There has been a lot of talk recently about the new Leica “Mini M” that the German brand has been dangling in front of our noses for the past couple of weeks. When the first spec rumors came out, no one believed them or more accurately, no one wanted to believe them. Sometimes rumors are false, sometimes they are true, and in this case they reveal themselves to be 100% true. So what’s the story behind this new Leica camera?
- It is a point and shoot camera, with a large sensor (APS-C Cmos) and a fixed zoom lens. Nothing to complain about here.
- The lens is a 18-46mm (28-70 equivalent in 35mm format). That’s cool too.
- The zoom has a non-constant aperture of f/3.5-6.4. Now that is less cool because it isn’t a fast lens, meaning that your bokeh won’t be as nice, and it won’t perform as well in low light.
- All the other features meet the standards: up to ISO 12500, 5fps, full HD video, but no viewfinder.
The slow aperture is among the most deceptive features for the camera that Leica calls the “Mini M.” The brand places the “Mini M” between the M series and the Leica X2 (now also called Micro M) so I guess a lot of photographers were hoping that it would be a X100s or RX1 direct competitor. Honestly, the fact that it isn’t a direct competitor doesn’t really bother me as Leica is probably trying to differentiate itself from other brands by adding a new product to its line instead of replacing an older model (such as the X2).
Moreover, I guess Leica felt it was important to keep the size of the camera compact. A zoom with that focal range and a fast constant aperture would have made the camera body bigger.
So what’s the problem? Well, put simply, it is the price.
$2800 is way too expensive for a camera with these kinds of specs. We all know that Leica is a niche brand that straddles luxury and top level photography. It is a philosophy that some photographers follow, and is also a significant part of photography history. Plus, a lot of people will agree that the M lenses are probably among the best lenses you can find.
I can completely understand the high cost of M lenses because of the unique way in which they are made, as well as for their exceptional image quality. With an overpriced M body, however, my understanding diminishes as it isn’t the best of what technology can offer today. And when it comes to overpriced compact cameras, I really don’t get the logic at all.
Now here comes my bold statement. I believe that the only reason the Leica X Vario costs so much is because its a Leica, period. Just as an Apple computer costs more because it’s an Apple.
Is the power of branding enough to tempt photographers into buying a new luxury toy? Only time will tell. I must say that, after all the energy invested in the creation of the new Leica M this year, and Leica’s apparent interest in closing the gap with its competitors, this new camera seems like a step back in the wrong direction.
Of course, it may well be the greatest camera ever made (something I won’t know until I try it) so my thoughts end here.
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