Leica V-LUX 30 Review

July 4, 2011 | Gavin Stoker | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The V-LUX 30 is Leica's latest travel-zoom camera, featuring a 16x, 24-384mm lens, built-in GPS geo-tagging, 3D Photo Mode and a touchscreen LCD. Successor to the V-LUX 20 model, VLUX 30 has a new 14.1 megapixel MOS sensor which enables full 1080i HD movies in the AVCHD format and fast continuous shooting at either 10fps or 5ps with continuous auto-focus turned on. A built-in GPS unit tracks where each photo is taken, automatically embedding the latitude and longitude in the EXIF data and also now including landmark information from over 1 million locations. The Intelligent Resolution function can be used to digitally boost the zoom ratio to 21x without hardly any loss in quality, or to simply make still images and video look better, at least according to Leica. The V-LUX 30 also implements A, S and M exposure modes for creative photographers, in addition to Intelligent Auto and a variety of scene modes for beginners. An upgraded Sonic Speed auto-focus system, high-speed and high-performance Venus Engine FHD processor, POWER O.I.S. anti-shake system, a 3-inch touch-sensitive LCD screen with 460k dots, and the inclusion of Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 and Adobe Premiere Elements 9 complete the headline specifications. The Leica V-LUX 30 is available in black for £550 / $750.

Ease of Use

Like it or not, being a Leica owner costs. And to paraphrase 80s show Fame, right here is where you start paying… in the case of the V-LUX 30 compact snapshot the princely sum of £550 or thereabouts. Those of you already spitting out a mouthful of coffee will be aware that's a cool £200+ more than the comparable Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 'travel zoom', which likewise marries a 14.1 megapixel resolution from a 1/2.33 CMOS sensor to a 16x optical reach, and yet slides equally well into a trouser pocket. You'll just need slightly deeper pockets for the Leica version.

Having got the elephant in the room out of the way first, let's concentrate on what you get from the Leica for the price of an entry-level DSLR and standard zoom. Apart, that is, from the really rather attractive muted red and silver logo inset into the top right hand edge of the handgrip, where it stands out against the sober matt black finish of the rest of the camera. It's understated however, as most things with any class are. Oh, and there's the choice of not one but two optional leather cases, the tan leather with shoulder strap being our personal retro favourite at a 'manageable' £80. Ideal for the amateur street photography the Leica is best suited to, and where that broader than average lens reach comes in particularly handy for candid portraits. On this camera it's all about those little details.

Like its Panasonic near doppelganger, the V-LUX 30 features built-in GPS for (reasonably reliably) tagging pictures with location and date within the Exif file to further its ultimate travel/pocket camera credentials, with the convenience of one touch video recording via a dedicated button set into its top plate. Framing and reviewing shots and here 1080i Full HD video in AVCHD compression format is via the 3-inch 4:3 aspect ratio LCD at the rear, identically sized to its Panasonic cousin's, and featuring a 460k dot resolution, which is ample for its dimensions. It's also a touch screen that you don't actually have to use as a touch screen as there are sufficient physical controls alongside to almost forget this fact; until a stray thumb accidentally fires the shutter and you end up with a picture of your legs or the ground.

Video quality is pretty good as it happens - with focus quick to adjust as you zoom in or out. Sound quality is clear too, if the microphone is occasionally and inevitably buffeted by wind when recording outdoors.

Leica V-Lux 30 Leica V-Lux 30
Front Rear

Also slightly more ample than the competition is a depth of 33mm (compared to say the 5x zoom Fuji Z900EXR's 15.2mm depth if you really want skinny) but a broader than average focal range the equivalent of 24-384mm in 35mm terms is a fair trade off, maximum lens aperture f/3.3. And at a weight of 219g with all varieties of SD card and 260-shot battery (CIPA standard testing) - and again basic spec that marries with the TZ20 - the Leica V-LUX 30 is hardly classifiable as 'chunky'. In fact proportions are a manageable 104.9x57.6x33.4mm.

Ticking the boxes for the latest must haves, a 3D shooting option features among the top plate dial shooting modes. On the Leica this stereoscopic feat is achieved by shooting a short frame burst as the camera is panned through a 10cm arc. These are then combined for stereoscopic dynamism, being saved as an MPO file only viewable with the requisite 3D TV. The camera's own backscreen remains resolutely 2D; however you can set the camera in this mode to generate a Fine quality 2D JPEG alongside a MPO file in this mode, so at least you do have something to look at almost immediately.

From the front the Leica V-LUX 30 and the TZ20 resemble two peas from the same pod, with differences subtle. These include the outer chrome surround to the lens on the Panasonic replaced by all black on the V-LUX, and the thin curved sliver of chrome on the TZ20's handgrip omitted for a less showy all-matt appearance on the Leica. The latter's grip is more flattened, so there's not really much for the fingers to gain purchase on, though a collection of nine raised nodules on the backplate fall under the thumb as an additional (if equally modest) means of steadying your aim.

Also identical to the Panasonic on the Leica's front plate are the built-in flash top left of the lens at the front, and porthole housing the self timer/AF assist lamp top right.

The V-LUX 30's top plate meanwhile features only subtle differences in styling too, with controls being identical in number and layout - right down to the order and amount of shooting modes presented on the familiar bottle-top styled dial (10 in total). That's fine - if it ain't broke don't fix it, right?

Leica V-Lux 30 Leica V-Lux 30
Side Top

For the record then, looking down on the camera moving from right to left we find the aforementioned dedicated video record button top right, where it hovers above the handgrip and so falls readily under the forefinger. A press of this and the camera begins filming no matter what alternative stills mode might have been selected - so there's no actual video mode logo on the dial itself. It takes a moment or two for filming to kick-in however, screen display narrowing to 16:9 aspect ratio and black bands cropping the default 4:3 LCD image top and bottom.

As on the Panasonic, set just behind this button is an old-fashioned on/off switch (rather than button), the sturdiness of which at least means that it's less easy to accidentally activate the camera with a stray finger or thumb when fetching it out of, or placing it into, a pocket. Give this a flick and the Leica is ready for action within 2-3 seconds, lens extending from its retracted position flush to the body to maximum wideangle setting while the rear LCD follows it by bursting into life.

The top plate shutter release button is large and springy yet with a definite halfway point as you gently, push down in order for the camera to determine focus and exposure. This happens more or less instantly, AF point/s highlighted in familiar green with a beep of affirmation that the user is clear to go ahead and take the shot. Squeeze the shutter release button fully and a full 14.1 megapixel shot is committed to memory in 2-3 seconds: like the other timings pretty average but perfectly acceptable. At no point do you really feel you're killing time waiting for the camera to catch up.

Encircling this control is a lever for operating the V-LUX 30's whopper of a 16x optical zoom, the action is of which is slow, steady and decisive so as to not induce motion sickness in the viewer when filming video, or move so fast that it's hard to get an exact bearing on framing when lining up a photograph. It takes 3-4 seconds to move from maximum wideangle to extreme telephoto.

Also offering just the right amount of give under the thumb to avoid accidentally slipping from one setting to another is the halfpenny sized mode dial that sits next to the shutter release. The modes here are identical to the ones on the TZ20, namely Auto/intelligent auto mode, next to the familiar quartet of program, aperture priority, shutter priority, manual, along with custom mode, aforementioned 3D mode, scene mode, and no fewer than two customizable 'My Scene' modes for a short cut to your favourite setting.

Leica V-Lux 30 Leica V-Lux 30
Front Side

To the left of this again are mirrored dual pinpricks housing the left and right stereo microphones, unmarked on the Leica, as are the raised hump for the GPS unit sitting next to it and the built-in speaker further along. Generally the V-LUX 30 presents more of an understated, less 'fussy' appearance than the Panasonic, letting its branding do the sales pitch and assuming its target audience already know what various features are (and do) without having to be led by the hand to them.

A case in point, whereas the switch top right of the backplate on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 for flicking between capture and playback settings is highlighted with red and green logos respectively, on the Leica these are again an understated white on black. This is a camera as we have already opined that doesn't feel the need to 'shout', though of course that's a subtle difference at best.

However, in having a switch for alternating between the two most important modes on the camera rather than a dedicated playback button, this means that if a new opportunity for a photograph presents itself while you're reviewing a shot, a quick half press of the shutter release won't throw you back into capture mode, so it's less intuitive in this fashion than some rivals.

The other backplate controls on the Leica are otherwise identical to the TZ20. Showing that this is a snapshot with enthusiast pretensions we get a dedicated 'exposure' button sitting between aforementioned switch and familiar four-way control pad. Give this a press when in aperture priority mode to incrementally alter the lens aperture from f/3.3 to f/6.3 as your heart and subject desires. Likewise give it a press in shutter priority mode to move from 1/4000 sec to 8 seconds. In manual mode, tweaks to both settings can be made and we also get a +/- 2Ev exposure slider flashing up on screen.

The four way control pad has settings at points north, east, south and west for likewise adjusting exposure, flash settings (auto, auto with red eye reduction, forced flash, slow sync with red eye, forced flash off), switching to macro mode or alighting on the self timer options. At the centre of this pad is an equally familiar menu/set button, a press of which brings up a four square grid of options on screen, with a red, black and white colour palette that will be visually pleasing to White Stripes officiandos. Starting top left and moving clockwise through the options we get record mode, motion picture mode, set up mode and finally GPS mode.

Leica V-Lux 30 Leica V-Lux 30
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

In record mode the GPS mode can be turned on/off - if left to on it's active even when the camera is deactivated, which also means the little indicator lamp next to the GPS unit on the top plate is permanently lit with a green glow. There's also an airplane mode whereby GPS operation can be paused if you board a flight - basically when you turn the camera off, and then automatically re-starts when you turn the camera back on at your destination.

The last two buttons at the bottom of the camera back are for self-explanatory display and marginally less obvious 'Q Menu' functions - the latter being Panasonic's Quick menu short cut, a press of which brings up a toolbar of common/key settings to save having to drill into the menus proper to otherwise find them. In program mode for example the options we get quick access to are the GPS settings, drive modes (including up to 60fps burst shooting at reduced 2.5 megapixels), AF modes (single area, 23-area, spot, face detection, AF tracking options), white balance, ISO (a modest ISO100 to ISO1600 manually selectable), movie record quality (HD, VGA or QVGA), and the ability to change the LCD power/brightness settings. This same 'Q Menu' button also doubles up as a handy delete button when in review mode only.

On the right hand flank of the camera when viewed from the back we get a plastic flap protecting an HDMI output next to a separate shared port for AV/USB out, and above this a thread for attaching the provided wrist strap, thicker than the usual in-the-box 'freebie' and with interwoven black and white checkerboard-type design. Such little details, overlooked on your regular digicam, are important on a Leica; it's all about the attention to detail.

While the opposite flank of the camera is devoid of any details whatsoever, the bottom features the usual slightly off-centre screw thread for attaching it to a tripod, and a sliding catch operating a door protecting the joint battery and SD/SDHC/SDXC compartment - battery life being good for that adequate 260 shots as mentioned earlier. Though this is Leica Germany, we also get a hint at its shared birth with a 'made in Japan' inscription.

So, what of the pictures the Leica produces? Do they, as one might reasonably expect from a model with this sort of price tag, transcend what we expect from what is, at the end of the day, another snapshot camera? Read on to find out.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 14 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 5.5Mb.

Inevitably perhaps on the Leica V-LUX 30, snapshot camera - indeed any digital camera - bugbears such as purple pixel fringing between areas of high contrast and blown highlights are visible upon close examination, with the real possibility still of getting a soft shot when handheld shooting near the telephoto end of the zoom even in broad daylight. And if there is any loss of sharpness visible towards the corners of the frame when shooting at maximum wideangle it's very slight at best, and largely unnoticeable if shooting natural landscapes. Generally the level of detail captured is very good, if not quite outstanding. As with any travel zoom, the broader than average focal range becomes a real bonus and tool in your arsenal, giving a wide variety of possible framing choices within a second - so you're more likely to get the shot you want.

Colours are naturalistic and, we found, vivid enough on default 'standard' colour setting. There's also the option if so desired to boost these further via the actual 'vivid' picture mode setting, which keeps things within the realm of possibility/realism. In terms of low light performance, a top selectable ISO setting of ISO1600 suggests not exactly reaching for the stars in terms of ambition and, in fact, noise intrudes at ISO400 and above under close inspection. So in that respect capping matters at ISO1600 here seems wise rather than churlish.


There are 5 ISO settings available on the Leica V-LUX 30. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)


ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)


ISO 1600 (100% Crop)



Here are two 100% Crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little soft at the default sharpening setting and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. You can change the in-camera sharpening level via the Picture Adjust menu option.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


Focal Range

The Leica V-LUX 30's 16x zoom lens provides a versatile focal length of 24-384mm in 35mm terms, as demonstrated below.



Chromatic Aberrations

The Leica V-LUX 30 handled chromatic aberrations excellently during the review, with very limited purple fringing present around the edges of objects in certain high-contrast situations, as shown in the examples below.

Example 1 (100% Crop)

Example 2 (100% Crop)


The Leica V-LUX 30 offers a Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is 3cms away from the camera when the lens is set to wide-angle. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.

Macro Shot

100% Crop


The flash settings on the Leica V-LUX 30 are Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Forced On, Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction, Forced Off. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Forced Off - Wide Angle (24mm)

Forced On - Wide Angle (24mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Forced Off - Telephoto (384mm)

Forced On - Telephoto (384mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Flash On or the Auto/Red-eye Reduction settings caused any red-eye.

Forced On

Forced On (100% Crop)

Auto/Red-eye Reduction

Auto/Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)


The Leica V-LUX 30's maximum shutter speed is 60 seconds, which is great news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 4 seconds at ISO 100. I've included a 100% crop of the image to show what the quality is like. The camera takes the same amount of time again to apply noise reduction, so for example at the 15 second setting the actual exposure takes 30 seconds.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Leica V-LUX 30 camera, which were all taken using the 14 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 1920x1280 at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 27 second movie is 55Mb in size.

Product Images

Leica V-Lux 30

Front of the Camera

Leica V-Lux 30

Front of the Camera / Lens Extended

Leica V-Lux 30

Isometric View

Leica V-Lux 30

Isometric View

Leica V-Lux 30

Rear of the Camera

Leica V-Lux 30

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

Leica V-Lux 30

Rear of the Camera / GPS Info

Leica V-Lux 30

Top of the Camera

Leica V-Lux 30

Bottom of the Camera


Leica V-Lux 30

Side of the Camera

Leica V-Lux 30

Side of the Camera

Leica V-Lux 30

Front of the Camera

Leica V-Lux 30

Memory Card Slot

Leica V-Lux 30

Battery Compartment


With an asking price of £550 Leica might be in trouble if its camera was a mass-market consumer device like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20, with which it shares much - in fact almost everything but name. But it's not, so it won't be; arguably Leica is competing with no one: it's all about staying true to its impressive heritage. It's also worth pointing out that if you are considering becoming a member of the Leica club, the V-LUX 30 comes with a two-year warranty (instead of the standard one) plus one-year accidental cover. Furthermore the camera is bundled with full working copies of Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 and Premiere 9 out of the box, which gain takes some of the sting out of that reassuringly expensive price tag.

Contentious pricing aside, the Leica V-LUX 30 is a very capable camera with a host of future proofing and manual control if pointing and shooting eventually numbs brain and senses. Whilst it may not be the cheapest nor sport the biggest lens, the Leica could be said to be conceivably the only travel zoom camera you may ever need - missing out only on being weatherproofed and shockproofed to truly make it a jack of all trades. In that context, the age of austerity bucking asking price begins to make just a little more sense.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 5
Ease-of-use 4.5
Image quality 4
Value for money 3


Lens Leica DC-Vario-Elmar 4.3-68.8mm f/3.3–5.9 ASPH.
(24-384mm, 35mm equivalent)
12 elements in 10 groups (6 aspherical surfaces in 3 elements)
Optical zoom 16x
Digital zoom 4x
Optical image stabilisation Yes
Modes Normal/Macro, continuous focusing (on/off)
Metering modes Face detection / AF tracking /multi points, 1 point, spot, Touch Field
Focusing range:
P/A/S/M 50cm (wide angle) / 2m (tele) – ∞
Macro / Intelligent
Auto / Movie
3cm (wide angle) / 1m (tele) – ∞
Sensor 1/2.33” CMOS with 15.1 MP (effective pixels: 14.1 MP)
Resolution / file recording  format:
Still images 16:9 format: 4320 x 2432 pixels, 3648 x 2056 pixels, 3072 x 1728 pixels, 2560 x 1440 pixels, 1920 x 1080 pixels, 640 x 360 3:2 format: 4320 x 2880 pixels, 3648 x 2432 pixels, 3072 x 2048 pixels, 2560 x 1712 pixels, 2048 x 1360 pixels, 640 x 424 4:3 format: 4320 x 3240 pixels, 3648 x 2736 pixels, 3072 x 2304 pixels, 2560 x 1920 pixels, 2048x1536 pixels, 640x480 1:1 format: 3232 x 3232 pixels, 2736 x 2736 2304 x 2304 / 1920 x 1920 / 1536 x 1536 / 480 x 480
Movies 16:9 format AVCHD: 1080i: 1920 x 1080 pixels (max. 60 min per clip) 720p: 1280 x 720 pixels (max. 60 min per clip) Motion JPEG: 16:9 format: 1280 x 720 pixels (max. 30 min per clip) 4:3 format: 640 x 480 pixels, 320 x 240 pixels (max. 30 min per clip)
3D 16:9 format: 1920 x 1080 (MPO format)
Exposure control:
Exposure modes Program mode (P), Aperture priority (A), Shutter priority (S), Manual setting (M)
Exposure compensation Increments: 1/3 EV steps, setting range: ±2 EV
Scene modes Portrait, Soft Skin, Transform, Self Portrait, Scenery, Panorama Assist, Sports, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Handheld Night Shot, Food, Party, Candle Light, Baby1, Baby2, Pet, Sunset, High Sens., High-Speed-Burst, Flash Burst, Starry Sky, Fireworks, Beach, Snow, Aerial Photo, Pin Hole, Film Grain, Photo Frame, High Speed Movie
Metering modes Multi-field / Centre-weighted / Spot
White balance Auto / Daylight / Cloudy / Shade / Halogen / Manual setting
Sensitivity Auto / ISO 100 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600
Shutter speeds 60s–1/4000 s, (Starry Sky mode: 15s / 30s / 60s)
Continuous shooting modes:   (Burst frequency: max. number of pictures / max. resolution) 2 B/s: max. number 100 / 14 MP max. resolution 5 B/s: max. number 100 / 14 MP max. resolution 10 B/s: max. number 15 / 14 MP max. resolution 40 B/s: max. number 50 / 5 MP max. resolution 60 B/s: max. number 60 / 3.5 MP max. resolution
Modes Auto, Auto with pre-flash (red-eye reduction), Auto with slower shutter speeds and pre-flash, On, Off
Range Approx. 60cm – 5.0m (W/ISO Auto), 1.0 – 2.8m (Tele/ISO Auto)
Self timer 2s/10s delay
LCD display 3” TFT LCD, approx. 460,800 pixels
Touch Screen functionality
Microphone/Speaker Stereo/mono
Recording media:
Internal memory Approx. 18MB
Compatible memory cards SD: 8MB – 2GB / SDHC: 4GB – 32GB / SDXC: 48GB – 64GB
HDMI Mini HDMI cable (type C)
AV OUT/Digital Digital: USB 2.0 (High Speed)
Dedicated jack (14-pin) Analogue Video/Audio: NTSC/PAL Composite (switchable in menu),    Audio-lineout (mono)
GPS Geodetic Data System: WGS84
1 million Points of Interest
PictBridge compatibility Yes
Operating temperature/ humidity 0–40 °C / 32-104 °F / 10–80 %
Battery (Lithium-ion) BP-DC7:
Voltage/capacity 3.6 V / 895 mAh (260 pictures according to CIPA standards)
Dimensions (W x H x D) 104.9 x 57.6 x 33.4 mm
Weight Approx. 219g (with memory card and battery)
Accessories and software included Software DVDs (Adobe® Photoshop® Elements 9, Adobe® Premiere® Elements 9)
CD with full instructions (PDF)
Printed short instruction manual
Wrist strap
Touch pen
AV cable
USB cable Lithium-ion Battery (Leica BP-DC 7)
Battery charger (Leica BC-DC 7)

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