Contax N Digital vs Panasonic L1
The Contax N Digital and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in February 2002 and February 2006. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on a full frame (N Digital) and a Four Thirds (L1) sensor. The Contax has a resolution of 6.1 megapixels, whereas the Panasonic provides 7.4 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
|Contax N Digital||Panasonic L1|
|Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Contax N mount lenses||Four Thirds lenses|
|6.1 MP, Full Frame Sensor||7.4 MP, Four Thirds Sensor|
|no Video||no Video|
|ISO 50-1,600||ISO 100-1,600|
|Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|2.0 LCD, 200k dots||2.5 LCD, 207k dots|
|Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)||Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)|
|4 shutter flaps per second||3 shutter flaps per second|
|100 shots per battery charge||750 shots per battery charge|
|152 x 138 x 80 mm, 990 g||146 x 87 x 64 mm, 606 g|
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Contax N Digital and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
The physical size and weight of the Contax N Digital and the Panasonic L1 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Panasonic L1 is considerably smaller (39 percent) than the Contax N Digital. Moreover, the L1 is substantially lighter (39 percent) than the N Digital. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the N Digital nor the L1 are weather-sealed.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.
As can be seen in the images above, the N Digital has a battery grip built in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power.
The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.
|Contax N Digital||6.0 in||5.4 in||3.1 in||34.9 oz||100||n||Feb 2002||7,399|
|Panasonic L1||5.7 in||3.4 in||2.5 in||21.4 oz||750||n||Feb 2006||999|
|Canon XT||5.0 in||3.7 in||2.5 in||19.0 oz||400||n||Feb 2005||899|
|Canon 10D||5.9 in||4.2 in||3.0 in||30.0 oz||500||n||Feb 2003||1,999|
|Canon Rebel||5.6 in||3.9 in||2.8 in||22.9 oz||400||n||Aug 2003||899|
|Canon 1Ds||6.1 in||6.2 in||3.1 in||44.6 oz||600||Y||Sep 2002||8,999|
|Canon D60||5.9 in||4.2 in||3.0 in||30.2 oz||620||n||Feb 2002||2,999|
|Leica M10-P||5.5 in||3.1 in||1.5 in||23.3 oz||210||Y||Aug 2018||7,995|
|Leica M10||5.5 in||3.1 in||1.5 in||23.3 oz||210||Y||Jan 2017||6,595|
|Leica SL||5.8 in||4.1 in||1.5 in||29.9 oz||400||Y||Oct 2015||7,450|
|Leica M9||5.5 in||3.1 in||1.5 in||20.6 oz||..||n||Sep 2009||7,999|
|Leica Digilux 3||5.7 in||3.4 in||3.0 in||21.4 oz||750||n||Sep 2006||1,499|
|Nikon D100||5.7 in||4.6 in||3.2 in||27.5 oz||370||n||Feb 2002||1,999|
|Nikon D1X||6.2 in||6.0 in||3.3 in||38.8 oz||1200||Y||Feb 2001||5,999|
|Olympus E-330||5.5 in||3.4 in||2.8 in||22.5 oz||750||n||Jan 2006||999|
|Olympus E-300||5.8 in||3.3 in||2.5 in||22.0 oz||750||n||Sep 2004||799|
|Panasonic L10||5.3 in||3.8 in||3.1 in||19.6 oz||450||n||Aug 2007||599|
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.
(1) Number of images that can be taken on a full battery charge according to the CIPA-standard; (2) Official announcement.
Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The L1 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 86 percent) than the N Digital, which puts it into a different market segment. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down.
The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Contax N Digital features a full frame sensor and the Panasonic L1 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the L1 is 74 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 2.0. The sensor in the N Digital has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the L1 offers a 4:3 aspect.
Despite having a smaller sensor, the L1 offers a higher resolution of 7.4 megapixels, compared with 6.1 MP of the N Digital. This megapixels advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 5.51μm versus 11.90μm for the N Digital). However, it should be noted that the L1 is much more recent (by 3 years and 11 months) than the N Digital, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently.
The resolution advantage of the Panasonic L1 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the L1 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 15.7 x 11.8 inches or 39.8 x 29.9 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 12.5 x 9.4 inches or 31.9 x 23.9 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 10.5 x 7.8 inches or 26.6 x 19.9 cm. The corresponding values for the Contax N Digital are 15.2 x 10 inches or 38.6 x 25.5 cm for good quality, 12.2 x 8 inches or 30.9 x 20.4 cm for very good quality, and 10.1 x 6.7 inches or 25.7 x 17 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Contax N Digital has a native sensitivity range from ISO 50 to ISO 1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 are ISO 100 to ISO 1600 (no boost).
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
|Contax N Digital||Full Frame||6.1||3040||2008||none||..||..||..||..|
|Panasonic L1||Four Thirds||7.4||3136||2352||none||..||..||..||..|
|Canon 1Ds||Full Frame||11.0||4064||2704||none||21.8||11.0||954||63|
|Leica M10-P||Full Frame||23.8||5952||3992||none||..||..||..||..|
|Leica M10||Full Frame||23.8||5952||3992||none||24.4||13.2||2133||86|
|Leica SL||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||25.0||13.4||1821||88|
|Leica M9||Full Frame||18.1||5212||3472||none||22.5||11.7||884||69|
|Leica Digilux 3||Four Thirds||7.4||3136||2352||none||..||..||..||..|
|Olympus E-330||Four Thirds||7.4||3136||2352||none||..||..||..||..|
|Olympus E-300||Four Thirds||8.0||3264||2448||none||..||..||..||..|
|Panasonic L10||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.3||10.8||429||55|
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The N Digital and the L1 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (95%), but the viewfinder of the N Digital has a higher magnification than the one of the L1 (0.73x vs 0.47x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Contax N Digital and Panasonic L1 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
|Contax N Digital||optical||Y||2.0||200||fixed||n||1/8000s||4.0||n||n|
|Leica Digilux 3||optical||n||2.5||207||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||n|
One feature that is present on the N Digital, but is missing on the L1 is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.
The N Digital writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the L1 uses SDHC cards.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Contax N Digital and Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
|Contax N Digital||Y||-||-||-||-||-||FW||-||-||-|
|Leica Digilux 3||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Contax N Digital (unlike the L1) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the N Digital and the L1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The L1 was replaced by the Panasonic L10, while the N Digital does not have a direct successor. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Contax and Panasonic websites.
So how do things add up? Is the Contax N Digital better than the Panasonic L1 or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Reasons to prefer the Contax N Digital:
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.73x vs 0.47x).
- Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (4 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in February 2002).
Advantages of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (7.4 vs 6.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 8%.
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (2.5" vs 2.0") for image review and settings control.
- More compact: Is smaller (146x87mm vs 152x138mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 384g or 39 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (750 versus 100) out of a single battery charge.
- Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (86 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 3 years and 11 months of technical progress since the N Digital launch.
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the L1 comes out slightly ahead of the N Digital (8 : 7 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision. A professional sports photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a street photog, and a person interested in family portraits has distinct needs from a landscape shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Contax N Digital and the Panasonic L1 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the N Digital or the L1 perform in practice. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.
This is why expert reviews are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
|Contax N Digital||..||..||..||..||..||Feb 2002||7,399|
|Panasonic L1||85/100||+||..||o||3.5/5||Feb 2006||999|
|Canon XT||80/100||+ +||o||o||..||Feb 2005||899|
|Canon 10D||..||+ +||..||o||..||Feb 2003||1,999|
|Canon Rebel||..||+ +||..||o||..||Aug 2003||899|
|Canon 1Ds||..||+ +||..||..||..||Sep 2002||8,999|
|Canon D60||..||+ +||o||..||..||Feb 2002||2,999|
|Leica M10-P||..||..||..||..||4/5||Aug 2018||7,995|
|Leica M10||..||..||4/5||..||4.5/5||Jan 2017||6,595|
|Leica SL||..||84/100||4.5/5||4/5||4/5||Oct 2015||7,450|
|Leica M9||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||..||Sep 2009||7,999|
|Leica Digilux 3||..||..||..||..||..||Sep 2006||1,499|
|Nikon D100||..||+ +||o||o||..||Feb 2002||1,999|
|Nikon D1X||..||+ +||..||o||..||Feb 2001||5,999|
|Olympus E-330||..||+||o||3.5/5||..||Jan 2006||999|
|Olympus E-300||..||+||o||o||4.5/5||Sep 2004||799|
|Panasonic L10||85/100||+||3.5/5||o||4/5||Aug 2007||599|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.
- Canon 1D C vs Contax N Digital
- Canon 20D vs Panasonic L1
- Canon 5D vs Panasonic L1
- Contax N Digital vs Leica X2
- Contax N Digital vs Nikon 1 J4
- Contax N Digital vs Nikon D5600
- Contax N Digital vs Nikon L840
- Contax N Digital vs Panasonic FZ100
- Contax N Digital vs Panasonic TZ100
- Contax N Digital vs Sony NEX-F3
- Contax N Digital vs Sony RX1R II
- Nikon D3300 vs Panasonic L1
Specifications: Contax N Digital vs Panasonic L1
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Contax N Digital||Panasonic L1|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Contax N mount lenses||Four Thirds lenses|
|Launch Date||February 2002||February 2006|
|Launch Price||USD 7,399||USD 999|
|Sensor Specs||Contax N Digital||Panasonic L1|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||Four Thirds Sensor|
|Sensor Size||36.0 x 24.0 mm||17.3 x 13.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||864 mm2||224.9 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.3 mm||21.6 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||6.1 Megapixels||7.4 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||3040 x 2008 pixels||3136 x 2352 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||11.90 μm||5.51 μm|
|Pixel Density||0.71 MP/cm2||3.28 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||no Video|
|ISO Setting||50 - 1,600 ISO||100 - 1,600 ISO|
|Screen Specs||Contax N Digital||Panasonic L1|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%||95%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||no Top Display|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||2.0inch||2.5inch|
|LCD Resolution||200k dots||207k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Contax N Digital||Panasonic L1|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||4 shutter flaps/s||3 shutter flaps/s|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||Build-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF cards||SDHC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|Connectivity Specs||Contax N Digital||Panasonic L1|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||no PC Sync|
|USB Connector||Firewire||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||no HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Contax N Digital||Panasonic L1|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||100 shots per charge||750 shots per charge|
152 x 138 x 80 mm
(6.0 x 5.4 x 3.1 in)
146 x 87 x 64 mm
(5.7 x 3.4 x 2.5 in)
|Camera Weight||990 g (34.9 oz)||606 g (21.4 oz)|
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