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Leica vs Panasonic

Last night, I attended a presentation hosted by Keeble & Shucat Photography in Palo Alto, CA. The Leica USA west coast representative was present, and the Leica Germany representative went through a somewhat tedious bullet-point presentation of the current Leica digital lineup (see Leica vs Panasonic below). His knowledge of the products was quite limited, and of no use in understanding the more interesting issues, such as infrared contamination, or bit depth of the raw files.

One of the presentation slides suggested that the M8 had been designed for the “gentleman” who wants a smaller, less conspicuous camera. I had noted this Germanic oddity and wondered to myself if anyone would protest, and indeed one female attendee brought the matter to the Leica Germany representative’s attention, accompanied by a chuckle from the (mostly male) crowd. Apparently Germany has not yet achieved fully virtuous politically correctness, in spite of numerous laws that would never pass constitutional muster here in the USA. Hurray for diversity.

Somewhat disappointingly, no professional-quality images were shown as part of the presentation; I suggest to Leica that a key sales point in any presentation is to show what the cameras are capable of, with skillfully-composed professional grade prints, and high-resolution images on-screen. The “wow” factor can help sell cameras, and that opportunity was forfeit, with the Leica representatives apparently counting on the tried and true assertions of superior Leica quality. No doubt this is true of build quality with the M8, but image quality is an open matter.

One question I asked was how the Leica digital cameras compared to the Panasonic equivalent. The response was that Leica insists on a higher level of quality control, modifies the firmware, and “picks the cherries” (or, in Germany, “picks out the raisins”). Quality differences are hard to verify without actually buying several cameras, but precision assembly is critical with digital cameras, so this claim might have merit.

Leica also supplies a longer warranty and a flash card, albeit a small one. The claim was also made that the equivalent Panasonic models do not hold their value nearly as well as the Leica models, a claim supported by a slide showing an ebay auction. Not very persuasive, but probably true.

Below are how the Leica and Panasonic models compare.

Leica/Panasonic Digital Camera Lineup
Leica Panasonic
C-Lux 1 Lumix DMC-FX01 and DMC-FX50
D-Lux 3 Lumix DMC-LX2
V-Lux 1 Lumix DMC-FZ50
Digilux 3 Lumix L1
M8 no equivalent
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