Leica D Lux 5 Camera Review
Point & shoot cameras are great inventions. They allow an average person with no understanding of photography to capture images and share them. As much as they are shunned by professionals, I believe they have a critical function that must not be overlooked.
Some people believe that it is the camera that makes a photographer. In fact, some entry-level big DSLR cameras function pretty much like point & shoot by removing just about all input required by the shooter. The belief that the bigger cameras are the proof of a photographer is still held fast.
To dispel that belief, let me point out that a Magnum photographer has released a photography book which includes only photographs captured with a smartphone. This concept flies in the face of the belief that a big camera is needed to capture moving images.
I believe that whether it is a point & shoot or a sophisticated medium format camera, the result always comes down to the person behind the camera. It is the way a photographer frames and composes an image that makes it outstanding. Otherwise, we can say everyone is a photographer just because they have pressed a shutter or a smartphone button.
Recently, a friend of mine pointed out that my photographers were outstanding not only because of my creative talent but also because I use the best photographic equipment. I told him that I use Leica’s because they give me greater freedom to create and compose images the way I want people to see them. I added that you can still do fantastic photography even if you are using a point & shoot camera.
Some time has passed since that conversation, then the other day, I was invited by a friend for breakfast at one of Montreal’s iconic establishments. While I was preparing to leave, I reached for my Leica D-Lux 5 which is a very compact point & shoot camera.
I love this little camera because it is so discreet that people hardly notice that you are holding one. In fact, it fits right in the middle of my palm concealing it from the view of anyone.
The best part of Leica D-Lux 5 is that it can do pretty amazing things. For one, it can let you choose from different varieties of framing options, for example, you can opt to have 1:1 which is a square format for those who wish to post on Instagram. Then, there is the 4:3 or the classic 3:2 format for those who want to have a more familiar framing format, also, a cinematic format of 16:9 is available for those who wish to explore a different aspect ratio.
I personally like the classic format for photographing because it allows the complete sensor to be used for capturing images. Other formats will include some form of cropping which is unavoidable because all cameras are designed to capture images in a single format only.
As far as the weight is concerned, it is as light as a smartphone yet packed with options that no current smartphone offers or can offer at any given time in the next half a decade. Leica D-Lux 5 allows the photographer fully engage his or her by offering numerous settings and options depending on your circumstances. For example, you can choose to shoot at aperture priority or manual mode just like like a full frame camera or opt to have preset choices for capturing images.
Let me explain this further, for instance; I can set the aperture or shutter speed as I please which allows me to have a great deal of control over the image composition. Beyond that, a zoom function permits a close-up photograph to be captured without worrying about getting accurate focus because Leica D-Lux 5 does just about everything for you.
From the perspective of functionality and ease of use, Leica D-Lux 5 is like a swiss army knife allowing multiple photographic choices to be at one’s disposal regardless of one’s knowledge of photography. For those who can’t be bothered with learning aperture settings or depth of field explanations, I suppose it can be compared to a pistol at the turn of the 20th century in the west, with a gun everyone had an option to be able to protect himself or his family. This camera lets everyone capture good quality images.
I see D-Lux 5 not just as a point & shoot camera but more as a fine instrument for capturing images for specific purposes. For example, you can opt to photograph in 1:1 frame and directly upload on one of the social platforms that accept only square format. Then, if you are into landscape photography you no longer need to take multiple photographs and merge them on the computer to attain a 16:9 ratio. All this is conveniently made available with a simple dial. I say how convenient that you can hand your camera to someone and they can pretty much capture images in focus with accurate colors.
The beauty of Leica D-Lux 5 does not end with features just for photography if you are into making videos that too is available. For those who wish to exploit all the capabilities of Leica’s D-Lux 5 camera, you can just go from photographing to capturing video by merely selecting the dial placed conveniently on top of the camera.
Today, there are newer versions of this camera available with much-improved features, but regardless whether you choose a current model or already own a Leica D-Lux 5, you can benefit from all the features of a great point & shoot camera. In fact, point & shoot camera can function as a backup camera for most professionals. I personally own several compact cameras that I take on assignments to serve as back up cameras.
For everyday use, having this camera can be great, you can go to the beach and take photographs or put it in your jacket pocket to use when you are out with friends in the town. You can do away with a large camera which can be somewhat of a hassle under some social circumstances. Leica D-Lux 5’s convenient size helps you to overcome all the limitations of larger cameras yet provide more than what smartphones can deliver in image quality.
As some may feel that compact cameras regardless of make are a thing of the past. The truth is smartphones have replaced most point & shoot cameras. The fact is smartphones have much-improved capabilities. Comparing the sensor size of smartphone versus a compact camera make a choice a rather obvious one because for the most part, it is the sensor size which dictates image quality
Leica D-Lux 5 features a CCD sensor which is a superior sensor when it comes to rendering images in their most accurate colors. In fact, under perfect light conditions, I will always prefer a CCD sensor over a CMOS sensor because they simply deliver better images.
Having said this, there is a steady migration to CMOS sensors by all camera manufacturers including Leica, for a good reason, the options and features of a camera are greatly enhanced with the use of CMOS sensor. Plus, it costs less to manufacture a CMOS sensor which helps lens and camera manufacturers to make more profit.
This migration to CMOS sensors due to cheaper production costs is not the only reason why manufacturers are making the switch; a CMOS sensor requires much less energy to operate thereby improving the battery life of a camera. For practical reason, I would instead change a battery on a CCD sensor camera than settle for an image quality that is not matched by the current CMOS sensors.
Regardless, of your choice of point & shoot camera, you can rest assured that the lens is going to be the determining factor in creating the difference in image quality. Let me explain this as an example. I also own another point & shoot camera with an APS-C size sensor by another camera manufacturer. For those who are not familiar with APS-C size sensors, it is as close to a full frame size sensor that current camera manufacturers offer.
When I capture images with the one that has a larger sensor, I immediately notice the difference in image quality especially the rendering of colors which are distinctly different than the way Leica renders colors.
So when the question comes up as to why Leica camera products cost more than other manufacturers, the answer is simple. We are paying more probably because we want to capture as much of life’s true colors without ‘manipulation’ by lenses or cameras. This is the reason why I always opt for Leica lenses and cameras.
I would even go further and say even with small size full frame cameras from Japanese manufacturers that deliver 36 megapixels there is an element color rendering that can never be duplicated because Leica lenses provide images that are distinctly different. This is probably because of the know-how that comes from over decades of lens manufacturing and research by Leica Camera.
Photographing in an enclosed space with Leica D-Lux 5 is an exciting experience. I have found that under less than ideal lighting conditions this small compact camera is a great performer.
In the images I took during the breakfast at this restaurant, I see that shadows and highlights are balanced beautifully even under poorly lit indoor spaces. If you look closely, you will see that the skin colors beautifully recreated with this camera.
For those who wish to capture images and print them, 13.5-megapixel sensor allows large prints to be reproduced. This is an excellent option because unless you intend to print your photographs in 4 foot (1 meter + ) sizes you will be more than satisfied with the results from this camera.
One other factor to take into consideration is the zoom capabilities, without changing lenses I can go from a relatively wide angle set up to a portrait format by merely holding the zoom button. This means that if you are photographing children, you can see many options for switching from close-ups to a wide angle with a simple zoom button.
The fact is the lens on this camera is beyond the ordinary lenses found on other point and shoot cameras. Firstly, it is a Leica lens, DC Vario-Summicron f/2.0 24mm to be precise. Aperture can be opened up to f/2.0 which allows a beautiful bokeh to be captured if the composition is well framed.
Then upon closer examination, properties of the lens reveal the design underneath the beautiful photographs captured with this camera. Leica D-Lux 5 has lens ten elements in 9 groups with three aspherical lenses with five aspherical surfaces which merely says that a serious amount of design and engineering has gone into the production of this lens.
If you are shopping for a compact camera, there are multiple camera options on the market but 24 mm lens is perhaps one of the most suitable lenses to have on a camera, plus, all the aspherical surfaces and lens elements help to minimise distortion and vignetting.
One thing to remember is that sensor size the lens operates at a different focal length then a full frame which if you were to consider the ideal focal length would be around 35mm which is approximately what this lens will give you. Apparently, those who are familiar with point & shoot cameras may argue that this is the same camera produced by Panasonic. It is not for one; the firm software is different. Secondly, it is not a Leica which is always a factor to take into consideration.
Beyond attaining a shallow depth of field wide open this lens can do macro shots up to a distance of 1cm which is a beautiful feature to have on any camera. I personally I love having the ability to photograph anything at any focal length switching from macro to wide angle to telephoto. For example, I could be zooming to capture a portrait, photograph hands of an old lady or get to have a beautiful landscape without the hassle of changing the lens.
When the zoom function is engaged, you can see that the telephoto can zoom up to 90mm focal length which is perhaps the ideal focal length for portrait s. I like this feature because whether I use the zoom or not the image quality remains intact which should always be a consideration when purchasing a point & shoot camera.
One of the main reasons I use a Leica camera is the true nature of the colors that I get in my photographs. I have shot sunsets, dawns, landscapes on cloudy days. I have seen the complexion of people skins accurately rendered, requiring almost no post editing. In fact, most of the time, I would simply transfer the files on to my computer to share them with my friends without having to do any serious alterations on images.
Why should you buy this camera or a compact camera that is made by Leica camera?
Well, the answer is very simple, with minimal distortion and chromatic aberrations, ghosting and flaring are only some of the factors to take into consideration. Leica camera’s commitment in creating a superior lens that deals with these factors effectively is one of the main reasons to purchase a Leica camera product. Beyond that having a camera that just performs under almost all circumstances whether in low light or bright sunny day is an amazing feature and Leica D-Lux 5’s compact size is just perfect to take this camera just about anywhere.
For example, you may not be able to enter a nightclub with a full frame camera, but this little D-Lux 5 can go into your jacket pocket virtually undetected. You can capture images that under low light situations would have been impossible for smartphones then share them with your friends.
If you are a techie and want to use the full capabilities of D-Lux 5 then you can engage the ‘Step Zoom’ function which allows you to set the zoom to 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 70mm or 90mm via the menu screen, technically giving you a choice of a variety of lenses. The zoom capabilities make this lens even more powerful because you can have the intelligent zoom and digital zoom work in harmony to achieve a wide choice of focal lengths.
When the focal length increases on a lens, even the minimal shake of the hand can cause images to come out blurred. The low-frequency vibration hand-shake component of this camera will eliminate just about all the unwanted camera shake affecting the image. When the shutter button is pressed, you are almost guaranteed to get good images.
Those of you who love photographing in the dark or low light situations this feature is a blessing and POWER O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer) further improves on canceling out handshake issues associated with point & shoot cameras.
For those who are not inclined to learn photography but want the camera to do just about everything for you, well, this camera is for you. You don’t have to think, just point and shoot at will and Leica D-Lux 5 does the rest.
The memory card can handle more than 400 images which means you can take a lot of photographs then delete the ones you don’t like later. This can prove to be an advantage that most film era photographers never take into account. You would need about 15 rolls of film to do that, but technology now offers average layman an opportunity to do things that would have been impossible to dream about a decade ago.
The battery is small in this camera which is both a plus and a minus because you will need to change the battery if you like to do a lot of photography. I find that this to be no problem because I pretty much fill out the memory card with one battery charge which then means you will need to put in another memory card to continue shooting anyway.
like the LCD screen in the back, it is 460k which means you can see what you have captured. One other feature which I have never used on this camera is the flash function, yes, it is there if you want to have those ‘I used a flash in the club look’ in your photos. For me, I prefer using the extended ISO settings on D-Lux 5 to capture decent quality images which then can be used on the internet or the social media platforms.
All in all, it is a good lens and camera combination for everyone who wishes to be able to capture images without the bulk of having heavy lenses and big full frame bodies. There are so many other features which I have not mentioned about this camera that it would take many more pages to explain, I rather say that it is a good camera to have anywhere anytime.
If you are in the market to buy any of the Leica Camera products mentioned in this article you can check out the links below.
For my upcoming 2018 photography workshops, here are the links
I hope you have enjoyed this article. We look forward to bringing you other reviews and articles on Leica products.
OZ YILMAZ – Leica Review Team
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