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Digilux 3


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Getting a card in the mail offering loyal Leica customers a Digilux 3 for $1800

($700 off the normal $2500 price) got me wondering if this is finally my time

to try digital. It looks like the Panasonic DMC-L1 (same camera) is $500

cheaper ($1300 at B&H) so it looks like a "No" to Leica's offer.

 

I'm age 62, use a Leica rangefinder, Contax C/Y SLRs, and shoot slides (even

B&W slides with dr5 processing) almost exclusively. The real reason that I even

considered this camera was because I like the larger size and retro controls

(manual aperture and focusing rings and also a shutter speed dial). I dispise

all the tiny buttons, menus to scroll through, small dim viewfinders (which I

know thwe Lumix has), etc.

 

I'm unwilling to pay for an M8. I thought this forum would most likely

understand the "thing " I have for the elegant simplicity of cameras with only

a few basic manual controls. Are there other cameras out there that might

satisfy me?

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"I'm age 62, use a Leica rangefinder,"

 

Me too, except I'm 63.

 

"I'm unwilling to pay for an M8."

 

Me too.

 

"I thought this forum would most likely understand the 'thing' I have for the elegant simplicity of cameras with only a few basic manual controls."

 

Me too. This is a good place to find some folks of a similar mind. (But, certainly not everyone here will fit that description!) Your 'thing' is pretty much why I sold off my digital SLR kit, and went back to real brass and glass (Leica and Hassy), film capture, and a good scanner.

 

Can't help you with the Digilux 3, however.

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<center>

<a href="http://homepage.mac.com/ramarren/photo/PAW7/large/24f-half.jpg"

target=new>

<img src="http://homepage.mac.com/ramarren/photo/PAW7/large/24f.jpg" border=0>

</a><br>

Tiny Flower, Sunnyvale 2007<br>

<i>Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1<br>

ISO 400 @ f/3.5 @ 1/25 sec, Program <br>

<br>

Click image above for larger rendering</i>

<br></center>

<br>

I bought a Panasonic L1 a couple months ago through Amazon.com for $1050. It's an

excellent camera, a far better camera than the review press would have you believe. The

major difference between it and the Digilux3, other than the red dot, is the in-camera JPEG

rendering firmware. Since I do all my photography with RAW format capture, this is

irrelevant.

<br><br>

It has excellent controls and ergonomics. It still has menus and buttons, and you do have

to learn how to set it up to use it properly. Once you understand it, however, and set it up

you can use it much like any other camera of the past 40 years.

<br><br>

I've made over 2500 exposures with it since I bought it. I like it enough that I've bought a

couple of other lenses for it and just bought a second one so that I can have my usual

two-body kit.

<br><br>

It's an excellent camera and turns out beautiful photographs. If the red dot and/or the

Leica JPEG processing firmware is important to you, the Digilux3 at $1800 is a decent deal,

but I'll save the $750 and use the L1 to do the same job.

<br><br>

Godfrey - <a href="http://www.gdgphoto.com" target=new2>www.gdgphoto.com</a>

<br>

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I doubt Leica digicams have a significantly greater resale value for effectively identical Panasonic gear ... especially after 24 months.

 

As for the longer warranty, you can easily buy adecent 3rd party extended warranty for a LOT less than the Leica/Panasonic price discrepency.

 

But if you need to have that Leica logo on your Panasonic-built camera, don your Tilley hat and make your purchase.

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Hi,

 

"I believe Leica offers a longer warranty period then Panasonic. Certainly worth something. And of course there is also a better resale value of the Leica gear. Regards, Dave"

 

I can only agree 100% with Jacob. I believe the above remarks by Dave, which have been made by others are one big red herring to go with the red dot. The Panasonic L1, for essentially the identical camera is so VASTLY cheaper it would be embarrasing to say you chose the Leica offering..

 

cheers Steve.

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In Leica's support, their in-camera JPEG firmware does indeed do a significantly better job

than Panasonic's. The Panasonic JPEG rendering is very consumer oriented ... bright,

saturated, with coarser adjustability compared to what Leica built for the camera. Leica's

firmware produces more neutral color balance, tighter noise control, nicer B&W output. For

some folks' use, this is an important distinction and might well justify the cost differential

from the high-average of the L1 ($1300) to the lowered price of the Digilux3 ($1800).

 

But the hardware is identical and so is the RAW capture data. Aside from the production

variances that are more tightly controlled by Leica's QC and the marginal benefits of the

improved warranty, I could not justify to myself the red dot given that I do all of my work

with RAW capture data.

 

The camera is a wonderful design, shamefully undervalued by the review press who don't

seem to regard the ability to make beautiful photographs a particularl notable quality in a

camerra any more. No, to them it's all about Megapixels, frames per second, and

impressive gizmos. Bleck.

 

Godfrey

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Thanks for the moral support from my fellow old timers. I'd likely hold it long enough where resale value isn't an issue. Special thanks to Godfrey! I'd read one review where they blasted the ergonomics (uncomfortable to hold and a shutter release button that's awkward to use). Your positive review goes a long way to allay my fears.

 

I can live with using menus to set up things like I want them, so long as I can shoot "old style". I guess I can also live with a less than ideal viewfinder since I have night/indoor photography covered by my film cameras with fast B&W.

 

Bottom line is that I could probably use this particular camera and not curse it every time I pick it up. From the responses, I'd guess however, that this is about my only choice if I want the larger size and retro controls.

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Charles,

 

If you're comfortable with Leica M ergonomics, the L1/Digilux3 will be a natural for your

hands. I have Pentax DSLRs as well, and have accommodated to the modern more 'organic'

SLR ergonomics, but I like this camera's size and shape much more. Even though on the

spec sheet it's within a few millimeters HxWxD of my Pentax K10D, it somehow manages

to fit in a much skinnier, smaller bag comfortably. And, funny thing, I find I don't rotate it

as much inadvertently when shooting with a horizon in the scene... don't know why that is.

 

It's not perfect, by any means, but it's very very good... ;-) And it really isn't a problem in

low light use either, with either optical or live view finders. What's a little tricky is manually

focusing a short lens in the optical finder, but you'll find yourself adapting to the auto

focus if you use the 4/3 System native lenses very easily. It has a configurable AF/AE lock

on the focus mode selector that can be extremely useful for getting correct critical focus

in difficult circumstances with a short lens.

 

As I intimated above, there's a lot more to this camera than there is to a simple,

mechanical film camera. But once you learn the capabilities and features, start to exploit

them, I can't help but feel you'll find it expands the range of what you can do with a

camera nicely.

 

BTW, I'm about 10 years younger than you ... but probably just as crusty in terms of my

attitudes and working habits. And I consider that a compliment. :-) ]'-)

 

Godfrey

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Tom,

 

Leica and Panasonic have had a deeply involved collaboration for at least 15 years. The

lenses produced for the L1/Digilux3 to date are the Vario-Elmarit 14-50/2.8-3.5 ASPH

OIS and the Summilux-D 25/1.4 ASPH. Upcoming lenses are the Vario-Elmarit

14-150/3.5-5.6 ASPH OIS and a 45mm OIS Macro (can't recall what they're calling it

specifically).

 

All of these lenses are full 4/3 System compatible optics. Based on what the 14-50's

performance, and what I've seen of the 25/1.4 so far, the lens designs are typically Leica

in rendering qualities and they are very robustly built, in Leica's traditional style. I believe

that Leica's optical design folks are working in very close collaboration with Panasonic's

electronics and production engineering people when creating them, and Panasonic is

doing the manufacturing. They have a very nice quality feel and perform beautifully, and

include the on-lens aperture control ring to complement the camera's ergonomics.

 

Since the cameras themselves are full 4/3 System SLR cameras, you can also use any

Olympus 4/3 E-System lens. And Olympus is a very fine optical company producing a top

notch suite of lenses for the E-System cameras. I have the Olympus ZD 35mm f/3.5 Macro

(that's what the photo up-thread was made with) as well as the ZD 11-22mm f/2.8-3.5.

Both are cracking, superb performers, and beautifully made. Every Olympus ZD lens I've

tried to date, including their low-end inexpensive consumer zooms, has been a great

performer. Olympus lenses are designed for in-body aperture control only and don't have

aperture rings, but the L1/Digilux3 both use them with no problems, and have enhanced

control options for these lenses with the Firmware rev 2 update that is now available.

 

As a user of Leica RF cameras and lenses for over 30 years, I must say that the Leica lenses

I've used on this and other Panasonic cameras have not disappointed me one bit, I think

they uphold the quality and performance that the brand name implies very well. I've had

the Panasonic FZ10 and LX1 in addition to the L1, and I have to say both of them produced

some very fine photos, peers with the best work I've gotten out of any of my cameras in

the past 40 years.

 

Godfrey

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Godfrey- I've read that the processing time between image capture is several seconds. Could

you please comment on how efficiently the camera processes images when shooting raw? I'm

not into needing many fps, but like many others I prefer to shoot with a camera that's

responsive and doesn't keep me waiting betweeb frames.<p>

 

Thanks

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Oh yes: forgot to mention that since the Digilux3 and L1 are 4/3 System mount, the short

register allows very easy adaptation of other SLR lens mounts. There are adapters for

Olympus OM-System, Leica R, Nikon, Contax/Zeiss, Leica Visoflex, Pentax K and thread,

Exacta, and Minolta MC/MD lenses.

 

Such lenses operate on the Digilux3 as "dumb" lenses, with manual iris and focus control.

Manual and aperture priority metering is supported. Live View is especially useful with

these lenses for precise, critical focusing and framing on studied work as it supports "MF

Assist" mode where you can zoom in the display by 4x or 10x to nail the critical focus

down perfectly.

 

As you can see, lens options for the Digilux3 and L1 are very flexible. :-) I use both Nikon

and Pentax adapted lenses with the L1 quite often.

 

Godfrey

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"Holy Cow" I'm getting excited. I knew my Contax lenses could be used on the Canon EOS cameras but had no idea they could be used on this one.

 

I just checked Cameraquest and saw an adapter for $175 that they say can be left on the camera while changing lenses. Is this correct? My only experience with adapters was with a piece of garbage that wouldn't infinity focus and was a terrible pain to remove from the lens.

 

I guess all focal lengths would be doubled, meaning no wide angles. Would my 60/2.8 macro be a 120 mm semi-macro?

 

I love using an M and frequently use incident and 1 degree spot metering. I don't think the slow-down when using the Contax lenses will bother me at all.

 

So: a decent digital camera of a size and layout that I much, much prefer (actually it's what has kept from trying digital for so long) , which will accept all of my Contax lenses for close to $1,000.

I think I know what I'll be getting for Christmas this year.

 

Thanks so much. I really appreciate it!

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Asher,

 

The report that said the Digilux3/L1 made you wait between frames in RAW capture was

based on a pre-release, early production unit with pre-release firmware (I think it was

Michael Reichman's comments on an early production unit that Panasonic lent him for

evaluation). Released units of both cameras with even v1.0 firmware perform proper IO

buffering so there is no forced-delay write time between shutter releases. v2.0 firmware,

which is now available for both cameras, handles this even better.

 

The Digilux3/L1 does not have an enormous RAW buffer and isn't as fast writing to

storage as, say, my Pentax K10D (which is incredibly fast, and itself not the fastest in the

land...). So there are moments when you've made several exposures in rapid sequence or

on continuous mode when the next exposure might be blocked due to the buffer being

full and needing to finish a write to clear the buffer before the camera is ready when

capturing in RAW. I find the L1 can do five exposures in continuous capture mode before it

must stop to clear the buffer. JPEG only mode with a fast enough card will basically run at

the Lo or Hi rate without stopping until the card is full in continuous capture mode.

 

By and large, if you wanted a practical feel for how fast the camera is, I liken it to feel very

similar to a Leica M with Abrahamson Rapidwinder or Leica M power winder (where my

Pentax K10D feels like a Nikon F3 fitted with the MD-4 motor drive). I have not missed any

pictures due to the responsiveness of the camera slowing me down, and I capture

exclusively in RAW format. Then again, I don't sit on a corner and machine-fun frames the

way some sports shooters tend to do... ;-)

 

Godfrey

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Charles,

 

Yes, your Contax lenses can work well on these bodies. I have Nikon and Pentax adapters

(sourced from fotodiox.com for $30 each instead of the $175 that CameraQuest gets, but

I can't answer for absolute quality in comparison...) and both of them allow me to mount

the adapter on the body and change lenses in Nikon or Pentax mount without removing

the adapter.

 

On thing to be aware of with adapted lenses: most of the adapters I've tried actually set

the mount register for the adapted lens just a hair shy of the original camera's mount.

What this means is that the focusing index on adapted lenses is frequently off as they will

focus past infinity. With long lenses this is really no trouble at all since you can see infinity

snap in and out of focus easily, but with short lenses it is often difficult to see focus

change right near infinity, so it slows down their use.

 

If you, like me, often like to do "focus by scale and DoF" type street shooting, this makes

things a little problematic: you need to calibrate where the focusing index is so you can

use it as a reference point for scale focusing. Just a little bit of hassle, but it slows things

down a bit. Even Olympus' own OM-System to 4/3 adapter is made this way, so it's

endemic to the design.

 

I think the reason for this mount discrepancy is that the 4/3 System mount is designed

that way in order that lenses can automatically calibrate the infinity point when they're

powered up. I notice both the Leica 14-50 and the Olympus lenses do a little focus

calibration dance whenever the camera is powered on or the lens is changed.

 

Your 60mm macro lens will continue to allow the same maximum magnification it does

now. Lenses on 4/3 System don't change focal length, what changes is field of view

because the format is 13.5x18 rather than 24x36 mm. 1:1 magnification will image a field

13.5x18mm instead of 24x36mm, etc.

 

The effective field of view of a focal length on 4/3 format is equivalent to *approximately*

double that focal length on 35mm cameras. I say approximately because the proportions

of the format are different too (3:4 vs 2:3) ... a better approximation for my needs is 1.78x

because my eyes are more sensitive to the short leg of the format's relationship to 35mm.

 

The other change is that because the format is approximately 1.78-2.0x smaller linearly

than 35mm, if you use lenses which provide the same field of view you'll see that the

depth of field has increased by approximately two stops. I've not found this a problem as

I'm more likely to be trying to get more DoF in most work than less, but occasionally it

means that you switch to a slightly longer focal length and change your subject distance if

you can't open up a given lens enough to reduce DoF to the desired level.

 

"Many things the same, several things different" is about the size of it. For me, it's fun. ;-)

 

Godfrey

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Thanks Godfrey. Sounds impressive, but I'm holding out for now. Besides, this recent

generousity from Leica makes me suspicious that either a Digilux 4 is soon to be announced,

or something akin to a digital CL (perhaps a "DL"?) to bridge the gap between digi P&S and

the M8... we'll see.

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Given Panasonic product cycles on high-end gear, I expect a successor to the Digilux3/L1

next year some time at earliest. Maybe they'll surprise me, that would be good.

 

I expect Panasonic to release a smaller, cheaper 4/3 System SLR with features similar to

the Olympus 410 soon (rumored announcement date is July 19) with the 10Mpixel sensor.

I don't know whether Leica will brand a version of that camera.

 

The notion of a "DL" replacement for the Leica CL is attractive to me (or would be if I still

owned any Leica M lenses ... I loved the size and weight of the CL :-). I don't know what

the size of the market for that kind of product is. The M8 seems to be selling well despite

its high price and first-RF-product flaws, but the absolute numbers are very small

compared to DSLRs.

 

Besides, I'd rather buy a "just behind the bleeding edge" model that works well and is

being discounted than an "on the bleeding edge" model that has not yet been proven and

still costs a premium price... ;-)

 

Godfrey

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I found a DMC-L1 at Best Buy so I got to look at and play with it.

 

There were two turn-offs. I know I was inside but after shooting mostly an RTS II with the focusing screen coated by Bill Maxwell this viewfinder seemed terribly small and not so much dim but somehow just never seemed very sharp and clear. I'm sure it must look better outdoors. I think I'll take my eyepiece magnifier in and see if it will fit and improve the viewfinder image any.

 

My other complaint was the lens. I know it is a very nice one but I swear it just reminded me of the modern gear (plastic, loosey goosey zoom, fingers hunting for the focusing ring) I had used just before getting rid of it all and going with older Zeiss and Leica gear. Surely the camera will feel better to me with a Contax lens mounted.

I'm also sure I'll come to find that I really dislike how some of the functions work.

 

Still, I think that there are so many advantages to digital that it doesn't make sense to just keep on avoiding it forever. I honestly doubt that I'll ever find any other digital camera that would suit me any better. There's no sale that I'm missing, no rush to buy today. I hope I'll never get away from film but there's room in the world for both.

 

Again, thanks to all.

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<center>

<a href="http://homepage.mac.com/ramarren/photo/PAW7/large/30c-half.jpg"

target=new>

<img src="http://homepage.mac.com/ramarren/photo/PAW7/large/30c.jpg" border=0>

</a><br>

Impatience - Kensington 2007<br>

<i>©2007 by Godfrey DiGiorgi<br>

Panasonic DMC-L1 + Vario-Elmarit 14-50/2.8-3.5 ASPH<br>

ISO 100 @ f/4.5 @ 1/50 sec, Av, fl=29mm <br>

<br>

Click image above for a larger rendering.</i>

<br></center><br>

Believe me, Charles, I felt the same way when I handled a Panasonic L1 at Fry's Electronics.

But then when I pick up a Canon 5D or even a Pentax K10D (which I also own) there, they

both also feel like total crap. Cameras at these stores are beaten to death by hordes of

people who haven't got a clue.

The L1 I bought came out of the box and stunned me with how nice the lens feels ... tight,

smooth, well fitted ... and all the controls work precisely, cleanly.

<br><br>

The viewfinder on a 4/3 System or even 16x24 mm DSLR is never going to be comparable

to the one in a Contax RTS II ... all else being equal, they represent around half of the

35mm format size. Comparing down that road is like saying "my Hasselblad viewfinder is a

lot

bigger and brighter than the viewfinder in my Contax RTS...". The focus/sharpness issue is

probably a matter of adjustment and dirt.

<br><br>

My initial reaction at the store was only so-so, like yours. But I bought one anyway. And I

am very glad I did, I love making photos with it. :-)

<br><br>

Most of the functions and stuff that annoyed me at first when I got mine I found were

configurable, and configurable to my taste. There are precious few things that I find

awkward now.

<br><br>

Godfrey

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Hi,

 

"Sounds as though Steven and Jacob wish they could.........I'm not personally a Leica owner; just an admirer of quality products and branding. Dave"

 

Dave..one assumption too far. I am a Contax and Leica user...YES a Leica user. I use a Leica SLR. I have always appreciated quality photo products especially, but I also know when a company is 'taking the mickey' with pricing...that is an old UK phrase which simply means overcharging.

 

It seems very clear to me that the L1 is quite capable of taking images the equal of the Digilux for many hundreds of USD less and that the reasons given for the huge price discrepancy are simply red herrings in my opinion. In the age of digital products, it is so much easier to disguise and cover up these things....

 

cheers Steve.

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