Field Review (The Weekend)- Leica D-LUX 4

Following after Day 1 and Day 2, the journal entries for using the Leica D-Lux 4 with the new firmware update continue. If you’d like, you can download the entire manual for the firmware here (warning, PDF FILE.) D-Lux 4 – New Functions Firmware Update 2.2. This time I noticed a couple of problems with the camera but the overall verdict still seems to be very positive.

Author’s personal note: the opening photo is of the house I grew up in. It didn’t look like that 23 years ago. The neighborhood has become worse but carrying the D-LUX 4 around didn’t intimidate or alarm anyone. And that’s okay with me.

The D-LUX 4 has a random problem with overexposure in automatic ISO mode. Random meaning that it can happen unexpectedly. This can tend to be annoying. A good work around for this is setting the Fn button on the back to control your ISOs. In which case you can control what the ISO setting is yourself.

That means that an image like this. Can be turned into the image like the one down below.

It’s closer to perfect though still not quite there. Now this is where shooting in RAW comes into play. Leica took the route of using the interesting .RWL format instead of something like DNG which they have on the Leica M9 and X1. It still operates the same way that normal RAW files do though. Shooting in RAW does come with its limitations though. For example, High Dynamic mode that I referenced during Day 1 cannot be shot in RAW. Similarly, your name cannot be recorded in RAW mode. That’s a huge downer if you’re looking to publish your images as your information won’t be in the EXIF data. That also means that it’s less likely to show up in search results when you type your name in, so you’re going to have to edit the metadata yourself. I don’t know why Leica didn’t include that in the firmware update.

Shooting in RAW also eats up battery life. To be fair, I was also shooting in 34 degree weather. The battery of any point-and-shoot will be effected by that unless it’s a tough camera like the Panasonic TS2 (I’ve got a hands-on review at that link.) I just wish that the battery life was better. I even dimmed the screen to extend the life.

Autofocusing can also sometimes be unreliable, but for the most part it is tack sharp. I was hoping that the focus on the dog’s face would’ve been perfect, but it wasn’t. Sharpness in macro shots is stellar though, as demonstrated in the picture below.

And very sharp for flowers like in the shot below. Even if they’re dead. This is also where using the guidelines and the new guideline placement can really come in handy for composition.

Color rendition of certain colors like Blue, Red and Green tend to be very good. However, they can also be a bit undersaturated such as in the photo above and the photo below.

To be fair, these were all shot in the standard film mode setting. Like a DSLR, it allows you to dial in your own settings like saturation, contrast, sharpness and others. If this were shot with the camera’s Dynamic film mode, it probably would have been better. For a photographer like me and other professionals, I’d still like to tweak the colors to see what I can get out of it.

If you’re a beginning photographer or an enthusiast, the color rendition should be very satisfactory.

The colors actually reminded me of my old Olympus E-510. Vince uses that camera now.

Street photography is what Leica photographers are famous for. Continuing on that tradition, this camera is great for such a thing. Because the sensor is so small, it is great for Hyperfocal length shooting with the Aperture wide open. Just have the camera slung around your neck and keep your hand on the camera while you’re at it with a finger on the shutter button to auto-focus. As soon as your subjects around around six feet away from you, just press the shutter button. This of course works best when you’re zoomed all the way out.

The camera doesn’t intimidate people at all either, unlike a giant DSLR. So you can carry it around with you and people will think you’re just randomly shooting pictures. Little will they know what kind of quality you’re getting.

Taking some of these images reminded me of my internship at Magnum photos and sorting through the loads of images photographers would take then resizing them for optimal quality for a video. Many of those photographers shot with Leicas and traveled to some of the roughest areas to do their work: documentary photography. This camera helped me to do that this past weekend. Using my DSLR gives me impeccable quality, but it also makes normal folk raise their heads like gazelles looking for a lioness.

The party isn’t over yet though. It’s time to use the camera at some events and in the busier parts of New York City.