More thoughts and images from the Leica X1…

More thoughts and images on the Leica X1 by Steve Huff

I took the leap and purchased a Leica X1 a few days ago. I knew I would eventually wind up with one somehow because I was sort of smitten with it during my review.  It may not be the quickest or most technologically advanced camera when it comes to bells and whistles (which is something I like about it) but one thing is for sure, the image quality is gorgeous for it’s size and the beauty is also in it’s simplicity, which is a Leica thing. One reason I enjoy Leica so much is that simplicity. A body, a lens, a dial and a shutter button. The X1 has a menu system but its very very simple and all on one page.

The X1 may not be a speed demon, but it looks so good it should be illegal 🙂

I guess I am a sucker for the “Leica Look” and wether you agree with me or not, there is such a thing. I spent all morning going over old photos that I have shot through the years with various cameras and I could always spot the Leica shots from the others. I found that there is also a “Canon Look” and a “NIkon Look” when it comes  to digital files and each system has its own way of rendering an image and presenting the color, contrast and feel of the image. It’s true. The Leica X1 will not give you the look of something shot with an M and a 50 1.4 but it will give you the brilliance, the detail, and even some glow at certain times. The micro-contrast is high and colors are rich.

ISO 1600 – closest focus – f/2.8 – Some PP in CS3. Selective sharpening, dodging and B&W conversion

another at ISO 1600, no PP, just a straight B&W conversion using Silver Efex Pro – f/2.8

next up…ISO 3200 – f/2.8 – NO PP at all, this is a straight from camera image (color was on vivid) – The room was actually sort of dark, but the X1 seemed to add light like many Leica lenses do with an M camera.

another iso 3200 image.

and finally, just testing out the spot metering….

Nothing fancy here, just a few more shots of my family. I have to thank my son for his continued patience with me. Its been so hot here lately (AZ heat sucks in summer) that I have not been able to get out and get any interesting shots, but he always makes  them interesting for me anyway 🙂

More thoughts on the X1 and how Leica can improve it with an X2:

After using the X1 again after many months of not even seeing one I have come to appreciate it even more for its qualities, but also realized there is lots of room for improvement. Just wanted to say I love the camera, but there are a few things that NEED fixing.

  • The battery door should be much sturdier for a $200o Leica compact. There have been reports from owners about the door sticking out, and mine does this as well when a bettery is loaded. I would love to see a sturdy door with a nice metal latch closing it tight. The way it is now, it is a flaw and one where dust or moisture could get into the camera.
  • I hate to say it but I have become a believer in HD video capabilities and feel they should be in all cameras these days. I use the video all the time in my Oly as that is how I do my videos for the site. Since the X1 does not have video, I have to keep an Oly E-P2 on hand for that. If the X1 had video it would be even better. My crystal ball tells me the next X will have HD video, but it may be a while as the ball is fuzzy.
  • I also feel (as does everyone else) that Leica needs to get the AF up to speed, and they also know this. I think they will in the next X, but again, I have no inside info here. Just a guess. I would not have bought an X1 if I knew an X2 was on the way 🙂
  • Offer it in black and grey. It’s like a mini M in many ways, so why not a black paint X1/2 along with a Grey? Would be cool IMO.
  • As good as the IQ is, it could be improved with a better/faster lens. If  they can get an f2 lens on the X series I would be drooling. Get the ISO up to 6400 and that would be sweet. Imagine a Leica f2 lens with even better high ISO.
  • So, beef up the build and battery door, add HD video, speed up AF, improve battery life, offer black and grey and speed up the lens and I feel this would be an “X” instant classic. Oh, and make it $1695 while you are at it! ha ha…

So even with those “improvement” ideas I still love the X1 as it is. Many call it a glorified P&S but it is more than that if Image Quality is what counts the most. I have never shot with a point and shoot that gave me results like this 🙂

I love the way it feels when strapped around me, and the strap it comes with it is beautiful. Is it expensive for what it is? Sure, but again, NOT really. It’s IQ is superior to any compact I have tried in regards to color, noise, and detail. It’s also gorgeous  to look at and’s a Leica! While you can get the oddball Sony NEX 5 with lens for $700, or an Oly E-P2 which is much more versatile and solid feeling for $1000 with lens and EVF, or even the superb Ricoh which gives the X1 a run for the money in the IQ and versatility  dept, the X1 is all about the image quality, simplicity, size and beauty. It’s hard to understand it until you own one. From its presentation packaging to it’s design, the X1 gives you that pride of ownership you often get with the finer things in life.

Me, I am looking forward to what the X2 will bring and I KNOW there will be an X2 eventually as the X1 was/is a hit for Leica and they usually start working on the next model immediately. I would bet anything that an X2 and even an M10 is already in the works and my fuzzy crystal ball sees a 2012 release for both! Ha ha…

Mr. Leica Dealer extraordinaire sells these X1’s and he sometimes has them in Stock. I know one reader and guest writer of this site, Amy Medina bought hers from Ken and he got her one in a matter of 1-2 days. You can e-mail him here if interested, and remember, I get no money from Ken for recommending him. I do so because he is AWESOME! B&H Photo also sells the X1 but I have yet to see it in stock. BUYING anything from B&H after following a link here WILL help me fund this website 🙂

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  1. Hello…..
    I read so much about the X1…..thank you to all contributors.
    I am a professional photographer living in Argentina….and the X1 was my fist Leica.
    I bought it about 1 year ago and learnd to work around it´s little problems….
    I did some assignements with that camera and I know now that it is a fantastic tool.
    I would love to share some with you …..



  2. “Buy a 35mm Elmarit and get a free body.” I can’t remember where I read that, but that’s what convinced me to get the X1. I’ve been quite happy with its performance to this point and with the firmware update looming it can only make the X1 even better. As far as Leica marketing is concerned it brought me into their line of M bodies. Afte the X1 purchase came the M8 and recently the M9.

  3. Leica in fact has addressed some of the issues with the release of the Black X1. It comes with new firmware that does allow it to focus quicker. Based on Steve’s test video for focusing speed I would estimate the new firmware has the current release X1 focusing in half the time or about 1/2 second.

    When pressing the “Play” button to preview images the new firmware pulls up the first image in about half the time as compared to the original release X1.

    The battery/memory card door fits perfectly with a memory card and battery in place. Time will tell if the door itself is flimsy.

    My personal disappointment is that Leica did not provide for a DNG only mode. The choice remains DNG plus one of two JPG modes. A lot of additional memory space and read/write time required regardless of the users needs.

    All that said what this camera has in spades is “Image Quality” and an elegant/sexy design with a case just slightly larger than the Leica D-lux 4/5. The real sting is the price of admission but as they say, if you have to ask…….

  4. Thanks for the every useful review Steve.

    I do find this camera very attractive and has it’s market, however at $2k I would love to see Leica throw in a f2 instead of a f2.8! That’s the least they can do. Or perhaps an f1.4 even!!! That’ll be dreaming of course, then again, the X2 will be a dream big frame compact.

  5. Hi, Thanks for all the great reviews.
    I’m thinking about selling my EP2 with 20mm for an X1(although I do love the EP2). I have the 7-14, 40-150, and a 50 Takumar.
    I almost always use the EP2 as I mostly shoot friends and family.
    Will I notice a big difference stepping up to X1? I mainly long for better low light , high ISO.
    I don’t really care much about the focus speed, EVF… and since I’m not really using the other lenses much X1 might be a good fit for me since I really am impressed with the flickr images for X1. I don’t know much about Post P. but I’m willing to learn … I’m just wandering do I need to be really got at it to get all these fine images or can a newb like me get those crisp images with newbie PP skills?

  6. Many thanx for all your words on all things Leica.
    I got my hands on an X1 this week and quickly shut it out of my mind.
    As I held the X1 I realized that it’s a small camera after holding an M8 for the past couple of years and now the M9 and that for me is the issue. It just felt too small.
    I would love a small pocket sized camera and then I realized that I have one, it’s my iPhone.
    It’s fun, especially loaded with Plastic Bullet. I will wait your review on the Finepix but more and more I am tempted back to film which means an MP, bugger, need to buy a lottery ticket.

  7. Hi Steve, Thanks for great review.
    I am a bit worried about lack of lens hood for Leica, with fragile lens it is a must, have you heard of anything? Cheers,

  8. A word on price. I bought an X1 last week, partly because of the quality of Steve’s images. I bought it tax free in the UK and had it shipped to Abu Dhabi. It was sent last Friday by UPS and arrived on Sunday – very impressive. When I compared the price against that of a Panasonic DMC GF1 on sale in Dubai it seemed like a hugh difference but, and it’s a big but, when I added the cost of the additional pancake lens and the case – which will never be as good as the Leica leather one – the price differential didn’t seem that bad. I had the same experience with a D Lux 4 I bought last year. It’s worth shopping around.

  9. Having used the X1 for 4 months now, I must say that it is simply outstanding! Steve, welcome back to this camera. I find it satisfying in that it has quelled any desire for m4/3, is compact, with top notch IQ packaged with a nearly silent sensor. Many improvements are needed, and a faster lens would be nice (35 cron or even 40 cron) to provide more DOF control, but I find myself loving the camera and using it regularly. Maybe I will write about my experiences as well in the weeks to come…

    • Ashwin,

      It’s so nice to hear someone simplify what a camera is supposed to be all about. It’s so easy to get caught up in what it doesn’t do, where it falls short by comparison, why it’s not worth it etc. What it sounds like you’re saying is that it boils down to one thing, it works for you….you like it!

      I to am guilty of looking at a cameras flaws rather than it’s positives, perhaps because I seem to acquire pretty much anything and everything that comes out and looks interesting even if I sell it later on. For example, the NEX-5 that Steve’s comparing the X1 to, I bought it twice in the space of under a week. Sonystyle sent one to me in L.A and I used it for a couole if days then sent it back because I was none too impressed. Then on my trip to Europe, bought it again, this time with the lens I wanted from the start..the 16mm f/2.8 in chrome with a chrome body. What a beautiful looking camera…absolutely stunning and the size is amazing. However in terms of it’s output, there’s only one word that comes to mind in describing that aspect of it….SH*TE! utter and total SH*TE.

      A strong word perhaps but it comes out of frustration more than anything else. Great everything except file quality and lens quality, the latter of which could be responsible in part for the former. It’s the camera that could’ve been and for the life of me I cannot understand why Sony have missed that boat on it, I so wanted to love or even just like that camera.

      However my point is that someone will buy it and LOVE it because it works for them, just like the X1 with it’s subjective faults (and I use that word intentionally because no matter what anyone says….faults of this nature and for the most part in general, even the battery door thing are SUBJECTIVE).

      So none of my experiences with the Sony will matter and some who have it will wonder what on earth I’m talking about…it’s GREAT! He must have a bad copy.

      I too have the X1 and started using it again after the dust had cleared and after I stopped looking at what it didn’t do. I had Leica send me an external VF for it which incidentally completely changes the user experience, I highly recommend it. And so once I stopped looking for the subjective faults, a funny thing happened. I realized that it’s a simple camera that works for me! It meets what I really need from a camera which is one that instills confidence in me whenever I pick it up (the AF needs sorting but we know that so lets not go there…..again) and one that has great IQ, which I must say in my opinion does not on technical specification sheets surpass everything else. There are others on the block like the Ricoh GXR, the Samsung (yes….Samsung) NX10 which are both comparable and perform admirably in their own right as well as having more resolution in terms of pixel count. But what the X1 does have is a look to it’s file! Plain and simple…a look like no other and if you like that look as does Steve, you Ashwin, myself and a whole bunch of happy X1 owners, then it’s a great camera! 🙂


  10. Congrats on your camera, Steve!

    I, like many other people, am waiting to see what Panasonic’s new compact being announced this month will be like. Four Thirds size sensor, LX3-like dimensions, fixed 3x zoom lens starting at f/2 by Leica, and a Digilux version. It’s liable to address some of your wishlist – f/2 lens and probably faster AF than the X1.

    People are already calling it the ‘LC2’ although no model name has been officially announced yet.

  11. After reading your first reports on the X1, I bought the Panasonic GF1. I have both the 14-45mm and the 20mm lens for it. Keep the 20mm on since I made that purchase. Main reason was cost. But then I could have waited and made the purchase at the end of this year, but because of the difference in focus speed I didn’t go with the X1. Major purchase for me as I am retired and money isn’t always there for my photography. That said, I will follow your blog and see what comes up, if and when they offer an X2. I don’t expect that soon. And then you can’t even see one in Charlotte which doesn’t make any sense. 18 largest city in the USA, 700,000 people and not a Leica dealer here. The nearest dealer is 5 hours away. Strange.

    • In Phoenix there is ONE dealer that handles new Leica… fwiw Charles. #6 city or so… they are that niche of a product. There is one more that handles used. Most people here have never heard of Leica, seriously. Don’t hold your breath for a local dealer!

  12. hey Steve, what is difference between the X 1 and D-Lux 4? I can”t seem to decide to which one to get/

  13. @Richard

    Nice black and White shot. It has a non-digital look about it which I really like. Very real image if that makes any sense.

  14. Steve. lLove your photos. The X1 is a wonderful walk around camera. What I I have learned for non blurred jpegs is Iso 400 f2.8 Sharpening medium low Contrast and Saturation medium high.My one complaint is the dials keep moving. Happy fifth to all and keep shooting Neal

  15. Just to add. Anybody monitoring 43 rumors site?They are almost certain that Panasonic are going to release a LX3 size (ish) fixed lens with about 3 times zoom camera in about 2 weeks time. 4/3 size sensor and with a ‘rangefinder type’ viewfinder. Leica lens! May be a Leica version coming too. So, four thirds size sensor in a LX3 size body (!) with fast leica lens and ‘rangefinder’ type viewfinder. Hmmm. Sounds like a lovely backup to my M 🙂

  16. I noticed the battery door issue, but I’m not bothered as my X1 has the grip attached almost permanently.

  17. Steve – I have had my X1 for several months now and love the IQ. I have a five month old and have some photos from the X1 are fantastic. I will have them forever and they are worth every penny I spent on the X1. My only complaint is that given my subject, I don’t always get many usable pictures given the speed of the camera. I also have a G1 and while that camera is plenty fast, the IQ is not the same. Considering purchasing a dslr to go along with the X1. I would be interested to see how you would compare the X1 IQ to other APS-C and FF dslr. Afraid if I go for just an APS-C sensor dslr, I will be disappointed with the relative quality. Appreciate the help and I will (as we all should do) purchase the camera thru B&H from your website.

    • Compare the X1 to a D700 with a Zeiss Distagon (fitness course included) and be amazed at the results… 🙂

    • Coming from an X1 a FF SLR is the only real option imo. From an IQ point of view that is.
      In various reviews the IQ from the X1 is rated higher or at least equal to the Nikon D300s (with a comparable lens) and this is one the best current APS-C SLRs.

  18. Obviously or not obviously, the (obviously revered in this case…) design brief for a new camera should avoid obvious user complaints…

  19. One of my favorite B&W shots from the X1 so far.


  20. [img][/img]

    Taken with a M7, summilux 50mm and Reala 100 very early last Saturday morning. Saturday morning. A shot that would have looked different if it had been taken using a different system. The wonderful thing about different systems. Diversity 🙂

  21. @ Richard

    Excellent post. Well thought out and makes a lot of sense. As an film M shooter I agree that it has it’s ‘differences’ from a D700 (which I also own). I call it a difference rather than a flaw as it forces a different strategy to get the shot and it results in an image that is very different to the D700 in terms of focus, shutter speed and composition. For example if you have the speed of a D700 you rarely get a picture of someone slightly blurred due to having to use a slow shutter speed due to low light and iso 100 film 🙂 but that unexpected shot and blurredness can be the magic shot! Each system has it’s flaws/differences. For some you have to work harder and as with most times you work harder, get up earlier, you get a deserved reward. If it is more difficult, fewer people are doing it and fewer examples of the results are available.

  22. when the x1 came out I was very excited. I thought Leica would have done a compact camera for street photograhpy. But when I first saw, that the camera hasn’t any integrated viewfinder, no posibility of lens changing I was already dissapointed. Needless to say, that such a bad AF makes this camera only capable for travel still photography: Landscapes, architecture… Would it be so difficult to make a cm digital? I’m still hoping for it.

  23. Congrats Steve on the X1. I love mine as well! What are your thoughts on the straight from cam JPEGs? Is it worth just using the JPEGs and then trying the perfect the in-cam settings of those in order to acheive the look one wants? This would be to avoid spending time PP on the computer and instead just enjoy shooting. Then only tweak use the DNG files for ones best shoots, that would be printed etc.


    • Thanks! #2 and #3 were JPEGS and I feel the JPEGS are pretty good from the X1 if not a little over sharp but this can be subdued in the settings. JPEGS are really good IMO.

      • Thanks Steve, I think I’ll experiment with JPEGs, try out the different settings and try to optimmize for the look I want. Would make life easy and give more time shooting pictures and less time behind the computer. Thanks for all your excellent work on your site. 🙂 Mads

  24. Nice write up Steve, it did surprise me that you didn’t get one following your original review of the X1 but I guess it’s all relevant to what kit you had at the time.

    I’ve had an X1 for about 3 months or so and while it doesn’t have either a good built quality or fast AF it does deliver the goods when it comes to image quality and earns it’s price tag.

    Using an OVF and setting the focus to manual turns the X1 in to a pretty good street shooter, I purchased a Bessa R2A and Zeiss 35mm f2.8 a few weeks back so the X1 is being retired from street shooting.

    For me the X1 delivers a much less digital look than the current MFT range but I do love my EPL-1 too much to sell it.

  25. I enjoy shooting the x1 next to my M8. I am very much a 50 mm and sometimes 90 mm guy for closeups with the M8 and the x1 really saves me time changing lenses when I want to go 35 mm. Better AF would result in more keepers in certain situations where the M8 performs much better.

    One major advantage of the x1 has not been mentioned, so far. The lens is not interchangeable, therefore the sensor does not collect dust particles, as does the M8. No problem shooting wide open, but at f16 ….

  26. Tnx for your extra thoughts on the X1 Steve…

    A lot has already been said and discussed about the X1s AF here and around the web. I have my X1 for about a month now and it has a few hundred frames under its belt.

    True, the AF is not SLR or m4/3s fast. But as with just about everything, it’s pretty relative. I have a Panny LX3 that I used alongside my Canon SLR (which is gone now). The X1s AF is as fast or faster than than the LX3. Without exception. And consistently more accurate under virtually all conditions. The LX3/Dlux 4 are well tested and respected compacts around the world. They are about as good as it gets with a small sensor. And there has not been a single bad word about their AF performance.
    So if the X1 is a ‘glorified P&S ‘ – which I think it is too – the AF is on par with the b(r)est of them.

    But then, the current m4/3 cams blaze past the X1 on speed…

    This is where Leicas’ deliberate sensor choice rears it (ugly?) head. The goal was to get the best possible IQ in a small & light package. This pointed towards the current Sony APS-C sensor, originally designed for SLRs and used in the Nikon D300s too. The problem with this sensor is that it has a lowish internal frame rate of only 24 f/ps. No problem in an SLR but a big challenge in a compact that uses contrast AF. For the speed of contrast AF the frame rate of the sensor is a decisive factor. The current m4/3 cams have sensors that are specifically designed for their mirrorless life and have 60 f/ps. This is why these cameras will always have much faster AF. And also the reason that the X1s AF won’t get much faster with firmware updates.

    Ricoh made the same choice with the GXR A12 that uses the same sensor. And they have the same AF challenges as Leica. Only Leica did a better job. The AF from the A12 is much worse.

    So Leica didn’t do anything wrong with the X1. They knew the sensor would give them a serious challenge in the AF department right from the start. But as IQ was the #1 design goal they still made this bold choice. And it paid off as the X1 delivers stellar IQ and extremely resilient DNG files way beyond any compact and m4/3.

    Leica doesn’t have the ability nor the ambition to play in the high volume ‘a new model every few months’ arena. With cameras that please as much people a possible for the required turnover speed. That is the game of the big camera co’s.

    The X1 is a niche camera with compromises that give clear strengths and weaknesses. Like most Leicas’ btw…

    When you put an M up against a D700/5D MkII and compare ‘objectively’, the list of cons will be much longer than the list of pro’s right? Not much different from the X1 in this respect imo. But the M has a magic status that the X1 doesn’t. So different rules (seem to) apply…

    This does not withstand the X1s obvious flaws and omissions. A number of them can – and I think will – be solved or improved through the firmware.

  27. Hi Steve!

    I really enjoy reading your blog. It’s one of my destinations every morning on the net I’m really interested in the X1. At the moment I’m using Ricoh GRD2 along with my Ms. I just wanna ask you if the X1 has ‘snap focus’ mode (Focus at hyperfocal distance) like the ricoh does? It’s very fast for street shooting IMO.

    Thanks a lot Steve!

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