Just when I thought point-and-shoot cameras were dead, Leica comes up with its new C-Lux. But then this is no ordinary point-and-shoot, even if it looks like one. Let me list what its capabilities are: it has a 1-inch 20MP MOS sensor with 4K shooting capabilities, 15x optical zoom (132mm) and a maximum ISO sensitivity of 25600. All this means, the capabilities are more akin to a mirrorless camera and not a compact.
The lure of the C-Lux is the fact that for many of us who might appreciate Leica and its brand of photography, this is the most accessible from the price perspective. And maybe it ends up being the stepping stone to the legendary models from the brand. I was fortunate enough to have the review unit at a time when I had to be in New York for a couple of days on work. Usually, reviewing a camera in the Delhi is tough, for I find no muse in the dull skies and boring, subject-less, urban spread.
Leica C-Lux design
The Leica C-Lux is as lightweight and handy as any of the compact cameras that died away as a segment a couple of years back. It has a large 3-inch touch-enabled LCD panel at the back, a mode dial on top, and two rings — one on the lens and one just beside the trigger — to help you adjust the settings. There are some customisable buttons which will come in handy to set up one-touch access to your favourite features.
The camera has a 15x optical zoom and the lens does come out quite a bit. The one thing that had me disconcerted a bit was the sound of the shutters opening and shutting as the lens comes out and goes in. Though the camera had a solid build, this sounds as if something is a bit loose.
Leica C-Lux operation
Using the Leica C-Lux is very easy. Of course, it can be used as a regular compact camera where you are just clicking mindlessly in Auto mode. There are colour modes to let the camera do most of thinking for you. There is even a panorama mode if you get a bit adventurous.
However, you are not buying a Leica to use the Auto mode. The C-Lux has an electronic viewfinder that lets you compose photos the way they are supposed to be. I used the camera quite a bit in manual mode, peering through the viewfinder and adjusting shutter speed and aperture using the rings. The results show, especially with a few photos I clicked at Times Square, certainly not the stuff you expect from a point and shoot.
Leica C-Lux results
For me, there were two aspects about the C-Lux that make it stand out. One, as the company says, this camera is all about getting close. So the 15x optical zoom lets you get really close to the subject and still click some photos with amazing detail. Remember, this is a company that not only makes cameras but also some of the best optics in the world. This also means the images in the macro mode are exceptional, even when you are shooting 4K videos.
The other aspect is the low-light capabilities of this camera. Compact cameras don’t really do well in this area, where mirrorless cameras make a killing. The C-Lux is compact with the soul of a mirrorless, so things are different. This one comes up with some amazing frames in low-light and even in artificial lighting which some other cameras struggle with. The large sensor and the f/3.3–6.4 lens too help, clearly.
The colours that this camera generates are much more vibrant and life-like than most others in this range. Also, the contrasts add a different life to the photos, even without you using the HDR mode.
Leica C-Lux comes up with some amazing frames in low-light and even in artificial lighting which some other cameras struggle with. The C-Lux is also a good video camera. On assignment, I used this camera to shoot the first look of a new phone and even did a link shot of myself. The video, now available in our tech playlist, looks different from everything before and after just because the colours are much more natural. The C-Lux can be really fast if needed, shooting 10 4K frames per second and with its 15X zoom, this can be used for wildlife or sports photography to good effect.
Then the Leica C-Lux is a camera for 2018. It connects seamlessly with Android and iOS devices and lets you control, save/share images via smart devices in a hassle-free manner. Yes, this camera too have a long menu, but you can figure that out easily.
Leica C-Lux: Should you buy?
Yes, if you, like me, are enamoured by everything Leica. This is pretty much your first step to the Leica universe and you will not regret it one bit. In fact, it might actually force you to step up further and maybe bring home something better from the company. And that could well be the idea. Those who don’t get the Leica viewpoint, might think of this as just another, expensive, compact camera. They can skip the C-Lux.
Leica C-Lux specifications
1“ MOS sensor with 20,900,000 pixels | Lens – Leica DC Vario-Elmar 3.3 – 6.4 / 8.8 – 132mm ASPH., 35mm camera equivalent: 24 – 360mm, aperture range: 3.3 – 8 / 6.4 – 8 (at 8.8 / 360mm) | shutter speed – 60 – 1/2000 s (with the mechanical shutter), 1 – 1/16000 s (with the electronic shutter) | up to 10fps | RAW/JPEG, MP4 3840×2160/30p | 3.0“ TFT LCD + 0.21“ LCD viewfinder | Wifi + Bluetooth 4.2 | 340g