Tuesday, May 18, 2010

NEW Leica V-Lux 20 Breaks all the rules!!!

brand NEW Leica V-Lux 20 compact superzoom point & shoot camera

I was working the "Biggest Week in American Birding" in Ohio last week and the local sales rep loaned me his sample of the new Leica V-Lux 20 to test. I fully expected that I would be able to use the 12x zoom (300 mm equivalent) effectively to capture images of closer birds seen along the boardwalk at Magee Marsh in Oak Harbor, OH. This was a certainty and the camera performed "spot on" in this regard. At 14.5 megapixels with high def movie mode and built in GPS, I was looking forward to playing with this and as you can see from the image of below I was not disappointed!

male Northern Parula image taken with the new Leica V-Lux 20 camera 5/14/10

The colorful male Northern Parula shown above was taken by simply holding this tiny pocket-sized camera up, zooming and snapping the image! Obviously the bird cooperated by being close and at eye-level, but that is why so many birders visit this gem of a site during spring migration; for "in-your-face" views of these vibrant migrant birds. (taken at max zoom - 300 mm, program mode, ISO 200, 1/250th sec, f/4.9, +1 ev, with optical image stabilization and built in flash activated for fill).

Purple Martin pair @ Oak Harbor, OH 5/13/10

Those who know me, know that I am a digiscoping freak so despite the fact that "superzoom" cameras don't lend themselves to digiscoping, I'm sure you know I had to try this new "compact superzoom" behind our new wide-angle scope eyepiece to see how it worked for myself! The above is the exact image completely unaltered that I took through the scope when I first tried this on the evening of 5/13/10.

Amazingly, the Leica V-Lux 20 broke all the digiscoping rules and actually worked f0r digiscoping on its first test above. I was completely stoked! This was handheld behind the Leica APO Televid spotting scope with the wide-angle zoom eyepiece set a bit over 25x and the camera zoom set at a 35 mm equivalent.

Purple Martin pair digiscoped with NEW Leica V-Lux 20 camera

With 14.5 megapixel at my disposal, I was easily able to crop up and eliminate the dark circular frame to capture both the male & female birds (above) and then cropping further even the female alone as below!

female Purple Martin cropped from digiscoped image above

On the way back to the car (near 7 PM), I found my next photo opportunity and tested my luck again. A male Baltimore Oriole was singing unabashedly in an oak tree at the edge of the parking lot. I quickly set up my scope, pulled the V-Lux out of my shirt pocket and held it behind the scope eyepiece. This time I had the scope zoom at minimum 25x, and there was no vignetting around the frame! The image below is again completely unaltered. This is as it turned out by simply holding the new V-Lux 20 to the wide-angle eyepiece and shooting the image! Note there is just the tiniest hint of black vignetting at the lower right corner but otherwise nothing.

adult male Baltimore Oriole digiscoped with Leica V-Lux 20 evening 5/13/10
Image properties:
ISO 200
shutter speed: 1/80th sec
+0.7 step EV
35 mm equivalent

Baltimore Oriole digiscoped image slightly altered.

In the above image I've taken the liberty to add ~10 seconds of photoshop magic, cropping slightly to eliminate the dark corner and some of the "blown out" sky , and adding a bit of "shadow/highlights", but nothing more for the finished look above. At any rate, it is clear I need to get a V-Lux 20 of my own and begin experimenting some more both behind the spotting scope and as a stand alone unit! On 5/14 & 15 I took some more and better images and videos using the same camera scope combination which I will highlight next!


  1. Does this camera work with the D-Lux 4 digital adapter? If not, which adapter if any did you use?

  2. Wooo! Jeff it is amazing...

  3. Hi jeff, good to see ou trying out the new camera, a quick question, how much of the 10X optical zoom was usuable without vignetting? i presume you had the camera set at zero zoom for the pics above?



  4. Very impressive, Jeff! We'd love to review the camera.

  5. Ben - unfortunately this does not have filter thread ring capabilities so no threaded adapter hopes. It does work fine in the digital adapter 2 (clamp style adapter) though. To date I've simply handheld this camera on the lens. As it turns out this is easier because the V-Lux 20 lens housing is wide enough to nearly fill all of the rubber eye cup on the eyepiece, and it appears that the best distance between lenses on these two is with the lens housing and top eyering in contact, so I can rest the camera on the eyepiece and do quite well. I'll post the images I took late Friday and Saturday using this kit tomorrow (again handheld only so far).

  6. Steve - I think you'll like it. Just wait until I get more of my images uploaded!

  7. too bad, Leica camera should make use more than just bird watching.

  8. Very interesing jeff,

    I did not expect such good quality images at low shutter speed at such zoom. the image stabilization must be doing its job.


  9. Paul - not a big deal but it's 12x for the record - as expected you begin to see some vignette as you run up either zoom much. I was able to maintain a somewhat vignette free image running the camera zoom up some. However, vignette was immediately obvious when manipulating the scope zoom. Still no superzoom camera that lends itself both to that 300 mm + lens equiv as a stand-alone and be vignette free throughout the zoom range but, I'm impressed that it's a pocketable camera that does easily handhold and allow quality imaging to boot. I got some really great Olive-sided Flycatcher shots at higher zoom that were less than 1/3 vignetted which I'll post tomorrow.

  10. embience - not sure what you mean, Leica should use what for more than digiscoping. If you mean the Leica Bird Blog, understand this is a site I created as the birding rep to the entire western hemisphere. So naturally I only deal with birding applications on my blog as it is the only area I have expertise in. What other areas would you like to see covered?... Perhaps I could point you to another site.

  11. You take some lovely photos of birds the two together is my favourite and i see you have a big following thanks for sharing.

  12. Wonderful review! Very helpful indeed. I am thinking of getting a new point and shoot camera and I can't decide what to get between the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 and Leica D-Lux 5. I am also thinking if I should get this instead. I will definitely consider your review and I hope I won't regret my purchase! Thanks! ;)