Auto Flash • Fill-in Flash • Red-eye Reduction Flash
With LCD Panel
LCD Panel Size
LCD Screen Resolution
LCD Protected Position
Without LCD Protected Position
Rechargeable Li-Ion Battery
2 Sec. • 10 Sec.
With Tripod Mount
Software • USB Cable • Video Cable • Bag • Lithium Battery • Battery Charger • Lens Cap • Strap
The first Leica Digilux camera with an interchangeable lens. Traditional styling and controls, Live View display, and a changeable image-stabilized Leica zoom lens make the 7.5-megapixel Leica Digilux 3 a very exciting camera for digital photographers and Leica enthusiasts.
The latest from Leica's popular Digilux series, the Digilux 3, has been redesigned using the Four Thirds digital SLR standard. It comes with Leica's first image-stabilized, interchangeable zoom lens, the LEICA D VARIO-ELMARIT f/2.8-3.514-50mm ASPH. The Digilux 3 features a 7.5-megapixel LiveMOS sensor with ultrasonic dust protection. The built-in flash can be tilted for bounce-flash use and the camera's processor filters out digital and color noise. Leica's Additional Risk replacement warranty and high-quality construction insure camera reliability and continued manufacturer support.
Digital SLR with full manual or automatic operation
Image-stabilized Leica zoom lens
Live preview for white balance, exposure compensation, macro focus, and depth-of-field preview
Great image quality below ISO 1600
Ultrasonic sensor dust removal system
Live histogram display in Live View mode
Secure Digital High Capacity(SDHC) memory-compatible
Four Thirds System design
Built-in flash with bounce option
Bright optical viewfinder
Large, high-resolution 2.5-inch LCD
Wide sensitivity range - ISO 100 to 1600
Excellent noise reduction
Leica R lens compatibility with Leica adapter
Expensive for a 7.5-megapixel digital SLR
Bulkier and heavier than previous model
Mirror slap noise switching between optical viewfinder and Live View Poor low light auto focus
Poor water and dust protection
Histogram display is very small
RAW only offered with JPEG for 11MB files
Low 3 frames-per-second burst rate
Similar, Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 camera is $900 cheaper
Standard lens casts shadow with built-in flash
No preset scene modes
The Leica Digilux 3 is a sturdy DSLR with interchangeable lenses, ultrasonic dust protection for the sensor, live LCD composing, a versatile built-in flash, and an image-stabilized 14-55mm Leica zoom lens. Start-up is quick and the Digilux 3 offers fully automatic exposure, aperture and shutter priority modes, as well as full manual exposure control. The 2.5-inch, glare-resistant LCD monitor has 207,000 pixels of resolution and is visible and bright even in direct sunlight.
I've used the Digilux 3 to cover trade shows and the Porsche Club of America's Driver Education events. I also made some grab shots as a huge Nor'easter rainstorm tore up my front yard. These professional photo situations were a good test of the camera's ruggedness and adaptability under the stresses of reportage, sports events, and candid photography.
Leica Digilux 3 Features
The Digilux 3 is arguably Leica's most technologically advanced digital camera. This is partially due to the adoption of the Four Thirds
digital SLR standard. Four Thirdsis a digital SLR design standard developed by Kodak and Olympus in 2002. It has developed into a partnership between Olympus, Kodak, Panasonic, Sigma, and Leica - so far. The main thing that defines a Four Thirds camera is the size of the sensor. Specifically, Four Thirds digital SLR sensors measure 21.63mm, half that of a 35mm film frame. They are also proportionally different with the Four Thirds frame being more square than the 2:3 aspect ratio of a 35mm or standard digital SLR image..
What advantages does the Four Thirds format yield? Four Thirds lenses are designed specifically for the digital sensor. The goal is photos with fewer digital artifacts like vignetting, ghosting, flare, resolution loss, and chromatic aberration. The smaller sensor also means Four Thirds lenses have twice the reach of a 35mm lens and significantly more than digital SLRs that use the standard APS-C sensor size. Translation: a 150mm Four Thirds
lens is comparable to a 300mm lens on a 35mm camera or a 200mm lens on most digital SLRs. Currently, the Digilux 3 owner can choose from about 20 Four Thirds lenses made by Olympus, Sigma, and Leica.
A number of file formats are available in the Digilux 3. Unfortunately, RAW format is only available when accompanied by a large JPEG file of the same image. This means that 11-13 megabytes of storage is required for every RAW file. The maximum image size is 3136 x 2352 pixels. ISO settings include 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1600. You can set the camera's color space to sRGB or Adobe RGB. Automatic exposure functions include aperature-priority and shutter-priority as well as a fully automatic program mode. Setting the shutter speed dial or aperture ring to the "A" position activates the auto exposure modes. A burst rate of 3 frames-per-second (FPS) for up to 6 RAW images is possible in continuous mode. Printing can be done straight from the camera using PictBridge, which allows setting picture size, layout, and date in the camera.
The Leica D Vario-Elmarit 14-50mm Four Thirds zoom lens out sizes the camera body and weighs a hefty 525 grams (1.15 pounds). The lens consists of 10 elements, three of which are ED glass, one Super ED glass, and one aspherical element. Auto focus relies on a 3-zone area multi-point system with sensors near the middle of the image frame. The camera selects the best zone for focus. Panasonic's MEGA O.I.S. optical image stabilization system compensates for camera shake. A processor and sensors in the lens sample movement 4,000 times a second and move the lens elements to minimize blur. There are two image stabilization modes. Mode 1 activates image stabilization when the shutter release is depressed, making the effect visible in viewfinder and the LCD monitor, if the camera is in Live View mode. Mode 2 only applies image stabilization when the picture is taken.
Left: Leica Digilux 3 pop-up flash with tilt positioning for bounce flash Right: Leica Digilux 3 pop-up flash
A dedicated flash hot-shoe works with the Panasonic DMW FL500 flash, the Metz 54 flash (with the Olympus compatible SCA-3202 / M6 SCA module), but not with Leica's standard SF 24D flash unit. The Digilux 3 also has a built-in, TTL-controlled, pop-up flash with tilt positioning for bounce flash. The integrated flash should be used with subjects no less than 8 feet away; otherwise the massive 14-55mm zoom lens will cast a shadow. Flash exposure compensation can be set over a four-stop range (+/- 2 EV) in 1/3 EV stages. Flash sync up to 1/160 second can be set for first or 2nd curtain operation.
Live View is still new to digital SLRs and sets the Digilux 3 apart from most cameras in its class. For photographers used to compact digital cameras, who don't use optical viewfinders, studio photographers, and people who appreciate a live preview, Live View is a valuable feature. Auto focus is still functional in Live View mode, but programmed to occur just before the picture is taken, when the porro mirror swings back into the optical path. For manual work, focusing is aided by a 4x to 10x magnified Focus-Assist Zone that helps dial in the sharpest focus with ease. This magnified zone can also be moved around on the rear panel LCD, in case your subject isn't right in the center of the frame. Live View also allows one to preview white balance and exposure compensation on the LCD before capturing the image. It also benefits depth-of-field preview, producing a very clear and bright impression of the focus zone. Looking through the optical viewfinder yields a much darker and less visible image at small apertures. Live View using the large rear panel LCD monitor proved to be a boon for doing macro photography, as shown in the close up of the 1GB Leica SD card supplied with the camera (see gallery images).
Panasonic's Venus III Imaging Engine aggressively manages noise when processing Digilux 3 image files. Chrominance and luminance noise are processed separately to minimize color fringing and distortion. Leica has developed their own proprietary firmware that balances noise suppression, color balance, tonal gradation, and sharpness to deliver optimum image quality.
Although the same lens and body can be had for $900 less in the form of the Panasonic Lumix LMC-L1, the Leica camera offers a stronger warranty and the aforementioned proprietary firmware. The Leica Digilux 3 warranty gives the camera owner Additional Risk / Passport level coverage - meaning that the camera or lens gets replaced if damaged, whatever the cause - for the first 6 months. For the following 30 months, Leica covers all labor and parts costs. In contrast, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 warranty only covers 90-days for labor and one year for parts. Leica also includes a 1 GB SD memory card and Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0.
Leica Digilux 3 Design
The Digilux 3 is a large camera, almost as hefty as a pro DSLR. Picking it up, I was reminded of my Canon EOS-5D digital SLR body. The Digilux 3 chassis uses a magnesium alloy casing and top, and the lens mount is made of stainless steel. Its 5.7 x 3.4 x 3.2 inch body size requires a full-sized camera bag for storage. Its big Leica zoom lens makes it front heavy when attached. The camera weighs 1.1 pounds alone, and increases to 2.36 pounds with the Leica lens attached.
The new Digilux 3 is substantially bigger that the previous model, Leica's Digilux 2 (see right), a compact digital camera. Internally, the cameras are also very different. The Digilux 3 uses a swiveling porro mirror that sends the image to an optical viewfinder on the left side of the camera. This makes its viewfinder a true optical through-the-lens SLR design, replacing the Digilux 2's much-maligned electronic viewfinder (EVF). Depress the OVF/LCD button on the rear panel and the internal mirror swings to the side and the the live scene appears in the rear LCD.
By far, the most noticeable design elements are the Digilux 3's retro styling and manual exposure controls. The traditional shutter speed dial and aperture ring remind me of the controls on a 35mm SLR camera from the 1970s or early 80s. The knurled shutter speed dial offers all the available shutter speeds for full manual control, plus an A setting for shutter-priority mode. The Leica 14-50mm Vario-Elmarit lens' f-stop can be manually set by rotating its aperture ring, or set to A for aperture-priority. For other zoom lenses, which don't have an aperture ring, the Function 1 button must be depressed while rotating the command dial on the camera back to change the lens' f-stop settings.
Left: Leica Vario-Elmarit 14-50mm zoom lens with aperture ring Right: Leica Digilux 3 shutter speed dial and top controls
Most of the camera controls are located on the rear panel. These include the command dial, the four-way cursor button, and a row of four buttons on each side of the panel for navigating the menus and controlling the flash. However, only the command dial allows movement around white balance, ISO, and flash menus, not the nearby four-way controller.
Leica Digilux 3 playback mode with histogram and all info displayed
Leica Digilux 3 info display (not available w. Live View)
Leica Digilux 3 record mode main menu
Leica Digilux 3 in Live View mode with live histogram display
The Digilux 3 has a smoothness and precision common to Leica cameras, particularly the Leica R8 35mm SLR. Confidence and pleasure are come from the Digilux 3's handsome black and chrome body. It has a traditional look and feel, reminiscent of Leica's M6 and M7 rangefinder cameras.
The Digilux 3's many features make it a versatile and easy-to-use, camera for serious photography. It switches quickly and effortlessly between automatic and manual functions, and the camera settings don't get accidentally reset when picking it up or putting it in the camera bag. Battery life is good, often lasting for several days of shooting without needing to be charged. Shutter-lag is negligible, and the auto focus performed well in the bright light at the racetrack. The image-stabilized Leica zoom lens make the Digilux 3 great for hand held shots and low light situations. Unlike its predecessor, the Digilux 2, the Digilux 3 uses interchangeable lenses. This made it possible for me to use the ultra-sharp Olympus Zuiko 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 ED telephoto zoom lens for action shots and close-up portraits. I enjoyed the ability to manually control the shutter speed, focal length, aperture, and focus, as well as having the Live View mode to check white balance and exposure compensation.
The large, bright viewfinder is another reason the Leica Digilux 3 is so satisfying to use. A good viewfinder helps establish a connection with your subject. It also makes fast, accurate panning possible, a requirement for photos like the Porsche at Lime Rock (see image in gallery). I also love the versatility offered by the pop-up flash's bounce position (see photo of camera with popup flash in bounce flash position).
What's not to like? Despite the camera's retro design, major setup items such as ISO, white balance, and exposure compensation have to be set using the LCD display, which means taking my eye away from the viewfinder. It's also inconvenient to scroll through 2 levels of menus to set up the Live View Focus Assist function. I am surprised that Leica and Panasonic don't offer a simple RAW mode, instead of just RAW+JPEG. RAW+JPEG means I have to download and then delete the extra JPEGs whenever I shoot RAW files. Although the auto focus is quick enough in bright daylight to track a sports car at a track, it slows perceptibly in low light situations. Finally, there are times I wish the Digilux 3 was smaller and less front heavy. The previous, Digilux 2, is much less tiring to carry with a neck strap. Instead of hanging the Digilux 3 around my neck, I prefer removing the lens and the body and lens in separate pockets of my photo vest.
Right out of the box, the Leica Digilux 3's image quality is terrific. Auto exposure delivers natural color with strong saturation, good skin tones, and good shadow detail with minimal digital noise. White balance has Auto and presets for daylight, cloudy skies, shadow, tungsten, and flash, as well as color temperature settings from 200 to 10000 Kelvin in 31 steps. In-camera image saturation and sharpening are evident in JPEG images. The RAW files yield high resolution, Adobe-standard DNG files which must be converted to a useable file format like TIFF or JPEG, later. Leica supplies a copy of Adobe Elements 4 image editing software for that purpose.
Image quality is best between ISO 100 and 800, because shadow noise is kept to a minimum. Leica's use of Panasonic's MEGA O.I.S. anti-shake technology helps capture blur-free images in lighting that is less than optimal for hand-held shooting. Optical image stabilization also means you can use lower ISO settings and that means better image quality.
Click on thumbnails to view sample photos.
Click on thumbnails to view sample photos.
The Leica Digilux 3 is a superbly built, technologically advanced, single-lens reflex camera with anti-shake technology, auto focus, and a full range of exposure controls. Its sharp, image-stabilized, zoom lens, live preview functions, integrated flash, and bright LCD display offer real photographic benefits. The Digilux 3 is a capable camera for sports, macro photography, portraits, and candid photos. The camera's Four Thirds lens mount makes it more versatile than previous Digilux models, allowing photographers to use high quality wide angle and telephoto lenses from Olympus and Sigma for macro and sports photography. Low light picture taking is aided by the Leica 14-50mm lens's MEGA O.I.S. image stabilization. The Digilux 3 provides just the right amount of manual control while still offering the flexibility of auto focus and auto exposure.
Who Should Buy The Leica Digilux 3
The Leica Digilux 3 digital camera will please serious photographers who enjoy the feel of a Leica but want a camera with a changeable, image stabilized, auto focus zoom lens. Photographers who feel most comfortable with manual 35mm SLRs as well as equipment connoisseurs and collectors (like me) will find the Digilux 3's aperture ring and shutter speed dial familiar and comfortable. The Digilux 3's DNG RAW files should appeal to detail-oriented digital photographers who use Adobe Photoshop and other software to get the most out of their digital images.
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Contents of the Leica Digilux 3.
Leica Digilux 3 Digital Camera
Leica D Vario-Elmarit 14–50 mm f/2.8–3.5 ASPH Interchangeable Lens
The Digilux 3 is a fine camera, but I ahve had problems with lenses. Two years ago the lens stopped working due to some internal defect and had to be replaced. My current lens has some mechanical defect which requires that in order to get above 20mm, you have to take the lens off the mount, move it past the 20mm mark and then reattach it. Having two defective lenses in two years is not what i would expect of a Leica camera of this cost.
Strengths: Overall build is superb..convincingly robust and typically Leica..the lens is breathtaking..a lovely handful with all traditional lens adjustments comfortingly under the fingers..a boon for an ex-analogue user.Although it is not the quietest of cameras.there is something reassuring about the clunks and clicks..it feels very very reliable and well engineered..which it is.. One comment I've read is the of the small histogram display...who on earth cares?...I ignore the thing anyway..I can see with my own eyes whether an exposure is correct without it as I am certain can the majority of photographers who are thinking of paying this much.Live view is superb..especially for macro work..and tripod based outdoor sessions..and is bright enough to be seen even in strong sunlight.I'll make you a bet...own one for a month and use it...you'll not want to give it back...no you won't!
Weaknesses: It is very poorly equipped with ability to shrug off dust and water..very poorly indeed....so..if you buy one..don't mess about and risk it..buy a clear bag to put it in..or make one..but don't get it wet...you'll not get away with it believe me.I'm astonished that I can't think of any other minuses..but I can't...that's it on the negatives folks!
I must confess to having been drawn in by the looks of this camera...stupid stuff really......wanted something exclusive..and strong...strong's important to me because I take thousands of images of my work...for clients.and my own records..in a workshop environment..any camera I buy has to earn it's keep..and how!..When I first opened the box I thought.."WOW"..it is beautifully made and gushes quality...sure..it's weighty,and chunky but somehow it's a beautiful instrument to hold and use..not tiring but you have to keep a good grip on it..read my comments on customer service re knocks! Another delight was the ease with which you can cruise through menus and functions and it only seems minutes before it's really becoming familiar.I don't use cases because they're a pain but a friend bought me the Leica neoprene one and it is excellent.The Digilux 3 is a luxurious,very capable camera..if you know what to tell it to do it never wavers.
Similar Products Used: In my analogue days I used exclusively Nikon..all SLR's..several models...and they never let me down...my first digital was a Pentax Optio S5N which I adored..and it was a stunning little piece of kit..I also have a Samsung VR10 compact which is excellent.
Weaknesses: No enough choice of lenses. Built-in flash must be turned on manually.
It's a vey nice camera with superb quality. Besides functions, its outside appearance shows a professional look but with a bit classical smell. It's very outstanding from other brand names DSLR which a quite similar in shapes.