X1 Review

Started Dec 15, 2009 | Discussions thread
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X1 Review
Dec 15, 2009

After shooting the last month with the X1 i must say ive been overall very pleased with the handling and results. Several magazines are using my images and ive been on an embargo showing them hence the delay. http://www.photoradar.co.uk will have there review up soon with full res images to view so keep a look out there..

This wasnt a pixel peeping excercise and im sure there will be plenty of that over the next few months. My interest is how a camera feels and how the end result looks. Much has been said about the price. Add the viewfinder (which i havent used) and its an extra 250 euros.. I would have liked to see Leica include the viewfinder. As for the price of 1550 euros.. Well im sure that will drop over the next few months. I’ve shot with Leica M cameras since 1995. I have also recently shot with the Dlux4 so the. The 35mm lens is generally considered to be the best angle of view for general photography. Take a step backwards or forwards if you want to change your angle. I find photography so much more fulfilling when shooting with one lens. Its compact but not so small that it feels insignificant. The X1 has a nice weight and feels strong and well made with the exception of the battery door. The controls and menu is at last simplicity with shutter and aperture values on the top plate and ISO and exposure compensation at the rear. These 4 settings are the only real settings needed when shooting DNG files and white balance is dealt with when editing. If shooting just Jpeg files then you will also need to pay attention to the white balance and highlight clipping. To many of today’s cameras have essential settings buried in sub menus. On many occasions I have changed the ISO and used exposure compensation within a few seconds. For anyone who has used a top end digital SLR they will find Leica’s version of how a menu should work simplicity itself. I have managed to hand hold shots down to 1/4th of a second. Maybe I have steady hands or maybe the optical stabilizer works very well but whatever it is with practice this is a good low light performer. For the purposes of my test drive with the X1 I shot images mainly in program mode and let the camera choose the shutter and aperture. I chose the ISO and when to use exposure compensation. Generally the camera performed best when minus 1/3rd or 2/3rd compensation was used especially in bright conditions to stop highlights from blowing. The rear view LCD was kept at its normal delivery setting and I judged exposure completely on what the image preview was. I never checked the histogram for clipping and I must say it has been very accurate. In bright scenes there is a lot of latitude in the final DNG file however, far more than you will see in a smaller sensor compact camera and more than a 4/3rds sensor camera. Working on the DNG file in Lightroom showed an enormous amount of detail and information even in shadow areas and highlighted areas. Generally I found focus confirmation with a green light quickly but in very low light conditions it struggled. Using the infra red focus finder the camera struggled less but still there were some occasions where it struggled. Of 1500 images I have shot with the camera I only missed less than 10 shots because the focus wasn’t quick enough for my reactions which is good going considering this is not a DSLR. The Leica look is very much apparent from the X1. Its not possible to shoot just DNG images and feel this should be fixed with a firmware upgrade which should be easy enough to do. The image stabilization is only possible from 1/30th second down to 1/4th second and ISOs up to 1600. Leica has chosen to use their own version of stabilizing the image which is neither optical or sensor based. The X1 takes 2 exposures in quick succession. First a fast speed and then a slow speed. The camera then processes 2 images into one digital exposure. According to the manual it's best only used on static objects. For those photographers with deep pockets this camera is ideal. For the purist Leica photographer it’s a no brainer. This is by far the best small compact digital camera I have used. This is the only camera I never leave home without and some of the images I have produced with it I am very pleased with. Every camera has its quirks and the X1 is no exception. I don’t like the battery door. It seems flimsy and easy to break. When shooting in continuous mode the camera takes its time in writing the files. Auto focus is quick in bright conditions but has a tendency to hunt when conditions are less than perfect. Manual focusing is ok but again it would have been better for Leica to come up with there own solution instead of relying on what is an industry standard manual focus system. The whole procedure from seeing the image to getting the shot is really very simple. It took me back to the days of shooting with a film camera where my only concern was shutter, aperture, composition and focusing. Because of the control layout it really has allowed me to just think about the basics and not worry about wading through menus and sub menus just to change a basic setting. The image files are exactly Leica’esque. ISOs up to 1600 are very good and even 3200 is printable. What is very evident is the Leica signature look, and this is ultimately why people buy into the Leica brand. This is a camera I have enjoyed carrying everywhere over the last month. 1.600 images later this is finally a compact camera that is capable of producing SLR quality images. Yes it has just one focal length and yes it is expensive but used within its limitations and forgiving it’s few foibles this Leica is capable of stunning images. The camera is ideal as a carry everywhere for pros or amateurs. Of course the final image is the destination and the Leica X1 does it in true style. Easy handling, a superb menu system and exceptional image quality sums the Leica X1 up.

Stewart Weir

http://www.lightstalkers.org/sw

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