Leica V-Lux 30 camera review

Leica has put together a stunning luxury pocket zoom camera

Reasons to buy
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    Build and features

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    Pick up and shoot usability

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    Up-to-the-minute tech

Reasons to avoid
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    Price tag

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    Expensive for point and shoot

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    Modest light sensitivity

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The Leica V-Lux 30 is based on the cheaper Panasonic TZ20 and cost a small fortune for a point and shoot. This camera never claimed to be a great value for money pocket zoom.However, if you stomach the outlay, the comprehensively featured and sophisticatedly styled V-Lux 30 is the ultimate in travel zooms

With a suggested price of £550 meaning that it's a straight choice between this and a more fully featured DSLR or compact system camera such as Pentax's Q for many, the elegantly sophisticated Leica V-Lux 30 is far from great value.

However that doesn't stop it for us, being the ultimate 'travel zoom' currently in contention. Such cameras are classed by their ability to shoehorn in a gargantuan lens whilst, when lens is subsequently retracted, still being able to be fitted into the average trouser pocket (or handbag). And, with such a broad focal range on offer, in the Leica's case the equivalent of 24-384mm in 35mm film terms – or a 16x optical zoom – this is conceivably all the camera you might need to pack for your travels. If you're happy with pointing and shooting that is.

More eagle eyed observers might be at this point getting a sense of déjà vu and they'd be correct: the Leica V-Lux 30 is basically a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 from earlier this year with a more sober styling and (perceived) better class of badge on the front. So, even though copies of Photoshop Elements 9 and Premiere Elements 9 are included in the box, is it worth an extra £200 over its similarly featured if not attired competitor?

Leica V-Lux 30 Controls (ease of use)

Although broader than your average snapshot at 33.4mm in depth thanks to the extra zoom power, we squeezed the Leica V-Lux 30 into our pockets without too much trouble. It has a flatter handgrip than the Panasonic but like that model features a GPS antenna on the top plate for geotagging shots taken at destinations – longitude and latitude coordinates captured in the Exif data – thus furthering its jack-of-all trades appeal.

The main functions are selected by a familiar top plate shooting mode dial that will be instantly reassuring to many; video shooting doesn't feature among the standard 10 options as this instantly commences with a press of a dedicated record button no matter which mode is selected on the dial.

Leica V-Lux 30 Screen

In terms of screen as an aid to composition as well as review, pictures are presented in standard 4:3 aspect ratio via the 3-inch LCD screen at the rear of the Leica V-Lux 30 which offers a clean and crisp visibility thanks to the 460k dot resolution on offer. This display narrows with black bands cropping the top and bottom to ape a 16:9 widescreen format when the dedicated video record button to the right of the shutter release is depressed.

Leica V-Lux 30 Speed (performance, basically)

The main selling point of the Leica V-Lux 30's 16x zoom is responsive rather than sluggish in operation, and can thankfully be accessed for shooting video as well as stills. It does however take a moment or two for recording to begin once the relevant button is pressed, so this could be more 'instant' still.

Give the on/off button a flick and the Leica is ready for your first picture or video within 2-3 seconds, lens extending from its retracted position flush to the body to maximum 24mm equivalent wideangle for shoehorning in the broadest of landscapes. The rear LCD follows through by bursting into life so you can actually compose the shot.

Full 14.1 megapixel JPEGS are committed to card or small internal cache in 2-3 seconds; whilst that's average at no point did we feel we were drumming our fingers waiting for the camera to catch up.

Leica V-Lux 30 Battery

The Leica features a rechargeable lithium ion battery, but with so much going on this is only good for a modest yet fair 260 pictures from a full charge. To get the longest life the otherwise 'always on' GPS facility can be de-activated. Plus there's an airline mode whereby GPS lies dormant if powering down the camera to board a flight, but which automatically re-activates the next time the camera on is switched on.

Leica V-Lux 30 Pictures and video

When adjusting the zoom in the midst of recording video the relayed image only goes soft for the briefest of periods before the shot snaps back into sharp focus again. There's also the advantage of stereo microphones on the Leica, so sound quality is better than your average point and shoot will provide too.

Among the stills shooting options there's extra interest provided by a 3D shooting mode. In this mode we were text prompted to sweep the camera in a narrow 10cm arc while squeezing the shutter, which results in a machine gun style burst of picture taking. These frames are then automatically combined in camera to form a single 3D MPO format file, viewable on a suitably equipped TV set, but not the back of the actual camera unfortunately. In normal stills mode occasional pixel fringing and blown highlights common to most point and shoots along with the odd soft image at maximum zoom when shooting handheld were the only bugbears. Otherwise colours are warm and detail vividly crisp.

Leica V-Lux 30 Verdict

With the ability to achieve crisp results no matter which point we'd arrived at in the Leica V-Lux 30's expansive focal range, and if we liked pinpoint where those images were shot on the world stage, the Leica whilst not being freezeproof, waterproof and shockproof is nevertheless one of the best realised travel zooms out there. Quality doesn't come cheap however, which is the largest barrier to purchase when it comes to this ultimate travel companion for the point and shoot photographer.

It's not just about paying big when it comes to owning a Leica, it's about buying into a dream as much as the latest tech or how competent it is at what it does. However, if you stomach the outlay, the comprehensively featured and sophisticatedly styled V-Lux 30 is the ultimate in travel zooms.

Leica V-Lux 30 availability: Out now

Leica V-Lux 30 price: £550

Gavin Stoker

Gavin Stoker has been writing about photography and technology for the past 20 years. He currently edits the trade magazine British Photographic Industry News - BPI News for short - which is a member of TIPA, the international Technical Imaging Press Association.