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Face Off: Canon S95 vs Leica D-LUX 5

by Chris Gampat on 11/22/2010

You’ve been waiting for it: which one is really better? Is it the Canon S95 or the D-LUX5? Sure, Panasonic has the LX-5, but we didn’t get that in for review. After a comparison of the specs on the cameras and now the full field reviews finished, we now present to you the camera to choose.

Complete Postings

Leica D-LUX 5

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.

Canon S95

Day 1 – Introduction to the camera

Day 2 – Shooting at the Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market

Day 3 – Lens and Speed Analysis in Midtown

Day 4 – Trying out the onboard HDR near the Hudson River

Day 5 – High ISO shots at The Ginger Man bar in Midtown Manhattan

RAW samples – after the Lightroom Update

Quick Spec Comparison

Leica D-LUX 5


- F2.0-3.3 Leica Summicron lens

- 3.8x Optical Zoom

- 10.1 MP CCD sensor 1/1.63-inch

- Venus Engine FHD is new for better performance

- Intelligent Resolution technology is present in this camera. For more on that, go here.

- 720p 24p HD video

- ISO 3200 but expandable to 12,800.

- Newly-incorporated turn-and-push jog dial achieves various selection and setting more quickly

- The 3.0-inch large 460,000-dot high resolution Intelligent LCD also redesigned by adopting High CRI (Color Rendering Index) backlight LED to greatly increase the color reproduction, making it more visible both in shooting and playing back images in any conditions from at dark night to under bright sunlight.

Canon S95


- 10 MP CCD sensor (1/1.7-inch) with a 3.8x Optical zoom and an F/2.0-4.9 aperture

- 720p HD video at 24p

- ISO 3200 in manual; 12,800 in auto mode.

- Scene modes: HDR, Smart Shutter, Vivid, Poster Effect, Fish-Eye Effect, Miniature Effect (which also works in movie mode).

- Hybrid IS like that found in the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM

- 3 inch LCD with 461,000 pixels

- Ring around the lens is still there. This was perhaps one of the most popular features of the camera.

- DIGIC IV Processor

Ergonomics

The throwdown in terms of ergonomics with these cameras is based on personal preferences. In one corner, the Canon S95has a dial on the back and a dial around the lens. Canon DSLR owners will feel right at home with the back dial. Similarly, the front dial will bethink users to the rings around their DSLR lenses. The dials are programmable as well to change settings at will.

In contrast, the Leica D-LUX 5 has only one dial that can be pushed in for the user to choose what setting they’d like to modify. Otherwise, the back of the camera is dominated by buttons. The area around the lens of the D-LUX 5 has switches for focusing settings and aspect ratios.

So which one is better? Admittedly, I’m a huge Canon advocate.

But this one has to go to the D-LUX 5. The reason for this is because of the fact that the user can affix an electronic viewfinder to the top of the body for a more comfortable user experience. Don’t get me wrong, I love dials—but I also prefer to look through a viewfinder of any sort vs having to hold a camera out and away from my face.

If you don’t have these same problems, the Canon S95 is perhaps a more attractive option.

Winner: D-LUX 5

Autofocus

Unlike the ergonomics of the cameras, the autofocus is specific and a clear winner can be determined.

During my tests with the D-LUX 5, I experienced the fastest and most accurate focusing using the center point. This applied even to low lighting of bars and NYC’s streets. When set to fully evaluative focusing, the camera chooses a specific point almost anywhere on the screen. This can take a tad bit longer.

Adversely, the Canon S95 mostly utilized the center focusing area and made use of face detection. Again, the user can always manually focus.

Let’s get this out of the way: if you’d like to manually focus then use the Canon S95. The dials allow this to be done quite a bit easier.

In terms of autofocusing: the Leica’s is more advanced but the Canon’s we found to be much faster in lower lighting. The majority of the audience buying these cameras will use them for fun. Henceforth, if you’re shooting for fun then you’ll prefer faster focusing and worry about the rest later.

In conclusion, the Canon S95 wins for autofocusing.

Winner: Canon S95

LCD Screen

This will be quick.

D-LUX 5: 3.0-inch large 460,000-dot high resolution

Canon S95: 3 inch LCD with 461,000 pixels

The Canon wins by 1,000 pixels which will help tremendously for those that want to manually focus and for the overall better look of the photos on the back of the screen. The Leica just didn’t do it for me.

And that goes out to you, Panasonic.

Winner: Canon S95

Lenses

If you recount from Will’s review, he found some weird problems with the Canon S95‘s lens. He concluded that the lens was sharpest at its widest and most telephoto focal lengths and that in between it was analogous to that of a regular point-and-shoot. For reference, the Canon S95 lens has a 3.8x optical zoom and an F/2.0-4.9 aperture.

One the other hand, the Leica D-Lux 5has an F/2.0-3.3 aperture lens with a 3.8x optical zoom. That means that even at the most telephoto end of the zoom range it will be able to let in much more light. Sounds great right?

It does—but I found the lens to only be very sharp towards the wider end with sharpness deteriorating as the zoom range increased. For Leica shooters and DSLR users that prefer to use primes, you’ll appreciate this because you’ll probably be using the wider end anyway because you want a faster lens.

In this case, both lenses for both cameras have their flaws. If I had to pick though, I’d probably choose the Leica D-LUX 5 because I prefer faster apertures. Despite the S95‘s Hybrid OS stabilization system, I find it to be almost superfluous because of the fact that the camera is so light to begin with.

Winner: Leica D-LUX 5

Metering

This is about to get interesting.

Consider this: the Leica D-LUX 5 has image stabilization built into the lens.

Now check this out: the Canon S95 has the same image stabilization that their 100mm F/2.8 L has.

Can you get a blurry shot with either one due to camera shake? Sure. But it’s actually pretty hard to do this when your subject is in focus. You’ll need to have that Gingerbread Latte essentially entering your veins through an IV to do so.

What the heck does this have to do with metering? The fact that both cameras need to be set to a very slow shutter speed in order to capture enough light in bars. Additionally, both need to be set to around ISO 800. It’s awesome that they can achieve sharp results at such slow shutter speeds though.

If I had to pick one though, I’d take the Canon S95 because of the fact that it doesn’t need to go down to shutter speeds as slow as the Leica. This can help with image sharpness since the lens has issues. Perhaps this has to do with the design of the sensor and just how sensitive it really is it light. No two sensors are designed the same.

Plus, the S95 has HDR mode. Lots of users will value this feature even though the Leica D-LUX 5 has many more scene modes that seem appealing and interesting: like pinhole effect.

Winner: Canon S95

Accessories

The Leica wins because of the sheer amount of things that can be attached to that hot shoe such as flashes, viewfinders, etc.

The Canon S95 can’t attach anything.

Winner: Leica D-LUX 5

High ISO Test

Before we start the ISO comparison, take a look at this chart. The names of the cameras need to be updated but their predecessors had the same sized sensors. With this in mind, the D-LUX 5‘s sensor is slightly larger than the S95′s.

In the high ISO tests of both cameras, the Leica D-LUX 5‘s larger sensor consistently allowed it to deliver less image noise at higher ISOs. More on this can be found in the specific postings on each.

Winner: Leica D-LUX 5

Overall Image Quality

This is perhaps the toughest one to answer. You’ll get better bokeh out of the Leica D-LUX 5 vs the Canon S95. Additionally, you’ll get better high ISO results.

After looking at the colors, I’ve finally been able to figure out what the D-LUX 5 looks closest like.

In it’s natural color state, the D-LUX 5 looks like Kodachrome II with the Cyan Shift. The photo above wasn’t shot in the natural color setting, it was shot in Vivid. But it goes to show you what the D-LUX 5 is capable of doing.

Because of the embrace of that old-time color film that is now gone, the D-LUX 5 wins this fight.

Winner: Leica D-LUX 5

Conclusion

In the end of the test, we’ve come to the conclusion that the cameras do indeed compete with one another but that they are still targeted towards different photographers. Some don’t want a camera with a hot shoe. Some want to put on an EVF to use with their existing kit. Others just want a very slim camera.

If I had to make a decision based on either or I’d choose the S95for a couple of reasons. Why? I have Lightroom 3, which comes with the D-Lux 5. If Leica offered my a package with the D-LUX 5, the two year warranty and the EVF, then Leica would have my money. As a constructive criticism, I’d encourage Leica to be more versatile with their offerings in the future. That said, I do appreciate the fact that Leica essentially bundles extra things in as a gift.

The ultimate decision is up to you to decide on what you want. Carefully evaluate this and remember that it’s you that makes the pictures. Also consider the Panasonic LX-5 though.

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