Leica D-LUX (Typ 109) Review

 
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12.80
Megapixels
3.13x zoom 4/3
size sensor
image of Leica D-LUX (Typ 109)
Front side of Leica D-LUX (Typ 109) digital camera Front side of Leica D-LUX (Typ 109) digital camera Front side of Leica D-LUX (Typ 109) digital camera Front side of Leica D-LUX (Typ 109) digital camera Front side of Leica D-LUX (Typ 109) digital camera
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Leica D-LUX (Typ 109)
Resolution: 12.80 Megapixels
Sensor size: 4/3
(17.3mm x 13.0mm)
Lens: 3.13x zoom
(24-75mm eq.)
Viewfinder: EVF / LCD
Native ISO: 200 - 12,500
Extended ISO: 100 - 25,000
Shutter: 1/16000 - 60 seconds
Max Aperture: 1.7
Dimensions: 4.6 x 2.6 x 2.2 in.
(118 x 66 x 55 mm)
Weight: 14.3 oz (405 g)
includes batteries
Availability: 11/2014
Manufacturer: Leica
Full specs: Leica D-LUX (Typ 109) specifications

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) Review -- First Impressions

by
Preview posted

Over the years, we've become accustomed with the manner in which Leica releases its D-LUX and V-LUX camera line. Some weeks or months after Panasonic announces a camera, Leica announces its equivalent version, with a restyled body (but the controls remaining in-place), and perhaps tweaking the firmware a little. And of course, with the Leica red dot proudly displayed on the front deck.

Usually these cameras show up once the equivalent Panasonic has been on the market for a while, but with the Leica D-Lux (Typ 109), we break the formula. Just days after the launch of the Panasonic LX100 enthusiast compact, the Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) appears, and so both original and rebadge have what is as near as makes no difference a simultaneous debut. The world won't remember which day of the week they launched on, after all, but that both made their debut at Photokina 2014.

And so we now have four players in the large-sensor, fixed-zoom compact camera market. The Sony RX100, RX100 II and RX100 III have defined expectations. The Canon G1X and G1X II are rather larger, but raise the bar in terms of sensor size, while the Canon G7X shoots directly for the RX100-series. And now, the Panasonic LX100 and Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sit somewhere in between, with significantly larger sensors than their 1"-type sensor-shod rivals, and significantly smaller bodies than the Canon G1X-series cameras.

It's about more than just size -- be it of sensor or camera -- though. The Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) and Panasonic LX100 both share the same high-definition electronic viewfinder, and each has a flash hot shoe. By contrast, Sony's RX100-series cameras either rely on a somewhat delicate-looking popup viewfinder, an external accessory finder, or they forego one altogether. All but one model also skip the hot shoe. Canon's G7X, meanwhile, lacks either viewfinder or hot shoe, and its G1X-series cameras are so much larger that we don't really feel them to be directly comparable.

And compared to their rivals that willfit in a pants pocket, the Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) and Panasonic LX100 sport a much bigger sensor. Where the other cameras are all based around 1"-type chips, Panasonic -- and therefore, Leica -- have opted for the same 4/3"-type sensors that the former uses in its mirrorless cameras. That offers almost double the surface area of a 1"-type chip, and the difference shows itself in sensitivity: the Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) can roam to ISO 25,600 (or 25,000) max., when all of its rivals bar the almost-identical LX100 are limited to 12,800 max. or below.

But it's not just the larger sensor at play here. Performance courtesy of the image processor -- not branded by Leica, but its clearly a Panasonic Venus Engine -- is also impressive, and clever Depth from Defocus technology also helps a lot. The net result is a swift 11 frames per second with focus and exposure locked. Even with autofocus and exposure adjustment between frames you'll still see a manufacturer-rated 6.5 fps.

And if you're willing to accept the compromises still inherent in an electronic shutter, you can boost this all the way up to a truly staggering 40 frames per second! In this respect, the Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) and Panasonic LX100 are simply in a different class to every other large-sensor, fixed-zoom camera. For true competition, you need to look to a compact system camera or DSLR, and you'll lose the size advantage of the Panasonic and Leica duo. The autofocus system is sophisticated in other respects, too, and very point-dense with a 49-point array.

The two companies also seem to have done a great job at aiming this camera directly at enthusiasts, rather than feeling the need to handhold beginners as some competitors do. There's no mode dial here, nor any consumer-friendly fluff like scene modes. The sole concession to beginners is an Auto mode, favored with its own dedicated button. Instead of these ease-of-use aids, physical shutter and aperture dials with Auto positions grace this camera, plus a physical exposure compensation dial.

And that extends beyond the body design, too: You get a 1/4,000 top shutter speed as in Canon's G1X-series cameras, not the 1/2,000 limit of the RX100-series and G7X. Enable the electronic shutter, and the Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) will take you all the way to 1/16,000 second. Nor is there any internal flash strobe, a feature many enthusiasts treat with a measure of disdain. Instead, the D-Lux (Typ 109) and LX100 each has a hot shoe, something that among its rivals only the RX100 II and G1X series also offer. (A compact flash strobe is included in the standard camera kit.)

And there's also a built-in electronic viewfinder, a feature shared only by the the D-Lux (Typ 109)'s Panasonic sibling, and Sony's RX100 III. (Although admittedly, the RX100 II and G1X-series can accept optional viewfinder accessories.) Not only is the Leica's viewfinder built in, it's also a very high-resolution unit, based around a high-definition, field-sequential panel as used previously in the Panasonic GX7.

Admittedly, though, the LCD monitor is rather more basic, a standard three-inch VGA panel with no touch screen or articulation. Other noteworthy features include Wi-Fi wireless networking with NFC for easy pairing, and a 24/30p 4K movie capture function which also allows you to extract high-res 4K stills.

The Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) will be available from November 2014 in the US market, bundled with a Leica CF D flash strobe. Pricing for the camera has not yet been disclosed, but Leica's pricing is typically well above that from Panasonic. That's offset somewhat by the inclusion of a 3-year warranty as well as Adobe Lightroom (ordinarily a $79 extra) in the product bundle, at least if you don't already own it. Still, unless you're a dedicated Leicaphile it will likely make more sense to consider the Panasonic LX100 instead.

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