The Leica X Vario is the very first digital compact camera with an APS-C sensor as well as an optical zoom lens. In a teaser that made us very curious, in which the firm of Solms, Germany, promising a “Mini M“, the Leica Vario X was “pre-announced” by Leica. It is now official and it turns out that the Leica X Vario is actually closer to the Leica X2 than to a real Leica M since it is nothing more nor less than an X2 with a built-in optical zoom instead of a prime lens on the X2. Its Leica Vario lens equivalent to a 28-70 mm offers a shy amplitude to me. But it could be ok if the lens was fast enough in return… which is not the case here, unfortunately. Its maximum aperture will undoubtedly raise critcisms among photographers since the lens is wide open at a poor f/3.5 in wide angle and a poorly low f/6.4 at 70mm ! This longest focal length, which could have been suitable for some portraits although not so long, is way too slow to generate a pleasant bokeh. They missed the shot. The sensor of the Leica X Vario is a simple APS 16MP CMOS sensor from Sony, the one that can be found in the X2, a sensor which is very good…. but also 3 years-old…
The Leica X Vario records video in Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) at the speed of 30 frames per second. The video is activated via a dedicated button on the camera. For easier sharing, they can be recorded directly in MP4 format. A built-in high-filter offers windproof soundtrack when you are outside.
The hotshoe of the Leica X Vario can receive an external electronic viewfinder which happens to be also optional… Its definition is of 1.4 million dots. It is articlated till a 90° angle. Yes, this also means that the Leica Vario X has no built-in viewfinder neither optical nor electronic. You’ll have to pay an extra €/$400 to enhance your Leica X with a viewfinder Leica EVF2.
The hotshoe is compatible with the electronic flash Leica SF24D.
You guessed it, it’s user interface, design and look of a small Leica M, is what should (as too often with Leica) attract in its claws photographers and the German brand enthusiasts, more than its photography skills. The Leica X Vario upper hood is milled from aluminum with the same process as the one used for the Leica M production. The magnesium body with aluminum parts offers the feeling of robustness that is expected from a Leica. The soft leather coating improves the hand contact of the grip with a warmer feeling The X Vario is manufactured in Germany and that is claimed loud by Leica. What stroke me in Leica’s press release is that the camera’s photography features were secondary. Do you want to buy and object per se or a photo making tool ?
The Leica X Vario has a very traditional UI that Leica’s typical customers (and I) will appreciate. It follows the logic of the Leica M and lets the photographer focus on the essentials. The lens barrel has an aperture ring. The top plate of the X Vario gets a speed setting dial and an exposure correction ring as well. Nothing revolutionary,everything is traditional.
Caution, high price tag ! First, this is a Leica. Second, there is no real competition because there is no other APS-C sensor with optical zoom lens compact camera. The X Vario will be sold € 2,450. While its built quality will undoubtedly be exemplary, While it is made in Germany, while its lens must be very sharp (I assume), yet, the Leica X Vario only gets an old APS-C sensor, a sensor size that does not match the advertised “Mini M” concept of the initial teaser. Also, the slow aperture of the lens is bellow what I’d be expecting from Leica. But the real target of the Leica X Vario is certainly not among photographers which are sensitive to these points.