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Review: Leica D-Lux (Typ 109)
3:00 am | December 17, 2014

Author: admin | Category: Cameras | Comments: None

Review: Leica D-Lux (Typ 109)

Introduction

Compact cameras with large sensors are all the rage at the moment because they are capable of delivering the same image quality as an SLR or compact system camera, but usually have a smaller body and a fixed lens.

And some, like the Fuji X100T and Panasonic LX100, manage to combine this with traditional controls, making them especially attractive for enthusiast photographers.

The Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) is a rather unusual camera because, thanks to a working agreement between Leica and Panasonic, it’s almost identical to the Panasonic LX100 – one of my favourite cameras of 2014. There is a price premium to pay for the Leica model, but this also brings a 3-year warrantee and Adobe Lightroom 5 is included on a disk in the box.

Leica D-Lux (Type 109)

The sensor is a Four Thirds-type, which means it’s not as big as the APS-C sized unit in the Fuji X100T, but it’s larger than the 2/3-inch device in the Fuji X30.

According to Panasonic, it’s the same 16-million pixel sensor as is used in the Panasonic GX7, but it only uses 12.5 million pixels (in 4:3 mode). As it’s a multi-aspect ratio sensor, 2:3 and 16:9 images use pixels that lie outside the area used by the camera in 4:3 mode.

Leica D-Lux (Type 109)

It’s done this way so that there’s no resolution penalty in swapping between the different aspect ratios – on a regular camera, using anything other than the native aspect ratio effectively means cropping the image.

This sensor is coupled with a new Panasonic Venus engine which enables a native sensitivity range of ISO 200-25,000 (with expansion settings taking it to ISO 100-25,000) and 4K or Full-HD video recording.

Like the LX100, the D-Lux has a Leica DC Vario-Summilux 24-75mm (equivalent) f/1.7-2.8 lens. Like the rest of the camera, although this lens has Leica’s name on it, it is actually built by Panasonic and the company has invested a lot of effort to keep size down while ensuring it’s a high quality optic.

As with most high-end compact cameras, the D-Lux (Typ 109) has a collection of autofocus options (Face/Eye Detection, Tracking, 49-Area, Custom Multi, 1-Area and Pinpoint) and it’s possible to focus manually. There’s also a Focus Peaking display that indicates the areas of highest contrast and two zebra pattern options available to indicate areas close to burning out. Helpfully, the user can specify the brightness level that these highlight indicators operate at, running in 5% increments from 50% to 105%.

The D-Lux doesn’t have a built-in flash, but a small external flashgun is supplied in the box and can be slipped in to the hotshoe if extra illumination is required.

Leica D-Lux (Type 109)

As you would expect from a modern high-end compact camera, the D-Lux has Wi-Fi and NFC technology built-in to allow the camera to be controlled remotely by a smartphone using Leica’s Image Shuttle app. Images can also be transferred to the phone for uploading to social media sites.

Build and handling

As it has the same specification as the Panasonic LX100, the D-Lux (Typ 109) is aimed at the same audience; experienced photographers who want a high quality compact camera that affords plenty of control. These users know how a good camera should feel and the D-Lux will not disappoint them.

However, the grip that’s on the front of the LX100 is completely missing and this makes the camera feel rather insecure in your hand, especially in cold weather. When the strap wasn’t attached I found that I usually carried the camera with my hand around the lens because the front is too slippery. There is, however, an optional grip that attaches via the tripod bush. Arguably, this spoils the beautiful, clean lines of the camera, but it should make it feel a bit safer in your hand.

Leica D-Lux (Type 109)

Like the LX100, the D-Lux has traditional controls with a shutter speed dial and exposure compensation dial on the top-plate and an aperture ring marked in whole stops (but 1/3 stop settings are possible) around the lens. The ring clicks as it is rotated, so it’s clear when an adjustment has been made.

Leica D-Lux (Type 109)

The camera can be set to program mode by setting both the aperture ring and shutter speed dial to ‘A’. Setting just one to ‘A’ while the other is on a specific value sets the camera to aperture or shutter priority mode. Alternatively, users can take full manual control and set specific values for shutter speed and aperture.

Although the shutter speed dial doesn’t have a lock I found that it doesn’t get knocked out of place easily. The exposure compensation dial, however, which can be set to +/-3EV is more prone to being knocked off the selected setting.

The aspect ratio can be changed between 4:3, 1:1, 16:9 and 3:2 using a sliding switch on the lens barrel just in front of the manual focusing/zoom ring. It’s great having such quick access to the aspect ratio controls as it makes you far more inclined to use them and consider composition more carefully at the shooting stage rather than rely on post-capture cropping. Raw files are captured in the selected aspect ratio rather than as a cropped version of the full sensor image, which can be adjusted to include areas outside the crop post capture.

Leica D-Lux (Type 109)

Focal length can be adjusted via the sprung lever around the shutter release or the lens ring depending upon how you set up the camera. The lever seems a little small at first, but I found I got used to it after a while. It takes around 2.5 seconds to zoom from one end of the lens to the other.

The zoom ring works electronically rather than mechanically, so it doesn’t stay adjusted when the camera is turned off and it has no fixed end point. However, if ‘Zoom Resume’ is selected in the Custom menu, the lens zooms automatically to the focal length it was at when the camera was turned off.

When the ring is used for manual focusing, a half turn takes the lens through its entire focus range and as soon as it’s moved, a focus scale appears in the viewfinder or screen along with a magnified section to make it easier to see the target. There’s also a focus peaking display that makes manual focusing easier in some circumstances, but it doesn’t help in low contrast situations when you just have to assess subject sharpness as you would normally. The EVF and screen show enough detail to allow accurate focusing in most daylight situations.

Leica D-Lux (Type 109)

Focus mode (automatic, automatic macro and manual) is set via a switch on the side of the lens barrel and is easily adjusted with the thumb of your left hand. AF point can be selected directly using the navigation controls if this option is selected in the menu, but by default it is set by tapping the left navigation control, selecting 1-Area AF mode followed by the down control and then the keys required to select the desired point. I set the delete button to give a quick route to the AF point selection mode and after a short period of adjustment, I found it worked well, especially when the camera was held to my eye. It also avoids losing the navigation pad shortcut options.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109)

Although it’s aimed at experienced photographers, the D-Lux has an Intelligent Auto mode which can be activated in any shooting mode by pressing the A button on the top of the camera. I pressed this button by accident a few times, so I set it to activate with a press and hold (instead of just a press) via the Custom menu.

There’s a button on the top of the camera marked ‘F’, which brings up the camera’s 22 filter effect options. Helpfully, these can be applied to JPEG files when shooting raw files simultaneously, so you have a clean files for post-capture processing as well as a JPEG with the effect.

I found the 2,764,000-dot electronic viewfinder (EVF) very good. It provides a nice, clear view so I used it for the majority of the shots that I took with the D-Lux. It’s especially useful in bright conditions when the 3-inch 921,000-dot screen can suffer from reflections.

Like the LX100, it’s relatively easy to connect the D-Lux to a smartphone via Leica’s free Image Shuttle App even if you don’t have an NFC enabled device. The app is the same as Panasonic’s and it allows lots of remote control over the camera, focal length, Photo Style, white balance, sensitivity and focus point all being adjustable, although the shutter speed dial, exposure compensation dial or aperture ring on the camera need to be rotated to adjust exposure.

Image quality and resolution

As part of our image quality testing for the Canon PowerShot G7 X, we’ve shot our resolution chart.

Click here to see a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean.

Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:

Leica D-Lux (Type 109) resolution chart

Full ISO 100 image, see 100% crops below.

JPEG

Leica D-Lux (Type 109) resolution chart

ISO 100: 26. Click here for a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Type 109) resolution chart

ISO 200: 26. Click here for a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Type 109) resolution chart

ISO 400: 26. Click here for a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Type 109) resolution chart

ISO 800: 24. Click here for a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Type 109) resolution chart

ISO 1600: 24. Click here for a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Type 109) resolution chart

ISO 3200: 24. Click here for a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Type 109) resolution chart

ISO 6400: 24. Click here for a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Type 109) resolution chart

ISO 12500: 22. Click here for a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Type 109) resolution chart

ISO 25000: 22. Click here for a full resolution version.

Raw (converted to TIFF)

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) resolution chart

ISO 100: 26. Click here for a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) resolution chart

ISO 200: 26. Click here for a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) resolution chart

ISO 400: 26. Click here for a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) resolution chart

ISO 800: 26. Click here for a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) resolution chart

ISO 1600: 22. Click here for a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) resolution chart

ISO 3200: 22. Click here for a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) resolution chart

ISO 6400:20. Click here for a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) resolution chart

ISO 12500:18. Click here for a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) resolution chart

ISO 25000: 18. Click here for a full resolution version.

Noise and dynamic range

We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below. We tested the D-Lux against three of its main rivals, the Panasonic LX100, Sony RX100 III and Fuji X30.

A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.

For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.

JPEG signal to noise ratio

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) noise

Analysis: The D-Lux mirrors the characteristics of the Panasonic LX100 so closely that they can be considered the same. This is no surprise, given that they are essentially the same camera, though Leica versions of Panasonic cameras do sometimes show different processing styles. Both dip unexpectedly below the performance of the Sony RX100 III at medium ISO settings.

Raw (converted to TIFF) signal to noise ratio

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) signal to noise ratio

Analysis: Interestingly, the D-Lux raw files show a slightly poorer signal to noise ratio than the Panasonic’s – though both are comfortably better than the Sony RX100 III and Fuji X30.

JPEG dynamic range

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) dynamic range

Analysis: For some reason, the dynamic range of the D-Lux takes a bit of a dip at its lowest sensitivity setting of ISO 100, but from then on it’s a close match for the near-identical Panasonic LX100. Both are visibly better than the Sony RX100 III and well clear of the Fuji X30, suggesting that the size of the sensor (and hence its photosites) has a direct bearing on dynamic range in this case.

Raw (converted to TIFF) dynamic range

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) dynamic range

Analysis: Again, the Panasonic’s raw files show better performance than the D-Lux’s Both are some way clear of the Sony RX100 III and Fuji X30.

Sensitivity and noise images

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sensitivity and noise

Full ISO 100 image. See 100% crops below.

JPEG

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sensitivity and noise

ISO 100. Click here to see a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sensitivity and noise

ISO 200. Click here to see a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sensitivity and noise

ISO 400. Click here to see a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sensitivity and noise

ISO 800. Click here to see a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sensitivity and noise

ISO 1600. Click here to see a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sensitivity and noise

ISO 3200. Click here to see a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sensitivity and noise

ISO 6400. Click here to see a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sensitivity and noise

ISO 25000. Click here to see a full resolution version.

Raw (converted to TIFF)

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sensitivity and noise

ISO 100. Click here to see a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sensitivity and noise

ISO 200. Click here to see a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sensitivity and noise

ISO 400. Click here to see a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sensitivity and noise

ISO 800. Click here to see a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sensitivity and noise

ISO 1600. Click here to see a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sensitivity and noise

ISO 3200. Click here to see a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sensitivity and noise

ISO 6400. Click here to see a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sensitivity and noise

ISO 12500. Click here to see a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sensitivity and noise

ISO 25000. Click here to see a full resolution version.

Performance

Like the LX100, the D-Lux (Typ 109) produces impressive results and images taken in daylight have lots of detail and natural colour. Us usual, the best results are produced at the lower sensitivity settings and the maximum setting (ISO 25,000) is best avoided and is only really suitable for use when images are kept small.

At 100% magnification, JPEGs captured at ISO 25,000 look rather smudged and are best kept to below A4 size. Simultaneously captured raw files have more detail, but there’s lots of coloured speckling which is visible even when shots are sized to make 6×4-inch prints. However, it is possible to reduce the visibility of the noise and retain a bit more detail than is in JPEG files.

Stepping down to ISO 12,500 improves things, but the images are still not suitable to make large prints. Dropping down a stop further to ISO 6400 results in much better images and, although I’d still recommend shooting raw files, JPEGs at this sensitivity setting are suitable for making A3 prints.

Ideally, it’s best to keep the sensitivity to ISO 1600 or lower as the image quality is very good, noise is controlled well and there’s plenty of detail.

I found that even in fairly low light the D-Lux’s AF system manages to get subjects sharp quickly – it only starts to struggle in dark conditions. The AF Tracking mode also manages to keep up with moving subjects even in quite poor lighting conditions.

Like the LX100’s, the D-Lux’s general purpose metering system does a good job in many situations, but it sometimes produces quite bright images and it can be beneficial to reduce the exposure by 1/3 or 2/3EV to get more saturated colours or protect highlights. The Zebra display, even when set to 105%, also sometimes indicates that more of the scene will be overexposed than actually is in the final image.

As a rule, images from the D-Lux have good dynamic range and images have a good range of tones. In high contrast situations, however, the iDynamic system is useful, with the Highest setting still producing natural looking JPEGs that have greater detail visible in the shadows.

Distortion isn’t a significant issue with the D-Lux’s lens and sharpness is maintained well across the image frame. However, you need to keep an eye out for flare when the sun is near the edge of the frame, A lens hood would help combat this, but unfortunately one isn’t supplied with the camera and there’s no bayonet mount to attach one on the end of the optic.

On the whole the lens produces nice looking out of focus areas (bokeh), but one scene produced some rather strange results with a small area in the background having a rather posterised effect. This is less marked in the raw file, but is still visible.

I found that the D-Lux generally produces pleasantly vibrant colours in its default set-up, but if you want a bit more vibrancy the Vivid Photo Style is available along with a Natural options for more muted results. The automatic white balance system also performs well in a range of lighting conditions. However, I suspect that the majority of D-Lux users will shoot raw files and only use the Photo Styles as a rough guide before processing images to be just as they like them.

Sample images

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) sample image

Click here to see a full resolution version.

Verdict

It is quite odd to have two such similar cameras as the Panasonic LX100 and Leica D-Lux (Typ 109), and it’s no secret that Panasonic produces both models. It’s the same situation with the Panasonic FZ1000 and Leica V-Lux (Typ 114). The most distinguishing feature between the two compact cameras is the presence of a grip on the LX100. I much prefer it in use to the smooth, rather slippery front of the D-Lux, but there are many who love the cleaner lines and more understated design of the D-Lux.

///leica-d-lux-typ-109-verdict///

At around £126/US$296 the price difference between the D-Lux and the LX100 isn’t as much as many might expect and the Leica camera comes with a 3 year warranty as well as Adobe Lightroom 5. The attraction of Lightroom is somewhat diminished by the fact that is now bundled with Adobe Photoshop CC for £8.78/US$9.99 per month as part of Adobe’s Photography plan, but those who are unwilling to commit to a subscription model for software may appreciate it more.

I love the D-Lux’s (and LX100’s) traditional controls. It’s not about enjoying an older way of doing things, because it really is quicker and easier to control the camera in this way in many instances, and you can see what settings you have selected without turning the camera on.

The electronic viewfinder is also superb. It provides a nice clear view and is a pleasure to use. It also makes it much easier to compose images in bright ambient light.

We like

As it has a Four Thirds, sensor the D-Lux is able to produce images which have superior quality to those from more average compact cameras with 2/3-inch, 1/1.7-inch or ½/3-inch type sensors. It also gives much greater control over depth field so you can blur backgrounds if you want to.

The camera also has a very high quality feel, which matches the quality of the images that it produces. Plus, the menu is sensibly arranged and everything you need is within easy reach, with the customisable Quick Menu allowing you to find your most commonly used features quickly.

These factors combine to give you faith in the camera, so you don’t feel that you are making a significant compromise by carrying it rather than a larger SLR or compact system camera.

We dislike

As with the LX100, I would have liked a touchscreen on the D-Lux as this would allow a very quick way of setting AF point and adjusting menu settings. A vari-angle screen would also have been nice for those occasions when you want too shoot from very high or low angles.

And although I enjoy using the aspect ratio control, part of me wishes that the whole of the 16Mp sensor could be used so that 4:3 images were larger, with other formats being made as crops of this format.

Flare can be a problem with the D-Lux and it would be nice if a lens hood were available to help cut it out.

While I appreciate the good looks of the D-Lux, how it feels in my hand is more important to me and I would prefer it to have a grip on the front like the LX100 has. The Panasonic camera feels much more secure in my hand. There is an optional grip available, but this costs a further £55/US$139 and has to be screwed on via the tripod bush.

Verdict

The camera market is rich and varied at the moment, which is a polite way of saying it’s quite complex and confusing. Compact cameras come in a range of dimensions including larger models like the Fuji X100T and D-Lux, which don’t seem to offer much size advantage over smaller compact system cameras like the Olympus OM-D E-M10, which has a Four Thirds sensor or even the Sony Alpha 7, Alpha 7R and Alpha 7S which have full-frame sensors.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109)

This means that the D-Lux is more likely to appeal to photographers who have a larger SLR like the Nikon D810 or Canon 5D Mark III system and who are looking for a smaller, high quality alternative. Those with compact system cameras like the Olympus E-M10, Panasonic GX7 or Panasonic GM5 are more likely to stick with their usual camera but use just a single compact lens when they want to travel light.

The pleasure derived from using a camera should not be underestimated. It is what makes you carry it everywhere and take more photographs. I think that the D-Lux is a really lovely camera to use and it produces high quality images, but the LX100 is every bit as enjoyable to use, has a better grip, produces the same quality images and costs a little less.



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