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Leica Digilux 3 versus Olympus PEN-F

The Leica Digilux 3 and the Olympus PEN-F are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in September 2006 and January 2016. The Digilux 3 is a DSLR, while the PEN-F is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 7.4 megapixel, whereas the Olympus provides 20.2 MP.

Body comparison

The physical size and weight of the Leica Digilux 3 and the Olympus PEN-F are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also use the toggle button 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 Digilux 3 – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Leica Digilux 3 vs Olympus PEN-F front
Digilux 3 versus PEN-F top view
Digilux 3 and PEN-F rear side
Body view (Digilux 3 on the left)

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus PEN-F is notably smaller (29 percent) than the Leica Digilux 3. Moreover, the PEN-F is markedly lighter (30 percent) than the Digilux 3. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the Digilux 3 nor the PEN-F 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. Both cameras have similarly sized sensors, but DSLRs have a larger flange-to-focal plane distance than mirrorless cameras, which imposes contraints on the optical engineering process and generally leads to bigger and heavier lenses. You can find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Four Thirds Lens Catalog (Digilux 3) and the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (PEN-F). Mirrorless cameras, such as the PEN-F, have moreover the advantage that they can use many lenses from other systems via adapters, as they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance.

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
Camera Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Leica Digilux 3 (⇒ rgt) 146 mm 87 mm 77 mm 606 g 750 no 2006 1,499discont. check
Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft) 125 mm 72 mm 37 mm 427 g 330 no 2016 1,199 latest check
Canon 30D (⇒ lft | rgt) 144 mm 106 mm 74 mm 785 g 750 no 2006 1,399discont. check
Canon XT (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 94 mm 64 mm 540 g 400 no 2005 899discont. check
Leica M8 (⇒ lft | rgt) 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 591 g .. no 2006 5,499discont. check
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 134 mm 91 mm 67 mm 574 g 440 YES 2016 1,999 latest check
Olympus E-M10 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 120 mm 83 mm 47 mm 390 g 320 no 2015 799discont. check
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 124 mm 85 mm 45 mm 469 g 310 YES 2015 1,099 latest check
Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) 119 mm 82 mm 46 mm 396 g 320 no 2014 699discont. check
Olympus E-330 (⇒ lft | rgt) 140 mm 87 mm 72 mm 637 g 750 no 2006 999discont. check
Olympus E-400 (⇒ lft | rgt) 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 435 g 500 no 2006 699discont. check
Olympus E-500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 130 mm 95 mm 66 mm 479 g 750 no 2005 599discont. check
Olympus E-300 (⇒ lft | rgt) 147 mm 85 mm 64 mm 624 g 750 no 2004 799discont. check
Olympus E-1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 141 mm 104 mm 81 mm 738 g 750 YES 2003 1,699discont. check
Panasonic L10 (⇒ lft | rgt) 135 mm 96 mm 78 mm 556 g 450 no 2007 599discont. check
Panasonic L1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 146 mm 87 mm 64 mm 606 g 750 no 2006 999discont. check
Sony RX100 IV (⇒ lft | rgt) 102 mm 58 mm 41 mm 298 g 280 no 2015 999discont. check

The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The PEN-F was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 20 percent) than the Digilux 3, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. 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.

Sensor comparison

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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 tent 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 PEN-F sensor measures
Sensor size

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the PEN-F offers a higher resolution of 20.2 megapixel, compared with 7.4 MP of the Digilux 3. This megapixel advantage translates into a 65 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the PEN-F has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 3.34μm versus 5.51μm for the Digilux 3). However, it should be noted that the PEN-F is much more recent (by 9 years and 4 months) than the Digilux 3, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that compensate for the smaller pixel size. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the PEN-F has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

Unlike the Digilux 3, the PEN-F has the capacity to capture high quality composite images (40MP) by combining multiple shots after shifting its sensor by miniscule distances. This multi-shot, pixel-shift mode is most suitable for photography of stationary objects (landscapes, studio scenes).

Digilux 3 versus PEN-F MP
Sensor resolution

For most cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Leica Digilux 3 (⇒ rgt) Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352 no - - - -
Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 1080/60p 23.1 12.4 894 74
Canon 30D (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 8.2 3504 2336 no 21.5 10.8 736 59
Canon XT (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 8.0 3456 2304 no 21.8 10.8 637 60
Leica M8 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-H 10.4 3936 2630 no 21.1 11.3 663 59
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 4K/30p 23.7 12.8 1312 80
Olympus E-M10 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/60p 23.1 12.5 842 73
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/60p 23.0 12.5 842 73
Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/30p 22.8 12.3 884 72
Olympus E-330 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352 no - - - -
Olympus E-400 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736 no - - - -
Olympus E-500 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448 no - - - -
Olympus E-300 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448 no - - - -
Olympus E-1 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 4.9 2560 1920 no - - - -
Panasonic L10 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736 no 21.3 10.8 429 55
Panasonic L1 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352 no - - - -
Sony RX100 IV (⇒ lft | rgt) 1-inch 20.0 5472 3648 4K/30p 22.8 12.6 591 70

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The PEN-F indeed provides for movie recording, while the Digilux 3 does not. The highest resolution format that the PEN-F can use is 1080/60p.

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the PEN-F has an electronic viewfinder (2360k dots), while the Digilux 3 has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Leica Digilux 3 and Olympus PEN-F along with similar information for a selection of comparators. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Leica Digilux 3 (⇒ rgt) optical no 2.5 207 fixed no 4000 3.0 13 no
Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft) 2360 no 3.0 1037 swivel YES 8000 10.0 no YES
Canon 30D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.5 230 fixed no 8000 5.0 13 no
Canon XT (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 1.8 115 fixed no 4000 3.0 13 no
Leica M8 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 230 fixed no 8000 2.0 no no
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1037 swivel YES 8000 18.0 no YES
Olympus E-M10 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1040 tilting YES 4000 8.0 5.8 YES
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1037 swivel YES 8000 10.0 no YES
Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) 1440 no 3.0 1037 tilting YES 4000 8.0 5.8 YES
Olympus E-330 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 215 tilting no 4000 3.0 13 no
Olympus E-400 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 215 fixed no 4000 3.0 10 no
Olympus E-500 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 215 fixed no 4000 2.5 13 no
Olympus E-300 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 1.8 134 fixed no 4000 2.5 11 no
Olympus E-1 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 1.8 134 fixed no 4000 3.0 no no
Panasonic L10 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 207 swivel no 4000 3.0 11 no
Panasonic L1 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 207 fixed no 4000 3.0 13 no
Sony RX100 IV (⇒ lft | rgt) 2359 no 3.0 1228 tilting no 2000 16.0 10.2 YES

The PEN-F is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the Digilux 3 has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on ebay). There has not been a direct replacement model for the Digilux 3 from Leica.

Summary

So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Leica Digilux 3 or the Olympus PEN-F – has the upper hand? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


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Advantages of the Leica Digilux 3:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (750 versus 330) on a single battery charge.
  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in September 2006).

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Arguments in favor of the Olympus PEN-F:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (20.2 vs 7.4MP), which boosts linear resolution by 65%.
  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • High quality composites: Can combine several shots after pixel-shifting its sensor.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/60p video.
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1037k vs 207k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (125x72mm vs 146x87mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 179g or 30 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology build-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • More affordable: Was released into a lower priced segment (20 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 9 years and 4 months of technical progress since the Digilux 3 launch.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the PEN-F is the clear winner of the contest (17 : 6 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features.

Digilux 3 06:17 PEN-F

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the Digilux 3 or the PEN-F handle or perform in practice. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable. This is where reviews by experts come in. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites. The full reviews are available, respectively, at cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
dp
review
ephoto
zine
imaging
resource
photography
blog
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Leica Digilux 3 (⇒ rgt) - - - - - 2006 1,499discont. check
Olympus PEN-F (⇒ lft) - 82/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2016 1,199 latest check
Canon 30D (⇒ lft | rgt) 87/100 HiRec HiRec reviewed reviewed - 2006 1,399discont. check
Canon XT (⇒ lft | rgt) 80/100 HiRec reviewed reviewed - 2005 899discont. check
Leica M8 (⇒ lft | rgt) - HiRec - - - 2006 5,499discont. check
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2016 1,999 latest check
Olympus E-M10 II (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 80/100 Silver 5/5 5/5 5/5 2015 799discont. check
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 81/100 Silver 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2015 1,099 latest check
Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 80/100 Gold 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2014 699discont. check
Olympus E-330 (⇒ lft | rgt) - Rec reviewed 3.5/5 - 2006 999discont. check
Olympus E-400 (⇒ lft | rgt) 85/100 - 4/5 - 4/5 2006 699discont. check
Olympus E-500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 76/100 HiRec - - - 2005 599discont. check
Olympus E-300 (⇒ lft | rgt) - Rec reviewed reviewed 4.5/5 2004 799discont. check
Olympus E-1 (⇒ lft | rgt) - Rec reviewed reviewed - 2003 1,699discont. check
Panasonic L10 (⇒ lft | rgt) 85/100 Rec 3.5/5 reviewed 4/5 2007 599discont. check
Panasonic L1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 85/100 Rec - reviewed 3.5/5 2006 999discont. check
Sony RX100 IV (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Gold 4/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2015 999discont. check

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, 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, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Other comparisons

In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please send me an email, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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