Leica Q (Typ 116) Review

June 23, 2015 | Mark Goldstein |


The Leica Q (Typ 116) is a 24.2 megapixel compact camera with a 35mm full-frame (24 x 36mm) CMOS sensor with no optical low pass filter, an image-stabilized Leica Summilux 28mm f/1.7 lens with 11 lenses in 9 groups (including 3 aspherical lens elements), FullHD 1920x1080 video at 60/30 fps in the MP4 format, and a touchscreen 3-inch LCD screen with 1,040,000 pixels and 100% field of view. Other key features of the Leica Q (Typ 116) include an auto-focus speed of 0.15 second, sensitivity range of ISO 100-50,000, maximum shutter speed of 1/2000s with the mechanical shutter and 1/6000s with the electronic shutter, Leica Maestro II series image processor, JPEG and DNG RAW file support, a 3.6 megapixel electronic LCOS viewfinder, built-in wi-fi and NFC connectivity, a flash hot shoe, full range of advanced controls from manual exposure to manual focus, and a continuous shooting rate of 10 frames per second. The recommended retail price of the Leica Q (Typ 116) is £2900 / $4250.

Ease of Use

The new Leica Q (Typ 116) sports a stealthy all-black colour-way, with the front half of it featuring a diamond leatherette pattern to aid grip, along with a deep thumb-shaped recess on the rear. The Q has a machined aluminum top plate and a lightweight magnesium alloy body, resulting in a very solid feeling camera that goes some way to justifying the price-tag.

The Leica Q (Typ 116) has a 26.3 megapixel CMOS chip, which pumps out a purported 24.2-megapixel effective resolution. The fixed lens takes 49mm filters and offers a wide 28mm focal length and a fast maximum aperture of f/1.7. This has resulted in a large lens barrel that makes the camera best suited to life in a small camera bag, but the f/1.7 aperture opens up a lot of extra creative possibilities. There is the ability to incrementally alter the aperture from f/1.7 to f/16 via the dedicated aperture dial on the lens barrel. The The Leica Q (Typ 116) also boasts an effective optical stabilization system, which comes in surprisingly handy even though the lens is 28mm.

The Digital Frame Selector setting will crop in either 1.25x to a 35mm equivalent or 1.8x for a 50mm equivalent field of view, which reduces the image size to 15.4 and 7.5 megapixels respectively, with helpful framing lines displayed in the viewfinder/LCD. The selected framing is preserved in the JPEG image files, while the RAW files in DNG format record the entire field captured by the 28mm lens.

The Q (Typ 116)'s looks clearly mirror its maker's more famous rangefinder cameras, such as the M-series. As well as a top plate dial via which manual adjustments can be made to the shutter speed (from 30 seconds to 1/2000th of a sec), there's also an electronic shutter that extends the top speed to 16,000th of a sec - simply set the shutter speed dial to the "2000-" setting and use the control dial to choose from 1/2000 to 1/16000. Naturally there is a vacant hotshoe for an accessory flash on top of the camera, but no built-in pop-up flash.

The Leica Q (Typ 116) offers a video mode - Full HD 1920x1080 pixels at 60/30fps in the MP4 format, to be precise, stopped and started by a one-touch movie record button on the top of the camera, with built-in stabilisation and an integrated HDMI-out port for playback on an external device. The size of the back plate LCD is 3-inches and the resolution is a respectable 1,040,000 pixels, bringing the Q (Typ 116) right up to date with comparable cameras.

The Leica Q (Typ 116) comes with a two-year warranty as opposed to the usual one, a year's accidental damage cover, and a download option for Adobe Lightroom, with the code provided once the product has been registered.

Leica Q (Typ 116)
Front of the Leica Q (Typ 116)

The fact that we don't have a zoom to play with here prompts a more considered approach to picture taking, in that the photographer has to physically step forward or back to alter what's included in the frame. You also have to get up close to and interact with your subjects; a camera for surreptitious candids this is not. Leica claims that the 28mm lens was chosen because it's a classic length for photojournalism, with the minimum focus distance at 30cm or a handy 17cm when set to Macro.

The front of the Leica Q (Typ 116) is adorned with the (in)famous red Leica badge and logo which stands out due its position top right of the lens, with a detachable hard plastic clip-on cap or a more useful lens hood provided as protection for that renowned glass.

Top-left of the lens, if viewing the camera front-on, is a tiny porthole containing the traditional AF assist/self timer lamp. Between the top and bottom of the faceplate there is also a wide band of textured padding that is largely there for show than serving as a practical form of grip. In fact there is nothing resembling a traditional handgrip provided with the camera at all, though there is an optional accessory grip. Having said that, the solidity and weight of the Q (Typ 116)'s build - a much heavier than average for a compact 640g with battery - means that it didn't feel like the Leica would suddenly slip from our grasp at any point.

There's a generously sized focusing ring with a ridged edge and clear distance markings from 0.3cms to infinity. Moving the focusing ring on the lens from MF to the AF setting activates the very fast and pleasingly quiet auto-focus system. Though the auto focus occasionally hunts to find a target, overall it's very quick to lock onto and determine focus and exposure. The front part of the lens can be be unscrewed for the threading on of attachments and the included lens hood.

The Q (Typ 116)'s top plate meanwhile features most of the attributes we've already touched on, such as the hotshoe offering full compatibility with the Leica SF 24D and SF 58 system flash units, shutter speed dial, plus the on/off switch that ergonomically encircles the shutter release button. This isn't just a power switch however as the two 'on' settings provided here directly alternate between single shot ('S') and continuous shooting ('C') options (High (10fps), Medium (5fps) and Low (3fps) settings) - so you've always got these drive modes literally at the tip of your forefinger.

Leica Q (Typ 116)
Rear of the Leica Q (Typ 116)

Flick the switch to 'S' or 'C' setting and the Leica readies itself for action in 1-2 seconds. Squeeze the shutter release button in single shot mode to take a maximum resolution image and the screen instantly displays the resultant image. Take a top quality JPEG and Leica's 'DNG' file version of Raw and the camera isn't any noticeably slower however, plus the advantage of the DNG format is that it can be opened directly by Photoshop without any specialist conversion software required.

The media of choice is the expected 'all varieties of SD card'. The back of the Leica Q (Typ 116) features a thumb-operated command dial over at the top right which sets the exposure compensation, with adjustable settings ranging from a standard -3EV to + 3EV.

With the 3-inch LCD screen taking up about two thirds of the back plate, this has left room for a row of five function buttons ranged vertically down the left hand side of the screen, whilst over at the right hand side sits a familiar cross key/command pad style arrangement.

The buttons at the left of the LCD are both clearly marked and instantly comprehended. From the top we have a 'play' button for reviewing previously captured images, whilst next up is a delete button.

As this is a Leica camera, obviously manual focus is provided, and very good it is too. Located at about 7 o'clock on the focusing ring is a lever with an inset button - simply press this and rotate the ring to move from auto to manual focusing. As you'd expect, the manual focus ring has a lovely feel, and three different focusing aids are provided - auto magnification (x3 or x6), focus peaking and auto magnification plus focus peaking. With the bigger screen scale and higher resolution we found it easier to accurately determine pin sharpness than on previous Leica compact camera models.

Alternatively if leaving the camera to its Contrast-Detect auto-focus devices, the user has a choice of Multi Point, 1 point, Tracking, Face Detection or two Touch AF settings.

Leica Q (Typ 116)
Top of the Leica Q (Typ 116)

The Leica Q (Typ 116) has a nicely balanced touchscreen interface which works in tandem with the camera's physical controls. Amongst the 5 different autofocus modes, you can choose Touch AF, which as its name suggests allows you to focus on your subject by simply tapping on the LCD screen, with about 80% of the screen available to use. You can also fire the shutter using the touchscreen via the or Touch AF + Release option, which will really appeal to the mobile generation. In image playback, you can simply drag left and right to go through the sequence of images, and you can configure certain settings like the ISO speed or white balance by tapping the screen, although you can't use the main menu system via the touchscreen.

The Leica Q (Typ 116) features built-in IEEE 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity for wirelessly connecting to other devices such as a smartphone, tablet or computer. You can easily transfer your images and also control the camera remotely via the free Leica Q app (iOS and Android), which, amongst other functions, allows remote setting of the shutter speed and aperture. The app also allows you to send your images to social networks or email them. The Q (Typ 116) also has built-in NFC which provides tap-to-connect functionality with compatible devices.

The next button down on the backplate strip of five is the configurable Fn button, which by default accesses the white balance settings, and here, in addition to automatic, the usual suspects are provided: tungsten, fluorescent, flash, (daylight) cloudy, (daylight) shady, along with the ability to take your own white balance setting. The button directly beneath governs ISO settings, with here the range going from ISO100 to a top end ISO50000, presented as with the previous setting as a toolbar overlaying the right hand side of the screen.

The bottom button of the row of five on the Q (Typ 116) is the menu button. As we'd expect this is where the nitty gritty of the camera's operation is decided and acted upon. Naturally enough it's here that we choose the camera's resolution, with options ranging from 0.5 megapixels all the way up to 24 megapixels, plus opt for JPG only or DNG + JPG.

Also via the menu screen's we can select the camera's metering modes, with multi field metering, centre weighted metering and spot metering all offered up. Further options include the ability to turn image stabilization on or off, individually adjust sharpening, saturation and contrast in camera - with the default setting being 'standard' and the other alternatives ranging from 'low' to 'high'.

Leica Q (Typ 116)
The Leica Q (Typ 116) In-hand

Above the LCD screen is the integrated electronic viewfinder. With a massive resolution of 3.68 MP, this is the most detailed electronic viewfinder that we've ever had the pleasure of looking through. The same key shooting information that's shown on the rear LCD is unobtrusively displayed above and below the frame, and there's dioptre control for glasses-wearers.

Moving to the set of un-marked cross keys on the right of the screen, by default this moves the AF point around the frame when 1 point is selected. We would have liked the option of re-configuring the cross-keys, as they don't actually do anything if one of the other AF modes is selected.

In the centre of these three buttons we find an un-marked button which acts like a standard 'display' button. A press of this in capture mode removes icons for the shooting mode in play, number of shots remaining, battery life, focus and metering mode from the screen to provide a clear view of the subject.

Whilst the left hand flank of the Q (Typ 116) is devoid of features save for a lug for attaching the strap, the right flank features a flip open door protecting two ports: one a five pin mini USB socket and the second for the HDMI output.

The base of the Leica Q (Typ 116) meanwhile features a marginally off-centre screw thread, with a large catch protected compartment housing both the supplied BP-DC12 lithium-ion battery and port for optional removable SD media alongside it.