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Leica D-Lux Type 109 Digital Camera Review with 4K UHD Video

by on November 27, 2015
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Overview

As a compact point-and-shoot digital camera with a fairly hefty 12.8 Micro Four Thirds MOS sensor for greater depth of field, the Leica D-Lux Digital Type 109 has a remarkably robust package of features to offer for on-the-go photographers who want quality in a highly compact package.

This little camera has lots to offer across the board in terms of high quality photos, impressive light gathering capability and some very good subject isolation within the frame with minimal noise levels along darker edges of an image. Furthermore, on top of all these photo taking features that Leica built into the Type 109, there is the cool and somewhat surprising addition of 4K ultra HD video recording capacity at up to 30p or 24p, saved in the form of easy to use and easy to edit MP4 video files.

In other words, the Leica D-Lux Digital Type 109 is one very robust piece of all around shooting technology which offers much more than its very compact body would have you expect. For this reason, it makes for an interesting and very consumer-friendly piece of technology that’s nicely priced to boot.

The Good

The Leica D-Lux Digital Type 109 has a lot to offer for both enthusiasts of video capture in a variety of resolutions and for photographers in particular if either needs a very compact but powerful little camera for easy field use. This is in fact its single most obviously positive trait as a 4K UHD digital camera. The little Type 109 can be slipped into a largish pocket and even its standard 24-75mm f/1.7-2.8 Leica lens is highly unobtrusive while still packing plenty of features. Furthermore, the D-Lux Type 109 is remarkably robust, with a solid body that’s resistant to impacts, wetness and dust while also being very easy to handle unless your hands are particularly large.

Moving along, we love the ease-of-use that the D-Lux Type 109 offers. While it doesn’t come with a front-body handgrip and comes with something of a rounded appearance, the D-Lux Type 109 also offers all of its main controls in easy to access positions for maximum adjustability while actively shooting or grabbing images. Furthermore, the accompanying lens is easy to use for zoom, night shooting and for focus adjustments on the fly. The camera’s easy-to-use automatic modes, manual settings and video shooting functions are all easy to get used to while being highly flexible for both photo and video shooting.

We also like how the built in Leica DC Vario-Summilux 10.9–34 mm f/1.7–2.8 ASPH. Lens combines a very fast aperture with a powerful level of zoom range that’s about equivalent to 24mm- 75mm on a 35mm format sensor. In addition to this, the Type 109 offers a large Micro Four Thirds sensor that’s particularly sensitive to light and thus delivers some excellent image quality under both light and dark conditions due to its very impressive ISO sensitivity of a hefty 25,600. Finally, as far as its video functions go, this particular Leica offers 4K UHD video at both 30p and 24p frame rates, which is a definite bonus feature in such a compact and seemingly simple device.

On another note, the Leica Type 109 also offers plenty of wireless connectivity features in the form of a WiFi module for remote control from a smartphone or tablet as well as wireless image transfer to either type of device. Leica’s own Image Shuttle app enables this photo transfer feature and can easily be downloaded for free to almost any Android or iOS device and then configured accordingly. Furthermore, the camera’s own integrated NFC module can easily and quickly be set up to connect with any NFC-compatible smartphone or tablet via WiFi as long as said mobile device is in proper range.

Finally, the Type 109’s easy, smooth transition from automatic to manual settings is a joy to use and allows for both very simple, effort-free quality image capture while also giving the user access to complex manual adjustments. On top of this, the camera’s electronic viewfinder is designed to show exposure settings which perfectly fit those on the display screen of the Type 109, thus ensuring excellent exposure precision and shots that turn out as you expect them to.


Check the Price of the Leica D-Lux (Type 109) 12.8 Megapixel Digital Camera with 3.0-Inch LCD (Black) (18471) on Amazon:

4.5 - 21 Reviews

The Bad

On the other hand, the Leica D-Lux Type 109 isn’t without its admittedly minor flaws either. However, these truly are few and far between given how much engineering was put into making this little camera into one remarkably robust performer for its price and class.

To start with, the lack of a hand grip, while saving quite a little bit on bulk is annoying. Moving around and taking shots with a small camera like this during rigorous field use can easily lead to small accidents and the easier and more firmly the camera can be gripped the better. A hand grip would have helped this out a lot and in this, Leica could have taken a lesson from Sony with its RX100 series compact cameras or from Pansonic’s LX100.

Furthermore, while the body of the D-Lux Type 109 is quite solid in its build, it’s also mostly plastic and even its large LCD display screen isn’t glass either. This does take away somewhat from the feel of the camera. It’s light and it looks great but it also has a sort of “cheap” feel to it that we don’t entirely like even if this is a slightly superficial complaint. On the other hand, a somewhat less superficial problem with the D-Lux Type 109 is its startup time. It’s on the slow side and this can be a hassle for situations where you suddenly see something you want to catch a video or shot of in a hurry and have to wait. During active photo taking with short breaks, the slow start time can sometimes force you to walk around with camera on and lens extended, which is a bit cumbersome and also happens to drain the battery quicker than we like.

Final Thoughts

Despite a couple very minor, mostly superficial flaws in the D-Lux Type 109, we definitely recommend this camera to anyone who wants an easy to use and highly portable field shooter with lots of power. In this respect, the D-Lux Type 109 is superb and only outdone by the Sony A7s II compact mirrorless or possibly Panasonic’s Lumix G7KS.

Specs

Camera Type: 4K Large sensor compact SLR camera
Max Video Resolution: 3840 x 2160 pixels
Sensor Type: Four Thirds (17.3 x 13 mm) CMOS sensor
Recording Formats: Video: MPEG-4 / Photo: RAW, JPEG
Effective Pixels: 13 megapixels
Display: LCD 3” fixed screen
ISO: Auto, 200-25600
Minimum/Maximum shutter speed: 60 seconds/ 1/16,000 sec
Connectivity: WiFi, NFC, USB 2.0, Micro-HDMI, Microphone
Storage Media: SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-1)
Video Frame Rates: 3840 x 2160 (30p, 24p), 1920 x 1080 (60p, 60i, 30p, 24p), 1280 x 720 (30p), 640 x 480
Weight with batteries: 0.89 lbs/405 grams/14.29 oz

Accessories

In the box, included with the Leica D-LUX (Type 109) Digital Camera is your core package of camera essentials. It includes a lithium-ion battery pack, battery charger, a single USB cable, a leather neck strap, a lens cap with string, a hot show cover, a CF D external flash, a free download for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and a limited warranty that’s good for three years instead of the more usual 1 year. You can also fit this compact camera on the latest drones.

We’d also recommend getting your hands on a half case for extra grip (since the Type 109 doesn’t feature a hand grip) as well as a macro lens and telephoto lens if you want a much broader range of image taking capabilities in your hands.

Highlights

There are a range of essential and powerful highlights in the Leica D-LUX Type 109 which are worth mentioning in particular detail. As we’d already mentioned, this compact camera comes with a lot more photo and video kick than its rather simple appearance would suggest. Let’s cover the most crucial stuff:

First off, there is the exceptionally large 13 megapixel 4/3 CMOS sensor in the Type 109. The large area that this particular sensor covers gives the D-LUX a much better level of photo and video capture capacity than what we’ve seen in many other sometimes pricier models. The sensor also offers some great depth of field, superb shadow detail and in general gives over some fine detail for contrast, color, realism and both light and dark performance.

What makes the sensor do its job so superbly as well is the Type 109’s integrated Fast f/1.7-2.8 Leica DC Vario-Summilux Lens. Its light gathering capacity is superb even under conditions of full zoom and exposure limitations are thus minimized during particularly difficult long distance night shooting situations. The 3.1x optical zoom of this lens also delivers some very broad view angles which are equivalent to a 24-75mm lens on a 35mm film camera. Finally, the internal optical stabilization of the Vario-Summilux Lens in the Type 109 is a definite winner, with some wonderful compensation for shake caused by hands and unstable settings.

Next, we absolutely need to mention the low light performance of the D-LUX Type 109. This particular Leica camera does a heck of a job under conditions of low lighting and we’d almost (but not quite) compare it to the truly superior low light shooter, the Sony A7s II compact mirrorless camera, which we’ve also reviewed. As we’ve already mentioned, the ISO range of the Type 109 goes from 100 to 25,600 and ensures that even very dim lighting is not a major obstacle under both regular and zoom shooting scenarios. The above-mentioned lens and sensor qualities also further help minimize noise or over-exposure at all ISO settings.

Finally, the 4K UHD video recording capacity of the Leica Type 109 needs to be mentioned. This little camera doesn’t look like much of a 4K UHD video grabber but its 12.8 megapixel 4/3 MOS sensor gets wonderfully exploited for its ability to capture some excellent and wonderfully crisp 4K UHD video at 3840 x 2160 pixels. The 4K shooting can be done at either 30p or 24p and the MP4 video footage of the Type 109 can also be shot in Full HD at 60p. There are no complex slow motion video recording features in this mostly photo-oriented camera but it still offers plenty of kick for the video it can shoot.


Check the Price of the Leica D-Lux (Type 109) 12.8 Megapixel Digital Camera with 3.0-Inch LCD (Black) (18471) on Amazon:

4.5 - 21 Reviews

Overall Performance

In terms of general performance, the Leica Type 109 is quite simply a winner. Adjusting both manual and automatic features is easy and fluid while both photo and video options (but photo options in particular) are highly robust. The shots captured in the camera look great and night photos are particularly impressive with the richness and accuracy of their colors along with the minimal noise levels thanks to the above-described combination of powerful sensor, superb lens technology and excellent ISO range. Best image results will come from using lower sensitivity settings with the ISO and taking the ISO no higher than 6400 is your best bet for high quality RAW images. JPEG photos are best taken at ISO 1600 or lower and the D-LUX can manage some remarkable image clarity even with very low lighting. On the other hand, heavy dark will cause some struggle even with the ISO cranked all the way up.

Finally, colors in the Leica Type 109 are very nicely vibrant even under the camera’s default setup and there is also a built-in Vivid Photo Style which will further up the vibrancy to levels that can look excellent under the right conditions. On the other hand, a “Natural” option in the automatic settings is good for more muted visuals. Dynamic range in the D-LUX Type 109 is generally excellent and the automatic white balance technology of the camera does a solid job of keeping things even under varied lighting conditions.

Pricing

The Leica Leica D-Lux Digital Type 109 Camera is currently retailing on Amazon.com for $1,195.00 and comes with the basic package of accessories we’ve already categorized above. For U.S buyers, the camera is being sold from the site with free shipping too. Given its rich range of features, it’s 4K video performance and its night shooting capabilities in particular, this price of just under $1,200 is definitely not a bad deal.

Check the Price of the Leica D-Lux (Type 109) 12.8 Megapixel Digital Camera with 3.0-Inch LCD (Black) (18471) on Amazon:

4.5 - 21 Reviews


The Not So Great

To summarize briefly, we really didn’t like the body design of the D-LUX. It lacks that essential (in our view) hand grip and the camera not only feels a bit cheap due to its plastic body, it’s also rather slippery to the fingers because of its smoothness. Make sure to wear your strap with this camera. Furthermore, the slow startup time creates shooting hassles and can indirectly lead to battery drain because of the time the camera spends on so you don’t need to wait for activation in a crucial moment. Finally, we did notice that the D-LUX Type 109’s lens, for all its finer qualities, does sometime suffer from a bit of lens flare.

Positives

• Excellent low light shooter
• great images and video under assorted conditions
• 4K UHD video looks great
• Compact body
• Great price
• Useful connectivity options

Negatives

• Slippery, poor body design
• Some flare issues with the lens
• Slow to turn on

Editor Rating
 
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Design
B+

 
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A-

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A-

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Bottom Line
 

Despite its few rather minor flaws, we definitely recommend the Leica D-Lux Digital Type 109 4K camera for its rich range of features, the high quality of its images and video and for its 4K UHD shooting abilities. This camera is also one remarkably good low light option for people who love night photos. The D-Lux Type 109 doesn’t look like much but it performs well.

Check the Price of the Leica D-Lux (Type 109) 12.8 Megapixel Digital Camera with 3.0-Inch LCD (Black) (18471) on Amazon:

4.5 - 21 Reviews

 
2 comments
 
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  • Hamid
    June 9, 2016 at 7:16 am

    Nice review,
    There is some discussion in Amazon about comparing this camera and Panasonic LX100. are there exactly the same, other than the body. I heard sony RX IV overheat if record 4K video over 5 min, I wonder what this camera do.

    Reply

    • Stephen
      Stephen
      June 21, 2016 at 11:30 am

      Hello Hamid, to the best of our recollection, the Leica D-Lux certainly won’t overheat after recording only a few minutes of 4K video. Depending on the memory you load into the camera, it should be able to shoot at least 25 minutes of footage in 4K, though recording at this resolution does eat its battery charge quite quickly.

      Reply

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