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The Leica X Vario: A retrospective of a camera that had a bad start but exceeded expectations

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The Leica X Vario was launched in mid-2013, just short of nine years ago. As the editor, Mike Evans, pointed out on Monday this week, it had a chequered career before it finally bit the dust in early 2017. Four years of life, but a further five years have gone by and the X Vario is more popular than ever.

This article attempts to encapsulate my enthusiasm for this very misunderstood Leica.

Life with Leica

I started my Leica journey back in 1967 when I purchased a Leica IIIa rangefinder camera while still at university in Reading, England. Over the years this was followed by an M3, an M4, an M4P and, finally, an M6 which I kept until 2007. I then decided that autofocus and digital was the way forward and I made a switch to Canon.

The Leica bug had not totally left my system and I bought an X1 in 2011 and became a fully paid up X1 fan boy — an enthusiasm which has continued until this day.

Fast forward to 2014 and I was corresponding with longterm Leica enthusiast and friend, Roger, in the UK. He had recently sold his substantial Leica collection and moved to the then new Sony A7. His rationale for such a drastic move was that Leicas had become too expensive. He persuaded me that I should try an A7.

Sony liaison

So I followed his advice and purchased an A7 with the Sony kit 28-70mm lens in March 2014. From day one I just did not bond with it. Above all, I hated the menus — way too confusing for me as I am not an Airbus A380 pilot. Eventually I did take a few worthwhile photos with it, particularly when using Zeiss Contax G series lenses with an adapter.

During a trip to the Le Mans Classic motor races in France in July 2014 I decided that the Sony and I were never going to be friends. So it was a very short affair — a little more than a one night standard but hardly a fine romance. Despite this break-up, I did not manage to get around to selling the Sony until 2017

Media pile on

The Leica X Vario had been launched in 2013 and to describe its reception as underwhelming is an understatement. It bombed. Totally. Most of the reasons for this are explained in Mike’s story, although I should also add that it was also very expensive for what it offered.

There was a blog and photographic media “pile on” against the X Vario. It seems rather ridiculous in retrospect because many of those disparaging the camera had probably never even seen a Leica, let alone handled an X Vario. Anyway, within a year of its release it was being heavily discounted and was effectively on runout.

The lack of an EVF was a major demerit and a major point of criticism. It was odd because at the same time as the X Vario was being released, Leica launched a rebranded Panasonic — the Leica C. This had a very neat little integrated EVF which surely could have been built into the X Vario without any problems. My late wife had a Leica C — it’s in a drawer somewhere still — and the EVF was ok. Not a great EVF, but an EVF nonetheless.

By not having an integrated EVF Leica put the X Vario into a no man’s land as far as the market was concerned. It was an expensive high-end camera which had no built in viewfinder.

The Fujifilm X-E2 launched the same year as the X Vario shared the 16MP APS-C format but it had an EVF and interchangeable lenses and, even with a lens it was way cheaper than the Leica.

The expensive accessory clip on EVF for the X Vario was probably regarded by Leica as an adequate response to the viewfinder issue but the market did not agree.

Slow or not-so-slow?

The second major criticism of the X Vario was that the 28-70 mm f/3.5-6.3 zoom lens was slow at the 70mm end. At the time, the norm for 28-70mm lenses was f/3.5-f/5.6. The Leica lens at 70mm was only half a stop slower than the norm, but the critics didn’t cut it any slack. It was totally inconsequential and hardly worth mentioning, let alone getting in a knot about. Leica explained their objective was to keep the lens compact and increasing the aperture would have resulted in a bulkier lens/camera combination.

The third criticism of the X Vario was that prior to launch it was being promoted as a “Mini M”, which it clearly was not.

As a result, when it did arrive there was a wave of disappointment. It did not have a viewfinder, let alone a coupled rangefinder and it did not have interchangeable lenses. I have to hope that this ridiculous positioning statement came from an outside marketing agency, but even so Leica should have thrown it out from day one because it undoubtedly contributed to much of the angst directed towards the camera.

The final criticism was that the X Vario was way too expensive. And it certainly was — particularly when fitted with the accessory EVF. I don’t really understand which market they expected to access with the camera. I can understand why it costs so much — the lens is superb and the build quality is up to M standard. The problem was who were the customers they expected to sell to? We’ll never know.

A new toy

I had handled an X Vario in a now long-gone Leica dealer in Sydney soon after its release. I was very impressed by its build quality and Leica “feel” — its haptics if you will. I was not impressed, however, with the price and the lack of an EVF.

At the time I just could not understand why the X Vario, like the X1, has a tiny built in pop up flash unit. Who on earth would ever use it? I have never ever taken a photo using the pop up flash on either the X1 or the X Vario. In fact I have never even made either of the flash units pop up. They may not even work as far as I know.

A small EVF would fit very nicely in the space taken by the ridiculous flash unit on the X Vario. What were they thinking?

A few months before my failed romance with the Sony had begun, another Sydney Leica dealer had emailed me an offer on the X Vario complete with the Leica clip-on EVF at a heavily discounted price.

They obviously had stock they could not move. I was not tempted at the time, but six months later on that trip to the Le Mans Classic in July 2014 all that changed. Sitting in a Paris hotel room the morning before flying back to Sydney, I called the dealer and enquired if the offer was still available. It was and I bought an X Vario there and then.

I have not regretted it. I have taken thousands of photos with that little camera all over the world and I still love using it. I have to admit, though, that it is no longer my preferred Leica because I won a substantial cash prize in a photography competition in 2016 and put the proceeds into buying a Q.

The chequered history of the X Vario meant that not many were made and sold but pre-owned units can be found from time to time on Ebay and in Leica dealers. Most of them have seen little use.

Worth a punt

If you are looking at owning a real Leica, as opposed to a PanaLeica, a Leica with an outstanding zoom lens at a cost which means that you do not have to sell a kidney, then consider an X Vario. Look at the image quality and the build/feel of this camera. Even straight from the camera jpegs are superb.

Pick up the X Vario and use it take photos and tell yourself, “the only thing which can stop me taking great photos with this camera is me!”

Remember Henri Cartier Bresson took amazing photos with Leicas which were very basic by today’s standards and the specification of the X Vario is far from basic.

As the proof of the pudding is in the eating not the recipe, I have included a selection of photos I have taken with my X Vario over the years. They are chosen to show that the camera can handle most situations, including low light and even motorcycle racing action. And the swivelling Leica EVF — made by Olympus — is ideal for cat photography. What more could you want?

Read more from the author on Macfilos

Visit John’s blog, The Rolling Road


33 COMMENTS

  1. I never owned an X Vario, I am sure that it is a very good product but I see that it was launched in the US in 2013 for $2,850… and that is indeed pretty insane pricing, way way too expensive for the intended market, I don’t believe Leica will ever resurrect the L line of products, they simply would not be able to compete with companies like Fuji, and in the meanwhile they have found their new niche market with the Leica Q… Thanks for the article and the pictures!

  2. Thanks for the comprehensive article and images that prove it is still a capable camera. I never considered it due to the lack of built in viewfinder.

    I really love your image of the motorcycle.

    I tried the A7R but the haptics, menus, and colour science did not suit me at all. I missed so many images due to small buttons that I could not press. It quickly was put up for adoption. It always seemed like a computer that could also take pictures- but it was not intuitive and it certainly was not a decisive moment camera for me.

  3. My wife and I each have a Vario X, one in black, the other in silver. I was invited to try the camera out by the Leica Washington, DC store just as it came out. It was, for me a perfect fit. All the technology necessary, with a great lens that covered all the focal lengths I would need. I took it home and showed it to my wife, also a photographer. She shoots color, I black and white. After turning it on, handling it, taking and looking at the images, she looked at me and said “this is mine. You’ll have to get one of your own.” So, back to the Leica store and the purchase of the one silver bodied Vario X they had. It was actually the display model in the window, but a sale in hand was better than a camera in the window. These two cameras have traveled the world, taken thousands of pictures and have never failed us. I have other newer Leicas, but the two Vario X’s are on the hallway table, batteries charged, always ready to go.

  4. I never sold mine and use it now primarily on my copy stand, though it deserves more use outdoors…

  5. Because the XV zoom lens is manual with clearly marked focal length equivalents, it is also a very good camera for learning what 28, 35, 50, and 70mm give you in terms of framing. Or you can just say to yourself “I’ll have a 28mm day to-day” and stick to one focal length and learn from that. I have grown fonder of my XV, the more use I have given it. As you say, John, the OOC jpegs are really impressive, and I never take anything else. They generally need very little in the way of pp.

  6. Hi John, I too was unable to bond with the Sony RX1R. With viewfinder and other accessories, the Sony costs even more than the X Vario. I bought the X Vario in July 2014 and is still keeping it whereas the RX1R was sold 4 years ago. The XV made wonderful pictures and is nice to use on holiday trips.

  7. Thank you John for my Saturday morning read. Nice discussion point and images.

    Im with you on Sony menus, in fact i’m not a fan of Nikon or Canon menus either. It might explain my love of the Df, as once the menu bits are fine tuned, like my X everything is on the outside.

    I could have had either the XV or my current X at the time I bought it. But took the XV’s sister camera owing to my love of using primes on my original DSLR at the time.

    I do not believe that Leica will ever circle back in this area again. And will let APSC die out, which is a shame as the X range shows, that given a few more tweaks they could take on the Fuji range – and many of us may prefer a Leica over a Fuji.

    Enjoy the weekend.

    Dave

  8. Thanks for the article and a reminder of the validity of the X-Vario. If you were to look at Leica’s product planning, launches and marketing support, then the X-Vario, T, TL, TL2 and CL look like textbook examples of how to get it wrong. I have no idea what kind of product planning do but clearly it could be significantly better informed. There’s also how you position products with the press and with buyers. Mini M? Poor product explanation with DPReview for the CL? It’s hugely frustrating when these failures are self inflicted. Yet somehow they can keep turning our successful M iterations and surprise successes like the Q family. I can only hope Leica’s senior management have looked closely at the process by which they made the Q a success and can reapply that to future models.

    • +1. Either totally incompetent product management, or complete corporate disinterest or both… My guess is that it took Leica a while to realize that the surprise success of the Q was going to last, and by that time the development of the TL2 and the CL were already too far along, so they released them but without the backing, support and marketing needed… That and the new focus on wanting to be top end and basically discontinuing almost everything that costs less than $5K (including all Summarits, the 18mm and 24mm M-lenses, etc) preferring to focus instead on 1KG $14K M monstrosities…

      • Chef and SlowDriver:

        Leica’s not a camera company – it’s not an innovative camera company any more. That was the previous company, ‘Leitz’, and the innovation finished in the seventies when the Leitz family ran out of money and the company was sold.

        The present company was bought for next to nothing – it was going to be sold to the American firm ‘Best Buy’, the US equivalent of the UK’s high street electronics retailer Dixons – and was bought by Andreas Kaufmann, expecting to be able to turn it around and generate profits ..which happened with the launch of the M9.

        But ‘Leica’ is not a camera company; it’s a ‘luxury goods manufacturer’.. it’s a member of, as Erwin Puts puts (!) it, “..“2010: Leica becomes member of Meisterkreis, a European organization of luxury goods manufacturers” (in Puts’ “Leica-Chronicle”).

        ‘Leica’ creates demand for what it thinks will sell, based upon some mythical reputation for making great cameras ..but that was all based on cameras made between 1925 and, say, perhaps 1984, when the M6 was introduced.

        We’re not in Kansas any more.

        Essentially, ‘Leica’ knows that people – especially in newly-rich countries such as Russia and China; that’s to say, where there’s a sufficiency of newly-rich people – will buy ‘M’ cameras, because there’s some daft mystique which has been devised to promote them. So the same camera gets re-produced every three years, but with an increased pixel count to make them seem ‘modern’ ..as well as ‘traditional’.

        There is no product path; it’s a jump here, a jump there, a sideways hop into some dead end, a rebranding to associate a camera with some ‘celebrity’ (Lenny Kravitz? ..Paul Smith?). Essentially, it’s a company led by a sawmill investor, not by an engineer. It doesn’t know where it’s going, but it knows that ‘mystique’ can sell.

        I mean, does a Rolex show you the time any better than a £3.95 petrol station giveaway watch? No; but the Rolex “looks better”, shouts “money!” and is, apparently, associated with mountain climbers, explorers, submariners ..heroes all! It’s a “Hero’s” watch. That’s how it’s sold.

        Ditto a Leica; it’s a “Photographer’s” camera! Buy a Leica, and you become an instant “Hero Photographer”! ..That’s all there is to it.

        For anyone who bought an X-Vario ..you love it? ..Great! Use it! When it stops working, buy something else. Leica isn’t going to reprise the X-Vario. It didn’t sell well, so they’re not going to make any more. Leica is an all-adrift business without a clear-sighted navigator; but it’s certainly not an avuncular benefactor.

  9. There have been so many changes of CEO and other board members within Leica, that it is not surprising that their planning is so haphazard and ill-directed. In the previous rerun of the editor’s original article, I commented on the absence of consistent product planning and lack of adherence to a core design philosophy. Designers seem to be hired and then fired if they cannot fit into the company elsewhere, once their product is launched. No-one is there to make use of user-feedback. This is sad to say. There is just time left to take an APS-C line seriously. But on the evidence of recent launches, I will not be holding my breath.

    John Shingleton, thank you for your lovely set of photographs and eulogy for the X-VARIO, a truly remarkable Leica camera which I will continue to use and enjoy.

    • Hi David
      Big changes in Leica last autumn, with Stefan Daniel elevated to an effective CEO (German board rules means that board members are almost always short lived so it’s much better he isn’t on the board but remains an employee).
      I spend some time there, and the passion and dedication of the staff and product management there is so impressive.
      Hopefully the hiring and firing (with CEOs who don’t know the business) is now over.
      I’m as sad as you about the APS-C line but I was convinced by the arguments to say that it was not a market with a future. Don’t hold your breath!
      All the best

      • Hi Jono, I’ll cut to the chase, discontinuing Leica APS-C without proper communication and without providing a path forward would be an extremely dumb move from Leica, its loyal customer base (myself included) is unlikely to ever trust Leica again, it also raises a lot of questions about the future of the FF L-mount, the last lens announcement already dating from 4 years ago… with only 1 of the 3 announced lenses released so far…

        • (1) We do need to be put out of our misery sooner rather than later. (2) Thank the gods for Sigma and Panasonic or the whole edifice would have come tumbling down.

  10. In some ways Leica’s recent history resembles that of Lotus.

    A once great company founded by an innovator. Innovator dies and is replaced by a series of managers of which only a couple were worth talking about. The company changes hands a number of times without a long term development plan and investment.

    The nadir for Lotus was the hiring of a gentleman named Danny Behar who imagined Lotus as a multi-product luxury brand with a line of fashionable accessories. Dreams of course are great but you need investment and expertise which Behar did not have. His reign ended swiftly with a mountain of debt, an unclear direction for the company, no product plan and no experts to execute.

    Thankfully Lotus got bought by Geely who also own Volvo. There is a long term product plan in place with the appropriate investment plan to match it. New products start to come on stream this year.

    Will we ever see anything like that happen for Leica? Maybe Sigma should buy them…

    • Sigma’s also a small (..family..) company, so would they want to saddle themselves with the costs of those ‘Leica Stores’ around the world, the magazine publishing, and all the rest of the ‘Leica’ baggage (..silly watches)?

      The sales come from upholding the myths of the past. If any new owner couldn’t buy into and promote those myths of the past, then sales would just plummet. Maybe Louis Vuitton might take a punt on Leica, but camera – and lens! – assembly’s a bit more complex than stitching leather bags.

      But what does ‘Leica’ have to offer right now? Just ‘L’-mount cameras and ‘M’ mount cameras. Oh, and binoculars..

      • David, if my memory serves me correctly Louis Vuitton, or more correctly the LVH corporate entity, did have a 25% shareholding in Leica in the early 2000’s. It only lasted a few years I recollect. The Leica magazine interests are outsourced and are not owned by Leica. The Leica retail stores are not all owned by Leica-many are operated by dealers under Leica branding.
        I do think that you are being overly curmudgeonly towards today’s Leica. After all many of us own quite a few Leicas -including you -and use them because we love to take photos with them not because we are ‘buying’ into a myth. As I explained in the story I tried a Sony. I tried to love it but we just did not gel.I was not seduced by a myth-I decided a Leica was a better camera.
        The closing comment .’But what does Leica have to offer right now? Just L-mount cameras and M mount cameras’ is meaningless. And what about the very successful Q or did you omit mentioning that because it does not fit your narrative? It’s a bit like saying “what does Ferrari have to offer right now? Just sports cars.”

        • Hi John,

          I think it was the Hermes bit of LVMH which took on about 33% of the firm around 2001. As far as I remember, Andreas Kaufmann bought LFI a few years ago, and that’s when Steffen Keil, previously the publicity man at Leica, moved across to take charge of it. I understand that there’s some subsidy of the individual Leica stores – which were previously independent outfits – by Leica.

          I’m not trying to be “..overly curmudgeonly..” but just trying to be objective rather than swallowing the Kool-Aid ..that’s to say, being swept along by the marketing.

          You say about your Sony “..I tried to love it..” ..but that’s the trouble, I think. Any camera’s just a box of (nowadays) electronics and glass. But you’re introducing a human emotion – talking about “love” of a glass and metal device. People swoon into anthropomorphism about cameras. To my eyes, a camera’s a device like any other ..an egg whisk, a piano, a TV set, a Ferrari.

          “..After all many of us own quite a few Leicas -including you..” Yes, I do. Because I was given one – my father-in-law’s M3 – and so I set out to explore what it was that was thought to be so ‘special’ about Leicas ..and found ..nothing. (A bit like that famous British & US intelligence inspection of the Leica factory after the war, when inspectors set out to find what was so special about the manufacture of Leicas ..and found: nothing ..except that the workforce chose components, out of all those available, which best sat within the particular camera that they were assembling, and used assorted shims and packing to get the best results out of the run-of-the-mill components which they had to hand.) And so I bought – second-hand – various other film Leicas, and got a couple of digital Leicas, too.

          You say that we “..use them because we love to take photos with them..” ..there’s that word “love” again. But I don’t use mine “..because we love to take photos with them”. I do like to take photos when I see a situation which – in my mind – merits being ‘snapped’ as a moment to preserve. But not necessarily with a Leica ..I find an ‘M’ rather cumbersome, and take one with me only if I’m going somewhere which might have some association with a Leica ..like going to somewhere in Germany, for instance. I generally use a camera which suits the situation which I think I may find myself in.

          So if I think I’ll want to take photos in low light – indoors, outside in deep gloom or at night, or in a museum or somewhere – I’ll usually take a Sony A7S ..which is really great for low-light photos ..not a Leica. If, let’s say, I were going to a race-track, then I’d take something with a long-range zoom on it ..obviously not a Leica.

          Some people – inexplicably to me – like to stand on windy platforms and take photos of, and write down numbers of, railway engines ..maybe they have a preferred type of pencil or notepad to which they have some kind of emotional attachment. Some people go into rhapsodies about particular types of old tape recorders – “ah, a Nagra! ooh, how wonderful!” – as if their appreciation of its mechanical componentry, and how it all works, turns them into an audio specialist ..but what they’re really keen on is fiddling with levers and buttons and rotating parts and shiny aluminium.

          I treat cameras as useful, or not, bits of kit: how well will this object help me preserve such-and-such an instant? I don’t care which firm makes it, or what their history was, or who else uses one, or if it’s ‘precious’ or rare. I have no allegiance to any particular brand.

          Leica offers – with the ‘M’ line – an old-fashioned, heavy, ‘traditional’ (but with lots of pixels) rather primitive camera. The electronic-finder ‘SLR’-style ‘L’-mount line consists of large, cumbersome, huge-&-heavy-lens cameras with no distinct characteristics or advantages over similar models from Canon or Nikon or Pentax or others.

          The leica-camera.com website makes no mention of models such as Q2, or TL or anything else: their current products, front and centre, are ‘M’ and ‘L’ lines. To find anything about a Q or Q2 or CL, etcetera, you have to dig two layers down through their Menu.

          As far as I understand, Ferrari does make, or offer, “..Just sports cars”. You may, of course, believe – and you’ve got much more knowledge than I have about sports cars! – that Ferrari makes the best sports cars. Maybe they do ..I have no idea about that. I don’t know what considerations to ponder for sports cars. I’m no petrolhead.

          But having used and tested and written about and used and tested and examined, and been to factories, and used and dismantled many, many different cameras for umpteen years I can’t say “Leica makes the best cameras!” ..because ..what are they the best for?

          Low light? No. Most accurate light metering? No. Ease of handling? No. (These are just my own opinions, of course!) ..Most comprehensive zoom range? No. Clearest and most accurate viewfinder? ..the ‘M’ series? No.

          So what are Leicas best for – nowadays; I’m not taking about the 1950s..?

          Dunno ..I s’pose they’re just best for the people who love them the best.

          • I have no interest in owning a Leica camera but I’ve been an LFI subscriber for years. The photography is frequently excellent and the gear pages at the back provide some comic relief.

            I also met the LFI editorial team some while back. Shockingly young, surprisingly non-wealthy, and incredibly enthusiastic about photography. Leica just serves as a vehicle to publish an excellent periodical.

          • David, I have just opened the Leica-Camera.com website and there is the Q2 along with the other current cameras.
            So maybe another throw away line from you to support your point of view or is the UK version of their website Babskyiesed?
            Must finish now-off to get my daily hit of Leica Kool Aid.

          • Well no hard feelings, John, but I’m looking at leica-camera.com/en-GB and – unfortunately I can’t post a screenshot here – what I see is: “Leica M11: A Legend Reinvented”, which slides across to reveal “Leica Watch: It’s about time!”, then “CHANGE TO LEICA: Take advantage of our offer” and then “Ralph Gibson. Autonomy”.

            Below those are: “WITNESS A LEGEND Keynote: the new Leica M11” and “Leica M11 Details: All details at a glance”, and “Leica M11 Accessories: Useful additions for your M”.

            Below that: “Product Highlights” ..three big sections called “Leica M11. A Legend Reinvented”, “Leica SL2-S. Two worlds. One choice”, and “Leica M10-R. Redefining image quality”.

            I see nothing anywhere about any Q2. But perhaps there are different sites for the UK and Australia. Maybe the UK version is specially Babskyiesed, although I didn’t request that!

            Gotta go now and rent a Ferrari to see what all the fuss is about!

          • I confess I am also a bit confused, David. I go to https://store.leica-camera.com/uk/en/photography and everything seems to be there under the Photography tab — including the Q2 Reporter Monochrom which, inexplicably, is press embargoed until next week They’ve still got the CL and the little C Lux, all seemingly current.

          • But, as I said, Mike, I didn’t go specifically to the Leica Store ..I just went to the main Leica site here in the UK – my computer presumably told their site that I’m here in the UK – which shows up as:

            leica-camera.com/en-GB

            Do you see any Q there?

          • I do. Menu, photography. I suspect the first page is treated as news of the latest products, M11 and watches. But everything is there via the menu.

          • That’s what I said, Mike.

            “..To find anything about a Q or Q2 or CL, etcetera, you have to dig two layers down through their Menu”.

            So to anyone new to Leica, who doesn’t know that there is such a thing as a Q or Q2 ..there isn’t anything of that name on the front ‘Splash’ page. They’d need to go hunting “..two layers down through their Menu..” to find a mention. QED.

  11. Thanks John for a great article and images. The X series are great cameras. Like you I never gelled to Sony. Terrible menus. I didn’t like their imaging as well.
    Jean

  12. John only we who bought and have kept our X-Varios know how good they are and how lucky are we. I have also kept my Leica T, Digital CL, Q and the truly wonderful SL.

    All would claim to be far more advanced than the XV, and I do also love them, yet despite however many more pixels or whatever the images from my relatively small, wonderfully light to carry, and brilliantly versatile X-Vario still manage not just to stand up against Leica’s far newer models.

    In short the X-Vario’s superb images still wows me in a manner few other cameras do (Leica’s included), and as importantly for me, I have always loved the way the XV retained what might be called traditional instantly adjustable shutter speed dial and aperture settings, hence has no need for me to spend such as the proverbial half hour trawling through menus.

    So John thank you again for paying such a fine and richly deserved tribute to a camera I likewise continue to love. Don Morley

  13. Hi David, I kind of agree with you and I don’t at the same time. Let me try to explain how I see things. Leica makes niche cameras that are deliberately very complimentary (and crippled). Leica does want you to buy an M or a Q or an SL, they want you to buy an M AND a Q AND an SL. Leica does not technically innovate like Sony but unlike Sony they do focus on the user experience and they do build cameras that nobody else builds (or nobody builds anymore): the S2, T, Q, CL, Monochrome, MD, etc all come to mind, so in a way they do innovate but most of the time it is not pure technical innovation. I am pretty much OK with this. I really love using Leica cameras. What I find harder to swallow: 1) the insane prices. Leica has always been expensive but the last 5+ years they have been raising their prices with 5-10% every year which results in a $9K M11. Let’s be very honest here, Sony sells the same sensor for $3.5K and it does video as well, they did not intentionally cripple it… 2) the longevity of their non-M products. Leica is very keen on keeping the M alive because it is their heritage or their mystique as you call it, they don’t give a royal s*!t about their other product lines though, continuously launching promising systems to then kill them prematurely, they are much worse than Sony in that respect, it looks like that the CL might be next in line and that makes me very very sad, my 7 TL-lenses only make sense on an APS-C camera IMO. My 2 cents, love and hate…

  14. I never used the X Vario but did fondle one in a Sydney camera store. I was tempted but couldn’t justify the lack of EVF compared to my unwieldy Sony NEX-7. The NEX-7 with the 23mm f2 lens took great photographs but the menus drove me mad especially if I hadn’t used the camera in a few weeks. I waited for the Leica CL and 18-56mm lens and that duo continues to deliver great results.

  15. Hi John,
    I have read your article a number of times which is rare for me to read an article multiple times. I am so astonished that older Leica cameras and glass continue to be so brilliant. You have made me wish I got an X camera. I also love the bicycle shadow image and the pigtail photo. You have a talented eye! Leica rules, in spite of product management. If Canon or Nikon, had Leica product management they would be long gone. But Leica has the image rendering and haptics that are appreciated by enough photographers to more than survive the steadily shrinking camera market. The Sony, Canon, Nikon dogs will rip each other apart but Leica will flourish in spite of the product management incompetence.

  16. Brian, thanks for your kind comments. I have been very surprised to the response to this X Vario story. Only today I have been corrsponding with editor Mike on the response and saying that I have literally thousands of photos taken over my many years of Leica ownership and I just need to find other stories to wrap around them for him post on Macfilos.

    In my advancing years I try not to get involved in gear discussions so this story was very much an exception for me. I’ve only ever really been interested in taking photos and this is certainly even more true today. Every time I have a gear acquisition thought I say to myself-“John, you have a collection of superb cameras-get out and use them.” The GAS soon cures itself but it was not always so.

  17. Great article John, and more to the point, lovely images.
    I was in Solms the day the X-Vario was announced, and I can still remember the product manager’s horrified response to the “mini – M” from marketing.
    It was a lovely and well conceived camera which richly deserves your tribute.
    All the best
    Jono

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