Home Cameras/Lenses Leica Leica V-Lux: Macro games with old Jack Frost

Leica V-Lux: Macro games with old Jack Frost

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Jack Frost always makes for an interesting shot, particularly when an unlikely camera is involved. I was impressed by these shots taken by a friend using the macro capabilities of the Leica V-Lux. My friend loves the V-Lux and has been using it almost exclusively since it was introduced. He’s just added a Titanium Gray (sic) Leica Q to his stable, so the old V-Lux might be sidelined, but not forgotten, for a few months.

  The businesslike V-Lux punches above its weight despite the relatively small one-inch sensor (Photo Leica Press Office)
The businesslike V-Lux punches above its weight despite the relatively small one-inch sensor (Photo Leica Press Office)

I raise this because I’ve always been rather fascinated by the V-Lux since I tested it in November 2015. Although quite petite for what it offers — a 24-400 range zoom — it is bulky for a camera boasting a relatively small 1in sensor. It mirrors the Panasonic FX1000 (on which it is based) and the Sony RX10, all competent super-zoom bridge cameras that pack a lot of potential into one tidy package.

The Leica, though, does look the business more than its Panasonic and Sony competitors. It can be mistaken easily at a distance (even by yours truly) for a much more expensive offering such as the Leica S. At a distance, mind, because when you get close the S is massive in comparison. There is really no comparison.

However, the little V-Lux looks like a pro camera and punches well above its weight considering the size of the sensor. The friend in question isn’t concerned about the sensor size — after all, he isn’t shooting posters for bus advertising — and he finds the versatility and the compact travel dimensions more than compensation for doing without APS-C or full-frame.

The strange thing is, this friend isn’t the only one to have a thing about the V-Lux. Several other acquaintances have bought the camera and love it. These are people who own an M, perhaps an SL and several other cameras.

  Street photographer and reader, David Lewis-Baker with his ever-ready Leica V-Lux (photo Mike Evans)
Street photographer and reader, David Lewis-Baker with his ever-ready Leica V-Lux (photo Mike Evans)

You might think the D-Lux, with its four-thirds sensor, would be a better bet. But the D-Lux lens, good as it is, has a much more limited zoom range than the V-Lux.

Another friend and reader, David Lewis-Baker uses the V-Lux for street photography and relishes the 400mm-equivalent zoom as well as the ability to get wide-angle 24mm shots. I wrote about his experiences a few months ago. Zooms are not the first tool of choice for street work, but I understand how David makes it work for him.

All this word-of-mouth encouragement makes me wonder if I should buy a V-Lux just to use it for travel. I do have micro four-thirds capabilities in the form of the Olympus PEN-F and Panasonic GX8 — a much bigger sensor and relatively compact overall dimensions. But stick a long zoom on either and they become pretty unwieldy. The V-Lux, on the other hand, has a fixed lens and removes any quibbles about what lens to use. Just pick up the camera and go, making the best of it. And that zoom retracts to almost nothing when at rest in the bag.

  Mike Evans with the V-Lux in November 2015 (Photo  George James , Leica M-P and 50mm Apo-Summicron)
Mike Evans with the V-Lux in November 2015 (Photo George James , Leica M-P and 50mm Apo-Summicron)

What I am very tempted to do is ask the very obliging Jenny Hodge at Leica if I may borrow a V-Lux for a special trip. I could make it my only camera for a week and see what I can make of it.

But back to Jack Frost. My friend stepped out to his garden at 8.30 one morning just before Christmas and did this series of macro shots with the V-Lux. I was so impressed I thought you would like to see them.

Who is this friend with the love of the V-Lux? You might be surprised to learn he is a Leica dealer, a man with the run of the shop, able to take any camera off the shelf as the fancy pleases. But, over the past year, his choice has fallen not on the M, not on the SL nor even on the compact D-Lux, but on a super-zoom bridge camera with a relatively small sensor.

He is Ivor Cooper of Red Dot Cameras who is no mean photographer in his own right. Go figure, as they say.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. I have not been an M user for that long by comparison to many others… M8 to M2, then M6 and now M-P 240. But one of the things that I have always found frustrating is the limitation imposed by fixed focal lengths and limited close focussing. I understand the reasons for those limitations and I accept the Capa quote at face value: If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.

    But looking at Ivor’s macro shots here, one wonders whether some of those above limitations are worth the extra expense.

    Maybe some of the newer Leica offerings offer a more fully encompassing experience?

    On another blog that I regularly read, the accent is on simplicity over complexity, which Hamish (for it is he) demonstrates that the best camera is not the most expensive one, rather the one that feels best to the user, and that can cost anything from a fiver to several grands.

    • Dear Stephen,

      It’s all a matter of horses for courses. I don’t anyone, least of all Ivor, would argue that the V-Lux is the ultimate Leica. But for long zoom and close-up work it can beat the M. I agree on the 70cm (on older lenses 1m) minimum focus distance on M lenses can be frustrating. Even more so on the SL or TL where it comes as something of a shock not to be able to get closer.

      I think you are probably referring to Hamish Gill of 35mm.com. I’ve met him and exchanged emails on a number of occasions and he is need passionate about his Leicas and lenses –including his favourite 50mm f/1.5 Zeiss Sonnar.

  2. Just when I have convinced myself to buy another X1 or Xvario you have to give me another amazing Leica to mess w my head! Gotta love it!

    • Ah, but remember that unlike the X1/X2/X-E and the X Vario, the V-Lux is a rebadged Panasonic and not a made-in-Germany Leica. Make you feel better?

  3. Interesting to read about the latest V-Lux iteration. I actually have the V-Lux 1 from 2006, and I have never been anything other than totally satisfied with its image quality. It lacks a bit at the wide end, only going down to 35mm, but the benefit of that is a totally enclosed internal focussing zoom – a real dust-buster. I allowed myself to be tempted into buying the RX10 and conducted strict side by side comparisons. The result was level pegging with the edge going to the V-Lux 1. Probably I should sell the RX10 and go for the new V-Lux…….. We shall see. Lovely images, but not so good as to make me feel I have to rush out and buy!

  4. Thanks for the mention Mike. Yes it’s is an astonishingly versatile little camera, which I still use regularly for street work and landscapes, although I recently purchased the splendid Fuji X-T2. It also caused us to meet when you spotted it in my hands in front of the Royal Crescent in Bath, for which I am very grateful to it. I am also hoping that at some point a V-Lux 3 will appear to tempt me.

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