The X1 is an intriguing, and generally very successful attempt to apply retro styling to what at heart is a modern compact digicam. There's more than a hint of Leica M to it, with its two-tone finish, rounded sides, and analogue-style control dials and drive mode switch on the top plate; even the strap lugs and accompanying anti-brassing plates are copied over. The rear layout is similar too, and has buttons to access directly all the most common shooting controls. Overall this means that the X1 offers an unusually coherent control layout for what is notionally a first-generation product.

The good news is that despite the camera's relatively light weight, a large chunk of that famous Leica build quality appears to have found its way to the X1 too. It feels exceptionally well put together, and the shutter speed and aperture dials operate with positive click stops. Overall this is a camera that doesn't just look good, it feels good to hold and use too.

In your hand / grip

Despite the lack of any kind of grip the X1 sits nicely in your hand, due in no small part to those rounded sides which make it surprisingly comfortable to hold. All of the key shooting controls are easily reached with either the right forefinger or thumb, and there's a small between the dials on the back to provide a grip for your thumb (although this could be problematic for photographers with larger hands). Of course it's still worth using at least a wrist strap to help secure the camera - you really wouldn't want to drop it, would you?

LCD Monitor

The X1's 2.7", 230,000 pixel screen looks a little under-specified in today's terms - it does the job OK, but can't match the user experience offered by the higher-resolution units used on any almost any other similarly-priced camera. Its aspect ratio is 4:3, which means that the sensor's 3:2 output doesn't fill the screen, leaving a black strip along the bottom in live view or single-image playback (which Leica sensibly uses to display exposure information). Overall the screen and displays are the only slight disappointment in the camera's otherwise admirable design and user experience.

270,000 dots on a 2.7" screen looks a bit low-res by today's standards, and a lack of anti-aliasing on the fonts makes the menus and displays appear a little dated too.


The X1 sports a fixed lens, which is designated as an Elmarit 24mm F2.8 Aspherical and has a minimum focus distance of 30cm (in manual and AF macro modes - it's limited to 60cm in standard AF mode to speed up focusing). It gives an angle of view equivalent to a 35mm lens on full-frame, resulting in a classic semi-wide angle perspective.

The lens extends about 3/4" (20mm) on powering on, and the mechanism appears solid enough. Note that, like pretty well all retracting-lens compacts, there's no screw thread on the lens itself for the attachment of filters.
Many have questioned why the X1's aperture or focus ring couldn't be placed around the lens, and here's why. The knurled metal lens surround detaches to reveal a screw-thread which is 49mm in diameter - presumably we'll see an adapter and accessories from Leica in due course.
Leica provides a chunky (6mm thick) 46mm snap-on cap to cover the lens when it is retracted. There's no doubting its protective value, but unfortunately it does nothing to enhance the camera's pocketability. (Leica could take a leaf out of Olympus's book here, and look at providing a much slimmer cap.)