Leica Digilux 2

Leica Digilux 2 Review: Leica Digilux 2 revives time, aperture and focus ring

With the Digilux 2, Leica is presenting a digital reportage camera that is not only the successor to the Digilux 1, but was again developed in cooperation with the company Panasonic. So it’s no surprise that the Leica Digilux 2 has a lot in common with a certain Panasonic DMC-LC1, which we reported on in the past.

While not much was known about the Panasonic DMC-LC1 at the time, today’s announcement of the largely identical Leica Digilux 2 means that all details of this digital reportage camera are now public. We use the term “digital reportage camera” here mainly because the Digilux 2, with the exception of the possibility of changing lenses, has many borrowings from the Leica M 35 mm compact camera which is popular with photo reporters, among others. For example, on the Digilux 2, as on the Leica M, the aperture can be set conveniently and quickly by hand using an aperture ring on the lens and/or the exposure time can be set using a time selector wheel on the top of the camera. The same applies to manual focusing, which can also be carried out via a rotating ring on the lens. In general, the Digilux 2 looks and sometimes operates very much like a 35mm reportage camera, such as the Leica M, the Contax G1/G2 or the Konica Hexar – the Berlin designer Professor Achim Heine was responsible for the design of the Digilux 2.

Even though the Leica Digilux 2 has a fixed, non-changeable lens, we have tried to meet the demands of reportage photographers. Thus, the lens with the designation Leica DC Vario-Summicron can not only be manually focused – as already mentioned – but also covers the focal length range of 28 to 90 millimeters (35 mm equivalent) popular with photojournalists and is also particularly fast. By the way, the zoom lens consists of 13 lens elements in 10 groups, whereby all lenses are made of high-quality optical glass and are elaborately coated, and two of them have an aspherical shape. The focal length adjustment is made inside the lens, i.e. without the lens barrel extending. The light intensity from F2.0 to F2.4 (WW/Tele position) also allows flash-free shooting in low light – which can be important for reportage. Nevertheless, the Digilux 2 still comes with a built-in miniature flash (LZ 10) and a TTL hot shoe (compatible with the SCA-3502 standard as used on Leica M and Leica R cameras), both of which offer advanced functions such as flash exposure correction, flash time-delay synchronization and synchronization to the 1st or 2nd “shutter curtain” (at least the same effect is achieved). When it comes to exposure measurement and control, the discerning photographer will be pleased to know that all exposure programs (program automatic with shift function, time and aperture priority, manual exposure control), various measuring methods (multi-field, center-weighted integral, spot) and useful exposure functions (manual exposure compensation, automatic exposure bracketing) are available. The shutter speed range is 8 to 1/2,000 or 1/4,000 seconds (depending on the exposure mode); an AE lock is also provided.

But of course the Digilux 2 also wants to be – and is – a modern digital camera. Its features include an autofocus system with an AF area that can be switched from wide to spot metering and a macro function with a close-up range of 30 cm, a continuous shooting mode for 4 to 8 consecutive shots at 1 to 2.7 frames per second, and a connector for an electric cable remote shutter release. Typical of a digital camera are the two LC displays (2.5″ colour screen with 211,000 pixels and electronic viewfinder with 235,000 pixels and diopter adjustment), the adjustable sensitivity levels (ISO 100/200/400), the digital zoom (2x and 3x magnification), the white balance setting (automatic, via presetting, manual with fine correction option) and the video recording (QVGA). Power is supplied by a 7.2 V lithium-ion battery with 1,400 mAh or stationary via the mains input. The Digilux 2 has a USB 2.0 interface for connection to a computer.

The image converter of the Digilux 2 is a 2/3″ CCD sensor with primary colour filter (RGB matrix) and a total of 5.24 million pixel elements (of which around 5 million are used). The – according to Leica – outstanding image quality of the Digilux 2 is due to the rather large pixel size (3.4 µm) and probably also to some of the technologies used in the identical Panasonic DMC-LC1. These are, on the one hand, the “tailor-made” signal processor called “VENUS Engine” and, on the other hand, the special microlens architecture of the CCD, in which a second microlens “layer” under the usual microlens structure serves to capture even obliquely incident light rays. The camera stores image files in RAW or JPEG format and in an image size of up to 2,560 x 1,920 pixels on either SecureDigital or MultiMedia memory cards; a 64MB SD card is included. Furthermore, the Digilux 2’s range of functions and equipment includes the possibility of audio recording, a self-timer with either 2 or 10 second lead time, the ability to be controlled from a PC using the software supplied, multilingual menu navigation (all languages included), support for USB direct print (Epson direct print technology), an audio/video output with switchable signal (PAL/NTSC) and a black and white mode. However, whether Leica can justify the relatively high price of around EUR 1,800 by the lavish equipment and the promised image quality will ultimately be decided by the customer.

Leica Digilux 2 also equipped with a possibly defective CCD sensor: family diseases

It was to be expected: Only a few days after Panasonic announced that its precious Lumix DMC-LC1 may be equipped with a defective CCD sensor, Leica is now issuing a similar warning for its twin sister Digilux 2. Although the corresponding press release is not quite as “dramatically” worded as at Panasonic and other manufacturers affected by the ominous CCD problem, or the warning is “disguised” as a generous extension of customer service; but this is also a well-known problem.

Thus, Leica’s press release on the Digilux 2 is actually all about a defect that affects the camera’s CCD sensor and is due to a manufacturing fault. It is described in the Leica News as follows:

Leica Camera AG offers all LEICA DIGILUX 2 customers free customer service over and above the standard manufacturer’s warranty. This refers to a replacement of the sensor of the digital camera in case of a rare defect even after the usual warranty. Leica Camera AG has decided to offer this extended warranty because in isolated cases defects have been reported which can be traced back to a manufacturer’s fault in the sensor, which also affects cameras from other manufacturers. During long-term use of the camera under tropical conditions, phenomena in the form of black stripes in the recorded image or even an entirely black image have occurred. This error may be due to processing of the sensor that does not comply with the inspection and acceptance conditions of Leica Camera AG. Although the fault only occurs after long use under extreme conditions, i.e. possibly only after the warranty period has expired, thanks to the measures described here, LEICA DIGILUX 2 customers can now rely on free repair over a longer period of time. The LEICA DIGILUX 2 will retain its high value even after its expiry, which will be further strengthened by the aforementioned measures of Leica Camera AG.

The description of the error in the original text leaves little doubt that this is the same production error, the effects of which have been felt in almost the entire camera industry for a year now (we reported on the problem for the first time in October 2005), and which has forced almost every renowned manufacturer to acknowledge the problem by taking more or less direct action (in the form of warnings, service notes, recalls, etc.). Although the manufacturing defect is obviously due to the CCD manufacturer Sony, many manufacturers (as well as Panasonic and Leica) don’t mention its origin, but the mention of the supplier’s name would indicate that their camera production is partly left in someone else’s hands (which hasn’t been common practice in the industry since yesterday and is actually nothing profane, but hardly any manufacturer wants to admit openly). Whoever the “culprit” may be in the case of the defective Digilux-2 and DMC-LC1 sensors: We wish all Digilux-2 and DMC-LC1 owners that they own a camera that is not affected by the defect or at least may continue to take pictures during the upcoming holidays; if the defect occurs after that, one can take comfort in the fact that Leica will repair the affected Digilux-2 models free of charge even after the warranty period has expired.

Leica Digilux 2 Data Sheet

Electronics

Sensor CCD sensor 2/3″ 8.8 x 6.6 mm (crop factor 3.9
)5.2 megapixels (physical), 5.0 megapixels (effective)
Pixelpitch 3.4 µm
Photo resolution
2.560 x 1.440 pixels (16:9)
2.048 x 1.536 pixels (4:3)
1.600 x 1.200 pixels (4:3)
1.280 x 960 pixels (4:3)
640 x 480 pixels (4:3)
Image formats JPG, RAW
Color depth 36 bits (12 bits per color channel)
Metadata Exif (version 2.2), DCF standard
Video resolution
320 x 240 (4:3) 30 p
Video format
MOV (Codec Motion JPEG)
Audio format (video) WAV

Lens

Focal length 28 to 90 mm (35mm equivalent
)3.2x
zoom3x
digital zoom
Aperture F2 (wide angle
)F2.4 (telephoto)
Autofocus yes
Autofocus functions Single auto focus, continuous auto focus, manual
Filter thread 69mm

Viewfinder and monitor

SLR viewfinder 15 mm eye relief
Monitor 2.5″ TFT LCD monitor with 211,000 pixels, transreflective
Video finder Video viewfinder available, dioptre compensation

Exposure

Exposure metering Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement, spot measurement
Exposure times 1/4,000 to 8 s (Automatic
)1/2,000 to 8 s (Manual)
Exposure control Programmed automatic, Shutter priority, Aperture priority, Manual
Exposure bracketing function Bracketing function with a maximum of 3 shots, 1/3 to 1 EV increments
Exposure Compensation -2.0 to +2.0 EV with step size of 1/3 EV
Remote access non-existent
Scene modes Does not have
White balance Automatic, Clouds, Sun, Fine-tuning, Flash, Fluorescent lamp, Incandescent light, Manual
Continuous shooting 2.7 fps at highest resolution, or 1 fps for 3 to 137 consecutive images (depending on resolution and/or image compression)
Self-timer Self-timer with 2 s interval, special features: or 10 s (optional)

Flashgun

Flash built-in flash (hinged
)Flash shoe: Leica (M and X series), standard center contact
Flash range 0.3 to 4.5 m at wide angle0
.3 to 4.0 m at tele
10 (ISO 100)
Flash code
Guide number 10 (ISO 100)
Flash functions Auto, Flash On, Flash Off, Slow Sync, Red-eye Reduction

Equipment

Image stabilizer no optical image stabilizer
Memory
Multi media card
SD
Power supply unit Power supply connection
Power supply 1 x Lithium ion (Li-Ion) battery (7.2 V, 1,400 mAh)
Playback functions Image index
Voice memo Voice memo (WAV format)
Connections Data interfaces: USB
Tripod thread 1/4″
Special features and miscellaneous Focus magnifier for convenient manual
focusingAperture and/or shutter speed
can be set
using the aperture ring on the lens and the shutter speed dial on the camera’s top Multilingual
menu navigation (DEU/ENG/FRA/ITA/ESP/JAP/CHI)
TTL flash control with SCA-compatible flash units (SCA 3502)

Size and weight

Weight 705 g (ready for operation)
Dimensions W x H x D 135 x 82 x 103 mm

Miscellaneous

standard accessory 7.2 V lithium-ion battery with 1,400 mAh mains adapter/charger64

MByte removable memory cardUSB connection cableAudio/video cableLens capLens hood

with capStrap around strapImage editing software

Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0 for Windows and for MacintoshControl software
Leica USB Remote ControlImage management software
ACDSystems ACDSee 1.

6

8 for MacintoshImage management software
ACDSystems ACDSee 6.0 for WindowsImage optimization software
SilverFast DC-SE 6Apple
QuickTime 6.0 (PC)
USB Mass Storage Class device driver for Windows 98SE (no drivers required for Windows 2000/ME/XP or MacOS version 9.0 or later)

additional accessories Removable memory cardCamera bag
USB
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Peter Dench
I am Peter Dench. Digital Photographer, born in London 1972, currently living in Deerfield, near Chicago. I have numerous photography expositions and also working in model photography. In this website, PhotoPoint, I usually review cameras provided by local dealers in Illinois and by the manufacturers. Sometimes I, Peter Dench, review lenses too, but only when I have a suitable camera for them. Please let me know in the comments if I can improve any of these articles.