The 2013 Leica X Vario (Typ 107) review

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When the Leica X Vario (Typ 107) was first announced about a month ago, I honestly didn’t quite know what to make of it – though it seemed like a logical evolution of the X line, and a compliment to the M line, the headline spec left most photographers scratching their heads – including this one. It packs the same 16MP Sony-derived APS-C sensor as the X2, a body somewhere between the X2 and the M Typ 240 and a 28-70 equivalent zoom. 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 a solid $850 more than the X2, which has a faster fixed lens, and well into second-hand M8 territory – including a lens. The challenge is one of product positioning: the price is high enough to deter serious photographers from taking a second look, perhaps steered away from Leica’s claims that it’s meant to be a mini-M. The X Vario has the body size of the X2 mixed with design cues from the M (top plate step, thumb grip, chrome D-pad, new 3″, 921k-dot LCD). What I found during my week of use (so far) is that they’re both right and wrong.

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Note: if some of the sample images appear to be a little flat and warm, it’s because of the 700-API haze blanketing a good chunk of South-East Asia and not a processing choice – thanks to the burning forests in Indonesia. Between that and my packed schedule, I’ve been able to complete the usual array of tests and a couple of quick shooting sessions, but not produce anything personally satisfying on an artistic level; camera reviewing has to take a back seat to paid work in order for me to have time to review cameras… Please note that this is NOT a reflection on the camera in any way – though how it deals with the current skies is a good indication of tonal response. I plan to bring the camera to Singapore next week, and will update the review and sample gallery – here on Flickr – in due course.

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Undoubtedly, the X Vario was aimed at the ever-growing segment of the luxury consumer market who are affluent enough to want the best, educated enough not to be satisfied with a half-solution like a rebadged Panasonic, but not quite willing to deal with the fixed lens of the X2, or go the whole hog and actually learn how to use a real M camera properly. To that end, the X Vario has hit the mark perfectly: unlike the Panasonic-derivatives, it feels like a Leica. At first glance, it even looks more like an M-Monochrom than an X2. I’d go so far as to say build quality is a notch above the X2, and at a similar level to the M 240. Interestingly, handling – body size and thickness – are much more like the film Leica Ms than the M 240 is. Leica got all the touchpoints right on this one: there’s solid mass; the wheel detents are positive and tight (the power switch could do with a stiffer detent though, and the aperture/ shutter dials could use a hard stop at either end or a much stiffer detent in the A position); the focusing and zoom rings are smooth and very well damped. Panel fit and overall build quality are befitting of a premium product. Perhaps the only thing that gives the game away are the slightly cheap/ thin feeling plastic buttons and compartment doors, plus the printed rather than engraved markings.

_XV_L1000092 copy Sunset from the studio days ago. Not healthy.

In use, the controls of the camera actually make a lot of sense: it’s one of the few non-interchangeable lens cameras (actually, I can’t think of any others off the top of my head) that allow you to set all critical shooting parameters before you turn the camera on: focal length, focus distance, shutter speed and aperture: assuming you know what ISO you’re in, and have reasonably good ability to guess subject distance and exposure, this is a very, very fast camera for street and reportage work – all you have to do is turn it on, and about a second later, it’s ready to go. You could even leave it in program mode (set both aperture and shutter dials to A) and let the camera decide exposure for you, but still pick focus distance.

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Continuing the good news, manual focus implementation is the best I’ve ever seen on a fixed-lens digital camera, and perhaps the one of the best, period: a detent past the infinity point is AF. Anything before that is fixed-distance with hard stops at both ends. (I believe it’s fly by wire and not mechanical, as you can hear a faint motor-noise when the focusing ring is turned.) Simultaneously, a magnifier box pops up in the center of the LCD, making critical focus a breeze. Even without this, it’s easy to see when thing snap into focus because of the high-resolution LCD; setting sharpening to maximum helps even more but affects the JPEGs (though DNGs are of course left alone). Unfortunately, there are no depth of field scales on the lens barrel – perhaps if the focusing ring was thinner, there’d be space to put an abbreviated stepped set (similar to the Tri-Elmars) between the zoom ring and focusing ring; this would be genuinely very useful. Actually, while we’re on the subject of rings, I found myself grabbing the focusing ring frequently instead of the zoom as it’s closer to the camera, larger, and wider in diameter; it’d be nice to have them reversed in position, and the focusing ring a bit smaller. I’d also imagine most of the camera’s target audience wouldn’t use this control very much anyway – surely it would make more sense to make it less prominent?

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There are some quirks in the ointment that are worth mentioning, however. Firstly, the rear command dial – now integrated with the thumb grip as first seen on the M 240 – doesn’t have an option to be set to exposure compensation by default in aperture or shutter priority modes; you have to first hit the up direction on the D pad which slows things down a bit. The same D-pad’s markings are also silver on silver, which is very difficult to see under most lighting conditions. We also have a slightly odd menu control system: you press the right arrow to select an item, enter the submenu and change the options, and MENU/SET to select – it’s this inconsistency that’s confusing when you’re in a hurry. The center button on the D-pad should have doubled as SET in the menus rather than merely INFO in shooting mode only. The right hand strap lug is about 2mm too low: it digs into the web between your index and middle fingers, especially with the supplied strap. Lastly, be sure to use fast cards: I tried a class-6 SDHC initially, which made the camera stutter when writing and lag noticeably if I chose any of the review modes; all was well and positively snappy with a 90mb/s Sandisk Extreme UHS-1 card.

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The final quirk is around focusing: you must zoom before you focus, because moving the zoom ring after the camera locks will result in clear blurring. (This of course does not apply if you’re using the manual focus ring.) For the most part, focusing speed is fast enough – I’d say perhaps slightly better than the X2, but not as good as the OM-D or E-P5. It slows down noticeably at the long end of the zoom, and you’re probably better off using manual focus here with anything fast-moving; at the wide end, behaviour is quite similar to the Ricoh GR: very fast when there’s enough light, but prone to hunting the moment things get dark. Before you think that focusing doesn’t matter because everything will be in focus with such a slow lens anyway, think again: it does matter, except the difference is usually between crisp perfection and something slightly off. Trouble is, the relatively slow lens means that these little focusing errors can be quite common if you’re not careful in picking your subject and paying close attention to the focus point. The X Vario has a fairly unusual macro mode: it achieves closest focusing distance at the long end of the zoom, instead of the near end; this is actually far more useful in practice as you get both more working distance as well as more magnification and a natural perspective. (There’s a reason why I don’t shoot watches with a 28mm lens.)

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Let’s talk about what is perhaps the most contentious part of the camera: the lens. Though the maximum telephoto aperture of f6.3 is just a third of a stop less than most f5.6 kit zooms, (and probably better in reality when transmission is considered, not just physical aperture) for most people seeing a ‘6’ anywhere in the maximum aperture spec is a bit of a turnoff. In practical use, however, it isn’t that much of an issue unless a) you intend to shoot handheld telephoto at night, or b) need subject isolation. In situation a), the camera defaults to being a 28mm/3.5; not great, but not unusable either, given its decent high ISO performance and low-vibration leaf shutter. You could even attach the optional EVF (the same one as the X2 and M 240) and brace it against your face for a bit more stability. (The X Vario does have the same electronic stabiliser as the X2, but like the X2, it’s pretty much useless. An optical stabiliser would have been much appreciated, though.) Though the camera does have auto-ISO capability, for some inexplicable reason the minimum shutter speed is limited to 1/focal length or slower; this is pretty borderline given the pixel density of the sensor, especially if you’re not using the EVF and involved in run-and-gun type work. I’d have preferred 1/1.5x or even 1/2x. In situation b), all you can do is have a very near subject and a very distant background; the lens’ real focal length is 50mm.

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Optically, things get interesting: both JPEGs and DNGs are excellent, right into the corners. In much investigation, including engineered situations, CA was quite low – though visible occasionally in the corners – and distortion almost completely absent. There was ample microcontrast, but somehow lacks the same overall impression of crispness given by the A, GR; in that sense, the files feel very much like those of the X2. There is some flare at certain focal lengths, too. It’s a very good but not outstanding optic. One thing I did notice during testing was that the lens was consistently a little bit longer than I expected it to be – perhaps 1-2mm – but 28mm was not quite 28mm; from the exact same tripod position, the GR was recording a bit more at the periphery. I initially put this down to manufacturer variation or focus breathing, but then came upon this post by another blogger: apparently, the X Vario’s perfection isn’t entirely down to the optics: there appears to be some software correction going on that affects both JPEGs and RAWs, but some file converters ignore these instructions and yield ‘full’ files that have more at the edges, which are presumably sacrificed for the geometric corrections. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing, but I would like the option to enable or disable. That said, I usually enabled lens corrections in ACR anyway, where they are supported. The good news is that it doesn’t appear to be doing anything to the integrity at the edges of the files.

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I think the lens-sensor combination is resolving about as much as we can reasonably expect; Leica have confirmed that the camera still retains its anti-aliasing filter, which makes sense as for the most part I simply don’t see the same level of pixel acuity as the Coolpix A or GR at comparable focal lengths and apertures. That said, moire presents itself occasionally on fabrics; we must therefore conclude it’s a fairly weak one. Frankly, the camera can really use all the resolving power help it can get; at this pixel pitch, we’re already diffraction limited from f8. Stopping down beyond that may yield extra depth of field, but at the further expense of acuity.

GR vs X vario low ISO Low ISO comparison to Ricoh GR. All shot at 28mm; note the difference in pixel level resolution/ acuity due in the 100% version.

GR vs X vario high ISO copy High ISO comparison to Ricoh GR. Click here for 100%.

On the subject of the X Vario’s sensor, there actually isn’t that much to say that hasn’t already been said before: it’s a similar base design to many other existing cameras – the X2, the D5100/ D7000, Pentax K5 family, Coolpix A and Ricoh GR. Bottom line is that I think it’s probably one of the best all-rounders in the DX size, offering a good balance between dynamic range and noise (related to pixel size) and resolution; anything more isn’t so forgiving to handle in a live-view form factor. There are some slight differences between the different manufacturers’ processing algorithms and color preferences – the X Vario is quite similar to the X2, and noticeably different to the GR and A. As you can also see, the tonal output is also suitable for some excellent black and white conversions. At the basic level, we’ve got a sensor that’s good for 12-13 stops of dynamic range in RAW at base ISO and usable ISOs to 3200 for color, or 6400 for black and white. I wouldn’t go beyond that unless you really had no choice; noise becomes quite objectionable. The X Vario doesn’t seem to handle chroma noise quite as well as the GR; as a result, you see it creeping in about a stop earlier. Coupled with slightly lower resolving power (note the fine text in the 100% crops), I’d reduce those limits by a half a stop to a stop, depending on your end application. Bottom line: image quality is very good to excellent – as expected – and more than sufficient for most uses.

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Reading between the lines, what I think would be really interesting is to equip this camera with an interchangeable AF mount: the body design is mature and well thought out; clearly it shares a good portion of the internals with the X2, and new lenses had to be developed anyway for these two cameras. It would make a lot of sense to extend that to a couple more primes, and add a mount somewhere in the middle of the lens. Of course, compatibility with M lenses would be a given; price it right and Leica could probably claw back a lot of the market from the Fuji X users, as well as attracting new ones. Perhaps such a camera might prove as threat to M sales, but then again, a rangefinder is a different beast anyway, aimed at a very different audience. At any rate, Leica would still make money from lens sales. Then again, I’m just a photographer. I’m sure industry professionals who have been in this business for decades know what they’re doing.

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Plenty of natural competition for this camera comes to mind – the X-E1 (or recently announced X-M1) and kit zoom (and a prime or two, to match the price), Olympus OM-D and kit zoom (or at this price, 12-35/2.8 and a prime or two); and appealing to the same crowd as the Leica, the Hasselblad Lunar. I haven’t used the X-E1 seriously, and personally don’t like the build-feel or lack of responsiveness so I won’t comment; the OM-D is undoubtedly much more responsive, and very nearly matches the Leica on feel. Neither the Fuji nor the Olympus let you set up the camera instantaneously, though, and that’s a Big Deal from a readiness perspective; even though the Leica is slower in every way than the OM-D, power-off-to-shot time was about the same – simply because I could set up faster. Both of the alternatives of course offer interchangeable lenses, which the X Vario does not.

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I’m going to conclude by going back to contemplating the question I originally asked in the post-announcement post – who is this camera really for? Undoubtedly the St-Tropez crowd will buy one to be seen with the latest and greatest; but I can see a lot of street photographers going for it too: the ease of setup/ use, excellent manual focus implementation and convenient variety of focal lengths make a very attractive package; maximum aperture isn’t that much of an issue since a lot of this work is done at f8 or hyperfocal anyway. I don’t know if M owners would buy it as a backup or second body; perhaps; unlike the Panasonic rebadges, this one really does feel like and carry the DNA of a Leica. Though the price is stiff, it’s about the same as another M lens. It would probably also serve as a good all-in-one solution for travel photographers, though you’d need to carry a tripod for lower light situations. As we increasingly move past the point of sufficiency, manufacturers will continue to try filling ever-smaller niches. It becomes more about something you like/ want to use – read my article on haptics and tactility – more than something you need. Is there room for one in your arsenal? Only you can answer that. MT

The Leica X Vario is available here from B&H and Amazon.


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  1. P. Pietruk says:

    Hi Ming, great review and very inspiring images, no matter the light conditions in your part of the world.
    My short question to you is this:
    Now that the X-Vario has been out and about for a bit, the price on the used market has dropped siginificantly, and I am now contemplating getting a new travel camera. Choices are down to the OMD EM1 with a 12-40 and or the X-Vario. Print goals: at least 20×30″ and as someone who manages to get the best from almost every camera/lens combination, I thought I’d ask you which of these two provides the better files to work with.

    Thank you in advance, and keep on taking inspiring images.

    • The EM1, because you gain several stops on the stabilizer – on top of a faster lens. Realistically, it might mean ISO 200 on the Olympus vs ISO 3200 on the XV…

  2. Hi Ming,

    I’m looking for a 75mm~100mm focal length to my street work(I’m currently using Leica Q as my main camera). It’s not for bokeh or subject isolation that I need that focal length, but for composition-distance(most of my pictures are taken between f4~f11).
    Do you think, X vario could be an alternative to Q+dslr 85mm combo, if my priority is not the ultimate image quality but spontaneity(I am not sure if this word makes sense, sorry for my poor english)?

    Thanks for your great works, you’re a great inspiration for me. Oh, and c’est dommage for the Shoot SIN forum. If I knew earlier, I’d have bought my flight ticket for there. It’s Golden Week here in Japan, from 29th April. May be for your next workshop in Japan. No plan for workshop in another city than Tokyo? Thanks again.

  3. Hi Ming, in terms of print quality, which one yields a better out from RAW:the X Vario or OMD-EM5? Thanks for the great review!

  4. I”m Late to the party, however your review was great and helpful. I just recently pick up a Factory XV for cheap and I have fallen in love. It’s a fun camera and gives photos a look that is really hard to describe. I also use a Fuji X100 LE and a X Pro 1 with several great lenses. I thought these cameras were good and they are but the XV Just gives images a distinct look. Thanks for the review.

    • The lens on the XV is much better than the X100 and a good number of the X Pro lenses. It’s not popular because it isn’t that fast, but use it within its limitations and it can produce pretty good results. Better still if you got it for a good price – I think it was probably overpriced by 30-40% at launch…

  5. Alexander says:

    after more than one year using the xvario…… I have to say it is still a great camera!!!

  6. Thanks a lot for your excellent review of Leica X Vario. Question: Ming, are there in fact any good advice as to how to obtain a blurred background with this particular lense-type than using manual setting, using the lowest aperture, 3.5, and getting closer to the subject?

    • Nope, those are physical restrictions – depth of field is inversely proportional to aperture, subject to camera distance and subject to background distance. A faster aperture, shorter subject to camera distance and longer subject to background distance will result in maximum background blurring.

      • …incredibly fast reaction from your end…thanks a lot Ming, and have a fine day…Per

        Sent from My iPhone 5

        My Photos:

        Den 14/08/2013 kl. 11.04 skrev Ming Thein | Photographer :

        > >

      • Hi Ming, I am a late comer for this forum. Can you tell me if this Leica X Vario would accept external flash like the Nikon SB-400? And if yes, do you know how? I tried that at the local dealer but didn’t have time to figure this out. When the flash is mounted onto the hot shoe, I can’t seems to get the flash fired, and the screen has 2 indicators – No flash for the in built flash, and flash for the one attached. I do not think there is an option in the camera to over right this. I could be wrong. Thanks

        • The dealer should have known better. Off brand flashes won’t fire in anything other than full manual (if they have that, the SB400 does not). You need compatible Metz or Leica flashes for TTL.

  7. Iskabibble says:

    This is such an embarrassing camera. Truly embarrassing. Leica should be truly ashamed to produce a camera like this. Canon and Nikon would be laughed out of the market if they produced a turd like this. Thankfully, Canon and Nikon have far more sense than Leica (and Hasselblad).

    • I just not shut up and go?! I don’t care what Canon or Nikon does, or even you do. Just accept that there’s a lot people who likes Leica for its design, quality, image processing, amazing colours and lens, think if you can. I sold my Niko D600 and pro lenses because I am not full time photographer and I can’t cary almost 2.5-3kg. camera, lenses and bag whole day, its too heavy, too big and for street shooting people always notice it.

      I can’t afford Leica M9 yet or can’t pay almost £4400 for M9 and two lens but I can easily spent £2500 for X Vario and I know for some shootings it will be not perfect but I mostly shoot on the street, city and landscapes and for those X Vario is more then perfect for me. I don’t care the lens is slow or not, I care about lens quality and its amazing, leica lens.

      Just go and enjoy your canon/nikon and do not insult us again!

      • Sorry Ming, I sometimes can’t take so much offence and insults from people who not even owns cameras, they just trolling and insulting everyone.

      • Iskabibble says:

        It is Leica that is insulting you, not me. You think this Leica lens is the only quality lens? Really, you should educate yourself better. Read Ming’s site and see how many more options there are out there, with *outstanding* image quality, that can stand toe-to-toe with Leica for 1/6th or less the cost.

        • There are arguably plus points to the XV that aren’t found on other cameras. The lens isn’t one of them, in my opinion. It’s very good for a zoom but not exceptional. Whether the other things are worth the money or not is highly subjective, and down to the individual.

          • Iskabibble says:

            Exactly. I agree that the lens is nothing special. Is it the sensor then? Anything unique there? Unlikely. We are starting to scrape the bottom then, with the remaining appeal starting to come from non photographic directions, such as Leica’s red dot branding.

            Which goes back to my point, had Canon, Olympus, or any other company put out this camera, at this price, they’d be laughed out of the market. Big time.

            • I couldn’t care less about the brand. The one thing that comes to mind is handling. There’s no other camera that lets you set all photographic parameters without having to switch the camera on, so responsiveness when shooting is very fast indeed.

              • Ishkabibble says:

                Fujifilm gives you all that except for aperture. An X-E1 w/ zoom lens is only missing the aperture value on the ring (due to it being variable). Plus, the zoom lens is much, much better than the Leica. So one is paying $1.5k to see the aperture? Insane! Plus you get a very decent EVG with the Fuji, the ability to change lenses, fantastic high ISO performance, etc. The Leica just isnt competitive, At. All.

                But it does have the red dot.

                • You don’t have focusing distance, either. Personally, I’d rather have the OM-D and 14-42 X.

                  • Stephan says:

                    If only Olympus would build cameras with a native 3:2 aspect ratio. Really, I can’t stand the 4:3 ratio, even if I tried hard to accept it, because I like the OM-D. A few days ago I tried the OM-D, the X-Pro and the X Vario at my local photo store. I would have definitely bought the Olympus if it had 3:2 aspect ratio. I liked the handling and fast lens (18-55/2.8-4) of the X-Pro but it had a cheap, plasticky feeling to it. And I was pretty underwhelmed by most of the RAW files I downloaded and played with in Lightroom 4.4. Those from the OM-D and X Vario were much better, especially when I converted them to black and white.

                    So I went for the X Vario which feels and handles really nice and has obviously a very good image quality and is 3:2 aspect ratio. I also don’t like that the lens is slow but hey, pretty much any camera has its downsides and limitations. In the past I made some shallow DOF pictures but the ones I liked most usually had much more in focus anyway. And I have a good tripod for low light work, too. Most of my subjects are static anyway.

                    I think I made the right choice!

                    • Personal preference, I think. You could always set the OM-D to 3:2 aspect in-camera.

                      LR/ACR is not the best quality option for X-trans sensor raw conversion, but the workflow with the other converters is terrible unfortunately.

                • Bobbyg53 says:

                  X-E1 provides laggy motion-blur in its built-in EVF, flat looking watercolor images, and mush for landscape detail. Cheap, plasticy feeling lens barrel on the 18-55. All this built-in for the life of the camera at no extra charge.

                  Not. Back it went.

                • Don’t like the X Vario? Great, don’t buy one.

                  • 99.99% of the people who post negative comments on these forums NEVER BUY ANYTHING. The true definition of what a troll is, and should be ignored not responded to!

                • Ole Larsen says:

                  I got both Cameras. The XE-1 are a little faster than the X Vario. But the zoom on the X Vario are so much better. Clean crisp., and the files. There are really a difference. The files from the X vario are so much bigger and much more clear. The files from Fuji cameras tedend to make some false” Beaty effects” all over”.The Trans X censor is really a problem.I use fuji a lot to landscape but my main camera aR´re Leica X Vario. This Lense are so good, it´s slow , but when you learn to handle it, my god.. In my world Fuji are a camera to make “Sweet and easy good looking picturs” But the Leica is a tool to Photograf with.

            • Given my earlier comment, I shouldn’t comment, but I will. Leica isn’t the only camera brand that plays off “Louis Vutton, Sub Zero, BMW” luxury brand mystique. I use Canon cameras (in addition to the Leica M series cameras). Leica has its Red Dot, but don’t kid yourself, Canon is playing the exact same game. Do you think everyone who buys a Canon L series lens is a professional or has the skills to take full advantage of the lens? I suspect there are plenty of buyers who are attracted by the off white lens body with black trim, or the red circle around the outer portion of the lens. Like the Red Dot, these lenses also makes a statement on the street. One thing is for sure, they don’t guarantee excellent photographs from someone who lacks the necessary skills.

              As for your observations about the Leica X Vario, I don’t disagree one bit. I am not a big fan of cars, but the Leica X Vario strikes me as nothing different than the bottom of the line models manufactured by Audi, BMW, and Mercedes. Those cars are marketed to people who like the status, but don’t or can’t pay the price. In my mind, you are getting a Volkswagon with a slightly fancier interior, but you are paying a premium price for it. If you are a car nut who loves and appreciates cars, you buy up the line, which is why in mind, you either buy a Leica M class camera or you look elsewhere.

              But once again, and this is what puzzles me about camera forums, why should I care what other people do? If people gain satisfaction and utility from a Leica X Vario, fine by me.

              Jack Siegel
              Chicago, Illinois

              • bobbyg53 says:

                Jack – the relevant automotive analogy is this: the Leica M and Leica X series are two entirely different product lines (rangefinder body vs. autofocus with fixed lens) within the same brand, like a Ford F-150 pickup truck vs. a Ford Mustang passenger car. Yes, the M and X series are equipped with shutters and imaging sensors, just as the F-150 and Mustang are equipped with steering wheels and engines. One has nothing to do with the other as far as “buying up or down the line” within a brand.

                FYI from the forums, many X Vario customers appear to be new to the Leica brand altogether and are “downsizing” from non-professional Nikon and Canon DSLR’s because, they say, that the XV offers a relatively small and light all-in-one solution while offering appealing imaging quality. They never considered Leica rangefinders, at all.

                • Thank you Bobby. This insulting post of others really getting me sad.

                  • David:

                    Today I talked to my mother who has a serious illness. Last night I talked to a friend who lost his job last week. Both conversations made me sad. Sorry to make you sad, but may I suggest that there are far more important things in life to be sad about than a comment on a camera forum that meant no harm, but just reflected a point of view that apparently differs from yours.

                    Jack Siegel

                • My car analogy was in reference to the following post:

                  “Exactly. I agree that the lens is nothing special. Is it the sensor then? Anything unique there? Unlikely. We are starting to scrape the bottom then, with the remaining appeal starting to come from non photographic directions, such as Leica’s red dot branding.”

                  The author’s red dot reference in this context suggests that he is referring to the Leica cache. Many others have made reference to the Red Dot and luxury branding on other forums as a way to make derogatory references to the purchasers. My points remains true. First, other manufacturers have engaged in product differentiation and some buyers are more interested in the status that comes with that differentiation than the tool. Second, manufacturers of luxury goods often segment the market, by developing more affordable entry level products. In my experience, if you are interested in what first attracted people to that brand, you are better off buying what the brand is known for rather than the entry level product. I haven’t used the X-Vario or some of the other cameras that are referenced with it, but I would be reluctant to buy a Leica camera that was not a rangefinder or their DSLR model. I think you are paying a premium that probably isn’t justified in view of the other alternatives out there. If you want to buy the X-Vario because it serves your needs, whatever they might be, please buy one. In fact, as a Leica rangefinder user, I like these new products because they help assure Leica will continue to be in business, assuming people buy them.


                  Jack Siegel

                  • bobbyg53 says:

                    Must have missed something that perhaps you can help with . . . name the “other alternatives out there” that are as compact, autofocus, with a fixed zoom lens that delivers competitive build, haptics, and APS-C imaging quality to the XV.

                    Many XV customers are apparently happy to dump their DSLR’s & bag-of-bricks (lenses) for this all-in-one that delivers the build, haptics, and imaging quality they want and could not get from any other brand before. Canon, where art thou?

                    • My observation was a simple one: In my experience, when you buy at the low-price point of a luxury or premium brand, you often don’t get what made the brand famous and desirable–you get a label and a an item that is largely comparable to what other less high end producers are selling, but at a premium price. My observation was not a criticism of anyone who buys Leica or another luxury/premium brand, it was simply an observation about marketing practices and luxury brands. I really couldn’t care less why anyone buys a particular camera. If those who buy the new X-Vario are happy and find it serves their needs, fine by me. Moreover, my observation was a response to those who were saying the camera is no good, so some buyers must be buying it for Red Dot cache.

                      As for showing you alternatives, it comes down to my perceptions and needs. Since digital photography was introduced, I have wanted a full frame camera with interchangeable lenses because that is what I had on my film camera. For that reason, I group all the other higher-end non-DSLRs in the same category. They are smaller, but each has its own deficiencies in terms of what I want. These include the Sony RX-1, Olympus OM-D-E-M5, Fuji X-E1, and whatever other similar cameras are out there. You will undoubtedly argue that these cameras are not similar. Yes, they do have different features. But to me they are similar in that they are all aimed at professional and serious hobbyists photographers who are looking for a smaller footprint than provided by large DSLRs, but equivalent image quality. I have looked at each of them and read the reviews and concluded that they don’t meet my needs. I suspect that the next generation of the Olympus might, permitting me to add a smaller camera with a zoom lens to my bag when I want to travel without the weight of a DSLR and the lenses.

                      You apparently are far more into equipment specs than I am given your reference to sensor type. If that interests and entertains you, great. I simply don’t care about specs. I look for three things in a camera: weight, full frame, and interchangeable lenses. All of the above referenced cameras and all the DSLRs and medium format digital cameras are capable of producing excellent photographs. At this point, I think there are very few photographers who can push the limits of what is currently out there. So, in the end, the decision to buy a camera and how anyone perceives a camera is a very personal decision. Now you know how I think about it.

                      Different viewpoints can co-exist peacefully. Feel free to respond, but I am done with this thread.

                      Jack Siegel

              • Dear Jack,

                Which camera you own?

                • Canon 5D, Mark III; Leica M9; and Leica MM. I got started with Canon EOS film cameras. My wife owns a Canon point and shoot. I find that the Canon and Leica camera kits work well together. When I want to shoot macro or concerts in big venues, I like the Canon. For travel and walking around, I like the Leicas. They are much lighter and compact, so I am more comfortable and less noticeable.

                  Oh, one more thing. I am long out of the dating scene, but I have to say women seem to notice the Leicas, as was the case with my old Hasselblad film camera. Too bad my wife doesn’t like me to date. However, for younger photographers of both sexes, this may be an added consideration in your purchase decision. Cameras with Benefits.


                  Jack Siegel

                  • Haha, that last bit is hilarious, Jack. If I’m using one of the more serious cameras I’m usually too focused on shooting to care much about the audience…

                    • I would just as soon be left alone, but people just stop and want to know. Sometimes it works out great. This past Friday I had a guy in a food truck who asked me if that was a Leica. I wanted to photograph him because he was in very interesting light. Once I spent 5 minutes talking with him about cameras, he went back to work serving customers and was happy to let me make all the candid shots I wanted.

                      Jack Siegel

                    • Can’t say that’s ever happened to me, but hey, if it lets you get the image, why not? After all, that’s what it’s all about anyway.

              • But once again, and this is what puzzles me about camera forums, why should I care what other people do? If people gain satisfaction and utility from a Leica X Vario, fine by me.

                And that’s the advice I’ve always been trying to give: buy whatever makes you want to go out and shoot.

      • Everybody is entitled to their opinion, but please keep it civil or I’ll have to close comments on this post.

      • Ming Thein runs an excellent website. It excels by addressing some interesting philosophical questions. So far, it has been noteworthy due to the civility and thoughtful discussion engaged in by all participants. What has been particularly notable about it is the absence of the sort of insults you are now hurling. Mr. Thein wrote a review. If you disagree, fine. Don’t buy the camera, but insulting people who buy Leica products (or any other products) is not helpful and makes this moderated forum (which is what it is turning into) like all the other camera forums on the internet–boring places for people who engage in one one-upmanship.

        For the record, I use Canon and Leica products. I like my photos. That is all that matters unless you have clients and then their opinion counts, too. You use what you like and I hope you like your photos. Mr. Thein’s reviews are a bonus if you like reviews, but they are just one datapoint among many.

        Jack Siegel
        Chicago, Illinois

  8. f3.5… I just can’t believe it. It is completely beyond me how Leica could put on such a slow lens. Many cameras have a fatal flaw ( to meet my requirements) and that is it as sure as a micro sized sensor. I shoot in the forest and at night and that lens is too slow, just kills the possibility for me. I am very sad. 😥

  9. Very thorough review, beautifully illustrated. As a current X2 user, and having recently been on a trip where taking pictures was the central (or nearly so) activity, having had the zoom (or at least the extra focal length) would have made it easier to get closer to some of my subjects. Thank you for a marvelous set of insights.

  10. I think Vario is a mis-step for Leica. They should have given Vario the lens from Digilux 2.. this would be much better, and a VF.
    Digilux 2 is still used today and is still a timeless camera on its own. Leica is just playing with Fujifilm which is getting its clients in this arena. If on the other hand Vario had the bright lens f2.0 – 2.4 and build in VF it would create something special.
    Leica missed it and lets not try to sugar coat it. I am 100% sure that the selling figures for this will be very low. If I have to decide between X2 and Vario I would get X2 any day. Leica X2 is a smaller factor, brighter lens. You want a Zoom … use your legs 🙂
    Doing any picture indoors with Vario vs X2 I pick X2, would you?

    I really do not get Leica. They did created a great consumer camera with Digilux 2. It should be easy enough to repeat it with
    X2 sensor. This would be a killer camera.

  11. harold miller says:

    Another great review, thanks Ming. Always in my top 10 goto on new cameras!
    My only point of disagreement is the OM-D. Lovely build and great AF (if quirky menu system). Had it for a month and did not like the quality I was getting. The kit zoom was soft soft soft. With some Panasonic primes it was much better but the pixel level detail never impressed.

    So I didn’t think much of the X-Vario, on paper (i.e. the web) then I saw the pictures and yours and Sean Reids’s review.
    Then I went to have a look at one in person.
    I think Leica cover these things in cr@ck. I just fell in love.
    Its totally different in person then seeing a picture on the web. It just feels so beautiful and well made.
    The control system is amazing.
    I wanted a lighter camera to compliment my system cameras + lenses. I was almost sold on the X100s until I saw this.

    Anyway the X-Vario is now my new companion during the working day!

    Good looks, great pictures and pleasurable use, and that’s just you Ming 😀

    • I think you were using the wrong lenses on the OM-D. That thing has better acuity than the XV…

      Completely agreed on XV handling though; it’s excellent. Enjoy the camera.

  12. Hendrik M. says:

    One question remains: can it do high speed sync with flash? Like 1/500 sec or 1/1000 sec

    • Didn’t test it, sorry. Not what I’d use the camera for.

      • Hendrik M says:

        True, some of my friends called me crazy ’cause i’m lugging around lots of lighting gear while using M9 😀
        Addicted with low ISO result can make u look a little bit crazy sometimes

  13. Thanks a lot for another valuable review, Ming!
    I can’t help myself, I like this camera. If it only was a 28 – 35 – 50 at constant f4. I would instantly start saving money, as it would be my favorite for traveling.
    While the Lunar is a hoax, the XV is genuine at least. And we shouldn’t forget that Leicas don’t really compete. Who wants a Leica usually couldn’t care less for a Sony, even a Sony RX1r. Same with watches, cars, etc. There are only few people who want the fastest car, but most of them go, or would go for a certain brand.

    Cheers and thanks for your efforts, Ming.

    • That sounds a lot like the MATE.

      The Lunar isn’t a hoax. I’ve got one on loan right now for testing the Zeiss Touits. I’m not sure I’ll review the camera, though…

      Not so sure about watches: true watch nuts aren’t picky and can appreciate pretty much anything. I know friends who’ve got $200,000 minute repeaters and $50 Seikos; they wear both with equal pride.

      • Hm, that would mean it isn’t a rebranded Sony, or at least Hasselblad engineers did some sensor tweaking.
        Sure, the true watch nut doesn’t buy watches because of status quo. But the overwhelming majority does.
        The MATE? I hope there wasn’t a misunderstanding, I am not a Leica fanboy, I am happy with my GRD and I do wear my Seiko Spirit with pride. My point was just that the XV is something new and fills a (small) niche, while the Lunar is like buying a Toyota and putting Ferrari Enzo wheels on it.


        • It is a rebodied/ rebranded Sony, as far as I can tell. But I haven’t used the NEX7, so I can’t say for sure if there are any differences.

          I only suggested the MATE (Mid-Angle-Tri-Elmar) because it’s a 28-35-50/4 step zoom for M mount, which sounds precisely like what you are looking for…

          • Gosh, I have to apologize. I know the Elmar and would love to be able to use one. With “MATE” I somehow thought you meant the Sun… – guy with whom you argued yesterday. I thought you meant the british “mate” ironically. Silly me.
            I was just so into that weird conversation you had with that rude person.
            And with “hoax” I didn’t mean that the Lunar doesn’t exist.
            I guess I have to improve my too “germanized” english.
            However… Have a nice day and again Sorry!


  14. John.A.Jones VI says:

    Quite politic, M. Thein. f/6.3? I can see a scantily clad bedmate of an over-fed Russian oligarch wielding the foolish toy somewhere in the south of France, photographing her gold-toothed, rotund parents on their first trip away from the old sod.

  15. Megatron says:

    Thanks for the review! Seems quite unreasonable for $3000. Build quality can’t really affect the images, and that’s the sole purpose of this device. Would be good to see how portraits turn out, as a 6.3 aperture at the 70mm-equiv length doesn’t afford great DOF. Lens sharpness may be great, but most of the pics will be noisy at the ISOs required for many indoor shots. Seems very much like a rich man’s toy.

    • There’s pleasure in usage, too. But whether that’s worth $3k is down to the individual…

      • Iskabibble says:

        Why stop at $3000? Why not make it $6000? At what point do we call out Leica and expose them for the frauds that they are? This camera is a joke, an offense to anyone who values fine equipment. It is not the price that is offensive, it is the total lack of justification for this price? I have spent $2200 on lenses, but they are lenses that demand such a price, lenses that do things that no other lenses can do, anywhere.

        • Well, nobody is asking you to buy it. And if you’re offended, perhaps it’s better to contact Leica…there’s nothing much I can do about it.

  16. Reblogged this on huluneger.

  17. Very well written well balanced review Ming!
    Choking haze did not help you!
    Great pics!

    • Thank you. It did not help at all…sore throat for the last few days, which is no doubt a consequence of the particulates in the air.

  18. Hi Ming,

    One more question: Did you tried X Vario at night or low light on the tripod? I’d like to use it this way on my trip in Italy and no matter which camera I will have, I always use tripod at night to get best results. ISO 100 and shutter speed something 8s or more will be very interesting how good images X Vario will produce.

    • No, that wouldn’t be my first choice of camera for that kind of work.

      • Thanks Ming, this is why I holding back for X Vario. I think I will go for M9 but for city, architecture and portraiture, also for landscapes (not much) I can’t find some versatile lens, maybe I need one 28mm and one 50mm. Leica Summicron 50mm f2 lens is very amazing and also Zeiss Biogon T* 28mm f2.8, its large lens and what I read it blocks M9’s viewfinder but will o I hope.

        • Not a big fan of the Biogon; I didn’t like its drawing style. The 2/28 Summicron is better, 2.8/28 Elmarit ASPH is pretty similar but a lot smaller. I’d go with the 2/50 Planar over the 2/50 Summicron, though.

          • I can’t afford 28mm Summarit, because I also need one 50mm lens 🙂 Its real dilemma to choose Summicron 50, Planar 50 or new Voigtlander 50 f1.5 Nokton. I hope Elmarit 28mm also acceptable because used one almost same price as Zeiss Biogon 28mm.

            • Planar and elmarit then.

              • Yes, that will be more better choice I think because Planar has best bokeh if I am not wrong. Elmarit 28mm and Zeiss Planar 50mm f/2 will be great start with M9. 🙂 Thanks Ming again, I am very much appreciate your advice! 🙂

      • Hi Ming

        Can I ask why you wouldn’t choose this camera for night + tripod work. Considering if you are shooting static objects with that setup as the OP stated it seems like the XVlens at 24mm f8 would produce amazing results. In your opinion what is a good setup for such a shot? Thank you for the unbiased review, it’s very much appreciated.

  19. Very well balanced review. I think the X-Vario is a camera that would satisfy 90% of the photographic needs of most people (and even most serious photographers) in a relatively compact package. I like it a lot, especially the fact that Leica knows about shuttertime and aperture is great. The relatively slow aperture is not much of a problem to me, since my photography needs all the DOF it can get. So it would be locked at f11, shuttertime at 1/30 of a second and I would vary only the ISO…..(or let the camera take care of that with auto ISO….up to 800 I would be okay). Above it I would be in trouble.

    Now that is why I actually would prefer the OM-D over this beautiful machine (the first digital Leica I Leika), an that is the 5 axis IBIS….I can go as 1/5 of second with a 90mm FF equivalent lens (at f9) shoot 4 times and nail a shot (at least one). Now the Leica can’t do this since it’s IBS is not up to par to the OM-D (but nothing is in fact that is my experience).

    Greets, Ed.

    • The IBIS buys you at least two, sometimes three stops over the 1/fl rule – consistently. That plus the small, fast primes make your shooting envelope much larger than that of the Leica.

  20. Stephan says:

    I had the chance to play with the camera today. I feels indeed very solid unless you release the flimsy pop-up flash. And how is it possible to use the manual focus while holding the camera at arm length? I found no half-way stable way to do so.

  21. Funny, the camera was released in June when f 6.4 or higher ISO will not be so much problem. This is not coincidence….Most people were expecting f2.8 all the way, some dreamed of f1.8-2.8!!!! Maybe Leica will get next camera right. Great review.

  22. Jean Pierre says:

    Thanks Ming for that review! Well done and “honest”!
    Maybe for allaround Leica D-Lux6 would be a better choise instead of X-Vario at the time now! Maybe in the future Leica will try a better lens with 1,4 or 2,0 aperture on the X-Vario2!
    Both have outstanding image quality, that is very good!

    • Gary Morris says:

      I have the D-Lux 6… great little camera. IQ is very good if you don’t push past ISO 200. However, remember it’s a very small sensor camera and sometimes I’ve been disappointed with the quality of fine details (for instance, my M9 will resolve text in a menu from a block away while the D-Lux 6 probably will not). But having a pocket-size camera that can do f1.4 is a nice travel companion.

  23. Hello, do you recommend the lens hood? How you set sharpening and nois reduction in LR 5 for basic ISO (100-max400)
    Thank you very much for advise…..

    • Would probably help as the lens flares as noted in the review. I don’t use LR, but would leave NR off for low ISO and sharpen in PS.

      • Alexander says:

        thanks…. how would you set the in camera setting regarding colour, sharpening and WB to get closest look to M 240? The RAW files look good, put the jpg are flat….. sometimes I like just jpg…. how would you set for fine B/W? Thank you very much for all you effort……

  24. Ming,
    I previously read your X2 review and now this X Vario review. Having handled both, is the Leica X2 still a good choice compared to the X Vario?

    I know they are different beasts, but since a number have stated that they would only use at 28mm anyway, the only real obvious extra is HD video (which I have never used video any way).

    • Depends if you value video over size, or mind having a fixed 35mm FL vs the zoom – otherwise they’re pretty much the same camera. The XV has some other incremental improvements like the focusing ring, rear thumb tab and LCD; sensor is the same.


    Hi Ming,

    Excellent and very clever as usual.

    I was a X1 and X2 user and I bought a LEICA X VARIO. I could not resist to the “look and especially feel”. The body is absolutely gorgeous and the design and ergonomic are just great. It is maybe a little bit heavy. Much more heavier than the X2 indeed.

    As you can see, I am a Leica X serie user and it’s true I don’t really like the M. I bought a second hand M9 but I kept it one week and sent it back to Leica store Paris. It was so heavy and I didn’t like neither the telemetric system nor the LCD.

    The size of this new X body is just perfect. I hope Leica will keep it for the next generation of X camera wether with a fixed or M mounted lens.


    • Thanks – enjoy your new camera!

      An interchangeable mount is where they could really do something attractive for more photographers, but it remains to be seen if it’ll happen as I think it will affect M sales.

  26. M 8 Guru says:

    Hi, dear friend,

    I fully agree with you that the files taken with the X Vario are superior to those taken with an M 9.
    However, as I have checked quite extensively, the M 8 files are better than those of both cameras.
    With the X Vario getting surprisingly close, though.

    Kind regards,
    M 8 Guru

    • Errr…superior for what? B&W, I agree. Being smaller, yes. Resolution, no. High ISO performance, no. Color accuracy, no. Having more latitude for postprocessing, no.

    • Yeah I’m going to have to agree with Ming. I have been an ardent M8 shooter (both my bodies are in need of repair) and I just rented and ME for a few days and in that short amount of time I could see a huge gulf between the two. I have always been unhappy with the M8s color reproduction (everything looks like it’s being lit by tungsten even in the middle of the day) but the M9 has none of those problems and the images come out much sharper. I own a X1 as well and the X series definitely has its advantages over the M8 especially in the color department. Of course there is no shallow depth of field with these point and shoots under normal shooting conditions so the M8 will always have a place in my heart. On that same tangent I don’t know why all the hate for the XV, it’s not like you are going to get any reasonable Bokeh with the X1 or X2 at 35mm so it’s no big surprise when it comes to the Vario and no shallow focus. At least with it you can shoot portraits at 75 mm and get some isolation, something that’s not possible with the first two cameras.

  27. Tom Liles says:

    Well done and thanks for going out in the haze and smog for us Ming. Agree with Eric about the pictures.

    #4 Sunset From the Studio… This scene is a kind of classic. If we’re allowed to have classics so early into the site’s lifespan 😉

  28. Hi Ming, good review well balance. Regarding the aperture of the zoom, it’s true that 6,3 does not look fantastic. From your experience do you think that most of the brand are publishing precise specs, meaning a 5.6 is a real 5.6 or might be close to 5.8
    I guess, at least I expect, that Leica is not cheating with their specification.

    • Hah – most of the time, f5.6 is closer to T8. You might want to read this article on F stops vs T stops.

    • I know for me personally it’s not the difference between f5.6 and f6.3 that’s the problem. It’s the fact that we’re used to only seeing f5.6 on inexpensive kit zooms. DSLR users are used to having constant f2.8 zooms and even mirrorless users are seeing much faster lenses. The nicely-sized and optically very good Fuji XF18-55mm is f2.8-f4.0 so there is a certain level of expectation already.

      Please don’t think I’m comparing the new Fuji lenses to Leica lenses. That’s not my point. I’m simply saying that Leica have shipped a lens slower than other manufacturers “kit” lenses–not their faster zooms–so the issue is not one of how much faster f5.6 is than 6.4 because for many users f5.6 is unacceptable in a lens like this.

      It does appear though that the X Vario lens is excellent in the its own right. Different marketing leading up to its release may have saved Leica a great deal of negative press.

  29. I think the sample photos turned out great.

  30. Have had one of these for two weeks now and love it. Have taken some still shots in medium light inside a church at 3200 and they came out well. Even stopped some action of children and they too came out well. Your review was excellent and well-tempered. I had a Sony Rx100 and returned it because despite excellent image quality, the menu and dozens of options were maddeningly complex, ditto for the OM-D. Like Microsoft Word, they were always presenting me with options that i hadn’t called for. The XV is simple, well-constructed and lets me concentrate on shooting. I’ve also had the D7000 which I loved, but sold after a couple of years of use because of my advanced age and its weight. Right now, I have a M9 and the usual trio of lenses that I use in certain events, but sometimes I just want to go down to the river and shoot along the banks, then do shots of some of the passing boats and it’s at times like these that i want a zoom. For this, the XV is excellent, without the hassle of changing lenses on the M9 and worrying about dirt on the sensor. It’s just a well-constructed, simple-to-use pick-up and go camera that in most circumstances will give you beautiful results. I’ve also done a few shots inside with it using a dialed down sf-24D and those shots too came out fine. And last week, took some jpeg shots in b&w out in a park and they too were beautiful. Thanks for your review.

    • The RX100 and OM-D need to be set up properly once, then you almost meet go into the menus again. But when you do need to change something, I can agree that it’s maddening.

    • Hi Al,

      You have no idea how helpful your comment was for me. Thats what I searching for, real time user, who writes real things. Of course Ming did good job for overall review of this camera but, comments like yours much more helpful for me. Thanks a lot. 🙂

      • You’re welcome. Guess I’m always in search of the optimum mix of simplicity and good imagery.

  31. Another helpful, balanced review Ming. Have you been following the Fujifilm X series firmware update improvements, new bodies and lenses (not asking you to review, just asking the question)? Price vs. Performance makes these Leica prices feel more like “members only” positioning than for honest performance and engineering (just my opinion). Ultimately, like a putter for golf, if you like the handling and knowledge you have the best tool to get the job done, your results should make the investment, or savings worth it, of course…

    • Yes; the X-M1 looks pretty interesting. I’ve requested a review unit, but like every other time I’ve done that with Fuji, I’m not expecting anything to come of it.

      • I put in my pre-order as a business travel/backup to my X-P1… saying goodbye to my Sony RX100 once it is delivered. Love the whole Fuji X series approach, quality and controls/UI… like my iPhone, it gets better periodically without even having to purchase new hardware (coupled with your online teaching classes that I am taking)! Thanks Ming!

  32. Great review, Ming. I have been on the fence about what camera to put in my bag for general use, and this review actually makes it more difficult for me to figure out. Do I keep using a Sony RX-100 for grab shots? Or an RX1 for better quality? Does the camera need to fit in a pocket? Or a small bag? Or around the neck? SLR? Replaceable lens? Fast lens? Zoom lens? My head is swirling with so many options. I am a wildlife photographer and guide by trade, yet I do landscapes and walk city streets quite a bit (does that make me a streetwalker? ha).

    • I’ve found the OM-D, 14-42 pancake, your fast prime of choice and a GR to work very well for me. You could replace that with your mirrorless preference and another large sensor compact. Lack of size makes it very easy to walk for extended periods of time without much of a compromise to image quality.

      • This is not first time I heard about OM-D and 12-42 lens. To be honest I don’t care what logo the camera have, If I buy a Leica I have to cover red dot anyway, because I hate when people looking big brands because its very large Nikon or Leica or any other. I know OM-D with lens is much cheaper then X Vario or M9. The problem is when I reading and searching I always found out images from OM-D and Fuji looks more dull and flat, thats why I holding to not think more about OM-D option. Do I loose much if try OM-D instead X Vario?

        • Ultimately the photographer makes much more difference than the camera. How you have it set up and how you postprocess matters too.

  33. As usual. a thoughtful and incisive review of a camera that is difficult to easily “define”. The images are quite impressive Ming-however, one suspects that you could use almost any camera and get great images! It is good to know of the build quality, and to know your opinion about the build quality of other cameras in the same general “space”. Also, the speed of the lens does not appear to be a limiting factor for many who might be interested in using the Vario as an all in one “travel camera”-but I believe that relatively few might be willing to carry a tripod for the occasional low light situation.

    Thanks for taking the time to write the review. I look forward to your comments after you have used the camera for another week or two.

    Incidentally…including the Hasselblad Luna was a bit of a surprise…..:}.

    • Yes and no – if I can’t make my usual standard of images, I’ll either spend longer on it, or if it has fundamental limitations, note that too. The GH3 was a good example – I spent a solid week trying to make that camera ‘work’ for me, and I just couldn’t. It wasn’t the image quality or performance, just the UI logic and ergonomics. To spend anything longer is impractical because I have a business to run and clients to serve.

  34. Great review Ming! I need your opinion if possible. I am looking to buy X Vario but I still searching and trying to make best decision. If I buy X Vario than I will not shoot in low light, children (movement) and like this. If I save up little more and buy used Leica M9 and new Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Nokton lens how better that will be? X Vario with EVF is almost same as used M9 and Voigtlander 50mm, I still can’t decide because If I go for M9 I know a long time I will not afford any other Leica lens and any other primes like 15mm or 70mm.

    What do you think? 🙂

    • The M9’s sensor is worse, and you’ll have to focus manually. You can’t really compare the two; I think by this the Vario is probably better suited to you.

      • Thanks Ming! You saying FF M9 sensor is worse than X Vario’s? I never thought about it before. I don’t care about manual focusing, its better for me when I had D600 with 50mm always used manual focus. I will think about it.

        • The M9 uses sensor architecture from 2005, similar to the M8.

          • Yes, right. Thats too old, you are correct. Thanks

            • Tom Liles says:

              Hey! nothing wrong with old sensors David!! Don’t give up so easily 🙂 I took my Epson R-D1s out today [after all the CCD/CMOS talk the other day…] that’s a camera from 2007 with a sensor from 2005. I took 200 pictures. Without even trying. And they all look great. Great, really. 3000px by 2000px. Blow them up on the big iMac panel which is 1600 px across [showing its age too, but still decent]… that’s PLENTY! The newest, biggest iMac panel is 27 inches across and 2560px; the R-D1s can still fill that. Can you imagine printing to any size bigger? I don’t know about you David, but I’m not printing for billboards, I’m not even printing, just putting stuff up on Flickr for the hell of it. I only need 1500px any dimension MAX.

              With an older camera you’ll have to live with foibles; but if Leica was on your list [digital Leica] this can’t be a deal-breaker for you.

              It could be that you need tons of dynamic range and top top ISO performance. But I doubt it; again, if Leica’s on your list, then this can’t be a critical priority: this is all great for you because it opens up a ton of options. Most of them older, most of them reasonably priced—EXCEPT the Leicas! I really was interested in an old M8 or M8.2, someday… I’m on the fence now. I periodically drop by used stores in Tokyo and on rare occasions I go to the Leica floor to see what I can see; handle a few Ms, handle a few lenses. I saw two M8s yesterday: one 8.2, one 8. Both black. Guess how much? 350,000 JPY and 250,000 JPY. Bodies only. Not mint, by a mile. This is STUPID. Stupid stupid stupid—stupido! Two weeks ago I bought a Nikon D3, repeat Nikon D3, a camera that changed everything — has PEDIGREE — a camera that shoots AMAZING color into ISO 1600 and WOW THAT’S GOOD color into 3200 and beyond; it’s an aristocrat, a warrior poet, a camera that goes through the door first, that walks into a room and everyone stops what they’re doing. Camera shop staff stand bolt straight to attention when you saunter in cradling a D3. And I found one with only 7000 shutters on it. It costed 200,000 JPY. And that was highballing it. 160,000 JPY is more like fair [I paid 184,000 in the end for mine]. I’m not complaining about market economics. What people are prepared to pay decides these things. But don’t be people. Be a savvy consumer…

              You don’t mind not having cutting edge ISO, dynamic range, sharpness. You don’t mind foibles. You don’t mind older cameras. Be savvy—you don’t need to pay through the nose for the newest thing out there [which seems completely lovely but state of the art isn’t the word, I’m sorry]. This approach doesn’t take your feelings into account; and I’m no one to hold forth on that. I buy on something like 100% whim [calculated caprice, I call it]. So go for the M9 if it feels right; but I’d say “red light,” David… unless it absolutely has to be full frame, digital rangefinder [and then there is only one choice]. Unless that’s true, then I’d stop and look again. There is a PLETHORA of amazing stuff within your budget. You might find something better than M9s, better than Vario Xes. If you do: great. If you don’t: great—you’ve exhausted all the possibilities, arrived the best possible choice, reaffirmed your first choice and have all the research to back it up. Any snarky sarcasm from anyone about your selection can get kicked to the curb, short and sharp.

              Be interesting to hear what you go for.
              [So I can live vicariously through your purchases 😀 Actually, I think that’s why I like gear reviews as much as MT’s think-pieces; I can pretend, through Ming, to have held and shot and briefly been in possession of the latest and greatest.]

              There are a few nice “inspirations from older cameras” articles on here that might interest you. Just interest you, I’m not saying go out and buy a camera that’s featured on the roster. But they put the current stuff in perspective—especially when you look what MT could get, with old cameras, back then.

              • OMG Tom! 😀 Thanks for this wonderful inspiration! 🙂 Really!

                I sold my D600 and few very great and expensive Nikkor lenses and looking something more passionate and of course full frame. I can’t afford Leica M and I don’t think its time for me to spend so much money for M and Leica lenses. I was thinking to buy X2 or M9 and then Leica announced X Vario and I waited.

                Now, to be honest I can get M9 for £2500 used, almost 50.000 shutter actuations and brand new Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Nokton lens or X Vario £2150 with EVF which is additional £380. Almost same amount of money.

                I know M9 has very very amazing sensor, great dynamic range but its still very well used camera, I am not talking mint condition M9, I am talking used M9 and little warring how long it last. I also know M9 and X Vario is very different cameras to compare and then choose and I also not looking one because red dot or very well known world brand, no I just need to use it and enjoy like I using apple macs more then 10 years (you will understand what I trying to say, you also have mac) 🙂

                I didn’t give up yet, still thinking. I have very bad habit of perfection and because of that I know I will not be very happy with Voigtlander lens and will start to look for Leica lenses and thats what I don’t want to happens 😀 X Vario has very great Elmarit lens which is much better then Voigtlander. Thats my dilemma Tom and I still don’t know what to do. 😀

                • Tom Liles says:

                  Toughie. Failure is an option David, always remember that. You can sell on, consider the price delta you rental price [and lesson fee some good experience]. I’m still quite new to cameras, but this is my general approach to purchases.

                  I think I know where you’re coming from on the lenses; but I’d just say to see the differences between Voigtlanders and Leicas you’d need a very high powered sensor indeed to resolve that. This doesn’t even take into account what happened in post processing. And yet again where the images were viewed: real life print? Net jpeg? full bit depth Raw/Tiff on calibtrated screen etc., etc.

                  I’m a perfectionist too. Maybe not a perfectionist, but certainly particular. I think this site attracts a lot of us—I was very relieved to read the words of Haplo the other day: he said he’d rather not be carrying and miss the shot altogether, than carry something he knew was a compromise [even slighty] and get the shot—but always have the nagging feeling it could have been better if he’d had the d800 in his hand.

                  I feel exactly the same way about my wife’s lasagne. If it’d just been me making the sauce, it could have been perfect 🙂

                  OK it’s three in the morning in Tokyo. Time to sleep! Cheers David, best of luck.

  35. David Lemieux says:

    Wonderful, well balanced review as always. I look forward to reading you writings every morning. My sense is most buyers of the X-Vario are those interested in day time photography and ultimate build quality. Not those looking for a luxury name.

    • Thanks David. You definitely pay a big premium for that build quality; to me the bigger gain is the level of control that’s available before turning the camera on.

  36. hi ming, which would u choose between sony rx1 and the x vario?

  37. Another fair and balanced review Ming. How does the output quality (at best ISO for both) compare to the RX100?

    • Thanks – definitely a cut above in both sensor performance; noise and dynamic range gain a stop or more; real resolution is about the same. And lens quality is definitely much better.

  38. Great review, thanks. I’m thinking about the X-Vario as a backup for my M9. The price is hefty as always – but then: it’s the price a Leica lens costs …

    • It would also make a good compliment because handling is similar, and it can be always ready to cover the other focal lengths which aren’t on your M9 at the time…

      • Yes, this way it could really make sense despite of it’s quirks. Does the lens really have the Leica-signature? I cant’t see it in the pictures above, because they have the Ming-Thein-signature 🙂

        • I don’t see it either, to be honest. Part of it is in the bokeh, and you almost never see it with the aperture being what it is.

  39. Ron Scubadiver says:

    No eye level viewfinder, slow fixed zoom, and a high price. Good controls and solid build don’t make up for that. Someone will buy it just because it says Leica on it. I would not even want to be seen with one. Thank you for the comprehensive review and some interesting photos.

    • Guillaume says:

      Build quality, historical background, good design and ergonomics and tactile quality can be important purchase criteria for some customers. I guess that is why we don’t all wear Plastic electronic CASIO watches.

      • Ron Scubadiver says:

        I don’t wear a watch because I have a mobile phone. Mechanical watches are a luxury for those who want to show off, but the true luxury is not having to be on time. Historical backgrounds and tactile quality don’t take pictures. A Fuji X-E1 has an eye level viewfinder, a much faster interchangeable zoom lens, good ergonomics, solid build and costs only $1,200.

        • True luxury is to not always have to carry a mobile phone 😉 This whole price debate…of course a car for 1000 $ can also bring you from A to B, and a chinese watch for 5 bugs can show you the time, and a mobile phone for 50 Dollar should have more functions than most people need to talk to other people. Personally I see the price-value ratio for a vario x much better than that of an I-Phone – just for example. Of course the Fuji has a lower price and is a good camera as well, and there are many other good cameras which have a lower price than the Fuji. Some even have an optical viewfinder.

          • Tom Liles says:

            Hi Tom, another Tom here 🙂

            I think you mischaracterize the nature of the choice here—we’re not talking Chinese watch versus Rolex when we talk Fuji X (say) versus Leica Vario X… I don’t know watches — perhaps Ming would offer the appropriate analogy — but if it were cars, it’s more like Audi R8 [Fuji] versus Alfa Romeo 8C [Leica]. Or something like that. The Alfa has all the flavor and history [were winning races before Ferrari was even a twinkle in Enzo’s eye] and all the, what is the best euphemism?, all the idiosyncrasies, with an eye watering price tag that makes the choice as good as senseless to most.

            But people do buy 8Cs and people do love them.

            You concede that the Fuji is a good camera. But I think it deserves a little more charity. The Fuji is an amazing camera; completely let down by its post-capture workflow. Other than that, I can’t see where it’d fall down? Why is the comparison set up, a-priori, as the Fuji having to equal the Leica? If it’s impartial, why not frame it as the Leica being behind the Fuji [or whatever brand it is] until proven otherwise? This point is rhetorical. I work in advertising and I know the answer already [and my industry makes gazillions of dollars on it].
            The optics — tricky topic when Leica is involved in the comparison, as we’re literally dealing with your brain playing tricks on your eyes — but Fujinon optics are hard to hold issue with, in my view. I don’t own a Fuji and I haven’t ever used one [except in a camera shop]; while this isn’t just going off what camera reviewers say, I am going on word of mouth: that of the cinema/TV industry. Fuji’s big glass is literally legendary. A DP I admire, Vince Pace, shot AVATAR with Fujinon; the list goes on and on [almost endless if you include ye olde films and TV]. I’m happy to put EBC optics against Leica in a bench test [hopefully done by computers who have no idea what “a Leica” is] and would be confident that — if we take things on your price-value ratio — the result would be overwhelmingly in favor of Fuji. There are only two other factors left, in my view: the sensor; the haptics. The X-Trans is obviously a step forward: I haven’t seen anyone pan the color rendition and acuity. The haptics are strong, blow for blow with Leica there, I’m sure.

            So the only thing between them is rendering style and, yes, brandname. Two utterly subjective areas.

            There’s a famous saying: you get what you pay for. I work in branding an my rule #1 is: you get what you think you pay for.

            [I don’t see it as altogether “bad” => I’m not a computer that doesn’t know a “Leica” is]

            P/P/S Note that I didn’t write “you think you get what you…” Subtle but HUGE difference

            • Hi other Tom,

              Please don’t get me wrong but I was today at store and played with Fuji – OMG! Its so ugly, when I held it I had no more interest how this camera performs or how it feels in hands. Thats it. My relations with Fuji ended today. No offence.

              • Fuji is AUDI R8? Now I am offended. 😀

              • Tom Liles says:

                Totally get it. I have tried and tried and tried to fall in love with the Fuji (X100s / XE-1 / X-Pro). But I just can’t. Same as you; the minute it’s in my hands, the little voice in the back of your mind says “no.”

                But as far as the objective positioning of all the controls? No, you can’t knock that and it certainly matches the Leica blow for haptic blow. I do know about Leicas, as I told you, I periodically visit the Leica floor at a used store here in Tokyo and always do the same thing: M9-P, M8, M6, M3, back to the M9-P… usually spend about 45minutes to an hour in there. The staff know me [and are ICE COLD to me]—oh for God’s sake, here’s that tyre kicker again, etc. Half the reason I bought an Epson R-D1s was pure guilt factor [the Epson R-D1s and Voigtlander Bessas are all on the same floor with the Leicas, though they call it “the Leica floor.” Again, working in branding, I know why they do that!] A very happy [lucky?] purchase that was too 🙂

                I’m guessing the Fuji is a Reliant Robin in your view? Maybe a Lada 2107?

                [That link was a little close the wind Ming. First time and last, don’t worry]

                • The Fujis are probably more like Honda Civics: competent, but a little soulless. I say this only because I used to own both.

                  • Tom Liles says:

                    From Audi R8 to Honda Civic. Oof!

                    But still, if the Fuji was a civic—the Leica is a…?
                    [cue Jeremy Clarkson analogy]

                    P/S please don’t waste your time answering that Ming. I’m just rambling.
                    [everyone else is welcome to waste their time answering]

                    • Tom Liles says:

                      /turns around, walks back in through the door to say:

                      The Audi R8 is soulless [in my opinion], by the by, that’s why I chose it.

                      /leaves for second time

                    • Ah, but have you driven one?

                      I made the mistake of testing a Lotus Exige S240 the other day. I really, really, really want one. Good thing it’s five years old now and semi-affordable. Gotta go find things to sell…we only need one kidney, right?

                    • Morgan?

                    • Tom Liles says:

                      No. Got as far as sitting in the cockpit and turning the ignition. I’m the worst judge in the world of these things though; forget soul, forget history—with me it’s…

                      1) Mmm, shiny
                      2) It looks cool => it is the best thing… IN THE WURLD

                      Ah, Lotus are really getting their act together. Especially having a go in Asia it seems: we have three showrooms [that I know of] in Tokyo alone. They’ve always had great cars, ruined by a “men in tin sheds” attitude to flogging them. Perhaps that’s good, in a way, but I’d rather have a strong brand that sells and keeps people in a job, maybe creates a few more, than the pride of being “authentic” on a shoestring. By the same token; I DON’T want to see them go the Jaguar/Range Rover route. Especially RR: please not that.
                      Yes, you only need one kidney Ming; two eyes are optional and teeth can be simulated… these are easy choices; the real cruncher would be: F2Ts, SWCs, Hollywood Biogons (distagons? I can never remember if it was the telecentric formula or the other way; and can never remember if you had one or not) etc… Lotus in this hand, lovely cameras in the other, hypothetical situation, which do you give back?

                      The Leica is a Morgan? No, that’s pretty good actually—maybe the Vario X has a similar effect on people tothis?

                    • You forgot #3: it has to go well sideways, because in JC’s world, nobody ever drives in a straight line.

                      Lotus frankly appears to be on the verge of bankruptcy. Between mismanagement and a rather indifferent attitude by its current (unfortunately, Malaysian) owners, I’m afraid it’ll all be game over soon. The worrying thing is that they don’t seem to be interested in selling cars…service is terrible, people never call back, and you honestly get the impression that they’re doing you a favour. Not good for business.

                      It’s all academic anyway; the one F2T I own and couple of Zeiss lenses (SWC went back, it was defective) wouldn’t even come close to a second hand Lotus here. Hence the kidneys. I need the eyes, though.

                    • Tom Liles says:

                      Well I got that about as wrong as you can get it on Lotus! Shame, sounds like they’re well into TVR territory. The real shame is because the cars are brilliant [he says never having driven one].

                      Yes, the cameras and lenses would be the down payment [if that]. My hypothetical was that cameras and cars were interchangeable. But I don’t know, looking at price lists for medium format stuff, I think you could get to the price of a modest sports car like a Lotus quite quickly if you put your mind to it… Certainly with Leica. Two MMs and some top of the line Leica glass? I’d rather have the five years old sports car [this is on UK prices; for Malaysia, Japan, etc., it’d be more like four MMs…]

                      The real question you didn’t answer in the review:

                      10x Leica Vario Xes; 1x Exige S240?

                      [If it were a JC production, we’d probably blow everything up with a Dillon aero gatling gun sprayed from attack copters, see what survives, to get the answer. Then set the remains on fire and try again, just to be sure.]

                    • The problem is, gear is revenue-generating for me. I can go to a shoot with a Lotus, but I can’t do the shoot without my lenses, which really makes the whole thing academic.

                      Modest? Not with our wonderful government-imposed 200% tax…

      • Good points. It’s obvious that there are some things that logically make no sense to others–like wearing a mechanical watch that is very likely less accurate than a $10 quartz. Or using fountain pens instead of rollerballs. Some people appreciate the beauty of the internal engineering–much the same as cameras. I wear mechanical watches and enjoy them immensely. I also work from home and rarely have face to face interaction with the public. Showing off has absolutely nothing to do with my enjoyment and when you wear simple designs from brands like Fortis, Oris, or Hamilton the public has no idea that they’re even mechanical. Like we’ve seen here–some people will never understand this.

        The same is true with cameras. For some the IQ is the *only* thing. For others it’s some ratio of IQ and cost. And yet others must have a camera that is physically and emotionally enjoyable to use and will even sacrifice a bit of image quality or pay more for the same level of image quality to get that enjoyment. That is baffling to some people so they wrongly assume it must be some flawed personality trait.

    • No problem.

  40. Excellent review, as always Ming.

    What I’d especially like is the distortion-free wide angle. A completely different beast than the Ricoh GR, but the Ricoh’s 28mm are substantially distorted. Might be Leica’s glass or, as you say, most likely some in-camera processing. If only the size of the lens…

    • Thanks Dan. It appears there may be some software correction going on…but hey, if it does the job, why not? I’d apply it anyway in PS.

  41. Hypothetically, if a lens like the 24-90 Vario Summicron f2.0 — from the Lumix LX5/D-Lux 5 — were to be scaled up to APS-C capability, I wonder how large it would be, and what size of camera body would it require? Of course the Leica lens from the LX7, with the f1.4 would be delicious, but practically, even a f2.0 Vario Summicron would have been great. Hence, let’s talk some physical sizes here. Everyone claims it can’t be done because of the effect on size, but realistically what are we looking at? Something the size of a D800? But that’s an interchangeable DSLR. Surely a fixed-lens f2.0 24-90 would result in something smaller than a D800.

    • Just look at the size of say the Nikon 17-55/2.8 to compare – then make it even larger because of the max aperture. You’d then shrink a little because it doesn’t have to be a tele centric design, but zooms are still larger than primes…

  42. Hello Ming
    I am still not sure what to make of this camera myself but your review has put a lot of things into perspective.
    One small correction: “you must zoom before you focus” only if your composition involves both. Of course the camera will let you focus and take a picture without ever touching the zoom ring but you are right that changing the focal length may affect the focal plane in this lens.
    It only comes to mind because your prose is so precise and enjoyable, thanks for yet another memorable review.

    • It will likely be out of focus if you AF first then move the zoom, at least that was my experience.

      • What I meant was that your wording (“you *must* zoom before you focus”) implies that zooming was mandatory to achieve correctly focused images, which is not true and likely not what you wanted to say.
        “If you zoom make sure to focus again before taking the shot” may be less elegant but closer to the truth.

        • Paul Stokes says:

          That would depend on whether it is a varifocal or parfocal lens. It is most likely to be a varifocal lens in which case yes if you change the focal length you must refocus the lens.

  43. Bobbyg53 says:

    Brilliant review and accurate insight on potential X Vario customers. You described my wife and I! We tried and returned an X2 because we did not want to sink that much money into a fixed focal length camera, but otherwise liked everything about it. Tried and returned X-E1/18-55mm because of dim EVF with motion blur and “plasticy” feel. OM-D/Lumix 12-35 far too bulky and heavy. We would never be customers for a rangefinder camera.

    X Vario is the perfect point-and-shoot for us with just astoundingly good OOC jpegs to our eyes, easy to handle, and easy to shoot. We feel that for the price, we got an X2 with 28, 35, 50, and 70mm lenses and a better value proposition to us than the X2 with a fixed focal length. Completely happy with that complemented by our RX100. Thanks again, we look forward to your further work!

  44. Steve Jones says:

    Yes, another well balanced review. Thanks for the hard work Ming! Leica could sell me this camera if it had interchangeable lenses. I could even forgive them the lack of a finder. At this point in Leica product history that old argument that it might hurt M sales is getting awfully tiring and frustrating. For those of us who have invested a good deal of money in M lenses already and own an M body we really want to be able to use them on a second camera . The market is there, the X-Vario simply needs an M mount, so really..What the heck is Leica’s problem? I happily bought the OMD instead of something like this and I can bet that a lot of smart photographers will do the same, so Leica loses sales. I guess their market is NOT sales but exclusivity.For me this is a great looking, nice quality camera that misses the mark once again because of it’s built in limitations. All that money, no finder, poor low light capability, no M lens compatibility. These are not trimmings but pretty essential features. I even rate the Nikon V1 higher than this in terms of usability!
    Leica will get my attention and money again when they build that digital CL that they seem to be hell bent on avoiding, but I’m afraid my lifespan and picture taking opportunities may come to an end before they get around to it.
    Leica made this for a target market? Probably. The arrow misses the mark for me.

    • Thanks Steve. ANY mount would do – that would make a VERY interesting solution and a good entry point for aspirational buyers…add some nice primes and you’ve got a solid option for travel photographers, too. I wonder if they’re worried about M cannibalization because of AF…

      • Himalayabear says:

        I believe that a Leica Mini M should be an XV sized body + M Mount + built-in EVF + APS-C sensor which is optimized for all Leica lenses with 39mm filter size. Leica M Mini really should be a “compact digital body”. Existing lens such as Summicron 35 or Elmar 90 will fit into the body size so nicely, not to mention APO Summicron 50 😉 The body price should be no more than $1250. Leica could also introduce a new line of compact lens (filter thread 39mm): top quality optic with aperture of 3.4, modern looking design with no finger tab nor square fonts, priced similar to Zeiss ZM. Such a Mini M set up will attract new Leica users. For hard core Leica fans, they will likely buy this body from B&H then buy old 39mm filter lenses from eBay. Leica M should have no autofocus, no zoom either, since they are never Leica’s strength and fun!

        • It makes sense, but I think Leica are worried about cannibalizing M 240 sales.

          • Hendrik M says:

            Leica shouldn’t, because M240 have full frame sensor and rangefinder while X only have APSC sensor. The wider you want to get, the more expensive the lens (50mm cron on full frame vs 35mm cron on APSC sensor to achieve similar angle).

      • I assume the idea is to keep it simple. If they had interchangeable lenses, the firmware becomes more complicated. I am not a technical person, but I am always reading about distance between the opening and the sensor. With a built in lens, I assume they don’t have to worry about that. I assume the lens is not detachable, which means simpler construction.

        In any event, as an M and MM user, this camera doesn’t interest me. I think you are paying a premium for the Leica name and probably can get pretty close in quality with other cameras at much less cost, but if people want to buy it, fine by me. At the same time, the same can probably be said of the digital M class cameras. Of course, your photos may be the best advertisement for the camera.

        Nice review.

        • Yes and no. Mount-sensor distance isn’t an issue if the lenses are designed for it; look at NEX and M4/3 for a good example.

          You’re definitely paying a red dot premium – question of whether there’s value there or not is very much down to the individual.

  45. Serpent says:

    Already used for 3 days. Enjoy when used it.

  46. Thanks Minh very thoughtful review, as always.
    I am planning to buy one as my take-with-me-most-of-the-time-camera as soon as I am back to NY. My reason is pretty simple – i want camera that makes me concentrated on the blending with a grove, rather then fill my head with tens of possible body/lens combinations. And in reality, there is no competition in the segment – you either go with bulky prime, or compact kit-like zoom lens with very questionable quality.

  47. Very interesting review, thanks! It’s good to see some balanced write-ups on this camera after the torrent of negative comments at its announcement. Still not something I’d be interested in. I think you covered the Leica alternatives nicely.

    BTW, can’t the Fuji X series be completely setup to shoot before turning on as well? I guess that’s only true with the prime lenses though for aperture. That is a very handy ability–you’re the first reviewer of the X-Vario I’ve seen mention it.

    • Thanks. As you say – only on the prime lenses, and only on the X-Pro.

      • Perhaps I don’t understand what you mean about the Fuji XE-1 not being able to be set up to shoot before being turned on.
        With a prime lens mounted, how does the XE-1 differ from the XPro-1?


        • My bad. I thought the X-E1 didn’t have a shutter speed dial. Then the X-E1 and X-Pro1 can also be set up before power on, EXCEPT the lenses lack focusing scales so you’re still at the mercy of AF.

          • Very good point about the focus scale as well. I wish Fuji would put one on their lenses plus their in-camera scale is very conservative. I understand one reason it’s conservative is because of pixel peeping and the old focus scales being from the film days. I think what is considered “in focus” or “sharp” for most people has changed going to digital. It used to only be seen on limited size prints but with PS and LR we’ve becomes overly critical from looking at images blown up to enormous dimensions. If your lens scale tells you it should be in focus but you go 1:1 in PS and it’s not perfectly sharp a lot of inexperienced people would probably be griping online and returning “defective” lenses. Better to save themselves the hassle and make the in-camera scale ridiculously conservative.

            • It’s great for street photography – there’s almost no lag if the camera is already on.

              Nothing wrong with the in-camera scale being conservative; the physical ones are woefully inadequate for really high density cameras like the D800E. Ricoh gets it right with the GR, though.

  48. Gary Morris says:

    Well done review. Thanks. I like the idea of this camera the more I consider it. Since most outdoor shooting is done at f5.6 or f8 (or even f11), the lens speed is a minimal issue. As a backup to my M9, this might be much more useful than my X2 and it’s fixed 36mm equivalent; the idea of a ZOOM Leica lens is very appealing (at the end of a day of swapping lenses on the M9, this camera would be a blessing!). My only remaining “concern” is the equivalent focal range; 28-70. I’d have preferred the 70 stretched out to 90. Just my 2¢. Your b&w conversions are excellent!

    • Thanks Gary!

      • Gary Morris says:

        Steve Huff wrote in his review of the X Vario that his hand (palm?) would accidentally activate some function of the silver-colored selection wheel on the back of the camera while holding the camera with his right hand… did you experience anything similar?

        • No. Maybe he has larger hands?

        • Bobbyg53 says:

          Gary – neither my wife nor I have had any issues with “palming” the silver controller on the back either with her smaller hands or my extra large hands. XV is easy to handle and easy to shoot for both of us.

          • Gary Morris says:

            Thanks very much for sharing! And you’re happy with your choice? Would you recommend the X Vario to family and friends? I plan on trying this out at a Leica Store just to be sure I like the feel. Again, thanks.

            • Bobbyg53 says:

              Yes, see our comments below @ June 29 3:30pm. We had already tried a number of other products so knew what would feel right when we found it. It received the required “WAF” (wife approval factor) instantly due to size, feel, ease of use, and stellar OOC image quality. Neither of us have ever spent this much money on a camera purchase before, and we have no regrets.

              • I think my wife has given up trying to keep track of mine. Most of the incomings these days are review units anyway. 😛

              • Gary Morris says:

                Great testimonial. I’ll keep it in mind when I test the X Vario out at the L.A. Leica Store. Thanks!

                • Bobbyg53 says:

                  Gary, FYI we hold the XV one of two ways when shooting. I prefer using the Olympus VF-2 EVF with the EP-2 eyecup. This setup keeps my nose off the camera back, provides more hand and finger room, and generally balances the camera nicely with the weight of the zoom lens as I hold it.

                  My wife uses the neck strap and rear screen, pushing the camera body away from her eyes putting firm tension on the strap. She gets 1/8 second hand-held shots with no blur this way. We find that a leather half-case improves our grip on the body, too.

                  • Gary Morris says:

                    I have Leica’s version of the EVF (I use it with my X2 — I think that if I end up with two Leica cameras that take the EVF, I’ll buy the Oly version next; save some $$$). I’ll test the camera using the EVF which is how I’d use the camera should I buy the camera. My eyesight is too crappy to rely solely on squinting at the little LCD on the back for framing and composition. Thanks!

        • Alexander says:

          never happen me

    • FYI another report on the X Vario at Luminous Landscape –

      • Gary Morris says:

        Thanks for the heads up for this link! I usually check the LL web site weekly and I guess I just missed this one. His comments more or less mirror other mostly positive comments from people who have actually used this camera (i.e. Bobbyg53 above).


  1. […] high quality primes (GR, Coolpix A, X2 etc). There are also some good zooms – the RX10 and X Vario come to mind. The higher end of this spectrum tends to perform very well indeed; the GR’s […]

  2. […] ich das Drama im stillen Kämmerlein (wie so oft) verfolgte, liefen mir immer wieder solche guten Fotos über den Weg. Deshalb versuchte ich, mich von der leidenschaftlichen Diskussion etwas zu lösen […]

  3. […] for exposure compensation or program shift. The lens continues to use the excellent system from the X Vario 107 and X Typ 113 – manual focus with automatic magnification if you turn the ring, with AF at a […]

  4. […] changes aside, it’s worth noting that the focusing ring from the X Vario has been adopted here – you get a distance scale, that brings up a magnified centre the […]

  5. […] essence, the T appears to share the core technology from the X2 and X Vario – same 16MP Sony-sourced APS-C sensor, without anti-aliasing filter; mid-sized mirrorless body […]

  6. […] high quality primes (GR, Coolpix A, X2 etc). There are also some good zooms – the RX10 and X Vario come to mind. The higher end of this spectrum tends to perform very well indeed; the GR’s […]

  7. […] develop it. Not long ago, my desk had three cameras for review/ testing on it (the Olympus E-P5, Leica X Vario andSigma DP3M – none of them were DSLRs. I now routinely travel without one; in fact, most of […]

  8. […] develop it. Not long ago, my desk had three cameras for review/ testing on it (the Olympus E-P5, Leica X Vario and Sigma DP3M – none of them were DSLRs. I now routinely travel without one; in fact, most […]

  9. […] The 2013 Leica X Vario (Typ 107) review ( […]

  10. […] Ming Thein X-Vario Review […]

  11. […] Leica X-Vario habe ich in Action bereits im Urlaub sehen können. Ein tolles Teil, wenn auch viel zu teuer und […]

  12. […] Leica Zoom time now! The new Leica X Vario Type 107 has been reviewed by professional globe-trotting photographer Ming Thein. […]

  13. […] Added on 6/29/2013: […]

  14. […] Erste Erlebnisse mit der Leica X Vario Das Review von Ming Thein The 2013 Leica X Vario (Typ 107) review – Ming Thein | Photographer __________________ Karsten Photographierst Du schon oder kaufst Du noch? Digilux […]

  15. […] When the Leica X Vario (Typ 107) was first announced about a month ago, I honestly didn’t quite know what to make of it – though it seemed like a logical evolution of the X line, and a compliment to the M line, the headline spec left most photographers scratching their heads – including this one. It packs the same 16MP Sony-derived APS-C sensor as the X2, a body somewhere between the X2and the M Typ 240 and a 28-70 equivalent zoom. 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 a solid $850 more than the X2, which has a faster fixed lens, and well into second-hand M8 territory – including a lens. The challenge is one of product positioning: the price is high enough to deter serious photographers from taking a second look, perhaps steered away from Leica’s claims that it’s meant to be a mini-M. The X Vario has the body size of the X2 mixed with design cues from the M (top plate step, thumb grip, chrome D-pad, new 3″, 921k-dot LCD). What I found during my week of use (so far) is that they’re both right and wrong.  […]

  16. […] Re: Leica X Vario Report Ad Another review of the Leica Vario X The 2013 Leica X Vario (Typ 107) review – Ming Thein | Photographer […]

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