Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Leica's New X Vario - the "Mini M?" Not All Bad, Though

There was a lot of hype on the internet surrounding the announcement of Leica's latest camera, the X Vario.
Leica X Vario
Image Source:
(Click Here) to see the camera on Leica's website.
Leica chose to emphasize ties between the M digital rangefinder cameras and the X Vario, which seems to have set peoples' expectations for something different than what was delivered. With a 28-70mm equivalent field of view zoom, and f3.5-6.4 aperture, this is no fast lens rangefinder. The forums are in an uproar. However, there's a lot to like with this camera, if you can get past the maximum aperture of the lens.
On the subject of maximum aperture, I go back to my belief that there are different cameras for different needs. While I'd never be completely satisfied if the fastest lens I had for my Leica M9 were f3.5, one of the cameras I still lust after is the Fujifilm GF670 medium format folding camera. (Click Here) to see the GF670. This camera has an f3.5 lens, but of world class design and manufacture. The GF670 would be a slow camera for me - not for action shots, for sure. In fact, it would likely take more images on a tripod than off.
Modeled far more after the X2 than an M, the X Vario has a relatively large APS-C sensor (1.3X crop factor). Being able to go higher in iso without noise issues could really compensate for the slower lens.
Nick Rains, an Australia-based photographer, wrote one of the first reports I've seen by someone who has actually used the X Vario.
(Click Here) to read Nick's post on
Nick tested the camera in gloomy weather, so he shot at high iso (3200) a lot. Nick argues that the f3.5 lens is no slower than most kit lenses for DSLR cameras. True, but then you can change to faster lenses with a DLSR. One important point Nick brings out is that the Leica lens is as good (sharp, no chromatic aberration, great color) at f3.5 as it is at f8; that is not the case with kit lenses. Nick seems to like the X Vario at some level, and in his post demonstrates the great sharpness of the lens and low noise of the sensor. He made some 16x20 prints from the camera at iso 3200, and was pleased with the result.
So, before we let the forum hype tell us this camera has no place, let's see what results people can actually produce with it.