Leica X-Vario - Can you handle the truth?


One of the most criticised and misunderstood cameras on the photographic internet, does as I expected, turn out to be one of the best I've ever used in terms of image quality. But then those who use Leicas and / or respect what they stand for knew that already. And unlike the vast numbers of people who comment in such an ignorant fashion about the camera and Leica in general, the people who actually buy them and use them are far more interested in the images they produce than what they use to take them.

I haven't posted many pictures taken with the camera lately, but I'm using it all the time. I don't write about it much either, because if I do some dimwit will chirp in with misinformed nonsense, so there's not much point really. It just makes me annoyed at their stupidity and sad at their ignorance.

In the last few days however LeicaRumors posted some links that can be taken seriously and are not just the usual litany of 'Leica sucks' 'Tossers plaything' etc.

What interested me was the interview with Peter Karbe, head of the optical development department at Leica Camera. In it he talks about the five things that were important in developing the lens for the camera.

  1. Imaging quality equal to that of the best Leica M-Lenses
  2. Constant imaging quality from the minimum focusing distance to infinity
  3. The best conditions for fast autofocus
  4. A compact construction
  5. The familiar rugged and resilient construction of a Leica M-Lens.

Interesting when you compare it to what probably are the five things that other manufacturers think important in a new lens.

  1. How can we make it as cheaply as possible?
  2. Can we make it the same as the old one and just put a different sticker on it?
  3. How can we fool the punters into thinking its better than it is?
  4. Who do we know who will give it a good review?
  5. If we pay Zeiss enough money will they pretend they made it?

OK, a bit over the top there, but the proof is in the pudding, or in this case the results from the lens. The much-maligned Leica zoom lens on the X-Vario is - Sharp across the whole frame, sharp wide-open, has virtually no distortion, CA or fringing and built to last decades. But then no-one will believe me and put me down as some idiot with too much money who's dazzled by the red dot. Ironically probably all those who are getting all hot and bothered about a ridiculously expensive 'full-frame' Sony NEX / RX with interchangeable lenses by Zeiss, (Who else!) and designed and sold by the company that gave you the Playstation, that beacon of modern technological time wasting. So if you occasionally wonder 'Does he still have the X-Vario?' then the answer is yes, and I'm using it and taking pictures that are technically superb, uploading them to picture libraries and selling them. 

As I've fond of saying when I refuse to justify buying and using something that others feel able to criticise without ever even seeing one, "Its their loss'. And in the case of the X-Vario, it really is a huge one.