Leica is a company I have a great respect for, especially because of the Leica M9. So when I got the offer to take the Leica X1 out for a spin, I immediately said yes. The X1’s APS-C size sensor, like the one in my Nikon D90, really grabbed my attention. Since we already reviewed the X1 once here, I chose to use it for something near and dear to me, food and coffee photography. This would be a pleasant change from shooting with DSLR’s like the Nikon D90 and the Canon 7D, which I was using at the time.
Leica X1 Specs
- Resolution: 12.2 Megapixel
- File Formats: Still Images: JPEG
- Max Resolution: 12.2MP: 4272 x 2856 @ 3:2
- Aspect Ratio: 3:2
- Image Stabilization: None
- Lens: 8 elements in 6 groups
- EFL: 24mm (35mm equivalent: 36-36mm)
- Aperture: f/2.8 to f/16
- Focus Range: Auto: 23.62″ (60cm) – Infinity
- ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 100-3200
- Shutter: 30 – 1/2000 Sec
- Exposure Metering: Center-weighted, Multi, Spot
- Exposure Modes: Modes: Aperture Priority, Manual, Program, Shutter Priority
- Compensation: -3EV to +3EV (in 0.33EV steps)
- White Balance Modes: Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Halogen, Manual, Flash
- Burst Rate: Up to 3 fps at 12.2MP for up to 6 frames
- Self Timer: 2 Seconds, 12 Seconds
- Built-in Flash: 1st Curtain Sync, Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Flash On, Flash On w/ Red-eye Reduction, Slow Sync, Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction
- Built-in Memory: 50MB
- Memory Card Type: SD, SDHC
- Screen: 2.7″ LCD Rear Screen (23000 pixels)
- Connectivity: USB 2.0, HDMI
- Dimensions (WxHxD): 4.88 x 2.34 x 1.26″ / 124 x 59.5 x 32mm
- Weight: 10.09 oz / 286g
The camera’s looks are astonishing. It has the old school aesthetic with impressive insides. The back screen was very clear and easy on the eyes. I wasn’t a huge fan of the strap, but that didn’t color my fascination. The camera’s controls were very straight forward and easy to use. After 10 minutes of going through the menus, I started to get the hang of it.
Composing images in a restaurant was interesting. Because of its size, the camera was inconspicuous which was a godsend because waiters can be awfully nosy sometimes. I was able to take it out and put it away swiftly. The X1’s lens gives you more than enough of a wide-angle view to work with a subject close up when the light is right.
This is where my issues with the camera cropped up. When it comes to street photography, outdoor/landscape photography, and candid photography, the X1’s autofocus is very good. Once you get into a low light situation, however, the autofocus did not perform admirably. The camera hunted constantly hunted for the focus point which affected how I composed my shots and the time it took to take them.
When shooting with my Nikon D90 or Chris Gampat’s 7D, in low light, I can focus quickly and get the shot. If the X1 had proper lighting, it would have worked far better, but this is not always the case with restaurants. Lighting changes depending on what is available and you can’t always control where you sit. In my experience, the only camera I could compare this with is the Sigma DP2 and its autofocus in low light outperforms the X1’s.
This shot took what seemed like an eternity to accomplish. The autofocus did not want to get it at all.
Once I got past to autofocus issues, the camera did produce some nice images. The colors were fantastic, and the images sharp.
In the End
I expected this camera to be deliciously divine, due to its pedigree, and it certainly is. There was, however, a time when I would have been impressed simply by a name and a price point, but I do have my reservations. For how I used the X1, I was not completely jazzed by it. It didn’t perform as well as I would have liked for my style of food photography. Granted, it is excellent for other photographic purposes, but, for its price it should have been spectacularly good at everything.
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