I have a number of Leicas and have used bridge cameras from Olympus previously but have never before considered buying a Leica Bridge camera. So it was with some hesitation that I bought my Leica V-Lux 4.
The reason I bought the camera was that whilst I have been overjoyed with both my Leica M9-P and my Leica X1, neither of them have video and I wanted a back-up camera with video and a zoom. The X1 has the equivalent of a 35mm and I use a 50mm and 35mm on the M9-P so I was lacking somewhat in longer lenses.
I had looked at the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 Bridge Camera which is about £150 cheaper and was manufactured with Panasonic and Leica and has a Leica lens. In fact the specifications appear the same. However, there is a number of major differences. The menu on the Leica is easier to follow and has several more scene modes. I recall the Panasonic had 3, whilst the Pansonic has numerous, including vivid, monochrome, scenery, portrait etc. The settings do change the way the camera reacts and I prefer the Leica for the wider choice. The Leica also comes with a 2 year accidental warranty to Panasonic's 12 months and a downloadable copy of Lightroom. (At the moment Lightroom 4 is live and 5 is in beta so I am waiting to download the newer version in July) I also read on the net that whilst both the Panasonic and the Leica have Leica lenses which appear the same, the Leica is manufactured by hand and is better. I can't collaborate this but seems reasonable as Panasonic cameras are machine made whilst Leicas are general hand built.
I have had the camera for 5 days and have used it every day. I haven't used every function but I did read the written instructions in the manual which is somewhat smaller the the manual on the CD. Firstly, don't be put off by the plastic camera housing. I was, but it allows the camera to be ultra light and after a few days, I came to like it. I would have liked to have had a uv filter over the front element as an extra but, as yet, though there is a thread, I can't find this as an accessory on the Leica shop web page.
The camera has a wide range zoom which can be accessed either from the lens or the top of the camera. Nice idea. The viewfinder, unlike lots of other cameras, carries all the information you need ie exposure, Ev, ISO flash and this is replicated on the rear screen which can be moved to your preference and if you use this the view in the viewfinder turns off. I like both and have never had a screen to move around previously but have already seen the benefits.
The zoom is a consistent f2.8 from 24 to 600mm. That's unheard of.
I am just getting acquainted with the movie function. This can be fired at 60 frames a second and I have tried this with good results. The video function is easy to use - turn the top dial to the movie icon, press the red record button and away you go. The sound is good too with duel mics on the camera.
I shoot most of my work in RAW and this camera can produce up to 12 megapixel files. There are options for jpegs of varying sizes and that great for smaller images I use in my reports for work. The RAW images upload easily in Lightroom 4 and Aperture and the camera saves them in its buffer very fast and certainly faster than both my Leica M9-P and Nikon D3. Shows you that in just a few years technology improves somewhat.
I do like the shape and the easy to hold shape, the flash which is quite good for a compact and the design of the camera. I like the free Lightroom software.
What don't I like about the camera? Well the fact thats its plastic I thought would deter me but after a few days thats not a problem. I need a UV filter and I would have liked that to have been included or at least be available on the Leica website (the filter size by the way, is not displayed on the lens so I will need to do some investigating or measuring. Price, ok its expensive but resale on Leicas stays high and if you shop around you can get one for £650 like I did. As you realise I am scratching my head somewhat with trying to come up with something I don't like and I just can't think of anything major.
I had a Leica Digilux 2 for a number of years and loved it. Its an iconic camera and I have the feeling this little known gem may just join its legendary ranks.