Leica V-Lux 1

      Photo Review 7.5
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      leadpic_V-Lux-1

      In summary

      A capable, but pricey, prestige long-zoom digicam with some worthwhile features for digital photographers.Essentially a Panasonic DMC-FZ50 in Leica livery, the V-Lux 1 has taken just over a year to reach us. In that time, Panasonic has added two new models to its FZ line-up so the V-Lux 1 looks dated in comparison. Fortunately, it still has some worthwhile features for today’s digital photographers, including a reasonably large 10-megapixel imager and a fast, optically stabilised 12x zoom lens. Raw file capture is also provided but, despite Leica’s use of DNG-RAW in its other cameras, the V-Lux 1 appears to use the same file format as the FZ50. . . [more]

      Full review

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      Essentially a Panasonic DMC-FZ50 in Leica livery, the V-Lux 1 has taken just over a year to reach us. In that time, Panasonic has added two new models to its FZ line-up so the V-Lux 1 looks dated in comparison. Fortunately, it still has some worthwhile features for today’s digital photographers, including a reasonably large 10-megapixel imager and a fast, optically stabilised 12x zoom lens. Raw file capture is also provided but, despite Leica’s use of DNG-RAW in its other cameras, the V-Lux 1 appears to use the same file format as the FZ50.

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      V-Lux-_1_side

      The two-inch flip-down-and-turn LCD monitor on the V-Lux 1 is small compared with current long-zoom cameras. Its electronic viewfinder (EVF) is slightly granular in texture, but similar to most competitors. Unlike some EVFs, it doesn’t blank out in continuous-shooting mode but displays the last image shot. (This isn’t very useful if you want to recompose or follow a subject during a burst of shots.) Otherwise the feature and control sets of the two cameras are identical.

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      V-Lux-_1_top

      Leica claims to have tweaked the image processing system on the V-Lux 1 to produce smoother JPEGs and more accurately rendered colours and this claim was verified in the test camera. Like many Panasonic digicams, the V-Lux I supports three aspect ratio settings (4:3, 3:2 and 16:9) and two compression levels for JPEG files. JPEG files with the Fine setting have slightly lower compression than files taken with the Panasonic FZ50, although the Normal compression is slightly higher on the V-Lux 1. Typical file sizes are shown in the table below.

      Aspect ratio

      Resolution

      Fine

      Standard

      4:3

      10M

      3648 x 2796

      5.2MB

      2.6MB

      8M

      3264 x 2448

      4.2MB

      2.1MB

      5M

      2560 x 1920

      2.6MB

      1.3MB

      3M

      2048 x 1536

      1.7MB

      0.8MB

      2M

      1600 x 1200

      1.0.MB

      0.5MB

      RAW

      3648 x 2796

      24MB

      3:2

      8.5M

      3600 x 2400

      4.6MB

      2.3MB

      7M

      3248 x 2160

      3.8MB

      1.9MB

      4.5M

      2560 x1712

      2.4MB

      1.2MB

      2.5M

      2048 x 1360

      1.5MB

      0.7MB

      RAW

      3600 x 2400

      22.2MB

      16:9

      7M

      3584 x 2016

      3.9MB

      1.9MB

      5.5M

      3072 x 1728

      2.8MB

      1.4MB

      2M

      1920 x 1080

      1.1MB

      0.6MB

      RAW

      3264 x 1840

      18.2MB

      It’s good to see that raw file capture is supported in all three aspect ratios. Support for the V-Lux 1’s raw file format is provided in Version 4.1 (and later) of Adobe’s Camera Raw converter, a Photoshop/Photoshop Elements plug-in that can be downloaded free of charge from www.adobe.com.
      Video clips can be recorded in VGA, QVGA or 16:9 (widescreen) format with frame rates of 30 or 10 frames/second. Continuous recording of up to 2GB capacity is supported and SDHC cards are recommended for movie capture at the highest resolutions and frame rates. A 2GB card can hold 22.5 minutes of VGA video, one hour and seven minutes of QVGA video or 19 minutes and 20 seconds of widescreen video at 30 frames/second.
      The aspect ratio is fixed for the duration of a video clip, as is the aperture setting, which is determined by the exposure when you start recording. Although you can adjust the focus and zoom while shooting video, the camera manual warns that the camera’s microphone may pick up the noise created by moving either ring.
      Compared to many other long-zoom digicams, the V-Lux 1 is large. A sizeable part of the camera’s bulk is the fast (f/2.8-3.7) DC Vario-Elmarit 12x optical zoom lens, which covers a focal length range equivalent to 35-420mm on a 35mm camera. Wide-angle coverage is significantly narrower than the Panasonic FZ18’s 28mm equivalent and the tets end of the scale is also shorter. But, thanks to Panasonic’s Mega O.I.S. optical image stabilisation, photographers can take advantage of the speed of the lens and the long zoom in low light situations.

      Performance
      Photographs taken with the V-Lux 1 were sharp with natural-looking colours and saturation levels. Exposures were generally accurate and the sensor/image processor combination’s dynamic range was slightly wider than we saw with the Panasonic FZ50 when we reviewed it last year (and we remarked then that it had a wide dynamic range for its sensor size). Overall sharpness appeared to be better than the Panasonic camera.
      Imatest confirmed our subjective assessments and showed the V-Lux 1 capable of very accurate colour rendition. Resolution was slightly better than we found with the FZ50, although still slightly below expectations for a 10-megapixel sensor. Lateral chromatic aberration was negligible and no coloured fringing was observed in outdoor shots. Close-up performance was very good and digital zoom shots were sharper and less affected by artefacts than many cameras we’ve tested.
      At the widest zoom setting, the lens barrel distortion was noticeable – but only with subjects that include straight lines near the edges of the frame. By the middle of the zoom range, this distortion had disappeared. Overall, the lens appeared to be very sharp with no apparent edge softening in test shots. Some flare was observed with strong backlighting.
      Image noise became visible at ISO 400 and obvious at ISO 800. By ISO 1600 a decline in sharpness had occurred and long exposures were covered by greenish blotches. Flash shots at ISO 1600 showed obvious colour noise plus a noticeable orange/pink shift. Flash coverage was generally good. At all ISO settings the camera was able to illuminate an average-sized room and the balance between flash and available lighting was nicely maintained.
      The auto white balance failed to remove the orange cast of incandescent lights or the greenish cast of fluorescent lighting. Both presets produced better results, although the tungsten preset was still some way from neutral. Custom white balance measurement yielded the best results with both types of lighting.
      The V-Lux 1’s autofocusing system was noticeably slower than the Panasonic FZ18 we reviewed recently but was generally quite accurate with little hunting in dim conditions. We measured an average capture lag of 0.9 seconds, which reduced to less than 0.1 seconds with pre-focusing. Shot-to-shot times averaged 2.2 seconds without flash and 3.1 seconds with.
      The high-speed burst mode recorded three shots at 0.4 second intervals, while the low-speed setting recorded three shots at 0.7 second intervals. Selecting the unlimited burst mode allowed a burst of shots to be captured at two frames/second, showing it took just on 0.5 seconds to process and store each file. (This camera gives no indication that files are being stored.)

      Conclusion
      For its features and performance, the Leica V-Lux 1 is a pretty pricey camera, given the competition it faces from new models released by Canon, Panasonic, Fujifilm and Olympus, all of which are significantly cheaper and higher-featured. However, if the Leica brand name and red dot logo are high priorities (along with the back-up support that accompanies the Leica name), the V-Lux 1 is a nice camera to use and offers good all-round performance.
      Its software bundle includes Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0, which was recently superseded but is still superior to the Panasonic’s bundled ArcSoft editors. The V-Lux 1 also comes with a 512MB SD card, which is significantly better than other camera manufacturers provide. However, it’s a small value-add when you can buy a 1GB SD card on the current market for around $23.

      IMATEST GRAPHS

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      SAMPLE IMAGES

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      awb_tungV-Lux1

      Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.

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      awb_fluoroV-lux1

      Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.

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      digital_zoomV-Lux1

      Digital zoom.

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      ISO100V-Lux1

      Short exposure at ISO 100.

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      ISO3200V-Lux1

      Short exposure at ISO 3200.

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      ISO_200V-Lux1

      Long exposure at ISO 200.

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      ISO_1600V-Lux1

      Long exposure at ISO 1600.

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      close-upV-Lux1

      Close-up.

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      backlightingV-Lux1

      Backlighting.

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      duck

      Full optical zoom.

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      flareV-Lux1

      Wide-angle flare.

       

      Specifications

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      leadpic_V-Lux-1

      Image sensor: 7.18 x 5.23 mm CCD with 10.4 million photosites (10.1 megapixels effective)
      Lens: Leica DC Vario-Elmarit 7.4-88.8mm f/2.8-3.7 ASPH. (35-420mm in 35mm format)
      Zoom ratio: 12x optical, 4x digital
      Image formats: Stills ““ JPEG, RAW; Movies ““ QuickTime Motion JPEG
      Image Sizes: Stills ““ 4:3 format: 3648 x 2736, 2560 x 1920, 2048 x 1536, 1600 x 1200; 3:2 format: 3600 x 2400, 3248 x 2160, 2560 x 1712, 2048 x 1360; 16:9 format: 3584 x 2016, 3072 x 1728, 1920 x 1080.
      Shutter speed range: 60-1/2000 sec
      Image Stabilisation: Optical Image Stabiliser (2 modes)
      Exposure Compensation: +/-2 EV in increments of 1⁄3 EV.
      Focus system/range: TTL AF with 9, 3 or 1 area selection; range 50 cm to infinity; macro 5cm to infinity
      Exposure metering/control: Multi-field, centre-weighted and spot metering; 16 Scene pre-sets
      ISO range: Auto, ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
      White balance: Auto, daylight, cloudy skies, shadow, halogen light, flash plus 2 manual settings and white balance fine tuning from -1500 to +1500 K in 150 K steps
      Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, fill-in, slow synch, flash off (red-eye reduction available)
      Sequence shooting: 2 fps for three frames in High-Speed mode
      Storage Media: SD/SDHC or MMC cards
      Viewfinder: EVF with 235,000 pixels
      LCD monitor: Swivelling 2.0-inch TFT colour display with 207,000 pixels
      Power supply: Lithium-ion rechargeable battery (710 mAh ; 7.2 V) or optional power supply unit/charger
      Dimensions (wxhxd): 141 x 85 x 142 mm
      Weight: 668 grams (without battery, memory card and lens cap)

       

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      Rating

       

      RRP: $1399

      Rating (out of 10):

      • Build: 8.5
      • Ease of use: 8.5
      • Image quality: 8.5
      • OVERALL: 7.5

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