Jonathan Slack talks about the Leica X Vario…


Jonathan Slack talks about the Leica X Vario…

In case some of you missed it, Jonathan Slack has put up his thoughts on the Leica X Vario as he has been testing one since Christmas. I have to admit, the colors and sharpness look quite nice. Take a look at his report HERE. He also shows it side by side with the X2 and it is quite a bit larger. I have heard from a few who have used the camera today that the AF is on the slow side but not as slow as the X1. If Leica would have made this with a built-in EVF and a 2.8 zoom, it would have been a hit. As it is now, even with the beautiful IQ that seems to come from it, the price is too high IMO. But take a look at Jono’s thoughts as well as his photos and see what YOU think.



    • “The image quality from the Leica X Vario is brilliant! For all its failings, the image quality from the Leica is really commendable — thanks to the APS-C sensor and an excellent lens. Leica was right on the money when it claimed “this combination is a world’s first and sets completely new standards for imaging quality in this camera class. The resulting exposures show outstanding brilliance…””

      “The X Vario delivers beautiful colours that Leica is renowned for, and this is one area where the lens absolutely shines. Even complex colours such as red and purple are rendered with fidelity, and this is one area where even leading brands sometimes struggle.”

      “The lens is tack sharp across the field, only losing a smidgen of sharpness in the corners at the wider end. The sweet spot of the Vario Elmar lies around f/8, but even at f/5.6 the performance is already pretty incredible. ”

      “lens, it is actually brilliant performer!”

      “Forget about grabbing the decisive moment with this camera – it is just too slow.”

      One criticism always aimed at Sigma Dp was it was only a good light camera for static subjects.
      Same for Xvario.
      I just feel if Xvario was constant F2.8 which is easily possible given how small the 2004 Sigma 18-50mm f2.8 445g max length 85mm filter 67mm.

  1. I’m sorry to say this, but the images i have viewed so far from the vario, don’t look “bitingly” sharp, if you are seeing the fuji 18/55 as flat, you either don’t know how to shoot or need glasses.
    The best thing about the fuji, is the images have a lot of 3d iq, there are examples all over the net, that are “bitingly sharp”.
    While im sure it’s a great camera, it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny so far. I wish it did frankly.

    What a crying shame!!!

    • Ah, yes, the kids love playing video games with their 3D glasses on, too. I didn’t think to wear them when looking at those beautiful Fuji pastel cartoons. No wonder they looked flat!

      p.s. did you check out the “Review: Leica X Vario Defies Naysayers with Impressive Optics”? You won’t need to wear your 3D’s when looking at the X Vario shots.

  2. I am an avid reader here, and I actually bought the X Vario, before Steve’s review and despite the negative rants from folks who never used the camera. I am not at all disappointed. In fact, I am blown away by the outstanding image quality.

    Yes, the lens is slow – just like the 12-50 kit lens on the OM-D and most DSLR kits. But you cannot judge a lens just by numbers. The sharpness, color, microcontrast and “pop”… WOW! It’s a real Leica lens with that Leica look (and I am not talking about the red dot as eye candy). This is a true Leica lens that zooms. It is sharp, edge to edge, across all focal lengths. My OM-D and RX100 photos appear quite flat next to those from this camera. This camera really excels outdoors. The bokeh is so creamy (when it’s there).

    The camera hunts in very low light. The manual focus implementation is excellent however. The auto focus, while not OM-D fast, does not otherwise get in the way (if you’re not shooting sports).

    Leica set people’s expectations way too high with their “mini M” comparison. It’s a different beast. You have to judge it for what it is. It does have alot of the M’s gestalt in its simplicity and feel.

    It is not a low light monster (duh), but it certainly is usable (with manual focus). Outdoors, where I take most of my photos, it IS a true Leica and it excels. I had a D-Lux 5 and while I loved the output, there is no comparison. I have an RX-100 that is faster and more agile in low light. That little Sony really holds its own. The X Vario gets by in low light with its larger sensor and has noticeably better microcontrast (I would hope so).

    The Fuji X series are nice cameras, but this lens really is in a different league from their offerings, despite the rather slow lens aperture.

    I started on this GAS journey thinking X100S, Coolpix A, Ricoh GR, maybe RX1, but I went for the X Vario. You can’t always zoom with your feet, and a bitingly sharp short zoom is better than none, for me anyway. And it’s true what they say about Leica glass and the Leica look. Mmmmmmm…..

    Regarding price, I asked myself, “Is this camera twice as good as the OM-D (that I previously sold, because I liked, not loved it)?” The answer for me is “Yes”. For me, it’s all about the glass. The output from the X Vario really has “pop” and truly stands out. I reckon the camera will hold it’s value well enough (just like my D-Lux 5 did) so I can sell it if this turns out to be merely infatuation and not love (or before a smaller, faster version is announced).

    I love your website, Steve, and I look forward to your review. I am heading on vacation to the Amalfi coast next week (bucket list vacation) and hope to bring back many keepers with this beauty. (That’s why I bought this before your review.) I will have my RX100 for low light backup and as something truly pocketable

    • I would be interested to know indoors, Non daylight 70mm f6.4 the high iso needed & the minimum shutter speed needed to keep the shot non blurred.

      • So I took Paula to a dimly lit bar yesterday. I had the auto ISO set to 800 & the min shutter at 1/8 sec. I don’t want to sound like a fan-boy, but shooting at 70mm (f/6.3) I was once again blown away by the sharpness, color, micro-contrast and zero noise from the photos at 1/8 & 1/10 sec. Only 1 out of 7 photos I took was blurred. Granted, I was photographing stationary booze bottles and a taxidermied fish on the wall. The X Vario does have computer-based image stabilization, which seems to work well enough.

        (Btw, the flash can always be programmed to subtly fill in enough light to still have natural looking scenes at much higher shutter speeds, and the noise appears controllable on higher ISO’s through 6400 without flash.)

        Being balanced, however, it really is different strokes for different folks. The OM-D is half the price, has an amazing image stabilization system, touch screen and tiltable LCD display, and EVF. It also has some sweet lenses. To me, however, the output is still flat compared to a Contax G system with Zeiss glass or Leica (German) glass in general. Ditto for Fuji’s X series or Sony’s Nex systems.

        Despite the OM-D’s and Fuji X systems’ versatility as an ILC you cannot put an optically perfect Leica 28mm lens on it and have it keep the 28mm perspective anyway. (it would be a manual-focus-only 1.5 or 2x equivalent lens and would probably be imbalanced on the camera with a clunky adapter.) Besides, that lens alone would likely cost more than the X Vario and I simply cannot afford FF Leica glass, and you’d need to buy 3 Leica FF lenses to have the versatility and optical perfection of the X Vario’s zoom (albeit less versatile in low light at 70mm).

        I never expected to fork out $3k on ANY camera, much less one that really will struggle with stopping action in a bar (or restaurant). Every camera is a compromise. I felt a fixed prime X100S, RX1, Coolpix A or GR would be too limiting for me. While their output is excellent, the X Vario’s zoom lens / sensor combo just blows them away, literally, not on a graph, but in my soul. It really has that Leica magic that I never thought I could afford (and you have to see to believe).

        Btw, I am not filthy rich but ended up falling in love with Paula and so I decided to sell some large items on ebay (that I liked, not loved) to pay for this camera whose output I love (under most of the circumstances that I will use it). I hope this is helpful.

        • “So I took Paula to a dimly lit bar yesterday. I had the auto ISO set to 800 & the min shutter at 1/8 sec … shooting at 70mm (f/6.3) I was once again blown away by the sharpness, color, micro-contrast and zero noise from the photos at 1/8 & 1/10 sec. Only 1 out of 7 photos I took was blurred. Granted, I was photographing stationary booze bottles and a taxidermied fish on the wall. ”

          If you have the time i would be interested in same shooting condtions photographing people.
          I am as before assmuing will need at 70mm f6.4 iso3200 to get 1/45, 1/60th to not have blurred people.

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

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

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

      p.s. we also have an RX100, drive a Honda Accord and CR-V, and shop at Costco and Walmart.

      • ” we don’t need a constant f2.8 for our outdoor daylight photography.”

        Daylight photography is such a limited range.

        “the Fuji X-E1 w/18-55mm… The combined weight and girth of an E-P5/Lumix 12-35mm combination is significantly heavier and larger”

        Leica cameras are supposed to be weighty giving that solid feel.

        680g (including batteries)
        133mm wide
        95mm long including lens
        Body 35mm
        Lens 60mm at 28mm, 70mm at 70mm

        Fuji X-E1
        350g (including batteries)
        129 mm wide
        Body 37mm
        XF 18-55 f2.8-4
        70mm length, filter 58mm

        420g (including batteries)
        122mm wide
        Body 37mm
        12-35mm Lumix F2.8

        Sigma 18-50mm
        f2.8 445g
        max length 85mm filter 67mm

        (Digilux2 with its 69mm filter lens
        705g (including batteries)
        135mm wide
        103mm long
        Digilux2 widely felt to be one of the finest handing digital cameras).

  3. I think Leica is being reasonable by not pandering to the forumners’ unreasonable demands. f2.8 constant zoom? Really. How big is that sucker going to be then? Given the body dimensions (they probably wanted to keep it the same footprint and thickness of the X1/X2), I’d say Leica achieved their design objective admirably. So now you have an X2 with zoom lens that is identical in feel, yet easier to grip compared to the poorly designed Sony RX1 with its cramped handgrip due to the massive lens size to body size ratio.

    • My Digilux 2 has a zoom covering the same focal length as the X Vario, but it comes with a Vario Summicron, f2.0 to f2.4. That lens has a filter size of 67mm. To cover a 1/2.3″ sensor. Imagine if you scaled up that lens to cover an APS-C chip. Still think anyone would want to lug that abomination around with them?

    • 86mm 18-50 f2.8 Sigma (quality lens)

      Xvario body non image stabilised, thus lens needs decent light, else high iso & digital noise.

      Digilux2 i had 90mm f2.4 in dusk, indoors non daylight iso400, necessiated shutter 1/15, i had to do continuous three shot to get one not blurred.
      Xvario 70mm f6.4 dusk, indoors non daylight iso 1600 1/15th, or iso3200 1/30th.

      Remember f2 remains f2 light gathering whether in 2/3″ or apsc or ff .

      To see the high isos Xvario would necessaite in low light we can test a Panasonic Lumix DMC-F5 f3.2-6.5 (which has image stailisation that we can tuirn off)

  4. I wrote this on the Ricoh Thread

    “An ex BBC photgrapher friend of mine who has fallen on hard times
    i said to my friend as soon as i have sufficient funds i will buy for her :

    28mm Ricoh GR
    35mm Sony RX1
    50mm XPro 2 & Fuji X 35mm f1.4
    75mm Sigma DP3
    135mm OMD2 & Om Digital 75mm f1.8
    FF : Upcoming FF Sony nex”

    Well im going to add the Xvario because there are times in good light when shallow dof not required
    just one decent variable zoom is handy.. even though XE-1 +18-55 f2.8-4 would cover that
    … people are impressed by Leica red dot 🙂

  5. Come to think of it, probably the limitation is the size of the lens and the body. It looks like Leica engineer still cannot bend the rules of physics and design wide aperture zoom lens with the same diameter as the fix lens on X2. Actually they did it with the Tri-Elmar…but that’s different story…They surely can design faster zoom lens but the size would be a lot bigger than this one and the whole camera will end up looking out of proportion…just like sticking a fat can of soda on X2 body…anyone still remember the size of 28-90mm,f/2.0-2.4 on Leica Digilux 2..and the sensor sizeof that camera is much smaller than APS-C…just saying….

    • “..Actually they did it with the Tri-Elmar…but that’s different story…” ..did they?

      Both the Wide ‘Tri-Elmar’ 16-18-21mm lens, and the Medium ‘Tri-Elmar’ 35-50-28mm lens, have an f4 max aperture. That’s a smaller max aperture than this f3.5 X Vario zoom. And this X Vario is an 18-46mm lens (behaving as a 28-70mm), so it’s a 2.5x zoom.

      The T-E 16-18-21mm is a 1.3x zoom – way below the zoom range of this 2.5x zoom. And the T-E 35-50-28mm (supposedly a 1.7x zoom) can’t be zoomed between those three fixed focal lengths because it jumps only from 35mm to 50mm and then back to 28mm.

      This lens therefore IS a “different story”: this is a straight 2.5 zoom with f3.5 max aperture, and the other two each have a far shorter zoom range and a smaller max aperture!

      “..anyone still remember the size of 28-90mm,f/2.0-2.4 on Leica Digilux 2..and the sensor size of that camera is much smaller than APS-C..” ..Exactly.

      That lens was designed for the Digilux 2’s tiny 2/3″ sensor ..which is about one quarter the size of an APS-C sensor. So if you think the Digilux 2 lens was big, it’d be -e-n-o-r-m-o-u-s- on this little APS camera.

      It’s all about feasibility, pocketability, weight and size. (Oh, and price.)

  6. I think Leica has shot itself in the foot with a 16 gauge today!
    The Whole New Leica X Vario 🙁
    *no interchangeable lens
    *f/3.5? Are you kidding me?
    *no full frame
    *no optical vievfinder

    I am sure Fuji headquarters are celebrating and laughing at Leica with their rear-ends today

    I have no doubt that it will take great photos in the right hands… but any camera does that!

    • Leica does design, build quality, and optics superbly.

      Unfortunately, most everything else is bringing up the rear of the industry. So you end up with a compromised tool.

      A camera that offers a beautiful manual focus ring. But no focus peaking.

      A camera with wonderful [albeit slow] optics. But an older sensor with [likely] limited high ISO capability, and no image stabilization.

      A camera with lovely handling. But no built-in EVF to aid in stabilizing the camera when shooting. (unless you want to pay a ridiculous amount of extra money for a bolt-on dollop).

      See the problem here? Leica lags behind in everything that requires electronics knowhow. Which, in the 21st century, means pretty much everything.

      • Robert,

        Agree, although I am not sure the Japanese have ,more humor than the germans!

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

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

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

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

        Mr Kobayashi (Owner of Cosina and producer of Zeiss ZM, Voigtlander M, Bessa, Epson R-D1, Contax G1/G2) please surprise me with a …… Contax GD3, Epson R-D3, Bessa R3D or even A Zeiss Ikon ZID ….with M-bayonet and a decent viewfinder !

        When this happen Leica will face the real competition and rules of economics.
        Because owners of leica Glass, like me, will have again (like before with Konica RF in the film era) an alternative

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

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

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

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

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

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

  8. I sold all my Sony lens and old Manual Lens to gather some cash for this “mini M”. Now I think I will buy a Sony RX1. The price is way too high for me to join the Red Dot Club and I rather get a FF camera with a faster lens instead.

  9. It also needs a lens hood….for $140.00. Forty years using all kkinds of Leicas and experienced all kinds of the Leica ‘wierdness’ – but the last four years or so have set new levels of strangeness – I’m sorry, I would expect it to record decsent images, I also expect something as ‘normal’ as a LENS HOOD would come with it – not cost $140.00.
    That’s where Leica is showing it’s true hand – by charging for something that should be included and at a ridiculous price.
    That is a rip-off no matter how much Leica kool-aid someone consumes. I don’t really care who buys it – I hope they enjoy it – but that doesn’t change what this says about the ‘new’ Leica.

  10. I am looking for a M 24″1″ w/ auto as an option or a X”3″ full frame – not this. That being the case, I agree with Jonathan that the X Vario is aimed at those who want quality image and build along with the Leica cache (and all that implies for good or ill). To other’s points, if you are waiting for an “affordable” Leica either go to eBay or keep waiting. I too was put off by the slow zoom – however, I am realizing that it’s very easy to say “they should have built a fast zoom” when, to do so and still maintain image quality, it would have to have been the size of a small telescope. Depending on the sensor’s low-light capability, this zoom is just right given the sharpness at all stops and, from the images I’ve seen so far, puts itself in the 1K price range of other top-end zoom lenses. Add the Leica body and quality (and, yes, the silly red dot), then the pricing is not that far off. Plus, I have to say that I am really intrigued by that seemingly well-implemented manual focus ring with the AF selection stop. hmmm… in the M’s future?

  11. Like other times before Leica did not what many of us expected or hoped for.
    I am pretty sure with good and enough light this camera will not disappoint in reality. I guess it will feel great and you will love to look at it.

    However our expectations… for so much money and with such a history there must come something great. Well, it did not. Maybe it’s better for us to work on our expectations/hopes and lower or erase them and let Leica do whatever they want to do.

    By the way since I have my first Sigma merill (it’s a dp3) for a few weeks now, I wonder how Leica or any other high-end brand should plan their future releases without considering to integrate the foveon sensor, at least as an option.

    As a raw developer, being often in the 100% view, what I can see here (the color pics till iso200 and BW till iso800) is so outstanding compared to my x2 or 5dII-L-Lens pics or any other bayer sensor pics which I saw. If there were not this super-crap sigma software you are forced to use……
    How about a small body using M glass, having a FF foveon sensor….

    • FF Foveon 24 MP, Leica M Mount, VF 4 from Olympus, that would rock. Better: 56 MP Foveon Senso in a Leica S Body, that would blow away everything. Of course, still dreaming …

  12. The image quality should certainly be excellent at those apertures. That’s not heavy lifting. The new mini-Canon 100D, for example, with the excellent 17-55 2.8 would be just as effective and much less expensive, particular for folks who see a camera as a tool and not a state of being.
    No, where Leica excels is in small, fast lenses for full frame. Less than that is disappointing.

    • What it shows is that Jono is a good photographer, and he could do wonders with just about anything. The MiniM or whatever can’t produce any kind of image that an Olympus PEN or any other decent cam out there right now.

  13. Perhaps Jonathon says it best:

    Who Is It For?

    “Well, it isn’t for those who were hoping and expecting competition for the Sony RX-1. Actually, I suspect it isn’t for anyone who spends much time on internet photo forums.

    I think it’s directed at busy people who are good at photography, but who have better things to do than read 35 page camera reviews. Someone who understands all about shutter speed and aperture, but hasn’t a clue about scene modes, and doesn’t want to know about them either. Someone who has shot film in the past, and would like a comprehensible digital camera which allows them to shoot manually or automatically, without having to worry about interchangeable lenses and everything that entails.”

    It is a beautiful camera.

  14. The early pictures taken with the M240 were disappointing. It could be the same thing here. It’s still early days. Be patient.

  15. I’m a bit torn on this to be honest. I imagine that it’ll actually blow the socks off any of the much cheaper alternatives people are touting IQ wise, but what I don’t get is who this is aimed at. If I want a pure walk around camera the X2 is about the largest I’d consider. If I have to wear it on my shoulder/put it in a bag I’ll take my M9 with a 35 mm summarit on it and my 90 elmarit in my pocket.

    A few random thoughts to try and move us beyond “it’s too expensive and the lens is too slow” though:

    1) What’s the diffraction limit of a 16MP sensor – not much over 6.3 I guess?

    2) Why those apertures? As mentioned by Jonathan 2.8-5.6 is barley different and would have been greeted very differently I’d have thought, so why not stretch to that?

    3) People seem mainly upset by DoF/low light limitations – I can’t do the maths, but is the DoF actually any more limited than on a LX-7, RX-100 etc. Even though they have faster lenses they are much much shorter focal lengths. In terms of speed, I’d also expect noise performance to massively outstrip the pocket cams anyway – so the aperture lost there can be reclaimed anyway.

    4) I’m looking forward to getting my hands on it in a showroom. I didn’t take LPAC’s offer of a test drive this weekend up as it doesn’t fit a need of mine, but will head down to pick up my copy of LFI soon and will be interested to see how it feels/ how the menus are etc.

    5) If I still hiked as much as I used to I’d be tempted by this as a craking little landscape camera.

    6) My search for a digital replacement for my beloved minilux will have to continue (28 mm is too wide for me, hated my X100, RX-1 is too big) or I will have to finally bite the bullet on a X2.

  16. Having read JS, and even more seen his low light and semi-macro OOC jpegs from “Paula”, I’m willing to think again. It’s not the words but the pictures that count, and a lens that is sharp over its full range is worth a stop or two more with softness. Yes I’d have appreciated a viewfinder at this price level, but I could do that very cheaply with the elegant, space-saving ClearViewer and have something much better than any tag-on, pricey OVF or EVF. I hope you will do a review, Steve, and some comparisons, even tho’ I understand your initial response. And thanks for all the space you’re giving to it.

  17. I went to the shop this morning talking to a friend on the way about how this camera did not make any sense. But I’ve got to admit – once I held it in my hands it made a lot of sense as it felt really, really nice and well balanced – like a good knife. It is obviously not a professional camera, but something that will capture your memories well and be fun and hassle-free to work with

  18. I am also not sure about the target audience. Surely people who want a Leica with APS-C sensor and zoom, but then the choice of aperture range is negating most of the benefits of the APS-C sensor. And I cannot imagine that the target audience is totally oblivious to the specs.

    It’s always a balancing act between size and possible zoom and aperture range. To me it seems that the Leica D-Lux 6 (Lumix LX7) has the balancing act right, and actually serves the target audience better.

  19. It looks like a nice real camera. Thumbs up for Leica doing this. It looks very well made and I like this much more then a rebranded panasonic. It is for all the people that cried out loud for a zoom lens on the x100 and x1. And stop nagging about money, that is very bad for the creative process making better pictures. Better expensive then not available.

  20. Picture quality looks really appealing. Out of focus areas render very smoothly. Not much to worry about considering it is a slow zoom. Focus on the image and you’ll be fine with this camera.

  21. Not my idea of a walk around camera mini M. What is wrong with a full frame X2 with interchangeable lenses? A modern day digital equivalent of the iiig or iiif please.
    The M’s are great but they are still on the large side especially if you add a lens to it. This is an expensive D Lux.
    Once you shoot with a full frame sensor, you never want to use an APS-C sensor again. The lenses just do not behave the way you want them to. Leica, you are not trying hard enough.

  22. That report sounds like many excuses of someone who don’t even believe in his own words.
    Lame Leica and Jonathan Slack is also lame.
    Hassel and Leica are destroying the myth that these two brands produce something unique and unachievable by any other company.
    I bet my Lumia 920 make as good photos as this X Vario…

  23. Seriously guys. beautiful pictures (?). 8 of 10 are complete random captures in the article which could not tell anything about the camera at all except not very good dynamic range and sharpness. Do not have anything against the photographer – lots of really nice pictures in the website. But here, some of the feedback reminds me of some sort of analogies… .

  24. Images look great to me. I don’t know what it is or the technicality involved but I have always loved the look of Leica digital files over anything else I’ve tried. I was shooting an X1 next to an X Pro with M mount lenses attached on the same shoot the other day and hands down the X1 files look much better and have a quality to them that the Fuji does not. Unfortunately I feel constrained with the 35mm equivalent lens on the X so I can’t use it on everything.

    I’m really missing my broken M8 right now. I’ve taken some good images with the Fuji but the magic just isn’t there.

    I think this Vario has some magic in it, just like the beloved Digilux 2 did back in the day and still does for some. Anyone who does their research and buys this camera with eyes open will probably be rewarded with patience. If not theres tons of other camera to choose from.

    • I agree with you on the Fuji X thing…magic is not there. Been shooting the X-E1 with the new Touit Lenses and no where near the quality of the M I have been shooting. Easy to get spoiled with that IQ. The X1 did have magic, the X2 lost some of it, the Vario may have brought some back but even if it did, the lens is just too slow for most situations and no EVF. If they were trying to make a modern day Digilux 2, should have had a built in EVF and a faster zoom.

      • Steve,

        You have a review on the Olympus 18-50mm 4/3 Zoom. This has f/3.5-6.3 and you stated that it was better than the kit zoom. Yet, you are caning the Leica lens for this aperture range.

        May be because it is fixed to the body and mated to the sensor it may not be that bad in practice. And as someone stated, it is only 2/3 stop slower than the X2 lens (but yes probably not as nice a glass as the X2 lens), and yes a faster zoom line the D-Lux 6 would have been grand (after all it is f1.4?).

        May be give it a go?

      • The one thing I haven’t heard about (and that I assumed) was that 3.5 was the best they could do with a compact zoom lens engineered in-house. They only managed 2.8 out of the X1 and X2 without the complexities of a zoom. I think the last one they made was the Vario-Elmar for the Digi 3 (not sure what the split was between Panny & Leica with that lens) and that thing is huuuuuge with a max of 2.8 as well. Anyway just a thought, can’t imagine someone saying, “well we could make it 2.8, but lets do 3.5 instead”.

      • I agree with you on the Touit lenses, Steve. The examples I have been seeing would not prompt to pay extra for the Zeiss glass that I fell in love with on my Contax G2.

      • I think most of the criticism being leveled is that a) the camera is overpriced and b) many are disappointed that it’s not the affordable “mini M” they had hoped for. However, if you can put those two issues aside for the moment and evaluate the camera for what it IS, it becomes much more positive.

        Torsten Overgaard makes a great comparison of the X Vario and Digilux 2 at

        It really appears that the X Vario IS the modern day equivalent to the Digilux 2. For those of us who love/loved that classic, the Vario fills that void in the Leica lineup.

        Sean Reid, Jonathan Slack, Thorsten Overgaard, and Ken Hansen have all had good things to say about the camera. As for me, I’m going to wait to see more photos from the camera, but I have to admit, the ones I’ve seen so far are pretty exceptional.

          • Yes. They all are as you say ‘ skin in the game” . Lets be honest, its over priced, and a big disappointment, lets have the balls to at least say that

  25. “if I find something wrong with the camera, I tell Leica”, but did anybody there bother to listen? 
    It would have been too late to cancel the project, but a least Leica could have avoided the shitstorm after having announced it as the ” Mini M”.
    Not counting the wastage of bandwith, server capacity and user time for the endless speculations about its specs during the past two weeks.

    • I bet on the day this design was approved at the Leica boardroom, a lot of the older generation members went home and banged their heads against the wall in despair. The guy who should have stood up at the meeting that day and uttered the famous words..”Let’s not make it. Let’s not take the risk” didn’t show up.

  26. According to Sean Reid’s review the AF was below the X100s and EM-5 and only slightly faster than the X2 and less accurate than any of the others. That alone would kill it for me. At 24 OZ it is a very heavy camera. For comparisons, the X100s is 15.7oz, the RX-1 is 17oz, the DP1 is 11.64oz and the XE-1 (body only) is 12.35oz. The Fuji 18-55 zoom is 10.8 oz. so the combination is about the same but it includes an EVF which has to be added to the Leica.

  27. When I first saw the picture of the X Vario a few days ago the lens immediately reminded me of the Digilux 2, now perhaps someone could explain why Leica did not decide to fit it on the X Vario (or a new version of it)? The Digilux 2 lens is a 28mm to 90mm equivalent with the following openings: 1:2.0 to 2.4 !!
    Having said that I have to say I am quite impressed by the quality of the pics in Jono’s small “review”, must say I did not expect too much DOF and Bokeh…..I am pleasantly surprised.

  28. One things for sure, that guy is a helluva photographer. He could make beautiful images with any camera on the planet.
    But with this particular one, he could only limit depth of field on close-ups.

  29. I never intended to buy this camera, so it doesn’t bother me beyond asking why Leica did this … especially, tarnishing the brand of the “M” camera. As for Sony or Fuji coming to market with an M body, that’s just plain stupid. Why would Sony or Fuji spend R&D to develop a platform to shoot a competitor’s lenses? The entire business proposition is to sell the lenses for their proprietary systems. So if you want a true “no compromise” platform on which to shoot M glass, you’ve got several choices: M 240, M9/P/MM/M-E, M8/8.2, or Leica film bodies. Sorry!!! That’s how Leica will allow anyone to shoot its glass!!!

    • You might want to rethink this a little bit. Fuji is pushing the new Zeiss Touit lenses on their official lens roadmap. Fuji also developed its own M-mount lens adapter that get the X-Pro1 & X-E1 to bring up lens selection custom menus. To me it seems Fuji was looking forward to the use of the “famed” Leica glass on its X-System bodies….

  30. Beacause it looks like a mini Leica M camera. Looks and style is the main selling point of this camera.
    If that is not important then sure Fujifilm X-E1 with 18-55, Nex6 with either kit-lens and the Ricoh GXR with the A16 24-85 module are much smarter and cheaper choices.

  31. Unless you think $5000,-, the price for the old analog M7, is affordable Leica will never make a low budget M-mount camera. Your only hope for an affordable M-camera is either buy a used M9 or hope Sony or someone else (Pentax?) will make a mirrorless full frame camera usable for M-lenses.

    • “It isn’t for anyone who spends much time on internet photo forums.
      I think it’s directed at busy people who are good at photography, but who have better things to do than read 35 page camera reviews. Someone who understands all about shutter speed and aperture, but hasn’t a clue about scene modes, and doesn’t want to know about them either. Someone who has shot film in the past, and would like a comprehensible digital camera which allows them to shoot manually or automatically, without having to worry about interchangeable lenses and everything that entails.”
      In a short sentence: A person with deep pockets, a vague understanding of what “taking a photo” is, and that can tote a compact Leica while wearing a Brioni suit and signing a check with a Montblanc fountain pen during a charity drive…

        • We KNOW that Andrea..and that is exactly WHY we are all upset about it.
          You see for some strange reason a lot of us thought Leica made cameras for photographers.
          I can just see the next M brochure now… Buy the top of the range LEICA M.. from the same people that make those nice cameras for people with deep pockets, a vague understanding of what “taking a photo is” and always sign their name with a MontBlanc fountain pen.Only a camera like this meets the exacting requirements of the Leica design workshop and is truly worthy of our red dot mark of quality.
          Yes, that REALLY makes me want to invest in a Leica M. (Not!)
          Genius marketing that is.

          • Reminds of Overgaard’s site where he lists his clothing, accessories and choice of handbag (or is that “Man-bag”?) at the end of his articles.

      • Andrea, I own (and wear, ha ha) several Brioni suits. They last me some 8 to 10 years. Where does that place me, in a photographers sense? 😉

      • Ha-ha

        Yes, ‘ wearing a Biaroni suit, and signing a cheque with the month Blanch pen” ha-ha, amen. When I first heard about this, I thought it was a joke, (the leaked photo with the X and the zoom), but as we then all saw on the 11th June. The thing and rumors were all true.

        Nowadays, every second rate artist can talk loads about their pictures, but the really outstanding pictures do not need a huge, or elaborate explanation?
        I m sure its built is fine(The Vario), But the rather large zoom lens is also slow, variable aperture? Surely this was going to receive a load of criticism? Wonder how the Leica team came to this??

        Its a camera for someone with more money than sense. Its a big disappointment for Leica s loyal followers

        Shame on you Leica

  32. Overpriced, but that was only to be expected from a compact Leica with an APS-C sensor inside, I guess! It would’ve been very impressive if it had a faster lens. f3.5-6.4? That’s quite disappointing, isn’t it?

  33. Steve, you have so much power you don’t even know. You and your website has had a huge influence on getting mainstream camera manufacturers to put huge sensors in small cameras, starting with the Leica X1. Now that these kinds of cameras are becoming commonplace, please, Steve, can’t you get these manufacturers to include built-in viewfinders? These manufacturers need to know that most of us don’t want the added bulk of adding an external viewfinder and, more importantly, we want to use the hotshoe for external flashes and flash triggers.
    This Leica Mini M (Maxi X) just doesn’t cut the cake.

  34. What I don’t understand. If they make this with a Leica lens to the same specs as the Fuji XF 18-55mm f2.8-4 and up the shutter speed to 1/4000, they easily sell this thing for $3600 to $4000, and I bet they sell tons of them. Being non-full frame, I doubt it would cut into M sales, and I imagine a whole lot of people who can’t afford an M and Leica glass would save up their $$$ to pay for a Vario with a decent spec’ed lens. And a whole lot of people who own an M and Leica lens would pay up for a fixed zoom to carry around. But not at 28-70mm F3.5-6.4.

    Whomever comes up with their strategic planning needs to spend some time playing the lemonade stand game, for those of you who remember the lemonade stand computer economics game of the 80s.

    • Sorry, Silouan, I cannot agree. Changing the specs of the lens/camera to match up with the Fuji would not get me to pay 2-3 times as much over a camera & lens combo that has gotten several very good reviews. For me, it is just a tool and to throw money at something strictly for a red dot does not make sense. I have kept my Nikon D2H bodies for almost 10 years because they did the job I needed them to do.

  35. Instant collector’s item… very rare, only 100 ever sold world wide. Seriously, this is the best the Lux-demi gods could come up with? Someone at Leica is convinced that mediocrity rocks.

  36. Clearly it is capable of great pictures. Leica has never been too worried about specs, so maybe they know their customers better than I do.

  37. Just sad. I wonder how many PhD or Ph(iDiot) are involved in this R&D process… no excuses… just sad.

  38. Although I agree with the comments on the lens not being fast enough, lets take a step back, leave pricing aside and look at the average consumer who is not a photography geek like most people who read Everyone I show the Fuji X100s to – first they thing they try to do is find a way to zoom. These are people who own DSLRs with expensive zoom lenses (like Canon L glass) or just folks with point and shoot cameras. These are the people who will most likely never buy a Leica M. I use manual focus most of the time and prefer it, but when I am travelling on vacation, I’d rather have auto-focus available to me as an option.

    The target market here is not “us”. It is for people who have heard the Leica name and they want a Leica camera they can use. Deep pockets but not photography geeks.

    Now lets bring pricing back into the picture. This is an early-adopter price just like most electronics. It will drop a little. Plus, Leica cannot and will not make their cameras affordable as there is pride of ownership. If the M were to be priced at 3K all of a sudden, Leica will antagonize a majority of their customers. Its like a country club membership.

    Having said all that, I wouldn’t but this camera even for 500 bucks.

    • well then in that case, I would push the Leica D-Lux 6 on them..they can get all the zoom they want….or get an FZ150 or latter…vlux3 what have you…..I dunno….maybe if they knocked another $1k it would be worth it….

      • It simply sounds like you are saying Leica is not making cameras for REAL photographers.
        It’s a lame excuse isn’t it?
        If so, shame on them. They should be. Because Target marketing as you put it, is a low aspiration for a company with Leica’s history and I would say… this arrow is way off target.
        Yes, it depends how you define your target. high or low.They seem to be shooting arrows everywhere in the hope they’ll hit something at the considerable risk of losing their marksmanship badge.

    • Love it when people make huge generalizations. I happen to own 5 Canon DSLR bodies and 5 Leica M bodies with lenses to go with them. I guess I don’t exist!

    • @Stunta,

      “lets take a step back, leave pricing aside and look at the average consumer who is not a photography geek like most people who read ”

      I see this excuse a lot like how it is targeted at average consumers and such. Everyone has to realize that Leicas are never targeted at average consumers because you can’t find them at Target, Walmart, or Costco.

      I am new to photography and just got a NEX-5R and with that camera I had to go to a Sony store to buy it. Average consumers buy their cameras at Walmart or Target. I have never heard of the name Zeiss or Leica until reading it on Stevehuffsphoto when I was looking into the NEX.

      $3,000 for a camera is not a lot of money but if you look at the value for what you get I think it’s overpriced. I have a good relationship with the Sony Store dealers now since I bought so many (all e-mounts and some a-mounts) lens from them and they’re offering me a RX1 for $2,200 out the door. Now I think that is a good value. Even at $3,000 compared to the mini M I still think it is worth it. I can zoom with my feet.

  39. He is a great photographer. But the pictures themselves kind of sum up the camera, a tool for mostly still life shost with plenty of sharp depth of field. For the price ridiculous.

    I gotta say though, Jonathan lost me with this comment from his review, “I think it’s directed at busy people who are good at photography, but who have better things to do than read 35 page camera reviews.” Gave off the same kind of the smarmy arrogance that represents the worst of Leica which resulted in an almost $3000 camera with a f3.5 – f6.4 lens and leather case cut-out for the red dot. I wish the camera had shown the best of Leica, small fast lenses that perform stellarly and give you that dreamy kind of street photography.

  40. I still say most buyers of this camera have no clue about anything other than idiot mode and what fast and slow lenses are. As long as it has “zoom”.

  41. I’m already seeing excuses for ‘who this camera is for’ – I’m sorry. Leica purposely does not want to engage in any product that comes with-in 50% of it dear m9/m10 240. So sad for what could have been.

  42. Pictures are nice..but I agree with you Steve. For that kind of money I would buy the RX1. I already have a dlux-5 and and x1 that take amazing pictures already.

    • It has a zoom, which the RX1 has not. One that is similar to the Sony kit lens for the Nex series. And it may have a nicer image quality. For someone who has some extra cash and is looking for an all-in-one camera this is not a bad thing to have. Is it 3x better than the Nex series? Is a M240 2x better than the Rx1. It doesn’t matter. It is the same with cars. Some people don’t care if one is more functional or has more room to transport things at a lower price. They like the feel of the camera, the simplicity, the brand, the style,…and it takes photos.

      • yeah I hear ya……it just irks me because I’ve been waiting for a more affordable “M”….and so I’ve been holding off on buying a Fuji because of it…but now, I don’t know I might jump on that bandwagon and save $ lol….I also got a good deal on the infamous “brick”…the Pentax K-01 since they discontinued them…so …..back to waiting again. : /

    • Agree 100%. The RX1 is the better buy. Though, maybe you need both since some complain about its performance at increasing apertures.

      If this is Type 107 and the ‘M10’ is 240, then I think we need at least a Type 180 to satisfy our quest for a decent and affordable Leica. In my opinion it would be an RX1 type camera/fixed lens with internal EVF.

    • Just downloaded some DNG files of the new Leica Vario, its a shame to bring this Camera for this price compared to the Fuji X-Pro with the 35mm/1.4, its looks much sharper, better bokeh etc,etc. I should say go for a Fuji X eerie for almost a third of the price.

Leave a Reply to dgd Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.