Quick thoughts on the Leica X1 by Amy Medina

Most of you have seen my (long) review of the Leica X1 but today Amy Medina sent me her short but sweet thoughts on shooting the X1 after buying one of her own. Amy has been shooting with a Leica M8 for quite some time and it sounds like she loves her new X1, quirks and all πŸ™‚

My thoughts on the Leica X1…By Amy Medina

So I recently bought one. I’d been thinking about it for a while with my hesitation being the fixed lens, but seeing how 28-50mm has really become a sweet spot for me, I decided to go for it.

The Good: The camera itself is beautiful. It is small and light but still feels well-made. I’ve heard complaints about the dials on top, but I haven’t really had any issue with them getting knocked out of position. They are certainly not as stiff-feeling as on the M8, but they do click into position.

I like the ergonomics of the camera. The way it seamlessly goes into shutter-priority or aperture-priority mode is brilliant, and makes switching into full-manual-exposure mode very easy (which you’ll read below is important). ISO is one button away. The shutter is virtually silent.

Image quality is outstanding! I was nothing short of amazed when I sat at the computer to review my first batch of X1 photos. The way the camera renders color is wonderful, and the files have this fantastically smooth but sharp quality to them. And, the 35mm FOV is perfect for me.

All of this makes the next batch of comments a little easier to swallow…

The Bad: Auto-Focus is indeed slow. What you’ve read about it already is true. If you’re coming from a manual-focus M camera it probably won’t bother you. However, if you expect it to perform like a GH-1 or dSLR you will be disappointed. It reminds me a lot of the Olympus E-P1 before the firmware updates.

The Ugly: a camera in the year 2010 should not lack AEL (auto-exposure lock). As it stands now, there is no easy way to separate the focus spot and the metering spot; at least not while you are shooting in the shutter-priority or aperture-priority modes. Thankfully, it is fairly easy, as mentioned earlier, to adjust your exposure manually, but combine the slow auto-focus with lack of AEL and frustration can brew.

The handling overall can be a bit slow. Reviewing your photos in playback can get pokey. Getting back to shooting a photo isn’t as quick as it should be. Waking from sleep can be downright painful.

And the battery life is awful. I’m lucky to get 100-125 shots on one charge. To be fair, I’ve been told by other X1 users that this will improve after the battery has been through a few charge cycles, but I won’t be going anywhere without an extra battery.

Conclusion: Focus on the “Good” if you are the type of shorter that is used to working slowly and wants amazing image quality in a small and nearly silent package. For my purposes and my style of photography the X1 is actually a good fit and, though it may not sound like it with some of my criticism, I really have enjoyed shooting with it the vast majority of the time.

Focus on the “bad” or the “ugly” if you’re considering a GF-1 or E -PL1 because of their snappy performance. The X1 kills them both in the image-quality department, especially at any ISO higher than 200, but it’s no contest if you need a camera closer to dSLR speed.

I am holding out hope that a firmware update from Leica can improve on some of the “bad” and the “ugly” … And if they do, I’ll be sure to come back and update my thoughts!

In the meantime, I’ll still be shooting my PAD project primarily with my Leica cameras. .. my M8 and my new X1. The “good” absolutely outweighs the other stuff for me…




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  1. I agree with your assesments of the X1 entirely. Except for me, the negatives outweighed the positives and I ultimately sold it. I never thought the camera was manufactured poorly but it always felt cheap to me. The M8, MP and M6 I was also shooting at the time I owned the X1 felt like fine timepieces while the X1 felt like a toy watch. It is capable of outstanding images but other things like the lack of viewfinder, lack of AEL and the positively glacial AF always made me wonder whether Leica had fleeced me and was laughing all the way to the bank. I sometimes miss the image quality but I miss little else about the Leica X1.

  2. Very good article and photos. Thank you. The X1 looks like an interesting camera, however it would take a pretty special camera to pry the M8 from my cold, dead hands. It is kind of amazing to me that anyone would want to own both the X1 and M8. If you have an M8, why pray tell would you need the X1? Truthfully, I find that using a Leica is a cursed existence… case in point, yesterday Lecia gauged me $180 for an M8 replacement battery. Admittedly I was bitter that they would nickle and dime you over a battery after you pay up the wazoo for a camera and lense… but then (like many times before) I uploaded some photos I took with the M8 and was blown away by what beautiful art Leica is capable of rendering. My anger subsided quickly. This is the cursed existence of the Leica owner.

  3. Elaine…
    If I had to choose between the X1 and the M8, I’d have a very very hard time! I have a certain love for my M8 camera that no other camera comes close to…
    However, if we are talking about image quality, the two are very close… and the X1 might even win out because it does high ISO so much better. There is a difference to the files though… the M8 has the unparalleled beautiful sharpness and depth that can just blow your mind at times. The X1 files are sharp and smooth, with amazing color rendition.

    I don’t know that I could easily choose! When I went on my trip to PA, I didn’t want to take all my cameras with me and someone had to stay home. I really AGONIZED over who would stay behind. The M8 ended up being the one, but I missed her!

  4. really great review for me…short + sweet with the need-to-know stuff. i have an m6 but as a full time mom i want the flexibility of digital so i pretty much exclusively shoot with my canon 5D. i am hoping an x2 comes out soon that addresses the pitfalls of the x1!
    love the blog steve…it’s an invaluable resource!
    heidi ;o[img]http://heidibuecking.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1603&action=edit[/img]

  5. That’s a good question Elaine. I’d like to know if X1 = M8 + 24 Elmarit – (IR issue), as far as IQ is concerned. From Amy’s samples, I’d lean towards yes.

  6. Amy, by reading this review, it makes me not want the camera. The slow AF would drive me nuts.I’d rather focus myself if it’s that slow.I love the photos you take with it though. If you had to choose between X1 and your M8, which would it be? Awesome article, by the way. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Dear Amy. I love your posts.The X1 is a great walk around camera. I had a GF1 and traded for the X1 The quality is amazing for a so called point and shoot I just posted Barcelona and London on www. Neal A Spero MD. Its fun with the noiseless shutter

  8. Agree 100% with the lack of AEL. For some reason, a lot of folks fail to understand the significance.

  9. I would also be interested to know what your steps for post were. Im sure I could manage something similar but the number of steps tends to be longer then what the original person did.

  10. Agreed with all of what you have said, Amy! Battery life is fine for me, about 300 shots without worrying. Must add that an EVF helps during daylight, since the screen of the X1 is hard to see. Here are a couple from my x1 collection.



  11. @Amy – Loved the photos and feel! Maybe you could write a processing article next! I’d love to learn what you did. They look great!

  12. @ Kristian
    different strokes for different folks. I see no difference in guessing exposures if the final result will be what my meter would give me. Ive gotten to know that my meter under exposes by about a half stop usually, but since its easier to get details from under exposure then over i leave it and use it.
    As long as you know what your meter is doing, I say use it.

  13. @Eric. I never use the camera’s meter when using manual. I guess the exposure, start from there and check the screen/histogram. Then as I see light changes I adjust. Very simple if you’re willing to put in the effort and think a bit.

  14. What Ive heard, true or not, is that Leica had to make a hard choice with the sensor included… And it’s processing power… Hense the slow auto focus. Could be wrong and only a firmware update will prove otherwise, but we shall see.

    AEL… there’s no reason for a camera NOT to have it, even if you yourself choose to never use it. I’ve gotten quite proficient at metering off the object I want to in a particular scene and getting the exposure I want doing so, but it is NOT always the same object I’m focusing on. Obviously I can do it manually, but in some cases, that just slows the whole process down further.

    These are not straight from the cam… I did shoot DNG and post process. I’m big on a somewhat “retro” type look, hence how I choses to process these.

    All were shot in Pennsylvania in a little town called Jim Thorpe! I went on a trip there for Memorial Day until it was cut short by me getting sick. Great little town!

    Follow me on Facebook if you like… http://www.Facebook.com/DangRabbitPhotography

  15. Thanks Amy for your review and great images πŸ™‚ I was toying with the idea of an X1 but came across a Leica CL in near mint condition with a couple of lenses and that won (especially the bargain price!) Maybe another time…

    @ Donn – totally agree, whilst IQ appears amazing as shown by Steve and Amy, there really is no excuse for a slow focus on a $2000 / 1550 euros camera! If Olympus and Panny have it sorted, why not the mighty Leica? If it does get fixed, I would consider one for sure.

    @ Kristian – spot on. But I do love a fast and reliable auto-focus πŸ˜‰

  16. The x1 has itΒ΄s downsides. However the image quality and compactness are a definite plus!

    I l i k e i t, t h o u g h !

  17. @Kristian

    I use AEL all the time. I wish I had the time to anylize the situation all the time but if i know i want to properly expose something ill AEL that and shoot from there. Different tricks for different folk.
    When I shot fully manual I realised I would not risk a moment on Sunny 16, and so I was still just turning the dials where the meter told me too. Its no differnt then shooting Apperture Priority and using AEL when needed.

  18. Nice review Amy, most of your experience is identical to mine.
    Considering the battery life, I get about 170 shots on a single battery, including about 20 shots with flash. This is after about 8-10 cycles, so I hope it does get better.

    What I also noticed is that I was able to take at least 25 shots after the battery indicator was already flashing red. So in my experience the battery indicator is a bit conservative maybe.


    Jan Martijn

  19. Why people even need AEL, especially with digital is beyond me. Av and Tv are automatic modes, NOT semi manual modes. While you think making an aperture/shutter choice decision is manual, the camera is selecting what ‘it’ thinks is the ‘right’ exposure, and each shot taken under the same lighting can be different cause with each picture taken, the exposure is re-calculated. AEL allows you to guess what you think the camera is exposing for and locking that into place.

    It’s still guess work, the same way exposure compensation works, all guess work. These are all gimmicks, tricking the consumer into thinking that the camera will provide better images. Unfortunately when it comes to photography, I rely on ‘myself’ to acquire the ‘great’ images and NOT the camera. Therefor shooting in manual is the ONLY way to achieve consistent imagery out of camera, where the photographer is responsible for the image, and thus not blaming the camera later for inconsistent exposures or lack of AEL for the poor images acquired. Remember cameras can only meter reflected light, not ambient light, which is not a reliable way to meter light.

    After shooting for some time in manual the photographer begins to learn how to read light and adjust according to light levels changing by making exposure adjustments as need be. The sooner photographers become responsible for their pictures the sooner and faster people’s images will improve.

  20. Thanks for the quick review. I like the photos and the color (as everyone has noted). I think, however, that for a $2000 camera, there’s no excuse for the kind of bugs you’re describing. I love Leica and have been shooting a Leicas since 1987; those kind of things are OK on a cheap point and shoot but unacceptable on a camera like this. IMO

  21. Amy,

    Those are terrific photos. The scenes look so much like my part of the world–Pittsburgh–I found myself wondering where they are.

  22. Love the colors and depth on the photos! Are these OOC jpg’s or did you shoot in DNG and do some PP? They have a film like feel to them. I really like them!

  23. great pics
    simple yet lovely article, you gave the feeling you wrote from the bottom of your heart and not from the bottom of your mind which made it so sencere
    loved it

  24. Beautiful images and a very short and to the point review. I wonder how it fares against the Sigma APS point and shoot ? anyone ever use both for more then a minute at the store ?

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