Leica X1 APS-C compact camera
Latest firmware tweaks on test
Review The X1 is Leica’s first expert digital compact that, along with some top quality optics, lives up to its billing by offering easy access to manual controls akin to its bigger and pricier brother, the M9. It has no rangefinder focusing to match the M9 either, instead the X1 relies on an LCD screen and an optional clip on optical viewfinder. There's no facility for interchangeable lenses, with just a fixed 24mm f/2.8 lens (equivalent to 36mm on a 35mm camera) in front of a 12.2MP, APS-C CMOS sensor with an ISO range between 100 and 3200 and a maximum shutter speed of 1/2000th of a second.
Switch to manual? Leica's X1 has it all to hand
Although the X1 has been out for a while, it seemed timely to put it through its paces as Leica has updated the firmware for this model to addresses some of the issues affecting the original release. Among the listed tweaks are improvements to the camera’s focusing performance and JPEG quality. At £1425 the X1 is the most expensive compact currently on the market, but is the premium price tag justified?
Although potentially competing with other APS-C compacts such as the Fujifilm X100, the Sigma DP2 or the Samsung NX100, the X1 is no ordinary compact and not only for fitting such a large sensor in a diminutive body. Leica relies on a customer base of faithful professional photographers but also on wealthy, keen amateurs who buy into the brand as a status symbol as much for its precision optics and outstanding picture quality.
In both appearance and modus operandi, the X1 resembles a shrunken M9, with its smaller stature further enhancing its retro 35mm looks. It maybe small, but at 60 x 124 x 32mm and 286g, it’s not exactly pocketsized. The X1’s all-metal body has a black textured, leather trim that gives it a luxurious finish and a professional feel. Yet despite lacking a hand or thumb grip the X1 fits well in the hand and the round edges make holding quite comfortable.
Handgrip and viewfinder
Leica does provide a screw on handgrip that makes accessing the top dials much easier but it comes at an additional £92. In line with Leica’s general design criteria, the X1 has a minimalistic yet functional approach to camera control. Large, metal shutter speed and aperture dials dominate the top plate – only the most essential shooting controls have dedicated access, the rest being menu driven.
Next page: Priority decisions
Sadly your more likely right than not
I know it's Leica and they have a brand name to cash in on, but 1,500 for APCS camera?! Like frigging Hasselblad, £25k for a body and will it take better photos than a Nikon D3 or a Canon 1D? Well maybe but if you can't compose your shots, then no, you just get a better quality mess of a picture.
Sadly I can imagine most of these cameras will end up in some posh city camera shops being sold to people with way more money than sense and no idea how to compose a shot to save their lives.
If you go to DPReview and do a side-by-side comparison of the Fujifilm X100 with the Leica X1 (which you can do from the former's test), it's difficult to support the conclusion that the "easily delivers the best image quality in its category". At high ISO the X100 is surely a bit better and both cameras are rated highly for the lens quality (and the Fujifilm is a full stop faster).
Of course the X100 is physically a bit larger, but then it has a built-in viewfinder and something of a handgrip (both cost-extras on the Leica). With both cameras there appear to be quirks, and neither appear to be up with the best on AF, speed of use. Also both are expensive albeit the Leica hugely so.
Of course there will always be sold by the badge on a camera, and I suspect that is far and the way the most important issue when it comes to premium-priced products like the Leica. Until I see some direct side-by-side objective evidence under comparable conditions I'm inclined to think the Leica does not easily deliver the best images - if anything it's subtly the other way.
Nice camera, but..
it still looks designed to appeal to the shrill, gullible twats who buy anything with an expensive badge on it.
I am a Leicaman, but
this doesn't work for me. It seems to be the spiritual successor to the Minilux, a brilliant 35mm compact that was let down by reliability issues (you can still buy new boxed ones for a fraction of the original price because everyone's scared of the "E02 error" which costs as much to fix as another Minilux).
The main problems are:
1. The price. if you want digital, that's not far off a Nikon D700 with a 35mm lens (Nikon lenses being cheap as chips compared to Leica, and not significantly worse in quality). The D700 is, of course, full-frame which makes it a zillion times better for creative photography. You can blur the background properly and the huge photosites will give clean images at pretty high ISO.
2. The APS-C sensor. Good bokeh isn't going to be seen very often with a 24mm f/2.8 lens. With a FF sensor and a 35mm lens you can use bokeh a bit for creative effect, but even then you really need f/2 to reliably blur the background, unless you're very close to the subject and giving them a big nose as a result. Obviously APS-C is going to be better at high ISO than a little digicam sensor but not as good as a FF sensor.
A secondhand M6 (actually, I'd have an M2 at half the price) and a new Zeiss 35mm lens seem like considerably better value for £1500. OK, you have to load ithe M6 with this stuff called film, but if you want to buy into the Leica myth and lore, you may as well go the whole hog.
Another great review by Catherine. I'm starting to like her reviews better than DPReview's...