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Leica X1 review

Is this the compact camera enthusiasts have been begging for?

Our Verdict

Crucially, what the X1 sets out to do it does well: that is, to provide high-quality images in a small and compact body

For

  • Excellent image quality with raw files
  • Sharp lens right up to edges of the frame
  • Beautiful, lightweight and pocket-friendly body
  • Analogue dials provide immediate and easy control over exposure
  • Reliable metering system

Against

  • Slow and hesitant AF system
  • Below-par LCD quality
  • JPEG quality could be better
  • Priced far higher than competing models
  • Minimum focusing distance of 30cm can be limiting

Leica X1 review: overview

The X1 used for this review has the recently updated firmware, V.2.0

Leica's foray into the digital world may have been at a slower and more considered pace than what we're used to seeing, but working in partnership with Panasonic has nevertheless meant that it's managed to saturate a healthy range of the camera market.

For more everyday use the company's point-and-shoot C-LUX and enthusiast D-LUX ranges sit at the base of its stable, while the M9 rangefinder and S2 medium format model lie at the other end to cater for professionals.

In between the two, and among a handful of intermediate models, sits the X1, which can safely be considered as the company's answer to the growing popularity of compact system cameras.

In many ways the model is unique, or at least it was upon its launch in September 2009 and its recent firmware upgrade improves upon the original performance. It begins a new series for the company, pairing a 12.2MP APS-C format CMOS sensor with a 24mm f/2.8 fixed lens, the combination of which produces a camera with an effective focal length of 36mm in 35mm terms. It's targeted at the enthusiast who requires a solid, high-quality model with dependable image quality in a pocketable form, albeit it one who will be willing to part with around £1400 for the privilege.

The camera offers a capable feature set, but rarely does it go out of its way to offer any additional niceties. The sensitivity range, for example, is restricted to a reasonable span of ISO 100-3200, with no extension settings are either end, while metering patterns comprise the standard multi, centre-weighted and spot options.

Five colour settings are on hand, including two black and white flavours, while the camera records all raw images in the Adobe DNG standard, which makes them immediately compatible with Adobe's editing programs. Image stabilization is also included, although it's neither lens nor sensor based; instead, the camera uses processing to blend two images into one to achieve a sharper result.

There's a little flexibility in the camera's 11-point focusing system, with high-speed focusing options in 1-point and 11-point modes, as well as a more precise spot focus option and face detection setting, although sadly video recording - HD or otherwise - is nowhere to be found. Also a shame is the 230,000dot resolution of the camera's LCD screen, which today is bettered on models a fraction of the X1's price. At 2.7in it's hardly the largest display either, although, of course, a larger screen would necessitate a slightly bigger body.

Tech Specs

Product TypeCompact Camera
Battery Size SupportedProprietary Battery Size
Effective Camera Resolution12.2 Megapixel
USBYes
Wide AngleYes
Digital ZoomNo
Brand NameLeica
Screen Size6.9 cm (2.7")
Viewfinder TypeNo
Weight (Approximate)286 g
Flash Memory Capacity50 GB
Minimum Focus Distance300 mm
Maximum Image Resolution4272 x 2848
Maximum Frame Rate3 fps
Number of Batteries Supported1
Battery Built-inNo
Battery RechargeableYes
Battery IncludedYes
Display Screen TypeLCD
Image Sensor TypeCMOS
HDMIYes
Memory Card SupportedSecure Digital (SD) Card, Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) Card
Height59.5 mm
Width124 mm
Depth32 mm
Autofocus Points11
Focal Length24 mm
Image FormatsJPEG
Flash ModesAuto Flash, Flash ON, Flash OFF, Red-eye Reduction, Slow Sync, Rear Curtain Sync
Focus ModesManual
ManufacturerLeica Microsystems GmbH
Product ModelLeica X1
Product NameLeica X1 Compact Camera
Manufacturer Part NumberLeica X1
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.leica-camera.com
Marketing Information

The Leica X1 is now available in an elegant all-black finish that, in addition to the new colour scheme, also has a more coarsely structured leather trim than the steel-grey model. With its combination of refined styling and high-performance technical features, the LEICA X1 is the ideal companion for discerning photographers in whichever finish they prefer.

Battery Life260 Shot
Package Contents
  • Leica X1 Compact Camera
  • Rechargeable Li-ion Battery
Display Resolution230000 Pixel
Limited Warranty1 Year
Built-in DevicesSpeaker