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Leica X Vario (Typ 107) Review

Leica X Vario (Typ 107) Review - We test the premium Leica X Vario - the only compact camera with an APS-C sensor and a zoom lens.

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Category : Digital Cameras
Product : Leica X VARIO
Price : £2,150
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Features
Handling
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Leica X Vario Large (2)
The Leica X Vario is the World's first compact camera to feature an APS-C CMOS sensor and a zoom lens, and features a 16 megapixel sensor, a Leica 28-70mm f/3.5-6.4 lens, and full HD video recording. The Leica X Vario (Typ 107) is available for £2150 from HarrisonCameras.

Leica X Vario Features

Leica X Vario Large (3)

Designed to be a "Mini M" the Leica X VARIO features direct access to manual controls with shutter speed, aperture, manual focus, and zoom controls on the body. A built in pop-up flash, as well as a flash hot-shoe give additional lighting options. It's also possible to attach an electronic viewfinder (EVF), such as the Leica VF-2.

Full HD video recording is included with stereo sound, as well as a dedicated video record button, and built in wind filter. RAW shooting is in AdobeDNG format, and the camera features 5fps continuous shooting, a focus assist lamp, flash hot-shoe, as well as a built in pop-up flash.


Leica X Vario Large (7)

Key Features

  • 16.2 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
  • Leica Vario-Elmar 18-46 mm f/3.5-6.4 ASPH. (corresponds to 28-70 mm in 35 mm format)
  • 9 lenses in 8 groups, 2 aspherical lenses.
  • Manual Focus Ring
  • 3inch 920k dot screen
  • Full HD video, 30fps, stereo sound
  • ISO100 - ISO12500
  • Lithium Ion, 1600mAh, 350 shot battery life
  • Adobe Photoshop Lightroom (free download after registration)

Leica X Vario Handling

Leica X Vario Large (9)

The Leica X Vario is quite heavy, and is not the easiest to hold with just one hand, with the camera feeling much better when held with two hands, with your left hand holding on to the lens. The camera feels extremely well built with a pleasant texture surrounding the front of the camera, and a reassuringly solid battery and memory card compartment cover.

The On / Off switch surrounds the shutter release button, with the switch having three positions: Off, S, and C - S is single shot shooting mode, and C is continuous shooting.

A manual focus ring can be found closest to the camera body, and when turned fully clockwise to the AF position switches to auto focus. If you switch the manual focus ring away from AF to manually focus, it automatically shows an enlarged view on the screen to aid focus, and the focus ring feels well damped. Similarly the shutter and aperture dials allow you to change the setting individually, or set on A puts the camera in automatic mode.

Focus modes include 1 point, 11 point, spot, and face detection. A scroll wheel on the back lets you zoom in and out in playback mode as well as scroll through the menus, or adjust exposure during photo mode. Press up on the EV +/- button and you can set the exposure compensation, press up again to set exposure bracketing, and once more to set flash exposure compensation. Thanks to a number of external controls it's quick and easy to change settings without having to delve into the menu system.

Leica X Vario Large (10)

Menus – The menus are spread over 5 screens, with the options starting with image size, file format, video resolution and auto ISO settings, where you can set the slowest shutter speed, and maximum ISO speed. We go through the menu options available in the video shown below:


The menus are clear and easy to read with the screen having excellent viewing angles. There are also options to use a Wi-Fi FlashAir card with the camera.

Leica X Vario Large (13)

Battery life - Battery life is rated at 350 shots according to Leica / CIPA test results, which should be good for a couple of days, although a spare battery is recommended if you plan to be away from a charger.

Leica X Vario Large (6)

Speed - We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.

  Leica X Vario
Shutter Response 0.0
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.3
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response 0.3-0.8
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 3.3
Shot to Shot without Flash 1.2
Shot to Shot with Flash 1.4
Continuous Shooting - JPEG
(shots before slow down)
5fps (7 shots)
Continuous Shooting - Flash N/A
Continuous Shooting - RAW (and JPEG) 5fps (7 shots)

There is a choice of shooting at 3fps or 5fps, taking a maximum of seven pictures with constant frequency in DNG + JPG Fine. Playback can seem slow scrolling through the photos at times, particularly if shooting RAW. There is no option to shoot just RAW, and the switch on time is a little slow.

Leica X Vario Performance

Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.

Leica X VARIO Sample Photos


Sample Photos - Flash introduces no red-eye in portrait photos taken with flash, however with a GN rating of 5 is a little weak compared to other cameras - an example can be found in our Equipment Database. Colour reproduction is very good, with pleasing skin tones and very good levels of detail, although some may prefer to apply additional sharpening to images for crisper results, either by adjusting the sharpness in camera or in image processing software.

Leica X VARIO Lens test images


Lens Performance - Detail is good, with the lens performing well at the wide or telephoto ends of the lens. The closest focus distance of 30cm at the telephoto end limits macro photography slightly and if you try and focus this close when shooting at the wider end of the lens, the camera advises you to set the lens to telephoto. There is slight vignetting at wide-angle, although there is little barrel or pincushion distortion at wide or telephoto with the camera correcting for this. Purple fringing was visible in areas of high contrast, however didn't cause too much of a problem in the majority of shots.

Leica X VARIO ISO test images


ISO Noise Performance - ISO Range ISO100 to ISO12500. The Leica X Vario gives excellent noise performance, with excellent levels of details maintained, even as the ISO setting is increased up to ISO6400. It's only at ISO12500 that you see detail dropping off further as noise increases, however these images should still be useable with some further image processing and colour reproduction remains excellent.

Leica X VARIO White-balance test images


White Balance Performance - Auto White Balance (AWB) performs well under tungsten light, with the tungsten preset giving very similar results. AWB performs very well under fluorescent lighting, and does not feature a fluorescent preset. Although under studio lights the white balance did occassionaly vary.

Leica X VARIO Digital filters


Digital Filters - Preset film options include Standard, Vivid, Natural, B&W Natural, B&W High Contrast as well as options for sharpness, saturation, contrast.

Video - An integrated wind-cut filter helps reduce wind noise. The image stabilisation included is electronic so struggles at times to keep hand-held video steady. Quality is good, however, moiré was noticeable at times.


Value For Money

The Leica X Vario is available for £2150 from HarrisonCameras, which makes it one of the more expensive compact cameras, with only the Sony Cyber-shot RX1 costing more. A number of optional accessories are available from Leica. Perhaps the most similar compact camera with a zoom lens and APS-C sensor is the Ricoh A16 24-85mm f/3.5-5.5 - with a sealed lens and sensor unit.

You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.

Leica X Vario Verdict

The Leica X Vario is quite unique in that it is one of very few cameras with a large APS-C CMOS sensor and zoom lens. Most other APS-C sensor cameras have stuck with a fixed focal length lens to keep the camera as small as possible. Whereas the Leica X Vario is roughly the same size as a APS-C mirrorless camera with standard kit lens. The lens on the Leica X Vario is equivalent to a 28-70mm lens in 35mm terms, and has the rather standard aperture of f/3.5 - f/6.4 which is also similar to what you would find on a standard kit lens with a mirrorless camera, although they tend to offer either a slightly wider view, or a longer reach and often include image stabilisation.

For anyone who has the money to afford a Leica X Vario, the camera will not disappoint giving a premium feel associated with the Leica red dot, along with excellent build quality. As a camera, it feels pleasingly analogue in operation with ample external controls for shutter, aperture, and focus. Along with this it delivers excellent image quality with low levels of noise and excellent colour reproduction. However, for everyone else, the rather slow aperture at the telephoto end, along with no optical image stabilisation built in will disappoint, particularly when you can buy a mirrorless compact system camera with interchangeable lenses for significantly less than this camera. There will be those that desire the Leica camera and as the camera delivers excellent image quality, with good handling, the camera just manages to score a Recommended award.

 
Buy Online Now
Leica X Vario Large (3)
Leica X Vario
£2150
  For those with the money, the Leica X Vario is a stylish premium camera that delivers excellent images.

The Leica X Vario is available from Harrison Cameras

Leica X Vario Pros

1 year accident protection
2 year warranty
Extremely quiet shutter
Excellent noise performance
Excellent build quality
Excellent image quality
Adobe Lightroom included

Leica X Vario Cons

Lacks image stabilisation (Software only)
Limited macro performance
Slow f/6.4 at telephoto end
High price

FEATURES  
HANDLING  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
VERDICT  

Leica X VARIO Specifications

ManufacturerLeica
Lens
Max Aperturef/3.5 - f/6.4
35mm equivalent28mm - 70mm
Optical Zoom2.5x
Image Sensor
CCD pixels16.5Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)4928
Pixels (H)3264
Sensor TypeCMOS
Sensor SizeAPS-C
Sensor Size (width)23.6mm
Sensor Size (height)15.7mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 3:2
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3in
Screen resolution920k
Touch ScreenNo
Focusing
Min Focus30cm
Focusing modes
  • Spot
  • Face Detection
  • Multi
  • Centre
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/2000sec
Shutter speeds longest30sec
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
Metering
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Multi Pattern
  • Spot
ISO sensitivity100 - 12500
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Shade
  • Flash
Exposure Comp+/-3
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting5fps
Video
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080
  • 1280x720 720p
Video FPS30
Stereo SoundYes
Optical Zoom with VideoNo
Other Features
Image StabilisationNo
Interface
HDMIYes
USBUSB 2
Wi-FiNo
Storage
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • SDXC
File Type
  • RAW
  • JPG
  • RAW + JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeLithium-ion
CIPA Rating350
Box Contents
Box ContentsBattery (Leica BP-DC8), battery charger (Leica BC-DC8), battery case, leather carrying strap, USB cable, lens cap, user manual.
Dimensions
Weight650g
Width133mm
Height73mm
Depth95mm

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Comments


franken e2
12 3.2k 4 Wales
5 Jul 2013 4:38PM
A lot of money for the name really. There are just as good or even better and a lot cheaper similar cameras to be found.

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alan53 7 United Kingdom
8 Jul 2013 9:41AM
The optional EVF is apparently a rebadged Olympus EVF2, and the Olympus version worked OK on the Leica X2, Questions Will the Olympus EVF2 work on the X Vario? Will the new Olympus EVF4 work on the Leica X range?
PeteGeoff 4 12 United Kingdom
19 Jul 2013 11:26AM
Macho jewellery. It says, look at me, I don't know what to spend my money on! Obviously I don't think this camera is worth the price. Any more than buying a Harley Davidson or some other two wheel tractor. And yes, I could afford to buy a Leica. But not really a new Harley! Even if I wanted one, which I don't!

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