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
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.
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.
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.
The XV weighs 680g, the DL 109 is 405g. As a travel
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.
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.
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.
DL 109, yes. XV, no. Low light. Enough said.
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)
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
- Earlier articles by Wayne Gerlach
- Leica T or X Vario, an interesting choice
- Leica X Vario, a misunderstood gem
- Other Macfilos articles on the Leica X Vario