Tried & Tested

Tried and tested: Leica V-Lux 20 Digital camera

11 Oct 2010 by BusinessTraveller

German optics company Leica – much loved by “the father of modern photojournalism” Henri Cartier-Bresson – brought out its compact V-Lux 20 digital camera in April. With its smooth black finish and chrome elements, it is more contemporary-looking than its retro-aesthetic predecessors – and even many of its more expensive counterparts – but the build quality is just as good. With its matt metal body it feels weighty at 218g (always a sign of quality) and a ridge on the side makes the unit easier to hold when taking photos.

From a company known for its pricey products, this is a camera that comes in at the lower end of the range, at a relatively affordable £495 (the brown calfskin case that goes with it is an extra £70). The 12.1-megapixel V-Lux 20 measures 10.3cm x 6.2cm x 3.3cm and features a 12 x optical zoom (4 x digital zoom), Leica lens and HD movie recording.

What’s more, it is the first Leica model to have built-in GPS for geotagging that allows you to record the exact geographical co-ordinates and local time for every picture you take. This worked surprisingly well, most of the time, and it’s a handy option to have when travelling, especially if you take a lot of photos and then have difficulty remembering where it was that you took them. However, note that you also need to turn the GPS off when not using the camera as it will drain the battery even if the unit is not on.

In terms of ease of use, the buttons are placed in logical positions and aren’t fiddly to operate, and the on-screen menu system is intuitive. As well as standard “snapshot mode” there is a wide range of automated settings for shooting in different lights and environments (for example, “scene mode” offers soft skin, sports, night portrait, food, party and sunset options, among others). In addition, there is “custom mode”, “manual exposure” and “shutter and aperture priority” for the more experienced photographer.

Images displayed on the three-inch LCD screen appear sharp and clear, and the colours are vivid and true. You really notice the difference compared with shots taken on cheaper compacts, which can appear quite grainy and dull. Recovery is quick between taking photos and on-screen playback is satisfyingly immediate. The Leica V-Lux copes well in low light settings – I tend to avoid using the flash and found that when doing so, this camera actually managed to capture the mood and tone of the subject well.

As for shooting in daylight, the Leica excelled, even in snapshot mode, which is good to know if you are not someone with the patience for getting the exposure just right. I also experimented with the macro setting – and successfully captured some attractive shots of butterflies – these kinds of photos often look disappointing on lower-end compacts, never mind mobile phones. Overall I was extremely impressed with this digital camera – I am a Leica fan anyway, but this is an excellent option for anyone with an interest in amateur photography but who doesn’t want to carry around much more than a pocket-size device.

PROS Excellent image quality

CONS GPS can easily be left on, which drains battery life

PRICE £495


Jenny Southan

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