After what feels like weeks of hype, Leica has finally unveiled its much-teased Mini M. Officially revealed as the Leica X Vario (Typ 107), the new camera is a 16.2-megapixel shooter with an APS-C format sensor and a 18-46-mm zoom lens. But, while it's obviously been designed to look like the iconic Leica M, this isn't the compact system alternative many Leica fans had hoped for.
When the firm started teasing a Mini M camera on its website, speculation was rife that Leica was going to release a smaller interchangeable-lens camera which would take on offerings like the Fujifilm X-E1. It didn't. The Leica X Vario is instead launched as "the world's first compact camera to combine a large, APS-C format, CMOS image sensor with a zoom lens."
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Specifically, that claim means the new red-dot-brandishing camera boasts a 16.2-megapixel APS-C (23.6 x 15.8-mm) CMOS sensor, paired with a 18-46-mm f/3.5-6.4-mm zoom lens. This gives it a 35-mm format focal length equivalent of 28-70-mm. The inclusion of a zoom lens differentiates the X Vario from other APS-C sensor-packing compact cameras like the Nikon Coolpix A, Fujifilm X100S and Leica's own X2.
However, while 28-70-mm (in 35-mm format) is a very versatile and usable focal range, the speed of the lens leaves something to be desired. Being f/3.5 at the wide end and f/6.4 at the telephoto end, the camera, despite its large sensor, could struggle in some low light conditions. It will also not be able to produce the shallow depth-of-field photos shooters of faster lenses have become used to. Think of it like a DSLR with a kit lens you can't take off.
At least when it comes to build and styling, the X Vario shows its Leica pedigree. The camera has a magnesium body with the same sort of machined solid aluminum top plate as the Leica M it's modeled on. This is complemented by a leather trim. It also boasts all the physical access to manual controls you would expect from a Leica, including click-detent dials on the top plate for setting shutter speed and aperture values.
Measuring 133 x 73 x 95 mm (5.2 x 2.9 x 3.7 in), and weighing 680 g (24 oz), the camera features a pop-up flash and a 3-inch LCD monitor with 920k dots. While it lacks a built-in optical or electronic viewfinder, it is compatible with the optional EVF 2 Viso-Flex.
The camera also boasts an ISO range of 100 to 12,500 and is capable of continuous shooting at a respectable 5 fps (for a burst of eight shots when shooting RAW and JPEG). Focusing can be done manually via a ring around the lens, or using an 11-point autofocus system, and there's also a Face Detection mode. The Leica X Vario is capable of shooting Full HD video at 30 fps.
The Leica X Vario is available now for a price of US$2,850, putting it up against the full-frame Sony RX1 with its fast f/2 35-mm lens.
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