Leica Says Surprise with the New Mini – the Leica X Vario

UPDATE:  I spoke with my contact at a Leica dealership and they confirmed that the build of the X Vario is much more like the Leica M and less like the Leica X2.  The weight alone is about double the X2.  I think the look is similar, but the frame is much stronger.  If I can borrow a body for a few days, I’ll post the results.

Leica did a great marketing job of letting us peek into the box for the newest of the long line of Leica compacts.  Whether they made a great product decision will up to the users.  I did not get a chance to use this new model, nor do I plan right now to purchase one, but here is what I see from the specifications to compare to my earlier post on  what I though the new Leica mini would contain.

In general, I was hoping for a more advanced CMOS processor and interchangable lenses.  This would be a direct competitor to my only other favorite camera – the Fuji X-Series and more specifically the X100s and the X-Pro 1 (which I received today, ironic, isn’t it?).

So what is delivered?  Leica has an updated CMOS processor that is the same size as the one in the Leica X2, the APS-C formant which is the larges frame size (yes, larger than a micro four thirds) before we hit a full frame size similar to a 35mm negative.  The sensor of the X Vario still has the 16.1 mega pixel count, which isn’t bad.  I’ve gotten some great prints from my Lecia X2 which is a similar size.  While I dont’ have the technical data as to whether the CMOS sensor is the same one used in the X2, the X Vario did add the ability to record movies.  This includes HD movies at 30 frames per second according to the technical data.

However, the lens is not interchangeable.  In fact, the lens is an Elmar (because of the f/3.5 largest aperature) compared to the Summicron and Summilux on the D-Lux 5 and D-Lux 6 Leica compacts.  While the D-Lux series uses a 4:3 sensor which is smaller, I guess I would have liked to have seen a Summicron on this new body since there isn’t any changing lenses.  The zoom range is 28 to 70 mm, although I think this is step-wise rather than infinite zoom.  This means you get a 28mm lens, 35mm, 50mm and 70mm.  I don’t know this for a fact, so it may be variable in-between.  I based this conclusion solely on the brochure which shows the various focal lengths on the lens.

I’ll leave my conclusion for now at a mere, intriguing.  Much like Mr. Spock might say in Star Trek.  There is only a black model, no silver addition like the X2.  The controls are the same as the X2 and I’ve found I much prefer the f/stop ring on the lens barrel like the D-Lux 6 and the Fuji X Series.  I also have come to absolutely love the exposure compensation dial on the Fuji X100s.  I would love for the Leica X series to contain the same exposure compensation dial where the current f/stop dial resides.  That might get me over the fact that the lens is fixed.

At the end of the day, it is ironic that both Fuji and Leica now have an X-Series, when the cameras themselves are very, very different.  I love the images from my Leica X2.  However, I love the images from my Fuji X100s AND I love the ease of controlling the exposure on the Fuji.  Hence, I spent my money on the Fuji X-Pro 1 and the series of lenses – 18mm, 35mm and 60mm as a compact alternative to the M Series.

Those of you that know me, also know that I live and breath Leica.  I will not give up the M series, ever and I believe that the images through the M series glass is second to none (using certain lenses of course).  However, the Fuji produces outstanding images very easily.  I’ve decided that for my next photo (and vacation) trip I will take my Leica MP and the Leica M 28mm ASPH f/2.0 with a dozen rolls of film.  I’ll also take the Fuji X-Pro 1 with the three interchangable lenses.

I believe the best way to challenge myself as a photographer will be to use the Fuji as a film camera.  I’ll shoot only Fine JPEG with no RAW file.  This means I have to understand the light of any scene or object I photograph.  I have to set the right exposure to get a keeper with little to no modification and I have no RAW crutch to get me out of bind.  However, I don’t have that crutch on the MP either.  Film is what film gets exposed.

I wish Leica the best of luck in sending out the X Vario.  If you want to talk about one, I’d call Josh Lehrer at Leica Store Miami.  He’s super helpful and I’ve bought all of my recent Leica equipment from him.

Leica Store Miami   |   (305) 921-4433   |   http://www.leicastoremiami.com/

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