Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) - The best compact digital camera on the market?

The Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) is the latest in the Leica D-Lux premium compact digital camera range produced in partnership with Panasonic and sporting the famous Leica Red Dot.

A marriage of the expertise of Panasonic in electronics and Leica in optics is quite a combination and the specification of the D-Lux are outstanding.

With a  16MP multi-format 4/3rds size imaging sensor providing around 12MP images coupled to the superb stabilised Leica 24-75mm f/1.7-2.8 (35mm equivalent) lens - technical results are excellent in any conditions. The AF system and lovely electronic viewfinder make shooting a real pleasure.

Unlike many compact digital cameras, the D-Lux is ready for shooting almost instantaneously and captures images quickly and without hesitation.

It is a great camera for street photography too, with an excellent 921k dot rear screen viewable in all lighting conditions - though it is a fixed screen, and in my opinion it would have been nice if this screen was articulated and touchscreen capable though.

A very useful control ring around the lens which can be set to control many different functions including the zoom allows you to customise operation of the camera to suit your shooting style.

The lens is provided with a click stopped aperture ring for directly selecting the aperture you wish to use and there is a format selector switch on the side of the lens to allow 4:3. 16:9. 3:2 and 1:1 formats to be selected.

The superb electronic viewfinder includes an eye sensor which as you raise the camera to your eye, triggers the AF and turns off the rear LCD, with 2,764k dots, 60fps refresh rate and showing almost 100% of the Adobe RGB Colour space. - This is the Rolls Royce of electronic viewfinders!

Leica have included a great range of (22) creative filters to give your in-camera image a different look including a 'sunshine' mode that will give flare effect and introduce a bright light source to the top of the image frame. Particularly impressive are the monochrome options with Dynamic monochrome mode giving a great look to monochrome images. There are also six photo modes: standard, vivid, monochrome, natural, portrait and scenery which all give your images a different look.

You can record both a RAW image and one with the colour mode applied so even if you shoot in monochrome, the colour raw file will still be available.

ISO settings range from 100-25,600 with an Auto-ISO option available - a great feature, and white balance can be set manually or using several pre-sets as well as automatically.

There is the option to use an electronic shutter which allows continuous shooting up to 40fps and virtually silent operation or a mechanical shutter for up to 11fps but still very quiet operation. Continuous tracking AF is available up to about 6.5fps - great for tracking a moving subject.

The results from the D-lux are outstanding and fully comparable to the best micro-4/3rds models on the market currently - I used the D-Lux alongside my Olympus OM-D E-M1 with the 12-40mm PRO zoom and images were fully interchangeable between these two set-ups.

The Leica 24-75mm f/1.7-2.8 lens Optical Image Stabiliser works very well for both stills and video and Nano surface coating does a great job at preventing flare.

The AF system in full area mode allows you to select any point in 100% of the image area for focussing while 49 focus zones and pinpoint AF are other options. Manual focus is very well catered for with Focus Peaking and magnified view both available. You can also configure the lens ring to act as a manual focus ring too. Click the switch for Macro mode and you can get as close as approximately 3cm from your subject a fill the frame with an object around 30x40mm.

ISO performance is very good with noise free results up to ISO 1600 and excellent results at 3200. ISO 6400 and above a still useable though noise does start to intrude - a great option is to shoot monochrome and make the noise that appears a feature of the image.

Wi-Fi and NFC are both built in so you can control the camera from your smartphone using the free Leica APP. An intervalometer is also built in for time-lapse shooting and there is an interesting stop-motion animation mode to allow you to create unique stop motion animation videos.

The camera is not the most compact model on the market, but will comfortably fit in to a coat or jacket pocket and is certainly no burden to take everywhere with you.

Battery life was excellent - I obtained over 400 shots with no sign of the battery flagging.

The D-Lux is supplied with a snap on lens cap with lanyard so you can attach it to the camera strap lugs. Leica also offer an 'automatic' lens cap which opens and closes when the camera is switched on or off - possibly a wise investment.

There is no pop-up flash on the D-Lux, but a small clip-on unit is provided with the camera that I found does the job for outdoor fill-in or indoor shooting.

The 4K video mode of the D-Lux produces excellent results with the image stabilised lens helping produce steady footage. You can also 'frame grab' 8MP images from recorded footage and apply filters and shooting modes when shooting video. Face detection works especially well for video locking on to your subjects face and tracking it very well.

Video mode can be engaged at any time using the one-touch video button regardless of the still mode in use. The built in microphones do a good job and there is a wind-cut feature selectable too.

So, should you buy the D-Lux Typ 109? If you are looking for a premium quality compact camera and like the idea of the large sensor and fast stabilised lens then this is the camera for you! If you want the flexibility of interchangeable lenses then look elsewhere but be aware there is no equivalent lens available for M43 at the moment - the closest being the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro lens  which when combined with a body will be a lot bigger and bulkier than the D-Lux.

Of course, you will surely have noted that Panasonic make effectively the same camera - called the Panasonic LX100. This is cheaper than the Leica but does miss out on a few things which may or may not be of importance to you.

The D-Lux comes with a code to download a full version of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 - there is also no ongoing cost for using Lightroom either. Leica also supply a full 3 year passport warranty which additionally covers accidental damage in the first 12 months of purchase.

You should also consider the past history of Leica badged Panasonic compacts - the Leica model almost invariably commands a much higher re-sale value so the final cost of ownership could turn out to be less.

The LX100 however, does have a nice rubberised hand grip which, while it does not allow you to see the clean lines of the D-Lux, it does provide a better grip to the camera. Leica do offer a superb leather protector case which has a built in hand grip and is available in "Cognac" or Black.

The Leica D-Lux typ 109 is available for you to try out for yourself at our London and Burgess Hill stores, or you can find full details at www.ParkCameras.com. At the time of this blog post, we are running an exclusive  promotion which reduces the price from £825 to £795 and also includes a FREE Lexar 32GB UHS-I 600x Pro 90MB/s SD Card worth £59!

Below are some example images all taken with the D-Lux:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great review, as well as the sample photos. Thank you!

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