Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Zone Focus Street Pics with Leica X Vario

On a previous post I mentioned how much I enjoyed using the Leica X Vario for street photography, and I meant it. I was gathering images to use for my upcoming review, and I realized I had too many street shots to choose from. In the end, I decided to post the overflow here for your viewing. Here are just some of the overflow...I actually have more!

All these images were taken using zone focusing, anywhere between 1.5 to 4 meter distance. Once you get use to eyeballing distance, it's pretty easy and fun. Just shoot high ISO (800-1600), stop down to F/5.6 to F/8 and make sure you're shutter speeds are 1/500th sec or faster. You'll be surprised how many good images you can get when you're not worried about focusing, or even shutter speeds and aperture.  

If fact, once you know the framing of the chosen focal length (the X Vario is best between 28mm to 35mm), you don't even have to worry about framing. You can visualize the shot without even looking at the screen. I think 28mm at 2 meters is best. You can practice by using a tape measure by pulling it out to the preset distance so you can visualize the pre-focused distance. An easier way is shooting against a wall while out on the street, guess the distance, and keep shooting until the image is in focus. Now you know what that pre-focused distance looks like. Now go and practice on people!

Another thing I like about the X Vario is that it has a very large exposure scale that goes across horizontally on the screen. In comparison, the Fuji X-100S has a tiny, tiny vertical scale to the left of the screen, but you almost have to squint to see it. 

While walking around with the X Vario, all you have to do is use the sidewalk as your grey card and quickly check the exposure. One quick look at the scale, and you know to bump up or down the shutter speed. Check every time the lighting changes, and you should be good to go.

The X Vario also comes out of sleep mode very quickly. One light touch on the shutter and the screen comes back to life. I can't say the same for the Fuji X-100S. Sometimes it's faster to turn the X-100S off and back on, instead of waiting for it to come out of sleep mode. Another well thought out feature of the X Vario.

One thing to remember is that the lens is big and heavy on the X Vario. Because of this, when you have the camera around your neck to shoot without looking, the lens tends to aim downwards to the feet instead of the face. Remember to cup the lens with your left hand and tilt it up just a little (see above picture).

The above image was a bit over exposed as the sun came out, and just before I could adjust the shutter speed by 1 stop, I saw Mr.Muscle through the crowd. I had no choice but to shoot. The image is still in perfect focus at 2.0M, but a bit over exposed.

Moreover, I really enjoyed shooting with the Leica X Vario for street photography. Having the camera hanging off my neck and shooting blind, I actually could see more by not looking at an LCD screen. I had a 180 degree view of my environment, instead of a narrow view of a screen or viewfinder. I could see everything coming towards me from all directions. I could quickly move towards my subject, or I could stop and wait for them to come to me. Either way, I rarely missed a shot. I rarely missed focus, or rarely over or under exposed. I could see all my settings quickly, including the large exposure scale on the screen. That's about all I used the LCD for!! So for street photography, I really didn't care about the average speed auto focus on the X Vario. Zone focusing is faster than auto focus once you get the hang of it.

One suggestion I could give Leica is that a depth of field scale on the lens would have really helped; or like Fuji, an on screen focus distance/depth of field scale. I don't think it would be very difficult to have this as an optional menu item with a firmware update.

I'll have more thoughts on this camera on my upcoming review. I've already started writing it, but I'm still choosing my images. Keep coming back, and if you don't want to miss anything, follow me on Twitter. For now, happy shooting!!

For my full review of the X Vario, click here.


  1. Thank you for these sharing tips. Please write more when you discovered others.

    Kind regards - Hanh

    1. I'm going to try and get the X Vario on a longer loan in the near future, and perhaps even post a Youtube video as well...any videographers out there willing to work for free?


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