Leica X Vario "Mini M" Steps Into the Light, Mocks Common Sense

After a month of leaks, Leica's $2,800 point-and-shoot breaks cover.


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Though everyone who might possibly care about it was already well aware of its existence, Leica has decided it's time to unveil its latest camera, the X Vario Mini M. What is it? "A bad joke," some might say. But Leica is apparently banking on the idea that there's an actual market for an APS-C compact camera with a fixed 18-46mm f/3.5-6.4 lens. Oh, and did we mention theywant you to pay $2,850 for it?

We can't help but point out that that's $50 more than the superb Sony RX1, a full-frame compact that's almost certainly capable of better image quality and (if Leica's track record is anything to go by) far more user-friendly. Granted, you get a lot more versatile focal range, but at the expense of an extremely narrow aperture. Seriously, most DSLR kit lenses are faster and offer longer reach.

It's a Leica, so we have no doubt that image quality from the Mini M will be spectacular—even the company's most pedestrian lenses are stellar performers. But the creative possibilities of such a slow lens on an APS-C sensor are fairly limited in comparison to what you can get from many cheaper competitors.

Ok, you get it: This camera is extremely expensive for what you get. But what's actually going on under the hood? Well, there's a 16.2-megapixel CMOS sensor that is capable of an ISO range of 100-12500. Shutter speeds go from 30 seconds to 1/2000 of a second, and you can shoot at a maximum of 5 frames per second for 7 shots. That's not a lot, but the good news is you can shoot at that speed using RAW + JPEG quality.

If you're looking for a lot of cutting-edge niceties, you won't find them. There are no phase-detection AF pixels here (contrast only), no AVCHD video (though you get 1080/30p MP4), and nothing fancy like WiFi or GPS. Like most Leicas, this one leans on the pretense that it's a pure photographer's camera, meant for deliberate, thoughtful shooting. Need more evidence of that fact? The only shooting modes on offer are Manual, Aperture Priority, and Bulb.

If this all (somehow) sounds enticing to you, the camera is up for preorder from the usual online photo superstores, and is also in stock at the few Leica boutiques scattered around the world, at the $2,850 MSRP. (Let's say that one more time: $2,850.) Your color choices are... black. Happy shopping!