Leica X-E Typ 102 | The Classical X in 2019

Almost forgotten today, the Leica Typ 102 (X-E for short) hails as the very last of the Leica X series before it was quietly discontinued in favor of the Typ 113 X and later the Typ 116 Q (models with faster glass and obviously more costly in comparison)

I do not categorize the X-E with the Typ 701 T nor the Typ 7323 CL series as the latter two are interchangeable lens systems, moving away from the beautiful simplicity of the excellent compact fixed-lens cameras Leica used to make.

I am not going to do a technical review of the Leica X-E, and factually the X-E is actually a cosmetically updated model of the X2. And it is not difficult to find technical spec readings of the X2 or the X-E. If you need one, here’s one

Note that personally I have a soft spot for high quality fixed-lens compact cameras, having gone through to name a few, the Fujifilm X100, X100S, X100T, Sony RX1 RII, Fujifilm XF10, X70, GR II, X100F, Leica Q and Q2 and GR III and I have a very clear idea of what I want. (Links to my reviews on them by clicking on their names

First Impressions and about the Leica X-E

Upon holding the Leica X-E, what comes to mind is the extremely nice heft and build one has come to expect of a well-crafted camera. One will hardly feel the fragility associated with the GR. The attention to details is commendable, even with text etched in and painted over, unlike many of the simply printed on text of today’s cameras. 

On the top, one gets all the shutter speed and aperture adjustment dials, together with the shutter / on-off switch allowing one option between single and continuous mode. Exposure adjustment is done using the button on a the D-pad area together with every single other main function any person can need mapped to physical buttons. 

Yes, the X-E even comes with a built-in flash with a lovely menu system that once set correctly, will NOT have you needing to fiddle with it much and focus on framing the shot.

Frankly, I love a cleanly designed menu system and Leica and Fujifilm to me has the most well-designed menu systems with minimal clutter and logical placement of options. 

Lasting, how can one not speak of the glass mated to the sensor? The X-E comes with a 24mm f2.8 Elmarit optics (approx 36mm f2.8 due to the APSC sized sensor) which is renowned for its rendering abilities and sharpness and also used on the Leica X2. 

Handling, Using the camera with Samples

The camera takes about a second to power up and extend its lens, and of course one must remove the lens cap before this if not an error message reminding one to do so will show on the back LCD. 

Remember to remove and not to lose the lens cap! 


f2.8, ISO100, 1/2000s

After trying the combinations, a surprise is that the SPOT focusing is extremely accurate most of the time. Frankly, I wouldn’t be bothered with using the face detection on the X-E. Continuous shooting does work pretty well but there is a noticeable lag before you can do the next shot while waiting for writing to the card to be done. 


f2.8, ISO100, 1/60s

The sensor and optics render really well and one thing to note is, even in 2019 in the world moving towards 50 megapixels, the 16 megapixels output is still plenty. Even though my personal preference is working with the DNG files, the SOOC JPEGs are pretty neat. 


f2.8, ISO100, 1/100s

Autofocus speeds are pretty comparable to the one we get on the GR II or the X70 and there is very little hunting. Obviously, it will never be a Sony A9 level of focusing but to me, well, if you are into as fast as possible AF you shouldn’t even be considering the Leica family of cameras. 


f4, ISO100, 1/800s


f4, ISO100, 1/1250s

Colors render beautifully neutral and true to life, and the excellent optics ensure that flaring is kept to a minimum even when shooting directly at a bright source and details are well reproduced. 


f2.8, ISO250, 1/30s

The minimum focusing distance of 30 cm on the X-E also gives more flexibility in shooting, as opposed to the typical 70 cm to 90 cm on M lenses. Obviously, the very silent shutter (I can still haunted by how the Sony A7 shutter sound could wake up my sleeping kid years back) allows one to use this camera as it was designed to, as an unintrusive street camera compact enough to go anywhere and everywhere. 


f2.8, ISO250, 1/30s


Shot through glass (hence the color tint) f2.8, ISO100, 1/100s


f2.8, ISO100, 1/80s


f2.8, ISO160, 1/30s


f2.8, ISO100


f2.8, ISO100, 1/2000s

The X-E does a maximum shutter speed of 1/2000s, hence one does need to take note of overexposure when shooting at wider apertures in strong light. 


f2.8, ISO100, 1/100s

The X-E does not have an electronic (silent) shutter, but the mad thing is how close one can get up to a subject, grab a shot without the person noticing even when one is using a mechanical shutter.  


f2.8, ISO100, 1/60s
yes, the photo is blurred, but I like the feel of how the blur gives an added dimension to it. 


f2.8, ISO100, 1/2000s


f2.8, ISO100, 1/2000s

Conclusion

The Leica X-E is not a camera most people will seek out deliberately in 2019 or later, but those who own one and makes the effort to work with the camera will be able to see what is traditionally Leica, as opposed to the modern Leica nowadays (nothing wrong with either – just different philosophies I guess)

There are obviously faster and faster cameras with crazier and crazier megapixel counts (I do admit I thoroughly love using the Fujifilm GFX100 102 megapixels monster) but it is important to know that while some are in the race for owning the ‘best’ camera, I am more interested in using a camera that suits my preferences more. 

What will attract one to the Leica X-E is really the quality of this optical setup and how compact the whole setup is. (that’s 3 year old Lynn holding the X-E below), the slower autofocusing speed is something one needs to get used to but then that’s pretty all there is to it because the Leica X-E was never meant to be complicated, and designed well to do what cameras are supposed to do, to take pictures. 


Fujifilm X100F, shot in Pro Neg High film simulation. 

Thank you for reading.

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keithwee

Keith Father, Teacher and Life Photographer. Lives a life of positivism & seeks to photograph Life & his 2 toddlers Kei & Lynn.

2 thoughts on “Leica X-E Typ 102 | The Classical X in 2019

  1. Great commentary Keith. I have been looking to buy a Leica from the X series, and the X-E is among them.
    I tried for a few weeks the Leica Q, a great camera that produces spectacular images, even from someone like me, who is not a good photographer.
    Since then I knew I had to own a Leica, at least to capture my family vacations and get togethers. I bought a Leica C Typ 112. Yes, I know, its a Panasonic underneath and many chide it for that, but my God! The little camera punches so above its weight class, rendering some amazing shots, with that genuine Leica look. Of course, nowhere in the league of the Leica Q, but a worthy little sister.
    So that brings me to the Leica X Series. I want some more of that Leica, German-made goodness- the X-E is just that. I guess if you want a Leica, nothing else will do and the X-E seems just like the right ticket for someone on a tight budget,, with its lower, used market price tag. I say to the X-E, “Come to papa!”
    Really liked your commentary and your images are outstanding. Take care.
    -Joseph Trevino
    Southern Arizona, November 2019.

    Like

    1. Thank you Joseph 🙂 I started back then with a D-Lux too, the leica rebadged Panasonics and actually the images do turn out diff. Leica never clarified but I guess it’s image processing engines are diff while sharing the same sensor.

      The X series has largely been forgotten I guess, in the world of the Q and CL but as you rightly said, they still present great value for what they can produce through their leica made optics. Take care

      Like

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