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Leica Digilux 3 vs Olympus E-500

The Leica Digilux 3 and the Olympus Evolt E-500 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in September 2006 and September 2005. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 7.4 megapixels, whereas the Olympus provides 8 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Leica Digilux 3
versus
Olympus E-500
Leica Digilux 3   Olympus E-500
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Four Thirds lenses Four Thirds lenses
7.4 MP, Four Thirds Sensor 8 MP, Four Thirds Sensor
no Video no Video
ISO 100-1,600 ISO 100-400 (100 - 1,600)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
2.5 LCD, 207k dots 2.5 LCD, 215k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
3 shutter flaps per second 2.5 shutter flaps per second
750 shots per battery charge750 shots per battery charge
146 x 87 x 77 mm, 606 g 130 x 95 x 66 mm, 479 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica Digilux 3 and the Olympus Evolt E-500? 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.

Body comparison

The physical size and weight of the Leica Digilux 3 and the Olympus E-500 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Leica Digilux 3 vs Olympus E-500
Compare Digilux 3 versus E-500 top
Comparison Digilux 3 or E-500 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-500 is somewhat smaller (3 percent) than the Leica Digilux 3. Moreover, the E-500 is markedly lighter (21 percent) than the Digilux 3. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the Digilux 3 nor the E-500 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. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can compare the optics available in the Four Thirds Lens Catalog.

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, you can move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

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Body Specifications
    Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Leica Digilux 3 146 mm 87 mm 77 mm 606 g 750 n Sep 2006 1,499i
2.
 
Olympus E-500 130 mm 95 mm 66 mm 479 g 750 n Sep 2005 599i
3.
 
Canon 30D 144 mm 106 mm 74 mm 785 g 750 n Feb 2006 1,399i
4.
 
Canon XT 127 mm 94 mm 64 mm 540 g 400 n Feb 2005 899i
5.
 
Leica M8 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 591 g .. n Sep 2006 5,499i
6.
 
Leica V-LUX 1 141 mm 86 mm 142 mm 734 g 360 n Sep 2006 849i
7.
 
Olympus E-30 142 mm 108 mm 75 mm 701 g 750 n Nov 2008 1,299i
8.
 
Olympus E-410 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 435 g 500 n Mar 2007 699i
9.
 
Olympus E-510 136 mm 92 mm 68 mm 538 g 750 n Mar 2007 799i
10.
 
Olympus E-330 140 mm 87 mm 72 mm 637 g 750 n Jan 2006 999i
11.
 
Olympus E-400 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 435 g 500 n Sep 2006 699i
12.
 
Olympus E-300 147 mm 85 mm 64 mm 624 g 750 n Sep 2004 799i
13.
 
Panasonic L10 135 mm 96 mm 78 mm 556 g 450 n Aug 2007 599i
14.
 
Panasonic L1 146 mm 87 mm 64 mm 606 g 750 n Feb 2006 999i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The E-500 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 60 percent) than the Digilux 3, 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.

Sensor comparison

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 are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature a Four Thirds sensor and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 2.0. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the medium-sized sensor cameras that aim to strike a balance between image quality and portability. Both cameras feature a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 4:3.

Leica Digilux 3 and Olympus E-500 sensor measures

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the E-500 offers a slightly higher resolution of 8 megapixels, compared with 7.4 MP of the Digilux 3. This megapixels advantage translates into a 4 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the E-500 has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 5.30μm versus 5.51μm for the Digilux 3). Moreover, it should be noted, that the Digilux 3 is a somewhat more recent model (by 11 months) than the E-500, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of individual pixels.

The Leica Digilux 3 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus Evolt E-500 are ISO 100 to ISO 400, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-1600.

Digilux 3 versus E-500 MP

For many 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 table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

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Sensor Characteristics
    Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
1.
 
Leica Digilux 3 Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352none21.010.612753
2.
 
Olympus E-500 Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448none20.710.34551
3.
 
Canon 30D APS-C 8.2 3504 2336none21.510.873659
4.
 
Canon XT APS-C 8.0 3456 2304none21.810.863760
5.
 
Leica M8 APS-H 10.4 3936 2630none21.111.366359
6.
 
Leica V-LUX 1 1/1.8 10.0 3648 2736480/30p18.49.5-72729
7.
 
Olympus E-30 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024none21.310.453055
8.
 
Olympus E-410 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.110.049451
9.
 
Olympus E-510 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.210.044252
10.
 
Olympus E-330 Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352none20.810.47352
11.
 
Olympus E-400 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.010.612753
12.
 
Olympus E-300 Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448none20.410.1-4048
13.
 
Panasonic L10 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.310.842955
14.
 
Panasonic L1 Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352none20.810.48052
Note: DXO values in italics represent estimates based on sensor size and age.
The Digilux 3 offers Live View, so that it can project the live image that the sensor receives onto the rear screen for framing. The E-500 lacks this capability. Both cameras are still-image focused and cannot record videos.

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The Digilux 3 and the E-500 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 Digilux 3 has a higher magnification than the one of the E-500 (0.47x vs 0.45x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Leica Digilux 3 and Olympus E-500 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.

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Core Features
    Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Specifications
(inch/000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Leica Digilux 3optical n2.5 / 207 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
2.
 
Olympus E-500optical n2.5 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n
3.
 
Canon 30Doptical Y2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 Y n
4.
 
Canon XToptical n1.8 / 115 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
5.
 
Leica M8optical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/8000s 2.0 n n
6.
 
Leica V-LUX 1235 n2.0 / 207 tilting n 1/2000s 2.0 Y Y
7.
 
Olympus E-30optical Y2.7 / 230 swivel n 1/8000s 5.0 Y Y
8.
 
Olympus E-410optical n2.5 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
9.
 
Olympus E-510optical n2.5 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y
10.
 
Olympus E-330optical n2.5 / 215 tilting n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
11.
 
Olympus E-400optical n2.5 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
12.
 
Olympus E-300optical n1.8 / 134 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n
13.
 
Panasonic L10optical n2.5 / 207 swivel n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
14.
 
Panasonic L1optical n2.5 / 207 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n

The Digilux 3 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the E-500 uses Compact Flash or xD Picture cards. The E-500 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the Digilux 3 only has one slot.

Connectivity comparison

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 Leica Digilux 3 and Olympus Evolt E-500 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
    Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Mic / Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Leica Digilux 3Ystereo / mono---2.0---
2.
 
Olympus E-500Y- / ----2.0---
3.
 
Canon 30DY- / ----2.0---
4.
 
Canon XTY- / ----2.0---
5.
 
Leica M8Y- / ----2.0---
6.
 
Leica V-LUX 1Ymono / mono---2.0---
7.
 
Olympus E-30Y- / ----2.0---
8.
 
Olympus E-410Y- / ----2.0---
9.
 
Olympus E-510Y- / ----2.0---
10.
 
Olympus E-330Y- / ----2.0---
11.
 
Olympus E-400Y- / ----2.0---
12.
 
Olympus E-300Y- / ----2.0---
13.
 
Panasonic L10Y- / ----2.0---
14.
 
Panasonic L1Y- / ----2.0---

Both the Digilux 3 and the E-500 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-500 was replaced by the Olympus E-510, while the Digilux 3 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 Leica and Olympus websites.

Review summary

So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Leica Digilux 3 or the Olympus E-500 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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Reasons to prefer the Leica Digilux 3:

  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.47x vs 0.45x).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3 vs 2.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 11 months after the E-500).

ilogo

Arguments in favor of the Olympus Evolt E-500:

  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 127g or 21 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (60 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in September 2005).

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the match-up finishes in a tie (4 points each). 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 wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

Digilux 3 04:04 E-500

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Leica Digilux 3 and the Olympus E-500 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 specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the Digilux 3 and the E-500 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.

Expert reviews

This is why expert reviews are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], digitalcameraworld [DCW], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). 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.

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Expert Camera Reviews
     Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DCW 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Leica Digilux 3............ Sep 2006 1,499i
2.
 
Olympus E-500..76/100..+ +.... Sep 2005 599i
3.
 
Canon 30D..+ +..+ +o.. Feb 2006 1,399i
4.
 
Canon XT..80/100..+ +o.. Feb 2005 899i
5.
 
Leica M8......+ +.... Sep 2006 5,499i
6.
 
Leica V-LUX 1............ Sep 2006 849i
7.
 
Olympus E-30......71/1004.5/54/5 Nov 2008 1,299i
8.
 
Olympus E-410..86/100..+ +4/54.5/5 Mar 2007 699i
9.
 
Olympus E-510..89/100..+ +3.5/54.5/5 Mar 2007 799i
10.
 
Olympus E-330......+o.. Jan 2006 999i
11.
 
Olympus E-400..85/100....4/54/5 Sep 2006 699i
12.
 
Olympus E-300......+o4.5/5 Sep 2004 799i
13.
 
Panasonic L10..85/100..+3.5/54/5 Aug 2007 599i
14.
 
Panasonic L1..85/100..+..3.5/5 Feb 2006 999i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time 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.

Leica Digilux 3:
Check Ebay offers
Olympus E-500:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, 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.

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    Specifications: Leica Digilux 3 vs Olympus E-500

    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 Specifications
    Camera Model Leica Digilux 3 Olympus E-500
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Four Thirds lenses Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date September 2006 September 2005
    Launch Price USD 1,499 USD 599
    Sensor Specs Leica Digilux 3 Olympus E-500
    Sensor Technology CMOS CCD
    Sensor Format Four Thirds Sensor Four Thirds Sensor
    Sensor Size 17.3 x 13.0 mm 17.3 x 13.0 mm
    Sensor Area 224.9 mm2 224.9 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 21.6 mm 21.6 mm
    Crop Factor 2.0x 2.0x
    Sensor Resolution 7.4 Megapixels 8 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3136 x 2352 pixels 3264 x 2448 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 5.51 μm 5.30 μm
    Pixel Density 3.28 MP/cm2 3.55 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video no Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 1,600 ISO 100 - 400 ISO
    ISO Boost no Enhancement 100 - 1,600 ISO
    Screen Specs Leica Digilux 3 Olympus E-500
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 95% 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.47x 0.45x
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.5inch 2.5inch
    LCD Resolution 207k dots 215k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Leica Digilux 3 Olympus E-500
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 3 shutter flaps/s 2.5 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash Built-in Flash Built-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards CF or XD cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Leica Digilux 3 Olympus E-500
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI no HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Leica Digilux 3 Olympus E-500
    Battery Type BP-DC3 BLM-1
    Battery Life (CIPA)750 shots per charge750 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 146 x 87 x 77 mm
    (5.7 x 3.4 x 3.0 in)
    130 x 95 x 66 mm
    (5.1 x 3.7 x 2.6 in)
    Camera Weight 606 g (21.4 oz) 479 g (16.9 oz)

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