The missing Leica X Vario review

Leica X Vario front

Judging from the email traffic over the last couple of days, I know there are many of you wondering why I’ve been silent on the new Leica X Vario (16MP, APS-C, similar to the X2 body, 28-70/3.5-6.4 equivalent) – the simple answer is that I wasn’t given a camera to test, so not having used one, I have no opinion on it as yet. I have requested one, and have been told it should arrive this week or next. As usual I will do my best to answer your questions if/when it arrives.

In the meantime, I think it’s safe to have a few working hypotheses:

  1. The sensor will be excellent, since it’s the same one used in the X2 and a whole host of other cameras like the Ricoh GR and Coolpix A.
  2. The lens is slow, for two reasons: it’s better to have a slow but optically excellent optic than a fast but loose one; that, and if it was fast, the price point would likely start to affect M sales.
  3. Image quality should therefore be excellent, especially if paired with a decent tripod for low light work.
  4. I suspect it will do very well as an all-in-one general purpose travel camera – for good light, at least. Similar to how I use the OM-D and 14-42 X pancake now. A stabilizer wouldn’t go amiss, especially with an f6.3 maximum aperture at the long end. At very least, the EVF is going to be a must-have for face-bracing stability.

On that basis – yes, I’d certainly like to have a play with one; I don’t know quite where it will fit into the current set of gear, but I think since most serious photographers are likely to have an M anyway, Leica probably had a different customer profile in mind for their target audience. It would appeal to the dilettantes who want a real Leica, find the M too intimidating or heavy (forget the S), and the X2 too limited; and for that reason, it will probably sell in droves.

While we wait, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts – the perfect travel companion? Too little, too late? Too close to the M or useful for filling the near-focus limit? A good compromise? Not interesting/ not serious enough? Too reminiscent of the Canon G1x? Please leave your two cents in the comments. MT

The Leica X Vario is available here to pre-order from B&H.

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Comments

  1. Your rhetorical questions (about massive populations) continues to display total ignorance of mathematical stats Ming.
    Better to be silent & be thought a fool than repeatedly open your mouth to prove it publicly!
    Your layman’s understanding of stats is widespread but still in ertor.
    That’s how con artists become lawyers & politicians & repeatedly con the general population!
    The general population has been dumbed down & failed by their edication!
    I don’t hold that against you if you can learn from your error!

  2. Usain St. Leo Bolt OJ CD runs the 100m about 5% faster than the top US HIGH SCHOOL record. Has he only done 5% more training than the school boy?
    That level of consistently won gold medals & world records has cost a lot more training effort than the school record!
    The slightly higher optical & superb build quality of Leica lenses at all apertures also does not come at a mere 5% cost premium over the almost as good.
    People who are blind to the law of diminishing returns in delivering the extra quality are shocked at the Leica X Vario!

    Some people will pay for such marginal quality improvements.

    • An interesting analysis indeed Sanyi. I would agree that the last bit of incremental quality that differentiates one product from another in the same space might well need to be purchased at a higher price than suspected. Moreover, we would likely agree that such higher quality must be reasonably easily perceived by those who compare the products-in this case cameras.

      At this point the issue becomes just a bit more murky, for one needs to have reliable and agreed upon criteria upon upon which to base one’s analysis. Better ergonomics? Demonstrably better results? Easier to use? Longer useful life? All of the preceding, and many other criteria as well?

      Simply consider how difficult it is to define “better ergonomics” without supplying yet more qualifiers: A person with large hands, or a person with smaller hands? Women or man? Larger nose, or smaller nose? Right handed or left handed? Wears glasses, and if so, what kind and with what correction? On and on with various qualifiers for each aspect being compared.

      Please know that I am not disagreeing with you but merely emphasizing how difficult it is to label one item better than another when the final result, i.e., in this case a photograph, might be reasonably close between the two cameras used for “a test”.

      I agree with those who believe that there is something about Leica lenses that is unique, and “better”. Is it lines per inch resolution, or a general “look to an image” that some feel is obvious, and others feel is non- existent.?

      And yet almost all can look at a Rembrandt painting of a subject and say such is better than the same subject depicted by a lesser artist….unless, of course, the Rembrandt is an artful fake that has been sold to a well known museum for millions of dollars….:}..which one is indeed the “real Rembrandt” and which is the better painting?

      Elliot

      • That is a very inciiteful analysis Elliot! Comparisons are only useful when the criteria are relevant to the buyer!
        I agree! Totally!

        My comments are more focused on design & manufacturing quality
        Not so much on whether a yobbo needs to consider a Porche when his hot holden ute does 5 sec to 100km/hr.
        Panasonic covers the portable fast lens zoom with “good enough” IQ with the LZ7.

        LEICA is targeting an older wealthy “less technical” female or even male “kids grown up” picnic snapper, casual day tourist who wants to use auto & occasionally do manual focus “just like my son with his M 240″ on the travel or picnic party posing in front of scenary. TRIPOD is in the boot. Don’t need an M 240 with 28, 50 & 75 or 90mm lens pack & the know how to use it!
        Just grab one camera & tripod.
        Hit the road. Take snaps. Project on an overhead projector for friends over brunch.
        Enlarge a few to 8×12″ or larger.
        1 Older fair weather wealthy market.
        2 Less technical
        3 Projects big so wants “in focus” IQ when big
        4 Pays for MADE IN GERMANY quality & expects durability
        5 Thinks out of focus bits are an embarrassmemt

        Leica delivers a quality product for that market.
        Judge accordingly!

        • I’m enjoying our discussion immensely Sanyi. Your comments are interesting and worthy of comment.

          Simply reading the learned and rather technical and in depth reviews of the Leica M240 makes me suspect that many users of that particular Leica camera are very advanced amateur or professional photographers who respect a tool that supplies total control and which uses Leica glass. However, it is certain that some of such users are more interested in carrying their M 240 in a Hermes bag!

          Such considerations aside, one must admit that the price of Leica cameras and lenses perforce limits those who can purchase such equipment. No doubt you are correct in your supposition that many Leica users are in the same cohort that buys Rolex Watches: Interested mainly in the brand name without admitting that most quartz watches keep much better time! I believe that we would agree that for the casual photographer who has their images printed at the nearest drug store and who shares such images over the internet that almost ALL digital images will be entirely satisfactory.

          However, there will be those who want and can appreciate the very best in optics, and who appreciate AND CAN USE a camera such as a Leica. There is a tactile quality to a Leica RF camera that is simply ineffable and that must be experienced. When combined with Leica optics one can be certain that one is holding and using the very best quality, i.e.,.a precision machine that is dedicated to a single task: Capturing an image with fidelity. Certainly such a “machine” costs more and will always be valued.

          You are correct so state that such a machine should be judged accordingly.

      • Ultimately, it all boils down to the individual end buyer – it satisfies enough to break out your wallet, or it doesn’t.

        • Ming. We await your review.

          You are totally spot on of course. People who want invisible quality will pay!
          Near enough (1600 ISO when 3200 is claimed) is good enough for many people.
          Bragging rights without substance is the specialty of many mass consumers!

          I do want to see the Leica X Vario review.
          My need is a camera on my belt all day every day. As an amateur I never want miss those special moments.

          Currently the G12 sits on my belt. What will be next?
          I am also waiting to put my stunning Nikon 25-50 f4 & my Leica R 19 f2.8, 28 f2.8, 50 f2, 90 f2, 180 Apo f3.4 on a less expensive FF body for my photo drives. I want superlative jpegs. I have zero spare time for playing with RAW in a digital darkroom. The Leica S2 achieves that at a price. :0)

          I am still waiting to have my 2 needs met in compact bodies. My days of carrying SLR bodies are over!

          Will Fuji, Sony, Samsung, Nikon, Canon

        • Ming. We await your review.

          You are totally spot on of course. People who want invisible quality will pay!

          Near enough (1600 ISO when 3200 is claimed) is good enough for many people.
          Bragging rights without substance is the specialty of many mass consumers!

          I do want to see your Leica X Vario review. It probably does not match the 1st of my 2 goals.

          My need #1 is a better camera on my belt all day every day & evening, rIn or shine. As an amateur I never want miss those special moments.

          Currently the G12 sits on my belt. What will be next?

          #2 need. I am also waiting to put my stunning AIS Nikon 25-50 f4 & my Leica R 19 f2.8, 28 f2.8, 50 f2, 90 f2, 180 Apo f3.4 on a less expensive FF body for my scenic day or night photo drives, with a monopod & tripod in the boot.

          I want superlative jpegs. I have zero spare time for playing with RAW in a digital darkroom. The Leica S2 achieves that at a price.

          I am still waiting to have my 2 needs met in compact bodies. My days of carrying SLR bodies are over!

          Will Fuji, Sony, Samsung, Nikon, Canon

    • The problem is, I’m not seeing the 5% here.

      • Elliot
        Just visible to reviewers already is in the lack of distortion & chromatic abberation when the dears ooh & ahhh over life sized projections of their pics on a wall in the lounge. Nerds looking at 16Mp pics on a 1 Mp monitor or printing 6×4 will never care.
        Even more is in the longevity & precision of the internal lens positioning & travel over a lifetime of use.

        Let me give you 2 examples:
        Both my Canon G10 & G12 had to have total lens assemblies replaced because the flimsy fabrication wears.

        Secondly a recent fawning review of a hot new Japanese camera noted in passing that all the ISOs had been exaggerated BY ONE STOP. ISO 25, 600 was 12, 800 & 12,800 was 6400 down to 200 was 100.
        That is one was to deliver a better low light camera. Fakd the specs. Lie!

        Leica tends to be conservative in its specs. German precision.
        I see zero screams of rage about the lies built into that camera’s dials.
        Imagine the vitriol if Leica blatantly lied about their specs! People can sneer at the specs BECAUSE THEY ARE LOWER & LEICA DID NOT FAKE THE PERFORMANCE of the X Vario in the menus & dials!

        That is where 5 or 10% costs a lot to produce. No light plastic barrel. No misalignment of lenses. No miscejtred lenses. 100% testing of every sensor & lens assembly & camera instead of random sampling.

        One Leica dealer told me Leica rejects 30% of sensors sent as QA’d product for the M 240.
        Such quality is invisible but costs a lot more because it does not lend itself to assembly lines but requires craftsman intervention at every step!

        Only those with an understanding of manufacturing compromises can see that 5%.
        For the mass consumer who will spend the same amount replacing cheaper cameras while chasing mirages of new “features”.

        • For the mass consumer who will spend the same amount replacing cheaper cameras while chasing mirages of new “features” this whole discussion is academic!

          A 1 or 2 Mp screen is all they will ever view!

          • Hi Sanyi:

            I guess we pretty much agree on the important points. Shocking about the faking of the specs on the camera you referred to…I wish I knew which one!

            And yes, people LOVE to bash Leica.

            Incidentally, I am considering moving away from an 8×10 view camera that I use regularly….contact prints with fidelity that is unmatched, etc., etc.. However, age is a factor not to be denied, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to lug all of the gear into the field. Thankfully,developing and printing are still little problem and film IS easily available, I venture to say that sitting before the computer will probably take an equal amount of time as I spend in the darkroom. Moreover, I suspect that the cost of inks and paper for the digital printer will probably not be very much less money then developer and the materials needed in the darkroom.

            My major interest remains landscape photography in all of its iterations, with candid photos not an interest. I was thinking about the Monochrome until I read the reviews of the new features on the 240. Moreover, if I recall correctly, Ming saw little difference in black and white photos taken with the 240 vs. the Monochrome.

            I wonder if one can approach the look of film with landscapes etc., taken with a digital camera. If so, will any compact camera OTHER than the Leica Monochrome or 240 give results that are likely to please? Certainly both the Sony NEX series and the Fuji mirror less can take our M glass….yet I am hesitant…..great savings in money of course, but the results?

            Another option are my M and R cameras with film, then scanning, the digital negatives or printing…however, the future for me seems to be digital….but which camera? I guess there is always one of the massive digital SLR cameras, but I would hate to get involved with such a system.

            MIng…could the new Vario possibly fill the need for one who wants to approach the look of black and white landscape prints? I would likely not go larger than 11×14. Hopefully you might address the black and white options for those using the Vario….I know that one can always use color and in RAW change the input to black and white…an acceptable option? How about one of the other mirror-less cameras….

            • Incidentally, Ming replied to a previous message and noted that I would likely be disappointed with the digital options for black and white landscape work. However, I am posing the question again to him and others…in view of both the Monochrome and the 240.

            • Short answer, no. The B&W tonality for converted DNGs is good, but requires a lot of work and doesn’t approach film. I’d consider the GR Digital, but that probably won’t give you the range of focal lengths you require. Short of that…Medium format digital.

              • “The Sony RX100’s actual ISO range is about half a stop lower than the claimed 80-6400 except at ISO 80 and 100, where it is accurate.”

                Elliot, I will search for the other review where one stop lower is noted.
                Seems this is a habit of “poetic licence” with the facts.

              • Impossible to justify the price Ming….thanks for being honest.

                Elliot

                • Compare the weight of the ideal lens for the Leica X Vario.
                  28mm–90mm f/2.8–4.5 ASPH Vario-Elmarit-R… Leica Order No. – 11 365 Weight – 740 g / 26.1 oz.
                  Sells for > $5000 second hand on ebay!
                  The Leica X Vario weighs 680gms including battery & built in lens while costing a fractoon over half of the ideal lens.
                  People need to be realistic about expecting fast longer range Leica lenses on such cameras.

                  • I’m not sure that’s a good metric for ideal….

                    • What is your vision of ideal for an APS-C walkaround fixed lens Ming? 24-90mm?
                      Would be great to get your vision!

                    • It’s not the focal length but the aperture; I don’t think paying $5,000 for that kind of lens makes sense. If you run a Nikon 24-70/2.8 at comparable apertures, it’s likely going to be the same or better. And at least you have the option of going faster if you need to; more important at the long end.

                    • Ok Ming. What is your vision of lens speed?

                      A 16Mp APS-C sensor has a pixel pitch of ~4.8 microns whereas the Nikon 36Mp full frame has 4.9 microns.
                      My Canon G12 has a pixel pitch of 2 microns.
                      A 6 micron FF can trap electrons from ~40, 000 photons.
                      The 2 micron can trap ~1/10th of that = 4000.
                      The APS-C should trap a max of about 16, 000 per pixel.

                      Noise is roughly the square root of the electrons trapped.
                      An APS-C has low enough signal to noise to allow winding up the ISO for slower lenses.
                      Rich dad’s can give their kids a Leica X Vario so they can be just like daddy without risking ~$25, 000 worth of M 240 + 28, 35, 50 & 75mm lenses.

                    • If I’m spending $5k, then I’d at least expect f2.8 throughout. That’s cinema lens territory, and they’re constructed to a much higher standard than regular photographic lenses.

                      It’s unrealistic to expect faster in that physical size. But not for that price, even with the ‘Leica premium’ added.

                      Not sure how the other facts you added are relevant.

                  • Gosh….I hadn’t known that the R lenses had increased in value so much Sanyi! I’ll have to go to Ebay and take a look….thanks.

                    So, all of my R lenses will be usable on the 240 ( with the adapter )? The heft of these lenses are such that I wonder about the handling of the 240 with the R lenses attached….sorry to have an off topic post here.

                    Elliot

                    • Hi Elliot
                      The Sony NEX-6 or -7 can use R lenses with a good quality Novoflex or other EVF focus peaking aids manual focus NEX is able to use all R lenses including wide angles & is APS-The NEX-6 has the APS-C sensor with 16Mp & also works wth wide angled R lenses like 24mm or wider.
                      The 7 is 24Mp APS-C but goes badly purple fringed with wide angles.

                      A full frame interchangeable lens NEX is rumoured for 2014. I am waiting.
                      APS-C has x1.5 focal length multiplier so my 19 becomes 28, 28 becomes 42, 50 becomes75, 90 becomes 135 & 180 becomes 270mm angle of view.

                      Because of larger pixel pitch the NEX-6 is far better in low light allowing higher iSO without being drowned in electronic noise.

                      Samsung are runoured to be bringing out a full frame interchangeable as well.
                      The Leica R lenses will ride again aided by FOCUS PEAKING for manual focus.

                    • R lenses will likely work much better than M lenses, especially in the corners due to better telecentricity. You won’t see as much CA or vignetting.

                    • Ming. I mention pixel pitch & noise because larger pixel pitch guarantees far better signal to noise allowing high ISO to compensate for slower lenses. Lens speed is no longer an independent factor in digital.
                      You talk about cinematic lenses as if the higher grade can be had on a $2800 camera.

                      My reading has given me the impression that such lenses start at $25000 ++.

                    • Larger pixels means larger sensors to maintain resolution which means having to stop down for equivalent DOF, or being able to achieve shallower DOF. You don’t have this control with smaller sensors and slow lenses, so lens speed definitely still does matter for creative control.

                      You can get Zeiss ZF/ZE lenses – same optics as the CP.2 cine primes – for under $1500 new.

                    • Apologies Elliot. My editing on my mobile phone has left a mess of the first few sentences in my last post. The words are enlarged for editing but this hides the mess not shown on the widow.

                    • http://www.cinemashot.com/canoncinemalenses.html

                      Ming
                      Canon zooms for cinematic are constant f2.8.
                      The prices range from $24000 to $44000.
                      You expect that for $5000 or even on a $2800 Leca X Vario?

                    • No, and you’ll see that when we talked about photographic lenses, I referred to the Nikon 24-70/2.8, which is $1900. Not $5000.

                      The XV isn’t relevant in this part of the conversation. Relativity there is to its competition, which are all significantly cheaper with similarly specced glass. I don’t see an appreciable difference in lens quality – certainly not justifying the 2x price premium.

                      At this stage, I’m not sure what your point is. I find the XV to be a decent camera with some unique features and a good but not outstanding lens. It’s expensive relative to the competition. Nothing more, nothing less. The end user can make up their mind if it’s worth buying or not.

                    • They’ll work with the adaptor, but you’ll either have to use live view or the EVF for focusing. It’s usable, but handling isn’t great.

                    • As I explained above Ming, cost is inherent in the manufactured quality control to achive longevity & reduced sample variation.

                      Pro SLR quote cycle lives of 100, 000 or 200, 000 longevity. The Leica SL is reputed to achieve > 1 million.

                      You cannot “see” quality nor do you have a statistically significant sample from which to deduce anything about sample consistency or longevity.
                      Mathematics is a cruel constraint & none of us is free of its limits!
                      It might be possible that with reduced longevity Cosina Zeiss have achived automation with low sample variation.
                      You cannot “see” any of this nor how the moving parts will wear nor the designed obsolescence use by date!
                      I take a blunt physicist approach to this. Leica has a reputation for heirloom quality manufacture that is only obvious if the stuff lasts to be inherited.
                      Most people won’t ever utilize more than 16Mp as amateurs making prints. Perhaps time will tell.

                      The minimum sized statistically significant sample is 32. Below that all comments are meaningless.

                    • “Reputed” “Reputation for” – none of this is scientific either.

                      Of my experience with hundreds of lenses, the only lenses that have had repeated QC issues were LEICA lenses – four 50/1.4 Summilux ASPH; one Noctilux 50/0.95, one Summilux 24/1.4, one Summiulux 35/1.4 ASPH FLE – out of the nine Leica lenses I’ve owned, seven have been defective. One of these lenses suffered from a mechanical failure of the aperture diaphragm on the second day of use. That’s definitely not a million cycles. Seven out of nine is definitely not ‘heirloom build quality’.

                      I can certainly ‘see’ the optical difference between lenses because I do have the experience and depend on these tools to make a living.

                      I don’t know where you’re getting your statistics from, but 32 is clearly nonsense if your total pool is smaller, and insufficient if in the millions. Trouble is, by your own logic, your comments are also meaningless. Believe whatever makes you happy…

                    • I understand the professional photographer’s mentality. If the lens is sharp enough when new & it has great versatility then it will pay for itself & the next great gizmo that comes along to replace it.
                      Early adopters take a parallel path selling the old & buying the latest.
                      I guess I grew up in a different era & I expect my lenses & camera to work more than the 2 or 3 year failure date that I got out of my Canon G10 & G12.
                      Cars might give equal performance straight from the showroom but my 2002 530i still drinks far less petrol on the highway than the book claims & still drives like new after 156, 000km.
                      Cost > x8 of an entry level Hyundai when new. I drive 40-50 thousand highway km/ year.
                      I guess I am waiting for a real test of the L X V.
                      Something aimed at the amateur wealthy audience for which it is targeted.

                      “I can buy as good for a third of the price & throw it away in 1/3 of the time” is no recommendation nor does it target the wealthy amateur who do not like being ripped off by shonky short lifespan products!

                    • No, that’s not true. Half of my equipment is older than me. We actually don’t like replacing equipment frequently because it means you have to relearn its characteristics again. This is extremely counterproductive to being able to intuitively deliver great images without having to worry about your equipment. You’ll actually find most pros using very old gear because it still does the job, myself included. Your comments show that you really don’t understand at all.

                      I think perhaps you should write your own review…

                    • “I don’t know where you’re getting your statistics from, but 32 is clearly nonsense ”
                      Ming, you ridicule my physics degree & display a lack of education in statistics.
                      Let me quote directly from a textbook.
                      At sample size 30 there is a miniscule chance of finding a false patter.
                      At sample size 10 there is a 6% chance of finding a false pattern.
                      At sample size 6 there is a ~ 50% chance of finding a false pattern.
                      I will now go to cut & paster directly from the textbook so you can begin your non existent education in stats.
                      You are a sample of 1 so I cannot assume all photographrrs are as uneducated as you!

                    • Just think about this from a purely common sense point of view:

                      1. If you have a population of 15, how can have a sample of 32?
                      2. If you have a population of five billion, how can 32 be significant?

                      You’re right, I’m a sample size of 1, so I’m not statistically significant. However, your sample here also happens to hold a masters degree from Oxford University in theoretical physics/ cosmology, and has spent several years working with nonlinear fractal statistics to do with financial markets.

                    • http://www.vassarstats.net/textbook/ch4pt1.html

                      For large populations a random sample of 30 gives a 0.25% chance of a false pattern.
                      For small population of <30 you can do 100% sampling.
                      That is not statistics!
                      With geniuses like you workingvin finance I can understand where the global economic crisis came from :0)
                      Stick to photography. It is safer for the world!

                    • “Just think about this from a purely common sense point of view:”
                      The problem with mathematical stats is that it defies your reliance on “common sense” & is totally counter intuitive.

                      Oxford Uni gives out degrees with the Cornflakes packets if a sample of 1 is any indication :0)
                      Luckily for Oxford Uni you are not statistically significant!

                    • In an intrrview you state “As for cameras…I go to YL Camera in Pudu Plaza; they’re used to me trading in my (barely) used equipment when something else takes my fancy. ”

                      Yet above you claim my statement that photographers change equipment when it suits them is false?

                      Which version of your claims is the truth Ming? You can’t have it both ways!

                      You have problems with undrrgrad stats & pronlems with the truth when you ridicule my claims!

                    • You are taking that comment out of context. I was asked where I buy/ sell equipment.

                      Not everything you read on the internet is true. Your posts are an example of that.

                      I have wasted enough time entertaining your trolling. This is your final warning. You are a guest on this site and are acting like a petulant child. If you don’t become civil any further posts from you will be deleted, your IP address will be blocked and you can take your rudeness elsewhere.

                    • I mistyped the sample of 5 stats as 50% instead of 20%.
                      From a site called vassarstats the chance of being wrong with a sample of 30 is 0.25%.
                      I suggest you desist from ridiculing others whose profession are totally outside your comprehension!

                      Stick to your day job of taking pics!

                      “If the size of the sample is N=5, then the investigators will have a 20% chance of observing a positive correlation coefficient as large as +0.50 even if the correlation within the entire population is merely rho=0. With a sample of size N=10 it drops to a 6% chance; for N=20 it falls further to a scant 1.25% chance; and for N=30 it falls even further to a minuscule one-quarter of one percent.”

                    • I mistyped the sample of 5 stats as 50% instead of 20%.
                      From a site called vassarstats the chance of being wrong with a sample of 30 is 0.25%.
                      I suggest you desist from ridiculing others whose profession are totally outside your comprehension!

                      Stick to your day job of taking pics!
                      You have a Masters Degree? “masters degree from Oxford University in theoretical physics/ cosmology”
                      That makes you an over educated incompetent!
                      “If the size of the sample is N=5, then the investigators will have a 20% chance of observing a positive correlation coefficient as large as +0.50 even if the correlation within the entire population is merely rho=0. With a sample of size N=10 it drops to a 6% chance; for N=20 it falls further to a scant 1.25% chance; and for N=30 it falls even further to a minuscule one-quarter of one percent.”

            • Elliot, you asked about the example of the exaggeration of ISO by doubling all the claimed ISO values.

              “Olympus OMD-EM5………… The camera’s only downfall—which is easily compensated for—is that its indicated ISO range is optimistically high, and the actual ISOs are a full stop lower at all speeds. So, while its claimed ISO range is 200-25,600, its measured sensitivity is closer to 100-12,800. Nevertheless, this camera sets a new standard for Four Thirds cameras.”

              You can read this at:

              http://www.adorama.com/alc/0012810/article/15-Low-Light-High-ISO-All-Stars

              As I said before. Leica would suffer massive vitriol if it had made such an exaggerated claim for the L X V.

              Sadly build quality is no longer important in a consumer electronic throw away society. People are shocked that I bought a fabulous hand made violin in Bratislava for $USD2500. It will be still going strong in 300 years if cared for.

              The same people think nothing of spending twice as much on a massive TV which can die after 2-5 years.

              • Hi Sanyi:

                Interesting about the Olympus OMD-EMS….thanks for the reference. It was honest of Adorama to post the information.

                Elliot

          • Yes. We are well past sufficiency. But I routinely print to 30″, and at that size the differences are definitely visible.

            • Ming, as I quoted from the vassarstats website I suggest anyone can read the ONLINE undergraduate stats textbook material that states that a sample of 30 has statistical significance.

              http://www.vassarstats.net/textbook/ch4pt1.html

              from which I quote:

              ““If the size of the sample is N=5, then the investigators will have a 20% chance of observing a positive correlation coefficient as large as +0.50 even if the correlation within the entire population is merely rho=0.
              With a sample of size N=10 it drops to a 6% chance;
              for N=20 it falls further to a scant 1.25% chance;
              and for N=30 it falls even further to a minuscule one-quarter of one percent.”

              If instead a simple single measure we have many subpopulations within the random sample (like many ethnicities) I believe that sampling until the smallest subpopulation reaches 30 -32 gives a statistically significant result.

              Ming I suggest you show some character and admit you were wrong & out of line ridiculing my statements about 32 being the point of statistical significance.

              Nobody respects defiance based on total ignorance and everyone respects the guts to admit you were wrong!

  3. Based on the few photos I have seen from this camera it definitely delivers excellent IQ. While I do not consider myself to be part of the targeted audience I can understand the appeal to others (who may or may not be ready to pay the price). To me a faster lens and IS would make a lot of sense as that would expand the usability of the camera, though I do realise that faster aperture would make the lens bigger and possible not performing that well wide open. The zoom range is not particularly impressive either – reminds me of the Minilux-zoom and the like cameras – although those were considerably smaller and, well, full frame.

    I personally do not expect Leica to sell too many of these (along the lines of X1 and X2) – there are many cameras on the market in either m4/3 or APS-C format that deliver excellent IQ for (much) less. But I did not have the chance to handle the camera – maybe it has more hidden charms.

  4. When the Leica X Vario was announced about two weeks ago, there were a lot of negative comments about the camera saying:

    It is has a slow fixed zoom lens,

    It does not have an image stabiliser,

    It does not have a touch screen,

    …….and more.

    After having the opportunity to lay my hands on one today, most of the negative comments seems to be not so important.

    The camera is very well made, holds and balance well, weighty without being heavy, simple to use and give great image quality.

    So, over to you to give it a full test.

    Hopefully, you can find more surprises under its skin.

  5. Leica has to deal with the same economics as Fuji and the others.
    imho this X vario will only sell to people, of course with enough money, who want to be different from mainstream.
    However Leica made the investments, start the production (maybe in Japan somewhere?) and simply have to make money.

    Fuji, after they introduced 3 years ago the X100, launched a pretty complete family of X camera’s…. and for the large Sensor X’s
    damned good design (Hybrid viewfinder), great lenses (like the 25mmf2.0 on the X100) and lots of additional functions and last but not least Image IQ `which is a no-brainer.

    Now the pixel-peepers wil test and test and test to show that the Leica has a High level of IQ, rendering, 3D, etc..
    Yeah but 2500 Euro, no viewfinder, and 3.5-63.? ……

    I think this X-vario will, like the X1 and X2, a hard to see camera in real life…

    Mr Kobayashi (Owner of Cosina and producer of Zeiss ZM, Voigtlander M, Bessa, Epson R-D1, Contax G1/G2) please
    surprise me with a …… Contax GD3, Epson R-D3, Bessa R3D or even A Zeiss Ikon ZID ….with M-bayonet and a decent viewfinder !
    When this happen Leica will face the real competition and rules of economics.

  6. For those who failed first year high school maths let’s compare the F6.4 at the long 70mm end of the lens to the more usual unremarkable F5.6.
    The drop in light is calculated by (6.4-5.6)**2 = 1.30.

    Poor darlings. Less than a 1/3 F stop drop in light reaching the sensors signals the end of civilization & Leica to intellectual thumbsuckers. Less than a 1/3 click in exposure compensation!

    Real photographers await real tests!

  7. This is the German form of compromise. Excellence in what counts but a short list of bells & whistles.

    Lets test first & use evidence based review. Big mouthed trolls add nothing to the discussion.

    Lens speed is only one factor in image quality. Mediocre zooms are stopped down to eliminate softness & distortion so mediocre faster lenses impress ignoramuses & those happy with 4″x6″ prints.

  8. I have played with it last week at Leica store in Singapore. Surprisingly, there is no CA (total zero) when I shoot upward towards a tree with a bright sky. Built wise it is very solid. Very impressive little gem. But I know that with the lens speed, it is not targeted at me.

  9. Here’s part of a blog I wrote recently on the subject of the Leica X Vario…
    “…I’ve got some lenses with ‘other’ apertures, such as f8, f11, f16 and even f22…why I’ve even heard it said that there used to be a ‘Group f64′ in America.
    (Group 64 allegedly consisted of eleven photographers, Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, John Paul Edwards, Preston Holder, Consuelo Kanaga, Alma Lavenson, Sonya Noskowiak, Henry Swift, Willard Van Dyke, Brett Weston, and Edward Weston…whoever they were).
    However back in the real world, I found out that you can take photographs using these ‘other’ mutant apertures!
    It’s amazing! It seems you just need to be a photographer with the merest idea of what you’re doing…there’s a novel idea.
    I know you’re thinking I’ve made this rubbish up, but get this…I tried f6.4 this morning and do you what?…
    …It worked…”
    Don’t be defeated by a camera!

    • I never said the aperture was a limitation for most work, just indoors and under low light conditions without a tripod. That’s what prevents it from being the jack of all trades people were expecting, nothing more.

  10. John Nicholson says:

    I’m so glad you will be coming on board with a review. I’m at a decision-making point about my set-up, and image quality counts very high. If I can have that together with the sheer pleasure I’ve had out of my D-lux 4, then I’m probably prepared to pay the leica premium to avoid interchangeable lenses. Otherwise I’ll trot down the APS-C path with Nex, and an adapter when I want an M lens.

    • Note that not all of the M lenses work well on mirrorless – the wides are not really optimized for digital and require the offset microlenses of the M bodies to work properly without odd corner effects, so that may not be your best solution either.

  11. My thoughts ? Probably very good IQ but not better than any of the Fuji – Pana – Sony – Canonikon etc… equivalent.
    But surely too big with an insane provocative price tag.
    I am a Leica user for a long time but not a Leica “tattooed” stupid fan. Actually Leica’s products have now lose their lust, you cannot insult your customers intelligence very long. This camera fits in this destroying reputation approach.

  12. Oskar O. says:

    The good: the strap and half case in the press pictures look very nice (although the cutout for the Leica logo is ridiculous). The haptics and UI seem to have the potential to be very nice. Zoom range; keeping it limited but useful is a good compromise.

    The bad: optional EVF, a viewfinder is just too handy to leave out of anything costing more than four figures (USD or Euro). F6.4 is too slow for some of the images I make and the highly varying level of natural light I work with, there’s no excuse really.

    The ugly: size is too large for pocketable, but the slow lens speed and lack of EVF makes it hard to compete with higher end mirrorless cams. Price; it’s basically a joke and there’s no way to justify it.

    About the price, it’s not justified on a functional/spec basis and it’s not justified on “I want a fine piece of craftmanship (e.g. watch)” basis. I am seriously considering buying a Leica M myself, but that would be a film version; mechanical, nice tactility, old school, certain sentimental and even collectible value. Digital ones are just tools and in the tool category Canikon is pretty good, both when talking price/performance and pure performance. Leica used to be pocketable, but my pocketable is OM-D with a small prime, performs very well too. I have nothing against people with deep pockets spending on this camera, but justifying it with practical rationale (good image quality, portability, holds value etc.) is pretty much impossible.

    • In principle, what you say makes perfect sense. I’m withholding judgement until I’ve shot with the camera; it might be one of those things that’s more than the sum of its parts. That said, we know it certainly carries the red dot premium/ tax…

      • Levent Inal says:

        Regardless of all of the excuses Leica made (designing the perfect lens crap), this lens is inexcusably slow. Needing 1600 ISO at 1/125 when sunny makes me puke! If they take the Red Dot out, no one would even consider paying almost 3K for this camera. I would much rather have a fixed amazing prime, full frame than (such as Sony’s RX1) a crop and zoom with those specs. I am not going to count what you can buy for $3K but you can have some amazing camera / lens set up to blow the doors of this so called mini M. Many successful companies becomes their own enemy sometimes and this one is for Leica. I was hoping to add a new camera to my bag but this one is NOT going to be the one. I personally think the X2 might be a better buy than this one based on its’ size, price and much faster lens. This one does not even fit in to the “perfect travel companion category”.

  13. Congrats, Ming: for most people if they didn’t write something noone would notice, and yet if this was a DPR forum thread you would have clocked it at 150!

  14. The founding fathers of reportage and available light photography have now introduced a non-rangefinder camera with a zoom lens that is virtually blind under low-light conditions. On top of that Leica have the nerve to charge $2850 for it. Some nerve!
    The question now obviously is – are we, the customers, going to let them get away with it?

    • We won’t buy it, but a different set of customers will…

    • David Babsky says:

      No, no, no: d’you think the people who presently build cars under the badge “Bentley” or “Rolls-Royce” are the same people who built them back in the very early days of motor cars? ..These are now German-owned brands belonging to Volkswagen/Audi.

      Jaguar has been sold to the Indian Tata company ..or maybe even sold on to China.

      The name ‘Leica’ now belongs to a chap who thinks it’s a reasonable luxury brand investment from which he can make some money. ‘Leica’ doesn’t belong to the microscope manufacturers of the eighteen-something-or-others any more.

      This is NOT the same company as the “..founding fathers of reportage and available light photography..” ..Leica is simply a name. Names get bought and sold.

      • I wonder which manufacturer could be considered as carrying the torch for the serious photographer today – are there even any left?

        • Maybe Sinar and Linhof…? It’s true, alas, that in this global market everything is sacrificed on the altar of profit maximization. The shareholder is king. For a few dollars more they’d probably sell their own grandmothers. They know the price of everything, yet the value of nothing. The situation Leica is in now reminds me of Quad – the legendary British HiFi brand. Quad now belongs to some giant Chinese consortium. They mainly cater to (wealthy) people who collect famous brand names just for the sake of it – not because they are interested in real, verifiable quality. They probably wouldn’t recognize it anyway – even if it stared them in the face.

          • And even then, I have no idea how long that’s going to last – there can’t be a growing market for those $15,000 cameras.

            Re. Quad and others: sad, but true. Same thing is happening in the watch industry – the conglomerates are vacuuming up everything.

        • For as much we like to bash Canon and Nikon (I do it too), I think one can reasonably make a case that they still carry the photography torch for a large group of serious photographers. Their lens libraries are unmatched and of high quality, and they still introduce interesting new lenses. They may iterate their cameras too quickly, but they’ve been for the most part highly usable and focused on the picture taking. Except for size, their mid- to high-end cameras are all pretty fantastic.

  15. I didn’t plan to get one but after handling one I changed my mind.
    For me 28-70 is a very useful range. The lens is kind of slow, but shallow DOF is not everything. I have other cameras for shallow DOF – if the x vario should be my one and only camera I might feel limited. But if it is an addition to an M or a DSLR I can live with the lens speed compromise of the Vario.
    I plan to use it for vacation/street/family images and I now have the feeling to own a camera where I do not have to expect any compromises in IQ.
    I have used a x-pro 1 for some months and liked it, but my feeling here is that the x vario images show more “depth” in regards to color and tones than the Fuji (which sometimes has a somewhat pastel look).
    The camera handles extremely intuitive, and feels very solid and nice in the hand. This is one of the very subjective but IMO important factors. Spot AF is also one very useful feature. The AF is slower though than the OMD for example. The few images I took so far come out just right, without any post processing.

    In one way it is an expensive camera with a slow zoom, on the other side it might be all you need to take images of many subjects with a very high level of IQ. And (for me) it is a very nice user experience with this camera.
    If we compare it with an RX1 for example – I would prefer the Vario. The relation between lens-size and body size feels just right in the hands (I find the RX1 a little small here). The RX1 is a little more flexible with the speed of the lens and high ISO, but the Leica has that useful zoom range. Also the Zoom ring is nice and stiff and has numbers. So you can also set it to 28 or 35 or 50 or 70mm and the shoot like a prime. Same for focusing, you have the distance numbers on the lens. And with the aperture and exp-time wheels you can see and change your settings without even have to switch the camera one. You don’t have to remember “which wheel did I set for f-stop and which for exp control? And which function did I set to which button again? (Nearly) everything is clear and simple.

    In the end it is only a camera like many others, maybe a little more expensive, maybe a little slower lens and maybe a little better lens, with a user interface that feels more analog and not so much like a computer. That why I think it is nice to have this option. I believe the camera should not be judged on lens speed and price only.

  16. Paul Stokes says:

    I had the chance to see and handle ‘the camera in question’ today on the way home. It is quite a large and bulky item especially with the honking great lens out the front. I can’t see where the mini comes in unless that is a reference to the sensor size. Not for me I’m afraid. Not to worry I’m sure there will be something else just around the corner. With a few blips this has been a most interesting and civilised not-review I have read in some time.

  17. I think the quality of the lens is the most critical aspect. I can live with the numbers, if the lens delivers and behaves like a “4in1″ prime lens. There are a lot of people who just want a reliable travel companion and don’t care much about speed, about changing lenses, about AF-speed and so on. They probably don’t do extensive post processing as well. The design of the camera is important to them too. I care a lot for how my camera looks like, and I care a lot for accessories. It has to be a visual joy to grab the gear and go out shooting.
    I must say, I don’t really get the point of “rationalism” according to photography nowadays. Is it rational to buy the best value for money, best specs camera – but every two years?
    Or get the camera you REALLY WANT and STICK TO IT, for god sakes?
    Flickr is loaded with boring candy-shots taken with high speed lenses and now it is possible to fill even a terabyte with flower shots.
    I digress. Anyway, if the lens is excellent, so why not? That new Hasselblad freak-camera seems way more unreasonable to me, but I am pretty sure it will sell very well, just think of the russian and chinese market.
    I am looking for your review, Ming. Thanks for your valuable work!

    • It’s not reasonable at all. In fact, it’s bloody ridiculous: the way the market is going, manufacturers assume we’re going to be buying new $7000 cameras every three or four years, while in the meantime the old ones are worth very little on the secondary market. I don’t know who has that kind of disposable income, but it certainly isn’t me. My personal-use gear is all cheap, second hand, or known for value retention in case I have to sell it in future. The rest is either professional necessity, or the illusion/dream sold to the noveau riche.

      • Unfortunately the nouveau riche are growing and growing. Fat Breitlings sell better than Pateks.
        The luxury market booms like porn industry. Bizarre, that a disaster like the Sigma SD-1 marketing won’t happen with the Lunar.
        According to economy and electronics we’re witnessing a historical development that is very special.
        While the “old” money buys a Canon G1x, the “new” buys a Lunar.

        • Can’t say I know much about the porn industry – like most I’m nothing more than a casual observer – but what you say seems to make sense. The really old money is probably still shooting with a 1960s Leica M or Hasselblad 500CM :)

  18. I kinda get what draws people to Leica’s high end products like the S and M systems. But beyond that Leica’s product line induces head scratching. I mean the X2 for somehow seems to be the least desirable camera in it segment but yet is on an order of magnitude the most expensive. Also all the rebranded panasonics that are almost twice the price just seem foolish.

    This camera it seems to me is competitor to mirrorless kits. Yet it is on an order of magnitude more expensive and in the one way it is fundamentally different (non interchangeable lens) its worse. Nothing I have seen in the sample images blows me away on that lens. Am i missing something. Is there more to the red dot than this. Please explain

  19. “…but I think since most serious photographers are likely to have an M anyway…”

    BTW my dear Ming, that’s some bold statement!

    • Serious photographers who want a LEICA. I didn’t type out all of what I was thinking, nor do I own a Leica at the moment, which makes me nothing but a rank amateur…

  20. Hi Ming, when you said “The sensor will be excellent, since it’s the same one used in the X2 and a whole host of other cameras like the Ricoh GR and Coolpix A” I was wondering does any of them still have the AA filter? You mentioned “an AA effect” in your X2 review.

    • The GR and A don’t have AA filters. Unclear about the X2, I believe it still has one but it’s weak. Strictly speaking, the AA filter isn’t part of the sensor and doesn’t contribute to underlying technical qualities like SNR, dynamic range etc.

      • Thanks. Yes, but it does contribute to resolution or the lack of.
        There really does seem to be a market for a fixed zoom compact with portrait capabilities, or at least an adapter for an existing camera (x100s ideally)
        If Leica had had to shorten the zoom range in order to increase the aperture I’m sure this camera would still have received a more enthusiastic welcome. I look forward to your future analysis of the Vario.

        • Yes it does – not resolution so much as acuity.

          There’s the Sigma DP3M, but it’s not exactly speedy. That said, I’m prepared to withhold judgement there too – thanks to a friend I’ve got one on loan to play with for a couple of weeks.

          • Apologies, acuity.
            I’m considering the DP3 too as a couple of pros I know swear by them. However, portraits without a VF seems a slightly daunting prospect. I look forward to your views!

            • Early thoughts: it’s excruciatingly slow, not very ergonomic, but it’s easily controllable (good) and the image quality is surprising.

              • Iskabibble says:

                Shoot the DP3M like a film camera and your experience is far more enjoyable. The buffer in these new Merrill cameras is not bad and I rarely hit the maximum. Only review can be slow as you wait for it to write to the card. The camera isnt actually slow, the problem is it is moving MASSIVE amounts of data. Those 50-60 megabyte files are enormous.

                The image quality at ISO100 and 200 is just awesome. Blows just about any other camera out of the water for pure razor like sharpness.

                The color on the DP3M is very beautiful and today (thanks to NEW firmware) so is the DP2M’s! THANK YOU SIGMA!!

                • That’s the plan, though holding it at arms’ length and composing on an LCD is a bit incongruous with film. File size is no excuse, the D800E shuffles them around with no noticeable lag. You can even zoom and scroll while the files are writing.

                  • Slightly off the non-review topic … the reality of the phrase “holding at arm’s length” for LCD viewing I think is worth some investigation. Frankly I don’t think I’ve ever held a digital camera like that – I find 90% of the time I hold it up at eye level with my elbows firmly against my ribs, so the LCD is only about 15cm from my eyes. Never, ever, on straight extended arms. But maybe that’s because I’m very conscious of camera shake and with this technique I’ve even managed some sharp1/2 second shutter speed shots. And even without an OVF or EVF you can still brace the camera up to your face once you’ve composed at elbow length. You just need to do a bit of ocular gymnastics to swivel your eye down to peer down at the LCD and gauge if the focus box is still green and on the fuzzy shape that is the subject!

                    • I have to hold it further away or get a headache; and I’m definitely less stable when I don’t have a finder to my face. I’m sure there’s probably some way around this, but I haven’t been able to find it…

                  • What about something like a Zacuto or Carryspeed viewfinder magnifier for the LCD screen? Didn’t CS send you a strap to review? Maybe they can send you their viewfinder to try out.

  21. meine Entscheidung für die X2 als Ergänzung zu meiner D-Lux6 war schon ganz nah, dann kam die Ankündigung der “Neuen”, genannt mini-M. als die X2 auf den markt kam vermisste ich die designmäßige anpassung an die M-Serie darüberhinaus erhoffte ich mir ein moderates zoom, vergleichbar dem der D-Lux6.
    so jetzt ist dies mit der X Vario nahezu verwirklicht, das ist das eine. sofort die endgültige entscheidung das andere. für eine der beiden, X2 oder X Vario, werde ich mich entscheiden. So kommt es mir sehr gelegen dass von Ihnen in absehbarer zeit ein X Vario review eingeplant ist. Auf die Ergebnisse, insbesondere der optischen Leistung des Objektives, aber auch die Abstimmung – Sensor, Objektiv und Software sowie die Pro und Cons bin ich sehr gespannt.
    Anm.: zu meiner Kaufentscheidung der D-Lux 5, später noch der D-Lux 6 hatten Ihre Reviews maßgeblichen Anteil.

    beste grüße
    – kmhb – klaus-michael

    • Stephan says:

      So Ming is supposed to learn German now? With all due respect, I really wonder what goes on in the mind of people who post in their own language on an international / English website…

      If I were Ming I wouldn’t even bother to run your post through a translator.

      • This is no big deal, though I do wonder why the comment was in German since the poster clearly understands enough English to read the original post.

        Given the expectations of some people, I wonder why I run the site at all sometimes. After all, I exist solely to test things for their pleasure so they can rubbish my reviews and support other sites’ referral links :)

        • Stephan says:

          “Given the expectations of some people, I wonder why I run the site at all sometimes. After all, I exist solely to test things for their pleasure so they can rubbish my reviews and support other sites’ referral links”

          This almost sounds a little disillusioned. Don’t let certain people ruin your mood. You’re doing a great job with this website. I guess when a website reaches a certain popularity some people start thinking that it might be run professionally and not as a hobby in the first place and thus the expectations are much higher!

          • If it were run professionally, you’d see ads for pointless accessories everywhere, not the occasional thing that I produce and is actually useful…

            Some days I do feel disillusioned, I won’t lie. And dealing with the ungrateful and rude emails really doesn’t do much to change that.

            • It’s all right to feel disillusioned from time to time. The alternative would be to exist in a state of illusion and that won’t work because we need your clarity.

              My use of your B&H affiliate link has been limited thus far to the purchase of one lens. I did buy the iPad app, although I have no iPad; it resides on my wife’s. And I did kick in a pathetically small amount via the “donate” button.

              All the owners of all that expensive gear who find your blog to be of real value should make at least a nominal contribution to its continued existence.

              Really. It’s easy. Hit the “donate” button and make a one-time contribution of US $10. That’s hardly the cost of a generic replacement lens cap.

              Compare that to what you’re spending on camera gear — and to what you’re saving thanks to the experience shared by Ming — and then do it again next year.

              There’s little chance that this comment, buried as a reply to a reply to a days-old-post, will get much attention or generate much response. But if the topic comes around again, Ming, box this along with the comments and replies leading up to it and replay it.

              We’d all like everything on the internet to be free and paywalls are suicide, but, dammit, somebody has to pay the bills.

              • Sounds like damned if you do, damned if you don’t – be happy, deluded and evangelical like other bloggers, or just slightly miserable and objective (and of course nobody’s friend because you can never promote anything fully in good conscience).

                I do appreciate the support of yourself and others – but it seems like the big purchases all go via somewhere else. Maybe it’s because other bloggers make you feel good about buying something extravagant, even if it’s nonsensical. I suppose I can understand that.

                What I do appreciate more is that you can see where I’m coming from. What I put on this site isn’t directly linked to any tangible product, and that makes it hard to be an agent for selling or referring them. But I think it does serve as inspiration and education – too bad you can’t really put a price on that. If I’m forced to put a paywall up at some point to go subscription-only, then it’ll solely because I can’t make it work any other way. (That, and integrity, are also why I don’t have any brand or product-centric advertising – there isn’t anything I think is worth lending unequivocal support to.) No idea if you saw this post, but it basically covers what we’re discussing here in more detail.

                • Michael Matthews says:

                  What say in return for a modest fee via the “donate” button you permit the reader to download content for local storage?

                  Why would anyone want to? Well, some of us can’t read that fast and there’s too much good stuff here to risk missing. I speak of the sections on technique, opinion and philosophy, other educational content. If the site should go away, we lose access.

                  It’s an easy alternative to reissuing the same material (edited) as a series of e-books.

                  Much of what you’ve written here has lasting value. But the blog form is a little like Jack Kerouac madly typing away to produce On The Road on rolls of teletype paper. Someone ought to collect it, edit it to a more lasting purpose, and publish before it gets lost.

                  So I guess this is really two proposals: resell your content a chunk at a time online on-demand, or, re-purpose it as a series of books, “e” or otherwise.

  22. There’s no excuse what Leica created, Ferrari with 4 cylinder engine….you might argue you save lots of gas…(and the planet!) The whole world is mad and rightly so!

    • Alexander says:

      LOL, like S-class with 4 Zylinder Diesel

    • Don’t write off 4cyl engines so quickly. Not so long ago, we had 351 cu. in. V8s that produced less power. The 1.4l 4cyl turbo- super-charged engine in my wife’s VW produces 185bhp and 250NM of torque, but returns 35mpg…nothing to sneeze at.

      • Stephan says:

        Nothing against 4cyl engines from an economic point of view. However, the running smoothness and sound are really nothing to rave about! Compare a turbo-super-fluxcompensator-charged 1.4lcyl engine to a naturally aspirated straight 6 BMW engine and you get the point :-)
        Same goes for a Leica with a slow lens and more so considering its price tag and comparably huge size.

        • Oh, I get the point. When I was buying my last car it was between the BMW 325i and the 320d – the straight 6 was beautifully smooth, but in the end I preferred the punch of the diesel. Now if only they offered the straight 6 diesel here…

          • Stephan says:

            You can have the punch in the 325i also, you just need higher revs :-) I’d choose the smooth engine and beautiful sound over the punch in low revs anytime, but now we are very much into personal preferences.
            I guess the same goes for the Leica again. After totally rejecting it initially, I now think that it will find its buyers – even if its not me :-)

            • Nope, didn’t get it at all. 218bhp/250Nm on the 325 felt very weak compared to 220bhp/460Nm on the 320d (after a remap). And there’s the fuel consumption difference, too…

  23. bobbyg53 says:

    Ming – my wife and I look forward to your photographer’s assessment of the X Vario, particularly how well it does hand-held without image stabilization. We live in Phoenix, Arizona, and would consider this to become our “Grand Canyon” daylight landscape/walkabout camera . . . if the images have the soul of a Leica. We don’t want a rangefinder camera, but we do want autofocus and some zoom capability.

    We are encouraged by this Jono Slack jpeg, which does not appear to be “flat” like our X-E1 renders.

  24. Peter Leyenaar says:

    This is what I said in reference to Jono Slack’s review on the Leica User Forum

    “Thank you for posting your review, balanced, well thought out.

    I am somewhat baffled by the negativity surrounding the Leica Vario X : the price , the slow lens, the size, no viewfinder no ff ,etc .etc.

    What should it have been ? does it matter ? it is what it is, to me it appears to be
    a beautiful photographic instrument, an improvement of the excellent Leica X2, with a zoom lens, capable of making excellent photos.

    The price that everyone is complaining about, what should it have been ? $2500?, $2200 ? or less than the price of the X2 ?

    If the Leica appears to be a great luxury, than every camera is a luxury for those who don’t make a living of photography, most have a cell phone.

    After reading your excellent review, other reviews and watching Angela’s video , I immediately ordered one from the Camera Store in Calgary, which should arrive tomorrow, yes, I can keep it for 2 weeks and send it back if I don’t like it, I doubt very much that I’ll be sending it back, for less than one of Leica’s more expensive lenses,
    it seems like a good deal.”

    • Peter Leyenaar says:

      quote “Your comment is awaiting moderation”. ?????????????????
      Because I made some positive comments about the Leica Vario X ? Get A life somewhere

    • Sensible thoughts; however, I just question the last point: did Leica deliberately keep inflating lens prices so something like this looks cheap? I mean, a 50/2.5 for $1650 seems a little steep…

  25. It is amazing to see the response this camera is getting! People are so quick to judge what they have never seen nor used – more so with this cameras than I’ve ever seen. And they seem to forget that Leica is a profitable camera company, a rarity today. But of course, most people want any given camera company to produce a camera *just for them* at the *only* price they are willing to pay.

    I’ve sold off a lot of gear, photobooks and other stuff over the past year, so I have some budget set aside. I recently purchased the GR which I absolutely love (I’ve used GRDs since the GRD2). Given the flack that the X Vario is receiving, and the fact that I like such cameras (I have the Ricoh GXR A16 zoom – I prefer fixed-lens cameras; technically speaking, I suppose the GXR is not a “fixed lens camera”) I decided to buy the X Vario and try it for myself. Surprisingly, it shipped from B&H yesterday and arrives today! How many companies announce new cameras and have them available the very next day!!!

    I do not want a Leica, I’ve never owned one (had a Zeiss Ikon for a few years, though), and in fact I will cover the red dot with black tape. But I’m going to give it a fair shake and see if it works for me. The only opinion I’m going to trust is my own. Yes, it is expensive, but why would anyone expect anything different from Leica. I don’t plan to use an EVF, at least initially. I wish the new Olympus EVF worked on it, but I’ve been told that it does not.

    I read Sean Reid’s review and it was both informative as to camera design and about the X Vario, and his samples really impressed me. I trust him more than the camera forum naysayers. Ultimately, I’ll be the judge within my own context. Ming, if you ever do find one I’ll look forward to your own experience.

    • Leica is not just profitable, they have the highest margins of any camera company – close to luxury goods, which is unheard of for consumer electronics.

      One is supposed to be on the way to me next week. Curious to hear what you think of yours, Andrew – if you don’t mind sharing thoughts as the only owner on this thread…

  26. Michael Matthews says:

    Sorry if this is off-topic, but the subject has come up a couple of times in this thread. Is it your preference that the Olympus E-M5 and cameras similar to it be coupled with the Lumix 14-42 lens if one wants an affordable zoom?

    I’ll admit to inept reading, but it only began to sink in yesterday that your mentions of the 14-42mm lens being preferable to the 12-50mm kit lens were references to the Panasonic product — not the Olympus 14-42. I guess the “X” appended to the focal length just didn’t register.

    Perhaps in the upcoming full review of the production E-P5 you might touch on that. Thanks.

  27. As a former Leica nut, I find this thing to be ridiculous. Here’s what I think of it: http://www.fotozones.com/index.php/topic/979-leicas-x-vario-what/

  28. Slow lens? Low light? USE THE FLASH! It’s a travel point and shoot. The same rules apply.

  29. You know what? I think I’m gonna get this one as a second body to compliment my Lunar….hahahaha

  30. John Lockwood says:

    “Some things don’t make any sense at all – my Hasselblads or F2 Titan – but they are so enjoyable to use, who cares?”

    We care Ming! Those are REAL cameras and the work you recently posted from your 501C with Across 100 was stunning. Please never stop being a photographer. Leave the mental masturbation about pixels and cameras that have a six month product life cycle to someone else.

    • Don’t worry about that. I’ve learned there has to be a dividing line between work and personal work, even if it’s tenuous. So those are reserved for me-time, or the right client. I don’t think I can stop shooting anyway, it’s borderline pathological.

  31. I’ve known what I wanted in a camera since the 60s. The build quality, size and handling of the original Leica III series and the reflex viewing of the Nikon F. I have most of it in the OM D and i think you are spot on, Ming, putting the Lumix 14-42 on it instead of the larger Olympus equivalent. Pancakes are better than the old collapsable lenses on the Leica (Or new ones like the Olympus 14-42) because they are ready to go without manipulation. This Leica doesn’t attract me because I want the EVF built into a ‘rangefinder’ format so I have the through the lens viewing. When Olympus brings out a non skeuomorphic design with controls that can be manipulated at eye level like the OM D and a built in EVF, I’ll buy it. In the meantime I have to ‘suffer’ with the barely pocketable size of my OM D. Life is tough! Scratch that. Life is great!

  32. Will Needham says:

    Imagine for a moment that this was a Fuji X100 Vario, rather than a Leica. Would anyone at all be defending it? Even at a quarter of the price?

    I don’t think so. It’s a big shame.

    • I think price is the issue. The XE-1 kit is basically the same spec with the addition of an EVF, but at about 35% of the price; it sells like hotcakes.

      • Will Needham says:

        I respectfully disagree, the XE-1 has interchangeable lenses and even the kit is a stop faster. Would the XE-1 sell as well as it does with a fixed 3.5-6.3? I doubt it, and that’s without charging 3x the price.

  33. Tom Liles says:

    Judging from the email traffic over the last couple of days…

    Well, love them or hate them—you have to hand it to them, no-one generates interest like the Leica.

    [incidental: I'm as deep into the GAS as anyone, but I didn't realize how hopeless I am until reading mention of the A here, and noticing how "old" (that one's for me and Jason ;) ) it felt to me already. Do I need help?]

  34. Enthusiasts always believe they are the ones that the cameras companies are designing for ( and somehow always getting it wrong) – I think this camera proves that they are not! This is probably the world’s best P&S, and most expensive, and the price will not be an obstacle to the target market. The fact that the slow fixed zoom renders it marginally smaller than a compact DSLR or even bigger than a good mirrorless, will not worry be a deal breaker. It’s a Leica, quality build, optically superior, end of story.

    • With mobile phones replacing low end cameras – I actually think that enthusiasts are the most important group of consumers for camera companies right now.

      • Hmm – but the evidence is in the vitriol: the anti-x-vario enthusiasts are gathering with their pitchforks and torches while the Bentley crowd will quietly be buying them for their next holiday junket exactly because it isn’t an manual focus M and the X2 is missing a zoom. I doubt anyone who is desperate to get a Coolpix A , new GR or R1 will be transferring their gear lust in this direction.

      • Tom Liles says:

        I’m starting to see it Blur My Reality’s way. I’d originally been on mdhoffman’s tack…
        [though I still agree with: I doubt anyone who is desperate to get a Coolpix A , new GR or R1 will be transferring their gear lust in this direction. That is spot on. And Mark's first line equally on the dot: Enthusiasts always believe they are the ones that the cameras companies are designing for; I think Ming was slightly guilty of this the other day, dare I say it.]

        If I examine my own limited experience of the well-to-do around me [no-one I know, let me quickly add], I don’t see any of them using a bona-fide camera to take pictures. I do see them, like everyone else, using their smartphones and filters when the mood takes them. The last well to do person I saw with a Leica in hand was Sylvester Stallone in EXPENDABLES 2. And he was playing a fictional character at the time.

        I guess it’s what’s intended with “Bentley crowd.”

        If that’s the European and American monied classes, I’d say “no.” The youngsters use smartphones; their parents, if not using smart phones themselves, would probably be happier with something more bohemian, but decidedly elegant. A vintage Leica, perhaps. Doesn’t matter, I’m not talking about what they would do, just what they wouldn’t. And the, what’s it called?, just a minute, the Leica Vario X seems like what they wouldn’t.

        If with “Bentley crowd” we’re talking Russian oligarchs or Arabic Horse Syndicate Dons [that one's for lainer1], yes, I can see them going for one of these, and exactly in one of those Leica Boutiques in malls as mentioned up above. But this, as a few have mentioned already, would be about as close to a nihilistic purchase as there is. Think Saddam Hussein choosing palace interiors—pomp, a sense of history, an appreciation of the artisanship and the art, these are not priority number one. Just want the most expensive thing going. Giva me dat.

        I think it is the latter. Rolls Royce, Bentley, these brands themselves have already gone the way Leica is heading [in the case of Rolls, a good few decades ago, too]: they’re almost baroque parodies now. So be it. Keeps a bunch of hard working Germans in a job, some new-monies happy, and shop staff on the payroll.

        For the rest of us, thank God for the Japanese.

        • And vintage. Don’t forget vintage. (I suppose the Japanese too, since they really know how to take care of their vintage.)

        • Paul Stokes says:

          Somedays I hate going to work. Surely the “Bentley crowd” and all the rest would have someone to take the picture for them with their Leica or take a photographer with them.

          • These are also the people who are too cheap or ignorant to pay for proper photographers – after all, why hire somebody when you own a Leica? Surely you can do a better job with that camera…

    • They never have been. For every D4 Nikon sells, they sell hundreds – if not thousands – of D3200s. If they only built D4s, they wouldn’t survive. Even Hasselblad – long the bastion of the high end pro market – can’t survive on medium format alone. Too bad it had to be the Lunar, though.

  35. I think there’s a reason why the vast majority of photographers think new Leica is a failure. The sensor will be good, but it’s old and everybody uses it for a long time. Lens is slow AND quite big (it’s certainly not a pancake). Lack of any kind of viewfinder will force people to buy external ones and they will be both huge (thus making camera quite useless as a small travel companion) and riddiculously expensive.

    It’s nice that you are pointing out some positives about the new Leica offering, but it doesn’t change the fact that for me (and probably 99% of other photographers) it’s almost as disappointing as Hasselblad Lunar.

    • Bottom line: it isn’t photographers who will be buying this, nor is it photographers it’s aimed at. At least I don’t think so…

      • Let’s assume it’s for rich people who just want new shiny gadget. Are they really aware that there is a brand named Leica and it’s luxurious? Let’s assume they are, but then if they know how great Leica is supposed to be, then they PROBABLY know that specs of X Vario are not something to rave about. And for people that are not (even beginner amateur) photographers 24MP camera with 20x zoom is more important than Leica sticker on a camera that looks like poor man’s Panasonic or Fuji.

        I just think there’s no market for such camera. Surely you have much more experience and maybe I’m wrong, but my guts tell me it’s just too many failures in one product.

        • Short answer: yes they do know, and no they can’t tell. End of story. I’ve encountered this more times than I can count. The problem with the rebadged Panasonics isn’t the badge, it’s the fact that they don’t look and feel like the iconic M – notice how the X Vario has a stepped top deck and dials like the M, rather than the X? That’s no coincidence.

  36. Noone else here seems to have mentioned it, but I find it interesting that it does macro mode at the long end. I’d also like to see more APS-C camera systems like this – with all the manual controls including shutter speed dial. It’d make a perfectly adequate landscape/travel camera for me. Question is, would I take this over an X-Pro1/XE-1? Not sure.

  37. Thank you for posting a balanced, neutral view of this camera, particularly given the vitriol seen elsewhere. Specs, justification, sales projections … ok – but it is UTTERLY RIDICULOUS to charge USD$2,850 for this. You mention the Coolpix A and the GR. Well that is 2 1/2 Coolpixes and more than 3 GR’s. Same sensor so what are we paying for here, the lens, at f6.4?
    No, we are paying for the dot and Kauffman getting carried away with his “luxury brand” project. Blackstone written all over it.
    This camera has genuinely damaged the Leica brand amongst many of those that care most about Leica from a photographic point of view. Having said that I agree with you that it will probably sell very well. Heck, it is available immediately – while the M is back-ordered until forever.
    As with Apple even a casual financial analysis will show where the money, and most importantly growth is coming from – and resources will naturally be shifted there – whether iOS hardware or products for moneyed camera buyers who have just stepped out of Gucci. It is interesting to note that having taken so much out of the Apple marketing playbook Leica is also jumping head-first into the realm of one of Apple’s biggest mistakes – neglecting their pro audience.

    • Haha, ironically the lack of a test unit makes the whole thing imbalanced – all we can do is try to be objective about what we see on paper. While I wait for one to test, I’ll continue shooting film on my 25 year old Hasselblad.

    • Paul Stokes says:

      I’m not sure how much Leica is actually damaging their brand with this new camera. Those people who have bought either the real M’s and will continue to buy will either ignore this as they may have ignored the rebadged Panasonics or the various X models or they may decide if they are going to buy a travel camera then they would prefer to buy a Leica one. This is the real deal Leica. I imagine all Leica owners have learned to work with their cameras particular demands as indeed any photographer who owns a variety of cameras from different systems. They may not consider what we see as problems to be problems. Then again I don’t doubt they may have liked something better as well.

      I company terms, as we have discussed here over the last week there is a real need to build market share to survive, grow and maybe then start to innovate and part of that is producing a variety of products for the compact, mid-level and prosumer and above market. Sure the X is not a RX100 beater but I don’t think that would ever be part of Leica’s plan anyway. I think you need to look at luxury brands in general: Hermes, Chanel and the like to get more of an idea of where Leica may be headed or where they hope to position themselves.

      I think the new M and the Monochrome do cater to Leica professional audience and their is always the S.
      As for Apple have you seen the new Mac Pro?

      • Ming, further irony in your comment is that I told a friend of mine that the slogan for the X Vario should be “Film is not dead”.
        Paul, I think the damage to the brand is two-fold: the dilution of the significance of the ‘M’ (down to Panasonic point and shoot’s for heaven’s sake) and the reinforcement for the stereotype that Leica provides an over-priced product.
        There is a big difference between premium/luxury and over-priced and what Leica has done here is a double whammy of a second rate spec coupled with a ridiculous price. I leave it to you to calculate how many other first rate camera products could be had for the X Vario cost. These are not handbags, they are technical instruments, so technical matters when the price label is attached, even if we have to take the ‘brand’ into account.
        I am an architect and I have ‘professional’ use for an M even if not as a professional ‘photographer’. However, for starters even though I can justify the price I can’t get one and the lenses aren’t exactly plentiful either. Even if I do what about a backup body or replacement. I am currently planning a significant project ultimately for publishing where this is imperative. So Leica’s flagship product is all but unavailable and they have chosen to commit resources to a weak one … can’t be good.

        • Ouch – that’s harsh. But no, film is still alive, if not as well as it has been and certainly shifting towards the hipsters and instagrammers. I was at a gallery opening last night; of the small handful of film cameras present, almost all were Holgas. I had my F6 in my bag, but was too embarrassed to bring it out.

          There’s one other problem you hint at: disposability of these things. An MP will retain most of its value. An M9 is now barely half of what it was new, two years ago. The same will undoubtedly go with the 240 and more so Vario and whatever else – simply because it’s dated the minute it comes out of the factory. The same is true of all digital cameras; not one has appreciated in price, because the technology in there has a fixed lifespan. To pay that much for something that has little intrinsic value is difficult to justify, unless you have a lot of disposable income. Don’t get me wrong – I love the quality and convenience of the top end digitals, but I don’t have anywhere near the same affinity for them as I do for my Hasselblad Vs or Nikon Titan. As for the handbag analogy: buy a Birkin now, and it’ll probably be worth nearly the same in ten years. Can’t say the same of an M…

          I suspect the delay for Ms comes from two sources: firstly, China’s appetite. Secondly, the handwork required for RF alignment. Every other camera doesn’t have this requirement, which means production is faster, cheaper, and margins are higher. And they will no doubt sell far more X Varios than M 240s.

        • Tom Liles says:

          Hello amonie,

          Could I nip in and ask a question?…

          I am an architect and I have ‘professional’ use for an M…

          Interesting. I’m still a learner, but from what I gather, RF cameras were, are!, good for architecture because the mount design isn’t as telecentric as, say, single lens reflex cameras’ mounts are—the back element of an RF lens is much closer to the sensor [film/digital]. This means lens designs are simpler and with simpler we have less chance for aberration. In an architectural picture’s case, lines, for instance, would render straighter, etc.
          BUT, RF cameras themselves don’t lend to accurate framing — of critical importance, I’d imagine, in architectural photography — I know Ming mentioned this in one of his Leica reviews. It might even have been the M240 review—as the new “live view” capability does away with this frustration [at a cash-money price].

          I’d have imagined that architectural photography was best serviced by medium format cameras with T/S lenses [by no means are those lenses only available for medF, of course]. But I can also imagine a medium format camera would be utter overkill for anything less than photographic professionals who have both the business need and the craft to make it work [and strong backs].

          But aren’t modern mirrorless cameras [save 4/3] less telecentric than single lens reflex, and WAY kinder on the wallet than DRF? What’s the technical case against one of these for your purposes?

          I’m not asking with ulterior motives. I started my photography hobby by purchasing a Sigma DP1M — a mirrorless camera, though I’m not sure “modern” is right adjective for it :) — because I thought I was going to take pictures of the Tokyo cityscape [and some landscapes, from my local park]. It turns out, as these things do, me being human and all, in practice those are the last things I’m taking and that my eye is interested in. But I still would like to try as a technical experiment some time soon—this is why I’m interested to hear your reasons for choosing RF, and not a mirrorless.

          Cheers then amonie

          • True: the lenses are better, but precise framing is tricky without live view. And there are no tilt/ shift options for perspective correction, either – that’s a function of the lenses being symmetric and having rear elements very close to the sensor. For digital sensors, you WANT to have telecentricity to avoid vignetting and purple fringing due to light hitting the microlens array at an angle. Almost all of the M4/3 designs are telecentric.

            There aren’t that many medium format cameras with wide T/S lenses, which means DSLRs are actually a better choice in practice unless you want to go to large format and full movements.

            • Tom Liles says:

              Thanks Ming. Yes, I was hesitant to say it — quite unlike me — but it hadn’t really made sense in my head: all the stuff about telecentricity and RFers when it comes to film and when it comes to digital. I’ve read enough Leica M-series reviews to know that they had a hell of a time with micro-lenses in the beginning precisely because the rear lens element was so close to the sensor. This was why Leica pronounced DRF was impossible, wasn’t it. Until Epson took the plunge for them.

              The qualitative difference is the capture medium: the film was a flat plane and wasn’t especially bothered about rays hitting it from wherever; the digital sensor is a matrix of photosites that are effectively miniature wells—they care about the incidence of rays. The closer that rear element is, the more “fisheye” like the microlenses have to be, the more we have to manipulate the light, the more chance for problems and aberration we have. Am I sounding right so far?

              To straighten up those incident rays and get them to go down the wells, these micro-lenses are necessary. Not just for DRF, but any digital sensor. So, the takeaway is, when it’s digital capture we’re talking about telecentricity is better: more space between rear lens element and sensor = more room to straighten out the incoming light, and lessen burden on micro-lenses. Hence all the marketing material that came with 4/3 when it first arrived [which has a telecentricity coefficient of around 2, if I remember correctly]; a system designed specifically for digital. I know the size of the mount changed for m4/3, but presumably they kept the telecentrics the same…

              But it seems to me, then, a DRF is about the worst choice you could make for architecture?
              => does not compute, amonie??

              Perhaps the lenses cover the deficiency?

              • Leica solved the problem partially with offset microlenses, but even so, we still have the problem with some lenses – hence the need for profiling and software correction in-camera.

                It’s a bit more complicated than that: a digital sensor is effectively a flat plane with small fences between adjacent photosites; each pixel is literally a well. Film is not only flat, but has some depth to its sensitivity because of the thickness of the emulsion; this means that non-planarity of lenses is corrected for too, because if the focal plane isn’t at the surface of the emulsion, it might be somewhere inside it instead – so things won’t appear as clearly out of focus as they would with digital.

                Take a look at the corners of the best M4/3 lenses – they’re astoundingly good. And the mount is quite a bit larger than it needs to be for the sensor size.

          • Hi Tom

            Valid question. I would start by differentiating myself as an architect from an architectural photographer, which is a specialised skill, with some photography examples that you can see on this site. It all begins with your content and most of the arch photography that you see these days (in glossy coffee table monographs and sites like archdaily) is highly ‘pre-mediatated’ with an aesthetic towards clean lines, stylised lighting effects (even if from natural sources) etc etc. It pretty much suits the kind of architecture being photographed which is similarly clean, frequently (often completely) devoid of people. In this context a rangefinder like an M is not your ‘first’ choice, not even your second or third.

            However architects, as opposed to architectural photographers, generally photograph in a ‘documentary’ format – as inspiration for/part of/continuation of the architecture creative and construction process – usually large quantities of mundane imagery all the way up to highly narrative formats, rich with personal interaction and a grittier side of life – more of the ‘real world’ use of buildings and other spaces. A lot of it is not a million miles away from street photography, though a bit slower but not as slow as the tripod-using specialists. In this case the same qualities that make an RF great for street photography (or at least did in the days of HCB) work for this more documentary photography – high quality, fast, up to ultra-wide lenses attached to a compact body with a real viewfinder and gives you a good chance at remaining connected to your scene. Actually I consider the RF mechanism highly architectural in and of itself. It is very directly tied to your human binocular vision and its appreciation of distance in space … architecture 101. There is a rangefinder scale card that you can google and print as a PDF. I keep one in my wallet for its entertainment value. Hold up the card and measure the distance to an object.

            What attracts me to the M rangefinder is the unique combination of lens choice + RF + compact size + quiet operation + digital. This simply does not exist anywhere else (or maybe it does, please tell me and save me some money). My upcoming project will involve a lot of small dark rooms, dark/shaded narrow alleyways and spaces with people at night. Both flash and tripod use is inappropriate, and a Nikon with a 14-42 would be almost as bad. So it all points to the old magic (and expense) of the M.

            Now where can I find two M 240’s and a 21 lux and/or super elmar?

            • If you don’t mind not having the RF, I’d actually suggest the OM-D because of its stabilizer and excellent fast primes…

            • Tom Liles says:

              Hi amonie

              I’m sure I’ve missed you, but just incase: thanks for that.

              Very interesting re: what kind of pictures the specialists take as opposed to the architects themselves. Laymen like me ‘d have guessed the other way around if anything! And I understand your requirements for a RF a little better. Tough isn’t it, they’ve got you over a barrel, really, as CCD’s don’t don’t do live view, so everything from the R-D1 [I own one of those, they're brilliant] to the ME is no good for you [you could use rear LCDs to check framing after the fact; though I think we've established the kind of pictures you'll be taking are more dynamic than still lives]. But as if they weren’t expensive enough, you get the wallet immolating M240!

              I was going to mention the X100s, XE-1, X-pro, etc from Fuji, but it seems like you’re there ahead of me. Any of these plus top draw Fujinon lens would come out less then even a used M8 body. Not even an 8.2, an 8! I’ve never used one so should keep quiet really, but they do have a good low light rep, don’t they.

              I’ve never used the OM-D, but I can attest to the quality of optics on this format; especially for lack of aberration. You certainly do get the sense that the lenses were designed to a specific spec, with the sensor format and requirements in mind. I own a panasonic DMC-L1 [the older 4/3 format] with two lenses: the 14-50 Vario Elmarit “kit” lens [which makes it sound cheaper than it should; this is a Leica optic, and is stupidly good for a "kit"] and the 25 Summliux D. The DMC is “only” 7.4 MPix, I have more quality and res with other cameras, but I kept confusing myself because it just rendered buildings so so much better than anything else I’ve got, save the DPMs. My conversation with Ming above has given me a clue as to why…

              The DPMs by the way are great, but of course if low light is what you’re shooting RUN A MILE IN THE OTHER DIRECTION!
              [Not that I think you were in the market...]

              But yes, if “RF” is one of your conditions:

              lens choice + RF + compact size + quiet operation + digital. This simply does not exist anywhere else

              If you can live without live-view, then there are the earlier digital Ms, or the Epson R-D1. I’d relax on the “RF” preference and give that Fuji a try as you mentioned, see if it works or not…

              And with the money you save, you can probably pick up one of those new Mac Pros? :o

              P/S Though, I have to say, with even the hint of justification of needing this beautiful equipment — Noctiluxes, Ms, etc — for work, I’d be all over it. What better excuse will you ever have :D

              • I have a DP3M on loan at the moment…it isn’t as bad in low light as everybody makes out. My CFV-39 can really only be used at base ISO (100), and even that’s more like 50 since it has no microlenses…

                • Tom Liles says:

                  Sure. I find with my DP1&2Ms that this is the case, you can get low light performance, kind of. Or what was called “low light” before things like the D3, D3s, etc existed :) pre-2007 “low light”! So, yeah, I agree: you can get it with caveats —> it really depends on the type of low light. If we’re talking general inky gloom, then, for me, not much doing [if you can even get the CDAF to lock on to something, not so bad with the 1, but the 2 isn't great, even after the firmware updates; I usually go MF, guesstimate the distance and add in as much f-stop as I dare, but nothing more than f-4 in practice, and downsizing afterward. How makers haven't copied your "pixel binning" idea is a mystery to me]. A scene with a few well defined point sources in the frame, you can certainly get passable 800; for B&W shooting 1600+. Not 100% guaranteed, of course.

                  If you put a bit of effort in, you can certainly make it work, to some extent. Though I do get everyone’s complaints—you don’t have this headache with other cameras.
                  [This is before PP, which I imagine isn't feasible for you professionally, though may be put-up-with-able privately.]

                  But other cameras don’t, and can’t by sheer design, give you this rendering… No pain, no gain.

              • Tom, re the Leica ‘mortgage’ fortunately there are financial ways to make capital purchases work for you (or at least lessen the impact), and as another blogger wrote recently – you will only have one pair of eyes in your life. I have regretted buying equipment in the past that was not up to scratch, which captured moments that were just not coming back.
                Also you may have guessed that my photography needs, particularly for this upcoming project, do not put me in the tilt-shift/search for linear perfection crowd. The more ‘social’ the project the less relevant this is.
                Funny you mention the M8. I had thought about it but dismissed the idea long ago. Perhaps I was wrong. I would have to look at lens choices again though, incl ZM’s and Voightlanders but given my lack of experience with their products it will mean a lot of reading and testing.
                Ming, I genuinely appreciate the information and input on this site. When I make my purchases I will find my way back here and click through.

                • I actually like the M8 for B&W work because its lack of UVIR filtration makes for great shadow tonality; this article might interest you.

                  Thanks in advance for your support!

                • Tom Liles says:

                  Hi amonle

                  No, I’m really pulling for you to get that M240 with a Noctilux, etc! I hope you’ll let us know how you get on.

                  I suppose it depends on the level of darkness that we’re talking about, but M8s are not renowned for low light acrobatics, are they. ISO 640~800 is the ceiling? I think you were right to write them off. If I recall Ming’s review correctly, the M9 added about a stop. The MM [M monochrome] put another couple on at the expense of color [but without the bayer filter every sensel is contributing, one to one, to the final output resolution---so you get a ton of acuity in exchange for the color into the bargain]. And the M240, more or less matches the MM, but with the color added back in [so at pixel level you're obviously not going to match the MM for acutance, i.e., in reality, no-one can see the difference :) ].

                  For a good while, the M9-P was it for me. Looking at my friend Roger [Wojahn's] pictures doesn’t help. I still feel that way, kind of. But am more and more drawn to the M8.2. Like most the cameras I buy, these are old, old things now. The CCDs they use are a thing of the past [only medium format, not exactly the futurists' format, still uses them]; and because of the way they use power, they will give up the ghost sooner or later [and sooner than CMOS architecture, according to the internetz]. Kodak don’t make sensors for Leica anymore (if any one knows what Kodak even do anymore, besides get their name dragged through the mud by third party licensors slapping the brandname on awful products). So when a Leica CCD goes, that’s it. As Ming said: a very expensive paperweight.

                  I don’t believe the scare stories too much. I have an Epson R-D1s from 2006, this has a Sony CCD. Mine is still going fine. I take good care of it, but still, no problems yet. When the R-D1s does go though, it won’t be a few thousand dollars down the drain, more like a few hundred—that was an acceptable bargain to me, and why I decided to go for one. Not sure I could be so loose about an pre-240 M…

                  The M240 is probably a good choice when you can purchase via a business vehicle. Plus, availability being what is, I would seriously doubt it possible to make an incommensurate loss on this camera. In some parts of the World you could probably sell one at profit. If I were the guy running the business, though, I’d want to know what I get in return? That’s including the cash-money return [which doesn't have to be the entire reciprocity]. Do the pictures drive future sales? I guess I’d be bothered about that. Though I’m sticking my nose in here—please excuse me.

                  For all the baying at Leica — and I’m often right there in the crowd with my pitchfork! — the total cost of ownership from a cyclical view doesn’t look too bad, to me. With all the awfulness of the M8: the stuttering data write stuff, the IR contamination –> the filters, the corrections on corrections that the filters introduce, the vignetting, the crop factor, the frame lines, the RF drift, the non-coded lenses, the cost of anything going wrong and requiring a look from Leica, the practically useless rear screen, the shutter sound [I quite like it myself], the RF patch in the sun, the terrible meter and the sclerotic battery compartment design… with the well known awfulness, just take a look what used bodies, in this day and age and in this market, still fetch.
                  I haven’t read it in a while, but I’m sure Ming mentioned in his article: that you may have to pony up to get one, but if it’s not for you, you can sell back at almost the same price, perhaps a smidge less—but consider the delta your rental fee. And when you do, it works out quite cheap indeed.

                  Anyway, all the best amonle, I don’t know about you but I enjoy the research bit of a purchase — boning up on all the specs and options, going to shops to try things out — almost as enjoyable as the purchase itself. Though nothing beats the thing in your hand, and knowing it’s yours

                  Perhaps I had too deprived a childhood?
                  [not true]

                  Cheers Amonle!

                  p/s I don’t know how I forgot to mention it, but the rangefinder scale card pdf is great. I found this one, that’s what you mean, right? I also found this. Another morning train commute lost to the cameras!
                  [my book reading has taken a real hit since starting this hobby]

            • Tom Liles says:

              Sorry amonle not amonie. Font playing tricks on my eyes. Or is the other way? :)

              My apologies

      • … and Paul the new Mac Pro is way way way overdue.
        We have collectively been pulling our hair out. Have a look at the “We Want a New Mac Pro” facebook page.

  38. This doesn’t sound like a competitive model to me and I would therefor not expect it to sell that well… I’m a little baffled by Leica with the release of this camera.
    I would tend to concur that the slow lens and large sensor (CMOSIS) should indeed give pleasing results and am curious whether the IQ and character remains Leica like (given the slow lens) so look forward to your typically excellent review of it. Should it retain those characteristics Leica fans love, it should be a good picture making machine, yet, I’m curious to understand who its intended audience is at this price point???

    • I don’t think this is a CMOSIS sensor; it appears to be the same as the one in the X2, which is the Sony unit shared with the D7000, GR and Coolpix A – amongst other cameras…

  39. Branko Collin says:

    It looks like a nice camera, but unless the lens is amazing the X Vario seems to be a solution in search for a problem. What is more, on the spec sheet the almost pocketable Canon Powershot G1X seems to beat the Leica in almost every respect except megapixels.

  40. Iskabibble says:

    Totally agree with GThuncher who posted above that Leica is getting the snot knocked out them by Fujifilm. This new Leica is an embarrassment in every possible way. Imagine if Canon or Nikon put out such a miserably spec’ed and priced camera. Just imagine that. Why does Leica get cut such slack then??

    • I’m reserving judgement is all, no slack is cut anywhere. Certainly not at that price. But there are physical limitations such as lens speed vs size we have to take into consideration.

  41. simply imagine ther would be no leica label on the camera. what would one say about such a slow zoom, a sensor everybody else is using anyways, bulky size (hello ricoh!) no IS… and such a price point? it’s a beautifully made camera but way too expensive.the 16mp sensor will be outdated soon (why not a 24mp, and apterture 1,8 – 4,5). it’s hard to imagine the image quality of the lens can be so much better than let’s say fast m43 glass to justify the slow aperture and the hefty price tag.

    • We’ll just have to wait and see until I have a chance to test an actual camera. But given the other options out there, it does have a tough fight – then again, perhaps photographic enthusiasts were never intended to be the primary market for this camera.

      • Stephan says:

        Considering the target audience, there has been a post on Leica’s Facebook page that sums it up pretty good for me:

        “Leica, It’s irritating that you keep opening shops in Luxurious malls (next to expensive handbag brands) to sell your soul to the wealthy and the hipsters starving for symbols. I beg that you start making real photographic tools for photographers again. We love you, but you are growing apart.”

        • Branko Collin says:

          Maybe they need this business on the side to subsidize their photographer oriented line?

          • I doubt the M cameras need subsidies given the volumes they’re selling and the prices they’re asking these days!

            • True, that. There is also the point though that Leica seems to be much smaller than the other manufacturers of consumer photo cameras. On the one hand that creates a need to focus on what they’re good at, on the other hand diversifying may be useful in case the what-they-are-good-at becomes irrelevant.

          • If one looks at the Leica web site there is a public apology about the delay in delivering the new M 240. Moreover, Leica is opening up a new plant that will result in increasing production and shorter wait times. The company points out that their products are, in the main, hand made one at a time and subjected to rigorous testing and standards before leaving their plants. In sum and substance as Ming infers, it doesn’t appear as though anyone should be worried about the Leica business model.

            It seems as though the debates concerning the “value of Leica equipment” will never end. Certainly “other cameras and lenses” are capable of making images that are entirely the same and perhaps better than those made with a Leica camera. In the same sense, driving 100 miles with a Ford Escort-a great car with excellent reviews-will deliver you to the same place as if you had driven a BMW. So, drive the Escort and forget about it. Some should not find fault with those find the BMW either more desirable or capable of providing a more comfortable journey.

            I am anxious to read of your experiences and evaluation of the new Leica Vario Ming.

            Elliot

  42. I like control of camera especially that af/mf switch is very intuitive. But thats about it. Won’t win my money.

  43. Stephan says:

    I really wonder why one would be willing to spend 2450 Euros for such a bulky camera whereas the RX100 would give you similar potential for one fifth of the price and is even pocketable.
    The high ISO and DOF potential of the bigger sensor in the Leica is cancelled out by the slower lens. So you pay 500% more and a hefty increase in size and weight for the Leica badge, better haptics and a possibly better lens. I doubt that it’s worth it.

    • Yes and no – the RX100’s sensor doesn’t even compete with M4/3 (though it comes very close) and the lens might be fast, but is definitely compromised at maximum aperture. I say this having shot >8,000 frames with one. Assuming the Leica delivers the goods wide open, then compared to the RX100’s optimal apertures, you’re actually at about the same effective lens speed. More pocketable? Definitely. Cheaper? Check. I would imagine it’s a case of pay more, get more – but as always, that relationship is never linear.

  44. At 70mm an f/6.4? It left me questioning quite a bit. For an outside shooter it might work. For me that is just too slow. The reviews I’ve read already about it are very positive, which surprised me some. However as someone still on the waiting list for the M(since Sept) I would have rather they had made more of those than this camera.

    • Optical quality first, aperture second. Then there’s size vs aperture etc.

      One can only imagine that these aren’t made on the same production line. Having done a lot of RF calibration work myself, I can tell you that it’s a royal pain to get right, and absolutely critical to maximum image quality. The X of course does not require any of this…which then begs the question of price vs value…

      • Iskabibble says:

        Canon, Nikon, Fujinon, Zeiss, and others have shown that f/6.3 is not required to get fantastic image quality. Fuji’s own zoom lens is sharp right into the corners and at f/4 zoomed out.

  45. The armchair warriors are up in arms over the aperture limits, but that’s a red herring. Half the world lives with DSLRs with similarly lo-fi kit lenses.

    The only problem with this camera is the price. At c. US$1000 it would have have been a no-brainer, and even around $1,500 (i.e. a Fuji XE1 + 18-55 zoom range) it would have been a contender.

    As it is, MT is correct to say its a Leica for those who want one but are put off by the full force of the M or ME. i.e. its reassuringly expensive; a dilettante can buy one in the full knowledge they paid top dollar for an exclusive Leica.

    I’ll wait for the Panny version to like I always do when buying something for the family (LX3, LX5, ….)

    • I’m not sure ‘knowing you paid top dollar’ necessarily makes you feel better, or take better pictures :)

    • Iskabibble says:

      Most SLR kit lenses are f/5.6 or better. Name one kit lens slower than f/5.6.

    • Steve Jones says:

      Well at the price I’m afraid the lack of a viewfinder kills it for me as that is one of the most important things in a camera, Oh, not to mention interchangeable lenses. And those are the two big stumbles.
      Nice try Leica, keep skirting around that digital CL, the camera everybody wants but you WON’T make because…let’s see…it might be a success and actually sell.
      Now, some people are saying this is aimed at those who just want a Leica. I think if you buy this, and part with all that money you’ll STILL want a Leica, because of the two features above which are lacking. And yes, in that case you’d be better to look at an M8 for sure.

  46. We had our first delivery yesterday and have now sold out. Says something, I feel. The camera is IMO very well made and handles well. I haven’t had a real chance to take one out and do some serious shooting yet but it seems to me that the potential is certainly there.
    As Sean Reid says there are compromises to be made between a) fast; b) small; c) high performance even wide open. Leica decided to go for (b) and (c). Going for (a) would have meant a much bigger lens/camera. It’s not a Panasonic!
    Apparently it was designed by the same person as the Digilux 2 – so there’s probably some DNA lurking in there. I’m about to print some DNG’s supplied by one of the testers, so we’ll see! At the moment I’m warming to it a bit, it’s not perfect, but then what is?

    • That was fast! I suppose some markets are priorities :)

      It would be nice to have an EVF built in at least…that would go some distance to offsetting the slow lens by increasing stability to let you hold the camera to your face.

      • We surely agree about the viewfinder Ming.

        • Good thing Olympus offers the same thing at a third of the price :)

          • We agree Ming. Will the Olympus finder work on the Vario? I am not sure ( see below ).

            We likely also agree that when Leica charges much more money for the same finder that Leica should be pilloried with well deserved criticism. I assume that the finders are indeed exactly the same Ming. Are they?

            Elliot

            • I believe it will as it’s the same finder as the M 240, and we all know the VF-2/3 (but not 4) work just fine on that. There are many M 240 users with Olympus finders.

              I don’t know if they’re absolutely identical, but they certainly look identical from the outside and function the same. You know what they say, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck…

  47. I know its a panasonic, but why not take the v-lux 4 instead, or even the equivalent panasonic. it has the 2.8 aperture throughout…in a fixed lens easy to use setup. l would be interested in your thoughts. Thank you.

    • Actually…it isn’t. This is a Leica-only product and not a Panasonic derivative. There is no equivalent. The V-Lux 4 has a very small sensor, and that makes a big difference to dynamic range, resolution and pixel quality. The M4/3 and X mount cameras are a more suitable comparison.

  48. Andreas Stabla says:

    While wie do not know the AF abilities, what advantage would it give over a Fuji X (E / Pro 1) with
    their excellent and bright zoom plus a viewfinder ?

    • Off the top of my head, I honestly can’t think of any other than workflow (processing from that sensor is a known quantity, the Fuji sensors still don’t process that well even in the latest release of ACR). Better optics or battery life perhaps? It’s not really fair for me to speculate as I haven’t used either camera.

      • david young says:

        try the accu raw. it really makes the sensor output that much better. too bad I found it only good at the Fuji sensor raw file.

        • I have; workflow is a pain though. Agree the results are much better (well, they can’t be much worse than ACR; even the SOOC JPEGs are better.)

  49. I think Leica needs to step back, regroup, and re-embrace their heritage as innovative, ground breaking camera makers. Right now they are being lapped by the competition; for $2,800 SONY is making a full frame RX-1 with super fast, quality Zeiss glass. FUJIFILM breaks new ground everyday with their X-series, and news today of developing their own sensor – it’s just a matter of time before they go full frame. Olympus too with their OM-D.

    When Leica introduces a $2,850 camera with an APS-C sensor and low-speed zoom in 2013, that tells me their market strategy is simply to have a ‘red dot’ available at every price point. This so called “Mini-M’ that they hyped could have been so much more, its just a matter of time before they’re selling kits at Costco.

    By the way, I’m not a Leica hater … I have an M9 that I absolutely love. But, Leica is sacrificing its relevance in return for temporary profits. I think that is a huge mis-step.

  50. Peter Blandino says:

    Hi Ming, I think what interests me the most about this camera is the manual focus ring with stops and distance markings. This should make zone focusing very intuitive. I just read Sean Reid’s review and I believe he echoed many of the observations you made in your post above. I have an M9 and an X2 and find I use the X2 more. I’m intrigued by this new camera, but the price makes it difficult to justify considering what I already have.

    • That in itself might make it very interesting indeed…but as you say, I can’t think of a justification to own it personally given the price point and the spec. Then again, that might all change after using it. Some things don’t make any sense at all – my Hasselblads or F2 Titan – but they are so enjoyable to use, who cares?

  51. even if this camera is technically perfect, who are the targeted customer at that price point?!?! it should be part of the new product launch strategy. the only advantage is that the camera is in the shop on the day of the launch. I am still expecting that there is something behind. but probably, it isn’t. Leica is also allowed to make mistakes. it seems that this is one of them in their decision to commercialize their product line. they just should not call it M as they start to confue even the real M owners.

    • It isn’t in their shops here, that’s for sure. The price is stiff – I actually think it should be closer to the X2, given that with one you get a fast prime, the other a slower zoom – looking at interchangeable lens options, the underlying lens costs must surely be similar…

      That said, I’m sure there are plenty of society people who will want one.

      • HI Ming:

        I think it all to easy to group those who “want a Leica” to be those who are rich, well connected, or interested in designer jeans. The assumption that those who find Leica desirable for reasons other than image quality can appear to be rather mean spirited, biased, and plane wrong. Why not assume that at least some of us who will consider the Leica find that the Leica glass trumps other considerations?

        Elliot

        • I don’t believe I ever said that those who want Leicas are rich, connected and wear designer jeans. I’m none of those things and have several of their lenses for nothing more than optical reasons.

          That said, having tested the camera extensively for the last week, while the zoom on the X-vario is very good, it isn’t blowing me away. There is no ‘Leica glass’ advantage I’m seeing here.

  52. bobbyg53 says:

    It seems that Leica first prioritized the absolute image quality of the lens, at all focal lengths, within package size and weight constraints when comparing these 3 alternatives (including the weight of an SD card and battery):

    1) Leica X Vario w/28-70mm equiv lens @ 628 grams total weight: 95 mm front-to-back depth

    2) Fuji X-E1 w/28-85mm equiv lens @ 660 grams total weight: 108 mm front-to-back depth

    3) Olympus E-P5 w/Lumix 24-70mm equiv lens @ 725 grams total weight: 111 mm front-to-back depth

    Sean Reid and Jonathan Slack’s evaluations of the X Vario indicate that it has EXCEPTIONAL lens quality at all focal lengths, and it does not rely on post-processing to “fix” distortions cast on the sensor by the lens. The differentiating qualities of the X Vario appear to be build quality, hardware and software ergonomics, and phenomenal refraction quality at all focal lengths in a fixed-zoom lens.

    Let’s see the images that this lens produces at the ISO values that the sensor and firmware are designed to support. A real photographer’s comparison of the above would be most interesting IMHO.

    • This isn’t quite a fair picture, though: the X-E1 is 2.8-4, the E-P5/ OM-D is f2.8 all the way, and the latter has excellent OIS. I don’t own any of these cameras, so a comparison isn’t possible, but I do have some experience with good optics…as far as I’m concerned, it goes up against my compact-travel benchmark of OM-D and 14-42X.

      • david young says:

        I have the OMD with the panasonic 12-35/2.8. Lens is good but wide open the corner is soft and you have CA. I think Panasonic camera will have software to fix that. Not so good on a OMD. If you stop it down to 5.6 it’s good performance.

        The X-E1 with it’s OIS lens 18-55. it’s a bigger camera but the lens optic plus OIS means it’s a very good camera. AF is not fast but good enough as a general all around plus street photography camera.

        OMD with the 12-35 was my travel camera and I am going away for 2 weeks but with the XE-1 and the 18-55 lens. let’s see which one I prefer at the end.

        But I think people who buy is X Vario is very into the badge as well as the best optic. But the trade off is the small aperture and slow AF. it’s a trade off Leica made and it’s just a business decision. Of cause it will help if they have someone like Steve Job that is willing to break new ground.

        • I can’t help but think all of these brands avoid direct comparisons as much as possible…or we land up with a Coolpix A vs Ricoh GR scenario.

        • bobbyg53 says:

          Leica is about the glass, first and foremost, no matter how or what it is attached to. The Vario X glass ZOOMS while delivering, by all accounts so far, on the brand promise for Leica glass imaging quality . . . while wide-open at all focal lengths.

          From a package size and potential IQ standpoint, the competitive comparators we have considered for the Vario X include the Fuji X-E1 w/18-55mm zoom lens and the Olympus E-P5 w/Panasonic Lumix 12-35mm lens. We liked the ergonomics of the X-E1/18-55mm, but returned it because the images seemed “flat” to us. The combined weight and girth of an E-P5/Lumix 12-35mm combination is significantly heavier and larger, and we don’t need a constant f2.8 for our outdoor daylight photography.

          At this time in the marketplace, we are not aware of a competitive zoom-lens camera that offers this level of imaging quality, throughout all focal lengths, with a similar package size and weight.

          p.s. we drive a Honda Accord and shop at Walmart and Costco.

  53. Paul Stokes says:

    Hi Ming
    Well as we read of the Olympus/Sony collaboration and the new Fuji/Panasonic organic sensor Leica takes a step sideways. I think your working hypotheses are quite right. I think Leica is simply doing what many of us are doing with our own camera choices and looking at a product gap and have come up with a camera that may do a fine job.

    When I first heard about it I wondered if they had grown sick of rebadging Panasonic cameras and were doing their own which I guess to some extent they are. I had hoped it might be something my wife could move up to as a travel camera but having ‘seen’ it now I think it may be too large, too heavy or too complicated [scary]. If it works well Leica may find the people who thought the X2 too limiting buy this. And good luck too them if it provides good quality optics and excellent image quality.

    Still an EVF would have been good [I wonder if the Panasonic or is it Olympus one will still work] and even 3.5 all the way. Given the number of people out at night when travelling this may be a problems. Perhaps we need to see the high ISO quality. I guess the proof is in the pudding so we will wait for your thoughts when you have had one in your hands.

    I am not totally against it though I am more likely to go for the GR to complement my OM-D but for some the Leica X Vario may complement the LX7 or D-Lux_6. It’s all horses for courses of course and here as elsewhere we never get what we really want.

    • I believe the EVF port is the same as the M, so the Oly one should work. A 70/3.5 in a zoom might not be so workable; too big – the camera is already not pocketable.

      I’m not against it either, though the spec is decidedly ho-hum; I’m expecting some magic from the lens though. And I’m also conscious of the fact that the OM-D and 14-42/3.5-5.6 X pancake is personally getting a lot of use lately – this is not far off the X Vario in spirit, if not price (or EVF, or fantastic IS, or tilt LCD, fast AF etc.).

  54. I got to play a little bit with it today at one of the Leica stores in Tokyo, and it was pretty cool. Manual use was surprisingly easy and simple, and the screen was pretty nice. It won’t fit my needs since I shoot a lot in venues and other places where I need the extra stops (and besides, I shoot a lot of portraits where I like to use a shallow depth of field), but as a travel camera or as a backup in a studio setting it might work surprisingly well as the optics seem great. A bit too expensive though, as it is going for 350 000 yen here in Japan (about 3600 USD). I look forward to reading your review.

    • Is the focusing ring mechanical/ with hard stops? That might make it interesting as a zone focus camera. Thanks for chiming in.

      • Yes. The focusing only switches over to manual when you turn the focusing ring beyond infinity and into AF. Its clearly marked on the lens, so its really simple to use. Zone focusing should work well.

        • Interesting – did you get a chance to play with one?

          • Yes, I played around with one for about 10 minutes at one of the Leica stores here in Tokyo. Certainly an interesting camera, especially for use as a backup studio camera.

            • Presumably because of the leaf shutter and lens quality?

              • Exactly. I wouldn’t mind using one in the studio where I don’t need the extra stops as the image quality seems excellent, but as an all-rounder I would rather have a digilux or an XE-1. Just my two cents. I can imagine pros buying the Vario, but its use seems somewhat limited compared to its competitors. Kinda like a Hasselblad, haha. It’s (probably) great for studio work, but you wouldn’t bring it on travel (at least, it wouldn’t be very practical, especially for low-light situations).

                • Actually, I’d see it the other way around – I might travel with something like this and something for low light, but I’d use the proper gear in the studio. If you’re under fully controlled conditions, why compromise image quality?

                  • Hehe, don’t get me wrong, this would only be great in a studio as a backup. If my Leica M suddenly decides to die on me then I can at least get some decent shots without having to buy a second M.

                    • Or you could buy two D800Es for the price of one M with some change, and get better studio image quality…

                    • But I like shooting with the M, so a DSLR is not something I would consider. I’m not only a studio shooter, and I really dislike focusing with a DSLR, whether manual or automatic. I just simply love rangefinders.

  55. Gary Morris says:

    I’m on the fence on this one. I have an M9 and a number of lenses. However, I find I use my Noctilux about 95% of the time because I have grown tired of swapping lenses (a Leica zoom would be nice at this point). I have an X2 and find this to be the ideal grab-and-go camera (I leave it on the dining room table and take it with me on my daily walk around our neighborhood) but sometimes on my walk I’d like a zoom. Finally I have the D Lux 6 because I can slip it into a pocket when we’re heading out the door while running errands or having dinner out (and the zoom is very handy in these situations but I’d like a larger sensor than the D Lux 6 has). I like the idea of the zoom with Leica optical quality but the 70mm f6.3 will take some time for me to see where it fits into my habits (plus I’d have liked to see the tele end more like 90mm f5.6). But as you point out, maybe the sacrifice of speed for superior optics is a worthy compromise. I’ll look forward to reading your assessment. If it’s a positive one, be sure to include a link to B&H (or whatever other dealer) and maybe I’ll click through and buy one to try out. Thanks in advance.

  56. Hi Ming Thein, just a quick question. I am wondering if the Ricoh GR’s snap mode is the same or similar to Leica X1’s Manual Focus mode? Cheers

    • No. The GR’s snap mode allows AF and MF/zone focus at the same time – half press and wait for the box to go green and you’ve got AF; jab the shutter down and the lens moves instantly to the snap distance you’ve set, no AF lag. It works VERY well in practice.

  57. For those that wants a Leica M but can’t afford it but still wants a Leica in his/her arsenal now rather than saving enough money to buy an M in the future….

    • You could actually get an M8 and a couple of Zeiss lenses for not that much more. After talking to a lot of people, I’m convinced that there are actually many who don’t want the hassle of manual focus and rangefinder, but like the idea of owning a Leica – I suppose it’s for them…

  58. I saw the “28-70″ and thought “wow, they’ve updated the Digilux 2!” I loved the Digilux 2. Used to have one and used it a lot.

    Then I saw the 3.5-6.4 and thought, “oh, maybe not”. 6.4 at 70mm? That seems verrrrry slow. The Digilux 2 was nearly a fixed 2.0 (or 2.8, can’t remember exactly) across the range.

    Oh well. Sure the Leica faithful will find a way to deify it!

    • I think the Digilux 2 was 2.0-2.8, but on a 2/3″ sensor that topped out at ISO 400 usable. Now we lose 1.5-2.5 stops on the lens, but gain 3 stops across the board on the sensor in pure noise – net gain, I suppose – but things will have to move on from there. I agree though: 6.3 is very slow, and we’re very nearly at diffraction limits. You’re going to be effectively restricted to shooting 28mm the moment it gets even slightly dark.

      • Yeah. That was the thing which puzzled me. Like you said, they don’t want to lose sales from their real cash cows (the M series, presumably), but they could have surely made the tele end a bit brighter. 3.5 is maybe borderline acceptable at the wide end, but as for the tele…I imagine 5.6 would surely have been acceptable to many people. I think the number 6 (when applied to aperture) might scare off the more serious photographers unless they never shoot in anything other than good light.

        Not that I have any intention of getting one, and having seen (from the post below) that it’s going for 350,000 yen..that’s borderline farcical. Size and usability concerns notwithstanding, you can get a D800 with 28-300 for less than that on kakaku.com.

        • I’m actually wondering whether the narrow aperture affects AF speed more than anything. Undoubtedly the compromise was for size, cost and optical quality; the D800 would be better paired with the 24-85 VR or 24-120 VR than the 28-300 – the latter is good, but not that good.

          It’s definitely expensive; no question about it. An interesting consideration is that it’s the same price as a GR and say DP3M, with some cash left over; the GR has the same sensor and a faster lens and is pocketable; the DP3M might crap out at ISO 800, but you gain 2.5 stops on the lens…or you could get an OM-D and most of the fast primes.

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  1. […] Actually, it wasn’t any of that which caused the consternation visible in the comments on this earlier post – rather, it was the modest f3.5-6.3 maximum aperture, and the stiff price. At $2,850, it’s […]

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