The Leica X (Typ 113) sports the fastest prime lens on any large-sensor compact, but is this enough to justify its premium price? Andy Westlake investigates in our Leica X (Typ 113) review

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Leica X (Typ 113)

Metering:
Autofocus:
Features:
LCD viewfinder:
Build/Handling:
AWB Colour:
Dynamic Range:

Pros:

  • Fast, high-quality lens is extremely sharp
  • Analogue control dials give intuitive handling
  • Easily readable DNG raw files give impressive image quality
  • Attractive retro styling

Cons:

  • No built-in viewfinder
  • Camera limits maximum aperture at closer focus distances
  • Relatively slow top shutter speed limits ability to shoot wide open in bright light
  • Video mode is very basic

Product:

Leica X (Typ 113) review

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£1,550.00

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Performance

Leica X (Typ 113) Review – performance

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The Summilux 23mm f/1.7 ASPH lens gives sharp images across the frame

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and what we really want to know is whether the camera offers image quality to match the price. At this point it’s all too easy to jump in and analyse sensor performance alone, but in this type of camera, the optics are at least as important.

Leica is famed as a lens maker, and in general the 23mm f/1.7 Asph Summilux doesn’t disappoint. It’s pretty sharp wide open, and is at its best around f/4-f/8, before diffraction softening becomes visible. Chromatic aberration is very low, and distortion is completely invisible in the camera’s JPEG output. A little digging into the DNG raw files shows that this is because Leica is following current best practice of allowing residual barrel distortion so as to minimise aberrations towards the corners, then correcting it in software. Most of the time this is completely transparent, and modern raw converters will take it all in their stride.

There is a catch though – at closer focus distances the lens almost inevitably becomes a little softer, which is common with fast primes due to spherical aberration. Leica’s solution is to automatically stop the lens down as you focus closer, to maintain image quality. So at 1m it only allows a maximum aperture of f/2, reducing to f/2.5 at 0.7m and f/2.8 at 0.45m or closer. On one level this is very clever, guaranteeing a certain level of sharpness, but personally I’d prefer to be able to make my own choice, and trade-off sharpness against background blur. As it is, these aperture restrictions rather negate the X’s main advantage compared to the Fujifilm X100 – that is, its faster lens, for subjects like portraiture.

Leica X image sample

The Leica X’s default colour rendition is accurate, but distinctly muted

The sensor performs much as we’d expect from a recent APS-C design, but I can’t say I’m a fan of Leica’s JPEG processing. The default colour mode is a little bland and uninspiring, not helped by the auto white balance’s tendency to overneutralise, and while the vivid colour mode is more punchy, it goes too far for my taste. Sharpening is heavy-handed, giving obvious haloes, and high ISO noise reduction is rather conservative (that is, ineffective). It’s possible to tweak output settings in the menu, but personally I’d shoot raw for colour. Here the X has the advantage of recording widely readable DNG-format raw files, and the camera ships with Adobe Lightroom in the box.

I actually spent most of the time shooting in B&W high contrast mode, simply because it worked better in the dull grey winter weather I encountered during my time with the camera. I like the tonality it delivers, and think it’s rather well suited to the classic Leica reportage aesthetic. Of course. you can get better results shooting raw and post-processing, but it’s always nice to see good-looking files out of the box.

  1. 1. Leica X (Typ 113) Review - at a glance
  2. 2. Build and handling
  3. 3. Viewfinder and screen
  4. 4. Focusing
  5. 5. Performance
  6. 6. Image quality
  7. 7. Image quality: Dynamic Range
  8. 8. Image Quality: Detail and Noise
  9. 9. Conclusion
  10. 10. Page 10
Page 5 of 10 - Show Full List
  • entoman

    A beautiful-looking camera. Overpriced of course, but it’s the designer look, exclusivity and high price that makes it desirable to its intended target market. If however Leica wish potential buyers to take it seriously, they should dispense with the silly little pop-up flash, and fit a high quality EVF in its place! Until they do so, the camera remains a bit of a joke!

  • Stephen Garratt

    It looks VERY….like the new Canon EOS M MKIII.
    As an extremely pleased EOS M user (purchased at an insane low price!) , I know which camera that I would rather have and at just over 1/3rd the cost.
    My EOS M was purchased as a back up to my 5D MKIII and is giving me fantastic results.

  • Andy Whiteman

    Back in the 60s I always thought I’d love a Leica – an uncle had one – but now I’m afraid they are a bad joke – £1600 for this camera – you must be joking or stupidly rich. Come on Leica produce products that justify their absurd price tag and come on photographers don’t get sucked in by nostalgia and that little red thing.