Leica Q Digital Camera Review
The Leica Q isn't just great, it blazes a trail forward for the venerable camera maker.
By the Numbers
Given that this point-and-shoot packs a full-frame image sensor, it's not surprising that the level of performance you'll get with the Q far outshines any of the other point and shoot cameras on the market. Just about the only camera that's come close is the Sony RX1, but given that the Leica Q is significantly newer, packs a better lens, and has much faster autofocus, it's really no contest. Is it perfect? No, but our lab tests reveal an extraordinarily powerful compact camera.
Color and White Balance
With a ∆C00 (saturation-corrected) error of 2.26 and an overall saturation of 108% in daylight, the Leica Q will offer you about as good color performance as you could want. While it's not quite perceptually perfect, you're not going to notice any glaring issues with your shots as far as color is concerned.
White balance is a similar story. While not perfect, at worst you can expect color deviations of about 600 kelvin in incandescent light—_at worst_. This, combined with the ability to simply shoot in RAW will leave you with accurate snaps whenever you need them, and photos that take on a slightly warm hue for times when you rely on JPEG alone.
Best results are found in scenes lit by natural daylight, but the camera can handle fluorescent light very well too. Both types of light will result in color temperature errors of of around 100 kelvins each, so you have nothing to fear in changing light.
To put it bluntly, you're not going to find a sharper point and shoot on the market. Not only does this 24-megapixel monster use a full-frame lens to collect lots of light, but it also has an insanely sharp lens to boot. Consequently, pictures taken with the Leica Q will rival high-end pro cameras for sheer detail.
Even at f/1.7—the widest possible aperture—you can expect lens sharpness to kiss 3,100 line widths per picture height. That's incredible, as even some of the best lenses we've tested aren't that good.
For best results, stopping down to f/4 will make your shots appear marginally sharper, but you're unlikely to notice a huge bump in performance here. It's almost purely academic at this point, but rest assured: this is a lens that Leica should be proud of.
Without noise reduction, the Leica Q takes fairly junk-free shots. That full-frame sensor collects a lot of light, so this isn't much of a surprise; whatever noise there is winds up looking minimal at worst, even in times when you need to push the ISO sensitivity.
However, the waters muddy a bit here. As far as full-frame sensors go, this one actually doesn't do so hot compared to top-of-the-line options like the Nikon D810. However, compared to other point and shoots, it's exceptionally good.
The Leica Q doesn't cross the 2% noise threshold until ISO 6400, which is fairly standard for a camera in this price range. Above that shots are usable, but for best results shoot in RAW and process the images manually. This will ensure you leave the detail where it belongs while still being able to reduce noise effectively.
Video performance with the Q is perfectly acceptable, with natural motion and little frequency interference. Though it doesn't offer things like 4K, the 1080p video at 60 fps is sharp, smooth, and appealing. It's about half the detail you'd expect to see when recording 4K, but it's on par with even the best non-4K DSLRs.
In our tests, the Q can resolve 650 line pairs per picture height in bright light—not bad, all things considered. In order to maintain a 50 IRE image, you'll need to have lighting of 4 lux or higher, as the Q can't produce a usably bright image with less light. That's still a very respectable number, bested only by cameras that allow for insanely high ISO sensitivities while recording video.
To test dynamic range, we make use of the Xyla-21 from DSC Labs. This backlit chart provides us with up to 20 stops of dynamic range in a single scene—far beyond the capabilities of even the best cameras on the market. To arrive at our results we measure from peak white to the point where a patch no longer reaches a certain light level, or it becomes overwhelmed with noise.
If you're worried about dynamic range, don't be: the Leica Q's shots taken at base ISO (100) have 7.91 stops of high-quality DR (the point where hte signal to noise ratio drops below 10:1). That's not the best we've ever seen, but it's more than enough to push your exposures in post-processing a couple stops to get the right look. From there, dynamic range tails off the higher ISO speed you use. High-quality DR drops below 7 stops after ISO 400, and doesn't hit 0 until ISO 12,500. That's great for any camera on the market, particularly because the dynamic range stays so high up until ISO 800.
When we lower our quality threshold and count to the point where signal-to-noise ratio falls below 1:1, then the Q manages an impressive 12.3 stops at ISO 100. Again, that's not the best that we've seen, but it's about on par with esteemed full-frame DSLRs like the Canon 5D Mark III.
Get Our Newsletter
Real advice from real experts. Sign up for our newsletter
Thanks for signing up!