Leica X1 review

April 24, 2010

Overall Rating:


Leica X1

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Price as Reviewed:


A compact camera from a prestige brand such as Leica always attracts attention, yet its APS-C-format sensor makes the X1 even more enticing. We review the Leica X1...

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As I mentioned earlier, the stand-out feature of the Leica X1 is its APS-C-sized CMOS sensor, which has an effective pixel count of 12.2 million.

As a compact camera it also has a fixed lens: a Leica Elmarit 24mm f/2.8 Asph that consists of eight elements in six groups with one aspherical element. This lens produces images approximately comparable to a 36mm optic on a 35mm camera. Its moderately wide angle of view is a logical compromise between a 24mm equivalent optic and a standard 50mm lens.

In keeping with its enthusiast and pro-level status, the X1 offers manual, aperture-priority and shutter-priority shooting in addition to program mode.

Unusually for a compact camera, the aperture can be adjusted in 1⁄3EV steps from f/2.8-f/22. Shutter speed, however, ranges between 30secs and 1/2000sec and can only be set in whole stops. There are no automatic scene modes to tailor the image to a particular subject – a fact unlikely to faze many enthusiast photographers.

Thoughtfully, Leica has opted to use the DNG raw-image format for the X1. These files are compatible with a wide range of image-editing software packages without the need for updates.

Even better, though, is that the price of the X1 includes a free download of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.1, which many professional photographers use to process images. Conveniently, images may be captured as either raw or JPEG files, or as raw and JPEG simultaneously.

When set to its high continuous shooting speed, the X1 can capture JPEG images at a rate of 3fps, which is not far off what is possible with some entry-level DSLRs. The camera isn’t really designed for sports photography, but it can sometimes be useful to shoot continuously when photographing everyday life. The burst depth, at six images, is the same whatever the selected file format.

The X1 doesn’t have an extensive feature set – there’s no video mode or viewfinder, for instance – but there is a small built-in flash, a hotshoe for attaching any of the current range of Leica flashguns, an image-stabilisation system that captures and merges two images automatically, and a 2.7in, 230,000-dot LCD screen that provides a Live View of the scene.

Those who feel the need for a viewfinder must invest in the optional 36mm brightline optical device.

The X1 may not be flashy or offer a huge collection of exposure modes, but it is designed to let photographers who understand how to take control of a camera get on with the business of composing images.

  • AF Assistance: Yes, built-in lamp range approximately 3m
  • Built-in Flash: Yes – GN 5m @ ISO 100
  • White Balance: Auto, 5 presets, plus 2 manual, fine adjustment along amber/blue, green/magenta axis and Kelvin values
  • Viewfinder Type: Optional optical device
  • Memory Card: SD and SDHC
  • Output Size: 4272x2856 pixels
  • LCD: 2.7in TFT with 230,000 dots (approx 76,600 pixels)
  • White Balance Bracket: No
  • Sensor: CMOS with 12.2 million effective pixels
  • Max Flash Sync: 1/2000sec with built-in flash
  • Weight: 615g (without battery or card/s)
  • Exposure Modes: Program, aperture priority, shutter priority, manual
  • Power: Rechargeable D-LI50 Li-Ion battery
  • Lens: Leica Elmarit 24mm f/2.8 Asph (equivalent to 36mm on 35mm format)
  • File Format: Raw (DNG) + JPEG simultaneously, JPEG
  • AF array: 195 individually selectable points, or automatic selection of one of 11 points. These 11 points can also be grouped into 5 collections to target the focus area
  • Shutter Speeds: 30secs-1/2000sec in 1EV steps
  • Drive Mode: Max 3fps in Continuous High, for up to 6 raw (DNG), 6 JPEG or 6 raw + JPEG files
  • Colour Space: Adobe RGB, sRGB
  • Connectivity / Interface: USB 2.0 Hi-Speed
  • Compression: Two-stage JPEG
  • Exposure Comp: ±3EV in 1/3EV steps
  • RRP: £1,395
  • ISO: 100-3200 in 1EV steps
  • Focusing Modes: Manual or single-shot AF
  • DoF Preview: No
  • Dimensions: 141.5x101x70mm
  • Metering System: 256-area intelligent multiple metering, centreweighted and spot

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