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Leica X1 - camera review

12 January 2010
Szymon Starczewski

6. Summary

How to summarize this test? It’s not easy, as we have to keep both compact cameras and DSLRs criteria and points. Leica X1 has the dimensions of a compact camera, and a non-interchangeable lens, so let’s choose compact cameras’ criteria.

As far as functionality goes, the only real Leica’s problem is the speed. In some aspects there are no reasons to complain. Startup time, continuous mode, going through the menu, displaying further pictures – all of these things look well. Unfortunately, saving pictures to a memory card and displaying the first one of them last definitely too long. Buffer of the camera could also be larger. There are some reservations concerning the power of the pop-up flash and some error faults. The camera can, on the other hand, be praised for its build quality, simple and easy to use menu (we didn’t find the fact that there’s only one tab very troubling), quite a number of function keys and dials on the body, efficient image stabilization and good LCD display. If only it were adjustable and had better resolution, it would be really hard to complain here. Sigma DP1 was valued 3+ in this category. Leica is a bit more functional and faster, so we’re awarding it with a 4, with a tendency to add a plus, when the next firmware upgrades improve a few minor bugs we’ve registered.

The Elmarit 24 mm f/2.8 Asph. Lens used here didn’t record any minor flaw. The image it gives is very sharp at the center of the frame and sharp at its edge. Chromatic aberration, distortion, astigmatism, vignetting are small or moderate, and working against the bright light is good. Only coma could be slightly smaller. It’s hard to give a note lower than 5+ here, as even some fixed focal lengths of 24 mm work worse on an APS-C sensor.


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The best at the end – the sensor. Lots of people praise Nikons D300, D300s or D90 for their image quality, noise and tonal range, and Leica X1 isn’t short of them in any of these, still being a compact camera. It deserves nothing less than a 6. If we were dealing with a DSLR there would probably be some points to cut off. We won’t do it in the case of a compact camera, as 5+ wouldn’t be enough and there are no middle values.

The overall grade of the tested camera is 5 (maybe even with a small plus).

Should we write something about the price? I guess we can, but it doesn’t influence the points. It’s still a touchy subject, which in case of Leica’s products often causes stormy discussions. You need 2000 $ to purchase Leica X1 with basic accessories. The amount huge for a compact camera. On the other hand, in compact dimensions we get image quality of a very good DSLR and expensive software. Can Leica X1 be any cheaper? I wouldn’t count on it. Taking into account the image quality and huge interest it arouses in the USA and Western Europe, there will certainly be a long lines waiting to buy it. It’s unreal to expect lower prices in this situation.

At the end, let’s make a list of pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Compact and sturdy body,
  • Large amount of function buttons on the camera body
  • Clear menu
  • Convenient and instinctive operation
  • Convenient shutter speed and aperture dials
  • The ability to save RAW images
  • Short startup time
  • Very good image quality at the center of the frame
  • Good image quality at the edge of the frame
  • Slight chromatic aberration
  • Slight astigmatism
  • Well-controlled vignetting
  • Proper work against the bright light
  • Effective autofocus
  • Low noise, ISO usable from 100 to 3200 ISO
  • Good tonal range
  • High sensor’s resolution
  • Quite efficient image stabilization
  • Hot shoe’s presence
  • White Balance set in Kelvin scale
  • Adobe Lightroom included in the price of the camera

Cons:

  • High price of the camera and its accessories
  • Slow image saving and displaying
  • Inability to save DNG files alone
  • Coma a bit too large
  • Not much power in pop-up flash
  • No video recording
  • Lack of proper macro mode
  • No control over JPEGs noise reduction at higher ISO values
  • Screen could be adjustable and have better resolution
  • Problems with automatic white balance in incandescent light
  • 1 EV steps on shutter speed dial
  • Optical viewfinder only as an option


Sample shots

Leica X1 - camera review - Summary
Leica X1 - camera review - Summary
Leica X1 - camera review - Summary
Camera: Leica X1
Parameters: 24 mm, f/2.8, exp. 1/125 sec., ISO 200
File: JPEG, 4272×2856 pix, 4.84 MB
Camera: Leica X1
Parameters: 24 mm, f/2.8, exp. 1/640 sec., ISO 200
File: JPEG, 4272×2856 pix, 4.84 MB
Camera: Leica X1
Parameters: 24 mm, f/5.6, exp. 1/160 sec., ISO 200
File: JPEG, 4272×2856 pix, 4.72 MB
Leica X1 - camera review - Summary
Leica X1 - camera review - Summary
Leica X1 - camera review - Summary
Camera: Leica X1
Parameters: 24 mm, f/2.8, exp. 1/100 sec., ISO 400
File: JPEG, 4272×2856 pix, 4.9 MB
Camera: Leica X1
Parameters: 24 mm, f/2.8, exp. 1/125 sec., ISO 400
File: JPEG, 4272×2856 pix, 4.39 MB
Camera: Leica X1
Parameters: 24 mm, f/2.8, exp. 1/200 sec., ISO 400
File: JPEG, 4272×2856 pix, 4.81 MB
Leica X1 - camera review - Summary
Leica X1 - camera review - Summary
Leica X1 - camera review - Summary
Camera: Leica X1
Parameters: 24 mm, f/4.0, exp. 1/250 sec., ISO 400
File: JPEG, 4272×2856 pix, 5.21 MB
Camera: Leica X1
Parameters: 24 mm, f/2.8, exp. 1/200 sec., ISO 200
File: JPEG, 4272×2856 pix, 5.06 MB
Camera: Leica X1
Parameters: 24 mm, f/2.8, exp. 1/200 sec., ISO 200
File: JPEG, 4272×2856 pix, 5.25 MB
Leica X1 - camera review - Summary
Leica X1 - camera review - Summary
Leica X1 - camera review - Summary
Camera: Leica X1
Parameters: 24 mm, f/4.0, exp. 1/100 sec., ISO 200
File: JPEG, 4272×2856 pix, 4.95 MB
Camera: Leica X1
Parameters: 24 mm, f/4.0, exp. 1/125 sec., ISO 200
File: JPEG, 4272×2856 pix, 4.87 MB
Camera: Leica X1
Parameters: 24 mm, f/5.6, exp. 1/80 sec., ISO 200
File: JPEG, 4272×2856 pix, 4.97 MB
Leica X1 - camera review - Summary
Leica X1 - camera review - Summary
Leica X1 - camera review - Summary
Camera: Leica X1
Parameters: 24 mm, f/5.6, exp. 1/80 sec., ISO 200
File: JPEG, 4272×2856 pix, 4.63 MB
Camera: Leica X1
Parameters: 24 mm, f/8.0, exp. 1/50 sec., ISO 200
File: JPEG, 4272×2856 pix, 4.87 MB
Camera: Leica X1
Parameters: 24 mm, f/2.8, exp. 1/160 sec., ISO 100
File: JPEG, 4272×2856 pix, 4.45 MB
Leica X1 - camera review - Summary
Leica X1 - camera review - Summary
Leica X1 - camera review - Summary
Camera: Leica X1
Parameters: 24 mm, f/5.6, exp. 1/500 sec., ISO 1600
File: JPEG, 4272×2856 pix, 4.75 MB
Camera: Leica X1
Parameters: 24 mm, f/5.6, exp. 1/400 sec., ISO 3200
File: JPEG, 4272×2856 pix, 4.57 MB
Camera: Leica X1
Parameters: 24 mm, f/8.0, exp. 1/80 sec., ISO 3200
File: JPEG, 4272×2856 pix, 4.72 MB
Leica X1 - camera review - Summary
Leica X1 - camera review - Summary
Leica X1 - camera review - Summary
Camera: Leica X1
Parameters: 24 mm, f/4.0, exp. 1/250 sec., ISO 800
File: JPEG, 4272×2856 pix, 5.42 MB
Camera: Leica X1
Parameters: 24 mm, f/8.0, exp. 1/250 sec., ISO 1600
File: JPEG, 4272×2856 pix, 5.04 MB
Camera: Leica X1
Parameters: 24 mm, f/4.0, exp. 1/400 sec., ISO 800
File: JPEG, 4272×2856 pix, 4.94 MB
Leica X1 - camera review - Summary
Leica X1 - camera review - Summary
Leica X1 - camera review - Summary
Camera: Leica X1
Parameters: 24 mm, f/5.6, exp. 1/60 sec., ISO 400
File: JPEG, 4272×2856 pix, 5.37 MB
Camera: Leica X1
Parameters: 24 mm, f/3.5, exp. 1/200 sec., ISO 800
File: JPEG, 4272×2856 pix, 5.05 MB
Camera: Leica X1
Parameters: 24 mm, f/5.6, exp. 1/125 sec., ISO 1600
File: JPEG, 4272×2856 pix, 5.43 MB
Leica X1 - camera review - Summary
Leica X1 - camera review - Summary
Leica X1 - camera review - Summary
Camera: Leica X1
Parameters: 24 mm, f/11.0, exp. 1/0 sec., ISO 100
File: JPEG, 4272×2856 pix, 4.22 MB
Camera: Leica X1
Parameters: 24 mm, f/11.0, exp. 1/1 sec., ISO 1600
File: JPEG, 4272×2856 pix, 4.87 MB
Camera: Leica X1
Parameters: 24 mm, f/8.0, exp. 1/60 sec., ISO 100
File: JPEG, 4272×2856 pix, 4.66 MB



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