The Leica Q3 is the latest iteration of the German manufacturer’s Q series of cameras. Q has ruled the realm of the full-frame, autofocusing, fixed-lens camera category since the first was released in 2015. While a seemingly niche category, it’s far from it. The Q3 is essentially the ultimate everyday camera, compact and hardy enough to handle the stresses of travel with image quality that does all the talking. This Leica Q3 review details exactly why this camera should be your new go-to.
Leica remains unchallenged in this space, the Q3 only further cements its lead, widening the chasm between its competition into a seemingly unconquerable abyss. I recently had the chance to put the Q3 through its paces on a trip into the Arctic Circle, while visiting some of Greenland’s rarely explored coastline.
For the uninitiated, the Q3 is a joy to use. It’s compact, minimal, quick, unobtrusive and takes incredible images. While it’s packed with features to keep professionals happy, it’s also impressively simple. In fact, if you handed the Q3 to an elderly relative, they would likely get on far better than they would with a smartphone. Leica’s classic design language helps that.
It looks as good as a film camera and utilizes all the useful hallmarks of the analog age, buttons and dials quickly change settings and rapidly become muscle memory. They also tend to be far more reliable with cold or wet hands.
That being said, the Q3 is not stuck in the past. This iteration brings a new flip-out LCD screen, a larger sensor, a faster internal processor and further connectivity options to ensure the Q3 keeps up with whatever is thrown at it.
It’s incredibly difficult to maintain pace with the rapid development of technology, while still appealing to the purists. Classic cars remain as inefficient, yet as popular as ever. With the Q3, Leica has once again presented all the quality and convenience of a contemporary device, in a package that continually conjures the charm of photographic process.
Inside the Leica Q3
You can’t write a review of the Leica Q3 without discussing its new sensor. The Leica Q3 features a chunky 60-megapixel BSI CMOS with triple-resolution technology. It’s a big step up from the 47-megapixel Q2, while the triple resolution technology reduces the sensor size.
If you desire, you can turn down the juice and shoot in either 60, 36 or 18 MP for your RAW or Jpeg images. Essentially while keeping the maximum 60 MP of detail for your RAW images, you can drop the Jpeg file size down for easy transfer and social uploads.
Even the lower quality Jpegs are impressive. Leica’s color technology remains as capable as ever, images are detailed and punchy yet with plenty of headroom for post-production. Of course, it’s not all about the sensor. A good sensor without an equally striking lens is a waste, but luckily Leica has it covered.
The Q3 has the same fixed lens as its two older siblings, embodying the if it isn’t broke don’t fix it mantra. While sensor and camera body technology advances at a rapid pace, glass is glass and Leica knows a thing or two about it. The Q3’s 28mm F1.7 Summilux stabilized lens is wide and tack sharp, standing toe to toe with the powerful sensor.
The 60 MP sensor also gives strong cropping potential, so while the lens is a fixed focal length, cropping in is always an option if you’re looking for a close-up.
When navigating the Leica Q3 for this review, I noticed that everything feels a lot snappier. That is definitely thanks to the latest generation of Maestro Series processor that comes with L2 technology. A cable is included in the box to connect the camera directly to an iPhone for rapid image transfer speeds.
Wifi is almost as capable. You can transfer images at impressive rates by connecting your phone to the camera via the Leica FOTOS app. This speed and ease of use ensures a seamless workflow where you shoot on the Q3 all day, get home, transfer your images to your device, and then upload to socials. All this is helped by the Q3’s extended battery life which ensures power is never an issue.
This year Leica has also introduced a handgrip that can be attached to the Q3, improving ergonomics while also adding the ability to charge the Q3 wirelessly using the Drop XL Wireless Charger.
The Leica FOTOS app is one of the best in the industry and removes any reason to ever connect the Q3 to a computer. Software updates can be sent directly to the camera, so you are always running the latest OS. Leica also produces what they call “Leica Looks,” to produce a cinematic style. Think a filter, but considerably more in-depth and based on real film stocks. Leica is regularly producing more of these “Looks” and they can be downloaded and sent to the Q3 via the FOTOS app.
The Leica Q3: A joy to use
The Leica Q3 embodies Leica to the core. While its ability to autofocus may upset the purists, the lens can be switched to manual, and you would never realize it. If you wish, you could treat the Q3 exactly like the M11 or an analog camera, taking your time, composing the shot, waiting for the right moment. But, if that’s the style of photography you yearn for, you should use the M11. The Q3 is all about peace of mind, guaranteeing you have quickly nailed the shot, and moving on to the next image.
The Q3 is the obvious next step for the Q series. It simply improves upon the Q2 — already an excellent camera — in practically every way. There are better cameras than the Q3 for certain tasks (portraits, sports, wildlife, landscapes) but they are very specific and only excel at a particular use case. The Q3 can excel at almost anything that’s thrown at it, and it does so in a small size, that’s easy to use.
I have lugged big SLR cameras around hot cities. It’s no fun. For this review, my biggest takeaway is that the Leica Q3 is at home on the move, slung over the shoulder it’s barely noticeable but it’s always there when you need it. Exploring Greenland’s rugged terrain involved jumping in and out of small boats, hikes across steep hills, and varying temperature conditions, the Q3 never even flinched. Partly helped by its weather sealing.
For those looking for the perfect everyday camera, the Leica Q3 ticks all the boxes.
Leica Q3 available online or in-store for $5,995, leica.com