Leica D-LUX (Typ 109) A great stills cameras too. The Leica difference.

I've been concentrating mostly on the rather wonderful 4K video output from the Leica D-LUX (Typ 109) up to now, so I thought I'd do an article on how it works for me as a stills camera.

Last evening was a case of chasing the 'magic hour' light. Lots of driving to get into position for fleeting bursts of that low sun warm evening light that transforms landscape images. As you can see, I did succeed in getting some images I was pleased with. This is often difficult light, with bright areas and dense shadows and shooting contra-jour (against the light) can be a real test of a digital camera sensor. HDR is a possibility, but I like to lift shadows and tone down highlights in Photoshop ACR. As you can see above, the Leica D-LUX (Typ 109) is perfectly capable of turning out a balanced image, with all the 'punch' that great light produces, but also with a wide range of tones as well.

If there is any image quality difference between the Panasonic and Leica versions of what is essentially the same camera, it's here, in the colour and tone rendition. Leica do like saturated colour and strong contrast, as do I and it shows in these images. It's an old cliche and I'm not sure it's that important in these days of Photoshop, but the closer Leica can get to a digital equivalent of a 'film' look, the more they seem to like it. And I have to say again, so do I. Now I don't have an LX100 to compare, so I am presuming somewhat. However, all the Leicas I've owned do have a little more saturation and a little more contrast than other cameras, plus they seem to let more image detail through as well, even if that means slightly more noise. It's a small thing, but as far as I'm concerned it makes a difference, however slight that may be.

I've also mentioned the fact that the D-LUX has an add-on grip. The camera is already 12g heavier than the Panasonic, so with the attached grip (around 70g on my kitchen scales) it's a weightier camera. Now again, I like this and the fact that the grip makes the camera slightly bigger than the LX100. It's all personal preference of course, but I really like the handling of the D-LUX, which is unusual for me and a small camera. In fact I like it very much and to me it's another example of the Leica difference. Panasonic are a very innovative company and they are leading the rest of the industry in lots of areas. But they haven't been making cameras for close to 100 years. And in the cases where there is a difference between the models that the two companies produce, I'll pretty much always prefer the Leica.

Now it's actually quite odd that the Leica D-LUX (Typ 109) is slightly different to the Panasonic LX100. As far as I'm aware they are manufactured by Panasonic and the FZ1000 and V-LUX 4 certainly seem to be identical. So this add-on grip is obviously a Leica choice. And it's not just a cosmetic difference. The D-LUX will feel larger and heavier than the LX100. Again, personally speaking, that's something I like. 

There is however an ergonomic feature that Leica haven't got right. The strap and how it attaches to the camera. Panasonic have 'normal' strap lugs, which means you can use the provided strap or whatever you want. However Leica have these tiny lugs and a strap that has an O ring already attached. So you have to attach that to the camera, which is ridiculously fiddly and means of course it's ridiculously fiddly to remove it. I've solved the problem by removing the O rings from the strap and fitting them to the camera, which means I can use whatever strap I want. And remove it easily. As I mentioned in a previous article the camera + grip fits into my Leica T holster anyway. It's a squeeze, but it does fit and that's a much better way to carry the camera around.

So it's all small stuff, but there is some difference between the Panasonic and Leica versions of the camera. For many I'm sure it's unimportant or they will prefer the Panasonic. However, for me it does make a difference. Particularly since I'm very impressed with the camera. More so than I thought. I bought it mostly for the 4K video option, but I like using it more and more for stills as well. In fact, it's sneaking up on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II for that coveted (???) Soundimageplus camera of the year award.

It's nowhere near as comprehensively featured as the Olympus of course, but then I rarely use comprehensive features anyway. I love the video, which shows the Olympus up in this regard and indeed shows up all the other cameras I have as well. The 4K footage downsized to 1080 HD is the best I've ever created. Better than my Sony's and Fuji's. (Though with the latter that's not actually difficult! My phones shoot significantly better footage than any Fuji camera I've used) And the still images are also excellent. By keeping the pixel count down to 12MP, Panasonic, who make the sensor have provided a little more dynamic range and a slightly sharper result than I'm used to with m4/3. 

I'm presuming this is a new sensor, which is likely with the multi-aspect function, last seen in the Panasonic GH2 I think. And if you are unaware of how this works, click on the diagram below.

As regular readers will be aware, I'm always upsizing images for the stock libraries I sell through and I've managed to get these D-LUX files up to 24MP from raw. So that's a bonus.

All in all, this is a superb little camera and suffers from very few of those small camera flaws that I often encounter. Most importantly it feels like a camera I want to go and shoot pictures with, which is more than I can say for some of it's larger counterparts on my camera shelf. More to come.