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6.6 out of 10 based on 137 reviews

Leica X1

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  • User Score (101)
    8.9 8.9 from 101 reviewers
  • Expert Score (19)
    7.3 7.3 from 19 reviewers
  • Value for money (4)
    5.6 5.6 from 4 reviewers
  • Features (2)
    6.2 6.2 from 2 reviewers
  • Ease of use (2)
    6.9 6.9 from 2 reviewers
  • Performance (8)
    6.2 6.2 from 8 reviewers
  • Picture quality (9)
    7.5 7.5 from 9 reviewers
  • Display (6)
    4.1 4.1 from 6 reviewers
  • Construction (2)
    6.8 6.8 from 2 reviewers
  • Ergonomics (7)
    7.3 7.3 from 7 reviewers
  • Build quality (2)
    7.3 7.3 from 2 reviewers
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5-6
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Users:
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3-4
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1-2
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  • Expert Reviews

  • WikiFreak Description

The Leica X1 is nominally a compact camera, but it's actually about midway in size and weight between the typical pocket camera and a Micro 4/3 camera such as the Panasonic GF1 with pancake lens. Many comments have been made about the “Leica quality” body and lens. The body is certainly Leica in style, build, and aesthetics, but the term quality in this case is directed toward attributes that are peculiar to handmade cameras such as the X1, M9, and so on. Many of the machine-made cameras such as the Pana…

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The Leica X1 is nominally a compact camera, but it's actually about midway in size and weight between the typical pocket camera and a Micro 4/3 camera such as the Panasonic GF1 with pancake lens. Many comments have been made about the “Leica quality” body and lens. The body is certainly Leica in style, build, and aesthetics, but the term quality in this case is directed toward attributes that are peculiar to handmade cameras such as the X1, M9, and so on. Many of the machine-made cameras such as the Panasonic LX3 have equal build quality, but are obviously machine made. The lens of the X1 is up to Leica standards, which means that it's generally sharper edge-to-edge than the typical lenses sold with low-to-medium priced cameras, particularly at the widest apertures such as f2.8 (maximum for the X1).

The X1 has a simplified design with aperture and shutter speed dials on top, and those dials each have an 'A' setting for auto-exposure. Since the X1 has a large (APS-C) sensor in a small body with a small battery, there isn't enough power to make the camera as fast and responsive as a typical DSLR or even some of the faster compact cameras. Because of this, and due to the fact that those dials are easily disturbed when removing the camera from a bag or a large pocket, the X1 becomes in effect a manually-controlled camera with a modest level of automatic function.

Much has been said about the image quality of the X1, and that quality is on a par with other cameras having APS-C sized sensors. Due to the Leica lens used in the X1, and given the Leica processing engine in the camera's internal firmware, the resulting images captured by the camera will have a unique look that many afictionados describe as the “Leica look”. While the X1's images will probably not in most cases be better than those produced by cameras of equivalent price (about $2000 U.S.), they will be better than images produced by most cameras of equivalent size.

Since the X1 has such a large sensor in a relatively small body, the focal length is necessarily limited to maintain the small overall size. Where most of today's compact digital cameras have zoom lenses, with some of those reaching a 35 mm equivalence of 300 to 400 mm, the X1 has a single fixed focal length of 36 mm (in 35 mm equivalence). Noting the previous paragraphs here describing the manually-controlled aspect of the X1, this fixed focal length requires even greater manual effort to get the correct framing for each situation, since you can't just zoom in or out. In other words, you will have to zoom with your feet, moving closer to or further away from the subject as needed.

The X1 uses a unique form of image stabilization ('IS'), where the camera takes two images for each one that you snap, and combines the two images into a single final image. This 'IS' can improve your success ratio in some cases, so that if you're getting less than 50 percent sharp photos when shooting handheld at low shutter speeds with 'IS' off, you may get 75 to 90 percent sharp photos with the 'IS' set to on. But there is a catch - the very sharpest images you capture with 'IS' off will probably be very slightly sharper than most of the images you get with 'IS' set to on. That's because of the unavoidable small movement of the camera between the two images captured by the 'IS' process. And even then, you would not likely be able to tell any difference unless viewing the photos at 100 percent enlargement on a large computer screen.

Many reviewers have commented negatively on the X1's battery life, but it's actually on a par with other compact cameras. DSLR batteries are generally much larger than the X1's battery, and thus have a much longer life in use. Some reviews have found fault with the X1's screen, which has less resolution than most compact cameras costing a fraction of the X1's price. In actual use, however, the screen is more than adequate for composing, focusing, and reviewing images after the fact. If a competing camera were able to zoom in on the full-size image it has saved on its memory card, instead of zooming in on a thumbnail of the image, then it would have a clear advantage over the X1 when reviewing its images.

Conclusion: If you want a simplified camera that requires manual settings, or that tends to enforce the same due to the considerations noted above, then there are two other factors that you would probably consider most relevant to justify the $2000 price of the X1: 1) The handmade Leica quality that's obvious when you hold this camera for the first time, and 2) The image quality that is approached closely only by much larger cameras that have APS-C or larger sensors.

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