Evidently, the X1 is not a fast shooter in any respect but when you get to spend some time with it then its more enduring qualities shine through. If you can accommodate its slow pace you’ll be impressed by its refreshing ease of use and its amazing photographic strengths.
The picture quality of the images the X1 produces is nothing short of stunning. The richness of detail in both shadows and highlights, the smooth tonal gradation, the superb Bokeh and the lack of any lens aberration are truly commendable; outclassing any compact currently on the market and, no doubt, a few DSLRs too.
White balance was consistently good in every situation and exposure metering reliably accurate. Noise performance is terrific and by far the best I’ve seen in a compact. Images are sharp throughout the sensitivity range with only limited noise appearing from 1600. The noise that does show is mostly of the luminance type though, somewhat comparable to a grainy film and, which, in my view, is not at all unpleasant.
The X1’s RAW capture is in the DNG (digital negative) format developed by Adobe. The camera can shoot in JPEG mode or JPEG+DNG but not DNG alone. It uses SD and SDHC memory cards and has a nominal battery life of 260 images per charge but the battery I was issued with didn’t last nearly as long as that, so you should budget for a spare.
Retro flourishes are appealing, but a better display and a more responsive AF would be more practical at this price
The Leica X1 easily delivers the best image quality in its category, as you’d expect from the company, but, at the price of a DSLR, with a few performance issues still unresolved and a mediocre LCD screen, it’s unlikely it will win over large shares of compact users.
Having said that, if you are a photo purist, a die-hard Leica aficionado or need the best picture quality a compact can offer, then the X1 is worth every single penny. And considering Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 is also included, which costs around £250, it could well be a price worth paying. ®
Catherine Monfils is a professional photographer specialising in portraiture, lifestyle and fashion.
More Compact Camera Reviews…
Leica X1 APS-C compact camera
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...