Leica is known for making cameras that are too expensive for most people. Its latest one, the Leica Q (Typ 116), is no exception. You can tell a lot about its high value simply by glancing at it; the gorgeous magnesium alloy and matte black finish makes it look exquisitely premium. There are also little details around the chassis to make you further appreciate its design, including an area that allows your thumb to rest comfortably while you’re shooting. At roughly 23 ounces (640 grams), the Q isn’t exactly lightweight, but doesn’t feel heavy either — its mass is distributed perfectly throughout. But OK, enough about the appearance. How does this $4,250 camera actually perform in the real world?
As expected, Leica’s new shooter is feature-packed, with a 24-megapixel, full-frame CMOS sensor, an ISO range of up to 50,000, a 3-inch (high-res) LCD display, NFC, WiFi and a contrast-detect autofocus system. Along with that, you’ll also get 1080p video (30 or 60 fps), a 1,280 x 960 electronic viewfinder, mechanical and electronic shutter types, as well as a free copy of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6. As you’d expect, that solid spec list bodes well for everyday use. The Q produces crisp images and HD videos, even in low light. That’s largely thanks to its full-frame sensor, which Leica says was custom built and designed to work in conjunction with the Summilux 28mm f/1.7 fixed lens.
The Q’s menu system is simple to navigate and a pleasure to use too, while an array of physical dials provide quick access to the shutter and exposure settings. Additionally, the Summilux lens has three rings that let you manually control your aperture, focus and macro. What you won’t find here, however, is an optical zoom; instead, there’s a 35mm or 50mm crop mode. Sure, that’s not the best option, but at least it works well for most close-up shots. Battery life, for its part, is quoted at 300 shots, and the camera had no problems reaching that number — the power levels do shorten noticeably when shooting video, although that’s to be expected.
Simply put, the Leica Q is one of the best compact cameras I’ve ever used. Is it worth the $4,250? If you have the money, without a doubt. And if you don’t? If that’s the case, I wouldn’t fret about going with a less expensive, yet slightly similar, option — such as Sony’s A7 II, which happens to offer a wide selection of lenses. The thing is, with the Leica Q, you’re paying for more than satisfying picture quality and elegant design; it’s also about owning a great product from a prestigious and luxurious brand. The real question is: How much does that matter to you?