Worth Its Weight In Gold - Leica Mini Zoom Review

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I've used a lot of compacts in this point. Most of them have been lower end models, but there have been a few exceptions, and this is one of them. A few months ago I won a lot of cameras on Ebay. A few of the cameras in the lot included a Nikon Fun Touch, a Konica Jump, the original Leica Mini, and this gem - the Leica Mini Zoom. Although I was originally much more interested in the fixed lens model, Over the last few weeks I have fallen in love with this little zoom camera, and it is certainly the best zoom lens(or any lens, for that matter) compact I have used to date. All images in this set were shot on auto mode on Kodak Gold 35mm film at box speed, and scanned on my epson v600. Despite these shots being digitized on a flatbed scanner and Gold being a notoriously grainy film stock, I was absolutely blown away by the results. 

Overall this compact might seem like many others. It has a 35-70 variable aperture lens, Its manual controls are quite minimal, Its very plastic-ey(especially for a Leica), and its pretty big for a compact camera. However, there is a long list of features that make this camera my favorite compact to date.

The first feature may be a con to some, but to me the size of it is perfect. Its definitely bigger than the average compact(only slightly smaller than my Nikon L35AFII), but it fits spectacularly in my hand, where many cameras are either too small or awkwardly designed. And what (for some) it may lack in compactness, it more than makes up for in style. This thing is a classy camera that puts the new champagne-color craze to shame. While it isn't as sleek as the Minilux series, I love it just the same.

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Undoubtably the most important aspect, the lens on the Mini Zoom is absolutely awesome. It is far sharper than any other compact I've used at its wider settings, and even at 70mm its IQ stands up well to other compacts like my Olympus infinity stylus. Its virtually distortion and CA free as well, which is important because of the difficulty correcting such things when shooting film. Surprisingly, I found the optics to be even better than the fixed lens Leica Mini, likely because out of the entire Leica Mini series, the Zoom is the only model with a lens that is actually made by Leica themselves. Even the autofocus system is a dream, and it is among the quietest I have seen so far on a compact. While its not quite as fast to focus as some compacts, the focus system is incredibly accurate, and out of the two rolls I put through, not a single image was out of focus. 

 You wouldn't know it, but the flash did go off in this image. A great example of how the camera provides just enough fill flash, but not so much that it overpowers the available light.

You wouldn't know it, but the flash did go off in this image. A great example of how the camera provides just enough fill flash, but not so much that it overpowers the available light.

The metering system is spot on as well, with only one or two of the images it took coming out underexposed. It even handles backlighting well without any manipulation on the users end. From what I've read It has a phenomenal metering system - possibly even one of the best in a 35mm compact camera. What i like most about the metering is that it tends to err on the side of natural light instead of jumping at every opportunity to fire the flash. Unlike many more consumer-grade cameras, even when it does use the flash it is generally only used as fill, balancing the natural and artificial light beautifully. 

I honestly cant say enough good things about this camera, and I would definitely recommend it over some of the earlier fixed lens Leica mini's. If I didn't need the money you could be damn sure this would be my go-to point and shoot, and if you aren't convinced by the test shots, don't worry, my scanner really doesn't do the negatives justice. Even looking at them through a loupe on a light table, the quality is awesome. If you have it in your budget, get one of these beauties. Anything under $150 is a good deal(at the time I'm writing this) and in my opinion its well worth it.