The Leica Q3 Camera First Impressions | Nothing Was The Same

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Leica has these intentionally long upgrade cycles to their products, designed and built to last a long time. So when a new camera is introduced, it's a big deal.

Well, a big deal if you're in the photography space.

This is the Leica Q3, a camera that many people have been anticipating for some time and something that changes what a Q camera means for Leica. I've been testing this for a few weeks in all kinds of situations, and it genuinely has me excited, but it also left me with several questions. But before we go there, let's talk about everything this camera can do.

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The Features

Let's start with what's inside the camera and work our way out. There's now a 60MP full-frame sensor, just OODLES of resolution for a point-and-shoot camera. This isn't the same sensor you'll find in the Leica M11—there's a smidge less dynamic range here — but it does have the triple resolution function. This means you can dynamically change between 60, 36, or 18 megapixels of resolution and get incrementally smaller file sizes at the cost of resolution.

But that's not all kids; this Q3 introduces the fourth-generation Leica Maestro processor. Yes, this camera has the latest image processor of any Leica camera on the market. And look, we won't dive into a whole image-processing lecture but indulge me for a second. This processor upgrade means that users have a higher bandwidth for how much and fast they can create in the field, which is especially valuable when viewing the video.

Returning to the sensor, we now have a Leica camera with contrast AND phase detect autofocus. And if you heard that and have no idea what that means, god bless you because what a wonderful life to live without having to think about things like this.

This camera has substantially improved autofocus's focusing speed and accuracy on a Leica sensor. I plan on spending more time with it, but even in the first few weeks, I see something that locks in with intention, even in low-light environments. This is a big deal and something you'll appreciate right away.

Along with a boost in connectivity speeds and an upgrade to the ISO, where it now natively ranges from 100 to 100,000, the guts of this Leica Q3 have been significantly improved over its predecessor, where this would have been enough.

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But there's more…

We now have a 3" tilting LCD with slightly more resolution that protrudes slightly from the camera, like it's been doing squats. It can tilt up and down, making photography much easier at different angles. I'm sure some people will be upset at this or that it doesn't flip around. Let me say… uh… you're wrong. But we'll save that conversation for another day.

The electronic viewfinder jumps to a 5.76 million dot OLED display that can refresh at 120 frames per second. You get a richer viewing experience by bringing this camera to your eye.

Of course, the camera has an IP52 weather sealing so that you can comfortably shoot in all kinds of conditions, but how about being able to shoot longer thanks to a new battery. Even though the size remains the same, this Q3 introduces a new version of the storm with a little over 20% more juice. It doesn't sound like much, but in the field, it meant the difference between looking for a charger and having just enough to get through an insane travel day.

There's also a micro-HDMI and USB-C port for video, tethering, webcam, and file transfer; you name it. And here's a surprise, if you decide to get the new grip, you'll also have the ability for wireless charging. I had to do these double-takes when I saw these upgrades because Leica would pack less than they did in a single version-to-version upgrade.

And we haven't even mentioned the 8000-pixel elephant in the room… This camera can record 8K video. Why?! Look at this point; this is just too much power in the hands of mere Q users, okay?

Let's give everyone some 8K.

Look, the only thing that stayed the same was the lens. This Summilux 28mm F1.7 has enough resolving power for the new sensor, and let me tell you, it's just great.

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The Results

While this lens isn't the same Summilux you'd find on an M camera, it is still made for something that you could shoot wide-open and produce clean results. You also have the Macro mode to engage right on the lens to focus as close as 17cm on a subject. This is an excellent feature on a camera because it means you can tell more of a story with your photography… or creep people out.

While this camera has a fixed wide-angle lens, digital zoom for both photo and video can punch in for 35, 50, 75, and 90mm. This is a digital zoom, so it's just cropping in on the file, not changing the look of the lens.

The camera also has a leaf shutter, which is not a Pokemon move. It's a mechanism that allows for a quieter shutter on the camera and will enable you to sync a flash at much higher speeds. So, if you have a fast-moving subject, you can go down to 2000th of a second, freeze the moment, and still capture the power of your flash.

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For Video

You can record up to 8K video at 30P in a 4:2:0 bit depth, which is a good amount of color information and a shit ton of resolution that you can drop and adjust as needed. For most people, the cinema 4K60P recording will give you more color information at 4:2:2 and more than enough to capture your adventures.

There is no Cine mode as you'd find on the Leica SL2-s, but there's still a good amount for video shooters to appreciate here. You can use any photography autofocus mode here, including the eye, face, body, and animal detection. My early tests have no recording limit based on your card size and temperature.

This camera has no RAW recording, but you can use L-Log and load your custom LUTs. If you watched my previous video, you know how quickly I've fallen in love with L-Log and how many DPs worldwide enjoy this format. It's also great to see that being included here in the Q3.

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What Am I Enjoying?

The design of this camera makes for something that is effortlessly fun to use. I don't have to think as much as usual, but I get the Leica sensor's and optics' benefits. Being able to single-handedly point-shoot a photo at F1.7 and reliably get focus on an eye of a toddler that's just a great thing. How much value you place in that will vary from person to person, but it is something that Q users will appreciate.

I also like the subtle changes to the camera, where all the buttons sit on the right of the camera, with one of the function buttons moving toward the top of the camera. This makes the entire Q3 easier to use with one hand. And the shutter button has changed to match the style of M cameras, which is a small thing but something I love, even if it's just for aesthetic purposes.

If you're asking me, Leica has the best app experience on the market right now, both in form and function. With the Leica Q3, people can expect much faster performance and the ability to transfer video files on the go. And if you've watched any of my previous Leica videos, you know how much of a priority this is for my overseas work.

There's plenty to love about this Leica Q3, but some of these minor things complete the package for a photographer when I use them in the field. Again, it does so much, so well. And with that in mind, what makes this camera worth looking into is not what it can do but can't do.

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Leica Q3 vs. The Market

The Leica Q3 does not have a built-in flash, and though this might be laughable for some people, it can be a pain point for others where you need another piece to manage for more creative shots.

Also, this camera does not have an ND filter which should be okay in most universes, but it's hard not to compare it to one other camera on the market that does deliver that feature. Having an ND filter would've meant you could shoot wide-open in bright situations without having another piece to manage.

And, of course, there's the price. Considering how this camera is made and some of its cutting-edge features, there's no surprise why it costs nearly USD 6,000. But this is a reality that'll quickly price out many users.

Are any of these dealbreakers? It can be. If you don't mind adding a few pieces, this camera becomes even more capable. The Leica Q3 brings a lot to the table, so these 2 or 3 things will have more weight in your final decision.

But… this is still early. I wanna spend much more time with this camera and save this conversation for a review in the future.

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As an M and SL user, the Leica Q3 really impressed me. It reminded me of what I loved about my Fujifilm X100V, where photography was effortless and fun. You could wield this camera like an extension of yourself and capture more of your life.

The Q series makes Leica photography more effortless and fun while raising the ceiling for image quality you can have on the go. It's this simple idea that keeps fans coming back time and time again.

There was this one moment when my oldest kid was leaping across the room and propped up on the headboard, and I happened to have the camera in my hand-tuned to my settings. So I turn around and pop off a shot quickly because, as you know, children are ruthlessly ineffective at staying still, especially when a camera is pointed at them. And this image, it really left an impression on me. To land perfect focus wide-open with this exquisite image quality and perspective. Shit, I know this is just me speaking personally now, but it's this combination of technology and accessibility coming together to make the photography experience better.

I've never owned a Leica Q camera, but I have owned an X100V since its launch. I put an incredible amount of mileage on that thing but stopped using it after I got my M11 last year. After this time with the Q3 and all that it can do, I'm starting to be tempted by the idea of a premium point-and-shot being a core part of my photography journey again.

I enjoyed my time with the Leica Q3, and there's much to be excited about. That being said, I still want to explore a lot more. Who is this camera for? How does it compare to the X100V? How does its camera to the Leica M11?! And all in all, how does it hold up after a few months of heavy use? These are the questions that I'm still left with and hope to answer in a future review.

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