Home Features Will there ever be another Leica X?

Will there ever be another Leica X?

177
19
  Leica’s beloved X cameras have gone the way of the Concorde and the Daimler SP250 Dart — unless you want to go diving with the X-U, the last the the Xians. Photo taken with the Leica X2
Leica’s beloved X cameras have gone the way of the Concorde and the Daimler SP250 Dart — unless you want to go diving with the X-U, the last the the Xians. Photo taken with the Leica X2

Will there ever be another X? It was one of the questions arising at the LHSA meeting in Wetzlar earlier this month. Many have been wondering why the X-range of fixed-lens cameras, epitomised for me in the X1/X2 and X Vario, were so brusquely erased from the product line. Now we’re left with just one X, and that a specialised underwater camera. 

The answer, I think, came from Leica’s Stephan Schulz but it could have been Ruud Peters, I can’t remember: Another X has not been ruled out, but there is a strong argument that the new CL occupies the void created by the discontinuance of the X models. It is small and light and can be turned into a copy of any X camera by adding a suitable lens.

  Leica X Vario and X2, two of the finest fixed-lens compacts to come from Wetzlar. These cameras and the Typ 113 X Summilux were simple cameras with great image quality and very easy to use (Image Leica Camera AG)
Leica X Vario and X2, two of the finest fixed-lens compacts to come from Wetzlar. These cameras and the Typ 113 X Summilux were simple cameras with great image quality and very easy to use (Image Leica Camera AG)

To an extent this is true. The CL is the spiritual descendant of the Barnack Leica — it has the same footprint as a 1935 Model III and, with the 18mm Elmarit pancake, it does the same job as the X1 or X2, albeit slightly wider in scope. Even with the 23mm Summicron, which mirrors the X1’s 35mm-equivalent lens, it is not much bigger than the X1 or X2. And with the 18-56mm Vario Elmarit, it matches the X Vario function for function. There is a strong argument that the CL, with just two lenses, is all the travel camera you need.

  Leia X2 and Mini Cooper Works
Leia X2 and Mini Cooper Works

This said, and recognised, there is still something about the X cameras, with their fixed lenses and supremely simple control layout —everything you need to know is there in front of you on clearly marked dials — that sets them apart from the more technically advanced CL. They are just so convenient and always ready for action without having to check settings on a small screen or through the viewfinder. 

  Keeping off the showers: Leica X2
Keeping off the showers: Leica X2

Back in August, I added a used, black Leica X2 to the silver X1 I’ve owned for several years. I’ve been in and out of the X models — including the superb X-Vario — over the past six or seven years. But there is just something about them that keeps pulling me back. 

  Even con-rods from a 1920s Leyland Trojan car have their devotees, Leica X2
Even con-rods from a 1920s Leyland Trojan car have their devotees, Leica X2

Now I’m not short of the odd camera or two, but I’ve had tremendous fun with the X2 since I bought it. Unlike the X1, which has to make do with the screen or an optical finder, the X2 accommodates the VF2 electronic finder as used on the M240 and X Vario. These days, of course, it is pretty basic. But for some, access to an EVF is an essential factor, and it certainly makes the camera more comfortable to use (at the cost of extra bulk).

  Reverend Michael Staines, one of the earliest members of the Brough Superior Club. He has been a member for 60 years. Will my Leica X2 be paraded out for the faithful in 60 years’ time? I wonder.
Reverend Michael Staines, one of the earliest members of the Brough Superior Club. He has been a member for 60 years. Will my Leica X2 be paraded out for the faithful in 60 years’ time? I wonder.

The X2 also has an improved sensor (16MP instead of 12 MP) and faster autofocus (although after five years, as with the EVF, that’s not something to get excited about), and makes a more rounded package than the X1. John Shingleton will disagree, however, since he is wedded-until-death-do-them-part with his X1, dodgy battery compartment or no. 

But just what is it about the X cameras that continues to attract and, indeed, has raised them to cult status — particularly on the evangelical beaches of New South Wales. 

Well, the attraction lies in the small size and functionality of these little gems. Nothing is there that isn’t necessary. And, as I’ve already said, having aperture and shutter speed dials visible on the top plate is nirvana. Both dials have an A for auto setting, enabling the user to juggle the three main modes — full auto, aperture priority and shutter priority. Is there anything else you need?

  Mr. Selfridge: 1922 London General omnibus by made by Leyland (Leica X2)
Mr. Selfridge: 1922 London General omnibus by made by Leyland (Leica X2)

But it goes deeper than that. Somehow these cameras, whether X1 or X2, continue to amaze with the quality of their images. Against all the odds, and despite advances in sensor technology, ISO capability and processing engines, these cameras are still capable of excellent results. John Shingleton proves this regularly. And my efforts with the X2 have been more than adequate. 

The very underrated X Vario is also a camera that continues to impress. I sold mine but would buy another if one fell into my lap at the right price. Slow the lens may be, but overall the results from this camera are outstanding. 

  One of Victorian London’s finest: 2HP bus sets off on a clop around the Surrey lanes (Leiva X2)
One of Victorian London’s finest: 2HP bus sets off on a clop around the Surrey lanes (Leiva X2)

Is there room for fixed-lens cameras of this nature in 2018? Well, the Leica Q continues to sell well — I imagine it has been one of the company’s most successful digital productions, if not the most successful. And Fuji remains devoted to the X100 series which came along after the X1 and rather took the wind out of its sales. Even the little Ricoh GR shows that there is a market for compact APS-C all-in-one cameras.

I have a feeling we could see another 35mm fixed-lens compact as a successor to the X models. I don’t think the clock will be turned back, though. Any such newcomer will more than likely look more like the CL than on any of the older X formats, attractive as they still are. That’s perhaps a pity because we would lose that comforting direct access to functions that is the hallmark of all the X line.

  Cockpit of a Leyland Trojan, made in the old Croydon works which, in the late 1950s, turned its hand to importing the Italian Lambretta scooter. In the background, still discussing Trojan con-rods
Cockpit of a Leyland Trojan, made in the old Croydon works which, in the late 1950s, turned its hand to importing the Italian Lambretta scooter. In the background, still discussing Trojan con-rods

We can hope. In the meantime, do not under any circumstances, dismiss the X1, X2, X-Vario or X as used buys. All were superb cameras, ahead of their time in image quality, and all possess superb lenses that, if bought separately, would cost more than the camera and lens at today’s used prices. 

My X2 might be all of six years old, but many would claim it is capable of giving more pleasure than an M10, CL or even, dare I say, the Q. It’s just so right.

____________

19 COMMENTS

  1. The X’s to me are addictive, my opioid of choice, I would consider a CL with equivalent lens but do they still have that wandering focus problem?

    • They do still have that problem but, I hope, not for long. There is another firmware update due, I suspect, and I have brought this issue to their attention often enough. I shall be very disappointed if they don’t cure it.

  2. I love mine. You know this already.

    I had hoped a hybrid of the CL with the X dials and the 23mm F2 as a permanent lens would be the perfect new X.

    I am also not convinced that sensor technology is moving much now either. As the old 16mp sensor routinely prove

    Dave S

  3. Absolutely agree. I have an X2 which came earlier this year with a low price and a guarantee. As I am an (I suspect) incorrigible zoomer but not a lens-changer, it is the X-Vario which is my top model. The Leica add-on grip improves the handling, but it adds too much bulk and weight, so I shall be adding (sacrilege to some!) a flipbac front face handgrip in the near future – discreet and functional. I’ve already solved the rear wheel problem with a little, dull metal, marginally raised thumb rest. And I refuse to go along with the "slow lens" moniker: would we harp on that with a 2.8 to 5.6? Not much difference, and the marriage of lens and sensor in the X-V produces beautiful images even at high ISO.
    John N.

  4. Just saw this re Q2 https://leicarumors.com/2018/10/29/leica-q2-camera-rumors-more-megapixels-everything-else-remains-unchanged.aspx/ which is said to be coming next May

    With this and the CL with 18mm kit and a possible Panaleica version of the Lumix LX 100 II, another X seems unlikely. And, of course, for those who want to travel light with full communications functionality, there are various Huawei phones with Leica lenses. That Fotos smartphone app for use with Leica cameras has a lot of bugs and limitations and, so far, it has not worked for me (with M10).

    I love that photo of the old chap in his kilt at the Brough Superior event. I wonder will any digital cameras last 60+ years and still be working like a Brough Superior?

    William

    • A fixed-lens APS-C camera definitely has a place, I believe. The D-Lux and CL are different animals. Fuji makes a success of the X100 despite having competing ILC cameras which could do the same job. The Q is an excellent alternative, with full-frame to boot, but it is quite bulky and heavy compared with the svelte X1/X2. I’d definitely like to see an X3 provided Leica could retain the direct controls (as Don Morley mentioned in another comment) rather than using soft controls and an LCD window.

      • I agree 100% on the direct controls v soft controls issue and I much prefer dials to LCD windows. As a relatively small manufacturer, though, Leica has to maintain a manageable product line. I am just wondering how Leica could fit another X into its evolving range.

        William

  5. My much loved X-Vario holds its place over my CL simply because it is so much nicer and simpler to set up or use than the CL and despite the considerable pixel count deficit between the two cameras the X-Vario mostly still holds its own, though to be honest it would be no contest with the CL winning hands down had Leica used the same sort of conventional shutter speed, ISO, and aperture setting dials as well on the newer camera.

    • I agree with you. I like the size and shape of the CL, and the hump for the viewfinder gives it a unique appearance — very Barnak-like. But direct physical dials for shutter speed and aperture would work better, in my opinion. I think it is really what most Leica buyers prefer. Instead, we have an odd combination of push-and-set soft dials and a minute window that is trying to be something it isn’t. It wouldn’t have been necessary if they’d given those two dials a direct function. The problem is that Leica thinks it needs to compete with the latest fashion in soft controllability without realising that there is still a demand for a more traditional approach. Commendably, Fuji knows this and, so far, has avoided going down the soft-control route.

  6. I totally agree with your comments and love the quality of your images. I love my X2 and use it more and more along with my ricoh grd4 (and sometimes the GR which is not dead yet). The X2 has been my only travel camera since I bought it and will be until it stops working. Having a fixed lens is liberating and you get amazing pictures in a small package. It will be in my camera bag for my next trips with the evf and a couple of spare betteries.
    Jean

  7. I still use sometimes my X1 bought in 2010…mainly because of size, wight and simplicity.
    I use it when hiking (M10 too large and heavy) under my wind jacket…
    Yes I would like a new updated version but do not think it will come 🙁
    robert

  8. An excellent review, Mike, which brings together well-supported facts and views. Although not enough to satisfy Leica marketing, I believe Leica could use the same tooling from X1/X2 and simply upgrade the sensor and processor. Possibly even add a mini-hump VF like the CL – or not. The USP would be the sheer compactness and light-weight of an X3 which would set in apart.

    Your comment on buying an X Vario at a good price raises the thorny question of values. I believe trade-in offers are around £300 which would buy you an M-adapter for a CL. Which would be more useful to a photographer? Hence owners are keeping their proven XVs for backup or parallel use. (One XV plus CL with 23mm Summicron or long tele-zoom makes for a good two lens kit)

    • David, but why would you propose upgrading the sensor and the processor? For me one of the many joys of the X1 is that the current sensor and processor work so well and produce such wonderful images. OK you may want it to work in lower light levels but I have a feeling that you may well lose something along the way if you changed it.
      John Shingleton

  9. I’ve just bought a second-hand X1 and I am delighted with it. The lack of modes, customisable function buttons and crazily complex menus is truly liberating. Not only is it a joy to use but the image quality is (to me, anyway) a pleasant surprise. I’ve only had it a few weeks and I have already taken more images that I am pleased with than months worth of shooting with my Sony. Certainly, there are limitations, but that just forces you to think more about what you are doing, which can be no bad thing.

    • Congratulations, Simon. I agree with all you say. The X1 and X2 are liberating cameras. I think Leica got the simplicity just right and an updated version would sell, despite all the naysayers. In the meantime, these cameras are going on to become “digital classics” and make a solid used buy.

  10. It appears that the biggest criticism of the X1 from its earliest days was its slow autofocus.However, having handled John Shingleton’s X1 a few times while having coffee and comparing it with my X2, I’d agree with Simon Edwards below. Correct, the autofocus isn’t fast, but that can actually have a positive effect in terms of careful and thoughtful composition for stills photography. Combine that with the excellent images produced, and that camera is still a winner.

  11. I love my X2, and miss my X-Vario. I found the X-Vario zoom to be superior to the current TL zoom in all but speed. And I feel the little Elmarit on the X2 outdraws the current Summicron 23. Plus, the larger photo sites on the X series give the images a more organic feel.

    I think Leica could build a new X camera on the CL chassis, replacing the soft dials with real photographic controls. Heck, they could even bolt on a "winding knob" and call it a "thumb rest". I’d buy one of those.

  12. Mike , you will be pleased to know that as summer really has arrived downunder-34ºC forecast for Friday-I have been up at glorious Blueys Beach in northern New South Wales taking photos on beaches and in the surrounding Myall Lakes National Park for two days !
    And yes, despite having a choice of cameras from an XV,Q and the X1- I took just my X1.
    I have owned more than a few cameras and lenses over 60 years of photography and no camera has been as satisfying to use and has given me such consistently satisfying photos as my X1. Many days I wonder why I bought the Q and the XVario. I really could be happy owning just the X1 and on a number of overeas and local trips including this week I have opted just for the X1. I know the gearheads think me strange but the results speak for themselves.
    I am seriously considering buying a second X1 as a spare for the day when digital rot or some other malaise- or I drop it-consigns my X1 to the camera graveyard in the sky..
    As an aside I still have the original lens cap which I use the whole time and as you will appreciate this in itself is achievement seeing how much I use my X1.
    John Shingleton

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.