Quick Comparison – Ricoh GXR & 28mm vs Leica X1

Happy Monday to all! Today I decided to post a quick comparison between the much loved Leica X1 and the misunderstood Ricoh GXR (tested here with the 28mm Lens Module). I was curious as to which camera put out a better file, which camera had better high ISO and which camera was faster in operation. Here are my findings and I hope you guys find them useful.

We all know the Leica X1 is a gorgeous compact camera that packs a whallop in the image quality department. The main issue with the X1 is it’s cost ($1995) and its slow AF speed (which will be improved with firmware that is being worked on now). Other than that it has proven to be a remarkable little camera. The GXR has had a tough time in the market due to the fact that it takes “lens modules” that have a sensor built in to the lens. You can see my full GXR review HERE but I myself really enjoy the camera and find its build, feel and operation are really really good. The 28mm lens module is really a great lens but the GXR and X1 do have some differences in the way they render an image.

BUILD:

The GXR wins in the build quality department. It’s sturdier feeling and just feels solid. The X1 is very very nice here as well but has a sort of lighter more hollow feel to it. Still, both cameras are great in the build department. No complaints. The X1 is a prettier camera no doubt but that is all personal preference. Some will enjoy the industrial looking GXR and many will drool over the sexy looks of the X1. I love the style of the X1 and think it’s a better looking camera than the GXR.

AF SPEED:

Between the GXR with the 28mm and the Leica X1 the GXR is a bit faster with focusing. When the new firmware comes out for the X1 in the next 2-3 months then they may be equal or the X1 may even be faster because I have been hearing good things about the speed enhancements. As it is now, the Ricoh locks on a bit quicker than the X1 but truth be told, neither are speed demons but both are VERY accurate and rarely miss focus.

IMAGE QUALITY:

This is the big one. Both cameras use a larger APS-C sensor and they do so while keeping the body sizes small. Both cameras go up to ISO 3200 and the X1 has a 24 Elmarit which ends up being a 36mm equivalent while the 18mm on the GXR happens to be a 28mm equivalent. So the focal lengths are a bit different in these tests but it was as close as I could get with the GXR. All tests were done at the same aperture and a few were with the same exact setting while some I let the cameras choose their own exposure in A mode.

**YOU MUST CLICK ON THE IMAGES BELOW TO SEE THE FULL SIZE FILES – THEY ARE STRAIGHT FROM CAMERA (RAW) WITH NO ENHANCEMENTS OR ALTERATIONS**

BELOW – GXR WITH 28MM – F/8 – Base iso of 200

BELOW – X1 at f/8 – Base ISO of 100

100% crops – no enhancements – no sharpening – no tweaks – straight from camera (RAW)

and more…This shot was ay ISO 1600 with each but I let the camera pick the shutter speed to see how each camera would expose the scene.

and the 100% crops…

More at ISO 200 – f/2.8 – remember, click on each image for the full size out of camera untouched files!

and the 100% crops…

Some high ISO testing – I used a tripod here and set each camera to the same ISO, same aperture and same shutter speed..

and the 100% crops…

one more – testing ISO 1600 and Auto White Balance in semi low light (indoor daytime) – The GXR does have better AWB IMO over the X1 and its shows here. The X1 has the yellow cast that shows up in lower light.

and the 100% crops…

So there you go. Comparisons at low ISO, the highest ISO and a AWB test. Both cameras seem pretty similar with the X1 seeming brighter (and maybe more livelier) in most situations. In some of the shots it appears the GXR is a little sharper than the X1 but it also has a bit of a different signature. The GXR has better AWB in low light IMO. The X1 is $1995 and the GXR with 28mm lens is about $1050, almost half the cost. The GXR has the capabilities to change lenses/sensors and the X1 does not.

The X1 is a Leica and has the red dot and is a gorgeous looking camera. It’s simple, has easy controls and is highly a highly capable camera with a fixed focal length of 36mm. The GXR is more industrial looking and sturdier. While the controls are not as elegant as the X1, they are there.

I’ve had people ask me which camera I would buy if I was starting from scratch and wanted a compact big sensor camera – The X1 or the GXR system. That would be tough because I would have to see what the new firmware does for the X1 but with that being said, I think my heart would want the X1 but my brain would tell me to go with the GXR. Then again, the Fuji X100 which should be available within 3 months will throw a wrench into this whole thing. If the Fuji is as good as it appears to be (and it may not be) then it will be the one to beat. BUT the Fuji is much bigger than the X1 or the GXR so it is not really a compact.

For a compact big sensor you have three choices that are good – The Leica X1 at $2k, the GXR and Module at about $1k and the Sony NEX-5 with kit lens at $700. Those are my three favorite in the small size/big sensor market.

Thanks for reading this and I hope it was useful to some of you! The X1 is currently out of stock almost everywhere but it seems that Dale Photo has at least one in stock here and they are a site sponsor that is 100% trustworthy. The GXR is available through Amazon for $349 for the body only, and they have a few in stock HERE. The 28mm module is available to order at Amazon as well. Enjoy!

Steve

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53 thoughts on “Quick Comparison – Ricoh GXR & 28mm vs Leica X1”

  1. i think from your samples, the GXR and the X1 are not even in the same class, sharpness wise. on every single image the ricoh is WAY sharper then the X 1.

    i bought a GXR 28mm two days ago, i think its an outstanding camera, escpecially for black and white

  2. Due to this comparison and the other reviews I’m now the proud owner of a Ricoh GXR. I love that camera. It feels good in my hand and it just makes me want to shoot with it. The Autofocus doesn’t miss and the AWB is great. And I love the colors especially in Vivid Mode. I think the Leica X1 is a very good camera but my heart belongs to my Ricoh GXR. It’s all about personal taste.
    Thanks for helping me with my decision!

  3. Leica has no chance in winning against Ricoh.It’s no surprise why Ricoh cameras have a cult status in Japan.It’s also probably the best camera out there for B&W photography.Stunning build-quality,great industrial “prototype” look,that’s how a real pro camera should be designed.Amazing film-like grain,very analog looking.I own one and it’s a joy to use.And you’ll be able to use your Leica glass on Ricoh GXR body as new module/adapter is due next year.

  4. Great comparison Steve, thank you. I would like to ask how do you find the dynamic range of these two cameras in RAW files. You regarded the GXR highly in a separate review, so I am wondering how does the X1 compares at the same ISO of 200 (I recall that many digital cameras have the best dynamic range one stop above the base ISO).

  5. I first bought a CX, then went to the GXR and then to the GRDlll and have loved all of these ricoh cameras. My GXR kit has all of the mods except the P10 and I use them all. I also use the GRDlll a lot, went on vacation with it alone due to space concerns. Thanks always to Popflash for being in my eyes the premier dealer. I was able to get a demo to play with before deciding to buy, now that is the way to buy a camera and lenses. Also, the size of the GXR with EVF is not really large, it is close to perfect and fits so well in one’s hands.

  6. Hi! Thanks for the review! If you allow a rather subjective remark reacting on the comments on the looks of the models:
    I don’t understand why most people seem to think the X1 is beautiful. I MUCH prefer the design of the Ricoh and think the Leica looks too boxy and unfunctional. From a designer’s point of view the Ricoh is organic and functional while the Leica is formalist (and ‘classicist’). I think the Leica hand grip looks terrible… And I know the Ricoh feels very very good in your hand with that rubberised grip. As you said, it’s matter of taste. And owning a GR for me the choice is clear :)

  7. The noise in the GXR doesn’t bother me. The banana’s noise is a fine grain that probably would lessen by adjusting the exposure to +1. Or running it through some light noise reduction. I am a little surprised to see the noise though, after seeing the other samples on the previous posts. GXR sounds like a better value than the X1 though. Body plus two modules and still less than the X1.

  8. As an owner of both, I think that one of them is a good camera and the other a great one. The problem I have with the X1 is mainly the price for what it is. I’m trying to put myself in the position of someone who is aspiring towards a Leica but cannot quite manage a digital M and can just about afford the X1.
    At 2K and over this just isn’t on. The much maligned AF issue is a joke but we know this so it’s not worth going into again, however what does north of 2K get you? Yes the IQ is great but so what?? The IQ is great on the GXR and a whole host of cameras of the same nature. Do I like the X1? Sure I do…it’s a Leica after all, ask me a more pertinent question…do I use it much? the answer is no! This isn’t because it’s not a good camera..it is, it’s more to do with the fact that it doesn’t really offer standard prerequisites for a modern camera and certainly not for a camera that costs that much money.

    The OVF is useless in that any camera that is reliant on AF cannot in my opinion offer an OVF solution with any dependability.

    The battery/SD card door is cheap feeling and doesn’t close properly which again for that kind of money is unacceptable.

    The faux leather has a tendency to peel off which should not happen for a camera of this reputation and price.

    The LCD is in a word..comical (let’s just leave it at that)

    The ‘start-up/shut-down time is fine….IF YOU HAVE A SPARE WEEK LYING AROUND before you take the picture.

    Basically there are a ton of firmware quirks and idiosyncrasies that we somehow accept for what they are like ‘Leica lemmings’ to the proverbial slaughter simply because we’re so accustomed to saying “well, it’s a Leica so it’s to be expected…it’s okay because that’s just the way it is”. Well it isn’t okay and for someone aspiring towards their dream camera (which is most people judging by the main demographic on this site alone) it just isn’t good value for money!

    In stark contrast, the GXR offers GREAT value with comparable and by many peoples opinion…better IQ (subjective before anyone gets their knickers in a twist) but ticks all the aforementioned boxes. But lets not harp on the two comparisons because this post will undoubtedly be a target for X1owners/GXR haters to attack just …well just because.
    Lets throw the new Panasonic GH2 into the mix. A camera that uses Leica glass technology and is in a word…AMAZING! (I am lucky enough to be using it as we speak). The body costs around a thousand bucks and you could buy the wonderful 14mm f/2.5 AND the 20mm f/1.7, a spare battery and still have change left! Do you see what I’m getting at with all of this?

    The X1 is a good camera but with all the shortcomings listed above (and those are not subjective, they are glaring facts) it’s just not worth the money to the consumer looking to spend their hard earned money.

    ~S

    1. The x1 is the only of the bunch (if you include GH2 etc) which IMO can still be called compact.
      The display isnot great but if you turn it on bright it works good enough for me to frame and take my images.
      The battery door and leather-mine is fine, but I agree that some people have problems and it should not be the case for that price.

      IQ IMO between the x1 and what I see here from the Ricoh is both very good, IMO not the deciding factor.

      Price for the x1 is very high, still I do not see any other camera which combines the UI, IQ in such a small and light package.
      Is it worth the money? Everybody has to answer himself.

    2. As an owner of both I can’t disagree with your summary. The GXR A12 is the superior photographic tool, irrespective of price. Yet, for some reason I can’t let go the X1. As Steve said, the brain says Ricoh, the heart Leica. The X1 could be great, but falls short in a few important areas. Some of which could be addressed by FW upgrades. Unfortunately, Leica has not shown any sense of urgency to improve the X1.
      Concerning Ricoh, I hope they will add a fast 35 or 40mm equiv. pancake module to the mix soon.

  9. GXR have faster focus and thats the main reason for me !
    GXR has IMO better controll buttons.

    Just looking at the above pictures I see that the X1 really underperforms here. All picuters are too bright, sorry but guys are you blind or just Leica Fans ?

  10. How can you say the Leica looks beautiful, especially with the addition of the grip which to my eyes must makes it look ugly. Which they would have engineered good ergonomics into it. The X100 will have a bit of a grip to it, so that might please my view of the that camera a bit more on the plus side.

  11. Hello Steve

    Thank you for the comparison. May I suggest that this review be completed with some major differences between the 2 cameras. One that comes to mind is that the X1 is 3: 2 ratio only even with the LCD while the GXR allows more ratios .I think that one sentence should be added about the high level of customization of the GXR
    I think that mentioning the NEX is only of marginal relevance . Even if the results of the cameras were similar because of the fact that they use a SONY sensor , I think the differences in the User interface of these 3 cameras is VERY significant and should be one of the deciding factors for which camera is suited for each user

  12. No over exposing on mine. That’s why I asked Steve about the metering settings he had set on them- spot/frame/spot+frame. I have mine set on spot+frame except when going for artistic shots

  13. It looks to me like the X1 is routinely overexposing by about 1/2 to 2/3 of a stop, except for the pic of the bananas. There I think it was right on, but only because the X1’s tendency to overexpose balanced out the fact that the subject is mostly white, and would otherwise have fooled the meter into underexposing.

    From this comparison I’d say the GXR wins in terms of metering. Does anybody who owns the X1 have this problem with overexposure? If so, does the X1 consistently overexpose by the same amount? Consistent overexposure by 1/2 or 2/3 of a stop is easy enough to correct, but if it’s erratic then that’s a serious problem.

  14. The Leica looks great… but not with that cheap looking black plastic grip and baseplate, the baseplate is even thicker than the chrome one it’s stuck onto. That’s the aesthetics out the window.

      1. Steve

        Agreed, the grip is almost a must. The viewfinder is nice too, although I wish they put a mark where the centre focus point is. If it had that I’d be using it more than I am.

        1. As an alternative to the grip one should consider the thumbs up (matchtechnical.com) which I prefer. As for the center point focus- that shifts depending on how close you are (in between either the dotted or solid lines)

  15. great real world review as ever steve. I have been on a largely forlorn quest to find the perfect digital compact and
    but for the price tag would have gone for the x1,however I had the ricoh gx100 and that was a good bit of kit.however I have settled (after the frustrating dp1) for the sigma dp2s and despite not being the digital contax t3 I sadly crave it’s a little gem if you can live with it’s numerous shortcomings.checkout my flickr.com stream….search for chelseadave55.
    howabout campaigning for an ALPA made compact ,foveon sensor,optional leica or zeiss glass?
    keep up the good work!!

    1. “LPA made compact ,foveon sensor,optional leica or zeiss glass”

      Now that is pure fantasy Dave, but boy – What a great fantasy! :)

    2. Dave,

      I am also a forlorn member of the “waiting for a digital Contax T3” club. Excited about the X100 but still pine for a full frame, fixed focal length compact with optical viewfinder.

  16. GXR seems to have a richer color. And given the lower price and the flexibilities to interchange modules, I will go for the Ricoh. Thanks Steve for the reviews.

    1. GXR, X1, X100, if Sony launch a Zeiss 24mm E mount lens next, the NEX will join this group as well.

      GXR seems noiser in the shadows at base ISO compared to the X1.

      1. The GXR base ISO is 200, the X1 is 100. Also, the GXR is more aggressive with sharpening for some reason. These were all from RAW with no enhancements at all and how each file came out of the camera/RAW conversion.

  17. i agree with you steve, the gxr sky rendition is horrible to say the least ….., but can be fixed in pp …other wise the gxr is an awsome system….! personally i decide to wait until you posted the review before deciding on my compact walk around camera….came to the conclusion that i will be getting a sigma dp2s to start with then maybe adding a dp1x for 28 wide angle needs…! i just love the files from sigma very film like .

  18. Ricoh, kinda like Canon, adds a ton of sharpening to there files while Leica (and nikon) add less, i think the Leica would be better if you sharpened some.

    1. If you shoot RAW you get RAW, so the sharpening should not be an issue. Also, you can turn the NR way down on the Ricoh as I would think you can on the Leica.

  19. Apart from image quality, the psychology of a camera counts for so much. How do you feel walking around with one in the streets, do you love it on you? Do you feel comfortable pointing it at strangers, has it become a part of you? I always felt so close with my compact Olympus XA film camera, traveled the world with it, and only the Leica X1 has given me that same sensation of complete comfort that I never experienced with a dslr. Beauty counts, especially when the results are as stunning as what the Leica X! gives me. I”m sure I wouldn’t feel that way about the GXR.

    1. I recall the Olympus XA sa well. What an awesome camera. I still have an Olympus Stylus, as my XA broke finally. I loved the Yashica T4 too, but gave it to a friend in need of a P&S. That was a cool camera too. I like your analogy of the Xa and X1. I’m curious to see what the future firmware upgrade brings to the X-1. I haven’t found the perfect camera yet. The closest I’ve come was the small Canon SD800 IS, but low light files were so terrible. But the camera went everywhere with me, as much as my iPhone. I would say the Leica D-Lux 4 would be second and Sony NEX 5 third due to its size. So, no perfect solution for me yet. LOL!

  20. Looking at the first shots the GXR seems to have such a lot more noise, in fact the sky in the GXR looks pretty bad.

    I can’t see it printing very well at anything over 8×10

      1. Hi,
        The sky looks good if you ask me! There is WAY too much pixel peeping these days instead of printing.
        I print 8×10 from my ‘noisy’ GX200 and they look fine. More printing ans less ‘peeping’ would be the answer.
        Have to say though, film was MUCH easier!!! I could put what film I like in my Minilux to get the look I wanted.
        Who said digital was better? It ain’t cheaper!!!

        Oliver

        1. I’m not certain you’re aware of how big 8×10 really is. I’m viewing this on a 23 inch monitor and allowing the jpeg to fill up the entire screen. No noise here until I zoom in and stick my head mere inches away from the monitor.

          Appreciate the image as a whole as opposed to scouring it for noise. You’re gonna frustrate yourself beyond belief if you think there can be absolutely no noise in any part of any one of your photos.

          Many of the best photos I’ve ever seen from professional and amateur photographers alike have had all sorts of imperfections on them– At times it’s these imperfections that make the photos truly special.

  21. Steve from the brightness differences I would like to know- which exposure settings did you have set on each? Are they both on Spot + Frame or is one on Spot only or frame only…

    1. The ISO 3200 basket image was set to manual on each camera using the same exact settings. The X1 is still brighter. In other instances metering was set to the same for each camera but the X1 meters a bit different than the GXR/28.

  22. Both cameras look great. I give the X1 the nod but it is so close that other things are more important. The real question is: how does it handle? Looking at the rear screen as a viewfinder just doesn’t say “serious camera” to me. I’ve been poking around with my S90, and although it often has good files, the handling is about as doggy as any other point-and-shoot (AF is quick though). I would like to hear Steve’s experiences using the simple optical viewfinder that he has mounted in the top photo. I’m waiting for the X100 as well. With a good OVF (or hybrid) and handling that is as brisk as an SLR, I’m all over it.

    1. As far as handling is concerned. Ricoh’s user interface simply sets the gold standard and EVF or OVF can be used rather than rear screen for focusing.

    2. I havent handelt the GXR but some other Ricoh (GRD and G100) and why they handeled very good the x1 feels totally different. I personally love the x1 user interface with the 2 wheels and the few buttons. (And by the way also prefer it much over the overloaded m4/3 user interface).
      So I call that a matter of taste which one is prefered – but for me the UI is one of the main reasons for the x1 besides good IQ.

  23. Nice summary, Steve: The brain says GXR, the heart X1. I have both, and whilst the GXR A12 is the better, more versatile camera (from a rational standpoint), I continue to hold on to the X1. Hopefully the upcoming FW upgrade improves AF speed to the level of the Ricoh’s. One of the advantages of the X1 is size and weight. There is still no similar size compact with comparable IQ, and the Fuji won’t be either.
    As far as build quality is concerned, the GXR feels as if it can take some heavy use and even abuse. The X1 feels fragile in comparison, not justifying the premium price. So for traveling the world with a compact high IQ system, GXR with the two aps-c sensor modules could be a great choice.

  24. It is nice to see that there are more and more great cameras in the small size/big sensor category. I am amazed that Canon and Nikon have not launched any product in this market segment. I bet they relied too much on the G12 and the entry level DSLRs to cover it. People who wanted good files in a small compact bought the G models. These buyers now have better options with larger sensor compacts. Others moved up to DSLRs to get better quality but often disliked the bulk that they had to carry around. This new crop of cameras is an alternative to that. Canon must feel that and I wonder if they will react.

  25. I agree with most of what you said and find the comparison to be accurate. Although there is one part I would like to address, the “good”, “large” sensor compact cameras which are available. I think m4/3’s needs to be included in this. While the sensor is smaller than an APS-c chip it is still much, much larger than the standard compact sensor. Keep up the great work.

    1. Thanks Jeff. Yea, the M4/3 are much better than compact small sensor cams but I was only referring to APS-C sensors in this article which do perform better than the M4/3 sensors (so far). Thanks

      Steve

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