The new Leica X (type 113) by Jonathan Slack

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Introduction 
In 2009 Leica surprised everyone by bringing out an autofocus camera with an 12mp APSc sensor and a fixed 35mm equivalent f2.8 lens. In 2012 they refined the concept in the same body, releasing the X2, this time with a 16mp sensor and better response times, with the option of using an optional external viewfinder (a 1.44m dot unit.)
The X-Vario came in 2013, this had the same sensor as the X2 in a slightly larger body with a 28-70mm (equivalent) lens. Leica designed the lens for optimum optical performance in a small package; the compromise needed to make this possible was to make the lens variable aperture and rather slow (f3.5 – f6.4). The LCD was upgraded to a 920k dot unit, and the X-Vario used the same EVF as the Leica X2 and the Leica M (typ 240).
The X-Vario received a mixed reception as a result of the slow lens, and some questionable publicity material. However, it has come to be much appreciated by lots of photographers as an elegant and no-nonsense travel camera with really fantastic image quality. The recent firmware update has improved the camera further.
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This brings me to Leica’s newest X camera – code named Anna-Louisa, but now to be the Leica X (typ 113). It uses the same basic body as the X-Vario but with a fixed 35mm equivalent f1.7 lens.
I’ve been testing the camera since July, including a 2 week trip to Crete (where this article is being written). As a tester for Leica, my allegiance is to Leica, and if I find things wrong with the camera, then my duty is to tell Leica about it rather than the world in general. On the other hand, Leica have never had any influence over what I write, and I wouldn’t dream of saying anything that I don’t consider to be absolutely true.
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The Body
The Leica X (typ 113) is a small 16mp APSc camera with a fixed lens: the 23mm f1.7 Summilux Aspherical. The body is just a little smaller than a classic M6. Like the other X cameras it has shutter speed and Aperture dials on the top plate, together with a video button. Setting the Aperture dial to A gives you Shutter priority, setting the Shutter speed dial to A gives you Aperture priority and setting both to A gives you program mode.
The rear of the camera has the same large 920,000 dot LCD as the X-Vario. On the right hand side it has a thumbwheel which also serves as a thumb rest. There is also a three way switch; up for exposure compensation, left for self timer and right for flash settings (this only works when the popup flash is popped up). In the centre is the Info button which changes the display settings. The thumb wheel and the switch are now in black (unlike the chrome of the X-Vario).
On the left hand side of the LCD are the buttons with the same layout as the X-Vario, from the top
Play
Delete / Focus (delete in Play mode, focus options when in AF mode)
WB (White Balance)
ISO
Menu/Set
The whole setup is elegant and well thought through: both flexible and straightforward.
The only other change from the X-Vario is the hot-shoe. This is the same as the Leica T, with the EVF connector in the inside edge; the Typ 113 uses the same Visoflex EVF as the Leica T with a 2.36 million dot unit (probably the same basic unit as the Sony A7, the Olympus E-M1 and the Fuji X-T1).
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The Lens
Finally! A fast lens in a Leica X camera, and this lens is a real cracker – it’s a 23mm f1.7 (35mm equivalent). It’s commendably small, and has internal focusing, so that it doesn’t change length, either when the camera is switched on, or during focusing. It has a proper manual focus ring, with a distance scale, unlike the normal ‘focus by wire’ found on similar, small, fixed focal length cameras. Auto Focus is enabled by turning the focus ring beyond infinity (there is a firm detent).
The lens focuses right down to 20cm, although (like the Leica T) the maximum aperture is reduced to f2.8 at the closest focus distance to ensure the best image quality
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Ergonomics and Operation
Although larger than the X1 and X2, many will feel that Anna-Louisa is the perfect size for street and travel photography. The thumb wheel housing acts as a good stability aid (smaller but almost as good as the winder lever on an M6) and the controls are perfectly clear and obvious; there are no programmable buttons, and the only button which changes it’s function is the Delete/Focus button.
Of course, it would be nice to have a built in EVF, but the new Visoflex works well with the camera. Unlike the old EVF on the Leica M and the X-Vario it has an eye level sensor, so there is no need to press a button to change from LCD to EVF.
Anna-Louisa is certainly no sports camera, but it is responsive and there are no obvious delays when shooting.
The shutter is almost silent and shutter lag is minimal. Auto focus is quick (although less reliable at closest focus and infinity – hopefully this can be improved with a firmware update). Manual focus with the proper focus ring is a joy, and although the camera doesn’t have Focus Peaking, it does have the central square zoom in focus assist of the X-Vario.
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Conclusion
The new arrangement with the higher resolution EVF and the eye sensor LCD/EVF transfer are real improvements over the X-Vario. Added to this all the good points of the X-Vario in terms of controls and ergonomics have been retained.
To my mind the Leica X (Typ 113) is the X camera come of age. Straightforward and logical operation coupled with a familiar form factor and a wonderful fast lens. It doesn’t offer the bells and whistles of some of the competition, but it does offer manual control of Shutter Speed, Aperture, Focusing, White Balance, ISO and exposure compensation all with labelled controls, it also has the fastest lens in it’s class.
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Paris and a Leica, a marriage made in heaven

paris group

The Leica Meet on Aug 27th in Paris was a special event for two reasons. Firstly it was a genuinely international Meet. We had members visiting from Germany, Holland, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Switzerland, UK and of course France. Secondly it celebrated our first year as a group! A year in which three guys who didn’t even know one another when they met to shoot along the South Bank of the Thames in Aug 2013, then went on to set up a Facebook page and website with a membership currently approaching 5,000. Paul Borg Oliver decided to nickname Stephen, Gavin and myself, ‘the three musketeers’ and that was particularly appropriate as we were in Paris.

Fuelled by coffee/croissants courtesy of The Leica Store Paris we set out to explore this wonderful city. With around 36 people it wasn’t practical to walk together so we split into groups and periodically met up. Fortunately we had Laurent Scheinfeld, James Kezman and Cyrille Bailly who lived in Paris and showed members, areas with different characteristics. With the occasional stop for coffee plus lunch the day bubbled along with newly made friendships. It was fascinating to note the variety of seeing and shooting styles from zone focusing/holding the camera anywhere except at eye level, to asking permission, engaging with the subject and becoming part of the process. Conversations ranged far and wide but always came back to Leica and no doubt several items have been added to several wish lists.

The brief was simply to shoot our personal interpretation of the areas we visited. Although we had ample opportunity for urban landscape and architecture, the magic of Paris is in the street. The city seems to have a joyous energy that effects both tourists and locals. With so many opportunities all around, most of us shot in the Street genre. It was here the Leica M series blossomed. They seemed tailor made for this kind of environment. Relatively small and light in weight and bulk, the camera gets out of the way so we can get on with making the image. A marriage made in heaven. As you’ll see from the accompanying gallery we have some very talented photographers in our group and we’re proud of the work created in a just a few short hours.

We’d agreed to meet back at The Leica Store at 18.00. We expected ‘some wine and cheese’. But we were in a for a shock. There were four different wines, six different cheeses, cold meats and hand made chocolates! The generosity and hospitality of Gaelle and Emmanuele from the Leica Store was amazing and truly appreciated. We could not have asked for a better end to the day.

We like to say that our Meets are not workshops. There are no teachers and no students. However the reality is that if you are open minded there is always something to be learned from someone in such a creative group.

As for the three musketeers; we would like to say a huge thank you to all our members who attended and made it so enjoyable. We missed the fourth musketeer, D’artagnan (aka Eileen McCarney Muldoon) who is based in Rhode Island, USA.

However,  she is more than compensating by running a Leica Meet in Boston on Oct 15th. It’s called the Boston T Party to celebrate Leica making some complimentary Model T cameras available for the day. Check it out it’s going to be a creative and enjoyable day. One for all and all for one!

Olaf Willoughby

http://theleicameet.com/paris-2014.html

I Want to See the Tower by Laurent Scheinfeld

Some of the most rewarding aspects of The Leica Meet are the new friendships and the remarkable talent we encounter. One such person is Laurent Scheinfeld, a Paris based photographer with a unique perspective on that iconic travel destination, the Eiffel Tower. Here he describes his fascinating project.

Millions of people dream to see the Eiffel Tower. Trocadero esplanade, which undoubtly is the best view point for admiring the Tower, counts several millions of tourists from all over the world, every year. Surprisingly, the dream becomes reality and the place then offers a strange ballet of people shooting themselves in front of the Eiffel Tower, playing with its image as if it was a goal in life to get their own picture in a posed or grotesque attitude in front of the Tower. I love my native town Paris and I love the Eiffel Tower. Through a social and psychological analysis of the viewers, I try to catch the decisive moment when the people and the Tower are in harmony; the Towers’ ubiquity disappears and leaves the viewers in a state of grace.  Is there anyone on Earth who didn’t one day say, “I want to see the Tower?”

Watch out for my ‘Meet the Leica Meet’ interview with Laurent on The Leica Blog later this year. Olaf.

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