This week’s Leica event in Berlin launched so many products it was easy to miss one if you blinked. The most affordable item, the Leica V-Lux 40, was brushed over so quickly that even the keenest of Leica watchers may have missed it.
This is a shame, because it’s a handsome compact with a lot going for it. Pocket-lint had rare hands-on time, while everyone else was distracted by the big guns.
The Leica V-Lux 40 is the latest compact to continue the relationship with Panasonic, a company which Leica Chairman Dr Andreas Kaufmann described as "our respected partner".
So it’s similar to the Panasonic Lumix TZ30, an impressively capable machine, as you can read in our review. This model, however, costs over £200 more. Of course, Leica cameras aren’t known for being bargain basement, but what do you get for your £550?
Well, to start with, the look is pretty special. The metal body feels coolly solid under the finger, with the curvy form of the Panasonic straightened and moderated to give a gorgeous result. The iconic red logo stands out as ever in the top left corner and will make Leica lovers drool a little.
High-end design stands or falls on detail. Here, there are plenty, from the lens cover which is now black (on last year’s V-Lux 30 it was silver) which adds to the demure, authoritative, look of the camera, to the Leica logo which briefly appears on the LCD screen as you turn the snapper off.
That LCD is a 3-inch touchscreen, making it easy to pick where you want to focus. This is Leica’s first touchscreen, though it was made clear to us that it may not be the last. Bigger Leicas, it was hinted, may make use of the technology in coming seasons.
The sensor’s resolution is unchanged from last year’s model, with 15.3 megapixels (14.1 effective). There are extra features such as GPS built in so you can easily geotag your snaps. The V-Lux 40 comes with a DVD of maps for major cities which can be uploaded to the camera and used to guide you if you’re in unfamiliar surroundings. Perhaps it’s cool to struggle your way around squinting at the screen on your camera, but be warned it’ll be a juice-sapper.
But as always with Leica, it’s all about the lens. The spectacular glass now comes with a whopping 20x zoom, 24-480mm in 35mm terms. Combine that focal length with the improved low light capabilities of the sensor and this suddenly becomes the perfect gig camera, for once offering images of your favourite band where you can actually recognise who’s on stage.
In fact, the powerful zoom has a lot of uses, so a casual glance at a distant block of flats, let’s say, may surprisingly reveal that it’s always worth getting dressed properly before watering window boxes. I mean, maybe not shirt and tie, but would a T-shirt really have been beyond this Berlin balcony gardener?
Of course, accidental voyeurism may not be your thing. Whatever, the zoom is fast, butter-smooth and appealing. We've included the wide angle of this shot below so you can judge the extent of the range. Naturally, we’ll be testing it comprehensively in our Leica V-Lux 40 review when we have a sample in the office.
There’s a copy of Photoshop Elements 10 and Premiere Elements 10 bundled with the camera which adds to the value, and the 2-year warranty is boosted by the Leica UK Passport – an accidental damage cover policy which lasts for 1 year. And Leica is known for spectacular customer service from a complimentary demo or training session to technical support by telephone.
Add these together and this doesn’t seem like bad value compared to the Panasonic. Plus, how can we put this? It’s a Leica.
Actually, £550 seems great value to have an iconic camera brand in your mitts.