The No-Compromise Compact: Leica Q (Typ 116) Digital Camera


Users looking for optimal image quality in a compact body would do well to check out Leica’s latest release, the Q (Typ 116) Digital Camera. Packing a full-frame 24.2-megapixel CMOS sensor into a portable and, I must say, beautifully designed body, the Q aims to deliver high-end image quality while still ensuring it can remain on you at all times. It also implements a Leica Maestro II-series image processor, along with a Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH. lens to quickly create images with smooth bokeh, at sensitivities up to ISO 50000.

The Q’s body features Leica’s classic, simplified aesthetic using a machined-aluminum top plate and magnesium-alloy body with laser-engraved lettering, numbers, and dials. A substantial thumb rest is also carved out of the back, and the front has a diamond pattern on the leathering to ensure a comfortable, firm grip at all times. Furthering operation is a built-in 3.68-megapixel (1280 x 960 pixels x 3 colors) electronic viewfinder for natural framing, similar to that of a rangefinder. The viewfinder is also automatically activated by an eye sensor.

On the front, of course, is the bright Summilux 28mm lens, which offers full control over both the aperture and focus, if so desired. The lens is constructed of 11 elements in 9 groups, including 3 aspherical elements, to reduce the appearance of ghosting and aberrations. The lens will focus as close as 11.8" in normal mode, which can be reduced to 6.7" when set to a macro-specific mode for getting serious close-ups. The camera’s automatic focus uses a contrast-based AF system and, when using the touch controls on the 3.0" 1.04M-dot LCD monitor, users can simply tap to focus on their subject.

The Maestro II processor quickly handles data from the sensor to enable fast 10 fps continuous shooting, as well as a plethora of other features. This includes Focus Peaking and Live View Zoom to help you lock in your focus, and a digital frame selector for quickly cropping into 35mm equivalent and 50mm equivalent focal lengths. The Typ 116 allows this to be activated even after the photo is taken, and it will save files as both DNG RAW and JPEG files.

High-quality video is implemented in the Q with options for full HD 1080p recording at 30 and 60 fps, as well as 720p at 30 fps. It saves videos in the MP4 format and has a built-in stereo microphone with an integrated wind-noise filter for capturing clear sound. Full manual control will then allow users to dial in the exact look they want or need for their shot.

Share your photos and videos instantly, thanks to an integrated Wi-Fi module, which allows you to link the camera to a smartphone, tablet, or computer. The Q also has an NFC chip for tap-to-connect functionality with certain devices, and the free Leica Q app lets you take remote control of your camera for adjusting exposure while you shoot from odd angles and positions. Additionally, a copy of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is included for professional-level management, editing, and export of your stills and video.

Leica has not forgotten about dedicated accessories. A variety of bags, cases, and straps, as well as other technical equipment, will be available alongside the Q. This includes extra handgrips, filters for the 49mm thread, and a flash for use in the hot shoe. 

Firmware Update

As of December 22, 2015, Leica has made firmware 1.1 for the Q (Typ 116) Digital Camera available for download. This update is highly recommended, as it optimizes overall image quality when using ISO settings from 100 to 400, and offers a couple of bug fixes. This includes correcting exposure in digiscoping mode after switching off and on again, as well as adjustment of Live View image in monochrome mode when using tracking autofocus, which will now show users a monochrome image and only switch to color for accurate focusing when the shutter is pressed halfway. The firmware is available on Leica’s website.