Leica C Review

May 23, 2014 | Jack Baker | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


Picture the scene. You've made it in life. You've got the Rolex on your wrist, the Montblanc in your pocket and the Bentley parked in the villa's garage. But you'll need something to capture this elite lifestyle, and it better look the part too.

This is where Leica has made a name for itself in the camera world. See, Leica cameras aren't just cameras; they're finely-crafted works of art that last generations and cost as much as an average car. So what's with the Leica C then? Its body is plastic for heaven's sake, and the price tag is almost affordable. Whatever next?

Well, ever since Leica joined forces with Panasonic to supply the glassy bits for its cameras, the deal has worked both ways and Leica has been allowed to dress up several of Panasonic's cameras in a more sophisticated style. So although the C certainly looks like a new, smart and sexy snapper; it's actually just a Panasonic LF1 under a veil of exclusivity.

But that's no bad thing, as the LF1 is a terrific camera and means the Leica C inherits some impressive tech. Its 12.1 megapixel MOS sensor may not be the most pixel-packed in the business, but it's physically larger than the average sensor size in the most compact cameras and therefore promises better image quality and has a high maximum sensitivity of ISO12800.

Should the 920k-dot, 3-inch LCD ever prove difficult to see, there's also an electronic viewfinder to help compose shots. This is also Leica's first camera to incorporate Wi-Fi connectivity for remote camera control and image sharing, plus you get NFC pairing to instantly link the camera with your NFC-enabled smart device. Up front is a 7.1x, optically stabilised lens with a 35mm-equivalent focal range of 28-200mm. Add in plenty of creative image effects as well as manual control, a nifty multifunction control ring around the lens and RAW image capture and the Leica C certainly has the substance to match its style.

You'll still have to part with around £550 / $699 / €699 to join the Leica club though, but Leica does sweeten the deal by throwing in a free copy of Adobe Lightroom 5 image editing software.

Ease of Use

The Panasonic LF1 on which the Leica C is based is a well thought out camera and thankfully this DNA is still clear to see on the C. Both cameras share pretty much the same dimensions and identical button layouts. Leica has changed the button shape from round to square, and the overall shape is more slab-sided and crisper in style than Panasonic's design. The C's 103 x 63 x 28mm body is still predominantly plastic though, hence it just can't match the premium feel of a camera wrapped in metal. That said, we accidently dropped the C onto an unforgiving concrete path (lens side up, fortunately) and apart from a few minor scuffs, it kept right on shooting, so it's far from fragile. This incident may have been prevented had Leica not done away with Panasonics rubber rear thumb grip and instead replaced it with some subtle – and slippery – Indentations.

Beneath your thumb sits the usual range of buttons to record, play and delete images and video, and these surround a conventional 4-way dial to adjust the flash, exposure compensation, macro and continuous shooting options. The dial can also be rotated for quick menu scrolling, but that's nothing particularly special.

What's more interesting is the C gets an electronic viewfinder to supplement its conventional LCD display. The inclusion of an EVF isn't all that surprising as you'll find one on the Panasonic LF1, but it's still a rare treat for a compact camera and gives you a similar shooting experience to a DSLR. Unfortunately this particular EVF is on the small side with a low resolution and there's no automatic eye detection either, so you'll have to press the ‘LVF' button to switch between the screen and viewfinder. Despite all this though, the EVF is still a welcome addition for times when sun glare overpowers the LCD monitor.

Leica C Leica C
Front Rear

This doesn't happen often though, as the 3.0” 920k-dot screen is both pixel-packed and bright enough to be useful under all but extreme sunlight. It's also got decent viewing angles which help produce accurate colour and contrast reproduction. Once possible gripe is that it lacks touch sensitivity, but since the original Panasonic part never had this feature, the C inherits the same limitation.

The final point of interest on the rear panel is a button labelled Wi-Fi, as this is Leica's first camera to feature Wi-Fi with NFC pairing. In essence this offers the same tricks as most other cameras with wireless connectivity. You can transfer images taken to your smart device, use the link to automatically send across photos as you snap them, or control the camera remotely from your smartphone or tablet. But it's the smoothness and immediacy of Leica's implementation that sets the C apart from many rival Wi-Fi systems which can often be sluggish. Then there's NFC pairing. This eliminates the usual hassle of trying to connect to the camera's Wi-Fi signal via your phone's settings and entering annoying passwords. Instead all you need to do is tap camera against phone and voilà, the two are connected. The only snag is you'll need an NFC-enabled smart device to get in on the action, and that's something Apple has yet to implement in its devices.

Moving to the top of the camera and we find a proper mode dial with plenty of settings. There's a smart auto mode that'll automatically detect the conditions your shooting in and set the camera up for optimal results, as well as a Program auto mode if you fancy setting this like ISO sensitivity and white balance yourself. The C also has aperture and shutter priority modes so you can capture long exposures or control depth of field, plus there's a full manual setting. Once you've set up an ideal settings combination for a certain shooting scenario, you can save it to one of two custom shooting modes for quick recall. There's also a Creative Control preset containing 15 digital colour and contrast filters to spice up your shots, each of which can be sample on the image quality page of this review. Leica's Panorama Shot gets its own position on the mode dial and allows you to capture a panorama simply by holding down the shutter release and panning the camera. We'll dissect the results in the image quality section, but as far as ease of use goes, Leica's implementation actually lets you stop panning at will, rather than forcing you to shoot a minimum 120 or 180-degree pan as is the case with many cameras. This is great when you want to capture a scenic view without also having to include half the car park you're standing in.

Leica C Leica C
Top Side

Alongside the mode dial is a familiar zoom ring, though this example does offer two speed settings allowing for swift zooming and fine focal length tweaks. Next to this is a large and easily accessible power button, though its flush-fitting position does leave it vulnerable to being unintentionally pressed.

But the most interesting control on the Leica C is its front lens ring. This can be rotated to give quick and easy adjustment to key settings, though these do change depending on which mode is active. In automatic mode you can rotate the ring to zoom straight to preset focal length increments, or if you switch to aperture or shutter priority modes, the ring will control the aperture or shutter speed. It'll take on the role of switching ISO sensitivity when in program auto mode and in manual mode you can use it to adjust the aperture, and set the shutter speed using the rear control wheel. If all that sounds rather confusing, then you can always set the lens ring to your choice of function and make that the default across various shooting modes. However what's not possible is to stop the rear control wheel from mimicking whatever function you assign to the lens ring (apart from there split personalities in manual mode), which rather negates the benefit of having two separate controls.

At least setting up any personalised controls is a breeze using Leica's monochrome menu system with red highlights. It's not particularly pretty, but it's easy to read and quick to navigate. Likewise the on-screen shooting display is very clear and you can add virtual horizon levels or even compositional grids.

Leica C Leica C
Front Battery Compartment

Press the Q Menu button in the lower right of the rear panel and this displays a quick-reference bar for adjusting common settings like the focussing mode and ISO sensitivity. Fiddle with either of the control wheels and additional virtual dials pop up to give you a graphical indication of aperture, shutter speed, sensitivity and focal length scales. It's all very intuitive once you've got the control wheels set up in a way that works for you.

Once you're ready to shoot, the C starts up in just over a second and in good light its autofocus system locks on to your subject almost instantly. It's also reliably accurate, so you'll rarely snap a shot that's out of focus. Slightly disappointingly it's not the fastest system in lower light, though after 1-2 seconds the camera does find its mark. With decent light the camera will also snap away at a respectable 10fps continuous shooting rate, and when that's not fast enough there's always Full HD video capture with stereo sound.

Finally the camera's battery is worth a mention. Despite this not being an ultra-compact camera, its Li-ion rechargeable power pack is a tiny 950mAh cell that's only good for around 250 shots. That's not pathetically bad and isn't the worst in class, but we'd expect more from a camera marketed at enthusiastic photographers.

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.


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)



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.



focal_range1.jpg focal_range2.jpg


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 (100% Crop)

macro1.jpg macro1a.jpg


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.



effects_01.jpg effects_02.jpg


Old Days

effects_03.jpg effects_04.jpg

High Key

Low Key

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Dynamic Monochrome

effects_07.jpg effects_08.jpg

Impressive Art

High Dynamic

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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


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.


Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Leica C camera, which were all taken using the 16 megapixel Superfine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 25 frames per second. Please note that this 22 second movie is 53.3Mb in size.

Product Images

Leica C

Front of the Leica C

Leica C

Front of the Leica C

Leica C

Side of the Leica C

Leica C

Side of the Leica C

Leica C

Rear of the Leica C

Leica C

Rear of the Leica C / Image Displayed

Leica C

Rear of the Leica C / Main Menu

Leica C

Top of the Leica C

Leica C

Bottom of the Leica C


Leica C

Side of the Leica C

Leica C
Side of the Leica C
Leica C
Front of the Leica C
Leica C
Front of the Leica C
Leica C
Memory Card Slot / Battery Compartment


Taken in isolation the Leica C is an impressive little camera. It's easy to use, has a decent range of manual and creative controls and performs well. Images look the part too, with great colour and contrast, and though image noise is visible, it's well controlled and the camera retains good detail throughout the majority of the sensitivity scale. The image quality is very much in line with the camera's sensor size, producing slightly better results than a regular compact camera, but not quite on a par with ultra high-end compacts equipped with much bigger Micro Four Thirds or APS-C-sized sensors.

In terms of tech, the Leica C is a match for camera's like Canon's S120, the Nikon P340 and, of course, its Panasonic LF1 sister camera. Trouble is, all these models can be had for 50-60% of the cost of the Leica C, and that's quite a price gap. Sure, the C is bundled with Adobe Lightroom 5, but you'd still be left with a three-figure saving by buying the Panasonic LF1 and Lightroom separately.

It's also a pity the extra cash won't buy you out of the Panasonic's flaws. The mediocre battery life, underwhelming EVF and pitiful panorama performance are hard to ignore on a camera costing this much. Likewise, allowing the front and rear control dials to have separate functions would surely only require a simple software tweak, yet it's something Leica has left unaddressed.

Ultimately choosing the Leica C instead of the Panasonic LF1 hinges on how much you want the Leica look and the Leica logo. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but the C's style and brand appeal makes it the cooler proposition and may get you the occasional nod of approval from those in the know if you're out to impress.

However if value for money and performance are your priorities, the LF1 – or indeed Panasonic's rivals sporting similar sized sensors – are a much better bet. The Leica C is undoubtedly a very capable camera and doesn't do a lot wrong, but at the same time it just doesn't offer a compelling reason to choose it over the Panasonic LF1 unless you're craving Leica kudos on a budget.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 4
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 4.5
Value for money 3

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Leica C.

Canon PowerShot S120

The Canon PowerShot S120 is a new compact camera for enthusiasts. Featuring a 5x zoom lens with a fast maximum aperture of f/1.8, ISO range of 80-12,800, 12.1fps burst shooting, RAW support, full manual controls, built-in wi-fi connectivity, touchscreen interface and 1080p video at 60fps, the Canon S120 is a slim and stylish camera that you can easily fit in a trouser pocket. Read our in-depth Canon PowerShot S120 review now to find out if it's the best premium compact camera...

Fujifilm X20

The Fujifilm X20 is a brand new premium compact camera with a large 2/3-type 12 megapixel sensor and a fast 4x optical zoom lens. Boasting impeccable build-quality, intuitive handling and a long-list of photographer-friendly features, is the Fujifilm X20 the ultimate pocket camera for the avid photographer? Read our Fujifilm X20 review, complete with full-size sample JPEG and raw images, videos and more to find out...

Fujifilm XF1

The Fujifilm FinePix XF1 is a beautifully designed compact camera that continues the retro feel of Fujifilm's X-series range. Find out if it offers both style and substance in our Fujifilm FinePix XF1 review, complete with full-size sample JPEG and raw images, videos and more...

Nikon Coolpix P340

The Nikon Coolpix P340 is a new compact camera for the keen enthusiast. The Nikon P340 features a 12.2 megapixel BSI CMOS sensor, full manual controls, lens control ring, 1080p HD video recording, a 5x wide-angle zoom lens with a fast maximum aperture of f/1.8, a high-resolution LCD screen, built-in wi-fi and 10fps burst shooting. Read our in-depth Nikon Coolpix P340 review to find out if it's the perfect pocket camera...

Olympus XZ-10

The new Olympus XZ-10 is a serious compact camera designed to fit in your pocket. A 12 megapixel BSI CMOS sensor, fast f/1.8 maximum aperture, high-res 3-inch touch-screen LCD, 1080p movies, RAW format support and a full range of manual shooting modes should be enough to grab your attention. Read our expert Olympus XZ-10 review, complete with full-size JPEG, RAW and movie samples.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LF1

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LF1 is a brand new premium compact camera with a unique twist - it has an electronic viewfinder. The Panasonic LF1 also offers a 12 megapixel sensor, 7x zoom lens with fast f/2 aperture, 10fps burst shooting and RAW support. Read our in-depth Panasonic Lumix DMC-LF1 review with sample JPEG, RAW and video files now...

Samsung EX2F

The Samsung EX2F is a new pocket camera for serious photographers, sporting a super-bright f/1.4, 3.3x zoom lens, sensible 12 megapixel sensor and a swivelling 3 inch AMOLED screen. 1080p video, RAW shooting, ISO 80-12800, 10fps burst shooting, image stabilisation and full manual controls complete the EX2F's star attractions. Read our Samsung EX2F review to find out if this is the advanced compact camera for you...

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II

Last year's RX100 premium compact camera proved to be a runaway success for Sony - can the new Mark II version improve on the original? Read our expert Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II review to find out...

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 is an exciting new premium compact camera. A large "1.0-type" 20.2 megapixel CMOS sensor, 3.6x 28-100mm lens with a fast maximum aperture of F1.8, full 1080p high-definition video with stereo sound, high-resolution 3-inch screen, manual shooting modes, 10fps continuous shooting, ISO range of 100-12800, Raw support and fast auto-focusing are all present and correct. Read our in-depth Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 review to find out if it's the best pocket camera ever...

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Leica C from around the web.

ephotozine.com »

The Leica C is a premium compact camera that was announced in September 2013. It has a large 1/1.7 inch MOS sensor, 7.1x optical zoom, full manual controls and RAW shooting. It comes with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5, is available in light-gold and dark red for around £550.
Read the full review »

digitalversus.com »

The Audi design team—that has been working with Leica since the M9 Titan limited edition series—has hauled the Panasonic LF1 into into its design labs and reworked it into the Leica C (Type 112). Under its compact casing and cute-looking "Mini M" design, this pocket Leica actually inherits most of its tech specs from the Panasonic model, including the 12-Megapixel 1/1.7" sensor, 7.1x zoom lens (28-200 mm f/2-5.9) and built-in electronic viewfinder, a very rare feature in a camera this size.
Read the full review »


Camera Leica C (Typ 112) Light-gold Dark-red

Order no. Light-gold: 18 484 (E-version), 18 485 (U-version), 18 486 (TK-version), 18 487 (CN-version).

Dark-red: 18 488 (E-version), 18 489 (U-version), 18 490 (TK-version), 18 491 (CN-version).

Lens Leica DC Vario-Summicron f/2-5.9 (at maximum wideangle and telephoto settings)/ 6-42.8 mm ASPH. (35 mm camera equivalent: 28–200 mm).

Sensor 1/1.7" MOS sensor. Primary color fi er.

Total pixel number: 12,800.000. Effective pixels: 12,100.000.

Minimum illuminance Approx. 6 lx.

With camera models 18 484/-487/-488/-491: (when i-low light and 1/25 s shutter speed is used). With camera models 18 485/-486/-489/-490: (when i-low light and 1/30 s shutter speed is used).

Focus range P/A/S/M: 50 cm/20 in / 80 cm/31.5 in (at maximum wideangle/telephoto settings) to – .

Macro/Snapshot modes/Video recording:

3 cm/1.2 in / 80 cm/31.5 in (at maximum wideangle/telephoto settings) to – . Scene modes: May differ from the ranges above.

Digital zoom Max. 4 x.

Stabilization system Optical.

Shutter system Electronically and mechanically controlled.

Shutter speed 250 s to 1/4000 s.

(Starry Sky) Mode: 15 s, 30 s, 60 s.

Exposure modes Program mode (P), Aperture priority (A), Shutter speed priority (S), Manual setting (M), Exposure compensation: increments 1/3 EV steps, setting range: ± 2 EV.

Metering modes Multiple, Center-weighted, Spot.

Flash Built-in.

Flash modes AUTO, AUTO/Red eye reduction, Slow sync./Red eye reduction, ON, OFF.

Flash range (with ISO AUTO)

Approx. 0,6–7 m/ 23–275 in (with maximum wide angle setting), approx. 0,8–2,3 m/31–90 in (with maximum telephoto setting).

Monitor 3.0" TFT-LCD with approx. 921,600 pixel.

Aspect ratio: 3:2. Shows approx 100 % of the captured frame.

Viewfi Color LCD with approx 200,000 pixel. Diopter correction facility: ± 4 diopters.

Microphone Stereo.

Speaker Monaural.

Recording media Internal memory (approx. 87 MB). Memory cards: SD, SDHC, SDXC.

Recording fi format

Still pictures: RAW/JPEG (based on Exif 2.3 standard)/DPOF compatible/MPO. Motion pictures (with audio): AVCHD with Dolby® Digital (2ch)/MP4 with AAC (2ch).

Operating temperature/ humidity

0°–40°C/32°–104°F / 10–80 %.

Interface Digital:

USB 2.0 (High Speed).

With camera models 18484/-488: Data from the PC cannot be written to the camera using the USB cable. Analog video/audio:

With camera models 18 484/-487/-488/-491: NTSC/PAL Composite (switched by menu), With camera models 18 485/-486/-489/-490, NTSC Composite, Audio line socket (monaural).

Terminals HDMI: For HDMI micro cable (type D).

AV OUT/DIGITAL: Dedicated jack (8 pin).

Wi-Fi Compliance standard: IEEE 802.11b/g/n (standard wireless LAN protocol).

Used frequency range: 241–2462 MHz (1–11ch). Encryption method: Wi-Fi compatible WPA™/WPA2™. Access method: Infrastructure mode.

NFC Compliance standard: ISO/IEC 18092 NFC-F (passiv mode).

Battery (lithium-ion) BP-DC14 E/U.

Voltage/capacity 3.7 V/950m Ah.

Battery charger ACA-DC11-A/B/C/E/U/K.

Input: AC 110–240 V 50/60 Hz, 0.2 A.

Output: DC 5 V 800 mA.

Dimensions (W x H x D) Approx. 103 x 63 x 28 mm / 4.06 x 2.48 x 1.10 in (lens retracted). Weight Ca. 173/195 g / 6.1/6.9 oz (withou/with card and battery).

Scope of delivery Camera body, battery charger/AC adapter (Leica ACA-DC11), rechargeable battery (Leica BP-DC14), wrist strap, AV cable, USB cable, CD with long instructions (PDF), short instructions, Guarantee Card .

Software Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5.

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