Whenever I go to a press event there's always one or several photographers approaching to admire my Leicas. While they most often use large Canon or Nikon gear equipped with zoom lenses and flash with external battery backup, I use the small an handy Digilux 2. As I can compare our results in terms of technical quality after the event - either in the paper or online on the wire services - it's a wonder why they don't leave the heavy gear at home and go and have some fun with the Digilux 2 for all those jobs which does not require large zoom or tele lenses. In 90% of the cases a tele above 90mm is really not needed and the Digilux 2 has a 28-90mm zoom. Also, the lack of extensive zoom and large flash make you stay alert so you have much more fun - you use your talent to get the right shots, rather than relying on large equipment.
A new classic
It has become a classic in itself and if one looks around on the net and on the Leica Camera User Forum one will see many great examples from the Digilux 2. It has distinguished itself as a digital camera with an extremely nice lens – and as a great camera for street photo as well as a digital camera that does pictures in black and white mode that reminds of classic rangefinder shots.
When the Leica Digilux 2 and the twin camera, the Panasonic DMC-LC1, was being designed, it's quite clearly that "Leica was in the front seat of the development" as I was told from someone who know about the development. It's very Leica philosophy, and quite diferent than other cameras, Panasonic cameras included. A good example of this one can see in the D-Lux 4 which is also a Leica camea with a Panasonic twin where the controls and features take over the basic qualities. That one is more a Panasonic than a Leica, though Leica did some extra features and finetuning on the D-Lux 4 compared to the D-Lux 3 (the Leica D-Lux 4 has different coating, different viewfinder, different file handling, etc than the Panasonic twin).
As a side remark, parts of the best-selling book "The Rise of Barack Obama" by Pete Souza was shot with Leica Digilux 2 (along with a Nikon D2x). Pete Souza is the new White House photographer for President Barack Obama since January 4, 2009 and will be using Leica in the White House (Leica M8.2 along with Canon 5D Mark II according to this article). If he will dig out his Leica Digilux 2 as well occasionally, time will tell.
Look at that picture and it's no wonder Digilux 2 users often get surprised outbursts like "It's digital!" or more commonly, "Oh, you're one of those staying with film." Also, many confuses the Digilux 2 with the Leica M8.
Now, I've kept the 21mm viewfinder that I usually use along with my 21mm Super-Angulon-M f/3.4 lens on the M4. One of the points you get to hear a lot about the Digilux 2 is the EVF (Electronic View Finder) which is a small screen inside the viewfinder. So what you see is not a acoustic picture through a lens but a digital image. It's bluish, not very saturated and a bit raw in it. In playing around with my gear I tested how the 21mm optical viewfinder (which is a 1,000$ optical toy) would work on a Digilux 2. And to my astounishment, my well-used 1974-viewfinder had less contrast and more odd colors than the Digilux 2's digital viewfinder. If you buy a newer model, I'm sure the picture looke nicer - but nevertheless! The point I'm trying to make is that the EVF is not that bad some make it sound. And as any viewfinder, you get used to it. Some old SLR cameras has a bit yellowish color about them, some modern dSLR has dark viewfinders (because they are mainly a peephole for framing why clear sight is not required as the AF takes care of the focusing).
For me, the EVF has become a strong tool in that 1) it is always the same light inside the viewfinder (contrary to viewing a screen on the back of a camera in dark or sunshine), 2) the live picture gives a good idea how contrast, exposure and all will look like in the final picture (unlike a M4 viewfinder or a dSLR viewfinder which is an acoustic representation of the scene) and 3) I get a preview of the just taken picture in this 'closed viewfinder environment" which I can use to judge the exposre and the overall picture.
That the colors are not clear or correct - it's rather bluetone black and white almost - is the thing you get used to. Unless you tell yourself "I will NEVER get used to an EVF, I will NEVER get used to an EVF, I will NEVER get used to and EVF," why, you might actually some to like it!
Some call it "the vintage digital camera"
Who would have thought that a 5 megapixel camera brought to market in 2004 would still be in demand in 2013?
Yet it is a fact that people still search for this camera, find one they can buy and keep using it. And many who bought the camera new or while it was still being produced still use it.
There are not many vintage digital cameras around. They usuall get old and end up in a garbage bin somewhere. But the Leica Digilux 2 still gets used.
Compared to the modern alternatives, the Leica M8, Leica M9 and Leica M Type 240 the Leica Digilux 2 still have a lot to offer. Things are moving slow, but still faster than buying a likewise vintage Leica M4 film camera. The files from the Leica Digilux 2 are sharp, crisp ... and compact and easy to work with. They do not require big harddrives, fast computer, nor do they require a great knowledge about post processing.
The Leica DC Vario-Summicron ASPH f/2.0-2.4 lens
Looking at the picture of the 1974-edition of the M4 and the Digilux 2 next to each other, notice the nice big clear glass on the Digilux 2 (the glass on the M4 is also nice, yes). The Leica DC Vario-Summicron ASPH lens is actually a 7-22.5 mm lens, equivalent to a 28-90mm lens in 35mm terms.
The point I want just to make short and sweet - you might philosoph further on it later - is that if the Leica Digilux 2 camera was a full frame (FF) 35mm rangefinder system, that lens would not only be HUGE but would also cost you a fortune. In fact, did you ever see a 28-90mm lens f/2.0 for sale anyway in the world. No, and that's what you should notice. In many ways the combination of the small sensor in the Leica Digilux 2 (I'm talking size in physical terms, not the megapixels) and the fantastic detailed and light-strong lens is what makes the Leica Digilux 2 the Digilux 2 - the classic.
In wishing for a new and updated Digilux 2 - and we're a few people who want that - forget then a FF sensor. Because it wouldn't be the same camera at all. In fact, why does everybody lust for full frame (FF) sensors and medium format (MF) sensors when everything in this world - mobile phones, computers, mp3-players to name a few - is becoming smaller and smaller. Sony build the WalkMan cassette players on compactness and I think they had for many years the philosophy that everything they made simply had to be the most compact. So one of the small unnoticed miracles of the Digilux 2 is actaully that it does great pictures with a very little sensor. So why try to get a larger sensor. Why not try to make more pixels and better image quality in small sensors?
(On next page (page 2) there's a picture showing the sensors size relative to the lens).
My son Oliver, July 2007, Digilux 2, 100 ISO available light, manual mode.
Strengths of the camera
Digilux 2 is a light camera that is easy to travel with and carry around for a long time without anybody actually noticing it. It is soundless. As a trained user you will recognize the clicks, but to everybody else you are just holding a camera. It is intuitive to use and after a few hundred shots you can use it in a dark room. It has a F/2.0 lens that does not require much light, a 28-90mm zoom that can capture most scenes you need. And auto focus - which is handy if and when you use it professionally.
On top of that, you can knock out auto focus and go manual focusing. The same goes for F-stops and shutter times. I use mine with AF but else totally manual as a general rule.
But what has made the Digilux 2 a classic, besides the above, is that you can shoot JPG's straight off the camera and they look good. Black and white mode looks perhaps even greater. It's the lens but also the way Leica decided to handle JPG files; which was not to fix them up like Canon, Sony and many others do. The Leica look is very natural, very film-like and pretty cool (the Panasonic DMC-LC1 is slightly different in it's handling of JPG's but not that far from the Leica). If you shoot RAW, it's the raw file you get, so you just enjoy the benefits from the lens, not the (lack of) fixing the pictures.
To wish for:
What one could wish for in a future Digilux 2 is higher ISO speed than the 400 ISO, larger file sizes (10 million pixels or more), but mainly faster AF. One can go manual focus which will speed up the time from focusing to the first picture. But else the AF will take a few microseconds (or seconds if confused by for example smoke on a stage) to focus.
(ISO stands for "International Organization for Standardization" and was called ASA before (American Standards Association). What ISO means, is how much light a film or digital sensor require to hit it in order to create a natural looking picture. It's a matter of sensibility... 100 ISO film or digital sensor requires twice as much light to capture a pictures as a 200 ISO, and five times as much light as a 3200 ISO film or digital sensor. So in short: The higher ISO, the better.)
The ISO 400 is not bad when the lens is F/2.0. Consider this: If you get a camera with a F/3.4 lens you need 1600 ISO to compare with the 400 ISO F/2.0 Leica Digilux 2. But Leica users tend to like using available light, and the darker places they (we) can find to shoot, the better. And even the Leica Digilux 2 has a flash we would never in our wildest dreams think of eve thinking of using it.
So higher ISO would be nice, 1600 ISO minimum, 3200 ISO to wish for.
Which SD-card to use with the Digilux 2?
Use a 50X SD-card to get optimum speed. Above that, you are above what the Digilux 2 and the Panasonic DMC-LC1 can utilize. You might experience your computer can work faster with 130X or faster cards when emptying the cards. Very likely. Here are the times I've tested from pressing the shutter till the pictures has been stored and the camera is ready for another shot:
A series of 3 JPGs
Maximum size of SD memory cards in the Digilux 2 is 2GB.
I use 2GB Kingston cards as I have good experience with Kingston RAM and Kingston SD-cards. But flash-RAM is not rocket-science anymore so I guess any brand will do these days. But buy big cards and plenty, and shoot highest quality, largest file size: If there is one thing we can be certain of, it's that there will be plenty of disk space on your future computer equipment. And a 3 megabyte JPG file will seem like a micro-size file in year 2015. So shoot big and save it for eternity using a DAM-software (Digital Assets Management) with one or two backups of your files.
Maibritt, April 2008 with Digilux 2, 100 ISO
I often get questions on the above photo and the photo of Hans Blix (see page 2) and if it is really Digilux 2. And it is, with selective Photoshop manipulation as described in the article 100,000 Exposures Later - Part III - Dodge and Burn.
For illustration, here is the camera file and the final file side by side:
For more on this, look at the Hans Blix photo on page 2.
Sorry, but the Digilux 3 is not the new Digilux 2
Digilux 2 has (not) been replaced by the Leica Digilux 3 camera which was introduced in October 2006. The Digilux 3 looks like it, is a tad larger (ca. 15% larger), has a mirror like in a dSLR, uses the "4/3 lens mount standard" shared with Panasonic, Olympus and other brands. And thus one can change lenses on the camera. Unfortunately not to the now classic 28-90mm lens on the Digilux 2, but the new ones are nice too! The Digilux 3 has higher pixels and has no delay on RAW shooting in series. In short, the Digilux 3 acts as a dSLR but has the size of a Leica Digilux 2. But is not the same as, or an upgrade of, the Digilux 2. It's a new camera that looks like. Leica also have made an R-to-4/3-adapter so that one can mount ones Leica R lenses onto the Digilux 3, thus having a 10MP digital camera.
Digilux 2, by the way, is not the new Digilux 1 either!
For comparison, check out the Leica Digilux 1 examples (where there's two Kira shots at the bottom of the page from the same session as the D2 here).
Oh, and don't confuse the Digilux 2 with the D-Lux 2!
They might sound the same, but the Leica D-Lux 2 is a compact pocket camera that looks and act way different than the Leica Digilux 2.
For D2 manual [GERMAN and ENGLISH PDF in same file] click here. For the technical specifications [PDF] click here.
Various downloads from Leica for the Digilux 2 are available here [remote control software, firmware, original brochure, manual, etc.]
Doing assignments in 2012 with the Leica Digilux 2
While I must admit that I hardly ever use my Digilux 2 anymore but instead use the Leica M9 for almost anything (why I hardly ever use my Leica dSLR either), I still get lots of enthusiastic mails from people who are new to the Leica Digilux 2 or simply have been using - and still are using - the Leica Digilux 2.
One such is photojournalist Simon Wakelin from Los Angeles who - amonst other projects such as recording video on the Leica Digilux 2 - did this printed 12" x 9" frontpage and imagery inside of legendary director Tony Kaye for the magazine shots.
Frontpage of Tony Kaye for the magazine shots. Photo by Simon Wakelin using Leica Digilux 2 on JPG setting
Leica Digilux 2 tips and tricks
The Digilux 2 isn't a fast-focusing camera. When you look throught the viewfinder, there's a green blinking spot in the middle indicating that the camera hasn't focused yet. And then when the green dot is stable on, and not blinking anymore, the camera has obtained focus.
Now, an error one can do is to point the camera, press the shutter, and then experience a delay before the camera take the picture. What happens is that the AF try to find the focus, eventual finds it, and then the exposure happens. But aparantly there's also a time-out, so if the AF can't find the right focusing within some seconds, the camera simply fires. Hence, you get some blurred shots.
The correct way to do it it to point the camera, press the shutter slightly down 1/2 step, which tell the camera to focus, and then WHEN the green dot is on and the camera is in focus, you press the shutter all the way down. This will give control on focus, as well as exposure without delay. This technique can be used, anticipating a certain expression or event, to be ready to shoot the camera. No matter what camera I use, I'm often following the event through the viewfinder with focus and exposure-time and all set and ready to go, waiting for the right expression or something to happen. With the Digilux 2, part of that being ready is having the finger on the shutter and the green DOT on, signaling that focus has been obtained.
Problem with AF can occur if you focus on something the camera's AF can't recognize as a distance. A white wall, a black wall, smoke (on a stage for example), bright light, etc. You can move the camera to something else on the same distance and focus, then change back to the frame you want, as the AF has already been locked. But note that the lightmetering (when on auto) will follow that. I mostly use manual why that doesn't affect my metering. But mostly I use the multiple field metering setting for both light metering and focusing (normal AF metering field).
The AF, by the way, can be either Normal autofocusing metering field (the small square in the center of the viewfinder) or the Spot autofocus metering field whihc is a tiny square in the center of the viewfinder, almost the size of the spot metering cross in the center.
Some use manual focusing all the time. I never do that, so I can't advise in that area.
Shooting series instead of singles
I always shoot series of three shots at the time instead of single shots. I do this as a habit I've developed, and because it has some advantages:
1) When shooting in low light you can go as low as 1/8 and 1/4 second and get pictures. The first shot in the series of three will usually have motion blur from you pressing the shutter on the camera, but there's a good chance the next two are completely still.
2) You get more selections, and by experience I can telle that face expressions can change a lot between three shots in a serie. And as the files are so small, I don't mind. I use iView Media Pro (now known as Microsoft Expression) to select photos, and having 3 photos in each row, it's a matter of selecting which of the three to choose. You get used to it.
3) You get a preview of the last shot in the viewfinder, enabling you to change exposure setting,e tc. I never look at the screen on the back of the camera.
The three icons here (from left to right) are Preview, Series and Single shot. Set it to the middle, Series, and you shoot three images in a row.
A series of pictures, three in a row. Three different images; one blurred to the left, one sharp to the right. Now you got something to choose from and the guy is not gonna do the walk again!
(As I edit this, I'm listening to the Danish film director Joergen Leth on my iTunes. He happens to say that "All creative work is about choosing: That word on the first line of the poem, that frame that opens the movie, that tone that sets off the symphony." So there you go, some more stuff to choose from. Use series of photos - or choose carefully the single frame you want as you shoot.)
Danish film director and poet Joergen Leth, Digilux 2, 100 ISO, 1/30 @ f/2.0 (The heavy blue fringing on the spot is not from the Leica lens but the spots own, by the way)
I often use external lightmeter because it's more precise. But often I use the Digilux 2's lightmeter, and mostly on multiple field metering. What I do is that I shoot or measure a scene with the camera's lightmeter, then adjust the f-stop and the exposure time (and thus going manual). And I often shoot series of three exposures on a middle exposure (say f/2, 1/250 sec), then do another series on f/2, 1/125 sec, and another on f/2 1/500. Sometimes even one or two more series at f/2 1/60 sec and f/2, 1/30 if I feel it's an important shot and there might be someting interesting effect in doing so. As the Digilux 2 has great JPG's but only that (not RAW where you have lots of information and data you can alter after the fact), I tend to shoot many so that I have something final I don't need to fix in Photoshop.
Look here: Metering mode is set to the multiple field metering which is the one you will get most correct exposures from using. The one above on the photo is spot-metering that only measures the light in a 2 degree center spot of the frame. The one below measures the full picture and is named center-weighted integral metering .
A side-note on metering methods
As can be seen here with this tricky lightning, the spot meter hitting the shadow part will light up the whole thing to make that little spot look middle-grey; because a lightmeter is always set so that what it think it measures, is a middle-grey scenery. So if you look into a cameras brain, what it is thinking is "if this is middle-grey, then I better set the time to 1/125 and the f-stop to f/2.0." The camera never think, "oh, I see a red wall darker than middle-grey, and with a highlight crossing [oh my!], so I better set time to 1/250 and f-stop to f/4.0 so as to get good contrast and both shadow detail and hightlight detail." The camera doesn't think that way; that is what you are there for, the photographer.
The closest you get to this are "intelligent" metering methods such as multiple field metering, "matrix metering," "multi-zone metering" and such new metering methods where someone try to implement this type of reasoning. Read further below how you can point that center square towards a mix of light so as to get a somewhat correct measurement.
The center-weighted integral metering is perhaps the most useless (technologies with the longest names often are) because it's almostalways wrong as it takes no stand in the discussion. Come sun, rain or snow. It just measures the 'integral' (meaning the complete, or all parts), though with a little more attention to the center as it guess the user of the camera might point towards something he wants to photograph. It's all good for mixed scenery, but shooting a scene with lots of bright snow around a person skiing, or a portrait with bright buildings behind, this type of metering simply can't comprehend such a scenery that is not even lighted in middle-gray tones. Group photos in grey weather or with the sun coming from behind it can do.
The way the meter measures here shown graphically, though we don't know exactly how the multiple field metering works (where it measures and how it put those meterings together)
Manipulating the cameras logic
You can use the spot metering to point the small cross in the center of the Digilux 2's finder towards a middle-grey area and lock the light metering (by pressing the shutter half down) and then reframe with that metering locked, before you shoot. The spot metering should then point towards a middle-grey area (or similar tonality in blue, green, brown or whatever; it's the middle tone, not the greyness that does it). If you do this you will learn a lot about light in the process, and you will always be able to see in the viewfinders digital preview if it's right or not - and can then mode the cross or spot towards a slightly darker og lighter surface till you think it's right.
The same I do with the multiple field metering (which is the metering I use most of the time) where I point the small square in the center of the viewfinder (called normal autofocus metering field in the manual) towards that area I want to measure; because even Leica haven't stated how that multiple field metering works, I guess it takes it's primary metering withing that small square in the center.
But mainly, what I do is that I see in the viewfinder (which is digital why I see a preview of the shot) what the picture will look like. So when I have shot my first series, I point that multiple field metering quare towards something lighter or darker so as to fast and simple tell the camera to correct the metering up or down. And that's how I get three or more different lit pictures when on Auto mode with the multiple field metering on. It's not that I carefully examine the tonality of the viewfinder to get the right shot. It's more that I notice the light on the first one, and then create a lighter and a darker one, compared to that first one.
The alternative is to shoot the first series on Auto, look in the bottom of the viewfinder while shooting and notice that the camera goes for example f/2 and 1/250, then go manual by turning the shutter-wheel to 1/125 and shoot a series, then turn the wheel again to 1/500.
Maybe the multiple field metering should have been named democratic spot metering, because I guess that's how i use it. The spot metering is very precise, so if the area measured is not, the metering is off. Witht the multiple field metering square, you get to be a bit more sloppy as it measures the middle-value of a larger area that you point to. It's a matter of choosing the tool so that you fast can get towards the result you think is about right.
The multiple field metering is very often correct and on the spot, but it's you and not the camera who take the picture, so you're free to manipulate the cameras logic towards your desired result. And the above is a way to do so.
Remember: Photography control is about doubling or halfing light
Each step in f-stop is a doubling of light through the lens or a reducing of the light to the half. And each step on the shutter-wheel is he same. And ISO, by the way, is the same. Each ISO step if a doubling of light (-sensitivity of the sensor) or reduction of the light to half. And that's all photography is about - technically speaking - controlling the light by adjusting those three factors: Sensitivity (ISO), light through the lens (F or aperture) and shutter time (amount of time the sensor is exposed to the light going throug the lens).
If you want to keep it simple, heres a good rule: All Leica lenses are made for optimum performance fully open. So keep the Digilux 2 at f/2.0 at all times (unless there's too much light) and use only the shutter-wheel for adjustment. And keep the sensitivity of ISO 100. that's all. One wheel to adjust and spend the rest of your artistic power on composing and timing!
Manual exposure settings: See the wheel has been turned to 1/2000 second and the f-dial to f/2.0. When the first series has beens shot, you turn the time to 1/1000 second and shoot one more series, then turn it back to 1/2000 second and compensate on the f-dial to f/2.8. This way you have a series shot normal, one darker and one lighter.
Same frame quickly shot as medium, dark and light series. I do that whenever I feel I might get a better picture to work from or the effect of a overlit or underexposed picture might be more pleasing to look at. I also feel that even the EVF of the Digilux 2 is great, you can't always see just how many details you got in shadow or hightlight. As in the above; did I get any details of the big clock on the darkest photo? You really can't tell before you get it onto a big screen.
There is a menu in the Digilux 2 allowing you to do bracketing, meaning a series of pictures where the camera automataically does this. However, you have to set it to do bracketing for each series of exposures - hence it's easier to do it manually by the use of the f-dial and the shutter-wheel, than operating the menus in the display.
This article was started February 2004 and latest editing was done on May 22, 2013.
The Leica Digilux 2 was introduced in February 2004 and was on the market for circa two years. Though an "outdated" camera, it's a Leica Classic and a darling of many professional photographers who use it for professional work and/or a leisure camera with soul and lots of "love factor."
The Panasonic DMC-LC1 is the twin camera - same lens and interior, but in a different design and with the buttons placed slightly different.
Thorsten Overgaard is a Danish feature writer and photographer who contributes stories and unique branding to magazines, newspapers and companies through exclusive and positive articles and photos. His work is being printed in Danish and international magazines, some of which are available via WireImage, Getty Images, Redferns and Associated Press. Some photos are available as limited signed editions online and from galleries.
For specific image needs, contact Thorsten Overgaard via e-mail.
This page is being visited by 2.042 visitors a month (May 2010).
Stuff for the Digilux 2:
Hugyfot HFL D2 underwater housing for a Leica Digilux 2. List price was ca. 2,000 Euro. I gues, if you gotta go, you gotta go.
Leica ELPRO-D E69 Macro Filter (18633) for Digilux 2 comes with many recommendations. Discontinued and rare. List price was ca. 300 Euro. See sample shots down the site. Panasonic DMW-LC69 may do as well but is no way the same lens.
Panasonic DMW-LW69 wide angel converter for DMC-LC1 and Leica Digilux 2, a 0.7x Lens Converter. It's a huge glass but actually make nice pictures. Make the 28mm lens into a 20mm. List price was ca. 450 Euro and a Leica edition was never made.
Leica Leather Case (18627) for Digilux 2. Camera does not go in or out easily and is not supported inside.
Panasonic accessories for Panasonic DMC-LC1 can fit Digilux 2. Check Panasonic's spare part site here (type in DMCLC1 and you will get a list).