There are few names in photography that carry quite the same cachet as the German camera maker Leica. Founded about the time of World War I, but not really marketed until the 1920’s, Leica made what was a considered a revolutionary device for two reasons. It was designed as a compact camera that was intended for street shooting and hiking. Second, the 35mm film was transported horizontally across the frame instead of vertically, the way a cinema camera was designed.
After some ups and downs during the transition to mostly digital cameras, the company has once again found its footing. Today Leica makes scores of film, manual and digital models ranging in price from about $250 for a film camera up to about $20,000 for a fully manual film camera. Lenses sold separately. Let’s face it, just like a Rolls Royce or Ferrari, not everyone can afford a Leica. But even for those who can afford it, most Leicas are really for the very serious photographer and not necessarily the snapshot shooter. But with the increasing popularity of high-end compact cameras from the likes of Sony, Panasonic, Olympus, FujiFilm and others, the Leica D-Lux Typ 109 is well-worth considering even at the price of $1095.
We recently had an opportunity to try it out on an overseas trip and were more than impressed.
By the Numbers
The D-Lux comes with a 12.8-megapixel sensor that’s made by Panasonic under a technology sharing deal. There is a slightly cheaper version of the camera by Panasonic called the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100 12.8 MP Compact Digital Camera – Black. It comes in at about two-thirds the price of the Leica – $650 – but of course, lacks the nameplate and also has a much weaker warranty.
The sensor is a 4/3 as opposed to the other popular compact sensor, the APS-C. The camera comes with a 24mm-75mm zoom (35mm equivalent) and shoots JPEG, RAW and JPEG+RAW.
On the video side it will shoot in the following formats:
The Leica D-Lux has an electronic viewfinder, something I find quite useful, especially in difficult lighting conditions, as opposed to the washouts you can have in bright sunlight on the 3-inch rear view screen. It does not have a built-in flash but comes with a hot shoe and a small flash that attaches.
There are multiple connectivity options including NFC and Wi-Fi that are both easy to use. You can connect directly to an Android or iOS device by using an app. You can also connect to your computer. And there’s a direct HDMI output.
Among other features I like are the easy access to the horizontal level (great for those of us who cannot see a level horizon. I’m also impressed with the build on the shooting dials on the top, although I’m disappointed that there’s no setting for panorama (you have to go into the shooting mode to set it up).
The extremely sharp lens is the Leica DC Vario-Summilux; 11 elements in 8 groups (5 Aspherical Lenses / 8 Aspherical Surfaces / 2 ED Lenses).
Here are some of the creative shooting features you’ll find under the hood:
Creative Control: Expressive, Retro, Old Days, High Key, Low Key, Sepia, Monochrome, Dynamic Monochrome, Rough Monochrome, Silky Monochrome, Impressive Art, High Dynamic, Cross Process, Toy Effect, Toy Pop, Bleach Bypass, Miniature Effect, Soft Focus, Fantasy, Star Filter, One Point Color, Sunshine (22 filters); Panorama.
This is a great little camera. It is ideal for tucking in your backpack without having to lug a kit. It has a ton of features and delivers stunning images. The price point is reasonable. And of courses, it’s a Leica.