I got the camera bug from my parents. Neither of them are professional photographers but both enjoy photography and regularly took me to galleries as a kid. I think I took photography for granted for quite a while due to the abundance of photo books at home and how well my grandma liked to maintain the archive of family photos.
Back when I was 13, my uncle and dad even took me with them to a talk with Steve McCurry, of course I was more interested in chatting up my first girlfriend and spent a substantial portion of the talk texting her under my coat. The very first analog camera I ever had was a Lomography fisheye back when I was 8, and I think that camera had a substantial influence on me and why I love wide angle and fisheyes in particular. For my 16th birthday/Christmas (the two are close and I was supposed to be born on Christmas day) my parents bought me a Nikon DSLR and while I enjoyed using it, I found I never truly fell in love with it despite having access to the family trove of Nikon glass. Over time I moved back on to film and fell back in love with photography.
Anyway, the camera I want to talk to you about today is the Leica Mini Zoom. I picked my copy up cheap thinking it might work for a friend who wanted to get into photography with something for everyday situations that was more advanced than a disposable camera. I tried to convince her to get an old used Sony RX100 series or other compact that would suit her purposes well and would be cheaper in the face of increasing film prices and reduced colour film availability. I was unsuccessful. I showed her a few options and she fell in love with a camera I had often flirted with, the Yashica Samurai 3.0X and found herself a decent copy on ebay.
In the time between when she bought it and it arriving I found the Leica Mini Zoom and purchased it, thinking either she likes it or I just pass it on to the next person. I did what I always do when I find/purchase a new camera and ran a roll of Kodak Gold 200 through it. Thank god I did because this camera houses a surprisingly fantastic Vario Elmar 35-70mm f4.0-7.6 lens.
When I test compacts I like to use them as they would be if I just handed the camera to someone who doesn’t really know what they’re doing. I do not focus and recompose, I simply point and shoot. I regularly hand them to my partner or friends and see how they find it as well as shooting in varied circumstances. All of the following photos were developed at home by me and scanned using my home scanning rig. And yes, I did manage to get 37 shots out of this compact, so far I find I get an extra shot every roll, which is always appreciated.
What I’ve noticed about this camera is that the flash is very bright and cold. Unfortunately, I can’t be sure if this is common across all copies of this camera, or simply mine because I’m not paying the prices they command on ebay. Additionally, I found while researching this camera that there is supposedly a Vivitar 1 500PZ housing a different lens, but otherwise very similar looking camera that was produced in the Philippines. Equally the chassis of the Nikon One-Touch Zoom AF is supposed to be similar but to me looks very different. I think this is merely internet hearsay as to me I see enough differences in the body. Another body however that is in the same series is the Panasonic C2200ZM, I’ve seen this one in person and it is even closer than the Vivitar to the Leica.
I think this is a situation with different cameras being made by one manufacturer for different target audiences. Some of the Panasonic cameras are unmarked production, but many have a sticker (possibly why some appear unmarked) or markings that denote them as being made in Korea. My Leica Mini Zoom is marked as being “manufactured in Japan for Leica Camera GMBH”. This leads me to believe the three cameras were manufactured and aimed at different target audiences; whilst the Vivitar and Panasonic appear to have very similar feature sets, I wouldn’t be surprised if they had different lenses.
The Leica Mini Zoom is stated in the manual to have a unique lens and advertising materials indicate the same. In any case, I strongly recommend if you happen across one of these for a decent price, give it a go, they are fantastic little cameras and I love mine. I got it cheap and it’s perfect for throwing into my bag in a similar manner I did with my Olympus mju-ii back before it developed heavy light leaks. These cameras were designed to be carried everywhere and used in all situations, so do that. Short of premium compacts I see no reason to baby a compact camera. The electronics will eventually fail and babying the camera won’t stop that.
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9 thoughts on “The Whole (Test) Roll with the Leica Mini Zoom and Kodak Gold 200 – By Dylan Thissen”
Nice work, Dylan — your writeup and pics!
The Leica MiniZoom was in fact manufactured by Panasonic, as were several other “Leicas”, right through the digital age. All are fine instruments!
Absolutely, the Lumix LX100/100II are incredible cameras that I think should have been a bigger success. They also were rebranded Leica and the rebadge is worth more just because of the red dot. I like Leica and find my summicron 50 has a really incredible look but the Leica tax can be ridiculous in some aspects.
Yes, and there were also the C series Leicas (C1, C2 and C3) that were made by Cosina, in China.
My understanding is that the Leica Mini Zoom, the Panasonic C-2200ZM (I have both) as well as the Vivitar 1 500PZ, were all basically the same, except for a few cosmetic differences.
Some say the Pentax IQZoom 79R is also from the same stables but that I am not so sure about.
The design was from Kyocera. Manufacturing might well have been done by Matsushita (Panasonic.)
Having seen the results I’m convinced the Leica really does have a different lens. But I definitely think the bodies are identical and maybe electronic components minus a few extra features on the Leica.
I did do some research a few years back as the Leica holds some personal memories for me.
It was difficult then getting accurate info and it still is (some of it contradictory) . But all I know is that the Leica, Pana and Vivitar have 35-70mm f/4 to f/7.6, 7 elements in 6 group lenses and the general consensus was they were designed by the same company, Kyocera.
But that’s just the spec.
However having both the Leica and Panasonic I am pretty sure it would be very difficult to tell them apart just by looking at the images they produce. Perhaps that’s the making of any article.
I found another clone! The Kodak Star Zoom 70. Yes, the please make that article:) I’ve been searching the net, trying to find more photos made with these cameras. The lens really seems a cut above the normal point and shoot zooms. At least in good light the sharpness seems very very good. Colors and contrast seems good too. I got so excited I ordered a Panasonic version on ebay as they seemed to be the cheapest and most available of the 3. The thing that could make the Leica potentially better might be higher quality control, so there might be less copy variance, but that’s just speculation. But I certainly found some very sharp and good looking photos made with the others. My guess is that the lens is identical.
Nice review with lots of pics. I’m a sucker for the “who really made this” discussions and clones in general, as they are usually way cheaper than the “brand” version. I bet the Vivitar goes for a whole lot less than the Leica:) Also nice to see a point and shoot review as they have become more infrequent on this website.
On the overexposed flash photos: I think the worst examples here is just a result of the focus being on the background instead of your subjects. The flash-matic system in that’s in most of these point and shoots will then open up the aperture and overexpose the closer subjects (the flash always fires at full power and closes down the aperture to control the exposure when the focus is closer). So this is actually a good reason to use focus and recompose instead of the happy go lucky approach. In the picture of you waiting for a pint the flash exposure seems correct and you are in focus.
Whats the viewfinder like in this camera compared to other point and shoots, it looks pretty big judging from the picture?
Ah ok that’s an interesting point on the flash system. I’ve generally been curious about how pns cameras function because there seems to be such a variety in the metering and flash use. Not to mention limited speeds and apertures. Definitely have been focus and recomposing since the test roll, was just to figure out how the AF was on the camera 🙂
As for your question on the viewfinder, it’s a weirdly large finder but extremely dim, mine is a bad example as it has ridiculous amount of dust through it. However I will say that it is big enough to be comfortable for me to wear my glasses and shoot through it! Not the most common in pns cameras.
Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed my article hope it brought a little entertainment to your day 🙂