Leica cameras have always had a following among professional photographers, gifted amateurs, and those obsessed with quality. But are they useful for GPs?
Leica produces the superb M8.2 digital, costing a mere £4,000. But its more modestly priced top-end compact, at about £500, is the D-Lux 4 - a product of Leica's cooperation with Panasonic. Leica contributes the aspheric lens technology while Panasonic keeps ahead of the electronic game.
There is also a very similar Panasonic, the DMC-LX3, at £310. But Leica points out that its version has more advanced firmware and software, giving subtly truer colours. The D-Lux 4 has a three-year warranty.
The D-Lux-4 has a smooth pocket - (or handbag-) sized outline, though the lens does not retract entirely into the camera. Space is saved by not having a viewfinder, although a 24mm accessory is available, as is an add-on flash, a quality leather holster and a proper lens hood.
The camera includes a hefty 10.1 megapixel sensor, producing RAW or JPEG files; an extra wide 24mm zoom lens; an optical image stabiliser to avoid shaky, low-light shots; a sharp 72 mm viewing screen; the ability to take high-definition videos, to focus and set exposures manually; and a large number of special effects.
Image quality was excellent in 30x20cm colour prints, without a hint of blurring. Medical close-up photography is not easy and the best results need seriously expensive kit. But when using the Leica for super-close skin macro shots, the high-resolution screen let me adjust settings until I got it right. You cannot do that with a film camera.
Our leg ulcer clinic patients are visibly gratified to see weekly progress in throbbing Leica colour on a computer screen. And filming myself consulting (for my appraisal) was much easier than with a VHS video camera.
Simply plugging it into a PC lets you squirt in the crisp, 'high-def' video files, to be edited and perused at your leisure. Pictures can be sent straight to the printer (bypassing the PC) via a Pictbridge connector.
- Dr Cembrowicz is a GP in Bristol
|To buy or not to buy|
Leica D-Lux 4
Available at about £529.
Pro: Stylish, class-leading quality, a pleasure to use for amateurs and techno-boffins alike.
Cons: If you do not mind a shorter guarantee, and slightly less style, the excellent Panasonic DMC-LX3 is cheaper.