Leica Digilux 2. Did Fuji base the X100 on this? By Gary Perlmutter

Leica Digilux 2, did Fuji base the X100 on this?

By Gary Perlmutter

Normally I am an early adopter of new cameras, one of the first to get an X100 and the Nikon V1 for example. (See previous articles by myself on Steve’s Blog) However it took me 8 years to discover and purchase the Digilux 2! I can’t remember how I originally came across this camera, but once I had seen photos of how gorgeous it looked and read both Steve Huff’s report on his blog and the superb in-depth articles by Thorsten Overgaard, I knew I had to have one! Finally about a month ago one turned up on eBay and now I am the lucky owner of a mint Digilux 2.

So why am I so excited about this camera you ask? Well in looks it resembles one of the Leica rangefinder family, in fact an M9 owner the other day mistook it for an M9! It’s also very well-built. Now remembering that this camera and its sister the Panasonic DMC-LC1were manufactured from 2004 for just 2 years, before being replaced by the Digilux 3, it sports a host of amazing features for its time. For instance shutter speed dial, aperture selection on the lens, built-in EVF, full manual control. Sound familiar? Isn’t this exactly the same as the X100, which came out some 7 years later and has been heralded as a game changer! (Ok so no OVF). In addition a unique feature is it’s two-stage pop up flash. The 1st stage pops up at a 45 degree angle for bounce flash, how cool is that!

Ok, to use today it’s comparatively large 2/3 sensor (for a point and shoot) is only 5 megapixel, but the superb Leica 28-90 Vario Summicron f2 lens renders beautifully sharp and defined photos that frankly can put rival higher megapixel cameras to shame. Downsides compared to modern cameras are that, max ISO is only 400. It can only use standard SD cards and then only with a 2GB maximum capacity, but then with smaller file sizes then we are used to today, this isn’t really a problem. The EVF image is quite small and not the best resolution, but I find it perfectly usable. On the plus side the battery life is good for a day’s shooting and runs down gradually unlike the X100. Manual focus is very usable. Just switch to MF on the lens barrel and as you focus you automatically get a magnified image on the EVF or LCD depending, which you are using. Then with very little twisting of the lens barrel, (again unlike the X100) once in focus, a slight press on the shutter shows the full image ready to shoot. The menu system is also very simple, no manual needed here. I find out of the camera jpegs are really usable especially the black and whites. I have attached a few samples of images taken with the Leica. In my opinion it’s a shame that the X1 and X2 didn’t follow the already perfect design of the Digilux 2.

So if like me you lust after the red dot and can’t run to a digital M or even the M8, then take a look at one of these the next time one pops up on eBay or your local store. Trust me you wont be disappointed!

Related articles:

Digilux 2 Memory lane by Steve Huff

Thorsten Overgaard – Digilux 2 extensive review


Twitter: @gazonthestreet

Flickr: My Flickr photostream



  1. I bought a dead LC1 for peanuts a few years ago, one of the batch known for sensor failure. I had it fixed and had a super example for a very good price.
    The irrelevance of lack of megapixels, slow AF and poor low-light capabilities soon become obvious in use. Images are often film-like and the limitations are really just similar to those experienced when using an SLR, except no film to buy and no waiting for processing etc.
    One of the most impressive qualities is the ability of the camera to churn out Jpegs as beautiful, fully-finished articles, needing little or no post processing. With a little care, the results can be truly exceptional. I like the way images are rendered by the CCD. I can live with the low-light compromise.
    There is one area it works better than all others for me and that’s still life, taking photos of items to use in advertising listings. It’s a doddle to mount the camera on a tripod and have a set of photos in a matter of minutes, using just natural light. I have full frame dslr and other cameras, yet the LC1 is the camera that always produces the most reliably useable images in the quickest time. I have to work with other cameras to get near the results that the LC1 produces in minutes.

    The Vario-Summicron lens is unique to this and the D2. I don’t know of anything approaching 28-90mm f2-2.4 anywhere, let alone being a Leica. It’s a stunning; many are the times I’ve wished it wasn’t fixed and wondered if it were possible to..
    While the lens may be the heart of this and its twin sister, the whole package comes together as an almost-perfect machine for catching life as it passes. It demands a little extra time, a little more attention if light is getting low. I managed to find the close-up lens made by Panasonic for the LC1 which are rarer than hens’ teeth. It’s more than possible, however, to get very nice pictures using just third party close-up filters and a step up ring.

    I had a D2 as well, but sold it and kept the LC1, partly for sentiment as it and I have history ( I was its nurse after all ) but mostly because I like the way it looks and have a slight preference for the way the images look. Not better, just my preference; both are lovely cameras. Black and white seems to work very nicely, again being rather filmic in appearance.
    I have to agree with the other poster who mentions the V-Lux 1. I also had this camera for a while and it’s most underestimated. I might manage to get hold of another at some point. Like the D2 and LC1, it’s outdated but not outdone. This is reflected in the asking prices which are the same as I paid four years ago. Three of the images below are from the LC1, last one is from the D2





  2. Brilliant camera for its time. I one point I had four of them. I still have a beautiful copy finished in red leather. I probably need to take it out for a spin one of these days. That camera taught me a lot about my own photography… getting me to think more and shoot more deliberately.

    • Interesting to come back to this thread again. I agree entirely, and if pushed, I would say that my Digilux 2 (only bought last year as good as new) is the camera I most enjoy using – closely followed by the V-Lux 1. I know in principle I can get better resolution out of my NEX 6, but it doesn’t give the same tactile pleasure, and sharpness is not everything by a long way.

        • Agree. Overgaard’s review is what finally clinched it for me, both what he says and the two pictures of Aarhus (which I know well) by night.

  3. I posted a comment elsewhere on Steve’s 2010 trip down memory lane, but I wonder if there’s a comparable updated camera to the Digilux 2 for those of us fortunate enough to have used one. I am currently borrowing a D2 from a friend, and although I don’t need to rush to return it, it formerly belonged to his late father and I’ll never get it off of him. So I wonder if there’s a current equivalent. Seems to me that the newly announced Fujifilm X20 is about as close as it gets, as the X100/S cameras have a prime lens, not the fairly wide aperture zooms of the X10/X20 offerings.

      • Hi Paul,

        I changed my username here (was Pelicanman).

        It’s great to know you’re still using the D2. I’ve also used my borrowed D2 for professional portrait work, and during a recent job product both mine and the client’s favorite image from the session. So far I still have the D2 on permanent loan from my friend and I’m content to use it as my daily shooter. He’s happy that I’m using it so much. I’m looking forward to printing out some of my favorite images from the nearly half a year I’ve had use of it to see how they come out at 8×10 or larger.

        Just one question: I can understand wanting to have a reliable camera to use, but why would you need three of these cameras?

        • That’s quite easy to answer, Gary:

          on some locations I don’t have the time to change settings, so every D2 has different settings:
          one with standard, one on b/w and one on 2 x zoom.

          And the D2 is out of production, so I have spare one to take if the unspeakable should happen….

  4. IMHO, i think it will be great a m4/3 version of the concept behind Digilux 2-3 and Pana L series.
    The same great lens of D2 it’s almost impossible(28-90 2,0-2,4 will b huge), but with the great selection of primes in the system(and don’t forget the already announced Pana 42,5 1.2), it can be simple make a small powerful and very pleasant camera.
    The body of D2 will be fine, a 4/3 sensor(maybe without AA filter?), a “Leicaish” software setting, a proper EVF(like the monster used on GH3 or the pleasant unit used on E-m5),silent shutter and the job will done.
    A camera like this, three primes(Oly 12 mm, Panaleica 25 and one between Panaleica 45 macro, Oly 45 1.8 and Pana 42.5 1.2)…what a set!

    • Ye-es. But there are advantages in going for fixed lens cameras with a large-ish sensor and a sensible number of megapixels when the optics are good.

  5. what a very interesting camera … wonder if Leica is still fixing the sensors? If so even if the camera is only 5 megs it would be fun to shoot with … any one know how to find out if the cameras are still being worked on by Leica?

  6. I have them all, D2, LC1, D3, L1… Fantastic cameras, as someone stated above, it still baffles me why they did not improve them rather than discontinuing. Personally, i love the D3 with PanaLeica Summilux 25mm 1.4 in Dynamic B&W setting… Sweet combo!

    a href=”http://blog.ikphotography.com/” title=”KI”>

  7. I bought the Panasonic equivalent in 2004 and loved it. Easy to use, good handling and great lens. Almost felt like a M camera. I gave it to my sister eventually. I never understood why it was discontinued instead of being improved on.

  8. I have owned a Digilux 2 since 2005 and I love it today as much as back then. It has travelled all over the American West and around the World. I love the simplicity, the robustness. When I look at the body I can hardly see a mark. I fell in a river in 2006, sent it back to Leica and they did an amazing job, no cost. The menu is so easy to use and I am still using the same batteries. I have been diagnosed with MND/ALS and so my hands don’t work so well, maybe time to sell the M9 and go back to the Digilux 2 🙂

  9. I still use my Digilux 3 — and love it. The grip and controls are incredibly ergonomic — like them better than my M9. Lovely IQ. And, as you said John, it has interchangeable lenses. I use mine with the Elmarit, and a Zuiko Zoom (for surf photography)… and last year bought the Olympus pancake 25 — which makes it a crazy light and fun camera. My wife loves to use it with the little lens.

    And, in terms of megapixels, 7.5 is fine for most photographers. Makes lovely 8×10 prints.

    So, yes, John, like you, I’m always a little surprised at why it never gets the respect of the Digi 2. I think it has to do with size – it’s a little bigger – and that fact that it’s shutter is a lot noisier. Also that the Digi 3 is a CMOS chip. Better in low light, but loses the tonal range of the CCD.

    But all cameras have compromises. You just have to figure out which ones you can live with… and there are a lot of people who can live with the ones in the Digi 2.

  10. This must be a slightly special camera in that there are few other digital models from 2003-4 which inspire such reverence. I love mine. The EVF is dreadful (come on, it IS; I usually shoot with the rear screen), the AF is slow (but it IS accurate….I don’t think I’ve ever seen a mishit once it’s locked on), the ISO range is a joke….and I love it. It can really produce some great shots and it’s versatile too. The macro mode is pretty nice too, I’ve taken some pretty pleasing closeups with it. Oh, and talk about quiet…the only thing I’ve heard which can match this thing for silence is the Fuji X100 with all the beeps and stuff turned off. And the bounce flash? Great idea.

    If Leica, in a moment of madness, decided to update it with

    a) A better EVF (shouldn’t be hard!)
    b) Quicker AF (ditto!)
    c) A few more megapixels (don’t need a ton, but 10-12 would be fine)

    – and didn’t aim it (pricewise) at Saudi oil princes or rock stars, I’d get one without question. But as it is, I’ll keep enjoying version 1.

    If I can be allowed to brazenly plug my own site, I did an article on the D-Lux 2, where I (tried to) show how it can match cameras with far superior specs. It’s here


    (if this is bad netiquette, then please delete the link, but I hope it’ll be seen as relevant to the discussion)

    • Just seen your post here and followed your link. Very illuminating. I have just spent a day with my V-lux 1 (yes 1 – it’s got a bigger sensor than the 2 with less pixels and less zoom, and all that does matter!) and I am really very impressed by the filmic quality after playing around with a NEX for some months. (Someone else made an interesting comment about CCD tonality.) It’s also enjoyable to work without having to change lenses and with such a good sharp manual zoom. This and my D-lux 4 are going to be my preferred tools in the immediate future. I like working with limitations, too. So thanks for your comment and thanks for the pictures and Zenfolio!

  11. I have the Pana version of the Digilux 3 and I always wondered why that camera doesn’t seem to hold the same clout as the Digi2. The Vario Elmar lens is excellent for a zoom and I have the same fondness for that camera as its predecessor. I also adapted my M42 lenses to the body which opened up a whole new visual acumen akin to the look of a Sofia Coppola film. Not to mention it becoming a very original analogue looking camera that always had people asking about it. Curious to hear about anyone else’s thoughts about the Digi 3.

    • Yup, the D3 was great, for what it was, and I still use its lenses on micro4/3 ..the excellent f2.8 14-50mm (yes, f2.8), and the astonishingly good 14-150mm.

      They focus slower than native m4/3 lenses on the OM-D (or other m4/3 bodies), but the quality’s superb ..and they have wider max apertures than the native m4/3 lenses ..though also larger and heavier, of course!

      But the D3 was just a Panasonic with chrome plastic instead of black, and with a red dot on it. The lenses were really the selling point!

    • Because it says Panasonic in fron of it and not Leica. Not every person wants the truth, otherwise, people wouldn’t be voting for the same political parties year after year after year after year. You can lead a horse to water but……

      • That wasn’t my point really. I wasn’t talking about the differences between the Digi3 and L1 ( I consider them the same camera because they are). I was comparing the Digi2 and the Digi3 and how the former gets all the attention even though it’s an earlier model.

  12. 5Mp? Are you crazy. You need at least 20Mp these days!! Oh hang on look at the great photos. There is no doubt that a CCD sensor with decent glass has great tonality. Even with a small sensor apparently. I look at my large prints (up to A1 size) from my Fuji S2 Pro I took between 204 and 2009 and marvel at the quality. CMOS sensors gives better low light but what you gain on the swings…

    • The good news is that Leica have not forgotten about it! I used my Digilux 2 for a few years and then the sensor died. I put it in the cupboard and forgot it until someone mentioned sensor replacement – last year. I contacted Leica and yes, they were still replacing the sensors – for free.
      I now have my Digilux in use again, and still love it.
      A great back-up to the M9.

  13. I had this camera when it came out and it was fantastic. I sold it (dumb mistake!). IMO, Leica should have updated it with an APS sensor and electronics. They were way ahead of the game with this camera when it debuted and sadly, they seem to have forgotten about this gem. They can still resurrect it and have a great middle of the road type camera beneath the almighty “M” series. From what I have read on this and other posts, many enthusiasts, advanced amateurs and pros would use something like this.

  14. “For instance shutter speed dial, aperture selection on the lens, built-in EVF, full manual control. Sound familiar? Isn’t this exactly the same as the X100, which came out some 7 years later and has been heralded as a game changer!”

    @ Gary
    Aperture selection on the lens was use by all SRL manufacturers prior to AF in the 1980’s and Nikon still sells manual AIS lenses working that way.
    Shutter speed dial was also the main solution, apart Olympus OM that had in on the body around the lens mount and working the way of aperture selection.
    And EVF is the rule, if Fuji changed something it was with the offer of the hybrid viewfinder.

    So, no matter how good the Leica may be nowadays I see no reason to make this relationship, besides there is some ground to think that the retro solution of their X series was targeting some of the same kind of market niche as the ones of Leica present professional or prosumer models.

    I liked your images quite a lot and apart their quality you also make a statement on the use of “old” cameras not always being a “problem” to achieve them.

    • Thanks for your comment Antonio and I agree SLR’s have had all the manual controls from day one. The point I was making that the X100 was heralded for it’s manual controls, when the Digilux 2 had also had them some 7 years earlier.

  15. I owned one of these for a couple of years. Loved, except for the shutter lag, and lack of pixel count on the sensor. I always thought it should have been a least 10 megapixels. Fantastic lens and range.

  16. My frist serious digital camera was the Panasonic LC1, but I was too used to analog slr’s and sold it before I got to know it well. Bought a dslr, but missed the LC1 after a while and bought a mint Digilux 2. Learned to use it better and made some fine pictures with it fx frontpage image on my webpage http://www.noergaardfoto.dk. I agree the bw files are just wonderfull. Only drawback is the limited iso range even though you can push the files 2 stops. In an insane moment I sold it and for now I’m back to dslr + Olympus E-P1 and I miss the D2 from time to time. I really wish Leica would update this almost perfect camera. The new Fuji XE1 looks just like a tribute to the D2:0) Best regards Martin

  17. I’ve three Digilux 2 and they are the perfect cameras for shooting in low light, concerts, nature.. you name it. 90% of all my pics are taken with the Digilux 2. It was actually my first digital camera and I still love it.

  18. I had a Digilux 2 but got hard up and sold it, but I have always said it was and remains a great camera. If you can buy one, get one. i have found that dealers give a 3-6 month guarantee and are generally cheaper the ebay.

  19. Dear me there are hundreds of other cameras other than Leica.
    MANY are more aesthetically pleasing in design than Leica.

    No Fuji did not base X100 on Digilux2.

    (Leica would have done well to base M on X100 with a hybrid EVF OVF
    and base X2 on X100 with EVF OVF).

    Apart from that 1st photo is real nice,
    2nd photo shows what the lens can do with landscapes.

    By the way there is that massive thread on Leica User forum Digilux 2 have a distinctive look.
    yet any CCD camera of that era with a decent lens eg: Canon Pro1; Minolta A2, A200; Olympus 5050, 8080; Sony F707, F717 give the distinctive look as Digilux2.
    It is just compared to modern cameras that Digilux2 photos are different.

    • I’m pretty sure that gary based this on functionnal layout of digilux 2 (protips : there’s no mention of aesthetics in the review ).

      And this is true, digilux 2 was the first digicam with that kind of oldschool/modern automatism mix of knob layout. And i was really pleased that fuji did the same in its X series (where panasonic completly lost it in its m43 cam…)

  20. Amazing shots! I found my Digilux 2 the same way, via Thorsten’s great review.
    The camera continues to amaze me to this day if there is enough light or when I shoot BW

  21. Great story and photos, thanks for sharing. I miss my Digilux2 and its user interface which is the best of any digital camera ever. And of course, the real difference makes its outstanding zoom lens. Sadly, they don’t build them like this anymore. I see the Fuji XE1 with zoom as the 2012 interpretation of the Digilux2.

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