A short explanation of RAW to the uninitiated - RAW simply means data direct from the sensor's analog to digital converter (in the case of the Digilux 2 that's 12 bits per pixel) which hasn't been processed in any way. The actual RAW file written to the storage card consist of a header which contains the current camera settings (parameters, exposure, white balance selection etc.) followed by this RAW data itself. The Digilux 2 writes RAW files in a proprietary .RAW uncompressed format which produces RAW files around 9.4 MB in size.

RAW conversion note: The Digilux 2 is supplied with Silverfast DC SE for Leica, I found its RAW conversion to be very disappointing and therefore chose to use Adobe Photoshop CS with the latest Camera RAW plug-in the crop shown below is from a TIFF output from Photoshop CS.

In RAW mode the camera is locked while the RAW file is written to the SD card, with a fast card this can take just over six seconds, with a slow card (such as the one supplied with the camera) this takes an almost eternal eighteen seconds.

RAW vs. JPEG resolution

Converting a RAW shot of our resolution chart in Photoshop CS demonstrates that the Digilux 2 is clearly capturing more resolution than its internal processing algorithms are delivering. That said the CS image also contains some fairly nasty moiré and interpolation artifacts which are blurred away in the JPEG image.

JPEG RAW (converted to TIFF in Photoshop CS)

RAW vs. JPEG scene crop

Another thing which is noteworthy is the almost complete lack of sharpening artifacts from the Photoshop CS converted RAW, it has a much more sophisticated sharpening algorithm than the camera.

JPEG RAW (converted to TIFF in Photoshop CS)

Overall Image Quality / Specific Issues

On the whole I was very impressed with the Digilux 2's image quality. The key element in any digital camera, its lens, has been executed extremely well on this camera. The Leica 28 - 90 mm (equiv.) lens delivering good resolution with no major lens artifacts. Noise levels at ISO 100 were high enough to be visible in shadow areas and so I think it's a shame Leica didn't provide a cleaner- still ISO 50 mode. At higher sensitivities the built-in noise reduction does a commendable job although there are always tradeoffs, and in this case it's a subtle loss of detail and pasty artificial look to flat areas. Leica really should have given the photographer the chance to disable noise reduction.

We were also very impressed with flash performance, specifically with the flash in the indirect (bounced) position. Automatic white balance was mediocre, we'd hoped that Leica and Panasonic could have knocked their heads together to deliver better AWB results. Other than this we had no major complaints about the Digilux 2's image quality and found no specific issues which needed further analysis.