Leica V-Lux 30 review

17 Aug 2011

A decent compact with nice design, bundled with excellent software. Not the best value for money, though

Price when reviewed: 
550(£550 inc VAT)
3

Although professionals are unlikely to break ranks from the twin photographic pillars of Canon and Nikon, Leica is a brand much-lusted over by the fashion-conscious. But, while its top-end model, the £5,000 M9, remains unobtainable to most enthusiasts, the V-Lux 30 gives those with shallower pockets something to aspire to.

Finished in metallic black, with perhaps the most prestigious badge in modern-day photography occupying the top left of the fascia, the V-Lux 30 is a study in understated design.

The 3in display on the back is bright and clear, and a touchscreen to boot, allowing you to select focus zones, zoom the lens and fire the shutter. The top dial scrolls through the usual options, including a fully manual mode, plus a custom mode that has three nested sub-modes, allowing you to quickly access groups of settings you use frequently.

It has plenty of photographic credibility, too, from the 14.1-megapixel CMOS sensor to its 4.3-68.8mm lens - 24-384mm in 35mm terms. The ISO can be set from 100 to 1600, although our tests revealed the upper reaches are best avoided.

At ISO 800, there’s plenty of chroma noise to deal with and images become extremely soft. Keep things well-lit, though, and the V-Lux 30 is a peach - the 16x zoom lens is beautifully sharp and image quality outdoors is excellent.

It performs well, too. It was ready to shoot just inside two seconds and, against a stopwatch, shot at over 6fps at its top 3:2 resolution of 4,320 x 2,880. Drop the resolution to 5 megapixels and the V-Lux 30 shoots 38fps, and there’s a further 3.5-megapixel mode that shoots 60 frames in one second.

As sweetener for those reaching into their pockets Leica bundles both Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements 9, which would otherwise set you back £100 (£120 inc VAT), but that doesn’t necessarily make the V-Lux 30 a good deal.

The camera is based on the Panasonic TZ20, down to the sensor specification, GPS chip, screen size and control layout, but the TZ20 will set you back around £230, some £320 less than the V-Lux 30 (or £200 if you factor in the Adobe bundle).

Otherwise, the only thing you lose is the prestigious Leica badge. The V-Lux 30 is definitely a decent camera, and the style-conscious will appreciate it as a way into Leica ownership for less than the cost of a family hatchback, but the budget-conscious will find more bang-per-buck elsewhere.

Details

Price ex VAT £458
Price inc VAT £550
Overall rating 3
Features & Design 5
Image quality 4
Value for Money 2

Basic specifications

Camera megapixel rating 14.1mp
Camera screen size 3.0in
Camera optical zoom range 16x
Camera maximum resolution 4,320 x 3,240

Weight and dimensions

Weight 219g
Dimensions 105 x 58 x 33mm (WDH)

Battery

Battery type included Lithium-ion
Battery life (CIPA standard) 260 shots
Charger included? yes

Other specifications

Built-in flash? yes
Aperture range f3.3 - f5.9
Camera minimum focus distance 0.50m
Shortest focal length (35mm equivalent) 24
Longest focal length (35mm equivalent) 384
Minimum (fastest) shutter speed 1/4,000
Maximum (slowest) shutter speed 1 mins
Bulb exposure mode? no
RAW recording mode? no
Exposure compensation range +/- 2EV
ISO range 100 - 1600
Selectable white balance settings? yes
Manual/user preset white balane? yes
Progam auto mode? yes
Shutter priority mode? yes
Aperture priority mode? yes
Fully auto mode? yes
Burst frame rate 6.0fps
Exposure bracketing? no
White-balance bracketing? no
Memory-card type SD
Viewfinder coverage N/A
LCD resolution 461k
Secondary LCD display? no
Video/TV output? yes
Tripod mounting thread? yes

Manual, software and accessories

Software supplied Adobe Photoshop Elements 9, Adobe Premiere Elements 9
Accessories supplied Strap, AV cable, touch pen