I will admit, I have a bit of an infatuation with smaller cameras. I have owned almost every Fujifilm X100 series camera they have produced as well as a couple versions of the Sony RX100. In Leica, I have owned an X camera, the D-lux 109 and a few others. I have burned up a few Olympus X-A cameras and have long lusted after a clean Leica Minilux or C3.
What is the draw to these cameras one might ask? It seems the compact market, in a time where it should be faltering, is booming. We live in a time where technology is getting smaller and smaller. The average point and shoot camera is perceived as no longer acceptable since many phones are able to create better photos. Compact film cameras and digital cameras are all the rage right now because of one thing; as a society, we have become a customer which always has a camera on us... at all times. Our phones leave us longing for something more especially when it comes to the lens. I still cannot use my phone effectively at 100mm (35mm terms). There is no way I can isolate a far off bit of landscape or capture a distant action shot with a phone.
The Leica C-Lux is the perfect camera for the person looking for a camera with features that greatly extend past the basic functions of their phone. Light and compact the Leica C-Lux is small enough to be part of your day to day life. The Leica C-Lux can easily sync with your phone via wifi or bluetooth, all while packing in a 15x optical zoom, 20mp 1" sensor, and of course snappy electronics making the C-lux extremely responsive. I am self proclaimed tech junky, but when it comes to cameras I like things to just work. I like to focus on the photography rather than the tech. I think the C-Lux does a great job at doing just that - staying out of the way.
Will this camera replace my Leica M? No. Will it replace my phone camera? No. Will it be the #1 camera I grab for 75% of day to day situations? Yes! I am a father, an avid outdoors enthusiast and Marketing Manager here at Camera West Group. I find myself shooting a lot of photos for Instagram stories or making web content for an upcoming landing page or article. I usually have to pull something out of my bag that is much heavier, but let's be honest... that is a pain. The C-Lux sits next to my laptop and phone on my desk, always ready to go. When I'm out and about it is nearly always in my bag whether that be around town or mountain biking some singletrack through the Santa Bernardino Mountains here in my backyard. The camera you have with you is the best camera you can have, and this is something that I have said for a long time. Maybe this is why I am addicted to compact cameras.
So let's dig into a bit of the nitty gritty of the Leica C-Lux...
The Optics - Leica Excellence
The Leica C-Lux features a really nifty 24-360mm of 15x optical zoom lens. This focal length is HUGE! Especially seeing that the Leica V-Lux 114 has a similar range at 25-400mm, and features the same size sensor but comes in a much larger body (one that cannot easily go in my pocket). The downside is that the C-Lux only has a f3.5-6.3 lens which is considerably slower than it's larger "bridge camera" counterparts. The optics perform as you would expect any Leica optic to perform and render crisp images throughout the focal range. I particularly love the macro mode which can be used almost on top of an item at the widest focal length, as well as the telephoto end which allows me to isolate objects in landscape and action shots.
These two shots represent the extreme versitility of the wide andlge and telephoto capabilities of the C-Lux.
The Electronics - Menu's and what not
One of the greatest features which is new to the Leica compact lineup is the touch screen sensitive menus. This is great in a camera that must be operated mainly through the menu due to the lack of buttons and dials that you might find on a larger camera such as the CL. The menu is easy to navigate and maneuver, and the quick menu is easily accessible while shooting. Personally I think this might be the first compact camera that I do not have a big issue with the menu!
I also find myself using the touch area autofocus a lot to set my single point for specific framing. It works like a charm and adds a needed bonus to the already slim ergonomics fo this tiny camera.
The Images - The Final Product
Although I have been using the Leica C-lux nearly every day without fail for documenting, Instagram, and family photos. I have also taken the camera out on a couple major excursions to really test its limits. Every time I have come back with images I loved.
Recently I took it out to shoot some action and street photography while in Huntington Beach for the Vans US Open surf competition. I even got my wife a loaner C-Lux for the trip, which she enjoyed thoroughly! The C-Lux was perfect for walking around and snapping family photos. As we walked out on the pier I was surprised to find that the 10 fps and 360mm zoom brought some fantastic opportunities for surf photography. I stood there for a good hour snapping some great photos of the surfers off the pier and had great fun snapping away next to other photographers and their Canon, Nikon and Sony pro bodies and telephoto lenses. While no match for these setups, I did not have a camera bag, I was not lugging gear and most importantly I was having fun.
Van's US Open Sample Gallery - Huntington, CA
Secondly, I took it out on one of my many mountain bike excursions. I have been looking for an extremely vertical camera to throw in my pack for a long day of single track for some time. All compact cameras and small mirrorless cameras have the same issue... they lack a wide range of zoom which greatly hinders my ability to capture a variety of shots. Low light and lens speed are not an issue normally as I am shooting in daylight but compactness and ability gain quick access to the camera is of utmost importance. To say the least, the Leica C-Lux will be living in my Mindshift Rotation 180 14L for many miles of mountain biking. The camera was perfect for quick stops to grab a photo and the lens gave me a ton of options to get different shots while out. I also was able to throw the camera in program mode and hand it to a fellow cyclist on the trail so they could grab a shot of me after climbing 2000+ feet to a breathtaking vista. I captured some really amazing shots that just would not be possible with a larger camera. The C-lux road in my pack all day for 46 miles and 6000 feet of climbing in the San Bernadino mountains that day, and I'm sure it will see more!
Skyline Trail - Big Bear, CA
Conclusion - The Ideal Compact Camera?
In conclusion, the C-Lux is a must have for all photographers. It is the best camera to take everywhere with you, and it offers beginners and advanced photographers a minimal yet powerful alternative to their larger cameras. The C-lux is not going to perform as well as your full frame in lower light or have the depth of field of an f1.4 lens, but the camera is what it is, and it does exactly what it is designed to do - go everywhere with you. So add it to your wallet, keys, and phone and take photos on the go!