Leica X Vario - why I bought it - Part 2

Back in Part 1 http://soundimageplus.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/leica-x-vario-why-i-bought-it-part-1.html I wrote a semi-serious piece about Leica as a specialist optical only company contrasting with the electronic giants. I am fully aware that these companies can produce good cameras and I've certainly bought a lot of them. There is however something special to me about a brand that sticks to the old-fashioned idea that a camera is for making photographs and not a 'multi-media device'. This on a day when Samsung introduce a camera with an Android operating system, Wi-Fi and space for a sim card. And when I get a notification from Dpreview of a new item its as likely to be about a smartphone as a camera. Who could resist the headline 'Video Guide: Smartphone vs Digital SLR?'  Well me for one.

Now I am distinctly old-school (just old?) but I have no interest in that whatsoever. I realise that I'm probably in a minority thats shrinking by the day, and I'm neither hostile to that or an enthusiast for it, just not interested. I use technology all the time, I just prefer to keep it in the compartments that I want it in.

There is undeniably something magical for many of us old film photographers to pick up a Leica and go out to shoot some pictures and while we can only aspire to match what many of the brands past users have created with one, its a very pleasureable experience. The simplicity and lack of complicated menu systems adds to the pleasure as does the look, the build and the handling. Leica owners are constantly portrayed as being status symbol junkies with too much money (if only!), but in reality conversations I've had with fellow owners I occasionally meet show quite the opposite. People who are usually obsessed with photography and only too willing to swap stories and experiences.

And though I've spent a lot of time doing it, buying new models of the latest digital marvel, that promise much but ultimately offer a dissatisfying experience and are worth 1/2 as much as I paid for them within weeks, is not the way I want to go on. My M9 lasted two years, which is a long time for me and ultimately the hours of cloning away dust spots did wear me down, but I did love that camera. I also loved the X1 and X2 but a fixed lens didn't give me the versatility I wanted. The X Vario gives me a decent zoom range, that I use for 90% of my pictures anyway, great handling, a simple uncluttered interface and wonderful images. The 'slowness' of the lens doesn't bother me, I use narrow apertures all the time anyway, the colour rendition is terrific and with the latest upsizing tool in Photoshop CC, I can produce images that equal my D800E in a package thats smaller and lighter and when a Nikon lens is factored in, costs about the same. 

I've got nothing against Panasonic, Olympus, Fuji, Sony and the like, but somewhere in my head is the thought that a Leica is a 'proper' camera for 'proper' serious photographers. Nonsense probably, but then its my money. Not for everybody certainly and as you will have noticed at no time have I said that its 'better' than what else is on the market. In terms of specs. it certainly isn't, though there isn't much out there that can beat it for IQ. Plus it is great not to have to worry about CA, fringing, vignetting, soft corners and avoiding using the widest apertures. Leicas are also built to last. They don't bring out cameras that often and update them infequently. Even when they do, you have to wait a year to get your hands on some of them.

I drove over 60 miles to my nearest Leica dealer to try out the X Vario and many thanks to Chris at Clifton Cameras for an enjoyable hour. I just needed to pick one up before parting with all that money to be sure and it took me a few seconds only to realise that I was going to leave with it. There was as M Typ 240 there as well, that they weren't allowed to sell (demonstration only) and I was asked if I wanted to try it. I did however decline as I would like some money to pay my mortgage in a years time! The trip was worth it and in fact was very enjoyable as it was a special and nostalgic event. It was how I used to buy cameras. Go to shops and try them out. For years now its been boxes arriving at the door and thats not the same. It was a special purpose for a special camera and I know there are people reading this who wonder what on earth I'm banging on about. But there will also be others who know exactly what I mean. There are probably not that many of us left but while Leica continue to stay open for business there will always be some people, at least, who understand.