It was bound to happen. I finally gave in to the siren call of the Red Dot and bought a Leica…
For those of you who know a thing or two about photography, the name Leica will surely ring a bell. For the clueless: Leica is a top-of-the-line German camera brand. It was Oskar Barnack, an employee at Ernst Leitz’s camera factory in Wetzlar, Germany, who conceived the first prototypes of a revolutionary portable camera system just prior to World War I. These cameras were designed to produce small negatives from film rolls, to be enlarged to printed photographs. Sounds familiar, right? Barnack’s concoctions were tiny compared to the unwieldy large and impractical wooden boxes with glass plates on tripods that formed the standard back in the day. His inventions were no less than the start of a new era in photography.
Fast forward to 2018. Modern Leica’s are well known for their image quality, simple and barebones intuitive controls, beautiful design, and… price. These pieces of craftmanship are expensive, although that is to be expected considering the materials that are used and seeing how meticulously these machines are being constructed and tested in Germany. Nevertheless, if you want The Real Deal in the form of the latest digital Leica M10 with one lens for example, be ready to shell out roughly nine thousand euro. At least. The conclusion was quickly reached: this was not an option.
So what does one do? One starts checking for less costly alternatives, albeit still within the digital Leica realm. For the sake of brevity, let me just say that these alternatives are few and far between. There is of course the Q, which costs slightly less than half of what the M10 with a similar lens would go for: a bargain in Leica terms. Other options are the CL or the Leica-branded Panasonics. At some point I started looking at older cameras: discontinued models still available on the used market, like the M8 and the Leica M-mount Epson R-D1 (what an amazing machine that is!). And then I stumbled upon the Leica X-series.
From 2009 to 2017 Leica produced this series of fixed-lens compacts. While I was actually looking for an all-black Leica X2, I jumped on the occasion to buy a mint X-E with the handy add-on EVF when the opportunity presented itself. The X2 and X-E are in essence the exact same camera, the only difference being that the X-E was built more recently and has a distinct yet beautiful titanium-silver look.
Of course, these cameras constitute a compromise, like all. While you get an actual German-made optical precision tool with a 16MP APS-C-sized sensor perfectly coupled to a brilliant 24mm f2.8 Elmarit lens, you have to sacrifice quite a bit of speed, both in terms of autofocus and general operation. Do you want to shoot fast action? Best to avoid this camera then as its autofocus is positively glacial at best. However, if you are more interested in contemplative street and travel photography, like me, you might have a winner on your hands.
So here I am with my shiny new/old camera. How will I fare with it? Only one way to find out. Check back soon for photos taken with the Leica X-E.