Contax N Digital versus 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 sensor. The Contax has a resolution of 6.1 megapixel, whereas the Panasonic provides 7.4 MP.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Contax N Digital and the Panasonic L1 is provided in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also toggle the display to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the N Digital – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).
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 the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. 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 comparisons there.
|Camera Body Specifications
|Contax N Digital (⇒ rgt)||152 mm||138 mm||80 mm||990 g||100||no||2002||7,399||discont.||check|
|Panasonic L1 (⇒ lft)||146 mm||87 mm||64 mm||606 g||750||no||2006||999||discont.||check|
|Canon XC10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||125 mm||102 mm||122 mm||1040 g||..||no||2015||2,499||latest||check|
|Canon XT (⇒ lft | rgt)||127 mm||94 mm||64 mm||540 g||400||no||2005||899||discont.||check|
|Canon 10D (⇒ lft | rgt)||150 mm||107 mm||75 mm||850 g||500||no||2003||1,999||discont.||check|
|Canon Rebel (⇒ lft | rgt)||142 mm||99 mm||72 mm||649 g||400||no||2003||899||discont.||check|
|Canon D60 (⇒ lft | rgt)||150 mm||107 mm||75 mm||855 g||620||no||2002||2,999||discont.||check|
|Leica M10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||139 mm||80 mm||39 mm||660 g||210||no||2017||6,595||latest||check|
|Leica SL (⇒ lft | rgt)||147 mm||104 mm||39 mm||847 g||400||YES||2015||7,450||latest||check|
|Leica Digilux 3 (⇒ lft | rgt)||146 mm||87 mm||77 mm||606 g||750||no||2006||1,499||discont.||check|
|Nikon D100 (⇒ lft | rgt)||144 mm||116 mm||81 mm||780 g||370||no||2002||1,999||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-330 (⇒ lft | rgt)||140 mm||87 mm||72 mm||637 g||750||no||2006||999||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-300 (⇒ lft | rgt)||147 mm||85 mm||64 mm||624 g||750||no||2004||799||discont.||check|
|Panasonic L10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||135 mm||96 mm||78 mm||556 g||450||no||2007||599||discont.||check|
The listed 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. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.
The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to 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 megapixel, compared with 6.1 MP of the N Digital. This megapixel 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.
For most cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.
|Contax N Digital (⇒ rgt)||Full Frame||6.1||3040||2008||no||-||-||-||-|
|Panasonic L1 (⇒ lft)||Four Thirds||7.4||3136||2352||no||-||-||-||-|
|Canon XC10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||1-inch||12.0||4000||3000||4K/30p||-||-||-||-|
|Canon XT (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||8.0||3456||2304||no||21.8||10.8||637||60|
|Canon 10D (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||6.3||3072||2048||no||21.1||10.9||571||57|
|Canon Rebel (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||6.3||3072||2048||no||21.0||10.8||544||55|
|Canon D60 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||6.3||3072||2048||no||-||-||-||-|
|Leica M10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||23.8||5952||3992||no||24.4||13.2||2133||86|
|Leica SL (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||25.0||13.4||1821||88|
|Leica Digilux 3 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||7.4||3136||2352||no||-||-||-||-|
|Nikon D100 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||6.0||3008||2000||no||-||-||-||-|
|Olympus E-330 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||7.4||3136||2352||no||-||-||-||-|
|Olympus E-300 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||8.0||3264||2448||no||-||-||-||-|
|Panasonic L10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||no||21.3||10.8||429||55|
Apart from 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 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. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.
|Contax N Digital (⇒ rgt)||optical||YES||2.0||200||fixed||no||8000||4.0||no||no|
|Panasonic L1 (⇒ lft)||optical||no||2.5||207||fixed||no||4000||3.0||13||no|
|Canon XC10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||no||no||3.0||1030||tilting||YES||2000||3.8||no||YES|
|Canon XT (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||1.8||115||fixed||no||4000||3.0||13||no|
|Canon 10D (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||1.8||118||fixed||no||4000||3.0||13||no|
|Canon Rebel (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||1.8||118||fixed||no||4000||2.5||13||no|
|Canon D60 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||1.8||114||fixed||no||4000||3.0||12||no|
|Leica M10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||3.0||1037||fixed||no||4000||5.0||no||no|
|Leica SL (⇒ lft | rgt)||4400||YES||3.0||1040||fixed||YES||8000||11.0||no||no|
|Leica Digilux 3 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||2.5||207||fixed||no||4000||3.0||13||no|
|Nikon D100 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||1.8||118||fixed||no||4000||3.0||11||no|
|Olympus E-330 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||2.5||215||tilting||no||4000||3.0||13||no|
|Olympus E-300 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||1.8||134||fixed||no||4000||2.5||11||no|
|Panasonic L10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||2.5||207||swivel||no||4000||3.0||11||no|
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.
So what is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Contax N Digital or the Panasonic L1 – has the upper hand? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Reasons to prefer the Contax N Digital:
- Easier setting verification: Has an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (4 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- 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 relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the L1 is the clear winner of the contest (8 : 4 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points.
In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the N Digital and the L1 in practical situations. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate. This is why expert reviews are important. The following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites. The full reviews are available, respectively, at cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.
|Contax N Digital (⇒ rgt)||-||-||-||-||-||2002||7,399||discont.||check|
|Panasonic L1 (⇒ lft)||85/100||Rec||-||reviewed||3.5/5||2006||999||discont.||check|
|Canon XC10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||80/100||-||-||-||2015||2,499||latest||check|
|Canon XT (⇒ lft | rgt)||80/100||HiRec||reviewed||reviewed||-||2005||899||discont.||check|
|Canon 10D (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||HiRec||-||reviewed||-||2003||1,999||discont.||check|
|Canon Rebel (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||HiRec||-||reviewed||-||2003||899||discont.||check|
|Canon D60 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||HiRec||reviewed||-||-||2002||2,999||discont.||check|
|Leica M10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||-||4/5||-||4.5/5||2017||6,595||latest||check|
|Leica SL (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||84/100||4.5/5||4/5||4/5||2015||7,450||latest||check|
|Leica Digilux 3 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||-||-||-||-||2006||1,499||discont.||check|
|Nikon D100 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||HiRec||reviewed||reviewed||-||2002||1,999||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-330 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||Rec||reviewed||3.5/5||-||2006||999||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-300 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||Rec||reviewed||reviewed||4.5/5||2004||799||discont.||check|
|Panasonic L10 (⇒ lft | rgt)||85/100||Rec||3.5/5||reviewed||4/5||2007||599||discont.||check|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, 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.
In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please contact me, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.
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