The Leica V-Lux 30 was released in May 2011 with a range of features that on paper make it appear to be an ideal travel super-zoom digital camera. The camera is Leica's version of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 with some subtle differences but costs nearly £300 more. Let's take a look to see if the Leica justifies its price of £550.
Leica V-Lux 30
Leica V-Lux 30 Features
The Leica V-Lux 30 has a 14.1 megapixel sensor with a 16x optical zoom lens which is a 35mm equivalent of 24 - 384mm and can be extended to 21x with Intelligent Resolution. Other features include 10 fps continuous shooting at full resolution and 3D image capture mode. As well as using the buttons, the camera can be controlled via the 3 inch LCD touch screen.
The camera also has a mode dial which makes it easy to switch between the various shooting modes available which include P, S, M, A, Auto, 3D, Scene, My Scene 1 and My Scene 2. There are a wide range of scene modes available: Portrait, Soft Skin, Transform, Self Portrait, Scenery, Panorama Assist, Sports, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Handheld Night Shot, Food, Party, Candle Light, Baby 1, Baby 2, Pet, Sunset, High Sensitivity, Flash Burst, Starry Sky, Fireworks, Beach, Snow, Aerial Photo, Pin Hole, Film Grain, High Dynamic, Photo Frame and High Speed Movie.
Ideal for those who shoot while travelling, the V-Lux 30 includes a GPS module which records the location and local time of pictures which is then stored in the images EXIF data.
Videos can be shot at full HD 1920 x 1080i AVCHD with the use of optical zoom and GPS data.
Bundled with the camera are two editing programs, Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 for images and Adobe Premiere Elements 9 for videos.
Leica V-Lux 30
14.1 megapixel MOS sensor
16x optical zoom lens (35mm equiv: 24 - 384mm)
Intelligent zoom extends the zoom to 21x at 14 megapixel
3 inch touch-screen, with 460,800 pixels
Full 1080i HD video recording
ISO 100 - 1600
3cm Macro mode
Integrated GPS function
3D Photo shooting
Leica V-Lux 30
Leica V-Lux 30 Handling
The camera is well built with a solid metal body and a good sized front hand grip, while the back has a raised bumps thumb grip that works well. To switch on there is a sliding switch on the top rather than a button which makes it less likely you'll accidentally switch the camera on. Other buttons include the mode dial, a video record button and an exposure button as well as the typical buttons found on most compact cameras. All this is packed into a camera that is small enough to be easily carried around.
The V-Lux 30's menus are logical and well laid out with colour coded sections. The text is easy to read and the options are easy to understand the majority of the time. Occasionally the scene modes can take a little longer to access as they are represented with small images, but text underneath explains what the modes do. The camera has a built in touch screen, and the icons are large and easy to use, however the camera also has a good number of buttons so you don't need to use the touch screen if you don't want to.
The battery has a CIPA rating of 260 shots which should be plenty for a day of shooting. The camera is ready to take shots 2 - 3 seconds after switching on and its focusing speed is excellent. The V-Lux 30 has a range of continuous shooting modes:
2 fps AF-Continuous, 14 megapixels - 1.7 fps in testing
5 fps AF-Continuous, 14 megapixels - 3.2 fps in testing
10 fps AF-Single, 14 megapixels - 5.2 fps in testing
40 fps AF-Single, 5 megapixels - 40 fps in testing
60 fps AF-Single 2.5 megapixels - 60 fps in testing
Flash burst, 3 megapixels - 1.5 fps in testing
Leica V-Lux 30
Leica V-Lux 30 Performance
The optical zoom provides a good zoom range. This is further extended using the "Intelligent Zoom" - this is intended to process the image, sharpening detail, however when viewing the images at full size, it's easy to see that it is using digital zoom and is simply providing an easier way to magnify an area (unfortunately at the expense of image quality). There is some purple fringing in the trees in the wide-angle shot, but it is well controlled. Colour reproduction is pleasing with excellent macro pictures possible, with a close focus distance of just 3cm.
Leica V-LUX 30 Lens test images
There is low noise at ISO100 and ISO200. At ISO400 strong noise reduction reduces noise, but also fine detail starts to degrade. Noise becomes much more dominant at ISO800. Then at ISO1600 the noise becomes really dominant, reducing detail and colour noticeably. Above ISO1600 the camera will switch to 3 megapixels and these ISO settings can not be manually selected, instead you need to go into one of the High ISO / Sensitivity scene modes to access them. These higher ISO modes are best used for resizing on the web.
Leica V-LUX 30 ISO test images
The following landscape images show the colour quality the V-Lux 30 is able to deliver. Portraits have pleasant skin tones and no red-eye.
Leica V-LUX 30 Scene modes
The following images have been taken using the lens at its maximum optical zoom.
Leica V-LUX 30 Sample Photos
There is no white-balance preset for fluorescent lighting - as you can see below it doesn't seem to be needed as the results using auto white balance under fluorescent lighting are excellent. In fact you get better results using the auto white balance under incandescent / tungsten lighting rather than using the Tungsten preset.
Leica V-LUX 30 White-balance test images
The creative modes can make some otherwise boring shots more memorable. The camera also has a number of colour modes, including: Standard, Natural, Vivid, Black & White, Sepia, Cool and Warm.
Leica V-LUX 30 Digital filters
The video quality is very good recording Full HD Video up to 29min with stereo sound and the optical zoom can be used while recording.
Adding to the value, the camera comes with Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 & Premiere Elements 9 which has an RRP of £117. The Leica V-Lux 30 also comes with a two-year warranty and one-year Leica UK Passport.
Leica V-Lux 30 Verdict
The 16x optical zoom lens with optical image stabilisation is very useful, with a wide angle view and detail is good at both ends of the lens, producing very good images and videos. The camera is very easy to use and feels good with a solid design. Yes, the camera is much more expensive than the very similar Panasonic Lumix TZ-20, but you are getting an a camera with a superb name, it looks classy and you get the Adobe software and two-year warranty.
The Leica V-Lux 30 has an excellent set of features, produces superb images and comes highly recommended despite its high price.
Leica V-Lux 30 Pros
16x optical zoom lens starting at 24mm wide
Good design and build quality
High speed shooting
High quality video with optical zoom
Built in optical image stabilisation
Great macro performance
Excellent auto white balance
Built in GPS
Leica V-Lux 30 Cons
"Intelligent zoom" is just another name for digital zoom
Strong noise reduction reduces detail at ISO400+
GPS use drains battery life
Camera, battery charger (Leica BC-DC 7), lithium-ion battery (Leica BP-DC 7), carrying strap, AV cable, USB cable, Software DVDs, CD with long instructions (PDF), printed short instruction manuals, touch pen, Adobe Photoshop Elements 9, Adobe Premiere Ele