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Leica D-LUX 3 Digital Camera User Review
by Josh Dollins -  11/3/2006

The Leica D-LUX 3 is a 10.2 megapixel, compact point and shoot. The camera is designed to natively take wide format images, with a sensor that has 16:9 dimensions and a nice wide format 2.8 inch LCD. The D-LUX 3, jointly developed along with the Panasonic Lumx DMC-LX2, incorporates Leica-specified image processing tweaks to differentiate it from its Panasonic sibling.

In the Box 

The D-LUX 3 comes with a 64MB card which is about twice the industry average (but still not enough), a battery charger (my favorite kind - it plugs right into an outlet) and a powerful battery that lasts up to 300 shots. Also included is Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0 which is also of a higher quality when compared to the usual software bundled with cameras. Also included are a USB 2.0 cable (but not high speed!) along with a lens cap, strap, lens cap string and a battery carrying case.

Accessories

Available for the D-LUX 3 are two carrying cases - one leather and one made to be quite a bit tougher. Also available is an AC Adaptor.

Design

As is typical of Leica, the design is simple, straightforward and retro. It reminds me of the old Leica rangefinders a bit. The camera is available in both black and silver. The most noticeable feature is the 2.8 inch LCD which is very nice. It is also, despite its power and features, still a pocketable camera (though somewhat hindered by its lens which doesn’t retract all the way into the body). The body is made using high quality materials, primarily aluminum to keep weight down, and it is machined very nicely. The camera weighs about 6.5 ounces. 

Features 

The camera sports a 10.2 megapixel sensor, the second highest in Leica’s lineup right behind the flagship M8. The sensor is somewhat unusual in that the sensor has a 16:9 dimensions (to allow capture of 16:9 aspect ratio images). In addition to the full resolution 16:9 format, you can choose two other aspect ratios: 4:3 which is standard (7.5MP), or 3:2 (Leica format) which is 8.5MP. The lens is a fantastic all glass Leica DC Vario-Elmarit optical zoom lens. f2.8-f4.9/6.3-25.2mm (28-112 mm - 35mm equivalent) in 16:9 mode (34-136 mm in 4:3 mode)

The image stabilization is a nice feature to have, but a steady hand is still necessary under certain conditions. To accommodate the large LCD, the camera lacks an optical viewfinder which would help steady the camera and frame shots. I would prefer a viewfinder and a smaller screen as I’m sure many others would. Also, controls can get a bit cramped on the back thanks again to the big, beautiful LCD. The flash system is a pop up system mounted on the top of the camera and according to Leica, the flash range of 13.5 feet is a bit optimistic. The camera also has manual exposure modes available for advanced users.

Camera Performance and Image Quality 

With exception to branding, warranty, and accessories this is the same "hardware" as the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2. However, Leica has made some minor imaging tweaks to provide a "Leica" look in the images. Are the differences significant? They’re minor so, in my opinion, the answer is no.

I love having control via shutter priority and using the joystick to manually focus. The camera boots up quickly (1.3 seconds) and takes shots quickly, both with flash and without. Auto focus takes between 0.2-0.4 seconds which is above average. If you use one of the two available high speed modes, you can knock off about a tenth of a second. Low light focusing was very good, thanks to the DLUX-3's AF-assist lamp. The time between shots (with LCD review off) is only about a second. However, iin RAW mode you triple that shot to shot time while the larger file is written to the memory media.

The biggest issue I have is with image quality is the blurriness or "muddiness" caused by pretty aggressive noise reduction. This occurs mosty at ISO 800 and 1600, but shooting in RAW does help. Noise is a serious issue even with the aggressive attempt to stop it. Purple fringing is low, thanks to the Venus III engine which does a good job at removing it. Thanks to the sharp lens Leica has produced, I experienced no vignetting or edge/corner blurring as expected. Red eye is mild.

Another gripe is the file transfer speed. When dealing with 10 megapixel images, it's annoying to wait so long while photos transfer via the USB port which doesn't support the USB 2.0 High Speed specification.

Sample Images

leica d-lux 3 sample image
(view large image)

leica d-lux 3 sample image
(view large image)

Conclusion 

So here we are, is this camera a "buy" or not? Well it’s a very mixed bag. For every wonderful thing there is a countering negative. And yet the camera is very expensive, even more so than its Panasonic twin. If you can get past the lack of a viewfinder, the slow USB, and the price tag (lets say you’re a big Leica fan) then yes buy. If not then no.  

Things I liked

Things I didn’t like: