Home Cameras/Lenses Leica Goodbye Leica X2, hello Panasonic Lumix GX9

Goodbye Leica X2, hello Panasonic Lumix GX9

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A couple of months ago, my beloved Leica X2 broke down. My first thought was to have it repaired, but a closer inspection revealed that it was approaching 100,000 actuations. And I had read about increasing difficulties in repairing these cameras now that Leica is no longer offering factory support. The future with the X2 no longer looked so rosy

Finally, I gave up the idea of having it mended. With my two daughters marrying this year, I looked for a small camera with interchangeable lenses to replace the Leica without breaking the bank. I have quite a large collection of Ricohs and wanted something different. So my thoughts to micro four-thirds.

I had been looking at Panasonic MFT cameras for a couple of years. Still, I had not taken the plunge, perhaps hoping that my rather ancient Leica X2 would suddenly transform, at a stroke, into the beautiful princess it once was.

Above: The LUMIX GX9 is similar in size to the Leica X2 and offers a choice of lenses. But the MFT sensor is smaller than the APS-C sensor of the Leica (Images Panasonic press office)

As a matter of fact, I was reluctant to downsize to an MFT sensor. My local camera dealer and friend advised me against buying another Leica (a CL with the 18mm lens), although he’s a Leica dealer and owns a nice collection of M cameras. Lately, he has also started using the Olympus MFT system and suggested I went for the Olympus PEN-F (knowing my attraction for small cameras). But I found the PEN’s imaging too clinical for my taste. Thus, after a great deal of pondering, I went for the Panasonic Lumix GX9.

The body is approximately the same size as the X2 with the handgrip, but unlike the X2, it has a viewfinder and a nice screen (both are tilting). As far as I am aware, the tilting viewfinder is unique as a built-in unit and offers the versatility usually seen only on accessory viewfinders such as the Leica Visoflex. The camera houses a 20MP sensor (something alien to me so far, but it’s the common resolution for MFT), five-axis in-body stabilisation and a four-page but well-organised menu.

I am not concerned with the video menu, as I’ll probably never use it. The only drawbacks are the lack of weather sealing and my ageing computer a Adobe Lightroom, which cannot support the camera’s RAW files. However, until I invest in a new computer, it has given me the opportunity to try Panasonic’s various JPEG profiles. I’m now using two of them, the standard profile for colour and the Monochrome D for B&W.

The GX9 will never beat the Leica in terms of imaging, although some YouTube influencers would have us believe otherwise.

The camera and lenses lack the Leica micro-contrast and softness, but I can live with it. Most images, apart from the usual Lightroom processing that I often applied to the Leica X2, need a five-point rise in colour temperature as the original imaging is fairly neutral.

The major drawback is the lack of a decent dynamic range. It is almost impossible to recover deep shadows without having some noise and lateral chromatic aberration (LOCA) creeping in. But the drawback can be turned into an advantage, forcing you to be extra careful when exposing the image.

I always apply a -1/3 or -2/3 EV, just as I did on the X2. Battery life is better than the CL and on par with the Leica TL2. There is a wide choice of lenses from Panasonic and Leica-branded ones Panasonics, not to mention the extended MFT family of lenses from Olympus and third-party manufacturers.

Colour-wise, the imaging of the sensor with the lenses I use is accurate.

The pancake zoom

Panasonic LUMIX 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 Mega OIS G Vario

This attractive little pancake zoom has often been supplied in-kit with the camera but is unfortunately now discontinued. It is a modest 24 mm long when closed and 50 mm when fully extended. It has three aspherical lenses plus one ED lens and weighs some 70g (2.47 oz).

There’s no weather sealing, but the zoom is stabilised and benefits from Panasonic Dual I.S. (coordinating in-body and in-lens stabilisation, which allows you to shoot one-second hand-held). Dual IS is available only when combining certain Panasonic lenses with a Lumix body; it is not enabled when using an Olympus body, for instance. Despite its small size and variable aperture, this is a lovely and pretty capable lens.

The 12-32 proves a great walk-around lens covering the full-frame equivalent field of view from 24 to 64. It is unobtrusive for street photography. Don’t expect amazing bokeh, but the background blur when shooting up close is quite pleasing. The colours are accurate and the in-body camera sharpening preset does the rest. I usually take it when I know I’ll need the zoom capability. Otherwise, I stick to my couple of primes.

The fast prime

Panasonic LUMIX G 20mm f1.7 ASPH II

Panasonic doesn’t have a proper 35mm lens equivalent. There’s one from Olympus with mushy corners when shooting wide open and the rather bulky Voigtländer manual focus lens with f/0.95 aperture.

The 17.5mm Voigtländer prime is rather big and more or less destroys the compactness of MFT cameras. The Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7 Summilux lens covers a 30mm FOV in FF terms, not exactly 35mm. The 20mm was the closest in terms of FOV to the amazing 24mm (36mm) Elmarit lens of the Leica X1 and X2 models.

I’m much indebted to Farhiz Karanjawala for his images of Delhi and Kolkata he shot with this lens, proving the deciding factor for me. Once again, it’s a pancake lens, 25.5mm long and weighing some 87g (3.06 oz), with the ability to focus down to 20cm. The lens is sharp. Focusing manually is child’s play using the camera’s focus peaking.

The only drawback is the seven-blade aperture which sometimes gives an unpleasing background blur when the light comes from the back of the subject. When shooting without a hood, the lens can also be prone to flare. My X2 lens also tended to flare when shooting directly into the sun. As Farhiz told me while we were exchanging emails, the sweet spot of this lens is around f/4-4.5. Checking my images, I’ve never shot an image with an aperture narrower than f/5.6.

The wider angle

Panasonic LUMIX G 14mm f/2.5 ASPH II

This is the smallest and lightest lens of the three I own, with its 20.5mm length, weighing a mere 55 grams (1.94 oz) and focusing as close as 18mm. It includes three aspherical elements and has a metal bayonet like the 20mm. The lens doesn’t move as it has an internal focus system which makes it great for unobtrusive street shooting.

Closing the diaphragm, you get a huge depth of focus and sharpness from corner to corner. In fact, this lens seems as sharp as the 20mm. The ability to shoot very close to the subject and get a nice background blur is a bonus. You can focus manually, but there’s little point in doing so with a 28-equivalent optic. It is the perfect complement to the 20mm. It makes me think of the last generation of Ricoh GR cameras, the GRIII and GRIIIx, which share the same field of view of these two lenses.

The monochrome D preset

Some reviewers raved about this new preset when the camera was released (not so new, though, as the camera has now been on the market for four years). This might well be the preset I prefer.

The contrast is softer than the one you get with the Ricoh high-contrast preset, and there’s a nice graduation between the deep blacks and the lighter greys. You don’t lose as much detail as with the Ricoh, however. I hardly do any post-processing with that preset.

To a certain extent, the output resembles the B&W tones you could achieve in the darkroom with a grade 3 or 4 Ilford paper in the days of film. I tried it primarily with the zoom lens and 20mm (the 14mm is a fairly recent acquisition, and I haven’t had the time to put it through its paces).

Monochrome D with a light grain simulation

This preset is also proposed in the B&W Monochrome D preset. I thought I should give it a try, knowing that I could always capture similar scenes near home on a cloudy day and, to be frank, I don’t like it at all. To my eyes, the grain looks far too uniform and computerised, miles away from what you get with analogue film.

I suppose this preset may exist in the Panasonic S series full-frame cameras. If it does, I admit I’d be curious to see the results. The effect may come from the MFT sensor, but that’s mere conjecture. I will certainly try the “strong” grain simulation in the future.

Patterns in the sand

Not far from home in Normandy, there’s a black marlstone beach. When the tides are receding, riddles, wrinkles, and various tidal-shaped sand sculptures appear, only to disappear with the next high tide.

It’s always a pleasure to wander on the beach looking for those strange patterns, although you’re not always lucky. The 12-32mm zoom is the most appropriate lens for that style of shooting, as most images are taken vertically. The grains of sand remind me of B&W film, and your mind can wander and imagine all sorts of people, animals or objects while looking at these sea-fabricated forms. It feels like a similar experience to when one looks at clouds.

This article is in no way intended to be a comprehensive review but impressions about a system whose possibilities I’m still discovering. In association with Leica, Panasonic has produced magnificent lenses such as the Leica Summilux f/1.4 12mm or the Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2, to mention just two. But these lenses are as heavy as the body, if not more so. This doesn’t mean to say I will not be looking out for them in the future…

What do you think about micro-four-thirds? Do you think the sensor is too small to practice creative photography? Do you find the output to be of poor quality in relation to APS-C or full-frame cameras? Would you like to try the system?

Read more on the Panasonic LUMIX GX9

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36 COMMENTS

  1. Which ever camera you bring to the dance it becomes the Belle of The Ball! MFT OR FX OR DX you become the master.

    • Thanks John for the kind comment. Went to my friend and camera dealer and he started lending me some of his Olympus pro lenses. They are huge but worth a try.
      Enjoy the weekend
      Jean

    • John, you are forgetting Jean footed the bill for two Belle’s this year.🤣 It is why his wonderful wife veto’d his Leica wishes when the X2 developed amnesia and packed up.🤪

  2. I owned a Panasonic G9 system with a wide variety of Panasonic and Olympus lenses. I loved its compactness and rendering of images. I think you made a wise choice for your requirements. I sold my system to help fund a Hasselblad X1d system and the moved to a Leica M11 and SL2-S system. I still have fond memories of my G9 system and the wonderful images.

    • Thanks Brian for the kind comment.
      It took me a couple of years to take the plunge and I am not disappointed. I’ll certainly fall back to Leica as soon as I can afford it but this little Panasonic is the closest I could find to the X2 in term of imaging.
      The Panasonic lenses certainly lack that softness and creaminess or dreaminess of the Elmarit of the X2.
      The other camera I considered was a FF Pentax K1 and their new 35mm lens but that camera was really bulky and heavy. From what I’ve seen the K1 is a splendid camera but lugging a 1kg body was not on the agenda. Besides, I doubt it’s unobstrusive when street shooting. I’ll certainly add a few Leica branded lenses in the future for the MFT system.
      Have a nice weekned
      Jean

    • Lumix 20mm is the gem I believe, and I didn’t find anything to complain about except that being slow to focus on Olympus bodies.
      My issue with mft is that they don’t have a smallish 28mm equivalent bright lens. Yes there is 15mm Leica but it is a bit narrow. Olympus 12mm f2 is ok but optically not the best unless you really get a good copy.
      For me, I like Olympus bodies like em10 IV but not em5 and em1. Em5 feels cramped and em1 feels a bit big for mft, just like g9 ( For me)
      I also think apsc is my minimum for DR but I could happily settle with a em10 IV and Lumix 20mm and call it a day! Sadly the new om5 seems to be not exciting at all. They need to do better if they want to keep mft alive.

      • The 20mm is übersharp, maybe too sharp. The 14mm is not a bright lens but it’s an amazing little lens. I’ve used it a lot since I wrote the article and it hardly leaves the camera body. It’s really softer and smaller than the 20mm. Apart from the M 28mm summicron asph, most modern f1.4 are quite big as is the case with the M 28mm Summilux and its clone the 7artisans. For MFT the only alternative if you want a f1.4 lens us the PanaLeica summilux 12mm.

  3. Thanks George for your comment. I did consider the Fuji X100V at some point but I preferred the Panasonic imaging.
    Enjoy the weekend
    Jean

  4. Interesting article Jean particularly as I wonder how long my X1 will last although I doubt it has had as much use as your X2. I think you have made a good choice regarding size and ability to use different lenses although I think you will only find out the system’s potential once you can process in RAW. I write this having processed Lumix RAW photos myself. The photo of the ropes on the bow of the boat is beautifully sharp.

  5. Thanks Kevin for the kind comment. I need to change my ageing computer next and have an up- to-date lightroom or other to process the Raw files, which I could do with my various Ricohs and the X2 so far. The 14mm has become my most used lens now and was used for the bow of the boat. I blame my years using Ricohs for that :).
    Have a nice weekend
    Jean

  6. Thank you, Jean, for this interesting article, and condolences on the death of your X2. Mine is still going strong and its sture increased after reading some of your articles. But I am also always glad to read good reviews of really small cameras. My two “go to” cameras in that area at present are the Leica C(112) and the Panasonic tz70 with its amazing 30x optical zoom and only 12 MP producing surprisingly good images. I look forward to your next article.

    • Thanks John for the kind comment. I sometimes wish my X2 reincarnated in a working one but that hasn’t occured. The GX9 is pretty addictive as well and it has already more than 2000 shutter actuations as I’ve been priviledged to be able to shoot everyday since retirement. I’m looking at the D-lux 7 or its Panasonic sibling as a back-up. The nice thing about the Panasonic is the vast offer of decent and affordable primes.
      Enjoy the weekend
      Jean

  7. Thank you, Jean, for this interesting article, and condolences on the death of your X2. Mine is still going strong and its stature increased after reading some of your articles. But I am also always glad to read good reviews of really small cameras. My two “go to” cameras in that area at present are the Leica C(112) and the Panasonic tz70 with its amazing 30x optical zoom and only 12 MP producing surprisingly good images. I look forward to your next article.

  8. Thank you for sharing this one Jean, I tried to find the shutter count of my X, purely after Kevin was pondering how long his X1 would last, and alas it is not that simple, and I cannot resolve it on my X. I can on my Df, which is only sitting on 11200 actuations – which shows the benefits of buying a low shutter count camera, I think it had around 3500 when I picked it up.

    If anyone does know if it is possible to workout the Leica X typ 113 shutter count, please let me know. – My research suggests it cannot be done – but happy for someone to suggest it can be, and how.

    Enjoy the weekend.

  9. Thanks Dave for your kind comment. My dealer told me my X2 had approximately 60k actuations when I bought it (don’t know where he got that from) and from what I read in the propety of my images the X2 has 40k more file numbers. It’s absolutely non-scientific. Best thing to do would be phone Leica customer service. They will certainly tell you how to know the shutter count.
    Enjoy the weekend
    Jean

  10. Lovely to see some of my favourites here again, Jean. When I got the Panny 20mm I started out on my one camera, one lens, one year project. It turned out to be much longer than that, closer to five years I’d say, and on and off after that. Its fast lens is specially good for late evening, when the XV really struggled. I was lucky that my RAW converter on the computer at that time was able to read the files otherwise that would have meant an additional cost. One other thing, I used an EVF with the GF1 and the 20mm every time. That 20mm is still attached to the camera after all these years.

  11. Thanks Farhiz for the kind comment. I tend to swap lenses now I can have different lenses. I use the 14mm a lot and the 20mm à little less. Both are great lenses. Next investment is a new computer
    Enjoy the weekend
    Jean

  12. I had the same issue with the RAW files and an older Lightroom but there’s an easy free solution. Download Adobe’s free DNG converter and it will quickly convert RW2 Lumix files, then LR has no problem importing them!

  13. Thank you Jean, for sharing this compilation with us.
    My favourite is the delightfully simple yellow petals on the paw print cement. Next in line the jetty/pier colour, form, composition and crispness. And for some reason not even known to me inlike the leaf on the forest floor along with the sun ray flare.
    You prove well that we don’t need the latest and greatest to get good images. Do continue to enjoy the journey of chasing them.

    • Thanks Wayne for the kind comment. The yellow petals are actually on the marlstone beach. I’ve had pretty good experiments with the camera so far. I think I’ll decrease sharpness in the future to get a softer rendering although I like the crispness of the lenses- tough call.
      Enjoy Sunday evening on the other side of the world
      Jean

  14. Jean,

    What a co-incidence! I’d been thinking about the GX9 myself, largely because of the wide range 0f quality lenses, especially the Pana-Leica versions. Though, I knew if I went that way, I’d be buying the Nocticron within the first week.

    I’ve owned two m43 cameras, the Olympus Pen F, then the Leics-Panasonic D-Lux Typ 109. I sold the Pen because I wanted to set aperture the way God and Cartier-Bresson intended: on the lens barrel.

    I think your images give a great idea what the GX9 camera/lenses can do, I really enjoy your forest and seaside pix. It’s been sad by others, you already know how to do serious photography; switching to m43 is just a matter of adjusting to a new technology.

    I dealt with my raw issue on older software (Photoshop CS3 on a 2007 Power Mac I needed when consulting) by using a newer laptop to convert everything to DNG, then transferring. For the D-Lux, with old technology, I found I could get quite a bit of shadow detail that way, so that hasn’t been a problem for me. I do use the M240 and a Fuji X-E3, APS-C. The M240 isn’t known for high ISO, and it’s clear the Fuji is less noisy at higher ISO.

    Issues with both my D-Lux and the Fuji: there’s quite a bit of in-body software correction, which can blur images (see Sean Reid on this). The other annoyance is that focus and aperture on both these is fly-by-wire, which — well, it isn’t a Leica rangefinder.

    I empathize with your comment: it isn’t Leica quality. The step from ‘excellent’ to ‘quite good’ is always hard to take 🙂 At one point in a varied life I bought a (used) luxury-level auto. I rode in Spouse’s car; unthinking, I searched the control panel for a knob to turn down the road noise.

    I chose the Fuji and the D-Lux for somewhat the same reason you chose the GX9 — a camera I could easily carry with me everywhere, without worrying about knocking things out of alignment. The Fuji rather than the GX9, because I want to pretend I’d still shooting Leics 🙂 They’re both immense fun to use, and I’m glad I bought them, flaws and all.

  15. Thanks Kathy for the kind comment.
    My severe astigmatism made me drop the rangefinder years ago. I did not get what I wanted just relying mostly on the DOF on the lens barrel.
    I don’t mind the focus-by-wire system. It was the same system on the X2 ad it worked smoothly till it broke down. The focus-peaking and magnifying on the GX9 is perfect for me. I guess the Q2 manual focus must be focus-by-wire as well.
    Apparently there’s a Panasonic M to MFT adaptation ring. My Leica dealer and friend proposed me to try it with some of his Leica lenses, something I’ll certainly do in a near future.
    Enjoy Sunday
    Jean

    • I have and I admit it’s pretty tempting. The only thing that worries me is the dust issue when the zoom lens comes in and out.

      • Jean,

        I’ve had a D-Lux 6 for something like four years (and still love it), but I bought it used, giving it a life of 10 years since release. No dust yet. That said, I do a few hundred photos a year, not several thousand. I’d say my surroundings are clean, but then I regularly have to clean my interchangeable lens camera sensors, so it can’t be that clean 🙂

        Thorsten Overgaard did an article about Leica small cameras, in which he discusses the difference between Leica-branded and Panasonic-branded versions of the D-Lux. I won’t steal his words, but there’s a large component about quality control.

        Best,

        Kathy

  16. If I may piggy-back on this article, Jean, before comments die away, on something outside the scope of the article. As I have mentioned, I have a well-functioning Leica X2. I have been considering supplementing it with a Ricoh GRiii or GRiiiX. Which would you go for from my starting point?

    • I can chip in here. As you know, I’ve had several GRs and have got used to the 28mm focal length, which is also familiar from the Leica Q. When the IIIx came out, I did think of buying it but, instead, went for a new III. I’m not sure if I would be happy with the 40mm lens, but let’s hear what others have to say.

      Mike

      • Thank you, Mike, for your very helpful reflections. Everything points to the GRiii without X since I have that roughly in the X2. And now the GRiii has a firmware update to import some of extra functions from the GRiiiX and can be bought in a good bundle here in Denmark

    • John, I´ve recently done just what you contemplate: buying a GRIIIx while I already own an X2. I consider myself mainly a M guy (M9 and M9M), and the “image signatures” from other cameras seldom convince me; the X2 does, and the controls and handling are just perfect – if you have the time… (it´s SLOOOW…). So, mainly for a faster-acting, even more pocketable alternative, I did get the GRIIIx (last February, so close to one year ago). I did have a GRI before, and never liked the 28 mm eq., so this time I tried 40 mm eq, and for me, it´s perfect, better than 35 eq.

      So, what happened? Well, let´s see the vital statistics: saved pictures in my archive. The GRIIIx has yielded 358 ones; the X2 9 ones, during the period that I´ve had the GRIIIx! And, most of those 9 are from a couple of “shoot-outs”, where I had decided that the GR won the duel.

      I have to add that I did buy and try a D-Lux 7 some years ago, but had to sell it, from sheer frustration over the user interface with all those nonsense settings. Images were OK, but I just plain hated to use the contraption…

      • That’s really interesting, Per. Thank you for sharing your experience. As you see from my reply to Mike above, I’m thinking 28mm would be better to complement my X2 than 40mm, but I hear what you say.
        Am really interested to read your experience with the D-Lux 7. My first digital was the D-L 4, and I was so impressed by it that the 7, bringing a larger sensor, seemed to make sense. But although I like the images it produces on auto settings, I have also gone through feeling a bit bemused by the rest of the camera. But for now it is staying!

        • I’m a bit late answering your query. The GRiiix may be closer to the X2 FOV though a bit tighter. I mainly use my GR cameras when travelling. They had little use compared to the X2 and GXR on a daily basis. I don’t know if you’ve taken the plunge but of you are looking for some imaging that is not far from the X2 microcontrast and consistency I’d advise a used GXR 28mm module. The combo with the add-on body is truly amazing. You’ll need an OVF as the screen is not the best in full sunlight. There’s a French photographer, Julien Drach who exhibited his images at Sotheby’s in London. They were square prints 27 by 27 inches and the result was impressive for an old 12MP sensor. For me that GXR 28mm module remains the best lens Ricoh eve rmade for the GR/GXR series. It is not razorsharp or perfect as a summicron asph can be but the lens has a lot of character just like a Leica lens.

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