My favourite camera

Despite all the Fuji fever, the camera I still pick up first is my Leica X Vario. Particularly since I've added a lens hood and grip. The grip has become available pretty quickly for Leica who don't have a particlarly good record at getting these out very speedily. This now turns the X Vario from a great handling and good looking camera to what I consider a sublime one.

I don't know what impression people get from pictures of this camera, but how in looks in two dimensions on the printed page and picking it up is very different. I've tried in the above pictures to show just how metallic it is. It feels solid yet not too heavy. Just holding it makes me want to create pictures. Without doubt its the best balanced camera I've ever held and any ressemblance to the Fuji X range, m4/3 ar any other mirrorless camera I've ever used is just that, a ressemblance.

In Leica terms the hood and grip are reasonably priced. The grip is unusual in that is more angular than the usual add-on grips. I found it strange at first but the sharper angle does give a really good hold on the camera. It is of course perfectly made and fits perfectly as well. Though it may seem strange to say it, the hood and metal cap are almost works of art. Made of thin yet strong metal, with engraving on the hood, they add yet another touch of class to a very classy camera. Incidentally, there is an interview with Andreas Kaufman the owner of Leica who talks about the Mini M ad. campaign being a mistake. (Though this is a google translation with all that implies) This because people objected to M being used, since it stands for the rangefinder system. However, I think a mini M just about sums the X vario up, though with the grip attached its not so mini. It may not be a rangefinder but in terms of design, look and feel its very close to the M series. Its certainly bigger, heavier and more solid feeling than the X1 or X2.

I was writing the other day about a small camera that 'looked the part' 'professional' and has 'gravitas' and this is indeed it. To me its a thing of beauty and I like it more than any other camera I've ever owned. After I attached my two new acessories I found myself saying, 'Thats just beautiful' and as far as I'm concerned it is truly that. In the field its certainly not a case of 'style over content' it just works so well. Its almost like holding a bespoke camera, it suits me so perfectly. I find when I use it taking a picture becomes an event. The sheer quality of the thing is making me take the process of creating pictures with it very seriously. No hit and hope here. It also seems a crime to shoot off snapshots with it and I probably take more care in composing images with it than I do with other cameras.

Of course, there are still those who don't 'get' the X Vario, and indeed don't 'get' Leica at all. Indeed someone tried to tell me his 12 year old Canon G2 took better pictures, an opinion formed of course without ever handling a Leica. I deleted that post after advising him to go back onto his medication! or words to that effect! The desperation in some of the posts I read to put Leica down shows that many people just don't understand where Leica are coming from. Leica is about quality, in terms of build, longevity and getting the best images possible with the highest production values and using the best materials in a given model. This antipathy to that is strange particularly from people who buy Fuji X cameras, as those cameras are based totally on the Leica aesthetic. Fuji isn't the 'new Leica'. There isn't actually any problem with the original. They can't make enough cameras to cope with demand and are in the process of opening a new factory. That leads me to conclude that they aren't about to go belly-up any moment, quite the reverse. Personally I'd be more worried about some of the far-eastern electronics giants who seem to have a very creative way of dealing with huge losses. i.e. ignoring or falsifying them.

For a practical example of this 'misunderstanding' people write that the EVF is just an Olympus rip-off. Well for a start its an Epson viewfinder if we are being picky and its not just a rebadged priced up version. Firstly it fits perfectly. Not too tight, not too loose. Unlike some of the Olympus ones I've used on my Pens this one doesn't need a rubber band to stop it flying off into the bushes and continually popping up into the vertical position. Secondly the quality of the EVF image, even in low light is superb. Pretty much just like an optical viewfinder. I could also go on about the perfect zoom ring, built to last for years, the manual focus split screen and focusing ring, the perfectly weighted knobs and dials and the whole way the camera is designed and made to be as photographer-friendly as possible. A feature set that doesn't have any 'fluff' i.e. apps, wi-fi and all the other nonsense, a menu system thats notable for what it doesn't have i.e. anything that isn't about creating images for people who know what they are doing and don't need IS, programme modes etc, to take a decent photograph, and the feeling that it gives off that this is a camera designed by photographers for photographers.

And then there's the image quality. Whatever people think about the zoom lens and its lack of range and speed and that its fixed, no-one could complain about the images it produces. (Well they probably could but then they need an eye test!) This isn't Leica M9 crispness (and I still suspect that there is no physical AA filter here, instead there is a software one enabled by Adobe) but the pictures are wonderfully sharp and clean and are capable of substantial upsizing. Way beyond what you would expect a 16MP sensor to produce. And though it doesn't have that M9 'bite' it doesn't have the M9 moire, magenta casts, vignetting and dust spots either.

Will it make me a better photographer? Well yes it probably will. I get this feeling every time I go to take a picture that I don't want to let it down. Plus some great photographers have used Leicas and I don't want to let them down either. It is without doubt of all the cameras I've ever bought and used, my favourite.