Review: Leica Q (Typ 116)

Pick it up and you’ll feel a solid aluminium body the likes of which is a little unusual in the world of digital cameras.

You’ll see aluminium and magnesium from time to time, but a solid block is a little different, and it’s a whole heap better than the block Leica used in its Typ T, which we saw last year.


That model was a great shooter, but arrived with a lens system that wasn’t yet defined, and while the aesthetics of the unit made it seem like the perfect camera to accompany an Apple MacBook Pro, it still felt too minimalist and less like a camera, without the soul we expect a photographic thing of beauty to feature.

In contrast, the Leica Q is like one of Leica’s classic cameras made for today, with a textured surface, soft corners, and a thumb grip on the back to help you grip the body. Granted, that thumb grip isn’t going to be suitable for all thumbs — it’s pretty slim — but it does give you a starting off point, and if you’re holding your camera right, this combination of details will help to make the body fit your hand like a glove, a large aluminium block of a glove, but a glove nonetheless.


Switch the camera on using the switch up top and you’ll find yourself in either the single shot (S) or continuous shooting (C) mode, a choice of either shooting in one, shot, at, a, time, or several if you’re into continuous shooting such as if you need to capture something in motion.

This decision to put the single mode ahead of the continuous can result in you being put into continuous mode too often, just from a simple switch on, and we wish Leica had decided to make S the last one, so a full switch of the power could put is into the singular mode only, but we can live with this, and it just means you’ll have to control your fingers, training them how much pressure is needed for that power switch to bring you to the right mode.


Once in the right drive mode, you’ll find no listing of the regular camera modes on the top of this camera.

While most camera bodies display the typical P/A/S/M — Program, Aperture, Shutter, and Manual for those of you who left your jargon manual at home — as well as some auto modes, these aren’t found on the body. Rather, if you want to make the choice of an auto mode or manual-specific option, you have to do this with the 3 inch LCD at the back of the camera, which Leica has also included touch support.

You don’t have to use the LCD either, as there’s a viewfinder found above this to the left revealing a super bright 3 megapixel view of the world, easily one of the brightest and sharpest we’ve ever seen or heard of.


Even though the features might sound like Leica has made a camera that is remarkably new, and it has, for the most part, the Leica Q is assumed to be a camera for people who like to go old school, for people who play with their lenses with options for auto-focus or manual focus when the focus control button is pressed on the bottom.

The Leica Q is also for people who like to define the shutter speed and control the speed like an old camera would, and that’s what the dial up top is for: shutter speed control.

That’s a very old school camera option, as is the aperture ring which is on the lens and can be controlled for your depth of field. If you don’t really want that, however, the Leica Q accommodates for this with the inclusion of auto aperture and auto shutter speed, there when you stick it on “A”, and this doesn’t have to be done for both.


If you want the aperture controlled for you but the shutter speed set to 125, you can set the aperture ring to A and control the shutter with the top dial, setting it to 125, or anything else.

Let’s say you want the opposite, and depth is important to you but shutter speed isn’t. In that situation, you can set the shutter speed to A on the top dial and control the aperture on the edge of the lens manually yourself.

And if you don’t want any control of either, that’s totally fine too, as you can set both to A and let the camera do its thing, which it does surprisingly well, running through either an automatic ISO selection, which can get pretty useful even in low light, which offers as high a low-light sensitivity as the rocking 50,000, which isn’t going to look fantastic in colour, but will be pretty handy if you’ve found the monochrome mode.

Monochromatic image straight from the Leica Q
Monochromatic image straight from the Leica Q

Yes, it wouldn’t be a Leica if it didn’t support black and white photography, and while this isn’t like the M Monochrom — a camera from Leica that can only shoot black and white (don’t laugh, we’d use that) — it does have an excellent monochrome mode hidden in the options for colour saturation, with it being the first option.

This isn’t a simple greyscale either, with a good solid black and white recreation of the image that can be captured in either JPG or RAW on the Leica Q’s 24 megapixel full-frame sensor.

Monochromatic image straight from the Leica Q (100 percent crop)
Monochromatic image straight from the Leica Q (100 percent crop)