Welcome to the Leica Boutique. The plethora of accessories for the new Leica Q3 was a better-kept secret than the technical details of the camera, including the 60MB sensor, the flippy screen and even the induction charging option. All of these leaked weeks before. We are not talking here about the normal fare — leather cases and straps, hand grips and finger loops. What has surprised Leica watchers is the array of colour-coded accessories.
There is the usual thumb support but also a retro screw-on hood, a hot shoe cover, a lens cap and a soft-touch release. And if that were not enough, you have a choice of three colours — black, silver and what I first thought was a yellow anodised finish.
Could this be the start of something new for Leica? Perhaps all future cameras will come with a plethora of pretty enhancements.
I was curious to see whether any of these new accessories were worth buying. So when I collected my new Q3 from Red Dot Cameras in London, I persuaded the team to unbox some of the items for a fashion show.
Don your Ray-Ban® Aviators® and stand by for the Leica Dazzle®.
Where there’s yellow, there’s brass
First, another surprise. The yellow-looking accessories are actually made of brass — with a “blasted” finish — and are much heavier than the aluminium black and silver versions. This will have a big bearing on choice. Even if I liked the blasted brass, I’d be put off by the weight.
We pimped up the new Q3 with a brass Thumb Support and retro hood. I can’t say I was overwhelmed by the appearance. It’s one thing to have a brassed black-paint MP, buffed over the years as a result of hard use, but I’m not so sure about a vivid brass hood, lens cap or thumb grip on the Q3.
In this case, I was not minded to intone the usual mantra of “get thee behind me, Satan” when faced with a tempting new toy. Lucifer was already hiding. It took me all of 30 seconds to decide that the brass look isn’t for me. If I were to be tempted by any of these accessories, the choice would have to be between silver and black.
However, there’s a big proviso. Those blasted brass accessories could just turn out to be the biggest sellers. So don’t listen to me, but do let us have your thoughts in the comments section below.
Another minute and I began to wonder what Leica had missed with all this largesse. Wouldn’t an anodised red have been a surefire alternative to black, silver and brass? Would it have outsold the rest? This glaring omission is odd since we know that Leica boss Andreas Kaufmann has a definite penchant for the odd M lens in a red anodised finish.
I can predict what will happen. In a few months’ time, there will be a great hoo-ha as the anodised red accessory range is launched. It will be another bite of the cherry for the Leica Boutique.
But first, a look at the objets d’art from the Leica Boutique…
If you want that extra bit of grip on your new Q3, it will have to be this Leica-produced accessory, the Thumb Support.
Apart from fitting perfectly and being especially comfortable to hold, the Thumb Support features two push-through buttons which align with the function buttons on the back of the Q3 top plate. This is a new feature for the Q3 (the Q2 had only one function button at thumb-rest height), so your old Leica thumb rests probably won’t fit, even if you forego a function button. I suspect third-party thumb rest fabricators will have difficulty accommodating these twin buttons, which sit just 3mm below the top of the camera.
This is an outstanding accessory for those who like a thumb rest (I do), and I can fully recommend it. However, I would suggest the lighter, alloy silver or black versions unless you are a brass purist and seek a good old polish from time to time. Go to your nearest store and weigh up the options.
Hot shoe cover
This is an odd one, and no mistake. Hot shoe covers have never been at the forefront of my mind. So I am not straining at the leash here. Let’s face it; hot shoe covers are easy to lose, so better lose a bit of plastic than a £40 brass affair. The cover does add that extra bit of colour (unless you go for the black one), so I suppose there will be buyers. But if you choose the Thumb Support, you won’t need the hot shoe cover in any case.
The Q3, as with the previous two models, comes with a nicely crafted, plush-lined push-on lens cap which fits over the standard squared hood. The one on my new Q3 was exceptionally tight, and it was a struggle to remove, so I can’t envisage slipping it on every time I put the camera in the bag.
If you are a regular user of lens caps (I am not; they stay in the camera box, ready for resale), you’ve probably lost one or more over the years, so it’s nice to be able to buy a replacement.
Only now, in addition to a regular black version, you can buy silver and brass caps. But note that these lens caps are for the standard hood, which comes with the camera, not for the new retro hood (below). It’s a bit confusing if you are buying from an online store.
Retro vented hood
Here is another revelation. The accessory retro-style hood complements retro-ish Q to a tee (it will fit the Q and Q2 as well as the Q3). I’ve never been a fan of the squared-off “blinker” hood supplied with the Q models, so this vented design is manna from heaven as far as I’m concerned. It enhances the camera (at least, I think so, you may not agree) and immediately becomes a desirable accessory. Again, it comes in lightweight black and silver and heavyweight brass.
The retro hood screws to the outside thread on the lens as a direct replacement for the standard hood. There is a keeper ring supplied with the camera, and this screws to the front of the lens if you prefer not to use a hood. Note that filters fit into the inner thread on the front of the lens and not into the hood (as is the case with some similar-looking retro designs on the market).
A screw-in soft-release button is a quick and easy (if not cheap) way of pimping your Leica. Many owners swear by them. Leica now offers a trio of buttons in silver, black/red and gold/red, depending on your whim of the day. Note the use of “gold” here instead of “brass”. Investigation needed.
Over the years, I’ve had an on-off relationship with soft-release buttons and have been particularly drawn to the original “bug” buttons — especially the one with the black and red insect — supplied by Tim Isaac of Match Technical.
However, I do have two major problems with soft-release buttons. One is that they are easily lost. I once mislaid the red bug Thumbs Up from my M240 for a full four weeks. I searched everywhere, all the usual suspects. Then, one day I was walking my usual route near home and spotted a perky red glimmer between two paving stones. It was my bug and had lain undisturbed in plain sight for a month.
But the main reason I don’t now use a soft-release is the danger they present if you forget to turn off your camera before placing it in the bag. The soft release button will softly wake up the camera, time after time, as it snaps some intimate shots of the inside of the Billingham. Battery flat, card full, day spoiled.
Leica Boutique: The usual fare
Leather cases and straps
While the colour-coded accessories (especially the brass versions) came as a surprise, the Q3 is accompanied by the usual half-cases and grips. The leather cases, which come in black, cognac and olive green, are well-executed and feature a handy bottom flap so that the battery and SD card can be changed without removing the case from the camera. In the past, this has not always been so, especially with the original Leica T designs, which had to be removed from the camera for access. It wasn’t easy, and most owners concluded this was Leica’s daftest design.
Leica supplies matching leather straps in the three case colours.
The new Q3 handgrip is a handsome confection and surprisingly useful when holding the camera. That’s what it’s for, of course, but it’s surprising how many accessories manage to do the opposite of what is intended.
The Leica hand grip is Arca-Swiss compatible for secure tripod mounting. As a result, the bottom of the grip extends from the front in the usual tapered form.
Even if you don’t intend to use the Q3 with a tripod, the sloping front shelf provides a comfortable place to rest the third finger of the right hand when holding the camera. The little finger slips underneath; all very handy. The protrusion also ensures that the camera sits upright on a flat surface, with no tendency to lens-heaviness (another of my pet hates solved).
In another way, the Q3 hand grip is a first for Leica. It contains the electronics to permit induction charging, with an inside connector to link with the brass connectors on the bottom of the camera. Induction charging is a new feature, certainly for Leica, but it requires the use of a compatible charging pad. Leica supplies such a charging pad which can probably also juice up your iPhone as well.
Fortunately for the mainstream user, induction charging isn’t the only method, so the hand grip and pad are not obligatory. For the first time, the Leica Q3 offers a USB-C charge/data port (as well as a mini HDMI socket, incidentally). By the way, you do get an external single-battery charging pod with the Q3.
Note: All the above product images supplied by Leica Camera AG
What to choose?
Of all these temptations, which (if any) should you choose? Unless you really don’t mind the added weight, it’s perhaps sensible to avoid the brass bits. But go to a Leica dealer and try them; do not under any circumstances rely on my prejudice. Such things are a very personal matter, and far be it from me to lecture on taste.
The retro hood is an excellent choice for the Q3, irrespective of colour, and the new two-button thumb support is a precision-made solid unit that looks and feels the part. It will delight those of you who desire the extra grip but don’t appreciate the added bulk of the hand grip.
The hotshot cover is an option I wouldn’t consider, but again, it could be something you have been waiting years to buy. Look at the price first, though.
I like the leather half-cases with their matching straps. Together with the thumb support and retro hood in a complementary colour, the half case will be a popular choice. There are several basic choices here. If you like the case, you won’t need the grip. If you buy the thumb support, you won’t need the hot shoe cover, and so on.
Did I choose anything?
After playing with all the accessories and causing mayhem in the busy Red Dot Cameras store, I erred on the side of caution. Nevertheless, I found myself making one surprise choice.
Having decided against silver or brass baubles and sticking with the safe choice of black, I was tempted by only one item from the new Leica showcase, a black retro hood. It looks great screwed on the 28mm f/1.7 Summilux. I forecast it will be a hit, even at the exorbitant price of £200. But expect to find an eBay lookalike soon for under £10. And I bet Thorsten von Overgaard is already hard at work in front of the lathe, machining his own version.
I surprised myself by deciding against the Thumb Support, wonderful as it is, in favour of the Hand Grip. This is a contrarian option that I might well come to regret. But I hope not.
When I first screwed the grip to the camera, the thumb and fingers of my right hand felt immediately cosy and in full control. While the grip adds a few millimetres to the height of the camera (as does a leather case, by the way), this was a small price to pay for the added comfort and improvement in handling, not to mention the increased stability.
I haven’t always taken this view with previous grips, and in the absence of in-camera charging on the Q and Q2, I had never considered a hand grip because of the palaver of removing it to access the card or the battery. This will be my first experiment with an accessory hand grip for years, and I will let you know how I get on.
Change of mind at the Leica Boutique
So what’s changed my mind? The handgrip still screws to the camera’s tripod thread; it still makes accessing the battery and the memory card an unwelcome rigmarole; at first sight, it is just as inconvenient as its predecessors. Yet I am now prepared to put up with this occasional inconvenience because I do expect it to be occasional.
The reason is the introduction of the USB-C port, which handles the charging and transfer of data from the card to the computer, thus eliminating the need to remove the grip. And if you are a Leica FOTOS fan, even the cable is superfluous for data transfer.
There may be occasions when I need to replace the battery, but USB-C charging now makes the use of an inexpensive power bank a viable alternative. The Q3 can be plugged in for a power slurp during quieter periods of the day, and you might manage to get away with just one battery. I have already adopted this routing. If the camera is in the bag, it is connected to the power pack.
On the subject of batteries, the new power pack supplied with the Q3 has a 17 per cent greater capacity than the old unit. Yet it is physically identical, so your old Q, Q2, or SL batteries will fit the Q3.
I thus set out on life with the Q3 accompanied by an indulgent and over-priced retro hood and a functional and extremely handy grip which, considering its capabilities, is reasonably priced. Induction charging isn’t essential for me, although it is comforting to know that the hand grip is compatible with the Leica charging pad (or, presumably, a third-party charging pad; this is something I will test). However, the Leica pad is not as expensive as rumours suggested, so it could be a useful option.
This is the bit you’ve been waiting for, so remount the Ray-Bans. Be prepared to spend a fortune on your new Leica Q3 if you cannot resist the Siren call from the accessory counter. The temptations are huge, and the prices match, so be warned. The hoods and thumb rest cost more than you would reasonably imagine, while the hand grip and charging pad are cheaper than you would reasonably expect (that is if you are familiar with Leica’s charging policy).
|Product||Price in the United Kingdom|
|Thumb support, black and silver anodised (brass)||£200.00 (£215.00)|
|Retro hood, black and silver anodised (brass)||£200.00 (£215.00|
|Lens cap, black and silver anodised (brass)||£45.00 (£55.00)|
|Hot shoe cover, black, silver anodised (brass)||£35.00 (£40.00)|
|Soft release, black, silver (gold)||£61.00 (£62.00)|
|Wireless charging handgrip||£170.00|
|Wireless charging pad||£155.00|
The Q range
It is no secret that even Leica was mightily surprised by the success of the original Q in 2015. For once, independent (non-Leica-fan) reviewers concentrated on the abilities of the camera rather than the price.
In light of Leica’s haphazard record with APS-C fixed-lens compacts the steady development of the Q has been a welcome dose of pragmatism. Fortunately, buoyed by the initial success and ongoing acclaim, Leica has done the right thing by developing and building on such a successful concept.
The Q2 came along in 2019 and offered a raft of improvements, as Jonathan Slack detailed in his Q3 review last month. I dutifully updated my Q to a Q2 four years ago, and it rapidly confirmed its position as my favourite travel camera.
The Q3 is a more compelling upgrade than the Q2 was in 2019, and I am already enamoured after just a few days. It looks the same, but it’s a lot better in many small ways. One of them is the addition of USB-C charging. The absence of the ability to charge the battery in situ had become increasingly irksome and is a major factor in my decision to upgrade.
There is just something about the Q series that has grabbed the attention of photographers who would normally never consider a Leica. It’s the only real contender in the fixed-lens full-frame market, and so far, there has been no serious competition.
Perhaps you should invest in some of those brassy accoutrements because you are definitely going to like the Leica Q3. It’s even a good camera without a brass hot shoe cover.
What’s your view on this plethora of perks for the Leica Q? Should the concept be extended to the M and SL? Is it all just another unwelcome pandering to Boutique Bertie? Or have you sniffed the Kool-Aid and ordered a full set of blasted brass baubles? Respectful responses only, please.
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