The Leica X1 is a compact camera with a fixed lens and an APS-C sized sensor. The camera has the largest sensor in it’s class, dwarfing Micro Four Thirds and the Sigma Foveon. I received some personal hands-on time with the camera. While I wasn’t able to put a card in to take samples (I handled a prototype) the short experience with the camera was overall quite positive and, in fact, it may very well be a camera that will put more pressure on other companies to start really developing their technology to do just the same thing.
Tech Specs at a Glance
The lens is a Leica Elmarit 24mm F/2.8 with eight elements in six groups, one aspheric element. The camera has 11 autfocus points and comes with face detection as well. Complete with an APS class 15.7 x 23.6 mm CMOS sensor, it is 12MP and shoots DNG and JPEG files. ISO starts at 100 and goes up to 3200. Shutter speeds go from 30 seconds – 1/2,000th. The camera also features 3fps shooting for up to six shots. There is a pop-out flash that comes out with a simple push down on it. It takes SD and SDHC cards and also features a USB and HDMI port. The back LCD is 2.7″ with a 230,000 dot resolution. It weighs 10oz. and is 4.85 × 2.5 × 1.98 inches WHD.
The Leica X1 is quite possibly the simplest prosumer large-sensor compact I’ve ever had the pleasure of using. While it is much bigger than the S90, Micro Four Thirds cameras and the highly raved about Canon G11, it still feels like an old-time rangefinder and in truth it “feels like a Leica.”
I am smitten with the idea of the Aperture and Shutter Speed dials up at the top for easy access while shooting. Ditto for the horizontal focusing wheel at the back of the camera above on dial on the lower right. Leica obviously put a lot of care and thought into the design of this camera.
White balance, ISO, playback and other information are easily accessed via the buttons on the left-hand side of the back panel. This will feel very familiar to DSLR, interchangable lens and Leica camera users. To scroll through your images, simply turn the wheel dial on the back right. This is also where you can control flash output, manual/auto focusing, time delay shooting (although single and continuous are by the on/off switch by the shutter release), and exposure settings.
The F2.8 lens handles relatively well and allows for very minute focusing. When you try to focus (as seen in the photo above) a little rectangle appears that digitally zooms in on the center so that you can achieve the focus that you want (quite specifically and accurately) and then recompose your shot. I explained this process in how to shoot fireworks.
The images on camera appeared to be very nice with lovely depth of field, razor sharp focusing achieved by precise manual focusing with the wheel dial, and exposing the images correctly. My only gripe with the camera that I experienced during the short testing period was that the LCD was not a high enough resolution to my liking. That and the $2000 price tag.
Out of any camera I’ve tried meant to be a “back up” to a DSLR, the Leica X1 has come the closest to being that camera. This will suit the needs of a photographer very well. Enthusiasts will be very pleased as well as Leica fans everywhere.