First off I’ll say, that I believe good images come from the photographer, not from the equipment, but if the equipment is inferior, even Ansel Adams could not get a good image. Also, it is very important that a photographer knows their equipment. They have to be familiar with all the controls and what they do, and in these days of complex menu systems on digitals, the photographer also has to know where the settings are located so that they can quickly find them when needed. With most of today’s fully-automatic point and shoot cameras, most anyone can take a good picture, but to take a good photograph (and there is a difference between “pictures” and “photographs.”), you have to know your equipment and how it responds to different scenes and lighting conditions, and how to compensate for any weaknesses or shortcomings.

A couple years ago, I bought a pocket digital camera to use when I was on general outings and scouting for photographic trips. It was quite highly rated, and I had a soft spot for the brand (not going to mention the brand) since I had in the past used their 35mm film cameras and absolutely loved them. From the very start, I had issues getting good images out of the camera. The main issue (at least as I saw it at the time) was that no matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to get it to focus on what I wanted it to focus on and in many instances where I wanted it to focus on stuff in the background, it would obstinately choose to focus on the foreground no matter what settings I tried. Even when it did choose to focus on what I wanted, the images were still lower quality than I expected, even out of a point and shoot. After a while, I got to where even if I wanted to have a camera with me when I went somewhere, I would not take it because the majority of the time the images would be… crap. There, I said it, crap.

Part of the problem is, I’m used to shooting with expensive, high-end cameras with top-notch optics, and I have a very good Nikon D200 digital SLR, but carrying it around my neck for 4 or 6 hours gets to be ā€“ literally ā€“ a pain in the neck. That is why I’ve always wanted a good pocket-sized point and shoot. And if I’m going out for serious photography, I take my Toyo 45AII 4×5 film field camera.

The other day, fed up with the current point and shoot I’ve been battling with, I started researching and found a couple that I though I would like to try. I looked around at some of the big-box stores here on the island and didn’t find either of the ones I was looking for and ended up at the Lighthaus Camera store in Kailua-Kona (knowing if they had them they would be full-price). They didn’t have either, but did have a couple I thought worth considering. One was not a pocket camera, and I rejected that one since I didn’t want to have to carry it around my neck. If I had to carry it around my neck, I’d just take the D200. The other was one I had not put on the short list due in part to the price. After playing with it for a while at the store, I decided to go ahead and purchase the Leica V-LUX 20 (I have an old 50’s vintage 35mm Leica that still takes flawless photos).

Below are a couple images comparing the old (whose brand I won’t mention) with the new Leica. Both images were taken at maximum size and quality settings with both cameras on full auto. I set both cameras to maximum zoom level and shot the same scene. Since the Leica has a longer zoom, there is a difference in the size of the avocado. I could have played around to match the framing, but really there was no need given the results. I then took both images into photoshop at 100% and did an 800 x 600 crop trying to keep the crops as close as possible. I did no resizing or resampling on either shot and saved them both as “high quality” JPGs. You can click on the thumbnails to see the full-sized 800 x 600 crops. I’m pretty sure you will be able to see the difference.

This Leica V-LUX 20 is a pocket camera I can live with for years and actually want to take with me wherever I go.

There are those that might say, yeah but you are comparing a 2-year old camera with a new state of the art camera. True, but to that I say, I’ve got a friend with an inexpensive 10-year old 3MP digital and it takes better photos than this 2-year old 7.1MP camera.

Could there be something wrong with the camera? Could be, but I really don’t think so. I have a friend with the same camera, and there images are no better than the ones that came out of mine, and they constantly complain. I think I’m going to suggest to them that they look at the Leica or the Panasonic equivalent. Although the two are very close, the Leica puts out better images from what I’ve read due to the fact that Leica uses their own firmware and compression algorithms.

Old Camera

1/160 sec.
160 ISO

Leica V-LUX 20

10/1250 sec.
160 ISO