Score! A classic Leica Digilux 1 for $129 – review soon!

Hello everyone! I am in Chicago right now doing some organizing for the upcoming workshop on the 24th (which still has TWO spots available) and I took  visit to Central Camera where I found a used but mint condition Leica Digilux 1 with case and charger for only $129! I knew of this camera and have held one before but never owned one. Decided to but it just for nostalgic reasons. It is the camera  that preceded the Digilux 2 which has reached cult status in the Leica community.

So look for a fun classic review soon on this Leica classic. I’ll have more posts this week including a Sony NEX-5n side by side comparison for image quality against the Leica M9, both using Leica glass. Should be fun as I will be doing these tests up in the mountains of Kentucky! Stay tuned!

38 Comments

  1. Not worthy of the Leica name, its the worst camera I own.
    My daughters £60 fuji, makes it look like a dated joke,
    About 50% of photos are ok, the rest are blurred. Even outside.
    In low light again blurred, I bought it as it looked cool and the red badge. I will sell it again after 2 months of ownership. I wanted a retro toy when I cant be bothered to lug my DSLR around. Was happy as Larry when it arrived, such a cool look. I have given it many chances, but it just is so variable in its quality. I took some photos of a garden party on a sunny day. As it said 50% were just soft, no idea if its a focus issue but its just terrible. A camera phone gives better photo’s.
    Also poor resolution at wide apertures.
    Its seems underdeveloped product, rushed into production.
    Looks nice as a paperweight.
    I will bite the bullet and get a fuji x100 I think as I like the retro look

  2. Please do your review, Steve. I got one of these in darkest winter for 123 dollars (equiv.) and have always found your thoughts hepful on any camera I’ve used. Now the light is returning, I’m looking forward to getting some practice in. I know it was just a nostalgic buy, but good lens and low pixels is a good recipe to my mind. Working within limitations is a challenge. And I’ll probably use it mainly for B&W.

  3. I’ve owned a Digilux 1 for a year now. Love the look, feel and styling of it.
    I get comments from strangers who admire it. It takes great pictures for the age of it now
    and can still compete with modern cameras.

  4. I just bought one of these for 120 also, so Im awaiting the delivery this week ( hopefully!)

    Steve , did you get around to doing the review? I know you are tremendously busy, cheers

    RTW

  5. The Digilux 1 is a truly great little camera (for 2003 terms – that’s when I got mine, and I am still using it). Skin tones are better than those of my M9 (yeah, I know, the pictures are also grainy, and you can’t compare resolution, detail, etc.). But the snapshots look really great, as long as you do not go beyond ISO 100, and do not want to print beyond 10 x 15 Inch. I like the camera. Have fun with it Steve, and I look forward to your review!

  6. Dang Steve, you lucked out good! The Digilux 1 has been on my find list for quite a while. Can’t touch a 2 now-a-days since it has crazy cult status.

  7. Cool! Steve,
    I am still using my 2002 Panasonic DMC-LC5, same specification! Look foward to see your review!

  8. I remember having had a similarly spec’d (4Mp 1/1.8″ CCD, 35-105 zoom…) and designed (garden shed?) Minolta S404, from the same era. The lens was excellent and, under the right conditions, it took great pictures, without the processed and mushy look of the 10Mp+ digicam from today. Biggest issue was how slow and unreliable the AF was.

    • “without the processed and mushy look of the 10Mp+ digicam from today” I agree, I think the 5 possibly 6 megapixel compact snap shot cameras were the best quality up to A3, but after that, 7, 8, 9 and so on got worse for some reason. Cramming to many pixels into a small area maybe?

  9. Does obtaining a $5 camera for $129 assure that it will perform better? Or does it just make it that much cooler?

  10. Hi Steve
    Managed to purchase a 6 months old Summilux 50 mm 1.4 few days ago but missed out on a similarly aged M9.

    Question: Should i buy a M9 or wait for the Nex 7 to try out the Leica glass? Your reviews of the NEX 5N with the Leica glass suggest that the NEX seems to be a wonderful camera and the NEX 7 with the 24 MP sensor should be better still (on paper anyway).

    i am a novice photographer and currently own the X100 which i love for its simplicity and the quality of output.

    I recognise that the choices of camera are very subjective and sometimes the heart rules over the head(Leica) but would welcome yours and your audiences feed back.

    By the way love your site and it’s the 2nd site I visit after I have depressed myself reading the economic gloom on the FT!

    Regards

    Hemant

    • .
      “..would welcome yours and your audiences feed back..” ..We-ell (although I don’t want to be assailed on all sides!)..

      (1) Sony NEX chips are APS-sized, which means that any Leica lens used on a Sony NEX gives about 1.5x its true focal length ..meaning that a 50mm lens becomes a 75mm (approx) on a Sony, a 90mm becomes a 135mm (approx) and so on. So you lose the widest-angle capability of wide-angle lenses (e.g; a 21mm becomes about 30mm on a Sony) but you gain at the telephoto end, where a 135mm becomes a 200mm (approx). Same’s true of the Leica M8 and 8.2 ..they increase focal lengths by about 1.3x. On the true 35mm-size sensor of the M9, focal lengths remain as marked on lenses, so a 21mm behaves as a 21mm, and a 16mm as a 16mm (..and a Voigtländer 12mm as a 12mm).

      (2) No limit to focal lengths used on a Sony NEX: longest lens made for a Leica rangefinder was the 200mm Komura (Leica rangefinder focusing gets increasingly unpredictable with long lenses; Leica/Leitz have only ever made 135mm as their longest focal length).

      (3) Photo replay (viewing) on a Sony – and just about every other digital camera – is instantaneous. On an M9 it may take 3 secs to deliver a sharp picture instead of just a mosaic, and a further 3 secs to show a sharp picture when you zoom in on the pic!

      (4) Sony NEX is small and pocketable. M9 won’t fit in a normal jacket pocket, but will fit in a raincoat pocket, and is considerably heavier than a Sony NEX.

      (5) Sony NEX gives less noisy highest ISO results than M9.

      (6) Sony NEX shoots video: no video (nor mic) on an M9.

      (7) Sony NEX can use zoom and autofocus lenses. No zooms (apart from Leica 16-18-21mm) and no autofocus on M9.

      (8) Dust removal: Sony NEX sensor has dust-removal ultrasonic vibration filter; M9 has NO dust-removal capability (except your puffing air at the sensor) ..and after a few lens changes it certainly picks up dust!

      (9) Sony NEX has ‘Live View’; shows on the playback window what the lens sees before shooting ..hence depth-of-field preview is possible. M9 has no preview at all, just a separate glass viewfinder to look through.

      (10) Closest focus on Sony NEX dependent on lens. Closest focus on M9 0.7 metres – unless you use an old – but great! – Dual Range 50mm (rigid) or collapsible 50mm with a close-focus adaptor, or the current 90mm macro. (NOTE: The Dual Range 50mm focuses close, but won’t focus further away than 4 metres without drastic surgery to the M9 camera!)

      ..And so on, and so forth. In other words, the Sony NEX is generally smaller, lighter and more versatile. The M9 is heavier, slower, and bulkier, and has worse low-light performance and slower picture replay, but the M9 gives proper wide-angle performance with Leica/Leitz lenses and with other M-bayonet lenses.

      Both shoot RAW as well as jpg.

      Why not just buy a little Leica red dot label and stick it on a Sony, and thus get the best of both worlds?

      • My M has no dust problems- it uses an self-cleaning and organic moving membrane which replaces itself with each shot. One perk is silver gelatin enlargement capability in addition to digital file capability.

        Highly recommended as it solved my digital frustrations. 😉

        • .
          ! ..but I don’t think the, er “..organic moving membrane..” can quite reache the high ISO capabilities of the, er, “..digital frustrations..” ..am I right..?

      • I would like to add:
        – Sony Nex you look through an Electronic Viewfinder vs. M9 you look through a bright optical viewfinder and you also see what happens around the frame
        – M9 is a rangefinder meaning you can focus and see the whole subject at the same time

        I dont use NEx but M9 and m4/3 and even though I have an M-adapter I use M-glass on the M and m4/3 glass on m4/3.
        I really dont find it worth to buy a 2k lens and put it on a Nex or m4/3 camera.
        Besides technical facts I would highly recommend to check the cameras out how you like the user interface, I find the differences in handling (personal taste) might overweight the differences regarding IQ.

  11. Cool find, but honestly… Awful camera. I used one of these years ago when I worked in a camera shop and it could not beat my old Casio Exilim z30 3 megapixel snappy slim line camera with smc pentax lens for iq, speed, iso or anything for that matter as I recall. For $129 you can’t be robbed tho, surely this camera will be a collectors item one day and will be worth thousands!

      • Yeah! $900 does sound low for a Leica…and Yes the Dimage 7 was a great camera 4/5 Megapixels ruled at the time and any camera over $1K was way too much 🙂 I missed the early days for some reason.

  12. Interesting how this and a lot of earlier digital camera included an internal viewfinder…when did these camera manufacturers go wrong?

    The Minolta Dimage 7, Nikon CoolPix 5700 – other 2002 cameras!

  13. ^^that is so true 😀
    If only leica actually treated video as a form of photography, then there wouldn’t be such a disparity.

    • DR looks pretty bad so far – color not so bad, ISO 100 is good – above that not so good 🙂 Slow as molasses writing to the card…BUT, worth the $129 I think. It is a pretty cool boxy design.

  14. Looking at flickr I’m expecting some fresh grainy shots soon!
    I truly love your enthusiasm for all camera’s and persevering with your great blog.
    This site is brilliant.

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