Review: Leica Q (Typ 116)

The camera’s reliance on manual modes also makes it suitable for the old school photographer that hates living in the modern world, but it’s still not a bad option for someone who loves those automatic shooting choices, and the full-on auto mode with auto-focus, auto-aperture, auto-ISO, and auto-shutter speed still works very, very well, and better than you’d expect from a camera that feels more like it was designed to cough at the thought.

Carrying it around the city, we found it was a comfortable body to hang around our neck, to hold in our hands, and the style it brings to you does make you feel like you’re a Rodchenko or a Bresson, carrying this little piece of history to get your own street shooting done.

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

Some modern elements have also been thrown in for good measure with smartphone control now here, and to Leica’s credit, it has actually pulled them off, which is a far sight better than what we saw in the first camera that heralded these for Leica, the T.

Wireless setup can now be performed on more than just the iPhone, with Android found here, too, supporting image backups from camera to phone, found in the original JPEG image size, and there is also camera control.


Camera control is exactly what it sounds like, with Leica offering the lens and sensor through your smartphone, turning the iPhone or your Android device into what is essentially an off-camera viewfinder, but it’s more than that, as you can control aperture, shutter speed, ISO, exposure, and touch the screen to focus, with the image firing the moment you fire the shutter on the phone.

It’s a very handy little feature, and while we’ve seen it on a few other cameras in the past, Leica’s is one of the better implementations without doubt.


One of the more curious additions, though, is the digital reframe button, a small button near the top right that isn’t marked, but it will make itself known to you pretty quickly.

Just as an aside for this, you need to remember that the Leica Q is a fixed 28mm camera, with no ability to zoom in. Sort of.

Image from the Leica Q, cropped at 50mm from the 28mm lens.
Image from the Leica Q, cropped at 50mm from the 28mm lens.

The digital reframe button is a bit of a cheat, cropping down to what would be 35mm and 50mm, and showing those reframed image sizes on screen, to give you an idea of what you’re shooting and framing when you fire the shot.

When you do capture the shot with either of these activated, the image will crop, with the 28mm full-frame 24 megapixel shot going down to 15 megapixels in 35mm mode, and down to 8 megapixels in 50mm mode.

With a RAW file, it’s a little different again, with Leica’s DNG pre-cropped to those sizes, but still offering you the full-frame if need be. It’s a little reminiscent of Nokia’s PureView technology and how it cropped down to the right zoom level on its 40 megapixel sensor, but let you later on recrop the image if need be.

When you crop to 50mm, this is how your RAW files (DNG) load up in Photoshop.
When you crop to 50mm, this is how your RAW files (DNG) load up in Photoshop.

This digital reframe option in the Leica Q is a bit of a cheat for zoom, though it is a way for the modern photographer to deal with the very fact that the Q cannot zoom in, with the hopes that 8 and 15 megapixels is enough, which it is for us, but might not be ideal for all.

We’d say most photographers would be happy with what’s available, but this camera’s lack of range definitely makes it more suitable for casual photography, portraits, and candids, but if you need to shoot something from far away, steer clear because even 50mm at 8 megapixels won’t get you close.

Despite this little cheat, we love the Leica Q, and if the above paragraphs haven’t given away how thrilled we are with the Leica Q, then let us say it proudly: this is a stellar camera, made for people who love to tinker and get focus the traditional way, as well as those who want the camera to do all the work.


It isn’t your camera made for shooting images from afar, making it useless for sports photography or music photography unless you’re sitting up front and can feel the sweat of the athlete or the spittle of the performer.

But it is ideal for street photography, for candids, and for portraits intending to be shot with the most pristine of glass, because that’s what Leica offers in the full-frame sensor of the Q.