Compared to...

The X1 is, as a compact camera with an APS-C sensor and fixed lens, almost devoid of directly comparable competition. The nearest is the Sigma DP2, with its 40mm-equivalent lens and slightly smaller Foveon X3 sensor - but this camera is very much cheaper than the Leica, and with its Foveon sensor and quirky operation, also something of a niche product.

Instead, then, we've chosen to compare the X1's output with cameras that use more conventional sensors, with a view to seeing how much the X1 can extract from its sensor relative to a DSLR - in this case the Nikon D300S, which uses a similarly specified 12Mp APS-C CMOS (and with a 24mm F2.8 lens, costs about the same). We're also interested in comparing the X1 to the latest compact Micro Four Thirds cameras, and have chosen to use the Panasonic GF1 for this purpose (we could equally have used the Olympus E-P1, but the GF1 is more similar in specification to the X1). Finally we'll be looking at a small-sensor, fully-featured 'coat-pocketable' enthusiast compact, namely the latest model in Canon's ever-popular G series, the Powershot G11. This sports a 'high-sensitivity' CCD with the promise of improved high ISO performance compared to previous generations - we'll be seeing if this helps it to compete with the X1's much larger capture area.

The table below compares the key specifications of these cameras, including broadly comparable lenses - the Nikkor 24mm F2.8D for the D300S, Panasonic 20mm F1.7 ASPH for the GF1, and Olympus 17mm F2.8 Pancake for the E-P1.

Camera Kit
(35mm eq)
LCD Dimensions & Weight
(with lens, battery + card)
(effective pixels)
Leica X1 $2000 35mm
230k pixels
124 x 60 x 50 mm
(4.9 x 2.4 x 2.0 in)
330g ( 10.9 oz)
Electronic 12.2 Mp CMOS
(23.6 x 15.8 mm)
Nikon D300S $2060 35mm
960k pixels

147 x 114 x 109 mm
(5.8 x 4.5 x 4.3 in)
1190 g (2.6 lb)
None** 12.2 Mp CMOS
(23.6 x 15.8 mm)
$899 40mm
460k pixels
119 x 71 x 61 mm
(4.6 x 2.8 x 2.4 in)
448g (15.8 oz)
None** 12.1 MP LiveMOS (17.3 x 13 mm)
Canon G11 $500 28-140mm
460k pixels
109 x 78 x 48.3mm,
(4.3 x 3.1 x 1.9 in)
375g (13.2 oz)
Lens 10.0 MP CCD
(7.6 x 5.7 mm)
$899 35mm
230k pixels
121 x 70 x 58mm
(4.8 x 2.8 x 2.3 in)
426g (15.0 oz )
In-body 12.3 MP LiveMOS (17.3 x 13 mm)
Sigma DP2 $632 40mm
230k pixels
115 x 64 x 56mm
(4.5 x 2.5 x 2.2 in)
280g (9.9 oz)
None 4.6 MP x 3 X3F
(20.7 x 13.8 mm)
$499 24-60mm
460k pixels
109 x 62 x 45mm
(4.3 x 62 x 1.8 in)
265g (9.3 oz)
Lens 10.1 MP CCD
(8.0 x 5.5 mm)

* The Panasonic DMC-GF1 and Olympus E-P1 accept interchangeable lenses based on the Micro Four Thirds standard, and the Nikon D300S can use any F-mount Nikkor (or third party) lens

**Image stabilization is available on selected lenses

Leica X1 advantages

  • Smaller and lighter than any of the interchangeable lens cameras
  • Equal largest sensor (with the much larger and heavier D300S)
  • Simple analogue-style controls
  • Near-silent operation

Leica X1 disadvantages

  • Relatively small, low resolution LCD
  • Slow operation (autofocus, playback)
  • No mechanical image stabilization