Leica C Review

May 23, 2014 | Jack Baker | |
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Image Quality

The Leica C packs a 12.1MP sensor, which sounds distinctly low-resolution compared to the 20-megapixel chips in some compact cameras. However, fewer pixels mean larger pixels, and the C's are even bigger thanks to its larger than average 1/1.7” sensor. The theory goes that the bigger the pixel, the most light-sensitive it should be and therefore your images will be cleaner with less image noise.

In practice the C does indeed produce better image quality than you'll get from a conventional compact with a 1/2.3” sensor, though don't expect it to be a match for far larger Micro Four Thirds or APS-C-sized sensors packed into really high-end compacts. The C's image quality is a good middle ground however, especially as you can choose to exploit all its potential by shooting in RAW.

Keep the sensitivity at ISO400 or below and detail levels are very good with minimal grain noise and only a hint of colour blotchiness visible if you scrutinise. Noise is still well controlled up to ISO1600, albeit with slightly less detail. Only at ISO3200 is noise starting to become a noticeable issue and colours slightly desaturated. The high levels of grain and colour speckling at ISO6400 meaning this setting is very much a last resort, whilst the hideous results generated by the maximum ISO12800 sensitivity make it best left as a marketing gimmick only.

Take a step back from noise analysis and the C performs admirably. Colours are consistently vibrant and auto white balance copes in scenarios known to fool lesser cameras. Likewise the exposure metering system invariably strikes the right balance between highlight and shadow detail and produces accurate overall exposures.

There's also little to find fault with the 7.1x optically-stabilised lens. There is some barrel distortion visible at full wide angle, but it's more apparent when shooting test charts than real-world subjects. Chromatic aberration (purple fringing) is also evident in very high contrast areas, though again it's rarely distracting. The lens will open to a maximum aperture of f/2.0, which isn't quite a match for the f/1.8 optics on some rival cameras, however it's still enough to let plenty of light through and helps the camera avoid high ISO sensitivities and excessive noise.

Noise

The Leica C has nine sensitivity settings available at full resolution ranging from ISO80 up to ISO12800. The camera produces relatively low amounts of image noise up to and including ISO1600, and ISO3200 shots are also usable if you're not too picky. Colour speckling and detail loss make the ISO6400 setting a last resort, whilst ISO12800 images look abysmal.

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

iso80.jpg iso100.jpg
   

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

iso200.jpg iso400.jpg

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

iso800.jpg iso1600.jpg

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

iso3200.jpg iso6400.jpg

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

 
iso12800.jpg  

Sharpening

Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little soft at the default sharpening setting. You can change the in-camera sharpening level if you don't like the default look.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

sharpen1.jpg sharpen1a.jpg
   
sharpen2.jpg sharpen2a.jpg

Focal Range

The camera's 7.1 x zoom lens covers a focal length range of 28-200mm when converted into a 35mm camera format. A 28mm wide-angle capability isn't particularly wide these days and can make it a struggle to photograph large buildings in confined cities or fit a large group of people into frame, but it does translate to a useful telephoto reach.

28mm

200mm

focal_range1.jpg focal_range2.jpg

Macro

The Leica C will macro focus down to 3cm which is close enough for most subjects, though as with any camera depth of field does become critical at this distance so careful composition is essential.

Macro

Macro (100% Crop)

macro1.jpg macro1a.jpg

Flash

Five flash settings are available: Auto, Auto/Red-Eye, Forced Flash On, Slow Sync./Red-Eye, or Forced Flash Off. Even without red-eye reduction the camera avoids any trace of red-eye, and the flash is also powerful enough to illuminate a wide-angle shot with only minor vignetting.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (28mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (28mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64
   

Flash Off - Telephoto (200mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (200mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are a couple of portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Auto setting or the Red Eye Fix option caused any amount of red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)
flash_on.jpg flash_on1.jpg
   

Red Eye

Red Eye (100% Crop)

flash_redeye.jpg flash_redeye1.jpg

Creative Controls

The Leica C contains fifteen Creative Control effects which are all previewed live: Expressive, Retro, Old Days, High Key, Low Key, Sepia, Dynamic Monochome, Impressive Art, High Dynamic, Cross Process, Toy Effect, Miniature Effect, Soft Focus, Star Filter and One Point Color.

Normal

Expressive

effects_01.jpg effects_02.jpg
   

Retro

Old Days

effects_03.jpg effects_04.jpg
   

High Key

Low Key

effects_05.jpg effects_06.jpg
   

Sepia

Dynamic Monochrome

effects_07.jpg effects_08.jpg
   

Impressive Art

High Dynamic

effects_09.jpg effects_10.jpg
   

Cross Process

Toy Effect

effects_11.jpg effects_12.jpg
   

Miniature Effect

Soft Focus

effects_13.jpg effects_14.jpg
   

Star Filter

One Point Color

effects_15.jpg effects_16.jpg

Panoramas

Leica's dedicated Panorama Shot mode is simple to use and allows you to capture a panorama by holding down the shutter release. The system allows up to 360-degree pans and you can stop panning at will. Unfortunately though the stitching is fairly seamless, the final results are downsized to around 850 vertical pixels and consequently a large amount of detail is lost. If you're after something more spectacular, you'd be better off manually snapping adjacent overlapping images and stitching them on a computer with additional software.

panorama1.jpg