Some More Thoughts on the Leica X Vario Typ 107, Formerly Known as Mini M

The cat’s out of the bag and Leica really must put on a very special show on June 11, 2013, if they want their latest baby to succeed, the Mini M a.k.a Leica X Vario Typ 107. They better make it a low-key event. If you scroll through the various online sites and orums the verdict is clear: bummer. Not what most were hoping for. Leica aficionados can be emotional, so maybe, once they see the output of this X Vario, they’re appeased. But most likely not.

Were people expecting too much? Well if Leica marketing refers to a Mini M and implicitly suggests an M mount camera, a kind of mini M 240 and the likes, oh yes then they raised the bar way above their heads and made people intentionally expect too much. Now they have to pick up the tab.

A new source that seems to have good access was so kind to share some X Vario Typ 107 samples (that’s the camera’s name in EXIF), and I must say: nice images. But today every camera is capable of delivering nice images. Still, not every camera has a red dot!

The fact of a fixed lens camera is confirmed. The photo looks like a doctored fake — just to mention the jumping Vario Elmar letters the wrong way up… But in essence this is what you’ll get. A source tells me the X Vario’s zoom is “great.” Looks like a solid performer. At 28mm no distortion to speak of, reasonably nice bokeh and maybe even more natural skin tones than the M 240’s that have become a nuisance for some. But this X is no M.

The Leica X Vario Typ 107, formerly known as the Mini M.
The Leica X Vario Typ 107, formerly known as the Mini M.

For a low cost marketing campaign — just put a picture on a website and let it go viral — the Mini M was a brilliant idea. But it raised wrong expectations. We were made to expect something more game-changing from Leica. The competition’s way ahead while Leica has since years a “compact M” in the drawer. So the puzzle made sense.

Some time ago acknowledged, then eagerly denied, the now known end result is a compromise. Nothing groundbreaking. The X Vario is a kind of stopgap that mainly pleases those who yearn for the red dot while not being to concerned about fast glass, compactness and versatility.

If this slow of a zoom lens, why not at least retractable? Looks like a product to optimize profit margins while this X Vario is clearly not aimed at the Internet chatterati — who were always going to talk it down. It’s for people who can afford Leica, trust the name and like the reasonably compact zoom concept with that red dot.

But nah, the X Vario is not pocketable. You’d have to saw off that Vario lens.

Nah, if you have a stake in the M system you still can’t make use of M or R lenses without shelling out $8k.

Nah, about all of the X Vario’s specs are below the direct competitors from Sony and Fujifilm — and we haven’t seen the Sony full-frame NEX yet that’ll likely come in 2014.

Nah, the X Vario isn’t filling the gap between the X and M series. That gap remains wide open.

Nah, for the estimated street price of $3,000 I’d still get an RX1. No zoom? No-brainer. The Sony gives me a third more megapixels. Just crop. And that Sony sensor is crème de la crème.

Yes, the X Vario has one higher spec: price.

And yes, we have a Hasselblad Lunatic challenger.

And yes, the X Vario for sure doesn’t eat into M sales.

Bingo!

Come on Leica, that’s not a 21st century product by a company known to make wise use of its past to look into the future. You’re about to open the brand new Wetzlar factory. Don’t want those assembly lines to work around the clock?

But Leica knows, its brand aficionados are patient and trustfully keep on waiting for that full-frame EVIL Leica that (at least now) would have made clear to even Fujifilm and Sony: that’s where the future is heading.

The free market can be a merciless place. The X series never was a great seller. The X Vario won’t do any better.

A true more compact M would have.




  • Bengt Nyman

    Beating a noble old horse.

    Leica has access to the same technology as other OEMs, no more no less. Therefore, Leica’s cost to build a camera is the result of Leica’s miniscule production volume. Consequently, a Leica with the same performance as a Sony, or a Canikon, will always cost two to three times more.
    To expect Leica to give us the ML IL FF AF MP EV camera that we are waiting for, at an acceptable price, is totally unrealistic.

  • Gorodish

    Consider the possibility that this X is NOT the Mini-M. Nowhere on the French leak does it make that connection. What if Leica plans to announce two cameras on June 11? This X is merely a minor upgrade to the X line, not a whole new category in the Leica family as the teaser implies. Leica would not create such a viral tease marketing campaign for an insignificant camera as another X with a fixed zoom. I believe we will see a true Mini-M (hopefully FF EVIL) unveiled alongside the Vario X. Remember when the new S system was first announced at Photokina, no one expected the X camera which was a surprise bonus. If Leica leaked this X photo, it could be a misdirection. They may very well have more up their sleeve for June 11.

  • Hope is the best medicine.

    Usually, before main events introducing the S or M Monochrom, Leica sends out invitations.

    Haven’t heard of anyone receiving anything.

    An true miniaturized M would be quite something deserving an appropriate event.

  • I’m fine with rangefinder and everything M, I’d still be willing to pay a premium for a shrunken down EVIL M.

  • jaapv

    It appears to me hat this camera, although it will have little appeal for the Internet in-crowd, might be very appealing to customers who are looking for a luxury P&S.
    I’m sure that it will sell – just not to Leica nerds. It was unfortunate to present it as a mini-M, that raised expectations for another class of camera. A simple introduction as an X-zoom would have raised no Internet waves. The people whom this camera is aimed at do not read our forums and blogs. The camera might do quite well commercially.

  • Don

    The body is stylish and compact.
    IF ONLY, instead of a bulky slow zoom, the camera had a Barnack style pull out 50mm equiv lens.
    It would have been perfect timing for the 100 year Leica anniversary of the Ur Leica.

  • Gorodish

    Good point. I agree that introducing an EVIL M ought to merit an invitational “event”. But by the same token, why would they call this a “Mini-M” on their website teaser when this zoom X is anything but. The implication is that there is a whole new category between the X family and the FF M. Perhaps it was just an overzealous marketing ploy that made it appear to be more than it presumably is.

  • Another Thought

    Great analysis of setting expectations. Leica invited the comparisons to their M series, and of course this doesn’t measure up at all. The more valid comparison is to their X series.

    The old cliche is to under promise and over deliver, and here Leica has done the exact opposite.

    When this camera is released expect the opinion makers of the internet to resoundingly trash it. And while it is true that the Leica market is not necessarily those who frequent these type of photographic gear sites, opinions can get out and create impressions.

    Of course the advance opinions on all the photographic sites are unanimously thumbs down, and that cannot bode well for the sales of this model.

    I mean it never is good when you have your diehard fans wanting and clinging to any hope that somehow this isn’t true.

    This is an epic fail by Leica.

  • Gorodish

    Agreed. This camera could very well be a nice vertical addition to the X family, but it does not merit the hype of a “Mini-M” creating a whole new category in the Leica family. If this is all that will be introduced on June 11, it was a marketing mistake. I still hold out hope there is another shoe to drop on that day.

  • Ray

    Will sell like hot cakes. Don’t confuse photographers with the red dot. While there are many excellent Leica photographers and even more photography enthusiasts shooting with Leica’s, the bulk of their market are red dot purchasers. The mini M broadens this market substantially.

  • Thommy

    Nice fake picture shown here, congratulations to the expert, although I think the Mini M will b e something like that, but sure coming with a Vario Summicron (like Digilux2) and EVV and AF and Video – and also it is compatible to the M lens system (with manual focussing). Maybe also there will be an adapter for R-Lenses. Recognise-such a camera may be an “M-Killer” – if the price for body with Vario Summicron would be unter 3500 Euro.

    @Bengt Nyman: I would ever pay three times price for a Leica than a similar SoCaNikon, especially when I see the photo-results of the marvellous lenses of Leica M System. Nothing to compare, sorry. Worth any cent of the (of course) high price.