Jan 242010
 

I thought I would sit down tonight and write a “flashback” article of sorts about a camera that was so good in its time that I bought it twice! This will not be a “review” of this discontinued classic, but rather more of a trip down memory lane as I recall some moments I captured with it. Basically, the time I spent with this camera and the images I captured with it. This all spurred from me sitting down browsing an external hard drive with images from 2003/2004 on it. I cam across a folder that said “D2″ and took a look at images that I have not looked at in a few years. I hope you enjoy it.

When the Leica digilux 2 came out back in 2003/2004 I knew I had to have one because at the time I always wanted a Leica M but wanted to shoot digital. At that time my wife was not ready to hear me say I was spending a few grand on a camera and another few grand on a lens, so the M7 was out. The Digilux 2 was something like $1400 (which was still very expensive for a glorified point and shoot) and I think I sold a Nikon D100 and a couple of lenses to buy one. I was as happy as a kid on Christmas day when it arrived from B&H Photo.

I remember my 1st reaction to this camera…it was so classic, so sexy, and the lens felt so nice to control. I was pretty excited to own one of these beauties. Sure it had a crappy EVF, and its high ISO performance was sketchy at anything other than 100, but the camera was pretty special. It had a solid build and feel and even though Panasonic made the camera, it had Leica firmware and really delivered on the IQ for its tiime. It felt like a Leica, looked like a Leica, and gave some of that great Leica color. The main use of this camera for me was as a take everywhere and family snaps camera.

I still think of this camera from time to time and remember the fun I had with it, and also the special image quality that at the time was pretty impressive for a small sensor compact. The Digilux 2, or “D2″ as many called it had manual buttons, manual dials, and even manual aperture settings on the Summicron lens that was attached. The lens was actually a zoom lens with a F2-F2.4 aperture. It equaled a 28-90mm in 35mm format.

The lens was big, it was bad, and it was beautiful. It was also the main reason why the images from this camera had something special about them. If you were to shoot this camera today you would be wanting for more resolution and better high ISO but remember that this is 2003 technology :)

The AF was dog slow, but you know what? It didn’t matter! Those who owned and shot with a D2 loved it for everything it stood for. It was finally a Leica digital that looked and felt much like an M.

I am now going to take a trip down memory lane with images from my old, now long gone Leica Digilux 2…

 

I remember taking this camera everywhere with me. I was able to capture shots that I can look back on with a smile and remember all of the fond memories. The image below is a shot of my son, then 7, playing softball with his buddy and Uncle. Slow focus or not, it captured this moment without a problem. These were the good old days :)

My son is now almost 14. Man how time flies. He was only 7 in the image below, almost 8. I remember being excited by this photo at the time because the Nikon D100 I had before it was just not giving me great results. I liked this image and even had a print in a frame sitting on my desk back then. I still have that frame somewhere in a moving box. Maybe I should go dig it out.

 

 

Our hairless cat “Tails”. This is a Sphynx and is the most amazing breed of cat. They are super affectionate and sweet. I miss her but have many shots of her that I have taken with many cameras. Still, one of my faves is this one with the D2. Here is more info on the Shpynx breed.

I had the D2 for a few weeks but I was still shooting with it like  madman. Anytime someone came over I would get in their face with my trusty D2 trying to get a portrait!  As you can see, I was starting to like the D2 in B&W. This was right out of the camera…

 

Here is a silver efex conversion…

and some color…

In addition to shoiting my Sphynx cat, I was also shooting my dogs back then just as I do today. Pets make great subjects sometimes. Here is my dog Scrubby and his pal Brutus back in 2004. They would always play fight and the little guy usually won.

 

I even took the Digilux 2 to the zoo on a few occasions. Here is a shot of my EX wife Mina walking back to the car with my son after a long day of walking and breathing in the lovely scents of the Zoo animals :)

Oh, and here is one from inside the Zoo! Beware…it may be a bit graphic for some..ha ha..

Some fun snaps…

I kept the D2 for a while and then sold it to fund a Nikon D2hs. I then missed it and bought another, but eventually I bought that Leica M7 I always wanted and I sold the Digilux 2 to help fund it. There are many hobbyists (and even a pro or two) out there today still shooting these Digilux 2 cameras. It has now become a classic at the young age of 7 years old. Many of these D2′s have been overhauled by Leica due to sensor failures after a few years and you can still find them from time to time on E-Bay for around $500-$600.

I always say that the best camera is the one you have with you. If you have a large and massive DO IT ALL kind of camera, chances are you leave it home a lot of the time. I am happy I had that little Digilux 2 back then just as I am happy to have the M9 and E-P2 today. Well, the E-P2 is my wife’s camera but as you know she shares it. I am the one who uses that E-P2 85% of the time! :) When I am near the end of my days I will be able to pass down my external hard drives that are loaded with memories to my son. He can then look back and cherish the memories. He has never even seen 80% of what I have taken over the years, so one day it will be a treat for him.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this slight change of pace and If you want to read the absolute BEST Digilux 2 web page on the planet then you have to visit Thorsten Overgaards site HERE. His D2 page is simply amazing and he still owns a couple of them today!

Thanks for reading and tagging along for my trip down memory lane with the Leica Digilux 2! Here is one more from 2004. A self portrait in a mirror of a younger looking me and of course, my Digilux 2!


  64 Responses to “Memory Lane: The Leica Digilux 2”

  1. Nice article, Steve.

    Give that camera a 10 megapixel sensor, a state-of-the-art EVF and faster AF, and I would directly go for it. I’m even thinking about getting a used one…

    Thanks,
    Martin.

  2. Thanks for sharing!

    I have always wanted that camera, and have tried to find one. But now I found myself a M8 instead. How is the results from the camera and the lens compared to the EP2?

    • I had a Digilux 2 and an M8 – I have sold the M8 and kept the D2. the M8 did nothing better most worse – but it had a few more pixels – unnecessary as I found in up to A3 prints.

      • EEEK! The M8 is far superior to the D2 in output and can do things the D2 can only dream of. Maybe you had a defect or were not using it correctly or had a horrible lens??? I love the D2 but would never state it was in any way better than an M8 as that is simply not true. Glad you enjoy the D2 though.

  3. It is the finest digital picturing taking machine ever made. I just wish it were up-dated to today’s technology. I have owned and used Nikons, Canons, Olympus and Panasonics digital things and always compared them to the Digilux 2. Oh yeah, I sold mine to chased pixels and “features” as I replaced the little jewel.

  4. I had the first Leica digital (Panasonic) and the second (Fuji) and made lots of great photos with both. too bad the file sizes were so small. I’ve got all these great shots that I can’t sell for stock but (at the time) were good enough to run in the magazine that I published.

  5. Wow. Another great article. I still have two of these cameras. One is my user, the other is like new. The DII still takes the best B&W JPGs of any camera including my M8.2. I’m going to use the DII for a project this Summer. Photographing our neighborhood in B&W.
    Thanks, again.
    Larry

  6. Nice memory lane article Steve and your cat looks incredible in that shot!

    I remember Thorsten Overgaard singing the praises of this camera so often in times past and I often thought of getting one in the past year myself, either that of the Lumix DMC-L1 which is the equiv of the Digilux 3 but can be had for peanuts when compared to the Leica and looks great in black too!

    I held back though, saved longer, and went the proper Leica way in the end. I’m too soft for my own good at times when it comes to making emotional camera purchases as my three cabinets of cameras will no doubt attest. I recently bought a Canon F1 purely because my very first SLR camera as a 15 y.o. was a Canon EF and I’d always wanted the Pro F1. Not put a film through it yet some 4 months later! I must get a firmer grip on this ilness! lol

    But as you say, still a great camera despite all the improvements to digital cameras in the years since it’s launch. :)

  7. Steve,
    A very interesting article, thanks for bringing it to our knowledge. On Thorsten Overgaards web there is an interesting picture for the M and the D side by side. As the D technology didn’t last for long the believe it indicates that the original design is the main attraction for all the true lecia customer. Your quote “I always say that the best camera is the one you have with you” is very true. My best pictures were done when I had one body and one lens.
    thanks again.

  8. Great article and very useful for me as I’m currently considering the Leica Digilux 2 or 3 as my first Leica camera. Though they’re still quite expensive considering their Panasonic counterparts’ prices. We’ll see, I’m definitely going to buy a camera and at least one lens next week and I’m still torn between G1 or Digilux and have even seen a nice couple of Sony Mount Leica glass which is also tempting… I just don’t know – hopefully something will sway me before my money comes in next week!

  9. Woah, Steve. Wonderful shots! I have toyed with the idea of picking up a Digilux 2 for the heck of it….but they continue to be quite pricey these days. Thorsten’s site for this camera is amazing….

    Regardless, thanks for taking us down a trip through memory lane with you…wonderful camera, and wonderful captures!

  10. Steve,

    I was thrilled to read a D2 post in your website! I am an avid D2 user (I have four of them) and I always wondered what you could do with one of this little gems in your hands. I don’t have to imagine any longer: the D2 shone in your hands!
    Thanks for the great text, pictures and the D2 homage.

  11. Thanks for all of the comments guys!

  12. I purchased a Digilux 2 a year ago. I have taken more photographs with this camera that I am happy with than any other camera. It has really inspired me to enjoy photography after not doing much with it for 20 years. I use it for work at the museum I work for almost daily. I have had photos published in the New York Times and magazines and books that I have taken with the D-2. It feels like a real camera and not a computer with a lens. Thank you for the nice article.

  13. Thanks for taking the time to write this and share. I always wanted one of these puppies but at the time I just didn’t have the coin. I still think about buying one from time to time but I never do. It is a great camera in concept and in execution. Heck, coming from a digital world it was the first Leica that I ever lusted for.

  14. Great article Steve. I had a D2 myself for 5 years-bought it when the D2 first came out. (SIGH) Your article brought back some great memories, I loved that camera. I always thought Leica should have upgraded the sensor size and maybe worked over the file write times and called it a “Digilux3″ Oh well. Thanks again.

  15. PS…by-the-way…I had the Leica ELPro 69 closeup lens for my D2 also. Just try to find one of those :)

  16. I’ll echo Håkan’s question – how does the old jpegs from the D2 stack up against the EP2?

    cheers,

  17. The D2 JPEGS are 5MP, the E-P2 is more than double that. Also, the D2 has much more noise so you really want to stick with ISO 100 if possible. Even with that, I find the D2 JPEGS much sharper and everything you see in this article was OOC JPEG. The only images here that had anything done to them were the last three, and those were just converted to B&W with SIlver Efex pro.

  18. Thanks a lot – I was considering adding a E-P2 – but agree the out of camera jpegs from my D2 are excellent at low ISO. Now why don’t Leica make a D2.2 with better high ISO, built in image stabilization and the E-P2 EVF?

    Well, who knows, maybe they will – please, please, please ;-)

  19. I’m really interested in getting one of these (as my first ‘serious’ camera). But… I am really new to photography… and so have a quick ‘newbie’ question.

    If I take a pic and like it and want to have it printed, framed and stuck up on my apartment’s wall, how large can I print a 5MB picture?

    I so want a Leica and this is affordable on eBay (going for around $500+).

  20. Oh, and thanks in advance for any help/guidance/advice. :-)

  21. A friend of mine owns a Digilux 2 for years now and I have always been a little envious of the quality of the photos it takes. I was sooooo envoíous that I bought a used Digilux 2 for about 550 € in perfect condition, incl. warranty for 1 one from a local camera dealer. I contacted Leica here in Germany and they told me according the serial number that the camera had been there in 2008 for an exchange of the sensor. Can’t look into future but I am sure that I will keep this camera as long as it will last!
    Greets to all of you

  22. Got mine D2 last year Summer for around USD300 and love it, as it is my first entry in digital photography…love and still get compliments from people on the quality of my pictures. Can’t believe it is an old-timer.

    Now firmly into the Leica camp, and looking at getting better Leica stuff…but sigh not at USD300….

    Get one if you can find one, a very good ‘learning’ digital camera and get hooked on Leica quality :)

    Good luck

  23. Hi Steve, I swapped some gear for a D2 a couple weeks ago and have fallen totally in love with it. The design is pure genius, and the pictures are beautiful. And now there are rumors of an updated Panasonic LC1 announcement comming soon. This would be wonderful.
    John[img]http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4074/4752958837_6319e8aa85_b.jpg[/img][img]http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4138/4736540910_0e7065c7ba_b.jpg[/img]

    • Here are the photos re-sized….
      [img]http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4074/4752958837_6319e8aa85.jpg[/img]
      [img]http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4138/4736540910_0e7065c7ba.jpg[/img]

  24. Thanks for those wonderful words. I own a Digilux 2 from the times then dSLR wasn’t yet reachable for me. Now for a couple of years I already went for dSLR, first Pentax K10D, last year upgraded to K20D, with all those fantastic Pentax FA Limited lenses. Until now my heart did not allow me to sell my Digilux 2 although it spends most of it’s time in the cupboard. Now as I thought about selling it I find your article … and hmm … I fear that again I won’t be able to let it go! Sure, if I could go for a M9 instead … but that’s unreachable.

    Strange that an industrial object like a digital camera can evoke emotions!

  25. thanks for the Digilux 2 article and photos. I bought one this year after reading Thorstens site and when my Nikon was in for repairs. Surprise surprise it now comes everywhere with me and has made me look at things in a whole new way. Google rod.hig2010 to see examples

  26. I bought a Digilux 2 back in 2004, just as I began a 2 year exploration of the American West, best camera investment I have ever made and it gave me a relationship with Leica that continues to grow. I bought it because it was digital, a fixed lens and simple. I shot 26000 images, returned to NZ, went hiking in the local mountains, fell in a river, thought I had drowned the camera, dried it out, it worked fine except for a water spot inside the lens, sent it back to germany, Leica totally fixed it, cleaned it, sent it back at no charge, even though it was out of warranty. Awesome. Here is a link to some of my shots, http://www.flickr.com/photos/kiwicafe/sets/72157615950727094/

    • Absolutely awesome shots in there, Richard!! I was blown away: they’re exactly what I love to see in photography. You really captured life, I’d say!
      Hopefully I’ll manage to do some of the same when I’m in Wellington later this summer…

  27. ps, I still use it for hiking and as a back up, I love it for images shot from the hip. Will never sell it.

  28. It’s been over 10 years, but I still shoot regularly with my Digilux 1. The optics are very good, even though the camera is slow. At a mere 4mp, it’s no match for more modern digital cameras; it’s like owning an old Dodge Dart with a slant-six engine… slow and reliable.

  29. [...] praise, description of capabilities and why this is considered one of the best and most afordable “digitals” Leica ever manufactured, can be found here, here, here and here. [...]

  30. [...] picture above was taken with an old Leica Digilux 2 that I found stashed way in the back of my partner’s office cupboard as we were packing up to [...]

  31. Great article. I owned the Panasonic version of this camera and regrettably, I sold it. I took the camera to Egypt with me and it produce some of the best pictures I have ever taken. The optics on this camera are stellar! Panasonic/Leica had it right when they produced this camera years ago. If they reproduced this camera with updated electronics and sensor, they would sell well. The proof is the X100. Same principle. So I ask, if so many of us crave and desire a small pro-level travel camera with manual controls at a decent price, why are so few companies making them? I really wish I knew but I applaud Fuji for undertaking this endeavor. Hopefully we’ll see more of these in the future.

  32. [img]http://kzamm.com/photos/2009_04_25_miura_full.jpg[/img]

    After using its Panasonic twin for a few years, I finally bought a D2 two years ago and it’s still my favorite object ever (with my old 12″ Powerbook a close second). I use it for pro assignments, I use it for fun, I’ve even gotten the screw-on macro lens which Leica made for it back in the day, and I think I’ll keep on using it until it falls to pieces so small even Leica won’t be able to repair it.

  33. Very nice capture, Peter!
    I sold my four Digilux 2 last year to finance my M8u. Nonetheless, I liked the camera so much that I got the cheaper Lumix LC1 just to have the unmatched D2 experience every now and then.

  34. Hi Steve, I see you penned this back in Jan, so this note might get lost- but nevertheless….

    I just purchased two D2′s, one like new in a box, one great user copy. I used to have 2 LC1′s but Pana doesn’t service them, so those sold and were “replaced” with D2′s. I recently wrote an article, sorta tribute on the D2, but prepared a much larger article on the LC1.

    I still find these cameras completely legitimate purchases today- there is still nothing like them out there and they perform admirably in the right hands. I’m glad I found the two I did, they are becoming increasingly rare.

    Nice to find your article after the fact (since I just finished mine) only to see that there are others who think fondly back on this camera as well.

    Cheers,

    Carl

    (www.photography-central.blogspot.com if you want to read the article)

  35. Nice aticle, Steve.

    I seem to be tracking down Carl everywhere (smile). I bought one of Carl’s two pristine LC1s. I also have two D2s – the sweetest cameras ever produced. I will not sell these cameras.

    The IQ from the D2 and LC1 is excellent. I have the Oly E-5, E-620, and E-PL1 (and even the Pany L1 and L10), and get great shots from them. Yet, I still go back to the D2 and LC1 now and then. Believe it or not, you get enough resolution out of 5 mp for decent sized enlargements.

    - Chuck

  36. Loved the D2, though I sold mine a couple of years ago. I’m still using my Digilux 1, however, and it’s still a wonderful shooter. How have your batteries held up with yours? Do you have a good source for replacement batteries when they will no longer hold a charge?

    – Loughton Smith

  37. I had the Panasonic version of this camera and I loved the image quality and build. I just sold it on EBay, lol. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    Kind Regards To All

    BTW, There was always a debate over the firmware that was used in the Panasonic version. I didn’t need the Red Dot..;-) IMHO I thought the image quality the same between the two cameras..

  38. I loved reading this. This is 2012 and I want to get one of these now!
    Hugs from Lisbon

    • I am just in exact same position, in my case I am looking for a MFT Leica 25mm 1.4 for my Lumix GF1, but now I don´t know if I should buy the lens, or spend the money in a D2 and keep it for good. (I used to have 2 in the past and sold them both) great camera, beautiful handling!!

  39. If you got one, keep it!

    Got mine for years now. Was about to sell it for a D90 but I just can’t make myself do it.
    Sure, RAW write speeds slow me down, auto-focus is sloppy sometimes but the quality and feeling is one of a kind.

    Oh and thanx for the article Steve ;-) Love it.

  40. Great article, much like myself I bought a Digilux 2 when they first came to the market around 2004, loved it then in a weak moment sold it on ebay, soon regretted that move and now just a couple of months ago got another almost mint model again on ebay but I don’t think this one will be going anywhere…… regards Peter.

  41. What a photo of a cat! She never has been of this world, I guess. Well, to get those images – that´s what I believe – you need a camera in your hands that fits to your mind and your soul. The Digilux 2 seems to be one of the rare examples which have what it takes.

  42. Hi Steve, I have had 2 of these over the last few years, sold and bought again. Now I have a great one, but had the failing rubber covers replaced with a nice red leather by Cameraleather. I still use it occasionally, and am astounded by the quality and detail the lens captures. If only Leica updates it instead of the X1 series.

  43. Hi steve. i bought a d2 recently in mint condition with the censor changed by Leica, I paid almost £600 for it , for which i could have bought somthing much higher spec, but , what a camera. if you had to guess the resolution of the finnished shots , you would never say they are from a 5MP camera. I’ll never let this one go.

  44. I have owned this camera from the day it was released and find I can never part with it. It’s still in perfect shape and was just shooting with it recently and am still blown away by what a fine lens this camera has
    Even though I have my m9 and m6 I still have a soft spot for the d2.

  45. Just read this in preparation for your new 2012 D2 article. I had one of these in 2004/2005 as well as a D100. I recently revisited some of my images in Lightroom 4 and was blown away by the quality, compared to just about every camera that I’ve had since.

    I’m getting quite nostalgic now. :-)

  46. I just put aside my M9 for a spell and used my Digilux 3 and it still amazes me with the IQ and ease of use.

  47. How does the Digilux 3 stack up against the Digilux 2? I can get a D3 in mint condition.

    • The D3/L1 has a much bigger sensor and is a hefty camera. Elmarit rather than Summicron. D2/LC1 is a fixed lens digicam, D3/L1 is a SLR. There was also the L10 which I’m not sure was ever badged as a Leica camera model, more conventional-looking SLR with an Elmar lens.

  48. Nice article. Thanks :-)
    I am living at memory lane right now, owning and using the D2 (Panasonic version) today! I like the feeling of the images, and even if this is old technology it works. The feeling of the pictures coming out of this old fashioned slow operating camera works well. So I hang onto this camera still.

  49. Am I right in assuming that this camera did not have an AA filter? Hence the sharpness of the images (likewise for a Sigma SD14, 4.5Mp SLR).

  50. I still own the camera that came after this – the Panasonic L1 / Digilux 3. In my cases its the L1, which I purchased partly because I got a good deal on it and partly because I thought the black livery looked better than the silver on the Leica version. Like its predecessor it is a fine camera (with some faults) that still produces excellent images, supported by the four thirds sensor it uses. Aesthetically I have to say I prefer the look of the Digilux 2. I think the lens is in much nicer balance with the camera. Perhaps like you I bought it because I thought an M8 was out of my price range. Although of course I still ended up with one later. In general I would say I am more successful with the L1 than the M8. My eyes are not really up to rapid focusing of the latter and its own faults in the image department including relatively poor dynamic range limit it a bit. Would I buy one today – probably not as technology has bypassed it. Would I buy an updated version today with modern sensor and processor. Hell yes.

  51. I derived great pleasure from this article, both from the descriptions and images.

    I’ve had the good fortune of being able to borrow a good friend’s Digilux 2 recently. It was his late father’s, and for that reason alone he’ll never part with it, and even though I can probably borrow it whenever I’d like (he’s got a 5D with L lenses, some Holgas, an S95, and an iPhone 5) I’m already jumping ahead and looking to acquire one – or something like it in an updated form. I shoot professionally with Nikon DSLRs and medium format film cameras and the last thing I want is a large camera I won’t take with me wherever I go. The Digilux 2 is so much fun and the black and white JPEGs so lovely straight out of the camera that I’m already deeply in love, and loathing the day I have to return it to my friend.

    But time has moved on and technology has improved, so instead of looking for an overpriced D2 I’m greatly tempted by Fuji’s retro cameras. The X100/S has a fixed lens, and the X-E1 costs more when the interchangeable lenses are factored in. Will the newly announced X20 be the take-everywhere camera with Digilux 2 charm I seek? I intend to find out soon!

  52. For anyone interested, I had the D2 with me recently when I found myself moved to make some images at a jazz club in Taipei, Taiwan. I wrote about it and added a gallery here:
    http://bitanphoto.com/mo-better/

  53. ON THE DIGILUX 3, DO THE CONTAX G 2 LENSES FIT THE 3 WITH AN ADAPTER? I LIKE THE HEFT OF THE 3.

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