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Leica X1 β Preview

12.2 Megapixels
APS-C CMOS 1.5x



Disclaimer:
The following review is not suppose to be some kind of a professional review. If you are looking for such reviews you will not find it in my homepage. I just plan to write a simple review with my thoughts to assist my friends with the camera they want to buy since most of the time the guy at the electronics department doesn't know much about the camera apart from the price of it by scanning the barcode. If you found my website from the internet then good for you! The reviews are just my thoughts and I am happy to share with anyone. It is possible I will make the occasional mistakes and if I do please let me know about it!

 



Introduction

The Leica X1 was announced on 9/9/2009 along side with the Leica M9 and is currently one of the worlds smallest APS-C camears with built-in flash. I never liked compact cameras that much due to the heavy noise levels produced from the small image sensors. The X1 features a professional large APS-C size sensor and 36mm f/2.8 fixed focal lens (35mm equivalent) . It's conveniently compact, its controls are intuitive, and it offers a full range of sophisticated automatic functions. This is the real deal, designed in and "Made in Germany". The X1 resembles the legendary M-series rangefinders. The X1 features the M-series analogue-style shutter speed and aperture dials, the rounded side body, the top-plate, as well as the power/drive switches that surround the shutter release button. If there is anything missing its intentional. The X1 is slimmed down to its minimum size.



Specifications

 
Leica X1
List Price (body Only) HKD $16,000 (USD $1,995)
Body material Magnesium Alloy
Sensor Size • 23.6 x 15.8 mm CMOS sensor
• APS-C size
• 12.2 million effective pixels
Lens

• Leica Elmarit 1:2.8/24 ASPH lens
• 8 elements in 6 groups, 1 aspheric lens
• 36mm Field of Crop (35mm format)
• Non-interchangable lens

AF Mode • 1-point
• 1-point high speed
• 11-point
• 11-point high speed
• Spot
• Face detection
AF Type

Contrast detect

AF Assist AF Assist lamp
Focusing distance • Normal: 60 cm - Infinity
• Macro / Manual: 30 cm - Infinity
File Formats DNG and JPG
Speaker Yes
Image Size

• 4272 x 2856 (12.2 MP)
• 3264 x 2160 (7.0 MP)
• 2144 x 1424 (3.0 MP)
• 1632 x 1080 (1.8 MP)

Sensitivity range ISO 130
ISO 160
ISO 200
ISO 250
ISO 320
ISO 400
ISO 500
ISO 640
ISO 800
ISO 1000
ISO 1250
ISO 1600
ISO 2000
ISO 2500
ISO 3200
Hotshoe • Yes
• Compatible with SF58, SF24D
Built-in flash modes • Auto
• Auto / Red-eye
• Forced on
• Forced on/ Red-eye
• Slow sync
• Slow sync/ Red-eye reduction
• Studio
• First curtain/ Second curtain
Light metering

• Intelligent multiple
• Center weighted
• Spot

Exposure bracketing

3 frames, 3.0 EV 1/3 EV Steps

Exposure compensation • +/- 3.0 EV (1/3 EV steps)
Exposure modes • Program automatic
• Aperture priority
• Shutter priority
• Manual
Aperture range f/2.8-f/16
Shutter speed 30 - 1/2000 sec
Continuous shooting/ Buffer 3 fps, 6 images
Self-timer 2 sec, 12 sec
Viewfinder Optional 36mm brilliant viewfinder
User profiles 4
White balance Auto, 7 presets, Kelvin, Manual
Rotation sensor Yes
LCD monitor 2.7" 230,000 pixels
Dimensions 60 x 124 x 32 mm (2.5 x 4.9 x 1.3 in)
Weight 289g (w/o battery)
Battery Lithium-Ion battery pack (3.7 V, 1900 mAh)
Storage SD/SDHC, 50Mb Built in memory
Body finishes Steel gray
Bundled software Adobe Lightroom 2
Brochure Leica X1 Brochure (English)

Features

 

 

The Leica X1 features a fixed Leica Elmarit 1:2.8/24 ASPH lens which gives you an aprox 36mm F.O.C. The X1 is an SLR like camera and viewing images on the LCD under bright sunlight or in the dark can be a nightmare. Luckily, as an optional bright-line accessory, you could buy a 36mm brilliant viewfinder to solve the problem as well as saving power from LCD power drainage. Since the Leica X1 features a fixed lens it should be a lot easier to master compared with the 24mm brilliant viewfinder for the Leica D-Lux 4.

 


Viewing from the top the X1 closely resembles the Leica M9. The X1 features the M-series look analogue-style shutter speed and aperture dials, the rounded side body, the top-plate, as well as the power/drive switches that surround the shutter release button. (The X1 comes with an optional 36mm Brilliant Viewfinder but the showroom put a 24mm viewfinder on the camera.)

The Leica X1 comes with both manual and full automatic modes. Manual focusing with the Leica M9 may take too long for some situations. The X1 features fast autofocusing which includes face detection. This will allow the Leica user to focus on framing the photo rather than keeping the subject in focus. If you got shakey hands, no problem the X1 has built-in image stabilization to solve the problem!
The Leica X1 was designed to contain a built-in flash. This can be very helpful for situations where fill in flash is required or when you need to take a photo indoors and you do not want to take a bulky flash along with you.

The Leica X1 features a live view 2.7-inch 230,000 pixels LCD Monitor on the back, the simple, intuitive navigation system controlled by only a few buttons ensures rapid access to the entire range of camera functions. A focus dial is on the top right if you need to use MF.

 

Handling

The Leica X1 is 60mm in height and 124mm in width. The Leica X1 only weighs 286g (about 2 iPhones) and its probably one of the lightest APS-C camera you could carry around.

 

ISO Sensitivity and Noise levels

ISO Sensitivity on a digital camera is the ability of the camera to increase light sensitivity of the image sensor. As ISO is increased, the sensor's digital input signal is amplied but at a cost. Noise increases as ISO is increased and its side effects are usually seen in a form of a grainy texture. Low noise at high ISO does not necessary mean the sensor is good since many modern cameras employ noise reducation at higher ISO settings, which may be degrading to image detail. Pictures speak louder than my words at least...so heres some photos for you to compare and judge!

ISO 130

ISO 160

ISO 200

ISO 250

ISO 320

ISO 400
ISO 500
ISO 640
ISO 800
ISO 1000
ISO 1250
ISO 1600
ISO 2000
ISO 2500
ISO 3200

Built-in flash test

The photo on the left is taken with natural lighting and the photo on the right is a photo taken with the built-in flash. Its a bit overpowered for my tastes but I am sure it will serve you pretty well as a fill flash for outdoor photography.

Verdict

Pros Cons
  • JPEG output shows impressive detail at base ISO
  • Good balance between noise reduction and IQ at high ISO
  • Extremely lightweight for an APS-C Camera
  • Smaller dimensions and lighter than comparable DSLRs
  • Solid build quality and handling
  • Simple user-interface
  • Built in IR-cut filter
  • Accurate Rangefinder
  • Image stabilization
  • fast 36mm standard lens
  • Very usable ISO up to 1250
  • lens produces beautiful bokeh
  • No zoom capability
  • built-in flash results in wierd colors
  • feels very plastic
  • 2.7" LCD has relatively low resolution compared to the competition

The Leica X1 is a real interesting camera. I did not like the camera at first glance. I just thought it was expensive and Leica could have done much better by using better materials for the lens barrel for the price. I never seen so much plastic on a Leica lens before!!! As I went home and thought about the camera again I started to love the X1. The X1 is a camera made so simple so that you can concentrate on taking the photo rather than setting the camera. I used the D-Lux 4 and it took me a lot longer to figure out how to use. There is not much point in talking about the pros so let me talk about what I think about the cons. This camera is not the typical point and shoot camera for everyone. It has no zoom lens but this is actually its gift. Its more like a compose and shoot camera. Prime lenses are way superior to zoom lenses in terms of image quality. There are many famous photos produced with Leica's 35mm lenses and the X1 is the digital solution. Sure, the Nikons and Canons have the same lenses but the size can be a bit intimidating when you approach someone you meet at random for some street portraiture. The built-in flash results in wierd colors but whats there to complain when there is actually a built-in flash for a camera of this size? It works great for fill flash and if you really want good flash get a proper hotshoe flash! I found this upsetting at first but the Leica X1 does feel like a toy. However, when you think about it again when you get a camera of this size you are avoiding bulk and weight. Its because it feels this way it only weights a mere 300g. Yes, the screen is kind of small but again. Leica's screens are kind of low resolution but if what you really care about is picture quality you know the final images are best viewed on prints or your LCD monitor at home. This is a camera and not an e-camera album. I really love the handling and low noise this camera produces. I was shopping for a 35mm prime for several years now and rather than getting a lens I think the Leica X1 is going to make the cut. See it as a camera that comes with a free lens or a lens that comes with a free camera.

  Rating (out of 5)
Build quality
3.5
Handling
4.0
Features
4.5
Value
5.0

Verdict

Highly Recommended!

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Samples

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large

original

ISO 200
1/30s
f/2.8
36mm



large

original

ISO 250
1/20s
f/2.8
36mm


large

original

ISO 160
1/30s
f/2.8
36mm

 

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