Lo-fi Deluxe

Archives, Gear, Photography

Although I have used cameras of all kinds and sizes, I consider myself a “lo-fi” photographer. I am a perfectionist in daily life (exhausting, most of the time), but I like to embrace imperfections and happy accidents in my photography.

Hence my strong preference for plastic Holga cameras and mobile photography. However: today’s smartphones are actually not that lo-fi anymore. They have evolved into sophisticated devices, with the latest technological innovations in the field of photography. Right now, brands are apparently working on camera phones with 5 to 9 lenses.


So what to do, as a self-proclaimed lo-fi photographer who does not have the budget to go back to 100% film?

Back in 2004, I bought my first digital camera: a Leica D-Lux compact, launched one year earlier. In every aspect a hi-tech camera, at least for those days. However: 3.2 megapixels. Brutal, compared to today’s cameras and smartphones.

I loved this first generation D-Lux. I loved the 35mm as a starting focal length. I loved the tiny viewfinder and the petite flash. I loved the anodized aluminum Leica design. But most of all, I loved the photos. The beautiful colors. The deep blacks in B+W photos. The “film-like” output. And, due to the obvious limitations, the impressionistic lo-fi images it produced. Well, lo-fi from today’s perspective.

All photos in this post are made with my first D-Lux. I kept shooting with this camera, even when I got “better” ones like the D-Lux 3 version and a high quality Canon dSLR. Until this D-Lux suddenly died in 2009.

Fast forward to 2018. As Dan wrote on his blog, we have now come to the point that we might consider some digital cameras as classics. So, why not go for a digital classic that gives the same feeling as a film compact, looks as beautiful and takes – more or less – the same kind of images?

Earlier the week, I hit the “Buy Now” button when I came across another first generation D-Lux on eBay. I am looking forward to take the camera to the streets again, and to restart experimenting.

And yes, the electronics might die any moment. But that risk is also very “lo-fi”, I guess.

Update 2018-07-10: Unfortunately, the “new” D-Lux is on its way back to its eBay seller. Same power issues as I had with my own camera ten years ago: with a full battery I could shoot for 10 or 15 minutes at its best. So unusable for me. These classic digital compacts certainly have a charm in terms of lo-fi images, but due to the technical unreliability it is a route that I would not choose again.