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Leica's new V-Lux compared with the V-Lux 4

Posted on by Mike Evans

The V-Lux 4 has been a popular camera for Leica and I know of many people who have produced some amazing shots. But there is no arguing that the camera's 1/2.3in sensor is small and uncompetitive in 2014. The new number-stripped V-Lux (which I suspect will be its replacement) is a very different beast. Despite the superficial resemblance, the new camera is much bigger all round. But it is also much more competent.

Part of the size increase is a direct result of the larger 1in sensor and the corresponding effect on lens size. This sensor is over four times as large as the one in the old V-Lux 4. However, I find it odd that Sony can squeeze the same sensor into the tiny RX100, or that Leica and Panasonic can put an even bigger 4/3 sensor in the D-Lux/LX100, a considerably smaller camera than the V-Lux. Of course, both cameras have much shorter zooms and this has a big bearing on overall size. In mitigation, the V-Lux is a very similar beast to the Sony RX10, which uses the identical sensor, and I imagine both Sony and Panasonic have done their best to keep the size down to a minimum.

The larger the sensor, the easier is to simulate a narrower angle of view by cropping. As an example, this shot of Leica's CEO, Dr. Alfred Schopf, was taken from a distance with a full-frame Leica M and 50mm Summilux lens (at ISO 2000). Ideally I would have used a 90mm or 135mm lens (which I didn't have with me — I carried just the one fifty) and achieved a better result. But, as you see from the original frame (below), the 50mm lens on the full-frame camera results in a picture which can be cropped effectively and still have a usable shot. The same principles apply to the V-Lux 4 and V-Lux: The larger 1in sensor of the new camera will help compensate for the one-third reduction in maximum zoom

The larger the sensor, the easier is to simulate a narrower angle of view by cropping. As an example, this shot of Leica's CEO, Dr. Alfred Schopf, was taken from a distance with a full-frame Leica M and 50mm Summilux lens (at ISO 2000). Ideally I would have used a 90mm or 135mm lens (which I didn't have with me — I carried just the one fifty) and achieved a better result. But, as you see from the original frame (below), the 50mm lens on the full-frame camera results in a picture which can be cropped effectively and still have a usable shot. The same principles apply to the V-Lux 4 and V-Lux: The larger 1in sensor of the new camera will help compensate for the one-third reduction in maximum zoom

While the V-Lux is big, picking it up is a surprise. In contrast to a Leica M, which is always heavier than you think, the V-Lux weighs less than you would imagine. It feels really chunky in the hands and gives the impression low density. In fact, after handling it I was surprised to find that it weighs all of 830g. It doesn't feel like it. The smaller V-Lux 4 weighs 590g by comparison.

The new V-Lux incorporates the 1in sensor first popularised by Nikon (with the Nikon 1) and Sony (with the RX100). By comparison, the 1/2.3in sensor of the V-Lux 4 is tiny (image Wiki Commons)

The new V-Lux incorporates the 1in sensor first popularised by Nikon (with the Nikon 1) and Sony (with the RX100). By comparison, the 1/2.3in sensor of the V-Lux 4 is tiny (image Wiki Commons)

With a 600mm maximum reach, the V-Lux 4 is undoubtedly a very versatile camera, especially for travellers who want to pack light. The new V-Lux zoom extends to only 400mm but this is not necessarily a deal breaker. With the four-times bigger sensor, cropping of a 400mm shot is viable and I believe the result will ultimately beat the V-Lux 4 at 600mm. 

I have no doubt that the V-Lux is a much better camera than the V-Lux 4. If you can live with that extra bulk you will be delighted with the results. I certainly would have no qualms about foregoing the final 200mm of zoom.

The big decision will be whether to buy the larger-sensored D-Lux and make do with a 24-75mm zoom or go for the larger V-Lux, essentially to gain the benefit of the 400mm reach. I suspect it is a case of horses for courses and both cameras will find a ready market. Ideally, I'd have both for different occasions.

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