A Bird Watcher Tests the Leica V-Lux 20

A local sales rep loaned me his sample of the new Leica V-Lux 20 to test at the “Biggest Week in American Birding” in Ohio. The 12x zoom (300 mm equivalent) allowed me to capture images of closer birds along the boardwalk at Magee Marsh in Oak Harbor, OH. I was looking forward to using the camera with its 14.5 megapixels with high def movie mode and built-in GPS and as you can see from the image below I was not disappointed.

Luckily the bird shown above, a colorful make Northern Parula, was close by and at eye-level, but I was still surprised that I was able to take this photo simply by zooming in with the camera. (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)

I am a digiscoping freak so despite the fact that “superzoom” cameras don’t lend themselves to digiscoping, I had to try this new “compact superzoom” behind the new Leica 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 May 13, 2010.

Amazingly, the Leica V-Lux 20 broke all the digiscoping rules and actually worked for 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.

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.

On the way back to the car that evening, 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, simply held the camera up to the wide-angle eyepiece and shot the image. I haven’t altered the image below so you can see there was only the tiny hint of black vignetting at the lower right corner.

Image properties:
ISO 200
shutter speed: 1/80th sec
f/3.5
+0.7 step EV
35 mm equivalent

In the above image I’ve taken the liberty to add about 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.” At any rate, it is clear I need to get a V-Lux 20 of my own so I can experiment some more both behind the spotting scope and as a stand alone unit!

This is a guest post by Jeff Bouton, a Florida-based Birder and representative to the Birding & Naturalist markets for Leica Sport Optics, USA. You can read his “Adventures with Austin”  column in Wild Bird magazine chronicling a father and son exploring nature together and tips on how to involve children with nature.