Leica’s new Q3 sacrifices some good looks for functionality

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Two Leica Q3 cameras sitting on a piece of wood furniture, one facing forward and one facing away.
Still a looker from the front, but not quite as much around back. | Image: Leica Camera

Did Leica make a camera slightly uglier for the sake of (gasp) functionality and convenience? Is the sky falling in Germany? Has anybody checked on Lenny Kravitz? I think I’m feeling faint.

With the new Q3 camera, Leica seems to have done just that. The Q3 is the latest version of the German manufacturer’s fixed-lens full-frame compact camera, and in addition to matching the M11 at 60 megapixels, it offers an updated electronic viewfinder, 8K video, a new hybrid autofocus system, Qi-compatible wireless charging support via an optional handgrip, and — yes finally — a flip-and-tilt articulating LCD. The $5,995 camera, which launches today, looks exactly like the Leica Q2 from the front, but the rear was entirely redesigned to accommodate the new screen.

Inside the Q3 are logical performance upgrades from the last-gen model, like the 60-megapixel full-frame sensor (up from 47 on the Q2) and a new Maestro IV processor with 8GB of buffer memory to help push along those big images averaging 70 megabytes per RAW DNG file. This puts the Q3 on par with the Leica M11 / M11 Monochrom in terms of resolution, though Leica says it’s a different sensor, evidenced by its wider ISO range of 50 to 100,000. Sensor similarities and differences aside, one of the reasons Q cameras have been so popular for Leica is they have autofocus — which the Q3 now improves upon with a combination of phase detection and contrast detection with subject tracking for animals as well as human eyes, faces, and bodies.

Leica’s first in-house articulating screen flips up or tilts down for easier waist-level or overhead shots.
Leica’s first in-house articulating screen flips up or tilts down for easier waist-level or overhead shots.Image: Leica Camera

Other performance improvements include 8K video, Leica’s first foray into that video resolution. To utilize this feature, Leica took the same battery housing of the Q2 and increased its capacity by 340mAh for the Q3. The older battery is still compatible with the Q3 (and the new one is backward-compatible as well), but using it will lock out the 8K filming option. That may be perfectly fine, though, as Leica says there is a slight crop when shooting 8K. Plus, it tops out at 30p and is limited to 4:2:0 color subsampling unless you’re outputting to an external recorder. The Q3 seems more poised for 4K video, where it can go up to 60p and record for up to 29 minutes. In 8K, the camera is limited to 20 minutes, and it quickly ramps that down to as low as three minutes when filming in temperatures about 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Q2 wasn’t really best equipped for video, but since the Q3 sees the addition of ports like Micro HDMI and USB-C 3.1, it should be more capable as a hybrid. Like the M11, the USB-C port is Made for iPhone certified (MFi) for easier connectivity to iPhones, and it now also means the Q3 can even be shot tethered to a computer.