Today was the launch day for the Leica X Vario Type 107, one of the strangest marketing campaigns that we've seen in the camera world. It's as if they dared us to hope that the camera would not be what all the signs were pointing at....
- 16.5MP APS-C sensor
- Leica Vario Elmar 1:3.5-6.4/18-46mm ASPH lens (28-70mm equivalent): 8 elements in 6 groups, 1 ASPH element
- Minimal focusing distance: 30cm
- ISO range: 100-12,500
- Max shutter speed: 1/2000s
- 3" TFT LCD with 921k dots
- Full HD video
- Built-in flash
- Adobe Lightroom included
- Battery capacity: 450 exposures
- Dimensions: 133 x 73 x 95mm
- Weight: 680g
- Price: around 2,500 Euros or $2,850 USD
The Tale of the Tape
A typical kit lens covers 28-75mm at f/3.5-5.6 for most entry level dSLR's and m4/3 cameras. The lens on the Leica Vario is a tad bit slower on the long end, by 1/3 of a stop, meaning that you will need 25% more shutter speed compared to similar lenses. This is ostensibly a space saving choice, as the diameter of the lens barrel not only adds to bulk of the lens, it also influences the height of the camera body as well. This is important, considering that in terms of size and weight, this is both larger and heavier than the Fuji X100s; it's roughly the same weight as the D7100 body and twice the weight of the Leica X2. The rear display screen is comparable to the Nikon D7000 both in size and resolution. It's just half an inch shy of the 3.5" display of the D7100, but for the most part, there isn't much of a practical difference. The way they've marketed the 16.5mp APS-C sensor is interesting, as it does not correspond to any sensor currently being used on the market if you look at the effective number of pixels. The Nikon D7000 and the D5100 use a Sony part that is 16.2mp... however, if you look at the total number of pixels, the count of the Sony chip is 16.5mp (total is always greater than effective). Perhaps Leica is being coy here with the origins of their sensor; they listed the X2 at 16.1mp, and sure enough, the Vario's effective number of pixels is 16.1mp. So in other words, it's the same basic sensor, may a different implementation. And yes, it is probably the same Sony sensor, as nobody else makes a CMOS APS-C sensor of this type.In most ways, the X Vario is similar to a modern APS-C compact, like the NEX cameras and the Canon EOS M.... compact(ish), something of an all-in-solution, capable of video. However, there is one important distinction: no image stabilization. This is what will really hurt the already slow lens of the X Vario, especially if you want to take a head shot at 70mm equivalent indoors. There would be no way to do it without flash; increasing the ISO would not save you.Other than that, there's no denying that it's a beautiful looking product, as much Leica's are want to be. The control layout is carried over from the X2 and has a functional minimalism about it.