Leica X1 Review
Conclusion - Pros
- Excellent image quality - at least in raw
- Best high-ISO performance of any compact camera, bar none
- Reliable metering and exposure
- Extremely quiet in operation (AF and shutter)
- Straightforward control layout with analogue-style shutter speed and aperture dials
- Good quality build, but still relatively small and lightweight
- Well-integrated operation with external optical viewfinder
- Price includes copy of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
Conclusion - Cons
- Autofocus distinctly slower than most
- Unimpressive battery life
- Accurate manual focus impossible (lens stops down uncontrollably)
- Low light operation relatively poor (very slow AF and screen refresh rate)
- Live histogram unreliable, disappears when setting exposure compensation
- ISO only visible in detailed display mode; Auto ISO doesn't show selected value at all
- Click stops for control dial 'A' positions not positive enough (particularly on the shutter speed dial)
- No DNG only option (must record a JPEG as well)
- Camera locks up completely when buffer is full shooting raw
- Electronic image stabilization of limited usefulness (only works in JPEG mode)
- Unrefined JPEG image quality
- Playback mode slow and unresponsive
- Very expensive
From the moment you pick up the Leica X1, it's a camera you want to love. So much about it is just 'right' - not just the feat of squeezing a relatively large APS-C sensor into a compact body, but also the lovely design and the fluid, intuitive analogue-style exposure controls. It's one of those tactile objects that simply begs to be picked up and used, and its silent operation means you can shoot with it in situations when a DSLR would be unacceptably intrusive. For those who like to frame using an optical viewfinder (rather than the LCD or an electronic finder) it works particularly well, with those top plate dials and the AF confirm light beside the hot shoe - indeed a great deal of thought has clearly gone into this aspect of its operation.
In terms of design and control layout the X1 is difficult to fault - it follows in a long tradition of pared-down Leica simplicity, giving users only the controls they need, and making them readily accessible. All major functions have their own dedicated button, so changing such things as ISO, white balance, and focus mode is quick and straightforward. The shutter speed and aperture dials positively beg you to take control of the camera and shoot in manual, encouraging experimentation and creativity in exposure.
Once you really start to use the camera, though, its shortcomings become clear. Our major criticism of the X1 has to be its operational speed, and it's primarily the autofocus that's likely to frustrate most when you're actually taking pictures. Of course the X1's AF is much faster than an M9's, but it can't keep up with any decent modern compact, and is much, much slower than the likes of the GF1.
Of course how much this will matter depends entirely on what you shoot - landscapes on the whole don't run off while you're focusing in the way small children tend to - and slow AF can be mitigated by old tricks such as pre-focusing or scale focusing anyway. But truth be told the X1 is best suited to slightly slower, more considered shooting, and is not the best camera for spontaneous grab shots, especially when the light has faded and its AF really begins to struggle.
In many other aspects of operation, the X1 also lags in speed - for example writing files to card, browsing through images in playback, or merely turning off. And while continuous shooting is pretty quick, writing a burst of raw files to card leaves the camera locked up and unable to shoot - compounded by the fact that you have no option but to record an accompanying JPEG as well. For anyone used to the responsiveness of a modern DSLR (or indeed high-end compact) this can easily become a source of frustration. The X1 simply makes you wait for it to finish whatever it's doing a bit more than we've become accustomed to, and feels a generation behind its peers in this regard.
The X1's image quality is excellent when shooting in raw, but not for the first time with a Leica, somewhat let down by the JPEGs. So if you're looking for a small camera which produces top notch out-of-camera JPEGs even in low light, it's not your best choice - especially considering the excellence of the Olympus E-P1's output. The sheer quality of the X1's DNG files, though, does mean that they will stand up to extensive post-processing very well (certainly far better than those from small-sensor compacts). Indeed it seems fair to say that the X1 has (by some measure) the best raw image quality of any small camera, especially at high ISOs. In this regard it's important not to overlook the value that the inclusion of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom in the price of the camera adds to the overall package - it makes working with raw files a pleasure.
The lens is, as we'd expect from a Leica, very good indeed, and capable of exceptional results at optimum apertures (F5.6 - F8), easily providing all the detail the sensor can record. At larger apertures it's still very sharp in the center, but falls off a little towards the corners - however for the kind of situations where you'll be using F2.8, this may well not be pictorially relevant. You do have to look out for flare from oblique light sources, but for anyone who likes to work just with a 35mm-equivalent prime, it's highly unlikely to disappoint.
Who's it for?
There's no doubt that the X1 has to be seen as a serious photographic tool - despite the cute good looks, this really isn't an upmarket fully automatic point-and-shoot, or even some kind of D-Lux 4 upgrade. It's therefore best-suited to experienced users who need a near-silent, discreet camera that can deliver SLR-quality images even in relatively low light - or simply the highest possible image quality in a small light package.
Therefore the X1 is really a camera for serious photographers, professional or advanced amateur, who fully understand the compromises they'll be making in terms of operational speed (not to mention being limited to a fixed semi-wideangle lens), and can accept them in exchange for that excellent image quality and silent operation.
The biggest problem when drawing a final conclusion on the X1 is of course the typical Leica price tag - this is the most expensive compact camera on the market by a huge margin. It faces strong competition too, with the availability now of other, more flexible small cameras (namely the Panasonic GF1 and the Olympus Pen twins) at a significantly lower price level. These Micro Four Thirds cameras are all faster and more responsive in use, and of course have the advantage that they can be fitted with an array of different lenses. Particularly relevant to this comparison is the excellent Panasonic Lumix G 20mm F1.7 ASPH, which negates one of the X1's greatest strengths - its high ISO image quality - by gathering a stop and a half more light than the X1's F2.8 Elmarit. This allows a GF1 user to set at least a stop lower ISO at any given light level, equalizing out the difference between the sensors; and for static subjects at least, an Olympus owner can take advantage of in-body image stabilization to use a lower ISO still.
So what, if not low-light image quality, is left in favor of spending $2000 on the X1? The traditional-style control layout will certainly appeal very strongly to some, the near-silent leaf-shutter can be a distinct advantage over the louder focal-plane shutters in the Micro Four Thirds cameras for some uses, and the lighter weight isn't to be totally dismissed. No doubt for some users these advantages will be sufficient reason to buy, but for the majority of photographers, it's impossible not to conclude that, despite the X1's charms, a Pen or a GF1 would be a more sensible option.
|Detail (D-SLR)||Rating (out of 10)|
|Ergonomics & handling||9.0|
- 15 Photographic tests (Lens)
- 16 Photographic tests
- 17 Compared to
- 18 Compared to (JPEG)
- 19 Compared to (JPEG)
- 20 Compared to (JPEG)
- 21 Compared to (RAW)
- 22 Compared to (RAW)
- 23 Compared to (RAW)
- 24 Compared to (Higher ISO)
- 25 Compared to (Resolution)
- 26 Compared to (Resolution)
- 27 Conclusion
- 28 Samples
|Blue and yellow in water by fireplace33|
from Ink and water
|Kylmä joki kopio by Kaappo|
from Shutter speed 1/25 or slower
|WR_2.8_13 copy copy by photoprof|
Ridiculous test incoming. What happens when you slap a $50 Yongnuo 50mm F1.8 lens onto a $12,000+ 5K RED cinema camera? One YouTuber decided to give it a shot and find out.
Drone giant DJI has released a teaser video titled 'adventure unfolds,' implying that a new folding drone is coming on January 23rd at 10am Eastern time.
Some good inspiration for current and aspiring wedding photographers out there. If you shoot images like these, you're bound to stand out from the crowd and give your clients that "wow" factor.
In his video Structure, photographer Drew Geraci shows how everyday objects become fascinating landscapes when captured in moving 4K shots at up to 1000x magnification.
The 2018 Japan BCN camera rankings are in, and the most surprising bit of news is that Canon is still outpacing Sony in the mirrorless segment, taking the #2 spot in that segment while still dominating in DSLRs.
Nikon's updated D850 firmware brings a number of smaller bug fixes, including fixing a green cast issue that was happening when users had long exposure noise reduction turned on.
Fujifilm's first 1:1 macro lens for the X-system gives a 122mm equivalent view of the world. We gave it a go shooting close-up subjects as well as some portraits – take a look at how it performs when paired with the X-T2.
According to a Reuters report, US Congress is urging US companies to sever ties with Chinese manufacturers of communication equipment.
A firm launch date is still forthcoming, but in the meantime a sample reel from Kodak's new Super 8 camera has been released.
HTC's newest handset, the HTC U11 Eyes, improves on the standard U11 by slapping a dual camera on the front for 'portrait mode' selfies with real-time bokeh simulation.
Missile scare notwithstanding, we spent a lovely few days in Hawaii shooting with Sony's newest APS-C E-mount lens. See how it measures up capturing the spectacular scenery that the Aloha State is known for.
Now that we've completed our review of Panasonic's Lumix DC-G9, we've updated its entry in our Best Cameras Under $2000 and Best Cameras for Sports & Action buying guides.
Hasselblad has introduced its next-generation multi-shot camera body, built to shoot 400-megapixel photos by using sensor-shift technology to combine up to six exposures into a single monster image measuring 23200 x 17400 pixels.
CVS is banning digitally altered beauty imagery on its store-brand beauty products, and plans to mark other brands' images as "Digitally Altered" if they're not up to snuff by the end of 2020.
Canon has announced that it will introduce a series of printers that allow users to refill the ink tanks themselves—a surprising shift that could, in theory, save customers quite a bit of money.
Adventure and lifestyle photographer Lucy Martin put together a useful little video that goes over her 18 favorite Lightroom shortcuts—a great guide for beginners.
Following a series of allegations of sexual misconduct against Bruce Weber and Mario Testino, magazine publisher Conde Nast has severed ties with both of the famed fashion photographers, and released a code of conduct for future photo shoots.
Photographer Christopher Payne captures the 'colorful world of craft and complexity' you'll find in the General Pencil Company's factory in Jersey City... and almost nowhere else.
A new feature in the Google Arts & Culture app compares your facial features to its database of thousands of artworks, finding your fine art "doppelganger."
Recently, we spent a day in Los Angeles with photographer, cook and food blogger Kylie Mazon. Join us and see how Kylie approaches the challenge of shooting lifestyle and promotional images for a downtown hotel with the Canon EOS M6.
Leica has announced a pair of short telephoto lenses for its SL full-frame mirrorless camera. The APO-Summicron-SL 75mm and 90mm F2 ASPH lenses feature an apochromatic design to reduce chromatic aberration, one aspherical element and minimum focusing distances of around 0.5m.
The Panasonic G9 is the brand's top-tier stills camera. We've updated our already large sample gallery with even more photos to enjoy.
The latest product of Huawei's collaboration with Leica is a smartphone with a great all-around imaging feature set that left us very little to complain about.
In this quick video, award-winning travel photographer Bob Holmes shares nine of his most basic and straightforward tips for finding great images, even when you're in a rut.
Gudsen has launched a new gimbal that’s aimed at mirrorless photographers. With a payload of 3.9lbs/1.8kg, the new Moza AirCross can provide stabilization to a mirrorless body even fitted with a cinema lens and a new in-handle option can provide power to Sony and Panasonic cameras.
The Lensbaby 46mm Macro Kit comprises of three stackable filters with different magnification levels, which can be combined with several of the company's "bokeh effect" lenses.
Nikon Rumors is reporting that an upcoming full-frame mirrorless camera from Nikon will sport an all-new "Z-Mount" with an extremely short flange distance of just 16mm.
A lot of people still have positive associations with the Kodak brand and its iconic logos, but it’s worth clearing something up: not everything with the Kodak name on it has much connection to a bunch of clever people in Rochester, New York.
A leaked image of a Galaxy S9 retail box indicates the new model might come with a variable aperture lens and a super-slow-motion video mode.
The portable little scanner features a 3.5-inch color screen, an integrated SD card slot for saving your scans, adapter trays for different types of film, and an HDMI port for viewing your scans directly on an external display.