Leica X-E: Another crop-sensor X from Wetzlar bites the dust
The Leica X-E, grandchild of the ground-breaking X1, is now discontinued, according to Leica Rumors. Although I was never a great fan of the silver cladding of the X-E (preferring the more traditional appearance of the X2) I’m sad to see the end of the line.
The X-E, introduced in September 2014, follows the X Vario and X into the history books and there is now no doubt that Leica has a depleted APS-C programme. It’s now down to the TL and one underwater fish snapper to fly the flag. These moves beg the question of just where Leica intends to go in the APS-C world.
This latest deletion marks the end of a seven-year reign for the distinctive little fixed lens compact. When the X1 was introduced alongside the M9 in September 2009 it signalled the start of the current love affair with fixed-lens 35mm cameras. It pre-dated the Fuji X100 by two years and was the camera that set the current fashion. I even suspect that the ‘X’ in the original X100 represented more than a nod to the success of the little Leica.
Slow but sure
I have long been a fan of the Leica X1 and still own a version of the original camera. The X2 came and went and now the X-E has gone. But I still prefer the original — mainly, it has to be said, because it doesn’t have that unsightly hot-shoe hump which the later models needed to accommodate the VF-2 electronic viewfinder. True, it is slower to focus than its successors and slower to writ to memory (let’s face it, is slow…period) but as an photographic tool it is still capable of impressive results and attracts a devoted following.
Whither Leica and APS-C? I’ve made no secret of my disappointment with the recently introduced Leica TL. I had hoped for a return to a more traditional approach, an interchangeable-lens-design based on the body of the Leica X or, better still, the Q with a built-in viewfinder. I still think that would transform the company’s prospects in APS-C. The lens range is there already, the TL mount is shared with the new full-frame SL, and it has everything going for it.
There is no doubt that the ending of the X line of cameras (with the exception of the oddball underwater X-U) leaves a big hole in the Leica APS-C roadmap. I believe that something new must be in the offing, and soon.
One of my pet themes is the possibility of a micro four-thirds foray for Leica. With the on-going Panasonic cooperation and the success of rebranded cameras, the D Lux and V Lux, I would have thought that Panasonic’s APS-C cameras, in particularly the GX8, would be ripe for rebranding. This smaller sensor format has made big strides in recent years and cameras such as the PEN-F and OM-D EM-1 have improved ISO performance and dynamic range possibilities to the point where it is becoming more attractive to APS-C devotees.
There is already a strong range of Leica DG-branded lenses for the m4/3 mount, including the 12mm Summilux. the 42.5mm Nocticron and an excellent 12-60mm zoom in the shape of the new Vario-Elmarit. So far Leica has been adamant that there is no possibility of an entry into the m4/3 world. Indeed, when the D Lux was announced in 2014 Leica was at pains to quash any mention of the term micro four-thirds, instead maintaining that the sensor was “four-thirds”. This is strictly true, of course, but I thought that Leica did protest a little too much. One possibility, of course, is that Leica is prevented from muscling in on the m4/3 platform by agreement between the Panasonic-Olympus consortium.
Whatever, with live in interesting times. With the gap in the APS-C market, despite the presence of the TL, and the expectation that both the D Lux and V Lux are due for upgrade, the sub-full-frame Leica range is in turmoil.