Leica D-LUX (Typ 109) creating 4K files and the '4K dilemma'

The top video is a collection of clips I shot yesterday with the Leica D-LUX (Typ 109) in 4K. Because my laptop won't handle editing in 4K it's been 'downsized' to 1080 HD. The bottom video is the full 4K version of one of the clips. And this illustrates the 4K 'dilemma.' The D-LUX (Typ 109) / Panasonic LX100 may well have professional uses, but essentially it's a 'consumer' camera. As you can see it creates beautiful footage, but how many people who buy it have the capability to edit it (or even view it) properly in 4K? 

4K has approximately four times the information of HD and tests our computers processors, ram and graphics cards to the limit. Yesterday I went to look again at the machines I checked out before with a 4K clip from my Panasonic CM1, this time with a 4K clip from the Leica. And, for example, the 5K 27' iMac struggled with this. Yes it played, but not very smoothly. So what kind of a machine do you need for serious 4K editing work? Well, something like this.

  • Online Editing: Dual Intel Xeon 2GHz six-core
  • Online Editing: Dual NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760M
  • Online Editing: 32GB RAM
  • Online Editing: dedicated 7200rpm hard drive or SSD for project files and a striped RAID array

From:- http://www.videomaker.com/article/17135-editing-in-4k-minimum-system-requirements

So, 4K is very much ahead of the curve here and it's a breeze to shoot, but a real problem to edit. There is a method involving offline editing, which means editing with low-res files and then switching in the high-res files for final rendering. It's something I will be investigating, but I can't shed more light on this currently other than to offer this link - http://www.videomaker.com/article/17050-getting-to-know-offline-editing 

So, like me, if you are interested in 4K video you may well be wondering just what you have got yourself into. So 4K is a great selling point, but for the majority of us who buy cameras equipped with it, how useful is it? 

Well, to start with, if you shoot in 4K and then convert the files to an HD format that your computer can handle, then there is a benefit. As you can see in the top video, the combination of the Panasonic video engine and the Leica lens has produced extraordinary footage in 1080 HD. Certainly this is the best I've ever seen from a camera I've personally used. And I'm still able to upload 4K clips to my picture libraries because I'm not actually editing them. In fact they are the files straight off the camera. And I'm able to do that because of how I create them.

  • I place the camera on a solid tripod and compose
  • I make a connection between the camera and my iPad using wi-fi and the Leica Image Shuttle App.
  • I make sure the exposure, fps + everything else is what I want and I start and stop the camera by using the touchscreen on the iPad. This avoids any vibration at the start and finish of the clip.

So basically I'm shooting the finished article 'in situ' and shooting so that I don't have to edit. (Because I can't!!) So I then have a (huge!) file to upload to my picture libraries. And no, there aren't many (any?) who will buy the 4K versions of the file, but as with shooting high-res stills for library images, it's makes good commercial sense to provide the highest quality I can, both to make the downsized versions of the footage look better, to give the perception that this is top class professionally shot footage and of course to be future proof. Because in time we will all be able to view and edit 4K on our run of the mill laptops, but not just yet.

So this works for me and I've resolved that I'll stick with the system I have for the time being. Since I'm not prepared to spend the money on a 4K editing machine without some expectation that I will make a profit on selling the footage, which it's far too early to assess yet. Plus for the purposes of providing stock footage, I don't need to do that anyway. 

It would be nice to see my 4K D-LUX (Typ 109) files in all their glory running freely on one of my screens, but thats a pleasure I'll have to wait to experience. I may investigate custom building a machine that will do what I want and that will probably be a PC, since the MacPro towers are just so expensive. But that's for the future. 

And it's actually quite strange that I should be considering this in a week when Google have informed me that my website / blog ranking will now be determined by how well my sites work on mobile devices. So on the one hand more and more people are using smaller mobile phones and tablets to view content, yet the camera manufacturers are intent on giving us more MP's for our stills and video footage that most will never ever see at the resolution it was shot in. So am I using cameras that produce 100MB still images and 300MB short video clips to end up being viewed on phones and tablets? And the answer to that is probably, yes I am. 

So those of us that make a living from stock photography do indeed have a dilemma. Which way do we go? High-end cameras or something like a smartphone? As you know I use both and achieve different things with those alternatives. But the future of the picture video buying market is certainly as uncertain as the camera market itself, but one I have to say that the Leica D-LUX (Typ 109) / Panasonic LX100 strikes me a pretty good compromise for. It shoots terrific video and great stills as well. It's small, light and easy to use. For me, everything a mirrorless camera should be, classy, elegant, stylish, efficient and yet still retaining that small footprint.

And this might just be the future for non smartphone hybrid stills / video devices. Because the D-LUX does offer a lot more than current smartphones, with the higher quality stills and video and the superb Leica zoom lens. And yes this may turn up in smartphones at some point. But will they then still be smartphones? One day, someone will get the message that by putting the Android operating system onto a camera like the D-LUX (Typ 109) it would actually make it more sellable. And typed / text communication is certainly on the rise while verbal communication is declining, so a 'smart' camera equipped with messaging ability may well not suffer from an inability to make and accept phone calls. Though to be honest I can't see why that wouldn't be possible as well.

Anyway that's just me speculating and I'll share more of my thoughts on that at a later date. But in the here and now and being aware of what's possible and what's not, I'll repeat again that the Leica D-LUX (Typ 109) in addition to it's Panasonic sibling the LX100, is a fabulous little camera. Time moves on, gear gets better and better is what happens and of course this is as it should be. Just a few short years ago only an expensive, bulky DSLR would deliver stills quality like this, without the 4K video offer of course and that's something to be applauded and appreciated.

And yes evolving technology is difficult to keep up with (and afford!) but I wouldn't want it any other way. It expands what I can do, what I can achieve and the quality - size equation is moving in the direction I want. And whenever I see photographers struggling with huge bulky DSLR's and lens outfits, I'm glad I have an alternative. As is well documented by now I'm far from anti DSLR, but given the choice of the same quality in a light or heavy configuration, who would pick the heavier one? Certainly not me. And if mirrorless IS going to make serious inroads into the DSLR market, then it's things like the 4K option on the D-LUX that will help this, even allowing for the current editing requirements.

With the new Canon 50MP / 4K 5D monsters arriving soon, there will be a non-specialist DSLR that offers more than any current mirrorless camera and it will be interesting to see what those cameras can produce. I may well give one a try and I have to admit I almost put my name on the Calumet waiting list yesterday! But ultimately, the Leica D-LUX (Typ 109) suits me a lot more. Ergonomically, aesthetically and financially. And yes I'm sure the Canon will produce better quality stills and probably video as well. But then as discussed in this article, will anyone notice? Or care?