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The Complete Leica D-LUX 5 Review

by Chris Gampat on 11/19/2010

After thorough testing, the Leica D-LUX 5 has been put through its paces and the camera has proven to be a winner in many ways. Full evaluation is after the jump.

Complete Postings

Hands on with the D-LUX 5: our first taste of the camera came at Photo Plus Expo

4 Reasons Why You Should Get the Leica D-LUX 5 vs Panasonic LX-5: We discovered a couple of things about the camera that you probably didn’t realize.

Day 1: Going over the look, feel, and functionalities of the camera.

Day 2: In use for street photography and some comments on the ergonomic build. The autofocus is also tested.

Day 3: High ISO and raw file versatility test. More on the autofocus in low light.

Day 4: Various aspect ratios, HD video test, film modes and the quick menu function proves to be very useful.

Ergonomics

Holding true to Leica’s traditions of elegance and simplicity, the D-LUX 5is no exception to this particular characteristic of the company. The front of the camera is very plain and simple with really nothing more than that little red dot that everyone seems to be talking about. The back of the camera is also fairly simple although I will admit that it took me a bit of time to get over the learning curve. To be fair, I haven’t used one of these cameras since reviewing the D-LUX 4.

There are indeed new features like the back dial for one which is really impressive and useful as well as the electronic viewfinder. If I were to buy the camera tomorrow, I would not buy it without this little piece of electronic optical goodness. The resolution isn’t the greatest, but it is more than enough for the purpose of using a point and shoot camera.

The very nice thing about it is the fact that the diopter is adjustable. I know this has been available for some time but it really didn’t hit me until the expo started. I let my boss try out my 5D Mk II and he told me that my focusing was way off. Then he adjusted the diopter to his liking and it was all good and ready to go for him. If I ever purchased one of these items and then needed to loan it to someone for a second, they could very easily calibrate the diopter for their use.

The D-LUX 5 has a pop-up flash that must be manually brought up for use. In many ways this holds true to Leica’s traditions because of the fact that many Leica M shooters didn’t use flash. To be realistic, this isn’t an M series camera but it sure does feel like it. We reviewed the Leica M7 and the Leica M9 previously and so there is a better familiarity with the products than the average tech journalist.

When looking at the top of the camera, one can see even more of the Leica tradition with the top mode selection dial and the way that even the shutter release looks. To be fair, this is very similar to the Panasonic version.

Autofocus

Using the center AF point is perhaps the way that most people will use this camera. Indeed, this point is the strongest, smartest and fastest. Even in low light and while shooting in the streets at night, the center will still give you the best results.

That’s not to say that the other points are null though. In my tests, I found them to be best in bright light or the magic hour of the day.

Menus

I asked the Leica reps if there was anything really special or new in the menu system; they said no. A really big difference between the Panasonic LX-5 and the D-LUX 5is the menu system though. The big hype about Leica’s menus is the fact that they seem a bit more slimmed down and that they are in all black and white (at least as far as I’ve discovered at the time of writing this posting. The full black and white menu is easier for a visually impaired photographer like myself to be able to navigate—and that’s what’s so important to me. Give me full black and white or give me the special color coding of Canon’s DSLRs and I’ll be happy any day of the week.

Image Quality

For a point-and-shoot camera, this is the creme-de-la-creme. You really can’t get any better at this point in the the market without looking at something like the Canon S95. Anything higher in the market has not yet been tested by the staff at the time of writing this.

For photographers used to using DSLRs, think of using this camera as if you’re locked into the rule of F/8 and be there. You’re not going to get a lot of bokeh. However, the little bokeh that is there is very nice.

For everyone that walks into a store and says something like, “I want a camera that will give me sharp portraits with a blurry background,” you can probably go for this. Your best bet is a DSLR though with a fast lens.

High ISO Abilities

This was highly detailed in Day 3 and for a very close comparison you should head over to there.

Metering

Metering with Leica cameras have always been a bit quirky and because of the image stabilization, one can shoot to extremely slow shutter speeds with almost no motion blur.

If I had to nail it down, Panasonic and Olympus users will be most familiar with the metering system on the D-LUX 5.

LCD Screen Quality

In short, I wish it was better quality. Not everyone will be able to have the EVF, and so it will be of great use to these people. I see no reason why Panasonic and Leica could have put a higher resolution screen.

Battery Life

Throughout the review, I charged the camera perhaps twice but I was using it nearly non-stop. This was all within the time frame of one week.

To be fair, it probably didn’t even need two charges—I’m just very picky about my battery life.

You can get the Leica D-LUX 5 at Amazonand B&H.

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