High quality workmanship, manual controls at your fingertips and exceptional image quality all go into making the Leica X1 the coolest compact digital camera that still looks, feels and operates like a camera in a day when cameras, computers and telephones seem to be melting into a single device that no longer performs a simple task well. The Leica X1 is long overdue to become the best compact digital camera on the market today.
Leica’s M series has been around for ages and it wasn’t long ago that even the M series cameras went digital. In the X1, Leica has created the perfect compact M and at a more accessible price for those who would like to get a real Leica into their sites.
The X1 isn’t Leica’s first foray into compact digital cameras. Before it, we have the D-Lux series, a Leica – Panasonic collaboration bringing us the D-Lux branded by Leica and the hugely popular LX branded by Panasonic Lumix.
I purchased and have used extensively the latter, the LX1, when it was first released. The LX1 is a very capable camera indeed but what it’s lacking is the large sensor, manual shutter speed and aperture dials, and the manual focus wheel that the X1 is delivering. The LX1 shines in outdoor bright light situations and falls into the shadows in low light and flash photography. This is where the X1 is a breakthrough for compact cameras with a large APS-C format, CMOS image sensor.
- Compact lightweight body (1.2 x 2.4 x 4.8″ – only 10 oz) with analogue-style control dials
- 12.2 Megapixel APS-C Size (23.6 x 15.8mm) CMOS sensor - Low Noise, High Dynamic Range, Low Light Photography – ISO Up To 3200
- Exceptionally fast wide angle, Leica Elmarit 24mm f/2.8 ASPH. lens (angle of view equivalent to 35mm lens on full frame)
- Intuitive automatic and manual controls, image stabilization, pop-up flash
- RAW & JPEG Capture - 3 Frames per second shooting speed
- Legendary Leica Precision Engineering
APS-C Size CMOS Image Sensor
The sensor employed on the X1 is the same size and type of sensor used in up-market DSLR’s but with the Leica X1 you get it in a stylish and compact, even pocket-able, package. What this means is that with 12.2 megapixel resolution each individual pixel is quite large compared to the pixel size of other compact cameras and therefore can collect light more effectively.
The result is seen in images created with low noise and accurate color differentiation typically found only in high-end professional cameras. A crucial strength of the large sensor is found in amazing low-light capabilities giving the photographer the freedom to shoot in any light condition resulting in beautiful and accurate images.
Leica Elmarit Lens
The lens on the Leica X1 is a true Leica lens. The Leica Elmarit 24 mm f/2.8 ASPH with an effective (35-mm equivalent) focal length of 36 millimeters is another one of the crown jewels of the X1. Quality glass and optics are what put Leica clearly on the map for a century, and are why Leica remains at the top of the class creating images that are crystal clear from edge to edge. With the 35-mm equivalent focal length the X1 shoots with the feeling of a classic universal reportage camera.
Creativity – Manual Controls
Remember the days of twisting dials for aperture and shutter speed on the top of your camera rather than beeping your way through a camera’s computerized interface? Well, they’re back with the X1. On the top plate you’ll find the shutter release button surrounded by the main power switch along with a shutter speed dial and an aperture dial. In the same region, just below on the rear panel is a manual focus dial. For me this spells out ‘fun’ and ‘creativity’ in a compact camera.
Ease of Use with the Leica X1
The X1 is designed to be simple and intuitive. When you want to kick back, relax and shoot photos of your family and friends at a gathering or click quick photos on your holiday, you can be confident that the full auto mode will capture the moments in realistic clarity. With precise autofocus and automatic exposure you are free to capture images on the fly.
Leica X1 Controls
Here’s a video with an overview of the controls on the X1:
Classic Leica Body and Styling
Pure and simple, the X1 takes us back to a day when a camera is still a camera. Clean lines, all-metal construction and leather grip, the X1 itself is a work of art. The classic design is reminiscent of earlier Leica’s and it has the obvious looks of a compact version of the M9. Although a lightweight compact that can be slipped into your coat pocket, the X1 still feels solid and fits comfortably in your hands.
Hands-on Review & Field Test
Leica X1 – Compact Leica M9
If you’ve always liked the idea of owning a Leica M series camera, but prefer compacts with professional capabilities, then the X1 is for you. At a fifth of the cost of the M9 with one lens, the X1 seems like a bargain. The Leica X1 is a camera in a class of it’s own, a work of art, a technical masterpiece, all rolled into a highly functional, stylish and compact package capable of producing realistic and precise images with the click of a button.
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