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.
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.
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.
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
Leica press release
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