Technology is a funny old thing, sometimes. Go back as little as 20 years and owning one of the best cameras was something worthwhile for just about anyone. Every family would have a camera just for capturing memories and moments.
Then the smartphone came along. With it, cameras which were decent enough to capture those kinds of moments could be found in every pocket in the land.
So, I hear you ask, why should we still buy a camera? Moreover, why would we buy this Leica Q3 – a retro looking thing with minimal buttons and a breathtaking price tag? Well, dear reader, let's explore that and see.
Leica Q3 review: Price and Release Date
The Leica Q3 costs £5,300 in the UK. It was released on the 25th of May 2023.
Leica Q3 review: Features
Let's kick things off with some raw specs. The Q3 packs a 60MP CMOS sensor into a magnesium body weighing 743g. It's a hefty beast, but that weight should offer a reassuring feel when in use.
On the front, a Summilux 28mm f/1.7 lens can be found. That's a fixed lens – no swapping around here – with an integrated macro mode. That packs in an image stabilisation system which works on both photos and videos, ensuring minimal shaking and movement.
Inside, you'll find the Leica Maestro IV processor powering things, while USB-C and HDMI ports ensure painless connectivity with external devices. The Leica FOTOS app is also part and parcel of the system here, allowing users to enjoy truly effortless updates and file sharing with their mobile device.
Images are shot in standard fare JPG and DNG file formats. Video footage up to 8k can be shot on the Q3 at 30fps, with 4k offering up to 60fps and FHD footage up to 120fps.
Leica Q3 review: Design
Let's not beat around the bush here – this is absolutely gorgeous. The Leica design language has always been exceptional, and this really is no exception. It's a real masterclass in doing simple things well – a theme which we'll come back to later on.
The all-black design is really sleek, too. They could just as easily have opted for a hybrid of silvery metal tones mixed in with the black leather. That's a classic camera design, but it wouldn't have been anywhere near as smart.
What's more, you can really tell that Leica have put thought into the design of this camera. Little things like the thumb rest on the rear of the device are elegant as well as practical.
It's a lot of praise to heap on what is – in essence – a black box with a lens on the front. But the Leica experience is all about the details, and this design echoes that brilliantly.
Leica Q3 review: Performance
Of course, none of that matters if it can't perform. But if you're expecting that, I'm not sure you quite understand why Leica are so revered. This is more than just a camera – it's a photography experience, and the image quality matches that.
It was really interesting to use, actually. So much is said about the Leica look – even on devices like the Leica Sofort 2 and the Xiaomi 13 range – that I really wondered if it was real, or just a placebo.
Well, spoiler alert – it's real. You won't get it every time – bad shots still look like bad shots – but when you really nail it, you'll squeeze out the extra 5% which makes these cameras so revered.
Foreground and background bokeh is pleasingly soft. Couple that with a pleasingly in focus subject and you have a truly beautiful shot. It's not effortless, but it's certainly easier than it has any business being.
Getting around the camera is effortless, too. The large display on the rear provides all of the visual information needed, while a simple arrangement of D-pad, menu button and playback button rounds out the back panel.
Well, not quite actually. Sat at the top – just beside the thumb rest – you'll find a pair of customisable buttons. On my review unit, one of these was handily setup to switch between photo and video modes, but they can be set up to your own individual taste.
On the top of the unit, you'll find a third customisable button sat atop the control wheel on the right hand side. That's next to the shutter release and on-off rotary switch, and a shutter speed dial.
All of the remaining control sits on the lens. You'll find the aperture ring nearest the front, followed by a manual focus ring and a ring for switching between normal and macro modes. That causes the text on the focus ring to flip mechanically – something which you'll spend a long time playing with. It's so beautifully tactile.
The whole thing is beautifully simple. You won't find yourself bogged down with menu-diving and option paralysis – simply get set up and start snapping. As someone who learned to take photos on a fully manual camera, the Leica Q3 feels incredibly familiar, though you can of course automate as you feel the need to.
Oh, and last but by no means least, there's the shutter sound. It's a much damper thud than most cameras, with a noticeable lack of click. Think of a tight kick drum from your favourite 80's rock band and you probably aren't far away.
Leica Q3 review: Verdict
Ultimately, there are probably two ways you'll look at this. One camp will see a £5k+ camera with a fixed 28mm lens and a distinct lack of physical control.
The other will see that same device, but love the minimalist approach and the limitations imposed. It's no secret that limitation can be a fantastic breeding ground for creativity, and this camera is likely to offer that in spades.
But let's also be frank – this is an absolutely mesmerising camera. Judging a device like this on its specs is a little like judging a fish on how well it can climb a tree. It's completely missing the point of why you buy something like this.
The Leica Q3 isn't just a camera. It's a photography experience. And if you want to fall in love with every aspect of taking photos again, this is the device to do it with.