Leica V-Lux 20 Review

Leica V-Lux 20 Review

Leica V-Lux 20.jpgHere’s another LeicaPana compact with a Leica lens married to a Panasonic-designed body and electronics. And if you think the V-LUX 20 looks like the latter’s Lumix DMC-ZS7 (or DMC-TZ10 in Australia) you’re precisely on the money.

V-Lux 20 back.jpg

V-Lux 20 front.jpg

There are some differences: among them a slightly different handgrip and some other cosmetic detail plus movie capture in Motion JPEG instead of AVCHD at the top res. However, in other respects the Leica snapper should work pretty much as the Panasonic. But it has a Leica badge on the body…

Features

V-Lux 20 top_1.jpg

The 12x Leica DC Vario-Elmar zoom helps this model stand out from the crowd, especially with its three mode optical stabiliser in a compact, pocketable body. It equates to a 35 SLR range of 25 to 300mm.

The CCD will cram 12.1 million pixels onto its surface, leading to a maximum image size of 4320×2432 pixels, then a final print size of 37x21cm. Movies: a maximum 1280×720 pixel capture at 30 fps.

The mode dial gives you the option of shooting in auto, Program AE, aperture or shutter priority and manual exposure, so the camera is a well-equipped compact.

Boats 1.JPG

Panasonic have, right from their earliest compact digicams settled on a successful formula that satisfies both expert and raw newbie needs: exterior controls are minimal, augmented by a comprehensive viewfinder menu that gives access to 54 options in shoot mode.

So you can run the ‘machine’ on virtual auto by driving only the eternal controls. You can, if you wish, mess with the ‘mechanicals’ via the LCD menu: here you can dabble with ISO settings, metering pattern, fiddle with colour effects, fine tune the GPS detection and other matters.

There’s not a lot that takes you into the techy-land of a DSLR but it will satisfy the photographer who wants to dress up his or her images before downloading them.

The GPS function records the geographical coordinates of location and local time of each image, then stores this information in the EXIF data of the image files.

An added bonus is the bundling of a copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements 8.0; this will please many who have held off buying this application and can partially justify the price difference between the Leica and Panasonic cameras.

ISO Settings

ISO 400 and looking fine.

ISO 800 and still doing well, although definition is down a touch.

ISO 1600: noise is up and definition is down.

Startup Time
Three seconds from power on to first shot: OK. Then follow on shots coming in at about a second a pop: also OK.

Distortion
You would expect a Leica lens to perform superbly — and it does: no problems with distortion at either end of the zoom.

Comment

Park wide.JPG

Park tele.JPG

Quality: I found that the camera captured excellent colour and resolution; in the examples above the Leica had a tricky task in balancing the heavy shade and bright sunny areas of the shot so the exposure system is very capable in such extremes.

Why you would buy it: you feel the Leica badge will improve your photography;

Why you won’t: you need the full prowess of a DSLR.

V-Lux 20 leather case_emo.jpg

You can’t deny the appeal of the red badge. Makes you feel all warm and cuddly. Will it improve your pictures? Who knows?

Leica V-Lux 20 Specifications

Image Sensor: 12.1 million effective pixels.
Metering: Multi field, centre-weighted, spot.
Sensor Size: 10.9mm CCD.
Lens: Leica DC Vario-Elmar f3.3-4.9/4.1-49.2mm (25-300mm as 35 SLR equivalent).
Shutter Speed: 60 to 1/2000 second.
Memory: SD/SDHC/SDXC cards plus 15MB internal memory.
Image Sizes (pixels): 4320×2432, 4176×2784, 4000×3000, 3552×2000, 3392×2264, 3264×2448, 2816×1864, 2816×1864, 2816×1584, 2784×1568, 2656×1768, 2560×1920, 2048×1536, 2048×1360, 1920×1080, 640×480, 640×424, 640×360. Movies: 1280×720, 848×480, 640×480, 20240 at 30 fps.
Rear LCD Screen: 7.6cm LCD (460,800 pixels).
File Formats: JPEG, Motion JPEG.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 80 to 1600.
Interface: USB 2.0, AV, HDMI, DC.
Power: Rechargeable lithium battery, DC input.
Dimensions: 103x62x33 WHDmm.
Weight: 218 g (with battery and card).
Price: Get a price ont he Leica V-LUX 20 at Amazon.

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Leica V-Lux 20
Author Rating
4

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Barrie Smith is an experienced writer/photographer currently published in Australian Macworld, Auscam and other magazines in Australia and overseas.

Some Older Comments

  • Linda June 9, 2011 06:50 am

    I agree with Victor, OH has the Pan. TZ8, I have the Leica V-Lux 20....there's just that little something extra with the Leica (and I don't mean the price). The images are a little sharper and seem to me to be 'richer' for want of a better word.

  • Victor June 3, 2011 12:48 pm

    Does anybody else have both cameras? I have the Panasonic ZS7 and friend has the Leica V-Lux 20. So, I get to use both heh heh heh. The quality of the image is night and day. Using the same settings, shooting the same subject, the Leica produces more saturation, maybe less aberration. I get more depth with the Leica when photographing landscape images, where as with the Panasonic the image comes out with less dynamic range and it looks kinda flat.

    I ended up chucking the Panasonic and getting a Canon EOS, woot!

  • Rae Merrill November 8, 2010 05:35 am

    Why pay more for a re-badged Panasonic. Just buy the Panasonic and leave the snob value to others.

  • palinode October 22, 2010 03:56 am

    The addition of Photoshop Elements is nearly enough to make me choose the Leica version, but the cheaper alternative seems like such a better deal to me. The V-lux and D-lux series strike me as a way for Leica to bring in some additional revenue and expand its customer base to people who really can't afford a digital rangefinder but want that warm and cuddly red badge. I almost bought the D-Lux 4 before I came to my senses and picked up the Lumix LX3.

  • Luis Garcia October 20, 2010 11:40 pm

    "Why you would buy it: you feel the Leica badge will improve your photography"

    I really can't tell if you're mocking the red circle or not, but you followed up with this:

    "You can’t deny the appeal of the red badge. Makes you feel all warm and cuddly. Will it improve your pictures? Who knows?"

    I could be misreading you, but I love the jab at Leica for taking another camera, adding a red circle, then jacking up the price.

  • OsmosisStudios October 19, 2010 01:16 pm

    You too can have a ZS-7 (at least thats model name in North America) for 3x the price.
    The lens is the same lens that's on the panasonic version. These are simply rebadges with slight software tweaks. Please, review a proper camera.

  • dl1337 October 19, 2010 09:55 am

    "You would expect a Leica lens to perform superbly — and it does"

    The Leica zoom is not better or worse than most compact zooms. Panasonic employs computing formulas in-camera to reduce distortions. Nothing to do with Leica.