Home Cameras/Lenses Leica Leica X-E: Another crop-sensor X from Wetzlar bites the dust

Leica X-E: Another crop-sensor X from Wetzlar bites the dust

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The Leica X-E, grandchild of the ground-breaking X1, is now discontinued, according to Leica Rumors. Although I was never a great fan of the silver cladding of the X-E (preferring the more traditional appearance of the X2) I’m sad to see the end of the line.

The X-E, introduced in September 2014, follows the X Vario and X into the history books and there is now no doubt that Leica has a depleted APS-C programme. It’s now down to the TL and one underwater fish snapper to fly the flag. These moves beg the question of just where Leica intends to go in the APS-C world.

  Oyez, oyez, the Leica X-E is now consigned to the history books (Photo Mike Evans, Leica X1)
Oyez, oyez, the Leica X-E is now consigned to the history books (Photo Mike Evans, Leica X1)

This latest deletion marks the end of a seven-year reign for the distinctive little fixed lens compact. When the X1 was introduced alongside the M9 in September 2009 it signalled the start of the current love affair with fixed-lens 35mm cameras. It pre-dated the Fuji X100 by two years and was the camera that set the current fashion. I even suspect that the ‘X’ in the original X100 represented more than a nod to the success of the little Leica.

  Mike
Mike’s Leica X1 springs into action during the recent London Fashion Week

Slow but sure

I have long been a fan of the Leica X1 and still own a version of the original camera. The X2 came and went and now the X-E has gone.  But I still prefer the original — mainly, it has to be said, because it doesn’t have that unsightly hot-shoe hump which the later models  needed to accommodate the VF-2 electronic viewfinder. True, it is slower to focus than its successors and slower to writ to memory (let’s face it, is slow…period) but as an photographic tool it is still capable of impressive results and attracts a devoted following.

Whither Leica and APS-C? I’ve made no secret of my disappointment with the recently introduced Leica TL. I had hoped for a return to a more traditional approach, an interchangeable-lens-design based on the body of the Leica X or, better still, the Q with a built-in viewfinder. I still think that would transform the company’s prospects in APS-C. The lens range is there already, the TL mount is shared with the new full-frame SL, and it has everything going for it.

There is no doubt that the ending of the X line of cameras (with the exception of the oddball underwater X-U) leaves a big hole in the Leica APS-C roadmap. I believe that something new must be in the offing, and soon.

  Our Australian correspondent John Shingleton has been a long-time Leica X1 fan and he is one of the many photographers throughout the world who will be shedding a tear at the news of the deletion of the range (Photo John Shingleton)
Our Australian correspondent John Shingleton has been a long-time Leica X1 fan and he is one of the many photographers throughout the world who will be shedding a tear at the news of the deletion of the range (Photo John Shingleton)

Micro four-thirds

One of my pet themes is the possibility of a micro four-thirds foray for Leica. With the on-going Panasonic cooperation and the success of rebranded cameras, the D Lux and V Lux, I would have thought that Panasonic’s APS-C cameras, in particularly the GX8, would be ripe for rebranding. This smaller sensor format has made big strides in recent years and cameras such as the PEN-F and OM-D EM-1 have improved ISO performance and dynamic range possibilities to the point where it is becoming more attractive to APS-C devotees.

  The Panasonic Lumix GX8 would make a super re-branded Leica. There is already a range of Leica DG lenses available for micro four-thirds, including this wonderful 12mm (24mm full-frame equivalent) Summilux. We can dream....
The Panasonic Lumix GX8 would make a super re-branded Leica. There is already a range of Leica DG lenses available for micro four-thirds, including this wonderful 12mm (24mm full-frame equivalent) Summilux. We can dream….

There is already a strong range of Leica DG-branded lenses for the m4/3 mount, including the 12mm Summilux. the 42.5mm Nocticron and an excellent 12-60mm zoom in the shape of the new Vario-Elmarit. So far Leica has been adamant that there is no possibility of an entry into the m4/3 world. Indeed, when the D Lux was announced in 2014 Leica was at pains to quash any mention of the term micro four-thirds, instead maintaining that the sensor was “four-thirds”. This is strictly true, of course, but I thought that Leica did protest a little too much. One possibility, of course, is that Leica is prevented from muscling in on the m4/3 platform by agreement between the Panasonic-Olympus consortium.

Whatever, with live in interesting times. With the gap in the APS-C market, despite the presence of the TL, and the expectation that both the D Lux and V Lux are due for upgrade, the sub-full-frame Leica range is in turmoil.

Read More: Leica X-E Discontinued, Leica Rumors

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17 COMMENTS

  1. I won’t miss them Mike…

    I didn’t really like the moulded appearance of the outer ring that held the lens and motor, it looked a bit cheap. Neither did I like the fact that it was very difficult to fit any kind of filter onto the camera… It is possible, there are still a number of teenage Chinese craftsladies currently beavering away making weird bulbous wart like objects that accommodate the inny-outy lens, but such things are hardly complementary.

    I thought that I would come to terms with the lack of a viewfinder, but I ended up trying an old E.Leitz 35mm viewfinder and then an Olympus version of the Leica EVF as used on the M240.

    It has been suggested that if Leica were to do something really bold with this format, something on a par with the Fuji X series, complete with the simplicity that Leica are famed for, that they would impinge on the various "full frame" offerings…

    …Maybe, maybe not, but I would venture to suggest that the reason that they are discontinuing the X series, is because the competition, mainly Fuji has not only impinged on Leica’s X market, it has affected the full-frame market too, with the likes of Bill Palmer and William Fagan (Leica stalwarts) and many others buying into Fuji, rather than persisting with Leica’s digital M offerings.

    Now possibly the M10 will bring some back, but a decent replacement for the X series could well do so much more.

    • I agree that the design is not perfect, especially the inability to fit a filter (but I think the Fuji X100x models have the same problem). In some ways the Ricoh auto lens cap arrangement is the neatest and best solution for lens protection. But I do think the X1/2/X-E have a lot of charm and are more than competent cameras. I get along quite well with a Voigtländer 35mm optical viewfinder, expecially on the X1 which has the useful green flashing autofocus light which is visible from the corner of the eye.

      All this said, the range was indeed long in the tooth and a radical redesign is necessary. If Leica could produce a fixed-lens camera similar in concept to the X100F I am sure it would sell, if only to existing Leica M and SL owners. There is now nothing in the Leica catalogue, other than the D Lux, that remotely offers the benefits of a jacket-pocket travel camera.

  2. Smartphones have brought about a paradigm shift in the photo taking and camera markets. If you don’t agree, a quick glance at the sales statistics will convince you otherwise. In such a scenario, Leica and all other camera manufacturers have to be careful about where they jump next. Yes, a camera like a Leica X series will give better image quality, but that is not what the vast majority of the market values most. For the vast majority of the market portability, size and ability to instantly upload and share are now far higher priorities. Leica have realised that and have glanced eastwards towards Huawei.

    The TL is a possible clue to where Leica might go next with its touch screens etc. I am not convinced, however, that a smart camera with some of the in-built features of a smartphone would work, but Leica might give it a punt. The choice between a big lumpy thing and a slim svelte item that fits in your pocket will be an easy one for the majority of the market to make.

    The D-Lux and V-Lux will go wherever Panasonic (Lumix) leads them, if that is anywhere at all. My first mobile phone in the early 1990s was a Panasonic but there is no sign of that company getting into serious competition with Samsung, Apple, Huawei etc. Bill recently showed us a device that might point the way forward for Panasonic but I don’t think that it is the ‘real deal’ yet.

    Leica has to slim down its number of lines in a declining market. Where to next? Apart from the smart device aspect, Leica has to be careful not to cannibalise the market for its more expensive lines. It will be an interesting few years ahead as Leica and other camera manufacturers work out their survival and development strategies. Hopefully, the middle will survive as a market made up of a very large bottom end and just a few high end models would not be good for enthusiasts.

    William

  3. Unfortunately Mike, the TL will be next to go the way of the X. "Death by lack of built in viewfinder" will be the coroner’s pronouncement.
    It’s a shame really, but I’m sure Leica understands this but would rather focus its resources on an M and SL line. The D Lux line will continue to do well for Leica for a variety of reasons. Not the least of which is the inclusion of a built in viewfinder.

    • Kwesi,

      I agree with what you say. I just hope that Leica doesn’t;t abandon the APS-C sensor because I think there is a latent demand for a Fuji-like traditional camera — something that the TL is not. I think they made a major mistake with the T: It would have been better if they’d put the T mount on the X (even without integral viewfinder) and then migrated to a Q-style body with viewfinder. Maybe there is something afoot at Wetzlar, who knows?

    • I saw Eamonn Mc Cabe wielding a Fuji X-Pro on the BBC at Lacock Abbey last night in Part 1 of his excellent series on the history of British photography. In other shots, he was seen wielding a Canon DSLR, which for me is one of those ‘computers with lenses’. I agree about the Leica T and it did not attract me at all. The attraction for me with the Fuji models is, primarily, the traditional layout and handling, as that is what I am used to, but what will happen when the market is almost entirely made up of ‘digital natives’ is very much up in the air. My 20 year old grandson is definitely more comfortable with menus than I am.

      The other point I was making is that Leica might try to recapture some of the market that is leaving cameras behind them with an attempt to produce a ‘smart camera’ that is derived from the T. I would have no interest in such a device and I am not sure the broader market would either, possibly for different reasons.

      It really looks like ever decreasing circles for the humble camera, unless someone comes up with a real ‘Eureka moment’.

      William

  4. Es una excelente información que de los pocos fotógrafos profesionales que quedan recordarán los tiempos de la calidad de imágenes obtenidas con las Leicas de los años sesenta. Sonrío y me imagino ver a mi señor padre teniendo en sus manos una Leica XE, tras 61 años de vida profesional en fotografía, tras haber trabajado con una M-1.

    Saludos, Roberto Murga.

  5. Funny this post should come to-day: I was just taking another outing with my X1 (and Clearviewer attachment!), jpeg only, and I am amazed once again at the IQ – colour and definition – which it gives me. I had hoped Leica would have built on the X-Vario by detaching the lens, giving body and lens an M-mount, and squeezing a VF into the body. Then it might have merited the original moniker – mini-M. Anyway, I’m glad I bought into the X1 and XV while they have been on the market – each in its own way goes for "das Wesentliche".

  6. Mike , thanks for featuring one of my X1 photos to illustrate your story. Although I am a dedicated and enthusiastic X1 and X Vario user I cannot add anything to the story or the comments except to say that there are those who appreciate what brilliant cameras these are and there are those who have never used one or even handled one and who really don’t know what they are missing.
    I am pleased to see that the totally underappreciated X-U is continuing in production. There is an Australian Leica photographer- Rosie English who does superb work with the X-U on the beaches of Sydney see her flickr feed on https://www.flickr.com/photos/110186192@N04/
    Despite having won the funds -with a contest win with a photo taken with the X1-to buy a Leica Q my camera of choice remains the X1. Last year I was walking in the street in Fremantle ,Western Australia and I met an older photographer with a well worn X1 fitted with a Voigtlander OVF like mine. We exchanged pleasantries and he told me to look up his photos on a website. When I did so l found out that he was internationally famous and had worked for as a photographer for the UK Daily Express and then Paris Match for 15 years in its heyday. He had a string of books and awards but in retirement was more than happy to be using an X1. Enough said.

  7. Sad to see it go although I have never used one. Am just glad I bought and kept a X-Vario which I rate as being one of the worst cameras ever to use BUT I still say please forget about smaller sensor micro four thirds as despite not being the easiest cameras to use the X-Vario and I assume all of the others within the X series are still capable of turning out far superior result quality, so long live the X discontinued or not.

  8. So is there a consensus for best pack-and-go camera? X1, X2, Ricoh, or whatever phone you happen to have on you at the time ?

    • John,

      I think they will already have seen it. I know Leica Mayfair keep an eye on the blog and I know that one or two people at Wetzlar read occasionally. In any case, I am sure that nothing I said will come as a surprise in those parts.

  9. Thanks for your commentary Mike. Yes, the X-E and the rest of the X series may be forgotten by many, but they seem very much alive to me. My goal is to get one from this series, me being on a tight budget. They seem tailor-made for me. I want a big sister to my Leica C Type 112 (a small Panasonic with the lionheart of a Leica M that’s always ready to prove naysayers wrong) and one of the X series of Leicas seem just like it fits the mold perfectly.
    Really good article. Please keep them coming.
    Take care.

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