrist strap just to make sure I don’t drop the precious camera, which looks sophisticated and desirable but could do with some friction for a better grip.
There are two accessories needed to make the Leica Q3 more comfortable to use. The HG-DC1 Handgrip and thumb support will make it more secure for a single-hand operation.
Don’t forget the Q3 weighs 743g. It is not the heaviest among my imaging gear, but it felt pretty hefty after a full day of walking through Nagano, Yokohama and Tokyo during a trip in Japan.
Back to the accessories: The added benefit of the HG-DC1 Handgrip is the ability to charge the camera wirelessly, something I have yet to see from other camera manufacturers.
The Leica Q3 is a reminder that a good camera comes with direct controls for shutter speed, ISO and aperture settings.
Like the Fujifilm X100, the Leica camera gives the user a quick glimpse of the focusing distance, shutter speed and aperture settings just by looking at the camera’s top plate.
If you want to switch to the fully automatic mode, twist the aperture ring and the shutter speed wheel to “A”. Remember to go into the ISO menu and switch to Auto ISO. This way is so much easier when changing a shooting mode.
The same cannot be said with the rear panel buttons. It is a bit too recessed for my liking. I have to used both hands just to navigate around the screen using the four-way buttons. The button placement will be much better if the thumb wheel is not in the way.
Another accessory that will help in image capture is the soft-release button which you can screw into the shutter release button for faster shutter activation. Many precise moments are captured thanks to this little button.
When it comes to image quality, the Q3 delivers on expectatopns. The Leica Summilux 28mm f1.7 lens and Leica’s image processing add that subtle warmth and eye-pleasing contrast, creating imagery that is unmistakably Leica.
It also helps that the camera has a 60-megapixel sensor sitting behind the lens. It has enough resolution for the camera to give you options to crop in-camera, though I would shoot wide at 28mm and crop in during post-processing. Remember to use DNG RAW file format to get the most out of your images.
I wish the autofocus can be more accurate at times, say, when looking through the 5.76-million-dot viewfinder or the tiltable 3-inch rear screen.
The camera struggles a bit when there is a lack of contrast, or multiple subjects are in the frame. It’s a good thing I am comfortable using the manual focusing lever, with the focusing peaking feature switched on.
What about videos? To be fair, the Leica Q3 is built as a still camera, but the company has included video capture at 8K resolution at 30 frames per second, which is a plus for folks who want to add moving pictures.
The camera also has stereo microphones and a mono speaker, but no headphone jack. I’d say the Leica Q3 is adequate for vlogging and video snippets but not big video projects.
One area which I am pleasantly surprised with Leica is smartphone integration, something that Japanese camera makers have not done as well.
Without much fuss, I managed to get my smartphone to connect and control the Q3 remotely. Downloading images to share on Facebook and Instagram was refreshingly simple.
To be sure, Leica’s asking price of S$8,960 will not make the Q3 everyone’s cup of tea. However, what you are paying for is the experience of capturing images in a way no other camera maker offers today. The closest is Fujifilm’s attempt at “film simulation”, but even that is not comparable.
The Q3 gets out of your way when you are trying to capture an image and yet involves you in subtle ways like manual focusing. Both the experience of taking a picture and the output on the actual picture are top-notch and uniquely Leica.
CORRECTION at 15/02/2024, 5:30pm: An earlier version of the story included a picture caption that wrongly stated the camera lens’ widest aperture. This has been corrected in the article. We are sorry for the error.