Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Walking with the Leica X Vario - Part 3 - Conclusion

The Questions to Ask

This is Part 3 of a 3 part series. Links to Previous Parts - Part 1 and Part 2
The Questions one poses are as important as the answers that one figures out. I'll start with the elephant in the room question and carry on from there.

Is the Leica X Vario worth all that money?

You don't gauge the worth of a Leica on some pragmatic assessment of features. Is the high ISO noise performance good enough for the price? Is the lens bright enough for the money? Questions like those aren't the issue. You buy a Leica, any Leica because it is a Leica. It may have a sharp lens, it may have German engineering encased in luxurious metal. But above all, it's a Leica. That's what you pay for. Money isn't an issue.

Can I use this camera to take satisfying photos?

Certainly. People in black and white.

And in colour

There are issues with the speed of the Auto Focus. You're not seeing some shots of kids on BMX bikes doing jumps on a bike challenges playground. Because they were pretty much blurred - not the artistic blurs, just the mundane blurs. With manual focus and the scale marked focus ring. preset at a target distance, some skill and experience, they would not be impossible.

How about touring and some street scenery?

Street Art

Street Photography


Auto Focus speed and sureness indoors is unexceptional (the camera does have a red AF Assist light but it was not obviously making AF better).  Incidentally, the AF motor sometimes murmurs in a steampunk way.

The lens brightness is pedestrian (similar to those DSLR kit lenses) - f/2.8 at 28mm equivalent and f/6.3 at 70mm equivalent.

The APS-C sensor allows the camera to offer high limit of 12,500 but I didn't use that. The Auto ISO defaults seemed to suggest 1600 as the max and it didn't occur to me that there was anything higher than 3200. I should have tried an even higher ISO.

Window lit interiors appear subtly lit but photo results often show a severe dynamic range. When kept comfortably away from highlight burning, the camera's JPEG engine produced quite lovely tones. At the overexposure boundary, skin complexion turned yellowish and plastic.

An Olympus OM-D / EM-5 captured by the Leica X Vario

Summing Up

I liked the camera. It was my first time with a digital Leica and I enjoyed it. 

The shutter could be made absolutely silent. Within the dynamic range, the sensor and in-camera JPEG engine produced classic film like colours and monochrome tones. I appreciated the focus scale marked on the lens barrel. And the two physical dials on the top deck - one for f/no, one for shutter speed. I wish Leica had prioritised and/or dedicated the right hand top deck dial to EV adjustment, with scribed EV markings.

 That's not to say there are kinks and quirks to iron out.  My biggest irritation?

  1. Press the button on the bottom left back of the camera to "Menu/Set" to display the Main Menu
  2. Scroll with the up or down edge switches of the silver Control Disc.
  3. Arrive at the value you want but you cannot Set by pressing the center of the Control Disc with the same hand.  You must use the other hand to press the "Menu/Set" button.

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