Leica: the Rolls-Royce of cameras
The Leica D-Lux doesn’t come cheap, but this compact version is affordable and enjoyable, says Matthew Partridge.
Even if you have no interest in cars, or don't drive at all, the words "Rolls-Royce", "Aston Martin" or "Bentley" will still conjure up images of luxury and refinement. The equivalent brand in the camera world is Leica. Some of the world's most renowned photographers count themselves fans, as does the Queen. Sadly, with even used Leicas costing several thousand pounds, Leicas are a luxury most of us aren't able to afford.
The good news is that there are Leicas you can buy without having to take out a second mortgage or sell a kidney the D-Lux range of budget Leicas, part of a collaboration with Panasonic. Its latest model, the D-Lux 7, is based on Panasonic's LX 100 Mark II, which was released last year. Technically, the D-Lux is a "compact" camera as it has a fixed lens and a slightly smaller sensor, though a bigger one than you'd typically find in many "point-and-shoot" cameras. For purists, this means it isn't a "proper" Leica, but it will be perfectly good enough for the rest of us.
The D-Lux 7 is compact enough to stuff in a coat or trouser pocket and the image quality is much better than you'd get on a smartphone. You can operate it in silent mode and with automatic eye-recognition, and it will produce compelling photos, even in challenging dimly lit environments. It also produces crisp videos at up to 4K quality. You can't connect an external microphone, but this isn't really a problem as the internal one is good enough for most uses.
The camera also comes with a variety of filters and modes that you can play around with. The limited range of the lens (equivalent to 24-75mm) means that this is a camera to complement rather than replace a DSLR, but I enjoyed using it enough to buy a second-hand copy of the original LX 100 from eBay. The current model has slightly better image quality than the original Panasonic.
Leica D-Lux 7, RRP £995