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Leica has built a name for itself in the compact market over the years with a handful of Panasonic rebrands -- these Lumix models come equipped with a matte black housing, Leica lens and that famous red dot, with the inflated price tag to match. With this latest batch of cameras, the company appears to be taking a more respectable approach -- at least with its high-end X2. But first, let's tackle the V-Lux 40. On the Panasonic front, this camera looks strikingly similar to the Lumix DMC-ZS20 we saw emerge after CES. Both cameras include 14.1-megapixel 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensors, a 20x, 24-480mm f/3.3-6.4 optical zoom lens and 1080p video capture. The housing has been modified slightly to include a recessed control panel, Panasonic branding has been removed and the Leica logo added. Such luxuries more than double the camera's price from $269 to $699. Ouch. You can pick up the V-Lux 40 beginning today, or you can grab two virtually identical ZS20s for the same amount, with significant cash to spare.

You may remember the Leica X1, but you probably don't. This $2,000 shooter was determined to be overpriced when it launched way back in 2009, and now the APS-C-equipped series has returned for a refresh. Dubbed the X2, this year's flavor ups the ante with a 16.2-megapixel CMOS sensor (boosted from 12.2) while retaining that beloved $2k sticker price. The compact all-in-one includes a fixed 24mm Leica Elmarit f/2.8 ASPH lens, which the company validates as a "classical focal length for photojournalism," and a 2.7-inch 230k-pixel LCD on the rear. There's also an option to add a Viso-Flex 1.4MP viewfinder with a 90-degree swivel function, along with a shoe-mounted mirror finder. The $1,995 camera's price tag may be tough to swallow -- but only until you discover the gratis copy of Adobe Lightroom in the box. Both the ZS20 V-Lux 40 and X2 are available now. Snap past the break for the pitch from Leica.

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Leica V-Lux 40

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LEICA V-LUX 40: COMPACT CAMERA WITH AN EXTENSIVE RANGE OF FEATURES

Solms, Germany (May 10, 2012) - Leica Camera AG presents the V-Lux 40, a new addition to Leica's digital compact camera portfolio. Incorporating numerous new features in comparison with its predecessor, the Leica V-Lux 30, this latest model offers greater performance of its 15.3-megapixel (effective 14.1 MP), 1/2.33" CMOS sensor and a Leica DC Vario-Elmar 4.3–86 mm f/3.3–6.4 ASPH. lens with a zoom range now extended to 20×. As a result of the broadened range of focal lengths, now equivalent to 24 to 480 mm in 35-mm format, the Leica V-Lux 40 is a much more versatile camera. In addition, the LCD touch screen ensures the fast and simple handling of the camera. Its compact design, comprehensive functions and additional features, such as an integrated GPS module or video recording in full HD quality, make the V-Lux 40 the ideal companion for capturing lasting memories whether traveling the world or enjoying time with family at home.

The Leica V-Lux 40's new 15.3-megapixel (effective 14.1 MP), 1/2.33" CMOS image sensor guarantees outstanding picture quality in all situations. It enables a higher dynamic range as well as particularly low- noise images at sensitivities up to ISO 3200. In comparison to its predecessor, the Leica V-Lux 40 now offers significantly improved image quality, even in low light. Additionally, an autofocus speed of 0.1 seconds enables even faster focusing on moving subjects.

The enormous range of focal lengths covered by the V-Lux 40's Leica DC Vario-Elmar 4.3–86 mm f/3.3– 6.4 ASPH. zoom lens (equivalent to 24 to 480 millimeters in 35-mm format) makes it ideal for almost all photographic situations. For expansive landscapes, finely detailed macro studies at short distances or for shots of distant objects with its super-telephoto setting, this Leica lens with high-precision aspherical lenses and an image stabilizer delivers outstanding results for all still images and video recordings.

The Leica V-Lux 40 offers a comprehensive range of camera functions. Users can choose from a diverse selection of creative imaging options, from a continuous shooting rate of ten frames per second at full resolution and 60 frames per second in high-speed mode, to creative modes with effects like miniature, panorama and retro.

Ideal for capturing video, the Leica V-Lux 40's entire 20× zoom range is available during recording. In addition, an integrated stereo microphone with an electronic wind noise filter guarantees a crystal-clear soundtrack. Videos can now also be saved in Internet-friendly MP4 format and uploaded directly to social media or mobile devices, for example, without any need for conversion.

An integrated GPS module completes the list of features and functions offered by the V-Lux 40, allowing users to save the geographical coordinates and local time of every shot captured in the Exif data of the image files.* In addition, the camera can display the sightseeing highlights of the immediate neighborhood (1,000,000 so-called 'points of interest'). A DVD included in the package contains maps of important cities and regions. After transfer to an SD memory card, these can be uploaded to the camera and used for orientation in unfamiliar places. Photos can be stored in the maps as thumbnail images.

The new design of the Leica V-Lux 40 is dominated by classic black. Chromed elements set contrasting accents and complement the camera's refined and timelessly elegant look. Particularly easy handling is ensured by a large, 3-inch LCD touch screen that allows users to select or set numerous functions in capture and review mode simply by touching controls displayed on the monitor screen. This oversized screen has a diagonal of 7.5 centimeters and its resolution of 460,000 pixels displays images with outstanding brilliance. As a result, the Leica V-Lux 40 is an ideal tool for reliable and precise assessment of images both during composition and after capture.

The Leica V-Lux 40 is available now from Leica dealers including the Leica Store Washington DC. The camera is supplied with an extensive software package comprised of Adobe® Photoshop® Elements 10 for still-image processing and Adobe® Premiere® Elements 10, designed especially for video processing. A strong and resilient leather case is also available as an optional extra.

* It is possible that GPS tagging may not function in the People's Republic of China and neighboring regions. Satellite signal reception may be impossible, depending on the location. In such cases, the positioning data may be recorded inaccurately or not at all.

LEICA X2: THE NEXT GENERATION OF THE LEICA COMPACT DIGITAL CAMERA

Solms, Germany (May 10, 2012) - Leica Camera AG presents the X2, a new addition to the X-line of compact digital cameras. Handmade at Leica's headquarters in Germany, the Leica X2 features a new APS-C-format professional CMOS image sensor with over 16.5 megapixels (effective 16.2 MP). In combination with the high-performance Leica Elmarit 24 mm f/2.8 ASPH. lens, a classic focal length for photojournalism, this sensor ensures maximum image quality and sparkling brilliance. With its refined styling and high-performance technical features, the Leica X2 offers unsurpassed performance in a compact package.

The Leica X2's autofocus system has also been enhanced, allowing the camera to adapt to all shooting situations with enormous flexibility and enabling fast, extremely precise and almost silent focusing. The camera's profile is complemented by numerous setting options from full manual control to automatic functions and an intuitive handling concept. These features make the Leica X2 the ideal premium-class compact camera for discerning photographers who wish to concentrate completely on their subjects and appreciate creative and true-to-life pictures.

The CMOS image sensor of the X2 is unusually large for a camera in the compact segment. Despite its high resolution of over 16 megapixels, each individual pixel on the sensor is very large, allowing the X2 to gather more light. The resulting benefits include low image noise, a high dynamic range and accurate color differentiation. The crop factor of the sensor is 1.5 in comparison with 35-mm film format, meaning that the Leica Elmarit 24 mm f/2.8 ASPH. lens of the Leica X2 becomes a universal reportage lens with an effective 35-mm-equivalent focal length of 36 millimeters. This is considered to be a classic focal length amongst prime lenses and has captured innumerable iconic images. The moderate wide-angle character and natural rendition of dimensions by the high-performance lens of the X2 open up a broad spectrum of different options for capturing those decisive moments in outstanding, authentic and richly detailed picture quality.

As a result of its simple operating concept, the Leica X2 offers clearly laid-out functions and intuitive handling. At the same time, it offers an impressive range of automatic and versatile manual setting options. Thanks to the ease of switching between manual and automatic control, photographers can concentrate completely on composing their subjects and choosing the decisive instant to shoot in any situation. The dials on the top deck provide grip when setting the shutter speed and aperture. Moreover, changing the plane of focus, the white balance and other imaging parameters allows photographers to consciously influence the look or mood of their images. In live view mode, the generously sized high- contrast 2.7" monitor offers photographers complete control at all times and a bright and detailed view, even in strong light.

The features offered by the Leica X2 provide greater creative freedom and a wide range of photographic options. For instance, the Leica X2's large sensor and fast lens make it ideal for shooting in available light. The camera also features a pop-up flash that can be activated whenever an additional light source is required. If more lighting power and flexibility are required, the accessory shoe of the X2 offers full compatibility with the Leica SF 24D and SF 58 system flash units.

The Leica X2 is characterized by clear lines and an intensely focused design concept. The linearity of its design and its compact, handy form are reminiscent of the Leica M-cameras. This, in combination with its robust, all-metal construction and premium, high-grip leather trim makes the X2 a classic Leica camera in both looks and feel. The camera is available in a discreet black or elegant silver finish.

An extensive range of accessories is also available to adapt the Leica X2 to each photographer's individual photographic needs and style. A new offering is the Viso-Flex high-resolution electronic accessory finder with 1.4 megapixels and a 90° swivel function for shooting from unusual angles. Also available is a bright-line mirror finder that can be mounted on the accessory shoe and ensures a bright and clear view at all times, with no drain on the camera battery. An accessory handgrip increases the hold and stability of the camera and makes it easier to shoot one-handed. Leica continues to offer a comprehensive range of bags and cases: a premium-quality black leather case to match the elegance of the X2, an ergonomically designed camera protector in untreated leather, an ever-ready case in organically tanned cowhide to protect the camera during use and a system bag that offers more room for the camera and a range of accessories.

Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom®, a professional digital workflow solution for Apple Mac® OS X and Microsoft Windows®, is also included in the X2 package. This digital image processing software offers a wide range of functions for the management, processing and presentation of digital images. Leica X2 customers can download the software free from the Leica website after registering their camera.

The Leica X2 is available now through Leica dealers including the Leica Store Washington DC. The optional accessories will be available after the market launch of the camera.

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Leica boosts compact portfolio with V-Lux 40 point-and-shoot, APS-C-equipped X2