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The arrival on my desk of a beautiful, petite, glossy, black, metal-bodied snapper is something of an event … even though virtually the same camera is on retail shelves in the form of Panasonic’s FX37 (also known as the FX38 in some parts of the world) at significantly less price.
The Leica C-Lux 3 is palm-sized, dressed in black and satin chrome with the distinctive red dot signifying it’s top of the class. You can also buy the little Leica in gloss white but, for my money, the red Leica badge on black comes in trumps.
The CCD captures 10.1 million effective pixels, imaged by a Leica DC Vario-Elmarit 5x optical zoom lens that equals a range of 25-125mm in SLR-speak. I have one carp about this lens: it has a maximum aperture of f2.8 at wide angle but this closes to a tiny f5.9 at the zooms tele end … that’s more than two stops lost.
Maximum image size is 3648×2736 pixels; from this you could make a sharp 41×31 cm print. There are options so you can shoot 16:9 wider screen ratio stills and run them on the home tele as a slide show. HD movies with sound can also be shot at the 1280×720 pixel size at 30 fps and played to a High Def TV via a component output.
The metering options are basic: just Program AE and metering is multi zone. However, a mountain of scene modes can take care of out-of-the-ordinary situations. These include night portraits, night scenery, shots of food, party scenes, babies, pets and a high sensitivity setting that ramps the ISO figure up to 6400!
Then there are attractive, experimental settings to enable you to replicate shots made with a pinhole camera or induce exaggerated grain (as when fast film is used).
The colour of images at the point of shooting can be tweaked to capture in standard, natural or vivid colour saturation or in B&W and sepia.
Panasonic/Leica’s well-regarded optical stabiliser can be used in either of two settings: mode 1 is always on; mode 2 is active only when the shutter button is pressed.
The face detection mode can determine correct exposure and focus on a number of faces in the shot.
So is the Leica C-Lux 3 superior to the Panasonic FX37 in the picture taking stakes? Hard to confirm, but there are some stories out there that suggest Leica lenses on Panasonic cameras are manufactured by Panasonic under license from Leitz, while those on Leica cameras are manufactured directly by Leitz.
Another rumour is that the chips in the Leica camera are programmed to match Leica parameters and that Leica’s camera has slightly better JPEG compression.
Want to research more? Go to http://forums.photographyreview.com/showthread.php?t=27483#
A moderately good set of figures: it took the camera three seconds from power on to first shot; following shots could be taken at intervals of two seconds.
As with the Panasonic camera, the Leica showed negligible distortion of any kind at any zoom setting. A very good performance.
The pictures I took with the Leica were crisp and fully colour saturated.
If you’ve always wanted a Leica but lacked the courage — and the financial wherewithal — to pay the kilo-dollar price … this is your chance. You’ll be well ahead in the style stakes.
Leica C-Lux 3 Specs
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