Leica’s “Leitz Phone 2” has a giant 1-inch camera sensor, magnetic lens cap
Meet the Leica Leitz Phone 2, a phone from the famous German camera manufacturer that is exclusive to… Japan? If smartphones are eating into the camera market, it makes sense that some camera companies would try to go the other way.
Leica is not a smartphone company, though, so the company actually building this phone is Sharp! Now the Japan exclusivity makes sense. If you have to base your branded smartphone on somebody else’s hardware, it’s hard to go wrong with using the Sharp Aquos R7, a stunningly unique Android phone that dumps a lot of the dumb phone trends other manufacturers mindlessly stick to. The R7 went out the door with Leica-branded optics, so this is apparently the other half of that deal.
Sharp is no stranger to unique smartphone designs, and the Leica and its R7 sister phone make a lot of good decisions. Instead of a bunch of questionably useful tiny rear cameras, you get one giant camera: a 1-inch Sony IMX989 sensor. That’s the biggest currently available on a smartphone. Normally the IMX989 is 50 MP, but Leica is cropping it a bit and lists a “47.2-megapixel effective pixel count.” The display is flat, a great change from the senselessly curved and distorted screens that companies typically put on flagship Android phones. The curved screen gimmick is driven by Samsung, display supplier to most of the world’s smartphones, but here the display is made by Sharp, a 6.6-inch 2730×1260 OLED with a definitely overkill 240 Hz refresh rate.
The other unique feature Sharp brings to the table is that it is seemingly the only company interested in Qualcomm’s giant 3D Sonic Max in-screen fingerprint sensor. The biggest problem with in-screen fingerprint sensors is that there’s no tactile guidance for where to stick your finger, so it’s easy to miss the sensor slightly and get a bad read. Qualcomm’s 3D Sonic Max sensor is huge, though—big enough to fit two fingers, so you won’t miss it. This sensor came out in 2019, but no one uses it because it’s expensive.
As for the actual Leica contributions to this phone, it has a redesigned aluminum frame with 90-degree corners and a grippy, knurled texture running down the side of the frame. The display design could be better. The 90-degree corners make the front a bit awkward, since the display is still pulled from the rounded-cornered Aquos R7, so the phone now has a screen that doesn’t match the body corners. You get rounded display corners with a matching black bezel, and then the 90-degree aluminum corners, which give the front an odd, dual-bezel look. Some phones, like the Galaxy S22 Ultra, have 90-degree corners, but they do better in the looks department thanks to matching screens.
Leica naturally paid a lot of attention to the rear camera design. The 1-inch camera sensor needs a big rear camera bump, but not as big as Leica decided to go with, and the circular camera bump now extends to cover the LED flash and the non-photography 2 MP distance-measurement sensor. To replicate the “real camera” feeling, the Leica Leitz Phone 2 has a big, magnetic camera lens cover that clips overtop of the whole rear camera bump. There’s even a black case for it, which sort of looks like it’s trying to replicate the traditional black and silver camera design, but it doesn’t seem to be textured.
Leica is not the camera manufacturer here, but it did make a “proprietary software engine” that “brings this typical ‘Leica look’ to smartphone photography.” It has three filters named after Leica lenses that try to replicate bokeh and various focal lengths. There’s a “Golden Hour widget” that presumably tells you when it’s an hour before sundown and a widget that shows images from the Leica Fotografie International Gallery.
The spec sheet is the same as the Aquos R7: a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC, 12GB of RAM, 512GB of storage (that’s actually double the R7), a 5000 mAh battery, IP68 dust and water resistance, and Android 12. There’s even a headphone jack.
You’re going to pay a premium for that red dot (and the storage bump), though. The price in Japan is 225,360 yen (~$1,580), while the normal R7 is 189,360 yen, or ~$1,365.
Listing image by Leica