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Customer Review

176 of 180 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leica X1 After 4 Months of Use, September 4, 2010
This review is from: Leica X1 12.2MP APS-C CMOS Digital Camera (Discontinued by Manufacturer) (Electronics)
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.


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.


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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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 11, 2010 10:22:06 AM PDT
Ms_Ladi says:
I can't believe I marked a competitive review helpful! Made me look at my camera with a different eye to ensure I'm using it to its full potential!

Posted on Jul 30, 2011 3:09:50 PM PDT
Nairbdes says:
Is there any reason now whatsoever to own this camera instead of a Fuji X100?

Posted on Sep 28, 2011 5:43:54 AM PDT
Karin C. says:
Is there any reason to have a Zoom on the digital Leica X1 or are you fine without it? In other words, do you feel like you are missing the zoom while using the camera? Also, there is a big difference in the price between the digital Leica X1 and the Sony Nex. Do you think that the image quality of the X1 is worth the difference in the price?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 3, 2011 12:40:51 PM PST
E. Qaisar says:
I do not miss the zoom. Zoom is a distraction. X1 is a minimalist machine. Sony Nex is a very capable camera and may be a better fit for most persons over the X1. However, I like the way Leica "draws" the images compared to most other camera. I also own a Sony full frame - A850 + the 24mm Zeiss lens that is a very fine combination but somehow X1's images have that magic that is missing from most other cameras.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 3, 2011 12:43:19 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 3, 2011 12:43:46 PM PST
E. Qaisar says:
>Is there any reason now whatsoever to own this camera instead of a Fuji X100?

Possibly not. The price difference is substantial so most persons will be better served by the X100. I would not however trade my X1 for the X100 (even though I can sell my X1, buy the X100 and still have some money left) - I simply like Leica's rendering of images that I feel is unequaled.
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