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Leica Digilux 3 versus Sony RX1

The Leica Digilux 3 and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in September 2006 and September 2012. The Digilux 3 is a DSLR, while the RX1 is a fixed lens compact. The cameras are based on a Four Thirds (Digilux 3) and a full frame (RX1) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 7.4 megapixel, whereas the Sony provides 24 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Leica Digilux 3 vs Sony RX1

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Leica Digilux 3 and the Sony RX1. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear 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 side – the Digilux 3 – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Leica Digilux 3 vs Sony RX1
Digilux 3 versus RX1 top view
Digilux 3 and RX1 rear side

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony RX1 is considerably smaller (42 percent) than the Leica Digilux 3. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the Digilux 3 nor the RX1 are weather-sealed.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the RX1 has a lens build in, whereas the Digilux 3 is an interchangeable lens camera that requires a separate lens. Attaching the latter will add extra weight and bulk to the setup. You can find an overview of optics for the Digilux 3 and their specifications 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, 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.

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) 5.7 in 3.4 in 3.0 in 21.4 oz 750 no 2006 1,499discont. check
Sony RX1 (⇒ lft) 4.4 in 2.6 in 2.8 in 17.0 oz 270 no 2012 2,799discont. check
Canon 30D (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.7 in 4.2 in 2.9 in 27.7 oz 750 no 2006 1,399discont. check
Canon XT (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.0 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 19.0 oz 400 no 2005 899discont. check
Leica V-LUX 1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.6 in 3.4 in 5.6 in 25.9 oz 360 no 2006 849discont. check
Leica M8 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 20.8 oz .. no 2006 5,499discont. check
Nikon D5300 (⇒ lft | rgt) 4.9 in 3.9 in 3.0 in 16.9 oz 600 no 2013 799discont. check
Olympus E-330 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.5 in 3.4 in 2.8 in 22.5 oz 750 no 2006 999discont. check
Olympus E-500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.1 in 3.7 in 2.6 in 16.9 oz 750 no 2005 599discont. check
Olympus E-300 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.8 in 3.3 in 2.5 in 22.0 oz 750 no 2004 799discont. check
Olympus E-1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.6 in 4.1 in 3.2 in 26.0 oz 750 YES 2003 1,699discont. check
Panasonic L10 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.3 in 3.8 in 3.1 in 19.6 oz 450 no 2007 599discont. check
Panasonic L1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.7 in 3.4 in 2.5 in 21.4 oz 750 no 2006 999discont. check
Sony A3000 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.0 in 3.6 in 3.3 in 14.5 oz 470 no 2013 329discont. check
Sony A7 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.7 oz 340 YES 2013 1,699discont. check
Sony RX1R (⇒ lft | rgt) 4.4 in 2.6 in 2.8 in 17.0 oz 270 no 2013 2,799discont. check
Sony NEX-7 (⇒ lft | rgt) 4.7 in 2.6 in 1.7 in 14.1 oz 430 no 2011 1,349discont. check

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. 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: Leica Digilux 3 vs Sony RX1

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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 are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Leica Digilux 3 features a Four Thirds sensor and the Sony RX1 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the RX1 is 279 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 2.0 and 1.0. The sensor in the Digilux 3 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the RX1 offers a 3:2 aspect.

Leica Digilux 3 and Sony RX1 sensor measures

With 24MP, the RX1 offers a higher resolution than the Digilux 3 (7.4MP), but the RX1 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.96μm versus 5.51μm for the Digilux 3) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the RX1 is a much more recent model (by 6 years) than the Digilux 3, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.

Digilux 3 versus RX1 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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 table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar 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 - - - -
Sony RX1 (⇒ lft) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 25.1 14.3 2534 93
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 V-LUX 1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 1/1.8 10.0 3648 2736 480/30p - - - -
Leica M8 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-H 10.4 3936 2630 no 21.1 11.3 663 59
Nikon D5300 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.0 13.9 1338 83
Olympus E-330 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352 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 A3000 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 19.8 5456 3632 1080/60i 23.7 12.8 1068 78
Sony A7 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.8 14.2 2248 90
Sony RX1R (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 25.0 13.6 2537 91
Sony NEX-7 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60i 24.1 13.4 1016 81

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The RX1 indeed provides for movie recording, while the Digilux 3 does not. The highest resolution format that the RX1 can use is 1080/60p.

Feature comparison: Leica Digilux 3 vs Sony RX1

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the Digilux 3 has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the RX1 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Leica Digilux 3 and Sony RX1 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or, 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
Sony RX1 (⇒ lft) no no 3.0 1229 fixed no 4000 5.0 6 no
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 V-LUX 1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 235 no 2.0 207 swivel no 2000 2.0 7 YES
Leica M8 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 230 fixed no 8000 2.0 no no
Nikon D5300 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.2 1037 swivel no 4000 5.0 12 no
Olympus E-330 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 215 tilting no 4000 3.0 13 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 A3000 (⇒ lft | rgt) 202 no 3.0 230 fixed no 4000 2.5 6 no
Sony A7 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2400 no 3.0 1230 tilting no 8000 5.0 no no
Sony RX1R (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 3.0 1229 fixed no 4000 5.0 6 no
Sony NEX-7 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2359 no 3.0 921 tilting no 4000 10.0 6 no

Both the Digilux 3 and the RX1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The RX1 was replaced by the Sony RX1R, while the Digilux 3 does not have a direct successor.

Review summary: Leica Digilux 3 vs Sony RX1

So what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Leica Digilux 3 and the Sony RX1? 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:

  • Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image framing and settings control.
  • More flexible: Can take a variety of interchangeable lenses, including specialty optics.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (750 versus 270) on a single battery charge.
  • 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 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (24 vs 7.4MP), which boosts linear resolution by 84%.
  • Better image quality: Is equipped with a larger and more technologically advanced sensor.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/60p video.
  • 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 (1229k vs 207k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Ready to shoot: Comes with an integrated lens, while the Digilux 3 requires a separate lens.
  • More compact: Is smaller (113x65mm vs 146x87mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight even though it has a lens build in (unlike the Digilux 3).
  • More modern: Reflects 6 years of technical progress since the Digilux 3 launch.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the RX1 is the clear winner of the contest (10 : 5 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 before making a decision on a new camera.

Digilux 3 05:10 RX1

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 RX1 handle or perform in practice. 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 hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The full reviews are available by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review scores
Camera cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Leica Digilux 3 (⇒ rgt) - - - - - 2006 1,499discont. check
Sony RX1 (⇒ lft) - 79/100 Gold 4/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2012 2,799discont. 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 V-LUX 1 (⇒ lft | rgt) - - - - - 2006 849discont. check
Leica M8 (⇒ lft | rgt) - HiRec - - - 2006 5,499discont. check
Nikon D5300 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 79/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2013 799discont. check
Olympus E-330 (⇒ lft | rgt) - Rec reviewed 3.5/5 - 2006 999discont. 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 A3000 (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec - 4/5 4.5/5 4/5 2013 329discont. check
Sony A7 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 80/100 Silver 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2013 1,699discont. check
Sony RX1R (⇒ lft | rgt) - - 4/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2013 2,799discont. check
Sony NEX-7 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 81/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2011 1,349discont. 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. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

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 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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