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on September 4, 2010
I bought this camera in May 2010. Given the price, it took a while for me to take the plunge (I am not rich). Prior purchasing this camera, I was using DSLRs including Nikon D40, D90, Pentax K100D Super and others. I wanted something light and small without sacrificing image quality. While M4/3 format has quite a few capable offerings (Panasonic GF1, Olympus Pen) I was/am not quite convinced that this is something I wanted to invest in. With Sony Nex, the range of small cameras with DSLR like image quality has increased and this is good for all of us.

Now on to the Leica X1:

I have used this camera heavily in the past four months and have taken over 4,000 shots. In my recent trip to Europe I took over 2,000 pictures in 8 days. If you want to stop reading at this point and get to the bottom line, here it is: This camera's image quality is stunning. The details, sharpness, colors and tonality is astounding. It surpasses my Nikon D40/ + Nikon 35mm f/1.8D combination by a wide margin (yes, I realize that D40 is 4-5 times cheaper). The output of the X1 easily matches Nikon D300/D300S.

Details:

Now that we have covered image quality, let us talk about other things.

- Out of camera JPGs: Usable, but do not reflect what this camera is capable of. If you are a JPG shooter, do not bother with this camera.

- DNG (RAW) Quality: The X1 is king-kong here. Processed properly in Lightroom (which is included in the price of X1), the resultant output from the DNGs is simply breathtaking. It would not be a stretch to say that X1 can easily stand upto the likes of Canon 5D Mk II at lower ISO (100-400). A friend of mine, who is an experienced photographer remarked that the outout of the X1 has a cinema like feel.

- AF Accuracy: Very accurate. In particular, the spot focus mode is very impressive and allows you to have a pin-point focus on a dot if you want to.

- Color Accuracy: Spot-on. While in Germany, I stopped at a camera dealer. They were demonstrating comparison shots (actual prints, not on screen) taken with the X1, G11, D90 and others taken under same conditions. The picture was that of a building across the street so I could see in real life what the subject looked like. X1 had the most accurate output: it was the only camera to have captured accurately very light pink tinge of color the wall of the building. The others had it all white.

- Metering: Just like AF, very precise. Spot metering enables you to meter based on a very small area.

- Shutter Noise: Very quiet. Perfect for shooting in church, museums or other places where shutter click sounds are frowned upon. So quiet in fact that X1 provides a "false" acoustic signal to simulate shutter click - I keep this disabled.

- High ISO Quality: Upto ISO 800 is perfect. ISO 1600 from X1 is better than ISO 800 output of entry level DSLRs and all of the current M4/3s. I have taken some pretty good ISO 1600, long exposure (4sec, 8 sec and more) shots of Niagara Falls at night with the X1: this camera just does not get noisy. X1 maxes out at ISO 3200 which is a bit noisy but usable and much better than the likes of GF1 or Olympus Pen M4/3rs. In the compact camera world, Sony Nex is the only real challenger to the X1 in high ISO output quality at this time.

- Zoom - this is to check if you are reading carefully. X1 has no zoom.

- Ease of use / weight: X1 really shines here and this combined with the image quality would be the most important reason to get the X1. Dedicated buttons for speed, aperture, ISO, AF, WB, etc make changing settings very fast. Grip is ok and I have not felt the need for the separate hand-grip that Leica sells separately. One handed operation is easy. I have done many hours of shooting with one hand when it was raining on a recent trip and I had an umbrella in one hand and the X1 in other. Try that with a DSLR. I simply cannot imagine going out with a heavy DSLR and lenses now (unless I was a pro and did wedding shoots or other paid assignments that require loads of gear).

- AF Speed / Writing speed: As covered in various reviews on numerous web sites, the AF speed is slow. There is quite a lag when you press the shutter and the time it takes for the camera to capture the shot and write it to the SD card. If AF speed/writing speed is paramount to you, do not buy this camera.

- Writing mode: DNG (RAW) + JPG or JPG only. It is very strange that one cannot choose DNG only mode. In my case, I always capture both DNG and JPG. Having a JPG allows me to have a reference point when processing DNGs.

- Image Stabilization (IS): Inferior as compared to cameras with optical stabilization. I don't use it. My Canon S90 has a much superior IS. If IS is a must for you, get a tripod instead of relying on the X1's IS. I keep IS switched off.

- Battery life: average. If you intend to do a full day's worth of shooting, a second battery is a must. You can good non OEM batteries from eBay for $20 or so. No need to pay over $90 for "original Leica" battery.

- Flash power: Inadequate for shots that need it as a primary source of illumination. Does not bother me as I rarely do shoots that rely on a powerful flash. X1's flash is adequate for fill purposes.

- Build Quality: Good. Not stellar, but good.

Overall:

A camera's sole purpose is to take photographs and if final image quality in a small package is the deciding factor then X1 is the king of the hill as of today. Strange as it may sound, I feel that the only real contender in this space is the Sony Nex PROVIDED that Sony can come up with a good lens that actually does justice to the excellent sensor of the Nex series. X1 is not for you if you need loads of "features" in a camera: Panasonic and Sony will be a better fit you if you want "features".

Buy the X1 if you absolutely need a small camera with top of the line image quality right now. On the other hand, if you have a half-way decent camera already, then wait till the holiday season - I am expecting/hoping that Sony or some other independent lens maker will come up with a decent lens selection for the Nex that will narrow the gap with the X1. In any event, my X1 will be a keeper simply because of the excellent images it has allowed me to capture that will be treasured for a long time. I feel liberated by not having to worry about changing lenses, zooming or "features". I just take my X1 and start shooting.
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on October 17, 2010
I have been looking at purchasing some form of Leica camera for the last year or so. Originally I was going to get a D-Lux4, but wasn't sold on the idea. The X1 was pushing my pricepoint but something about it intrigued me. I didn't know what to make of the fixed lens, the slow speed, the high price or the varying reviews. I read everything I could, watched everything on Youtube and finally decided on Friday I had to have one. I ordering with one day shipping and paced all morning long on Saturday until the doorbell rang at 11:30.

I should preface this review by saying I am a professional architectural photographer and use a Canon 5DMarkII with a variety of L glass for my day job and have been a very satisfied Canon customer for many years and will continue to be. I was looking for a walk about camera for being creative and restoring my love of photography for the sake of loving photography. I bought a Canon G11 recently and like it a lot as a tool for holidays, snaps of family etc but didn't love it or want to use it for the sake of using it.

The minute I opened the box and held the X1 in my hand I felt an urge to go out and shoot for no other reason than pure enjoyment. I charged the battery, impatiently pacing as it charged, read the instructions and then set out with a friend to Abbott Kinney in Venice for some street test shots. It has been a terrible grey weekend in LA so I thought this would really test the Leica.

It took a little while to get used to the camera just because it was different to what I was used to but once I got used to it, I realized it made perfect sense. The dials are exactly what you need, the buttons are minimal but do the right things. The myriad of buttons you get on the G11 faded away to the all important shutter speed and aperture setting on top. From the first images displayed on the screen I had a feeling I was going to like the results although you can never tell until you download the images. I shot indoors, outdoors, people, buildings, flowers, textures you name it. The results were way beyond what I had hoped for. It is very hard to explain it. The color was so real it triggered my mind back to when I had seen it that day. The images were sharp and crisp and the depth made them look 3D. The images seemed alive to me, I wanted to look at them and keep looking at them. If I had taken my 5D out, images would have looked flat and lifeless, I could have made them look good in Photoshop but that's not the point.

The various modes control the look of the jpegs and work very well. I especially like the vivid for color on a dull day and the black and white high contrast for everything. This camera when shooting RAW also take a jpeg image. I always use RAW for work and expected to do so here. The RAW images are spectacular and easy to work with in photoshop. The jpegs had mixed results. The first day of shooting I didn't like the results but after tweaking the settings today I found setting I liked and for the first time in as long as I can remember was producing B&W jpegs straight from the camera that I loved. Of course I like to tweak them but straight from the camera, amazing results.

The reason for this long winded review is to illustrate why I bought this camera and what I wanted it for. This camera is not the best solution for someone who wants a fully auto point and shoot for family shots or kid action shot or a fully auto at all. Yes it does fully auto but that is not the point. This camera is for "street" shooting, for shooting for the sake of shooting, for being creative, for pros to remind themselves why they love photography. It is subtle, it doesn't disturb people when you pull it out like an SLR can do. The fixed lens is fantastic, it provides such sharp images I am willing to trade not have a zoom any day. It makes me work to get the shot, it is so easy to be lazy with zoom. You get out of this camera what you put in, plain and simple. This camera is not for most people, it is for the few that want to work for the image and enjoy the process. The shortfalls you read about elsewhere have not concerned me while I have used it. It is not the fastest camera, autofocus is a little slow but for me it takes longer to frame the image I want, so a second to focus is of no concern. The manual focus is great with the 'loupe' on-screen to help you. As a photographers tool it is beautifully designed and a breeze to use. I will take it everywhere with me and it will become my go to camera for any creative shot I want to capture. The price makes it seem expensive but after using it I am happy to have paid the price and think it is well worth it. This is my first Leica but it will certainly not be the last!! Time to start saving for the M9.
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on April 15, 2010
In mid-March 2010 I spent a week abroad with the Leica X1 and the Leica M9. The X1 competes well with the superlative M9 and among the results of my trip the photos taken with the X1 -- many in the fog and at night, all hand-held -- are among the best of some outstanding photos being requested by people who see them. Charging the battery using the (provided) European plug inserted in place of the American plug was (contrary to one review) much better than using a hinged American plug, which would require a separate adapter, spacing the charger too far from the bathroom wall receptacle. At home, also, photos of family and little kids moving around fast indoors at birthday party and similar events yielded an unexpectedly large number of superior photos which coulc be cropped aggressively to get a no-noise individual portrait out of a group shot. This little camera is more fun to use than most any other camera I've ever owned. I would compare it with the superlative Rollei TLR cameras of a couple of decades ago. The X1 is well worth the price.
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on November 16, 2010
The greatest drawbacks with this camera are the price and that it has no optical zoom. The payback is that the image quality is astonishing - especially for a compact camera. With a large CMOS sensor as found in larger digital SLRs and 12 megapixels, you can obtain raw image files in Adobe DNG format of about 18 MB and JPEGS of about 5 MB with beautiful image quality. You don't need to magnify your images to a very large size though to see the quality of the lens. I carry my X1 in my (large) purse, and keep an optical viewfinder in the hotshoe - with the viewfinder, it is on the large side for a purse, without it would be perfect.

I have found the autofocusing and metering to be very good, but the user has everything from totally manual control of exposure and focusing to completely automated operation. I have found this camera to be excellent for landscape and close-up (not macro) work. Closest macro is only 30cm, but the results are superb. Portraits would be good I think with this camera. It's not as good at indoor party scenes, and it wouldn't be my camera of choice for sports (too slow, no zoom).

I had to relinquish my old Nikon because without reading glasses I could no longer see the 1" screen images clearly or read the menu options. This camera has a nice large 2.7" screen with big font and highly legible menu options. Note however that due to the small size of the camera, the font on the small top dials is small and difficult to read - especially in low light. However, the LCD screen shows the shutter speed and aperture stop in a slightly larger font which is more legible. This may seem trivial, but to those of us who need reading glasses but cannot wear them when out and about with a camera, this is actually a huge plus. Many electronics and software designers only seem to acknowledge the existence of young people with perfect eyes - they use tiny font and icons so small they appear to rest of us as colored dots. Not so this camera. Good for Leica!

The display screen is not of a quality equal to some other cameras with screens of this size and should be far better for the price but it is satisfactory and large.

The layout is beautifully simple for anyone used to old-fashioned SLRs with shutter speed and aperture dials on the top plate. Each has an A setting giving SP auto, AP auto, program mode (both dials on A!), and fully manual exposure. Beautiful in its simplicity. The on-off switch is located around the shutter release button, and has four simple positions - off, on (single shot), on (continuous shooting), and on (delayed shutter release). So too the menu is flat and so you don't have to dig to find options. This is helped by the camera having clearly labeled dedicated buttons for many major functions. It is relatively simple to find and use all the camera's functions - no holding in two buttons simultaneously while executing a complicated choreographed dance after consulting the instruction manual for an hour to select a specific buried function! This type of camera benefits from a basic technical knowledge of photography since it is laid out based on photography basics like shutter speed etc. and not based on sunset, sports, landscape modes etc.

The camera has good low-light capabilities with relatively little grain up to 800 ISO. I have taken crystal-clear images of cityscapes and artificially-lit (high-contrast) night shots without flash or tripod at ISO 3200 , and they are beautiful. This partially offsets the fact that the built-in mini-flash is low power - good for table scenes and dimly lit interiors and fill-in flash.

I'd recommend an external viewfinder for the hotshoe - all LCD display screens become difficult to discern in bright sunlight, and there are just times when it is more convenient to look through a viewfinder. But the Leica Brightfinder viewfinder fits so tightly into the hotshoe, if you use one don't bank on swapping it out on a regular basis for an external flash.

I've used the camera at an air temperature of -7F (-22C) for 15 minute periods and down to -35F in Minneapolis - it seemed that the electronics slowed down a little and the battery level temporarily dropped in the cold as you'd expect. The camera seems to work quite well otherwise. Battery life is not very impressive if you keep the display turned on (and you have to) - I'd recommend having a spare battery.

Gripes: Some of my previous gripes were fixed by the firmware upgrade which was excellent. The following remain: 1. If you turn off the screen to save battery power, half-cocking the shutter does not temporarily turn on the screen to show shutter speed, aperture, ISO info etc. The only indication that the photo will probably be satisfactory is a green light just within view (an excellent idea by the way) which indicates successful focusing. However, if the photograph will be under or overexposed, the camera happily gives you the green light which depends only on successful focusing. 2. The camera only gives focusing distance and depth of field information in manual focusing mode. (One needs to attend to depth of field with this camera - you can obtain wonderful sharp focus with background defocused and nice bokeh, but you need to work to obtain large depth of field if you need it.) 3. When using manual exposure, the auto ISO setting is unavailable - I think the option of manual exposure but with auto ISO would be useful. 4. If you take a manual exposure in low light, the meter reading doesn't change when you turn on the flash and set focus by half-pressing the shutter-release button. This results in overexposure for nearby subjects. Better to use auto or program mode with the flash. 5. The electronic image stabilization doesn't seem very useful - I haven't been able to detect much difference with it turned on or off. 6. In manual focusing mode, the focusing assist screen disappears way too quickly after the last adjustment and has to be retriggered by pressing a button or changing one's carefully selected focus with the wheel. The frame is also rather small. 6. The electronic image stabilization and the face detection autofocus modes seem to be a waste of time.

Of these gripes, gripe #1 is the most serious in my opinion.

I like that the camera comes with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom - it does less damage to your images than cheaper image-manipulation programs which can reduce file-size etc. and you can work with the DNG files without changing them to produce non-archival file formats like JPEG, TIFF etc. with images adjusted as you please. Unless you print your images, you'll need a beautiful display monitor to benefit most from the quality of the camera.

It is difficult to describe the images from this camera - they draw one in, and are a pleasure to view. They are like seeing the scene itself in real life - the vivid color and the high-contrast black-and-white film modes (which affect the JPEG images but not raw DNG files) are particularly pleasing. After decades of cameras with zooms, I'm now having to frame my photographs more carefully: I have been astonished at how different the very same scene taken from a slightly different view changes the entire feel of a photo. When I get my images up on the big screen, one shot will be far more interesting than the others even though it is taken from only a marginally different view. Clearly I have a lot to learn yet about photography!

The design of the camera is so very crystal-clear, the layout so intuitive, the camera so easy to use (if you understand the technical basics of photography), that one can focus on the photography - the camera becomes an extension of self. The camera makes you want to use it. The lack of zoom forces you to think about your photograph, you become more engaged in the process. This is a compact camera for the art of photography - a joy to use. It's not going to be the camera for everyone but for me it was an emotional choice and has brought back the pleasure of photography without lugging an SLR around.

I love my X1. I've been updating this review. For now, still five stars after eight months' use.

Update: I have just reviewed my first vacation photographs and am absolutely delighted. The quality of the photos is breathtaking. I can honestly say that it is very surprising how little the lack of telephoto capability has affected my photography. I suppose I just take - and create- a different kind of photograph now, accepting that some photos are just impossible. On my vacation, I really took control of the camera, manually choosing shutter-speed/aperture combinations and ISO for each subject, and using spot or 11 point auto-focus modes appropriate to the situation. Doing this, the camera really comes into its own behaving like a little M9 and giving superb results. You can do this without too much fiddling (perhaps less than 30 seconds to set up for a situation) once you know the camera.
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on November 16, 2011
Overall: yes its awesome, though not at first... But it's near grain-free, high ISO shooting at night is incredible, its compact size will make you happy you aren't lugging a backpack of dslr gear, its sleek design is sexy, and I'm sure it will impress people with its picture quality and when they hear how much it costs they will be impressed with you for affording it (if that's how you get your rocks off).

The long version: I am a professional cinematographer and use canon 5d mk2s and 7ds for still and video work often. I've used Arri Alexa cameras, Red cameras and and all sorts of 35mm motion picture cameras. Needless to say I feel I have a good eye for good glass and good photos.

I ordered the Leica X1, currently owning a t2i with L-series 24-70, 80-200 IS, the popular tokina wide angle, and a 30mm 1.4 sigma for really dark shooting. Upon arrival of the X1 i snapped some pics on the internal memory (which will give you 10 pics worth in an emergency) indoors at night, out in the street at night, etc.

I downloaded the pics to my macbook pro-pretty glossy but nothing magical. Snapped some more, cranked up the ASA to 3200, played with the manual focus-pretty fun, played with the saturation and contrast settings, and I did side by side looks in iphoto at the jpeg vs dng files. manual adjustment wheels of f stop and shutter were nice to see on a digital...All good stuff, but not 2k worth. (keep reading however...)

"Why not buy a 5d if i really care about a photo or just use my iphone with hipstamatic otherwise" I said "This is an overpriced status symbol (lacking the optical viewfinder I love in 35mm Leicas) I'll stick with my t2i.."

Sent the X1 back next day without blinking-if money was no object I would have kept it but I can't see buying pricey things that don't wow me- i can use Canon t2i's as disposable cameras and not have equaled the price of an X1.

But going on a trip the next day and I was already missing it, here's why:
1) I compared the night shots to canon t2i photos and a friend's 5d mk 1 pics hanging around. The X1 at ISO 3200 had less grain than my T2i at 800. The way the X1 processes info is in fact magical. I was shooting the T2i through a $1400 l series lens and the grain was electrified at 800, the X1, flawless.

2)The compact size is easy to bring along, and unobtrusive. No one is bothered by the little thing, the t2i 7d, 5d etc becomes a project. And at something like a wedding you get the odd label of being a techy camera guy if you sling a big camera, and have to carry it around all night. Traveling with the X1 is great.

Before the X1, when a photo op out a car window came up or something i wanted a good shot of I found myself saying well the t2i is too big of a project to break out of the bag, this moment isn't THAT important, so an iPhone pic would suffice. The Leica fills that void perfectly
3)Addressing the amazon review cons lastly: FOCUS:the focusing isn't slow, it's accurate. Im used to always living on manual focus on DSLRs, I shoot video alot so I never have my lenses on AUTO, The Leica X1 is the first camera I trust to do that on.
FIXED LENS: yes a fixed lens, yes a bit of a head scratch, brow raise... but think of the Leica X1 camera as a 7d or 5d with a canon fixed prime 35mm lens that takes awesome dark photos with natural looking highlights that fits in the palm of your hand.

Summary:I'd rather have some stunning photos to document my life in a take anywhere camera than lug along a DSLR and tons of lenses forever. The opposite extreme is true too, instagram and hipstamatic is cool but the X1 will put the photos of your own history in the making, in a class above. This is an interesting camera for the picky professional unsatisfied carrying junk snapshot cameras without having to bring out the whole rig.
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on February 3, 2011
Suddenly I had an urge to share my experience with the Leica X1 camera which has been with me since the end of October 2010. I had been literally in (photography) exile over the past ten years since I stopped shooting with film cameras back in the late 1990s. I had put my longest-serving film camera, a Pentax Spotmatic and a prime lens, on the shelf when I was becoming too busy at work. Since then I had some experience shooting with a few digital cameras but I had never owned one. I didn't really like what I saw in digital cameras when it became more popular in the early 2000s. Image quality was basically poor. But again, I compared them to the image quality of a decent 35mm film camera (such as a Nikon FM2). It was perhaps an unfair comparison but it showed that I'd better retrieve my film camera off the shelf and start shooting again, rather than getting myself an expensive-but-low-quality camera.

Time did really fly. Fast forwarding to July 2010. I unexpectedly bought my first digital camera when I came across a Panasonic Lumix GF1 while I was browsing shops at the airport during my trip to London. The GF1 with a 20mm prime lens looks like a range finder (RF) camera (of course, the GF1 isn't), which will suite my type of photography. I know a SLR camera (and now a DSLR camera) is much more flexible than a RF camera and can outperform a good RF camera in many areas. But again, I like a RF for what it is and how I use my camera. So I bought the GF1 with a 20mm prime lens and took it with me to London. I felt good about shooting photos again as a way to liberate myself from pressure at work. Shooting with the GF1 was great but its image quality, though very good, cannot compete against any decent film camera. Then, a search for a better tool kicked off and I started looking for something better.

Having come across the Leica X1 on the internet, I read a couple of reviews and finally got myself the camera, knowing all its limitations. My relative had shot with both medium format cameras (a Mamiya and a Hasselblad) and some Leica cameras so I learned a lot about film photography back in the late 1980s and the early 1990s. I thought about the X1 and Steve Huff's review has been very useful [...]. I would encourage those who like to know more about the Leica to read his review. I am not a professional photographer, so what I try to share with you is my experience with the camera in action as an amateur photographer who returns to the photography world after a long-term exile.

I have heard many people saying that the autofocus of the Leica X1 is so slow. Well, it may be slow to some or very slow to others. For me, it is not bad at all. Given that all of my film cameras had no AF, I certainly have no problem with the speed of the Leica X1 autofocus. At the best of time, I could manual focus my RF cameras faster than auto focus on my X1 but such time has long gone (but it may be back one day...one fine day). I have missed many shots when the X1's autofocus was not fast enough but, well, I had missed many shots when I was out shooting with any manual focus film camera back in my heyday (when I had to do four things almost simultaneously: setting the shutter speed and the f-stop, focusing and composing a shot).

Handling of the X1 is superb. Setting the aperture, the shutter speed and the ISO is very easy. I don't care about scenery modes (apparently mandatory functions in a compact or DSLR camera), so it does not matter to me one bit whether such fancy (or marketing gimmick) functions exist in any Leica camera. In fact, I don't fancy such things in the Leica Land and I am glad that there is no such thing in the X1 or any Leica M cameras. The art of photography should be preserved as our mind and brain should be developed to actually think before even put the camera on an eye level. The digital world has taken so much away from our brain development. Kids growing up in this digital world appear to operate in a different mental model (it is a topic of which I'd rather not deal with in this review).

In terms of image quality, I am very happy with what the X1 has produced so far. Most of the images produced from the X1 blow the best images produced by my GF1 out of the water. As I am not a pro and may not be one, it is very unlikely that I would get myself a Leica M9 and a Leica 35mm Summicron ASPH, which will put me back about $10,000 ($6995 for the M9 and $2995 for the 35mm Summicron).

At the end of the day, shooting images with the X1 suddenly brings back good memories again!
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on November 18, 2010
I am not happy. For this kind of money I was expecting (almost) the best.
It's a very slow camera from every point of view: slow LCD refresh rate, slow LCD playback, slow autofocus that tends to fail in low light. Anyone who's considering buying this camera knows that there is no OIS or built-in viewfinder: I am sick of those "old fashioned" photographers who claim that such things aren't needed by "real photographers". Again - with such a price-tag - I would expect Leica to keep up with technology in terms of both optics-electronics interface and firmware, and I do think that OIS and built-in, high-resolution, electronic viewfinder would further expand the camera's capabilities in low light and also provide feedback on the current exposure/ISO,aperture settings without having to check the LCD/wheels and compose again. I am also disappointed by the manual focus control: I would have been happier with a ring on the barrel and with the possibility of further zooming on my subject to adjust focus (GF1 allows two levels of zoom, X1 only one level, which sometimes is not sufficient).
Some of the button I use often (ISO) are on the left hand side of the LCD. This makes changing the setting tricky when holding the barrel with my left hand and have my right index finger on the shutter: having these buttons on the right hand side would allow me to change these settings while holding the camera ready to shoot.
Image Quality: Judging on the basis of my raw images, the lens is sharp but has considerable barrel distortion. The sensor is capable of producing usable images at ISO as high as 3200.
In conclusion, I am still waiting for "my camera", a tool that I could truly feel as an extension of my brain and heart. This camera is not the X1.
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on June 8, 2010
I love this camera but let's be clear there are things about it that make life difficult ; you have to be sure that supreme image quality in the smallest size is really your ultimate goal.
On the downside are things like slow-ish ( but very accurate ) autofocus , a fixed lens and of course the price.
But where this little device scores big time is in the quality of its images.
It is the absolute perfect companion for things like weddings where you can get close and personal to your subjects and then snap away in almost silence ( Yes a quiet shutter )
In dark bars you can shoot in silence at ISO 3200 ( no flash needed) and still be amazed at the image quality.

This is a true Leica.
It is clear that in the design there was no compromise on image quality and like most other owners I'm happy to live with the result.
Blow your photos into Posters and be amazed at the quality.

I also own a Lumix GF-1 which produces good results ,is much cheaper ,more flexible and can be recommended without hesitation. BUT the pictures are not the same.
The "Leica look" is often mentioned and you can see it in many of your images ; that creamy , sharp desaturated look.

Truly the one camera I'll still be using in 6 years time.
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on December 7, 2011
I am a keen photographer, shooting semi-professionally, with a Lightroom catalog of almost 40,000 images. My primary camera is a Nikon D300 with a slew of lenses -- 18-200 zoom; 12-24 zoom; 60mm macro and 10.5mm fisheye. I really love my D300 and consider it my primary camera when quality counts. However, it is fairly heavy and cumbersome to lug around, especially when using an Expodisk and polarizing filter for best quality outdoor scenic shots. I also shoot quite a few HDR images, so frequently use a tripod. I've tried for some time now to complement the Nikon with a pocket-size camera capable of producing high-quality digital images.

I've owned at least a dozen of them, including cameras from Canon, Sony, Panasonic, Olympus and Casio. I also have a Panasonic GF-1 with the 20mm pancake lens and two Lumix zoom lenses - 7 to 14 and 14 to 140. Most of these cameras produced reasonable quality images, especially those which offered a RAW image processing option, but nothing to compare with my Nikon D300. The GF-1 is a gem but a bit "in betwixt and in between," as it not pocket size (even with the 20mm pancake lens) and not IMO the equal of the D300 in terms of image quality.

This fall, before a trip overseas, I began considering the purchase of a new pocket-sized camera to replace my Olympus XZ-1. I stumbled onto the Leica X1, read a few reviews and was intrigued, but was put off by the high price and did not purchase the camera. Shortly before I left I began dreading the thought of lugging my entire Nikon kit around, so broke down and purchased the X1, vowing to return it if it did not meet my high [price-based] expectations.

My initial observation was that the packaging for the camera was quite over-the-top, rather like the box in which a fancy watch would come, and a real waste of money. The camera itself was small enough to fit into the pocket of my jacket and lightweight, perhaps a bit too lightweight. I was intrigued but not impressed.

All of this changed when I went to actually take pictures with the camera. The controls are incredibly intuitive and the easiest to use of any digital camera I have ever owned. One need not read the instruction manual to determine how to shoot in program mode, aperture priority mode or shutter priority mode, it is that intuitive. As others have noted, the LCD screen is not as bright or large as one might hope, the controls have an unfortunate habit of moving inadvertently, and there is no zoom lens. The images, however, are remarkable. Coloration is subtle and extremely accurate, resolution and acuity are exceptional, the autofocus is unbelievably true and images taken in low light are exceptional.

While on my trip I shot some identical test images with both my D300 (with the 18 to 200 zomm set at 24mm) and the X1. I also shot some additional test images on my return, using a tripod and self-timer to ensure that I had a set of images, taken under various conditions, that would provide an accurate basis for comparison. I imported the RAW images into Lightroom without any processing and compared them side by side using Lightroom's "compare" function. In every single case the Leica images were chosen in blind tests (I removed all of the identification data from the screen images and then asked colleagues to tell me which of the two they preferred). At higher magnification the Leica X1 images were, unbelievably, sharper than those captured by the D300. Frankly, I still cannot believe the quality of these images and am stunned that they are at least as good, if not better, than those produced by the D300.

One other point that may be arcane but is important to me - I take a fair number of images for HDR processing using the Photomatix program exported through Lightroom. I have obtained some really excellent images using the HDR approach. With the D300, I always use a tripod because it simply is not feasible to hand-hold the camera for three successive exposures. While playing around with the X1, I noticed it has an auto bracketing option, so I tried that while hand-holding the camera and then exported them through Lightroom into the Photomatix HDR program. I created several really stunning HDR images just by pressing the shutter button while hand-holding the camera. Unbelievable.

So while it is true that this camera has some fairly significant constraints, if high-quality images are your goal, then I would say it literally has no peer. I am blown away by this little gem.

One last comment - I purchased through Amazon the Rainbowimaging Auto Lens Cap, which installed easily and works well. I recommend that accessory for this camera.

Lastly, these are my subjective personal opinions, not based on any scientific study. I am simply an avid long-time photographer in love with this camera!

UPDATE --

After two months of intensive use of this camera, I like it more than ever. Its compact size is convenient and the controls remain intuitive and easy-to-use. Best of all, the images are fantastic, significantly better than I ever expected for a camera of this size and ease of use. I just took some pictures of the white ice crystal frost that developed last night where I live, and the detail is amazing. I then took three differently exposed pictures for an HDR output (simple to accomplish in the X1), and with a minimum of processing in Lightroom 3 and Photomatix Pro 4, obtained a stunning result worthy of framing. Quite simply, this is the greatest camera, pound for pound and dollar for dollar, I've ever owned.

SECOND UPDATE --

For my next book shoot, I just acquired a Nikon D700 (full frame 24 x 36 sensor) with 16-35 and 24-120 FX lenses. I wanted the new D800 but didn't think I would be able to obtain one before I leave. The D700 is a superb camera; however, based on my standard [non-scientific] test of shooting a set of HDR images off my back deck, it is no sharper than the X1 -- and the D700 shots were taken on a tripod while the only stabilization I used for the Leica was a SteadePod. Maybe I just got a "production perfect" sample with X1, but it is extraordinary.

As another reviewer noted, apparently the black covering on these cameras is prone to lifting; the black cover on mine is beginning to lift near the LCD screen. So it's not entirely perfect!
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on May 1, 2010
Can't say enough positive things about this camera. I have had it for just about a month and the pictures I've taken so far are just absolutely out of this world gorgeous! I'm an aspiring amateur photographer and still learning a lot, but this camera makes it a dream to take photos. It's easy to use and very intuitive. There is no zoom which I love...the colors are rich and images crisp. They look beyond real...now I just need to get a Leica M9 to fulfill my dream. The only con is that I do have to verify that the exposure and f-stop wheels on top of the camera are correctly positioned before each use. The knobs (or settings) have a tendency to be easily displaced due to friction between the case and the camera when the camera is being removed from it. But it's no major issue at all.
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