Leica X Vario Announcement

Today Leica announced the new X Vario compact camera with a fixed Vario Elmar 18-46mm f/3.5-6.4 zoom lens. Sporting a 16.1 MP CMOS sensor, this camera comes with a similar sensor used on Leica’s X2 compact camera. The major difference between the two is the lens – the X series have the fixed Elmarit 24mm f/2.8 lens, while the new X Vario has a 18-46mm zoom lens. Just like the X1/X2, the X Vario does not have a built-in viewfinder, but you can get an optional EVF separately. The X Vario adds 1080p video recording support @ 30p and you can buy all kinds of accessories, from leather strap to beautiful leather case to “complement the elegance of the X Vario”, as Leica states. The camera has a price tag of $2,850, something one would expect from the “boutique” Leica.

Leica X Vario

With such feature-rich cameras as Fuji X100s (APS-C), Nikon Coolpix A, Canon G1X and Ricoh GR that are much cheaper and better, you might be wondering what Leica is thinking by introducing the X Vario to the market. Even the full-frame Sony RX1 at this point costs less than the X Vario. On top of that, the new Vario Elmar 18-46mm f/3.5-6.4 is a joke – the lens is equivalent to a 28-70mm lens and the slow aperture of f/3.5-6.4 just makes this camera a glorified point and shoot. Forget about being able to isolate subjects with this lens, especially on the long end: the f/6.4 aperture on the long end is equivalent to f/9.6 on a full-frame camera.

Well, Leica has never been about competition and price – their appeal is a specific niche of people that love all things Leica and do not care about competing features from other manufacturers or price. And by the way, the indicated price of $2,850 is for the camera itself. Once you add the optional accessories, you are looking at spending roughly $4K. Personally, I would never buy such a camera, even if it was priced close to its competition. Its specs are not impressive at all for my taste…

Leica X Vario Top

Here is the official announcement:

The Highly Anticipated ‘Mini M’ Features Characteristics Reminiscent of the Legendary M-System

Solms, Germany, 11 June 2013: Leica Camera AG has unveiled the latest addition to its digital compact camera offerings and presents the Leica X Vario. Made in Leica Camera’s headquarters in Germany, the X Vario features a high-performance 16.5-megapixel (effective 16.1), APS-C format, CMOS image sensor, a zoom lens covering a range of focal lengths from 28 to 70 mm (35 mm equivalent) and Full-HD video recording capability. With several design and handling characteristics of the storied M-System, the ‘Made in Germany’ Leica X Vario offers great versatility and creative freedom.

The X Vario’s high performance image sensor is unusually large for a camera in its class. Combined with the Leica Vario Elmar 18-46 mm f/3.5-6.4 ASPH, it sets completely new standards for imaging quality in the compact segment with outstanding exposures in all situations. The Leica X Vario is the world’s first compact camera to combine a large, APS-C format, CMOS image sensor with a zoom lens.

From expansive interior shots, landscapes to portrait photography, the range of focal lengths offered by the Leica X Vario opens up entirely new horizons for creative photography. The camera’s versatility is further expanded by a new, 1080p Full HD video recording function that allows photographers to record memories at a frame rate of 30 full frames per second. The video data can be saved in MP4 format and uploaded directly to social media or mobile devices without any need for conversion. An integrated wind-noise filter that reduces undesirable noise guarantees crystal-clear sound recording.

The Leica X Vario’s wide range of camera setting options combined with its fast and precise autofocus offers even the most demanding photographers maximum creative freedom – for spontaneous shots as well as for carefully arranged compositions.

The Leica X Vario is distinguished by an intensely focused design concept. Its handy form, linear design and the premium materials used in its construction are reminiscent of the Leica M-System. For instance, the top plate is machined from solid aluminium in the same process used for the Leica M. This, in combination with its robust metal construction and premium high-grip leather trim ensures that the X Vario is a classic Leica camera in terms of both look and feel.

Further showcasing Leica M DNA, the X Vario features an intuitive handling concept with clearly laid out functions. The user-friendly operation of the menu interface guarantees rapid access to an impressive range of automatic and versatile manual setting options. Combined with the ease of switching between manual and automatic control, it allows photographers to concentrate completely on composing their subjects and choosing the decisive instant to shoot in any situation. The dials on the top plate provide grip when setting the shutter speed and aperture. Moreover, changing the plane of focus, the white balance, and other imaging parameters allows photographers to consciously influence the look or mood of their images. In Live View mode, the generously sized high-contrast, 3-inch monitor offers photographers complete control at all times and a detailed view– even in bright surroundings.

Accessories

An extensive range of accessories is also available to adapt the Leica X Vario to photographers’ particular needs. For example, the Leica EVF 2 Viso-Flex electronic accessory viewfinder with 1.4 megapixels and a 90° swivel function is extremely helpful when shooting from unusual angles. An accessory handgrip makes it easier to shoot one-handed and provides a better grip. As with the Leica M (Typ 240), finger loops in three different sizes (S, M and L) can be attached to the handgrip, helping further ensure safe and steady handling of the camera. An optional lens hood ensures the minimisation of reflections and the Leica SF 24 D flash unit offers greater freedom for subject lighting.

Leica continues to provide a comprehensive range of superbly finished bags, cases and straps that complement the elegance of the X Vario: An ergonomically designed camera protector and an every-ready case in premium black or tan leather; wrist and carrying straps that can be combined with all Leica X and M cameras are also offered in untreated natural leather in black or tan. Whenever the X Vario is used with multiple accessories, photographers can take advantage of the system bag.

Included Software

Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom®, a professional digital workflow solution for Apple Mac® OS X and Microsoft Windows®, is also included in the Leica X Vario package. This digital image processing software offers a wide range of functions for the management, processing and presentation of digital images. The software is available to X Vario customers as an online download after product registration.

Pricing and Availability

Available now in the UK from authorised Leica dealers including the Leica Store Mayfair, www.leica-storemayfair.co.uk, tel: 020 7629 1351, the Leica X Vario is offered in a black finish. It is also available as a set with the X Vario camera protector and carrying strap in tan leather. The suggested retail price of the Leica X Vario is £2,150 inc. VAT; the set SRP is £2,250.

Individual accessories are priced as follows (SRP including VAT):

  1. EVF 2 Viso-Flex: £380
  2. Lens hood: £90
  3. Handgrip: £100
  4. SF 24 D flash unit: £270
  5. Finger loops for handgrip: £90 in S, M or L
  6. Leather ever-ready case in black or tan: £180
  7. Leather camera protector in black or tan: £90
  8. Carrying strap with protective flap in black or tan: £80
  9. Wrist strap with protective flap in black or tan: £60

The range of optional accessories will be available following the launch of the camera.

As always, you can pre-order the Leica X Vario through B&H.


Avatar of Nasim Mansurov About Nasim Mansurov

is a professional photographer based out of Denver, Colorado. He is the author and founder of Photography Life, along with a number of other online resources. Read more about Nasim here.

Comments

  1. 1
    ) Glen78

    F/3.5-F/6.4?! Why didn’t they put a 28mm F/2 or at least an F/2.8 prime on it? I think Leica has jumped the shark on this one.

    • Totally agreed. Not sure how they can even sell one of these…maybe a collector or two will get it :)

  2. 3
    ) Peter

    Leica knows how to design cameras. This one is beautiful regardless of its technology. So clean and neat. Total class.

    • 6
      ) Carmelo

      OK. But only with good design you don’t make any good pictures.

    • 9
      ) BLFarnsworth

      Leica might know how to design some cameras… but they sure don’t know how to PRICE cameras.

      Why didn’t they at least put a fast lens in it? It’s not like they don’t know how to do that; the Leica D-Lux 6 has a very fast f/1.4-2.3 lens. Of course, the D-Lux 6 has a much smaller sensor. If one really wants the “Red Dot” (even if’s a higher-end Panasonic), then just buy the D-Lux 6! How could anyone on their product team think that selling a camera with a f/3.5-6.4 lens (at this price point) was a good idea???

  3. 4
    ) Carmelo

    Hi Nasim
    I’m very disappointed from Leica. I have an Leica M8 with an obsolete sensor. It’s nearly impossible to make pictures with more than 1280 ISO. And therefore I hoped that Leica would make a cheaper Leica M made with modern technologies. In this way I would be able to use my very good Summicron and Elmarit lenses. But nothing… :-(

    • Carmelo, Leica lenses are legendary. If only Leica developed a camera with a good sensor, they would sell a lot more units, even at the same price as the new M. I think it is about time for Leica to start buying sensors from Sony, just like all others are doing :)

  4. 5
    ) Chris Crane

    It doesn’t make any sense…. Why make a camera like this? I’m renting an X100S right now and it’s great! Why would I double the price tag for what seems to be an inferior camera? Truth is I wouldn’t…

  5. 7
    ) Aria

    First of all the letter M actually stands for “Messsucher” in german which means Viewfinder (or rangefinder) so i myself don’t see the Mini M or any of his little brothers (Micro and Nano) as original cameras because they don’t have any Messsucher

    And i think this is a very expensive camera as a compact :) why should i buy it when i can get a sony RX1? and with those specifications and that price maybe it’s only good for Hasselblad Lunar buyers!

    Leica should have done this better, this is not acceptable

  6. 8
    ) HomoSapiensWannaBe

    Total yawn on this one, but then, it would look good sitting in the home nick-nack display case next to the Hasselblad Lunar!

  7. 13
    ) StevenP

    you would think that, for $2,850, you would get most if not all of those accessories. From your post I am to assume that it neither comes with the leather case, nor a strap…for $3K….hmmm…

  8. 14
    ) Nigel

    This is Leica trading on its name, ‘expecting’ people to buy just because it’s a Leica. Trouble is, if they keep turning out inferior products like this one, they’re not going to have a name for too much longer!

  9. Not everything is about isolating subjects — it’s possible the lens is so stunningly sharp that there will be some kind of justification for its existence. I doubt it, and in any event I don’t find Leica’s combination of slow or manual focus, poor low light performance, first class optics, fabulous construction, and insanely high prices compelling, but it’s mainly the high prices that irk me. If Leica were offering this camera for $1200 I think it might be quite compelling. E.g. Leica’s camera designs seem to me to be practical rather than self-consciously retro like Olympus or Fujifilm.

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