Who’d Leica snap-nav?

Pro photographers and affluent amateurs on a quest to find the ultimate compact will be keen to roadtest the latest challenge from Leica, the V-LUX 20. While packing an impressive spread of traditional features that reads more like a who’s who of top-end trimmings – 12.1 effective megapixel sensor, Leica DC Vario-Elmar 4.1-49.2mm f/3.3-4.9 ASPH zoom lens with 35mm equivalent focal range of 25-300mm etc – the German photographic powerhouse has looked sky-high this time around for inspiration on how to differentiate.

Leica-V-Lux

Leica’s new weapon? A built-in GPS chip that captures and stores location information on the EXIF metadata to catalogue the place and local time a scene is shot. GPS is becoming a popular addition to this particular breed of compacts and has already been seen on the Sony Cybershot DSC-HX5V and Nikon Coolpix P6000. On the surface, the technology naturally presents an appeal to people who like to keep their archives in stringent order rather than those choosing to condemn their shots to a futile eternity on a heaving memory. In fact, with the web now the shop floor for many photographers’ collections, the ability to pinpoint the origins of your shots on Google Maps, Flickr or social networking sites offers more mileage for your snappy memories. If you really wanted to milk this feature, you could use the GPS coordinates to navigate back to your favourite scenes and retrace the steps of a memorable trip – now you’ve got a second shot at seeking out that once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity. V-LUX 20 also stores details of 500,000 points of interest across 73 countries – ideal when you’re stumped for location inspiration.
Beyond its geographic memory, this Leica has the traditional charm its loyal fans and first-timers will love. It comes in the familiar and unassuming matte black casing that masks the heavyweight features packed inside. The other key seller is its “super-zoom”, which puts landscapes, detailed close-ups and long-distance telephoto subjects in easy reach. Not content raising the bar with its high-resolution stills, Leica’s also upped the precision on its movie mode – now shooting in 720p HD quality.

You get all the intelligent automatic features you’d come to expect from a camera firmly stamped at the £500 price point – face recognition, automatic scene modes and smart exposure – while the expanse of manual controls are kept to their simplest in a bid to attract big-budget amateurs looking to spoil themselves with a supremely indulgent point-and-shoot.

Available from May 2010