With its 16.2-million-pixel, APS-C-sized sensor and fixed 18-46mm f/3.5-6.4 lens, is the Leica X Vario the camera Leica enthusiasts have been waiting for? Ian Farrell finds out. Read the Leica X Vario X review...
Leica X Vario review – Autofocus
Autofocusing is contrast-detection based, offering a choice between 11-point, single-point and spot modes (the latter being a smaller, more precise version of single-point AF). Face detection is also included, although when I used this it often didn’t latch on to faces as well as I expected.
In poor light, the Vario X takes its time to focus, but usually gets there in the end. This is something we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in most contrast-detection-based AF systems, but the camera also struggled in some situations where I expected it to do better. In bright sunlight things occasionally went wrong and I ended up with a completely out-of-focus frame. It’s hard to predict when this is going to happen, but it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on what is actually sharp once the camera has confirmed focus.
Unlike many luxury compacts and CSCs, the X Vario’s manual-focus mode is very usable, and offers a real alternative to working with AF. Simply turn the focus barrel on the lens away from its AF setting to set the focus distance. As soon as this is done, a magnified centre portion appears on the live-view display, helping you judge when proper sharp focus has been achieved. It would be nice to see a focus-peaking facility, too, with red edges outlining in-focus areas. Perhaps a future firmware update?
The X Vario can focus down to 0.3m in macro mode, which is pretty good for a large-sensor camera. Unlike other compacts, it does this at its longest zoom setting, not its widest angle, which gives more natural looking close-up images.
Image: Shot at 46mm at f/6.4, the lens is capable of producing a reasonably shallow depth of field. However, many would have preferred a larger aperture and even shorter depth of field to really throw out backgrounds