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Leica D-Lux 4 review

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Awards

  • Recommended by TR

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Leica D-Lux 4
  • Leica D-Lux 4
  • Leica D-Lux 4
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  • Leica D-Lux 4
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  • Leica D-Lux 4
  • Leica D-Lux 4
  • Leica D-Lux 4
  • Leica D-Lux 4
  • D-LUX 4 Black Digital Camera (10.1MP, 2.5x Opt, MMC/SDHC Card Slot)

Summary

Our Score:

9

Pros

  • Outstanding build quality
  • Superb lens
  • Extremely fast

Cons

  • Very expensive

Key Features

  • f/2.0 – f/2.8 wide-angle lens
  • 2.5x zoom
  • 11.3MP sensor
  • 848g
  • Shoots in 16:9 format at 9MP
  • Manufacturer: Leica
  • Review Price: free/subscription

This is a review that I've been looking forward to writing for quite some time. Back in November 2008 I reviewed what is, in my opinion, the best digital compact camera currently available, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3. I gave it a well-deserved 10/10 and Editor's Choice award, and also chose it as my compact camera of the year in our annual awards for that year. I wasn't alone in my admiration for the LX3; it went on to win an impressive array of top awards from many other photography magazines and websites. The reason I bring this up is because today I'm taking a look at the Leica D-Lux 4.

As some of you may know, Panasonic and Leica have a partnership deal whereby Panasonic makes digital cameras for Leica, while Leica provides its legendary optical expertise and prestigious brand name for the lenses. As a result there are several cameras for which there exist both Panasonic and Leica versions which are virtually identical. The C-Lux 3 is essentially an FX35, while the V-Lux 1 shares many features with the FZ28. The D-Lux 4 is the Leica version of the Panasonic LX3, and I was keen to see if there was any significant difference in performance or picture quality between the two cameras.

There are a few differences that are obvious, most significantly the price. The LX3 isn't a cheap camera, and is still selling for around £320 even 18 months after its launch. However that looks positively cheap in comparison to the Leica D-Lux 4 which will set you back anywhere between £510 and £595 depending on where you shop. That's the price of a good mid-range DSLR with a kit lens, so what does the D-Lux 4 offer to justify that sort of price?

Like the LX3 the D-Lux 4 has outstanding build quality and a simple classic design, but here too there are a few minor differences. Leica is one of the oldest names in photography, having invented the 35mm rangefinder camera format in 1923, and unsurprisingly likes to trade on this impressive heritage. Modern Leica film and digital cameras look very similar to their 90-year-old forebears, and the D-Lux 4 also has a distinctly retro look and feel. While the overall body shape is virtually identical to the LX3 there are a few minor differences. The ends of the top panel are flat, rather than rounded off as they are on the LX3, and the D-Lux 4 lacks the comfortable front handgrip of the Panasonic version. The front panel of the camera is flat and plain, so as not to detract from that small but very expensive red logo in the upper left corner.

Lee Moorhouse

February 6, 2010, 9:54 pm

I bought the LX3 Dec' 08 and it has been fantastic. It was a toss up between the LX3 and the Canon G10, but thanks to the reviews on TR, I picked the better camera. I didn't realise Panasonic had stopped making the LX3, can you still buy lenses/barrels/filters etc?

ilovethemonkeyhead

February 6, 2010, 10:44 pm

loving the spot the difference competition on the last page ;D





the colour seem a little icy on the lx3, when compared to the dx 4 (i refuse to say "deluxe") - is that normal, or just the settings where the lx3 has been used and calibrated a little more?

kelsci

February 7, 2010, 2:44 pm

I looked at the two photos from the LX3 and the DX 4. IMHO the pic from the Panasonic looked sharper. Colors etc. looked the same.

Cliff Smith

February 7, 2010, 9:12 pm

ilovethemonkeyhead - Both cameras are virtually new, having each taken only a few hundred shots. For the test shots both were set on aperture priority at f/5.6 and 100 ISO. The Leica's meter set a shutter speed of 1/125th, while the LX3 set 1/100th.





If you open both images in a photo editor and flick between them, the Leica does seem to have a slightly warmer tone, although that could just be down to variations in auto white balance. The file sizes are slightly different too, with the LX3 producing a slightly larger file.

Ivan

February 8, 2010, 2:51 am

There are at least four reasons to explain the premium price compared to the LX3. One: you'll get more for a Leica when you decide to re-sell your D-Lux4. Two: Leica has a reputation of offering much better (and longer) technical support compared to Panasonic. Three: the software that comes with the camera is better/more expensive. Four: You get 2 years of warranty (compared to 1 for the LX3).


FWIW, I 'm a very happy LX3 owner.

Kevin Allen

May 7, 2010, 7:16 pm

The software that comes with the camera - Capture One 4 - is very good but Leica have just e-mailed me to say it is not compatible with Windows 7.





As I bought the camera last week and run Windows 7 I am less than happy.





Apparently Capture One 5 is compatible with Windows 7 and can be had for 299 euro or $399.

iggle_piggle

March 16, 2013, 11:24 am

You pay a lot for the little red leica badge.

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