Leica teased and tantalised with the prospect of a «Mini M» prior to the launch of the X Vario, causing many to fantasise about a more compact and more affordable interchangeable lens camera from the ‘red dot’ marque. As it happens, the Vario X is a new X Line model which combines an ‘APS-C’ size sensor with a fixed zoom lens equivalent to 28-70mm in 35mm format terms.
Made in Germany and with an all-metal body shell (magnesium alloy and aluminium), the Vario X — designated Type 107 using Leica’s system of factory codes — is nonetheless a high-end camera with a largely traditional control layout which includes dials for setting both the shutter speeds and apertures. It lacks a built-in viewfinder, but the optional Leica EVF 2 Visa-Flex EVF — with 1.4 megapixels resolution and a 90-degree swivel function — can be fitted. The camera’s monitor screen is a 7.62 cm TFT LC O panel -with a resolution of 921,600 pixels.
The lens is a Leica Vario Elmer 18-46 mm f3.5-6.4 A S P H zoom with an optical construction comprising nine elements in eight groups, including two aspherical types. The lens has conventional control collars for zooming and focusing. The aperture range is f3.5 to fl6 while the shutter speed range is 30-1/2000 second plus ‘B’. It’s a leaf-type shutter so flash sync is possible at all speeds. The CMOS-type sensor is the same as is used in the X2 model and has a total pixel count of
16.5 million. The imaging area is 23.6×15.7 mm. The maximum image size with JPEG capture is 4928×3274 pixels and JPEG can be captured in four smaller sizes while RAW files are captured in the Adobe DNG format at 4944×3274 pixels. Video clips are recorded in the MP4 format at the Full HD resolution of 1920×1080 pixels with stereo sound. The sensitivity range is equivalent to ISO 100 to 12,500, and the maximum continuous shooting speed is 5.0 fps. The white balance control options include provisions for storing two custom measurements and manual setting of the colour temperature.
The Vario X also features 11-point autofocusing using contrast detection and a choice of multi-zone, centre-weighted average or spot metering methods. Exposure control is via the traditional set of ‘PASM’ modes with +/-10 compensation, an A E lock and auto bracketing (up to +/-3.0 E V over a sequence of three frames). There is both a built-in flash and a hot shoe, the former -with a metric guide number of five (ISO 100) and both slow speed and second curtain sync modes.
The Leica Vario X is priced at $3200 locally and is distributed by Leica Camera Australia.
What’s In A Name?
A couple of imaging companies have recently announced name changes. Carl Zeiss is dropping the ‘Carl’ from its lens branding which, from now on, will simply be ‘Zeiss’. Pentax Ricoh Imaging Company is dropping the ‘Pentax’ name to simply become Ricoh Imaging Company. This means the Pentax name returns to being solely a brand as it was under Asahi Optical and, later, H o y a Corporation. Ricoh Imaging stresses that the Pentax brand will continue on D — S L R s, compact system cameras and binoculars while the Ricoh brand will be used on fixed-lens compacts.
Zeiss says that the ‘Carl Zeiss’ branding will remain on lenses already in production, but any new models will now simply be branded ‘Zeiss’. The company name remains as Carl Zeiss AG.
As it happens, Zeiss, Ricoh and Pentax imaging products are all distributed in Australia by C.R. Kennedy & Company.