As we touched on in the body and design page, the main exterior controls are comprised of a physical aperture ring, shutter speed dial and rear control dial. Because of this, the Leica Q handles in a way very similar to the X100T. This is a good thing, and is a very intuitive way of controlling the camera. Slap both dials over to Auto, and you're basically in Program Auto mode. Move any of them to a specific setting, and you'll be in either shutter or aperture priority modes. Set them both to a specific setting and you're in full manual, or if you're in auto ISO, you're in kind of a 'Pentaxian' TAv mode, where you can still have exposure compensation control the bias of the ISO while your shutter speed and aperture are held constant.

Despite this seemingly well-thought out approach, there are a number of handling quirks, all of which stem from a relative lack of customization options on the Q.

Customization? What's that?

By default, that rear control dial adjusts exposure compensation, which is a very sensible function. But if you select a specific shutter speed on the shutter speed dial, the rear dial then switches to controlling the shutter speed in 1/3 stops, robbing you of exposure compensation unless you assign it to the rear Fn button. So if you like to manually adjust your shutter speed while still using exposure compensation, hopefully you didn't like having the Fn button assigned to something else (which is itself a very short list, and annoyingly, includes scene modes but leaves out more vital functions like autofocus). It should go without saying that this wouldn't be a problem if you had any options to customize the function of that rear control dial, but you don't.

Here's a look at the only two buttons you have control over customizing.

There are some sensible options here, but autofocus settings are a glaring omission. Also sensible options given the button placement, but more choices would have been nice.

Continuing on, the rear custom button (Zoom / Lock-Button in Leica menu vernacular) above the screen only offers four options: digital zoom (for 35mm and 50mm crop modes), auto exposure lock, autofocus lock, and autofocus plus auto exposure lock. Not even 'AF-ON' is an option here, which is an essential functionality for many DSLR shooters. And what's more, the 'Movie Record' button cannot be reassigned to anything else at all. Although we'll take a more in-depth look at video later, the Q is set up to be a serious stills shooter, so it would be nice to be able to assign the movie button to something - anything - else. And the same goes for the four-way controller and center button to the right of the Q's display. In single-point AF, these allow for direct control over the placement of your AF point and also what information is being displayed in shooting and playback modes, which is great. But if you're in multi-point autofocus, or another autofocus mode where you don't need to control your autofocus point placement, it'd be nice to reassign the four-way controller to something else.

And we'll get more in-depth on autofocus later, but changing any autofocus settings whatsoever necessitates a dive into the menus. Being able to assign either autofocus area modes or even AF-S / AF-C selection to a custom function button would considerably speed up the camera's operation in complex and varied shooting scenarios (say, I don't know, like shooting a wedding).

Lastly, the Q functions with its aperture blades wide open until you actually take a photograph or start a video. This ensures that the maximum amount of light is always falling on the sensor, which aids autofocus and maintains a bright, clean live view feed, but it means you can't preview depth-of-field until you half-press the shutter button. When you do this, the aperture then stops down to your selection.

The touchscreen

Touch AF + Release can be a handy, especially when using the camera at an angle that might make hitting the physical shutter button difficult. Photo by Dan Bracaglia. Converted to B&W and cropped slightly in Adobe Lightroom. F5.6 | 1/500 sec | ISO 12500

For lovers of touchscreens on cameras, the Q's is merely acceptable. In playback mode, tap-to-zoom doesn't really zoom in very far, and there is no menu option to change that. Pinch-to-zoom works, but not as fluidly as you might expect from a modern smart device (to be fair though, most digital cameras lag behind phones and tablets in this respect). In Live View, Touch AF and Touch AF + Release modes do respond to your input rather well, but as you'll see on our AF page, those also come with some compromises.

If you don't like touchscreens, woe is you: although you can safely ignore the touchscreen for most any shooting scenario, you cannot completely deactivate the touch functionality. This might be the first touchscreen camera I've actually wanted to do that on, as I often accidentally swiped in the middle of entering playback mode, landing me on the wrong picture, or on one very unhappy occasion, resulting in a battery-draining lock-up. The buttons are so good on the Q that I often ended up using them instead of the touchscreen anyway.

To be specific, the touchscreen functions that you cannot disable are swipes, taps and pinching to navigate, and zoom during playback. The touchscreen doesn't provide any functionality during shooting unless you are in Touch AF and Touch AF + Release modes.

When using the screen (or EVF for that matter, as they behave identically in this case) for assessing exposure compensation adjustments, note that dialing in intentional overexposure does not brighten the image in dark conditions. Likewise, when operating in full manual mode, the Q's exposure meter will indicate whether or not your image will be over-or-under exposed, but you will bet no actual exposure preview from the display or EVF, and there's no option to engage this in the menus.


Given the underwhelming amount of customization options, it makes sense that the Q's menus are fairly concise, though not without their own issues. Similar options are grouped, but the whole system is essentially one long list. Of course, there are only five pages, but they could be simplified with some tabbed categories. 'Focus,' for example, opens up its own sub-menu. It would have been nice to pull that out as a separate tab on the side, along with tabs for playback and other shooting settings, and so forth, just to make the camera even quicker to operate. At the very least, the Q is very responsive when navigating menu items. Strangely, for a camera with an 'always on' touchscreen, there is no touch functionality enabled for menu navigation.

A look at the second page of the Leica Q menu.

And if you've just picked up a Q and are wondering where the volume controls for all the artificial sounds are, they're under 'Acoustic Signal.' That's at least one menu option that could use renaming.


The Leica Q enters playback mode quickly, and the rear control dial defaults to zoom functionality to give you an alternative to the touchscreen. While, in theory, this should make the checking of critical focus fairly straightforward, it only zooms into the center and not your chosen focus point, and there is no one-button 100% view option. The four-way controller center button will zoom out to the default view, but it won't zoom in for you. When you're zoomed in, you can hold down the 'Play' button and use the rear control dial to cycle between images without zooming out, which is a bit of a fiddly solution for that need. For a number of shooters, these will be irksome drawbacks for a generally responsive camera.

Manual focusing

The Leica Q is a pleasure to manually focus. In the above image, the camera's AF kept getting tripped up on the grate, and focusing on it instead of the cars in the garage. A quick switch to MF fixed the problem: between focus peaking, magnification and the focus depth scale on the lens, manually locking focus on a desired subject is very easy. Photo by Dan Bracaglia. F5.6 | 1/125 sec | ISO 1250

It's a subjective and lofty claim, but for those who enjoy manual focus, the Leica Q might just offer the best manual focusing experience of any mirrorless camera. The manual focusing ring itself is chiefly responsible for this.

Unlike many other mirrorless cameras (including others with fixed lenses, like Fujifilm's X100-series), the Leica Q's manual focusing ring feels mechanically coupled with hard stops, and is beautifully damped. With a finger rest that doubles as a locking mechanism, it can be incredibly precise. That locking mechanism in and of itself is an elegant and direct solution to the switch-flip, button-press or menu-dive that usually accompanies the engagement of manual focus. Overall, even for someone who prefers autofocus, I found manual focus on the Q a joy to use.

Helping you out are two methods of confirming focus; magnification and focus peaking. If you're not shooting wide-open, focus peaking works well, but magnification (or combining the two) will get you closer to critical focus.