By Alan Stafford
Among film-camera buffs, the name Leica resonates as much as Rolls-Royce does in automotive circles. The 3.9-megapixel Digilux 1, the prestigious camera maker's latest digital model, has several attributes in common with that luxury automaker's products: It's large, it's built like a safe, and it's costlier than competitors with lesser pedigrees.
But note that this $895 camera isn't all Leica. It's actually the result of the first collaboration between Leica and Panasonic (Leica had worked with Fujifilm earlier). The unit's boxy body is bigger than at least a few full-size 35mm film cameras, and it has a collapsible, removable hood to shield the LCD screen from sunlight (it would not have looked out of place in 1956).
In my hands-on testing of a preproduction model, I got elegant-looking images that were very sharp, with a wide range of contrast. The Digilux 1 can snap off photographs very quickly--as rapidly as any digital camera I've seen. It has several shooting modes, including the ones you'd expect (aperture priority, shutter priority, and full manual), although you might also want to stop down the aperture to something smaller than the unit's minimum f8 setting.
The camera is nearly useless in dim settings, because it has no infrared emitter or lamp to aid in focusing. The 2.5-inch LCD screen is much larger than average; but the hood, when attached, obstructs the display's best angle of view. And because the Digilux 1 has no exposure lock, you must resort to full-manual mode to maintain a consistent exposure over multiple images.
The Digilux 1 is impressive, and its brand name may justify the premium price. But I would like it better if Leica had included a few more common options--such as an exposure lock and a focusing aid.
From the July 2002 issue of PC World magazine