At around £620, the Leica D-Lux 5 compact camera certainly isn't cheap. But, with a solid spec list and classy appearance, the D-Lux 5 lets you get that famous 'Leica look' without forking out thousands of pounds on one of the German company's high-end digital SLRs.
Join the dots
Mention the name 'Leica' and you'll hear plenty of talk about 'paying for the red dot'. The brand certainly has a reputation for exclusivity. But, leaving the price issue to one side for a moment, it's clear that the D-Lux 5 has plenty to offer the discerning photographer.
Its design, for instance, is a fabulous example of retro-modern engineering. Admittedly, there are much smaller, lighter compacts available, but few look quite like this. The D-Lux 5's distinctive shell brings to mind classic Leica models from times past, without getting too hung up on trying to look like an antique replica.
Tough, matte black, anodised metal covers most of the body, with hints of chrome highlighting various buttons and features. The overall effect is a near-seamless blend of classic and modern, with old-school mode dials and lens mountings rubbing shoulders with a giant, 3-inch LCD screen, and HDMI and USB output sockets hidden behind hinged doors.
If you were to crack open the case -- and we don't suggest for a second that you do -- you'd find a relatively large (1/1.63-inch) CCD sensor with a top resolution of about 10.1 megapixels. In 4:3 format, this translates to a top resolution of 3,648x2,736 pixels. Again, this certainly isn't the highest pixel count available in a compact, but it's more than enough for prints of up to A3 size.
Photos can be saved as both JPEG and raw files for processing on your desktop PC. A full copy of (normally sold for around £230 as a standalone product ) is provided with the camera.
A number of alternative picture formats can be selected via a lens-mounted switch, allowing you to shoot in the 3:2, 16:9 and 1:1 aspect ratios, as well as standard 4:3. Video can be recorded at resolutions of up to 720p. The movie quality is quite good for a still camera, too. A dedicated video button and support for the AVCHD Lite codec help to make the movie mode more than just an afterthought.
A small amount of memory (40MB) comes built-in but isn't particularly useful for anything. Thankfully, the memory-card slot is compatible with high-capacity SDHC and SDXC cards, while the supplied battery is good for around 400 shots.
Seasoned pros may lament the absence of a viewfinder but it's possible to add an electronic one via the hotshoe, albeit at an additional cost of around £250 for Leica's own EVF 1. Those happy to work with the LCD, however, will find the display to be of above-average quality. Its 460,000-pixel resolution means there's plenty of sharp detail on show, and there's none of the under- or over-saturated colours common on cheaper screens.
The D-Lux 5 features Leica's own user interface. It's not bad but it's nowhere near as polished as the rest of the package. That's not to say it's in any way frustrating to use -- menus are laid out as you'd more or less expect and it's easy to navigate through the options. It's just that the on-screen text and graphics look rather low-fi compared to the rest of the product.