Home Cameras/Lenses Leica Q3: The quintessential fixed-lens full-frame camera defined

Leica Q3: The quintessential fixed-lens full-frame camera defined


The Leica Q3, launched today, is the quintessential fixed-lens compact. It builds on the successful formula first seen eight years ago when the original Q hit the streets, adding a raft of technological improvements and some practical enhancements. Leica has defined the genre, and after all these years, the Q remains unchallenged in the full-frame fixed-lens format.

After handling the new Leica Q3 at the pre-launch press conference earlier this week, I can tell you that this is a must-have upgrade. The only disappointment is the lack of internal memory similar to that incorporated into the M11. On a one-slot camera, this feature comes in handy.

This third generation of the Q family is remarkable in that it remains true to the original concept and is building an identity that is second only to that of the M rangefinder. Unlike Leica’s rather haphazard approach to the APS-C market since 2009, the Q has been gradually improved and honed, with a clear focus on the essential concept.

Physical changes

The Q3 looks almost identical to its predecessors, but the front view hides major developments at the back of the camera. For the first time, Leica has adopted a tilting screen. It has long been requested by users, and it is a development we are likely to see on other Leica cameras in the future. The familiar three-button control layout is replaced by just two large buttons, PLAY and MENU, plus the familiar four-way pad.

Other major physical changes include HDMI and USB-C ports and an induction-charging facility that is a first for Leica. The much-praised 28mm f/1.7 Summilux lens is identical to the unit incorporated in the earlier Q generations. A Leica representative explained that the lens was designed from the outset with higher-resolution sensors in mind, and it is fully capable of handling the 60MP sensor of the Q3.

Advanced technology, triple resolution

But it is in advanced technology that the Q3 shows its mettle. The new BSI-CMOS sensor features Leica’s triple resolution technology first seen on the M11 rangefinder, offering native resolutions of 60, 36, or 18MP. Shooting with lower resolutions allows faster camera operation, longer image sequences and smaller file sizes.

Using 60MP, even the finest details and structures are captured, according to Leica. The Leica Q3 uses the entire size of the sensor for all resolutions, with a sensitivity range of ISO 50 to 100,000 (a one-stop higher-ISO improvement on the Q2). The latest generation of the Maestro Series processor with L² Technology, developed jointly with Panasonic, ensures exceptional operating speed.

The Leica Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH lens, which remains unchanged, offers an integrated macro mode, permitting close-ups at a minimum 17 cm distance. Taking advantage of the much higher resolution sensor and the characteristics of this superb lens, the Leica Q3 is now able to offer a usable crop mode equivalent to 90mm. This is in addition to the 28, 50 and 75mm crop options introduced at the launch of the Leica Q2.

Two new electronic assistants, Leica Perspective Control (LPC) and Leica Dynamic Range (LDR), help ensure stunning in-camera JPEG images without the need for post-processing.

Hybrid autofocus

Perhaps the most significant Leica Q3 enhancement is the adoption of a new hybrid autofocus system with phase detection to ensure extremely fast tracking and accurate focus. In addition to the high-precision contrast autofocus, the DFD system and phase detection autofocus, combined with intelligent subject recognition, supports the capturing of sharp and brilliant images. The upgraded 5.76MP OLED viewfinder, similar to the resolution seen on the SL2 but at lower magnification, aids composition and offers a crisp and bright view.

Tilting screen

A first for the Leica Q3 is the new tiltable 3-in high-resolution touchscreen. The tilting mechanism provides additional viewing angles and creates more creative opportunities when taking photos or videos. Additionally, even with the moveable display, the Leica Q3 provides IP52-certified protection against dust and spray water. Older customers will appreciate the new-found ability to take low-level shots without having to crouch.


The Leica Q3 offers seamless and fast connectivity via Bluetooth and wifi. The camera is equipped with advanced MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) technology which improves transfer to the Leica FOTOS app by a factor of up to ten.

Videos can now be loaded from the camera to a smartphone, or special “Leica Looks” can be imported to the camera for the creation of beautiful JPEG images. Connection modes from “eco” to “performance” improve the mobile workflow and energy management of the Leica Q3. The Apple certification “Made for iPhone® and iPad®” accessory and the included Leica FOTOS cable ensure a smooth workflow.

With the ability to record video at 8k resolution and highly efficient codecs such as H.265 and Apple’s ProRes, the Leica Q3 now meets the needs of all content creators. The connection of external devices such as gimbals, power banks and display recorders is secured directly via USB-C and HDMI. Tethered shooting with Capture One or the Adobe Lightroom plug-in is also supported via the USB-C cable connection and further enriches the fields of application for this compact digital camera.

In addition to in-camera charging via USB-C, entirely wireless charging is also now possible with the new Leica Charging Pad and separate camera handgrip. This stylish charging pad conveniently recharges the new powerful battery BC-SCL6 of the Q3 and many other Qi-compatible devices. In case of doubt, I can confirm that this inductive charging facility is not built into the camera but into the handgrip. Physically, the new battery is identical to the earlier battery used in the Q2 and SL2 and is interchangeable. One disappointment for me is the lack of a substantial internal memory which compensates for the single SD card slot. In contrast, the M11 boasts a very useful 64GB internal storage.


In a first for Leica, the new Leica Q3 is launched with a full complement of colour-coded accessories to permit owners to customise their cameras to their own preferences. These include leather half-case protectors, lens caps, retro circular lens hoods, thumb rests, soft-release buttons and hot shoe covers. All come in three different colours, black, silver and brass.


The new Leica Q3 will retail in the UK for a recommended price of £5,300, including 20 per cent tax. Accessory prices to follow.

All images in this article reproduced with permission from Leica Camera AG

Technical specification

Leica press release

Keith James: Leica Q2, the perfect full-frame travel camera?

Jono Slack: Leica Q2 is better at every level

Mike Evans: The Leica Q after three years

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  1. Even if you are cropping to 35mm and 50mm would it not be a better value proposition for travel to get a Panasonic S5II with a 20-60mm zoom? It would be close to one third of the cost in addition to being more versatile. Perhaps material for a future comparison?

    • A very fair point, Slow Driver.

      I would be very surprised if the Lumix S5 II and either the 20-60 or 24-105 didn’t outperform the heavily cropped images from the Q3, and, in that sense, you are right. But Leica is not suggesting that a 90mm crop from a 28mm image will be as good as one from a 90mm prime or good zoom. The important thing is that cropping to 90mm is viable if necessary. I don’t carry a Q with the intention of grabbing shots at a 90mm focal length. If I have that in mind, the S5 II with a long prime or appropriate zoom would be my choice. But it’s a heavier combination, and the Q3 is perfectly acceptable most of the time.

      Despite the above, it’s comforting to know that I can produce acceptable cropped images from the Q3 if push comes to shove. Today I did some crop zoom comparisons with the Q3, and even the 90mm crops were more than acceptable on my 27-inch Apple Studio monitor. If you go pixel-peeping, of course, the story is different. David B would prove conclusively that a 90mm optical image will be better and capable of greater enlargement. However, for the purposes of a website such as Macfilos (or reproduction on a smartphone or even a tablet), the Q3 at a 90mm crop actually acceptable if by no means optimum.

      Leica’s chief lens designer, Peter Karbe, is a fan of crop-to-zoom, especially with the SL2 and one of the superb 35mm or 50mm APO-Summicron lenses. He has talked about this often. With such excellent optics and even a 40MB sensor, modest crops are more than viable. So I don’t really think there is an argument here. If a user is happy with the Q3’s ability to crop to 50, 75 or even 90mm, then that’s a personal choice. Perfectionists can choose a more suitable combination of camera and lens for the long stuff if they wish.

  2. A bit off-topic: since Jono’s article was delayed a day, I went searching the web for Q3 reviews.

    What an unpleasant experience. Every review was punctuated by ads for cars or pulchritudinous women, things blinking at me to snatch my attention. . .

    It was such a relief to return to MACFILOS the following day and read Jono’s article. I imagine it to be like leaving a noisy street and sitting down in one’s club. Alas, the whiskey and soda were missing …

    Seriously: MACFILOS is such a lovely place to spend time.

    • Hi There Kathy
      Thanks for that – it’s the same on my website (www.slack.co.uk) I don’t do ads or flashing lights (or pulchritudinous women come to that!).
      I guess the difference is that I’m not trying to make a living from it (Michael is such a skinflint 🙂 )
      But it’s nice to have it appreciated – and why I like Michael publishing my articles.
      All the best

      • Actually I go to your site quite often; I love the photos and reviews.

        I’ve found several of the writers here have very calm, quality sites. They are joys to visit.

    • Thank you, Kathy. Very occasionally, comments do get borderline out of hand. But there is a great deal of common sense among our readers, and sense always prevails. Perhaps it’s because the site is run by such a skinflint — albeit a perspicacious old pinchpenny — as Jono suggests.

      Incidentally, I’ve been looking for an excuse to use pulchritudinous for at least 15 years. So you, Kathy, win the MacFilos Word of the Year award. Zero prize money, as you would expect.


  3. I now have (some of) the funds for my dream. (Camera and accessories).. but clicking on the link in the announcement email from Leica (UK) it keeps coming up out of stock…Help!

    • I am sure the Q3 is out for stock. Most dealers received only a handful on the launch day. The camera is sure to be in high demand, so placing a firm order is the way to go. There will be an increasing number of trade-ins of Q and Q2 Models, so good pickings for those who don’t need to extras provided by the Q3!

  4. Might there be a possibility that the Q3 does have a large internal memory which was not quite ready for full use at launch but which with a firmware tweak could be activated to surprise us all?

    • Well no, it won’t replace the option to change and use a huge variety of lenses, make full use of M lenses and enjoy the huge viewfinder and manual focus experience. It will be ridiculously lighter. I’d guess the Q lens, as good as it is, won’t outperform that 24-90 either. I think what you are choosing by going for a Q3 is convenience and less weight.Certainly nice to have if you are traveling. Nice compliment to an SL though if you can afford both.

  5. Regarding the top rear function buttons- do they protrude further out than the one frameline button on the Q2? I have an awful time pressing that- on my copy it seems to be indented, so it requires a lot of thumb pressure to make it go. I’ve considered gluing on a tiny bump on top of the button. I presume with Leica’s thumb grip and built in button that it becomes easier. I tried that grip but it was not comfortable to me.
    I want the flip screen badly. I also hope that if there ever is an SL3, the flip screen makes it. It is the one major sore point on my SL2. That and battery life- I hope the new battery is backwards compatible to the SL2.

    • I will have my Q2 later today and will check this. Yes, the battery is physically identical but has a higher capacity.

  6. Not in the market for a Q but for those who love the Q this seems like a very worthwhile upgrade. I am sure it will be hugely successful. A few observations 1) The Q and the M product lines are in my opinion very well managed by Leica and the upgrades make sense. It remains incomprehensible to me why Leica cannot apply that to all of their product lines. APS-C and the S system surely come to mind but also the SL… 2) Internal memory should indeed have been included in the Q3 just like USB-C charging should already have been included in the Q2.

  7. Did the menu system include aspect ratios as an option for the jpeg output ? If not, I’m disappointed. Part of the logic of the increasing number of in camera adjustments to DR, perspective and tone is to diminish the need to process if yiu really don’t want to expend too much time. For landscape – and this will be astoundingly capable for such a genre – the AR is far more important to the historical nod to standard M lens focal lengths in the crop modes. We have it on the SL series and it’s been there from the outset. Seems an unnecessary limitation if yet again a high res Qis being equipped for great jpeg output but you can’t shoot a 16:9 or square scene with that embedded in jpeg output.

  8. Jono’s website has a placeholder for Q3 but it shows blank page on clicking. Guess he is busy doing final edits. 😀

  9. “Leica Looks” can be imported to the camera for the creation of beautiful JPEG images. ” –
    I’m curious…

    • Do you mean $3,500? But then I sold my Q2 four months ago as soon as I had an approximate date for the Q3 launch. Prices of used Q2s are bound to dip a little as trade-ins become more frequent, but the Q2 is still a great camera and, with the Q3 costing more, used prices will recover.

  10. Great that the Q3 has an articulated monitor – so very useful for low level / ground level composition. I can immediately think of potential architectural subjects i could photograph so easily with the Q3 – which currently require use of a mirror with me kneeling on the pavement. Now doing my ££sums to ascertain how to fund the camera. BW, dunk

  11. Impressive upgrade, that Leica Q3 is getting even closer to perfection.

    I wonder if OIS has been improved though – that’s a feature that never got much publicity and does not always work very effectively in my Q2. Sensor-based stab would have been better but I guess that wasn’t possible without a radical redesign and a larger body.

    Regarding the “must-have upgrade” aspect… well, if money is no option, of course, but I think I’ll use my Q2 a few more years 😉

    • As you know, the OIS is in the lens which, as we are told, hasn’t been changed. So I think the answer is that it has not been improved.


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