The Leica D-Lux 4. Is it still a good option?

I recently wrote an article over at the B&H Photo Blog about the Leica D-Lux 4 and decided to also bring that article here as well. I recently shot a few frames with the D-Lux 4 after not owning one for a while and realized what a fantastic camera it STILL is!

The Leica D-Lux 4 – Is it still a good option today?

Even today the one compact camera that I REALLY still love is the Leica D-Lux 4. It’s a pretty amazing little camera. Sure the Micro 4/3’s have larger sensors but they are larger and bulkier and for those days when you want to go even smaller a compact is what you want. I get e-mails every day asking me “what compact camera should I buy” and while other sites pour out the love for the Canon S90, me, I prefer the Leica D-Lux 4 or Panasonic LX-3 (same camera really) over the Canon. I was just going over a few images from when we had one here at the house and realized that it was such a versatile little camera. Great macro, great color, great in camera B&W, fast F2 lens, superb little body and decent video. To anyone looking for an awesome compact that you can slide in your pocket make sure you check out one of these cameras. It’s an all around “knock your socks off” performer. A small sensor compact that gets close to the bigger boys in so many ways.

You can buy the D-Lux 4 at my fave shop, B&H Photo. The Panny can also be found  B&H. My review of the D-Lux 4 is at my old site here. I just wanted to mention it again as I still would choose this camera today (or the Panny equiv) if I were in the market for a small compact with KICK ASS quality. Here are some images I shot a while ago with the little D-Lux 4. Any B&W you see was done with the in camera “Dynamic B&W” which was excellent!

My wife and I never really got a bad shot with the D-Lux 4 but it’s main weakness is high ISO. After ISO 400 it starts to lose it a but but not too bad and is to be expected from small sensor cameras. It’s still a current model in the Leica and Panny lineup but I wonder if Leica/Panny will improve upon this with the D-Lux 5 or if this will be one of those cameras that get called a “classic”. Whatever happens, this little guy is fantastic! If you are searching high and low for a compact that will give you the quality and versatility you are looking for, the D-Lux 4 or LX-3 can not be ignored!

I also get asked what the main differences are between the D-Lux 4 and LX-3. Besides the $300 price difference with the Leica you get a different style body, a 3 year warranty vs a one year with the Panny, and you also get better software. The Leica gives you Capture One and the Panny gives you SilkyPix. Their firmware is also different. Both of these are made in the same factory by Panasonic but both have their differences in appearance, feel, and what they come bundled with. Either one makes for a FANTASTIC camera to carry with you every day and even today, after many other models have come and  gone the D-Lux 4/LX-3 remains a strong contender in the compact market.

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  1. Love those pictures! especially the ones taken at St. Thomas Bar & the man with the goat. Typical Leica colors and I wonder if the setting was set to dynamic or something else?

  2. I got the D’lux 4 last summer as something to carry around instead of a dslr every time I went out the door. I don’t know what it is but I prefer using it to my Canon 7D (unless photographing wildlife); it kind of remind me of the days of the Yashica T5.
    william – stunning picture!

  3. Dear Steve:

    Thank you for the outstanding reviews: informative, thorough, well written, and great images too! Really a wonderful resource. Ordering my new Leica tomorrow : )



  4. Thank you Nathan! I just did a print out on 13 x 19 Ilford Gold Fibre Silk paper with my Epson Pro 3880 and Ilfords ICC profile. I was just stunned. I really wasn’t expecting it to look so good enlarged. The small sensor in this camera just amazed me.

  5. Before my father passed away in December, he bought me my D-Lux 4. Besides the sentimental value of it for me, it still seems to retain it’s price value as well. I don’t plan to ever sell the camera, because I just love the Dynamic b/w mode results. I shoot fine art images just fine with it.

    Milwaukee Art Museum…shot the other day in Dynamic b/w mode. Amazing how hard it is to duplicate this mode with photoshop and other plugins. It’s such a unique look!


  6. Lovely set of shots in this post, Steve. Late to the party but seconded on the LX3/D-Lux4 twins. It’s the camera that means I have no excuse to not have a camera, a role previously filled by a Contax T3. It was apparent from day 1 that it’s a special little camera that can serve rank amateur and fussy button-presser alike. I uploaded some shots here, many from the first couple days of ownership because I was excited to spread the word.



  7. Wow, those are some amazing pictures with the D-LUX4. Love the butterfly.

    I am so tempted in getting a D-LUX4 and the only reason for me holding back as there maybe a chance of a D-LUX5.

  8. Hey Jeff, I know Leica is working on some new things but I have no idea if a D-Lux 5 is one of them. It’s possible, and with the success of the D-Lux 4 I would think a D-Lux 5 would makes sense. Let’s hope so!


  9. Picture I took with D-Lux4 recently in Ethiopia, Inside a rock church with minimal light
    iso 200 2 sec f/5.0



  10. Here is a shot taken today. I really like this tones in this one, so I thought I’d share it. I take one picture of Ozzy every day for a 365 days project. I’m on day #224. This was taken with the Leica D-Lux 4 in Dynamic B&W mode. Enjoy.


  11. Great shots E. Really liked the first one for the moment and the last for light. Superb.

  12. This one is Square Format in Dynamic B&W mode.
    I love this camera. It’s a blast to use. I just noticed on Amazon that it was priced around 900 bucks. What???


  13. Robert, I agree with you so much about how it is a constant companion. I went to Regent Street in London via Piccadilly Circus this afternoon and the light was gorgeous. I had my M7 with me but ended up snapping a few with my LX3 instead. Caught this nice one.


    It is pretty cool in large too

  14. Was just thinking the other day how much I love this little camera and its feature set: fast and wide lens (never thought I’d love and use a 24mm so much), great macro, small and light, built-in flash for daylight fill-in, custom settings and many set ways to use it (effects/styles), I like the external 24mm panasonic finder I have on it, great picture JEPG quality (and RAW), Love the B&Ws normal,dynamic and pin-hole, good HD video. I just does everything – easy.

    I may have gotten the LX-3, but here in Japan the Panasonic comes only with a Japanese menu, so… it was the Leica with the added benefit of 3 years warranty and Capture One, and they only that the Limited Titanium in stock so… its very cool looking – GRAY Leica dot ;-!) – and a nice gray case which I use.

    Goes with me 100% of the time and I don’t have to think about it its that compact, and although I have an M9, I never miss an opportunity with the D-LUX 4

  15. Here is a D-Lux 4 Square Format Image: [img][/img]

  16. @Elaine – I read and saw in samples that the G11 may actually be superior to the S90 in terms of noise control and sharpness, even though the G11 max aperture is 2.8 vs. 2 in the S90. I played with the G11 at Best Buy, and loved the articulated LCD. Didn’t like the feel of the shutter button though.

  17. I heard the Canon G11 is very nice as is the S90. I’m curious what the G11 is like now that they lowered the pixels to gain higher ISO ratings. Anyone have a G11? I know my G9 doesn’t beat the D-Lux 4 in IQ or higher ISO rating. What about the G11? Curious.

  18. It’s very cool to get different perspectives. Laurence Kim, who has taken some really fine pictures with the both the LX3 and the G11 ended up selling his LX3 because he said that it struggled to take pictures of his kids in sunlight due to problems with the dynamic range. On the other hand Steve didn’t even review the G11 after having it for several weeks because although he liked the body, “the image quality just does not do it for me.” He says that he got much better IQ from the Leica D-Lux 4 (LX3) . . . and Steve certainly has some excellent photos from his D-LUX 4.

  19. @Elaine – Yep, it does RAW! Although, I must admit I rarely shoot the S90 in RAW. The Canon DPP software does seem to do a pretty good job converting the S90’s RAW.

    @Stephen – Did you get her digits? Nice capture! 🙂

  20. I am loving my LX3, great little back up for my M7. Snapped this with it on the way to work a couple of days ago.


  21. I just bought two of the lx3s, on for my partner, one as a backup to my m9. I like the ergos and the file quality is pretty good.

    I strongly recommend to anyone with one of these cameras that they get the $25 lens adaptor tube. Not the adapter lens, just the empty tube. It makes the camera much more durable and practical to carry casually for street use, and i also think it makes it much easier to hold. It is simple enough to take it off if you need to pocket the camera.

  22. Thanks guys!

    @Soe, some of those shots in your link were shot with a Canon and a 50 1.8 I see. Anyway, I shot off a few shots with a GRD3 and liked it but thought the IQ was in no way better than the DLux 4/LX3. Still, the GRD3 was one of the small cams I did enjoy using even though it was for a very short time. Thx for the comment.

  23. Armanius, the S90 doesn’t shoot RAW, which was a deal breaker for me.

    Steve: I absolutely love the D-Lux 4. It’s such a pleasure to use. I didn’t think I’d like it more than my Canon SD800 or Canon G9, but it blows both of them away. The Canon G9 has some nice features too, but the files aren’t as clean. The D-Lux 4 is such a fun camera. I had to get used to the menu system, having been used to the Canon, but I prefer the Leica. I love the 1:1 ratio too. B&W Dynamic is a dream! I’ve only just begun to play with this camera. My eyes happy with the AF. It’s a nice break from the M6 & M8.2. The files are much better from the latter, but the small size of the Leica D-Lux 4 is so inviting. It’s a take everywhere kind of camera.

    If you guys would like to check out some of my files taken with this camera, go here:

    The minute that Leica comes out with a D-Lux 5, I’m all over it!

  24. IMO, it’s a toss up between the LX3 (never used DLux 4) and the S90. The S90 has the slight edge on high ISO. I also like the customization of the S90 controls with the additional front dial around the lens barrel. The S90 is super portable and has a retractable lens whereas the LX3’s lens protrudes out and uses a lens cap. On the other hand, the LX3’s larger size makes it much more ergonomically comfortable to hold. It’s 24mm wide (EFL) vs. 28mm on the S90. At low ISO, it seems to have nicer colors in JPG. And it has 720p HD video unlike the S90, a much newer camera (what’s up that Canon?). I ended up keeping the S90 because of the size, which is a two edged sword in that it is great to carry around, but it is almost too small, particularly for someone with larger hands.

  25. I had the LX3–no doubt, it is a great little camera. However, after I got a Ricoh GRD3, I sold the LX3 because I felt that GRD3 has slightly better image quality, is more customizable, has fixed/snap focus options for better for candid/street shooting, has a better grip, and is also smaller! It served me well on my trip to Myanmar, where I wanted to lots of pictures and wanted to keep a low profile. Some pics here:

  26. Danny, that must have been an interesting trip. What did you learn by going that surprised you?

  27. hey Steve
    Lovely pics. My wife has the d-lux 4 and loves it.
    I just came back from a Solms where i visited the great new Leica factory.
    Talking to the people there ,they love the 4 and think it’s a great camera
    Have a nice weekend

  28. The LX3/D-LUX 4 is a remarkable little camera (especially shot at low ISO in RAW-format). There’s a lot to like about it – the 3:2 aspect ratio, 24mm equiv wide angle, fast stabilised lens.

  29. I agree, Steve. I have the LX3 and routinely get excellent pictures from it. I tried the Canon S90 for a week and returned it because it it did not correctly capture any subtle lighting in a scene.

  30. I love the D-Lux4! I bought one last summer because of Steve’s review. I eventually (and quickly) upgraded to an M8 after just falling for Leica. I found that it’s the perfect camera to meet my needs when the M8 runs into trouble, which is mainly action sports and macro.

    The price hike was a real shame. This is the perfect gateway camera for newbies, but Leica has put it $100 further out of reach for many people. Sure the LX-3 is the same camera at a fraction of the cost, but call it foolish, there’s still something about it that makes it intriguing.

    Here’s a gallery I put up with the D-Lux4:


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