After teasing a mysterious “Mini M” camera on its website since mid-May, Leica today finally announced the camera behind the codename. It’s the Leica X Vario, a large sensor compact camera that “contains the DNA of the Leica M” rangefinder.
First off, all the rumors and leaks were true. It’s a camera with a large sensor but slow lens. Leica says it’s the world’s first compact camera to pair an APS-C sensor with a zoom lens.
Inside the German-manufactured X Vario is a 16.5 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, the same sensor size that’s found inside the Leica X2 compact camera. Its maximum ISO is 12500.
On the front of the camera is a Leica Vario Elmar 18-46mm f/3.5-6.4 ASPH lens. This lens translates to a 35mm equivalent focal range of 28-70mm. The flexible range comes with a slight nuisance: the fixed lens protrudes from the camera quite a bit, and, just like with the Sony RX1, makes the camera less “compact” than other compact cameras.
As you can see, the flexible focal range also comes at a cost of speed. While other large sensor compact cameras aim for larger apertures, Leica was satisfied with a lens that opens to just f/3.5 on the wide end. Zoom all the way in, and you’ll be limited to f/6.4. This will undoubtedly be one of the biggest gripes photographers have with this camera.
On the back is a high-resolution 3-inch LCD screen. The camera is missing a built-in viewfinder, but you’ll be able to buy a viewfinder attachment that adds one to the top of the camera.
The X Vario can do serious video recording, offering 1080p Full HD recording at a frame rate of 30 full frames per second. There’s also a built-in wind-noise filter that helps kill background sounds.
The X Vario takes a page from the Leica M’s book in its build quality. The camera features a “robust metal constructions,” a solid aluminum top plate, and a leather grip. It’s “a classic Leica camera in terms of both look and feel,” Leica says.
Buy the X Vario, and you’ll receive a copy of Lightroom bundled with the camera. The camera is “available now” from various retailers, and can be preordered for a price of $2,850.