Leica has announced the launch of its latest compact digital camera at PMA in Las Vegas, we were lucky enough to get a quick first look at the Sneak Peak event before the show starts in earnest tomorrow.

The Leica C-LUX 2 is a small metal-bodied compact digital camera that follows on from the company's C-LUX 1 model.

However according to the Leica spokespeople we chatted to, that hasn't stopped the company telling us that they've rebuilt this model from the ground up.

The result is a nippy little 7 megapixel camera which sports an incredibly fast processor. In practice this means that not only does it take no time at all to snap a shot, think the complete opposite to Pentax, but that when we first tried it out we ended up with a lot of blurry out of focus images because we weren't expecting that kind of response, on a second outing however the results where much more impressive.

The processing speed we are told is the same as the company puts in its digital SLR camera the LEICA DIGILUX 3. It means you are ready to snap straight away once the image has been taken rather than having to wait for it to save to the card and it really did blow us away with its performance.

The LEICA C-LUX 2 is the first ultra compact digital camera from Leica to incorporate “Intelligent ISO“ automatic exposure control. The interaction of this feature with the optical image stabilisation leads to sharply focused photos of moving objects even in poor light and you can achieve ISO settings up to 3200 although we weren't able to test this out.

With its large zoom range of 28 to 100mm in 35mm format, the camera's zoom functionality responded well in our play (see images) luckily the camera features image stabilisation which helps offset that processor speed and although we didn't have a group to shoot we suspect that the 28mm wide angle would be really helpful in party situations.

A 2.5-inch screen, 3.6x zoom lens, integrated optical stabiliser (O.I.S.), and a 64MB SD memory card in the box complete the tech specs.

First Impressions

Rather than opt for the almost crazy defacto 10 megapixels, Leica has only gone for 7 megapixels and the results benefit from that.

The images we took were on the standard auto "best shot" setting did suffer from being incredibly out of focus to start with to only slightly out of focus by the end (see images). We think this might have been due to our surprise at the speed the camera took the images and the far from ideal lighting conditions of the setting (bright lights in an exhibition hall).

However what we've seen so far looks appealing, certainly from a design and functionality point of view. The camera was easy to use as well as the menus. Buttons are left to a minimum and all the relevant information is displayed on screen.

The LEICA C-LUX 2 will be on sale in a choice of black or silver at Leica stockists from May 2007.