Photo: Leica

The sales numbers speak for themselves. According to Nikkei, global shipments for fixed lens compact cameras fell by 110 million units in 2008 — a year after the release of Apple’s iPhone — by 97 per cent to just a meagre 3.01 million in 2021.

With Panasonic and Nikkon’s subsequent announcement that they’d be canning their entry-level compact cameras, the budget single-lens camera is undoubtedly at death’s door. 

But what about point-and-shoots in the luxury segment? Leica certainly believes that the sector still has legs, given that the Germany company recently released the Q3, a follow-up to their popular Q compact camera series with a price tag of $8,960 — sans accessories.

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A better pocket camera

First launched in 2015, Leica’s Q series has earned quite a reputation in photography circles. (Photo: Leica)

This is marginally more expensive than the Leica Q2 (the cheapest variant of which is currently listed at $8,510 on the brand’s website), and a good deal cheaper than the brand’s flagship Leica M11, which retails at over $13,000.

The Q3 costs about as much as five iPhone 14 Pros, which is not to question the device’s affordability but its value in 2023.

The digital zeitgeist favours content that is snappy, easily digestible, and even easier to capture — preferably with a device that fits snugly into your back pocket, like a smartphone; one that costs comfortably high enough to be a status symbol while being cheap enough to upgrade every year.

The Leica Q3 is the first camera to feature wireless charging with an optional hand grip accessory. (Photo: Leica)

The Q3, for all its headline improvements from successors like the world’s first wireless charging, 8K video capture capabilities, and a new tiltable touchscreen, does not fit into your back pocket. It’s also meant to be used for as long as its German engineering allows.

In other words, it’s targeted at someone altogether different — the kind of someone who wouldn’t settle for a smartphone snapshot. The kind of someone who would lug around a full-frame compact camera, lightweight and convenient as it is, to score a shot made better by physical, optical processes afforded by a fixed lens rather than digital enhancement and algorithmic wizardry.

Bibliophiles eschew soulless e-books for the weight and authenticity of a hard-cover novel, and so too do Leica fans — especially for a camera that’s objectively better than the last iterations.

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Most feature-packed Q yet

Photo: Leica

Improvements to the mainline technical aspects are many — a larger 60-megapixel camera sensor, snappier autofocus with better face detection, and improved night sensitivity, among others — though it is the all-new features that deserve further attention.

Most interesting is the camera’s world-first wireless charging capabilities, feeding the Q3’s uprated 2,200mAh battery pack via an optional hand grip accessory.

It’s a nifty, understated little feature that underscores the compact camera’s identity as an everyday-carry device since you’ll be able to top up both your smartphone and the Q3 with a single Qi-compatible wireless charging pad.

The Q3 also steps into the realm of the video content creator, offering the ability to record high-quality 8K video in efficient codecs, along with several ports for gimbals and other video-capture accessories.

While it can’t outpace versatile video shooters like the Sony ZV-1 or Panasonic Lumix GH6 just yet, think of it as an added bonus for photographers looking to dabble with the occasional vlog.

The Q3’s tiltable touchscreen increases shooting convenience and accessibility without compromising its IP52 certification. (Photo: Leica)

Then there’s the matter of the three-inch tiltable touchscreen — a much-requested feature among fans and another first for Leica’s in-house cameras, made more impressive by the maintenance of its predecessor’s IP52 durability certification, meaning it can ward off most dust particles and some water spray.

The articulating display pops out, tilts up, or tilts down, offering photographers and especially videographers a greater range of angles to work with than before. Hip-level and low-to-the-ground shots are easier to pull off, though there’s no flip-around selfie mode — sorry, folks.

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Looks still kill

Stylish accessories like leather halfcases and paracord straps are sold separately. (Photo: Leica)

The Leica Q3 has been a hit with almost everyone who has gotten their hands on it — especially photography reviewers and tech platforms. They mostly agree that it retains and builds on the essence of a Leica Q, meaning that it remains a svelte, stylish package to shoot and be shot with.

They also make mention of its blistering price tag, comparing it especially to — surprise, surprise — its previous iteration, the Q2, unconvinced that its iterative improvements are worth the price of the upgrade.

It’s an understandable sentiment. Bigger numbers across the board are just that — they can only mean so much to amateur and journeyman photographers. Neat upgrades like the Q3’s wireless charging and tiltable touchscreen make it more convenient and accessible, but they probably won’t be enough to swing the decision for pre-existing Q2 owners.

Photographers and adventurous explorer types who don’t already own a Q will be the chief audience for this pricey shooter — especially those willing to make a hefty investment for top-of-the-line camera quality, a hardy build, and that iconic red spot. 

In the end, the Leica Q3’s eye-watering asking price does its part in weeding out the smartphone crowd and any yuppie looking for a flashy new toy. It leaves room only for the dedicated — those willing to make a hefty investment for a compelling product, and especially those who don’t already have a Q camera in their arsenal.