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Leica C-Lux 3 Review

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.

Leica C-Lux 3 black front.jpg

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.

Leica C-Lux 3 Features

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.

Differences between the Leica C-Lux 3 and Panasonic FX37

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#

Startup Time

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.

Distortion

As with the Panasonic camera, the Leica showed negligible distortion of any kind at any zoom setting. A very good performance.

Comment

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.

Get the Leica C-Lux 3 at Amazon

Leica C-Lux 3 Specs

  • Type: Fully automatic, fixed lens digital compact camera.
  • Lens: Leica DC Vario-Elmarit f/2.8-5.9/4.4-22 mm (25-125mm as 35mm equivalent). 4x digital zoom.
  • Focusing Range: W/T 50 cm/1.0 m to infinity; macro W/T 5 cm/1.0 m cm to infinity.
  • Shutter Speeds: 60, 30, 15, 8-1/2000 second.
  • Metering: Multi zone.
  • Exposure Control: Program AE.
  • Sensitivity: Auto, ISO 100/200/400/800/1600/6400.
  • Sensor: 11 mm CCD, 10.1 million pixels.
  • Image Size: 3648×2736, 3648×2432, 3648×2056, 3072×2304, 3072×2048, 3072×1728, 2560×1920, 2560×1712, 2048×1536, 2048×1360, 1920×1080, 1600×1200, 640×480. Continuous mode: three full, size shots at 2.5 fps or unlimited shots at 2 fps.
  • Movies: 1280×720, 848×480, 640×480, 320×240 at 30/10 fps.
  • Formats: JPEG, Motion JPEG. PictBridge and DPOF compatible.
  • Flash: Auto, red-eye reduction, forced off and on, slow synchronisation. Flash range (ISO Auto): 60 cm to 6.9 m.
  • Viewfinder: 6.4 cm colour LCD (230,000 pixels).
  • Storage: Removable SD/SDHC/MMC memory card (none supplied), 50 MB internal memory.
  • Interface: USB 2.0, PAL/NTSC AV, DC input.
  • Power: Rechargeable lithium battery, optional AC adapter.
  • Dimensions (WHD): 95.8×51.9×22 mm.
  • Weight: 126 grams (without card, battery).
  • Price: $549 USD at Amazon.

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Barrie Smith is an experienced writer/photographer currently published in Australian Macworld, Auscam and other magazines in Australia and overseas.

  • http://tomwalshphoto.wordpress.com Tom

    Looks like a great camera. I just wished that the red dot didn’t cost so much, because that’s what you’re paying for with this camera.
    Image is everything, I guess.

  • http://digitalcameras.techfresh.net Jeremiah

    Very sleek, I’m actually shopping for a new point-and-shoot and if this was waterproof it would be climbing up my list very fast.

  • http://www.theblogofgadgets.com/ Thomas

    The camera appeals to be just by its appearance. However, I agree with the previous comment that the red dot drives the cost up considerably.

  • http://www.dianepatricia.com Diane Bronstein

    I have owned this camera for awhile now and I must say it is incredible. The red dot is worth every penny.

  • Dominic

    What is odd is that the Leica C Lux 3′s slowest shutter exposure time is 8 seconds and yet the Panasonic FX37 is 60 seconds. Were Leica trying to limit their camera’s capabilities on purpose?

  • Nuno

    Leica cameras are manufactured in Portugal, Vila Nova de Famalicão. “…Leica cameras are manufactured directly by Leitz.”

Some older comments

  • Dominic

    June 9, 2011 09:20 am

    What is odd is that the Leica C Lux 3's slowest shutter exposure time is 8 seconds and yet the Panasonic FX37 is 60 seconds. Were Leica trying to limit their camera's capabilities on purpose?

  • Diane Bronstein

    December 11, 2009 04:56 pm

    I have owned this camera for awhile now and I must say it is incredible. The red dot is worth every penny.

  • Thomas

    February 25, 2009 12:32 am

    The camera appeals to be just by its appearance. However, I agree with the previous comment that the red dot drives the cost up considerably.

  • Jeremiah

    February 24, 2009 04:13 pm

    Very sleek, I'm actually shopping for a new point-and-shoot and if this was waterproof it would be climbing up my list very fast.

  • Tom

    February 24, 2009 09:22 am

    Looks like a great camera. I just wished that the red dot didn't cost so much, because that's what you're paying for with this camera.
    Image is everything, I guess.

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