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The Wonders of the Leica Q

A compact digital camera delivering all the high performance attributes

by Josh Rubin
on 29 July 2015

It's easy to understand why photographers turn to Leica. Simply put, they're beautifully designed, highly durable and capture superb images. The new Leica Q—a powerful, compact digital camera with a 24MP full frame sensor—lives up to the promise. The Q is set apart from other cameras in its class by the pairing of a prime f/1.7 28mm Summilux lens and a uniquely tailored CMOS sensor. With a sleek design, and true made-in-Germany production (only the top-end Leicas are actually built in Wetzler), it's a worthy device for professionals and hobbyists alike.

People don't often think of compact cameras in the high performance sector. But on the features front, the Leica Q delivers. The sensor captures high quality, low noise images even at ultra-high ISO levels and the super fast lens also contributes to reliable use in low light situations. Regarding the lens, 28mm is equivalent to what you're getting with a smart phone (regarding field of view), so framing is intuitive for those who might not be familiar with the jargon. It's wide angle with a wide aperture, ultimately letting lots of light in. The lens includes both focus and aperture rings for those who want full manual control; they have a feel that's similar to the pro-level Leica M range. And to be clear—it's the only lens and it does not zoom. This is a compact camera for purists.

Speed, altogether, factors into the cameras value. From the fastest autofocus possible from this type of camera—going from infinity to within six feet in .15 seconds—to 10 frames per second high speed burst shooting. The processor in the camera is a derivative of the one used in the Medium Format Leica S, also contributing to overall rapidity. Ergonomically, the camera feels great in the hand and can be carried for long periods of time—a requirement for any street shooter always on the ready.

The integrated 3.68-megapixel electronic viewfinder (EVF) represents Leica's best made to date. That's almost four million pixels in one viewfinder. It manages to be quite responsive and switches quickly between the LCD screen on the back of the camera based on a sensor at the eyepiece that detects when you bring the camera to your face to shoot old school. You can manually choose whether to use this switching feature, but my biggest gripe (as an old school viewfinder shooter) is that when you set it to only use the viewfinder that's literally the only screen used—image playback and menu controls should remain on the bigger screen.

As for quality of the device itself the top plate was hewn from a solid block of aluminum, while the body cites a durable magnesium alloy as its source material. And rounding out the useful (though expected) features happens to be a WiFi module for wireless transfer of both pictures and video to a dedicated iPhone app, as well as NFC for Android phones. Both are intuitive processes, and fast. Altogether, it's a reliable, well-crafted and beautiful camera.

Check out more sample images in the slideshow above and purchase the Leica Q online for $4,250.

Sample images taken on the Leica Q by Josh Rubin and presented without filters or editing, product images courtesy of Leica

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