combined Leica Leitz 2nd phone, a phone from the famous German camera maker and exclusive to… Japan? As smartphones enter the camera market, it makes sense that some camera manufacturers will try to go the other way.
Leica is not a smartphone company, so the company that makes this phone is Sharp! Now exclusivity makes sense in Japan. If you want to build your branded smartphone on someone else’s hardware, you can hardly go wrong Sharp Echos R7, a surprisingly unique Android phone that bucks the trend of many dumb phones that other manufacturers clumsily cling to. The R7 came out of the door with Leica branded optics, so it looks like that’s the other half of the deal.
Sharp is no stranger Unique design for smartphonesThe Leica and its sister R7 are much better liked. Instead of a bunch of questionably small rear cameras, you get one massive camera: a 1-inch Sony IMX989 sensor. It is currently the largest size available in a smartphone. The IMX989 is normally 50 megapixels, but Leica lowers that a bit, listing an “effective pixel count of 47.2 megapixels”. The screen is flat, which is a big change from the stale, distorted, curved screens that companies usually put on Android flagships. Most of the world’s smartphone screen supplier Samsung’s curved screens do the trick, but here the screen is made by Sharp, a 6.6-inch 2730 x 1260 OLED with a very high 240Hz refresh rate.
Another unique feature that Sharp offers is that it seems to be the only company interested in Qualcomm Riesiger 3D Sonic Max In-screen fingerprint sensor. The biggest problem with in-display fingerprint sensors is that there’s no tactile guide on where to place your finger, so it’s easy to miss the sensor by a bit and get a bad reading. Qualcomm’s 3D Sonic Max sensor is huge, though it’s big enough to hold two fingers, so you won’t miss it. This sensor was released in 2019 but no one uses it because it is so expensive.
As for Leica’s real contribution to this phone, it has a redesigned aluminum frame with 90-degree angles and a knurled textured finish on the sides of the frame. Screen design could be better. The 90-degree angles make the front a bit awkward, as the screen is still pulled from the Aquos R7’s rounded corners, so the phone now has a screen that doesn’t match the body’s angles. You get rounded viewing angles with a matching black frame, then aluminum 90-degree angles that give the front an exotic double-frame look. Some phones, eg Galaxy S22 Ultra90-degree angle, but it’s better in the visibility department thanks to reflective screens.
Leica, of course, has taken care of the rear camera design. The 1-inch camera sensor required a larger bumper for the rear camera, but the camera size didn’t go for the Leica, and the circular camera bump now extends to the LED flash and 2-megapixel telemetry sensor, not taking pictures. To replicate the “real camera” feel, the Leica Leitz Phone 2 has a large magnetic camera lens cover that cuts off the entire top of the rear camera. It even has a black case, which looks like it’s trying to replicate the traditional black and silver camera design, but it doesn’t look airtight.
Leica isn’t the camera manufacturer here, but they have developed a “proprietary software engine” that “brings that signature Leica look to smartphone photography.” It has three filters named after Leica lenses that try to reproduce the bokeh effect and different focal lengths. There’s a “Golden Hour widget” that announces sunset in one hour, as well as a widget showing images from international Leica photography.
The spec sheet is the same as the Aquos R7: Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC, 12GB RAM, 512GB storage (which is actually double the R7), 5,000mAh battery, IP68 dust and water resistance, and Android 12. There is also a headphone jack.
You’ll pay a premium for that red dot (and memory bump). Pricing in Japan is 225,360 yen (about US$1,580), while the regular R7 costs 189,360 yen or US$1,365.
List of Leica images