Home Cameras/Lenses Leica Leica X Vario – The Dance of the Seven Veils

Leica X Vario – The Dance of the Seven Veils

1317
16
Something in the Outback made me decide that mud and dust and dirt wasn’t really the place to inflict on a German classic, in my case the Leica X Vario

In a recent Macfilos article I was named, but not too shamed, as a “once-upon-a-time-but-no-longer” X Vario owner. It’s true, and it cannot be denied or dodged.

Now, I am a sensitive soul and was concerned that I could draw ire and wrath, hellfire and brimstone, or maybe even pity and sympathy from the Macfilos family members who still have and love their X Vario cameras.

My X Vario journey

Contrary to the indication in the original article, I actually owned my X Vario for nearly two years. They were great years. I had bought it to use primarily as a travel camera — and that’s important in the context of this article. It accompanied me to Japan, then Hong Kong, and on an extended month-long camping trip in the Australian outback.

Click on image galleries to see the crops full size and to scroll through all photographs in this article.

Above: X Vario images from Japan travels. Excellent quality output. Below: And from Hong Kong. Jpeg images

First Concerns.

It was in Kyoto that two days of rain kept the X Vario confined to the hotel room. This gorgeous beast was simply too good to use in adverse conditions, so I used my little backup Fuji X20 instead. The X20 performed well, and I must admit that I enjoyed using it, not feeling any emptiness for leaving the X Vario behind as I set out each day.

Above: Fuji X20 in Kyoto. Great memories from a little 2/3 sensor.

Then, in Outback Australia, travelling in the dust and mud of the Birdsville and Strezlecki Tracks, I again felt uncomfortable using the X Vario as a knock-about travel camera. Maybe I was being precious, but I just couldn’t bring myself to feel relaxed using it in poor conditions, let alone as a grab camera in the centre console of a 4WD Toyota Prado on bumpy outback tracks. Further, when using it at night around a campfire it did struggle in low light permeated with smoke. Again, it felt like I was abusing a wonderful technical object.

Above: From the Outback. Tony leans on my vehicle while Gerry leans on a British classic that got so far, then stopped – I do like the strategic rocks in place of wheels.

It was some time later that a new camera appeared on the shelf. Mint condition, really cute. It was a Leica D Lux 109, the new kid brother to the X Vario. Now I know that some will say that the D Lux is not a “real” Leica but, hey, it has a great Leica short zoom lens and it produces excellent images from its smaller 4/3 sensor. As a “go-to” travel camera it is a superb piece of kit.

Above: More from the Outback. There is water out there. The hot artesian springs made great swimming holes. Gerry caught fish for dinner, and predinner drinks occurred around a campfire first.

Seven Veils

It was during the time of having both the X Vario and the D Lux 109 that I realised the X Vario was shrouded in seven veils. Just as the beautiful and hypnotic Salome discarded the allotted number of veils when dancing before Herod II, these lustrous coverings had to be lifted from the X Vario to reveal her true identity to me.

Product images: Leica Camera AG

So, In comparison with the newer, younger D Lux 109 what were those seven veils? And remember that the primary consideration for me was a travel camera.

Weight

The XV weighs 680g, the DL 109 is 405g. As a travel camera the DL 109 is easier to carry all day, every day.

Size

The LxWxD volume of the XV is more than twice that of the DL 109. One of them is easier to slip into a jacket pocket.

Lens speed

I don’t dispute that the lens of the XV is wondrous in its output, but its aperture range of f/3.5-6.4 didn’t endear me compared to the f/1.7-2.8 of the DL 109 in very low light.

Longer and wider lens

The DL 109 lens covers a 24-75mm range. Not too different compared with the XV 28-70mm, but different enough at each end. And do remember that the DL 109 lens is still visually a Leica with all of its graces. Ok, I know it’s a Panasonic really, but bear with me.

Viewfinder

The inbuilt EVF of the DL 109 is much more convenient than the bolt-on aftermarket external EVF on the XV, thereby increasing its bulk even more.

Image stabilisation

DL 109, yes. XV, no. Low light. Enough said.

Balance

A personal feeling. Some have described the XV as a wonderful lens with a camera attached. I agree totally. But using it all day when travelling I felt that it was “front heavy”. A great lens yes, but out of balance as a camera.

My X Vario began to play second fiddle to the little D Lux 109 as a go-to travel camera. In fact, over time it even began to gather dust as a daily camera. So, it was time to move it on to a new home where it would again be loved and treasured. I understand it went to a surgeon at a medical school in Taiwan. I wonder if he still has it? I’ve now replaced it with a Leica X1 and Leica X2, wonderful little siblings in the X world, they fill my heart with gladness.

Above: Even more from the Outback. Staff at the various pubs do vary in presentation, but they’re always friendly. (All Outback images are jpegs from the X Vario)

More explaining

Don’t get me wrong. At the end of the Dance of the Seven Veils Wilde’s play and Richard Strauss’ opera Salome was still revealed as a beautiful creation. The same is true for the Leica X Vario. I enjoyed my two years with her. Like Salome, she gave me some memorable images and a magical journey. But after the reveal of the seven veils it just wasn’t the same lustful affair, for me anyway.

And my decision in no way dismisses or criticises those who have kept and use and love their X Varios. Like Herod II, continue to enjoy the dance. I understand first hand. Love your X Varios. They are special…….

Something in the Outback made me decide that mud and dust and dirt wasn’t really the place to inflict on a German classic, in my case the Leica X Vario

Something in the Outback made me decide that mud and dust and dirt wasn’t really the place to inflict on a German classic, in my case the Leica X Vario

Related articles

.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Wayne,
    “ire and wrath, hellfire and brimstone, or maybe even pity and sympathy from the Macfilos family members who still have and love their X Vario cameras”. How about forgiveness, especially as it’s Easter?
    Kevin

    • I’m smiling Kevin. Forgiveness, I didn’t think of that. I will gratefully accept.

      Also, thank you for your articles and X Vario images images. When I’ve seen them I must admit a slight pang of regret that I don’t still have my X Vario.

  2. Exactly my dilemma, Wayne. So far I’ve decided to hang on to my XV complete with plug-on viewfinder – which does have the advantage of being tiltable, something Leica is otherwise a bit mean about with its inbuilt viewfinders and non-tillable screens. But I don’t regard the XV as my go anywhere, face anything camera, but my more deliberate, fair weather picture-maker. So I don’t think I shall be shedding it – too fond of the results. Sony comes to my aid when I want compactness and Pentax when I need an all-weather tank (better winterized than I am!). This is really just an extended way of saying I enjoyed your article and your photos, and you helped me to think through once again, whether I should keep the XV. Answer still positive!

    • Good decision John N.
      If I had actually stopped to think a couple of years ago, I’d probably still have my X Vario too.

  3. Thank you, really loved the pics, as the saying goes you don’t bring a knife to s gun fight! By this I mean my x’s are for good weather usage if it nasty I use D850, I could never get hang of umbrella in one hand and the x in the other.

    • Gday John W. I love your “don’t bring a knife to a gunfight” metaphor. And extending that metaphor I’d suggest that a D Lux 109 is, however, a very cute little stiletto to keep on your person at all times.

  4. I just do not bother about what the weather is doing! Don. PS. Mind you I do also carry a supermarket plastic bag to drape over such as my X-Vario CL or Q etc if it happens to be very dusty or hissing down! in

    • That’s a fair call Don. But the thought of a lovely X Vario in a plastic shopping bag just doesn’t really do it for me.
      Now, I do remember a classic portrait of you with black beard and three or four SLRs including one with a big bazooka telephoto. I’m guessing that there wasn’t a plastic bag big enough to fit all that kit! And I’m sure that we are all thankful that you never fell into a river with that kit around your neck – it would have taken you straight to the bottom 🙂 Cheers, Wayne.

  5. Great article Wayne and really nice pics. I totally understand your weather/dust related dilema. I’ll never take my X2 in foul weather or dusty environment. I’m sort of maniac with my camera and whenever rain is expected under my latitude I always take a plastic bag with me to have the camera safe whether it’s the ricoh GR or the X2. Size wise the XV seems a rather big camera and though it is a wonderful camera it is too big for me. I love the X2 and the GR for their size and utterly refuse to carry something bulkier than the 2 above. Fortunately the camera industry is providing us with nice tools in a small package.

    • Thank you Jean. When I think rationally my thoughts are in line with yours. But then I remember the X Vario as the ugly duckling that was really a beautiful swan.
      Even if I had kept it I would probably still default to the D Lux 109 or the X1 or X2.
      My secret wish is that Leica would produce a Q with a 35mm lens or, even better, a 40mm lens. It would be brilliant, but the wishful thinking is futile I suspect.

        • Dust is a well-known issue with the D-Lux and, of course, it is a far more serious problem than with an interchangeable-lens camera where cleaning is easy. D-Luxes have to go back to the importer for cleaning. It’s an issue with all fixed-lens cameras featuring extended lenses — the Ricoh GR is another culprit. That said, I understand that the latest D-Lux 7 has been improved to minimise the problem. We shall have to see.

          • Hello again Jean, and Michael.
            I’m also aware that the LX100 and D Lux 109 have a dust bellows reputation. That said, I’ve not had the problem. I do wonder what proportion of owners actually experience it? Is there a big silent majority out there for whom it hasn’t been an issue?
            Same question for the GR. And why not similar noises about the Leica X1 and X2?
            Must admit that I don’t know the answer.

  6. Good to see you covering off the X Vario on your round trip of Camera’s Wayne, some really nice images in this article.

    I still prefer my X typ 113, over a zoom lensed version, possibly because I like the wider aperture for taking portraits.

    The last image with the Blue VW Beetle made me laugh.

    Lets see what conjure up next.

  7. Hello Dave. That last photo was taken outside the bakery at Birdsville in far west Queensland, way out in the middle of nowhere. I think the owner of the classic VW is one of 140 residents of the town, and I don’t know whether he/she owns a Leica, but out there nothing surprises.

    • Hi Dave. Your comment re the blue VW prompted me to do some homework.
      Google “Birdsville blue vw abc”.
      An inspiring story with a sad ending.

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.