Compared to... Nikon D300S

To see just how well Leica is doing in extracting the best from the 12Mp APS-C sensor in the X1, we're first comparing it to the Nikon D300S, which uses a sensor of very similar specification and provides a useful benchmark to measure the X1 against. Note due to the X1's relatively wideangle lens, the perspective on these shots is rather different (we used a 50mm prime on the D300S); the X1 shots are framed to keep the major elements roughly the same scale.

Studio scene comparison (JPEG)

This is our standard studio scene comparison shot taken from exactly the same tripod position. Lighting: daylight simulation, >98% CRI. Crops are 100%. Ambient temperature was approximately 22°C (~72°F).

Leica X1 vs Nikon D300S

Camera settings:

  • Leica X1: Manual exposure, ISO 100, JPEG Super Fine, Manual WB, Default Parameters (Standard), Self-Timer

  • Nikon D300S: Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50 mm F1.4G lens, Aperture Priority, ISO 200 (default base), JPEG Large/Fine, Manual WB, Default Parameters (Normal), Self-Timer (with exposure delay), ADL off
Leica X1
Nikon D300S
4.8 MB JPEG (4272 x 2856)
Manual, 1/30sec, F7.1, ISO 100
5.1 MB JPEG (4288 x 2848)
Aperture Priority, 1/60 sec, F9, ISO 200

The two cameras show distinctly different approaches to JPEG processing here. The X1's output, viewed this close up at 100%, looks a little crude; it uses significantly higher sharpening, giving the impression of more detail (the X1's JPEG processing also retains texture in low-contrast areas where the D300S smooths it away, but in reality there's very little between the two cameras in this regard), but at the expense of some pretty obvious white halos around high contrast edges. The D300S is rather conservative in comparison, giving an image which is more amenable to further processing. The color response is also clearly a bit different, with the Nikon punchier and the Leica somewhat desaturated and lower in contrast. The D300S handles the highlights on the paperclips a bit more elegantly, where the X1 clips more abruptly.