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Site last updated:  Thu, 14 Jul 2016

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Leica Digilux 2 & 1

Digilux 3 (2006)

Leica's 4:3 D System camera, heavily based on the Panasonic DMC-L1. See this separate topic elsewhere in the FAQ.

D-Lux 2 (2006)

A high-end P&S 8MP digital camera made by Panasonic for Leica. The focus is always set to AF, so we can assume the shutter-lag is as slow as other digi P&S's :?(

Digilux 2 (2004)

At the end of November 2003, Leica announced the all-metal Digilux 2, the upgrade to the Digilux 1. Completely redesigned to look and work like a traditional rangefinder camera, the D2 was released in March 2004 at an initial price of approximately € 1800 Euro (including 16% Vat) or € 1550 Euro (ex tax).

Notable features

Links

  1. Leica Compact Digital page
     
  2. Rangefinder Magazine - review by Peter Kotsinadelis (Mar 2005)
  3. Sample images by "Zach" - Urban Blog (Oct 2004)
  4. Sample images by Dominique Lefèvre - Landscapes & flowers (July 2004)
  5. Sample images by Scott Dommin - Las Vegas & Badlands (June 2004)
  6. photo.net - detailed review by Andy Piper (Jun 2004)
  7. DPReview.com - detailed review by Phil Askey (May 2004)
  8. Photo.net - #007ul9 (Apr 2004)
  9. Luminous-Landscape - review(s) by Sean Reid (Apr 2004)
  10. Overview by Bill Pierce - Digital Journalist (Apr 2004)
  11. Overview by Frank Van Riper - Washington Post (Feb 2004)
  12. Korean site comparing the D2 vs Panasonic Lumix LC1

Random thoughts

Looks good. 5MP is still too small (would be happier with 8MP) and of course the price is at least twice everybody else's, but you get a metal-body camera with a simple control layout, killer lens(?) and minimal shutter lag.

How does it compare to the new Sony Cypershot DSC-F828 ?

The Sony has a non-rangefinder "look" and is definitely bulky, but it has 8MP, Zeiss optics, swivel body (so allows WL shooting), accepts the larger capacity CF/ Microdrive cards and most importantly... is half the price!

But the Sony F828 also suffers from a mindless proliferation of features and the evil "menu-upon-menu-upon-menu-upon-menu" interface. With the D-2 however, you set the aperture, s/speed and take the shot when you want, and not when the camera feels like it. Top marks to Leica for this.

Bypassing the evil EVF

For those who hate the EVF finder, what is to stop you using one of the new metal Voigtländer bright-line viewfinders? Set the camera lens for (say) 35mm, slip on an equivalent viewfinder and shoot to your heart's content! Although this is obviously impractical for zooming or long focal-length use, it's worth a go if you only tend to shoot at one or two set lengths.

There is a major gotcha with framing accuracy though, as the finder(s) aren't mounted over the lens axis, but rather to the left. The good news however is that you can work around it! In April & June 2004 Howard Cummer sent me the following tips:

[…] If you buy a Voigtländer double-shoe adaptor and install it in the "proper" way, the adaptor will protrude over the left side of the camera, increasing horizontal parallax error and the vulnerability it of being knocked off or damaged.
 
If however you reverse the shoe and install it "backwards", then it will fit to the right / centre of the camera, over the built-in flash, reducing horizontal parallax and letting you install the Voigtländer Viewfinders from the front of the shoe. The best ones I have found are the new 28/35mm combo and the 90mm, which also has vertical parallax correction built in.
 
By using auto-focus with the focus confirmation beep turned on, you can zoom between 28 wide and 90 telephoto and recapture something of the Leica viewfinder feel by viewing with the 28 finder and then the 90 finder. 35 is available as a bonus, but you have to look at the lens barrel in order to set that focal length.
 
All this is a fussy solution to avoiding the EVF of course, but it's worth it if you really don't like the EVF - and I don't!
 
[…] Please note with the double shoe adaptor installed, a spring in the hotshoe trips a switch which tells the camera a flash is installed(!) So in A mode the lowest shutter speed will default to 1/60th. To have access the lower shutter speeds you need to switch over to manual and dial in the chosen speed [or set the "Flash unit off" menu option - AZN]. Otherwise you may get under exposed pictures and may not immediately know why.

Painfully slow RAW writes

A number of users (specifically Andy Piper, Howard Cummer and Ben Lifson ) report that when shooting in RAW mode, you will suffer l-o-n-g delays while waiting for the camera to write the data to storage.

Typically you can expect delays of 6-8 seconds between shots, and you have to wait until the operation is fully completed before you can take the next photo. The problem is mainly due to a too small RAM buffer which cannot hold multiple RAW images. So if you want to shoot a lot of photos quickly, avoid RAW and use one of the JPEG alternatives instead.

BTW, the D2 isn't the only P&S digital which suffers from this. c.f. the popular 5MP Olympus "Camedia C-5060 Wide Zoom" ($US 800), which has twelve-second delays for every RAW write:

<imaging-resource.com/PRODS/C5060/C56A7.HTM>

Difference between D2 and Panasonic LC1?

Aside from branding, not much. The LC1 is approx $US 300 cheaper, has a built-in rubber hand-grip, an "Auto" setting option for the ISO and uses "different" image processing software.

The difference? The Leica version appears to have less aggressive sharpening when in JPEG mode, and likewise creates images with lower contrast and colour saturation. Of course none of this has any effect if you shoot in RAW mode.

Digilux 1 (2002)

In February 2002 Leica announced the Digilux 1 "digital reportage camera". 4 MPix, Aspherical Zoom lens, low shutter-release delay time.

In May 2002 some dealers started advertising the Digilux 1 at a selling price of $US 895 - although expected delivery dates were still vague.

In case you are wondering, yes the Digilux 1 is merely a prettied-up and re-badged version of the Panasonic DMC-LC5, with the only differences being the memory card RAM size, the lack of a profiled rubber hand-grip on the RHS front and differences in the software which comes with the camera.

If you are looking for a specialised online forum to discuss the Digilux (along with engaging in battle with die-hard "Leica Means 35mm Mechanical Rangefinder Only!" zealots), then have a look at the Leica-Camera-User Digital Forum.

Powering options

1. Replacement batteries

When originally released, batteries for either the Digilux-1 or DMC-LC5 were impossible to get, meaning you had to effectively buy two camera bodies just so you could get a spare battery!

However in July 2002 supplies of batteries finally became available. Ernest Nitka notes:

For those with the Digilux I wanted to report that replacement/additional batteries are now in country (USA) - I just got mine from Opticsusa.com.
 
The Leica sponsored Digital Forum indicated that the battery for the Panasonic version of the Digilux Won't work in the Digilux - this I find strange and may not be true. Tina you would know if this is true of not - any help? Anyway the Panasonic website has the item backordered but it is $49 vs $$92 for the Leica product.

As Mr Nitka suspects, it is indeed untrue that only the Leica branded batteries work. The Panasonic cell has identical dimensions and V & AH ratings, so it works just fine.

2. External AA battery powerpack

The standard internal battery (Panasonic or Leica) is a 7.2v 1400mAH Li-ion cell which delivers 10 080 mWH of power. An 8-cell AA powerpack, with a "EIAJ type 3" plug, would provide 50-200% more while using cheaper, easier to buy AA batteries!

Digilux 1 Reviews

In late May 2002 Extremetech featured the first detailed review of the Digilux 1 by Les Freed Alas it wasn't very complimentary in that the reviewer hated the "odd-ball" SD memory, hard-to-see-in-sunlight LCD panel and complained about "poor" and "noisy" image quality.

Needless to say, this review has drawn a lot of heat. A few days after it was posted, Tina Manley responded with the following:

Les Freed doesn't know what he is talking about. First he says that Secure Digital Cards only come in memory up to 128MB. I have a 256. Then he complains that the LCD screen is dim. It is purposely dim to save battery power. When you touch the shutter release, the screen lights up and is the largest and brightest available. Just look at the number of pixels to confirm this. If the screen was still too dim for him, he should read the instruction book about how to change the display. I never use the viewfinder because the screen is so easy to use. He says it is possible to leave the LCD on when the hood is closed, wasting batteries. The screen automatically turns itself off. It sounds like he used the camera without exploring any of the optional settings available.
 
I don't understand this bashing of the Leica/Panasonic. Especially the complaints about the picture quality. Unless I just happened to get a freak good one in a run of bad ones!

After reading the above, Les Freed sent me the following detailed reply in July 2002:

Andrew: I don't normally respond to reader comments, but I felt that Tina Manley's critique of my Digilux I review was harsh and inaccurate. Let me set a few facts straight:
 
Ms. Manley states: "First he says that Secure Digital Cards only come in memory up to 128MB. I have a 256."
 
At the time I wrote that article (mid-May), 128 Mb was the largest card on the market. There are some 256 Mb cards on the market now. regardless of the availability of larger sizes, I still feel that SD is an odd choice for a camera the size of the Digilux I. A type II CF socket would make a lot more sense.
 
"Then he complains that the LCD screen is dim. It is purposely dim to save battery power."
 
I'm sorry, but this doesn't hold water. I've used and/or reviewed virtually every digital camera on the market and the Leica screen is one of the dimmest I've seen on a $500++ camera.
 
"When you touch the shutter release, the screen lights up and is the largest and brightest available."
 
The screen display doesn't change when you touch the shutter release, other than to adjust the aperture and focus. While I will agree that it one of the largest screens out there, it is far from the brightest. In side-by-side testing (of which I did quite a bit), the Sony MVC-CD400's screen was much brighter than the Leica screen.
 
"Just look at the number of pixels to confirm this."
 
The number of pixels has nothing to do with the brightness of the screen.
 
"If the screen was still too dim for him, he should read the instruction book about how to change the display."
 
I did in fact read the instruction book, and if Ms. Manley had read the entire review, she'd have seen my comment that increasing the screen brightness results in a very washed-out image with very little contrast.
 
"I never use the viewfinder because the screen is so easy to use."
 
Her choice. I found the screen nearly useless in full outdoor light, even with the hood on.
 
"He says it is possible to leave the LCD on when the hood is closed, wasting batteries. The screen automatically turns itself off."
 
There is no electrical or mechanical connection between the screen hood and the camera body. The screen stays on with the hood closed.
 
"It sounds like he used the camera without exploring any of the optional settings available."
 
That may be what it "sounds like", but it is not the case. I had plenty of time to read the manual and explore every aspect of the camera's operation during the test.

In June 2002 Eric Calderwood noted the following about the UK Amateur Photographer Magazine review:

Over the past couple of weeks i have seen a few posts, i think by the same poster quoting bad reviews of the Leica Digilux 1, so i thought I would post the following:
 
The Leica Digilux 1 has just been reviewed by Amateur Photographer magazine in the U.K. (Issue dated 8 June 2002)
 
The verdict of the magazine : is
 
Specification 26/30
Build 19/20
Handling 18/20
Performance 28/30
 
"Because of the lack of gimmicks or gadgets the camera allows you to focus on the important aspect of photography - the pictures." The tester has a few issues on handling, such as lack of viewfinder info, but then says that very few, if any non-interchangeable lens digital cameras have this feature. He thinks Leica have achieved their aim in producing a camera worthy of its name and that the Leica Digilux 1 is definitely a winner.
 
The camera also gets high praise for its handling of high contrast scenes and its handling of shadow detail. Also its quote "outstanding colour" reproduction.

In July 2002, photo.net posted a Digilux 1 review by Josh Root. It doesn't add much, but it does feature user feedback beneath the review with many Digilux users posting their impressions and reactions.


In July 2002 Rich Holoch sent me the following note about the Canon G2 vs the Digilux 1:

I've tested the Canon G2 and the Leica Digilux 1 a week each, using each extensively. I have been able to get the same great results from each camera, and actually think they are as good as each other. If you have invested heavily in Compact Flash and even have a Minidrive - go for the G2.
 
The big problem with the Digilux 1 is that it doesn't support RAW. The other reason why it won't get the great reviews as the G2 is because the G2 is a perfect "out of the box" experience, especially for those who use Photoshop 6 or 7 to do all their image management and printing. I think Canon worked hard to make sure that their camera just works with what most people use to view and print their pictures.
 
Both cameras have noise problems at 400 ISO - I only use ISO 100 (even though the G2 does go down to ISO 50). Both have the same lens and the G2 is actually as fast as the Digilux 1, so the "reportage" hype almost fits the G2 better than the Digilux 1.
 
I've posted some hints and tips on the Leica Digital Forum, but the Forum is so full of emotional noise, I stopped visiting it.
 
But print for print from each camera (I print 8x10's using Photoshop 7 and an Epson 2000P printer and Epson Archival Matte paper), I can get the exact same results from both cameras. I do like the built quality and feel of the Digilux 1 and the Manual feature. The G2 has a problem with its plastic body - many develop cracks as mine did.
 
If the G2 were in the Digilux 1 body, we would have the killer camera I had been expecting. As it is, I'd be happy with either. […]
 
The Digilux 1 is what I view as their "Version 1" model, and is sure acts like it. If Leica has any control over Panasonic (in their partnership), they can do a few things to really make this a great camera:
 
1) Add RAW
2) Add some kind of algorithm control - or downloadable firmware update that changes the "personality" of their image processing
 
You might know the software adage, "never buy V1" - well, in a way, that is true with this camera. But as an early adopter, I don't mind the flaws. Just like the G1 users felt before the G2 came out I guess.

In Aug 2002 Shane Davis sent me the following note about the pixel drop-outs:

[… I] wanted to add my experience to your data. I had pixel dropouts with my new Digilux, returned it, and got the same problem with the new one. Leica received sample images and allowed that the dropouts were unacceptable. The camera makes gorgeous images--if shooting at ISO 100, and if no pixels drop out.
 
Another replacement, and finally it did not drop pixels! Eventually I found the controls easy to grow into, and the camera has been a quick, sturdy, and reliable tool, despite the annoyances of losing the ability to select bracketing increments, or turn off the screen (which seem to be firmware rot problems, given that the relevant controls still work for other purposes).

In Aug 2002 William Gower sent me the following note about the lack of features:

After using it for a few days, I took it back and exchanged it for a Nikon Coolpix 5000.
 
Yes, the Digilux is devoid of gimmicks - to it's detriment. "Gimmicks" like a better multi-point AF system and better metering algorithms.
 
In good, knowledgeable hands, digitals can be serious enough photographic tools to warrant sensible features. After my experience with the Digilux and the Sony/Zeiss S85, there is a lot to be said about a digital camera from a camera manufacturer versus a digital camera from a company that makes CD-players and microwaves.

A note about possible broken links

This FAQ has over 900 external links. Over time it is inevitable some of them will break. If you are bothered by this, see this detailed topic elsewhere in the FAQ.

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