Crazy Comparison! Leica X2 vs Nikon J1

Crazy Comparison! Leica X2 vs Nikon J1

OK! Many of you have asked for a Nikon J1/V1 vs Leica X2 comparison to be done as a “Crazy Comparison” so here it is! There are a ton of Nikon 1 series fans who read this site and some of them thought this would make a cool post. So what do I do about it? Well, yesterday I headed down to Sedona AZ and I brought both the Leica X2 and  the Nikon J1 along with the Olympus E-M5 to see how each one would do shooting the same scenes, same aperture. I used the E-M5 for one shot only because this is mainly between the X2 and J1.


Keep in mind that the Leica X2 is $2000 and the J1 is $499 with a kit zoom, bag and SD card. So this is NOT a fair fight which is why it is called a “CRAZY” comparison. Just for fun guys so enjoy it!

The 1st one is from the Leica X2 from RAW – f/5.6 – click it for FULL size file

and now one from the little Nikon J1 – The sensor is much smaller and the J1 is only 10MP but the file looks pretty good! This one used the 10-30 Kit Zoom at f/5.6 and is from RAW. Click it for full size file.

and I couldn’t leave out the OM-D E-M5! This one is with the kit zoom at f/5.6

So here are a few more X2 and J1 comparisons…

The X2 at f/5.6 – from RAW – click it for full size file

and the J1 file

One more from the X2 – click it for full size

and the J1 – same deal, click it for the full size

So there you go! For those asking this should be cool – a few full size files from each camera. The J1 can put out a sharper (but noisier) file no question, but the X2 has the capabilities to print larger of course. The X2 also has the capability to shoot at f/2.8 and with the larger sensor would help speed, noise and depth of field (for those who want more shallow DOF). I can not tell a lie…in use, the J1 destroyed the X2. It was much faster, focused as fast as lightning, never missed and it was a piece of cake to use and shoot. The X2 was slower, missed a few times and had more motion blur doing indoor shots at the same shutter speeds (due to the IS with the Nikon V1 lenses).

These are two totally different cameras though with the J1 being a glorified point and shoot (but an excellent one at that) and the X2 being a more advanced enthusiast point and shoot 🙂 Below are a couple of shots I snapped inside of a restaurant with each camera. These were not ever meant to even be comparisons and I did not use same settings but it is cool to see that either camera can give good results inside.

The X2


The J1

and more from the little $499 J1 – click them for larger versions – I went a little bold on the colors here…

One thing I learned from this test is I still stand by my opinion of the Nikon 1 series and that the J1 is a kick ass little camera for $499 that IMO beats something like a Canon S90 any day of the week. The Leica X2 is also a beautiful camera but is for those with bigger wallets of course, and for those who want the Leica experience, which many of us do it seems!

I am a huge fan of the Nikon V1 and if you are someone who mainly posts to the web and prints 8X10’s or smaller than there really is no need for more camera than this. One thing to also note is that the video on the 1 series cameras is also SUPERB..all Nikon needs to do is release some faster glass for these little guys and then we will really be talking. As for the OM-D, I still have yet to find any issues or problems with it. Flat out great camera, period.

UPDATE: Just for giggles, why not?

Just to test things I snapped this AC unit at f/4 with the X2 and Nikon V1 (yes the V1 not J1) – I used the 10-30 Kit lens for the V1 and both were at ISO 100.

I then took the 10 megapixel file from the V1 and blew it up to 16 Megapixels to match the X2, just to see how bad it would be

Those are 100% crops but you must click the image to see the full size crop!

and below is the Nikon V1 10 Megapixel native resolution crop – again, to see the full 100% crop click the image

You can see the warm color signature of the X2 (a little bit overly warm IMO) but the V1 is sharper without question. The X2 is “richer” and “warmer” and has less noise of course due to the larger sensor. The V1 has a built in EVF, is much faster, a bit sturdier, has great video capability and is $1850 cheaper (when adding EVF into the costs). I was going to sell my V1 but decided to keep it as it is amazingly fun to shoot and it makes me want to grab it when I go out the door, moreso than the other cameras around here.

I do not get the creamy files of an X100 or the color of the X2 or the lenses of the OM-D but I do get no muss, no fuss, sharp images and huge DOF, which sometimes is a good thing.


  1. I loved reading your comparison, then got myself a J1 and simply love it, it’s a gem, I do most of my pro work with D3’s but I keep the J1 with me all the time, I even rain proofed it for shooting in the Mumbai rains read about it here. Thanks for a lovely comparison and the camera truly focuses in an instant.

  2. I’m not sure if it’s just my monitor (apple cinema 24″) but the landscape image shot by X2 looks really bad in comparison to Nikon J1. The reason I’m writing here is that I have leica x2 too and the shots taken by it should look much much better at f 5.6 than the one posted here. The image is not sharp, the trees are blurry and smeared, like it was taking by Sony P&S (T300 or something like that).
    If my X2 image looked like this one I would have returned it next hour.

    I hope I don’t break any forum rules expressing my opinion.

  3. crazy lazy is good.
    waiting to see what nikon delivers at photokina for the 1 system.
    a new body, new lenses, maybe….
    better ergonomic body V2?

  4. I suppose people will find plenty of good reasons for paying the premium for an X2. While the price is measurably different, I don’t see it in the IQ.

  5. I love the V1.

    I had a hasselblad, and the bought the prism finder and got great images. But I had more fun with faster, smaller cameras.

    The X2 would be nice, but when you add the finder it gets expensive and larger. And you can get some sharper images with the Nikon 1.

    Looking at the photos Steve posted I like the Nikon ones more. Of course you won’t get that shallow DOF.

    Thanks for the review Steve!

  6. I have both the X1 and the V1. Well I should say – had both, I sold the x1 on eBay last night. I liked the X1, I liked it’s size, I liked the way it looked, I liked that it was different. I liked the photos it took great still shots.

    The difference is – I love the V1. It’s just so easy for a mug like me to use. I love how it focuses, I love the EVF, I love the speed. I love it’s machine gun ability. Even if the Leica was the same price or cheaper than the V1, I think the V1 is a much better choice for most of us. When I say most of us – I mean mugs like me. I don’t know my Iso from my aperture from my shutter thingy. I just want to take some nice photos.

    I think that’s the point. I really can’t tell much difference in Steves comparison shots. But I can’t tell much difference in any of his shots! Most of the cameras seem to do a pretty good job. Of course for enthusiastic amateurs or professionals can tell the difference – good for you guys. I just want to take some shots of my kids surfing and skateboarding. The Leica never let me do this. Maybe 1 shot in 50. The Nikon nails it every time all the time. If only we could have Nikon electronics mixed with the Leica style and glass.

    I like the Leica – love the Nikon.

  7. I enjoy the Leica images, that I see posted online, more. An X2 feels better in my hands than a V1, and far better than a J1. I believe, based upon reviews, and handling both in a camera store, a J1/V1 to be better for auto-focusing on fast pets and children. For the art of photography, the X2 has my attention. I do not see the Nikon 1 to be an artist’s paintbrush. Different tools for different tasks.

    I nearly bought a V1 for purely practical reasons, as it can share batteries and chargers with my wife’s D7000, and with an FT1 adapter, share Nikkor lenses, but then the FT1 was priced at $250 USD, which made the combination much less appealing, especially as I see the V1 as overpriced. I/We may still buy a Nikon V1, eventually, but it has moved down the wish list by several places. Perhaps it will be more appealing if/when Nikon introduces more lenses, or lowers the prices of the cameras and adapter.

    To be clear, I am not a Leica fanboy. I love my Nikon film SLRs and Nikkor lenses, and am reading all I can find on the subject of the better Nikon DSLRs.

    Steve, thanks for authoring this article!

  8. Steve your ‘crazy’ series isn’t just fun it’s incredibly useful for those of us looking to purchase a new system when we don’t have access to all the candidates for practical picture taking. Seeing the results helps a lot!
    All great little cameras by the look of it. Here the X2 wins out a little bit on image quality but for me there’s not much in it ,and the OMD has a huge advantage for me…being able to share M lenses with an adaptor. I love that. Can’t wait to try my Apo Telyt 135 on a ( stabilized) OMD body in the rain ( with weatherproofing).
    Wow! i couldn’t have dreamed of that possibility a few years ago. I travel light. (Think hiking and biking in remote places). These cameras are really looking good for the kind of photography i do. Now, if only someone would come up with a solar battery charger. Pleeeease!

  9. say J1 is good at base ISO is misleading
    especially without fast lens, using ISO 1600/3200 is a must

    Of course it is better than S100
    but compare to E-PM1, GF3 , NEX or RX100
    is not usable at high ISO

    • The solution is to not shoot at high iso’s. The nikon 1 makes very nice images…it doesnt need to have the most resolution, nor the best noise to achieve wonderful results. Noise free high resolution photos are not the holy grail of photgraphy. There are camera gear collectors and now you have noise free high iso sensor collectors. Photography is becoming the male equivalent to the cosmetics industry. Women like to stare at their oily pores while men like to stare at their noisey images.

      • Yes, let’s get off of noise now!
        There are many more important aspects of a good photo other than noise and grain. Color, composition and timing for example. The internet is full of noisless but boooring images!

        Hi ISO? bullshit. Look at some of the work of the greatest photographers who used e.g. 25 ASA film! How about that!

  10. “These are two totally different cameras though with the J1 being a glorified point and shoot… and the X2 being a more advanced enthusiast point and shoot”

    Let it be asked: Does the final captured image care what segment the marketing department targeted? Does yet another closeup of yet another wine bottle label trump a quick capture of a fleeting facial expression? As users of expensive consumer mechanical toys, what exactly are our priorities?

  11. All look the same pretty much. I ditched all my small sensor cameras (NEX 5N, EP2, EP3, and GF1 I have owned all those in past year plus few APSC sized DSLRs) and decided to toughen it out. I carry my D700 with me everywhere and it allows me to capture wonderful images without any limitations. No worries for manual focus or ISO problems. If I want to manual focus I can still do it reasonably well. It’s not my M8 in body&soul&feel department but it is a tool that allows my emotions and creativity flow if it will stop raining already… I think the Leica is gonna go to support the D800 fund and my D700 would be my backup body 😛

    • Yes, it is really hard going back to something less when being used to the quality output from a D700, but for small sensor cameras the J1/V1 are doing very well – it’s no nonsense cameras that just does the job without any fuss and with great output.

      Btw. if you want the smallest possible setup for your D700 get the Voigtländer 40mm f/2.0. It is an extremely good lens and easy to manually focus on the D700/D800 and only cost something like $450.

      • If someone cares about video seriously, then gets a real camera and don’t mess around with still cameras.

  12. Thanks Steve – it goes to show what a 1″ sensor can do. I hope Sony will be quick to send you an RX-100 so that we can see your review on that!

  13. Steve, everyone knows by now your love affair with the Olympus E-M5. I have been reading your blog long enough to realize that this is a very rare occurance. The X100 almost got there but not quite. Nevertheless, the X100 sold like hotcakes and the panacea drove Fuji to push out the X1-Pro. (Too fast. Too furious.) Most of us read the X1-Pro as a rather lackluster successor compared to the X100 and we were hoping for more. Now, I believe, Oympus is in the same boat with the E-M5. They are going to feel the pressure to come out with a larger sensor, pro version of the E-M5 and I’m afraid that Olympus is going to rush this product too. Steve, is there any way you could gently suggest to Olympus to develop their pro version of the EM-5 slowly, deliberately, and without compromise?

  14. I love the B&W shot of the power lines Steve, and I love the way you see. I wouldn’t trade my Nikon V1 for any current mirrorless camera, and I’ve owned and sold several. I’m saying this to encourage others who may be interested in this tiny wonder. You have nothing to loose. Amazon, Adorama and B&H have wonderful return policies. I just shot my 10,000 frame today with my V1; currently using it to shoot an entire book project. Having had a camera in my hands for over 30 years, and being 100% digital for 12 years, I’ve used a lot of different cameras. This is the most fun hands down. Isn’t that part if it? And I’ve made 16×20 enlargements on an Epson 4890 which ate superb! Most of us never go beyond 11x14s if we are honest with ourselves. The V1 has allowed me to get photos that no other camera has. And I’ve had thousands of published photos including with the V1. Fast glass please Nikon!
    Did I mention that I wouldn’t trade my V1 for any other mirrorless? Not even if you gave me cash too.

    • Stop it, please. You make me regret having sold mine. It’s a very fine and usefull camera indeed and ranks number one when it comes to “fun factor”.

  15. Funny stuff…the J1 lens is de-centered with blurring on the left…the Olympus is de-centered with blurring on the right. The X2 you originally had was defective and showed poor sharpness. How many cameras do we need to test to get a good sample? It seems like they have the camera side of this business figured out but when it comes to lenses all are struggling with QC.

  16. I know I’m part of a large minority, but my favorite camera is the Pentax K-01. BTW, it has the exact same sensor (Sony) as the Leica X2. Outstanding quality with the Limited Edition Pentax lenses. Just a pity there’s no OVF/EVF, but I’ve learned to live with that. I love the J1 files here. It makes me wonder how a V1 would hold in my hands. I just might try one very soon. Thanks, Steve. Your crazy comparisons are always really fun to read. Have a great weekend, all!

  17. Thinking of getting rid of X2, OMD and getting Sony RX100.

    Just saying. The OMD with 20mm is 19 ounces. The X2 is $2000 and 12 ounces. The RX100 is 7 ounces. In most indoor shots I don’t think it will make a difference.

  18. Love my Nikon V1 – hope you continue to post things about the 1-series, always makes my day to see the little sensor that could hang with the big guns! I still believe speed is key now. We’re not on dial up, we instantly have the web/email/apps on our phone if we need it, and we shouldn’t have to wait for autofocus or camera functionality 🙂

  19. Hi
    After (so far) your test comparisons including x100, EM-5, X100 etc I don`t get all your hype about Leica X2. Sorry.


  20. Interestingly looking at the photos at about same size (100% for Nikon, 75% for Leica) Nikon appear as sharp or even sharper! At least in the central part of the image. This may be the result of different processing as well as the larger deph of field of Nikon 1.

    Leica do however seem to have more realistic colors and I see no disturbing chromatic abberations, maybe reduced already with software inside camera?
    Nikon has a bit of purple fringing and CA, not much, but visible while I am hard pressed to find any in the Leica Image.

    Looking at larger magnification the difference in resolution get more clear, especially in the sky where Nikon has a visible noise with filmlike pattern while Leica still feels smooth.
    It also gets apparent that the Nikon lens is not as sharp on the sides as in the centre. Actually it looks more unsharp on the left in the first photo. So maybe the lens have a slight decentering defect? Leica on the other hand seem sharp all over the frame.

    Leica produce the best image quality with better colors, more resolution, less noise and other artefacts and has the better lens.
    Nikon holds its own very well against Leica if not magnified to much and should satisfy most except pixelpeepers and those printing big. It is also much better priced!
    Addendum: The Olympus photo seem oversharpened and the kitlens suffer in the same way as Nikon’s, only not being such soft on the left side, but instead is less sharp on the right side, although not by as much as Nikon on the left side.

    Off topic: I wonder who live in that palace in the second comparision?

  21. In the first 3 photos the X2 has the least noise in the blue sky areas,followed by the Nikon J1.
    I was surprised to find the OMD was the noisiest of the 3 ,although its sensor is larger than that of the J1.
    Any reason Steve ?

    • Steve, I’m curious about this too. Expected better from the OMD based on what I’ve seen elsewhere.

  22. Fantastic comparison. I love the Crazy ones more than normal ones. More and more proof that damn near any camera made today is more capable of taking a nice photo than you are at finding/composing one!!

    The human is truly the weak link these days eh?

    • You sure said it Eric

      How crazy that “entry” level these days usually out spec’s the very top of the line stuff from a few years ago

      I remember paying $4500 for an original Canon 1D, a 4 meg DSLR about 10 years ago, these days there are probably camera phones that out perform it, yet somehow I ran a profitable business with such “primitive” technology.

      These days I don’t think there really is a camera made that couldn’t produce acceptable prints at decent sizes.

  23. While I don’t have any X1, or X2, I have a V1, and the wife an OM-D. Both outstanding, even when compared to most semi-pro DSLRs. In low light the V1 isn’t on par with the OM-D, which, due to its energetic sharpening, is a bit noisy. But I just love both cameras, but the V1 is my favorite, as for now.

    I think I have a nice set-up for my V1: Nikon 1 lenses: 10, 10-30, 30-110, and then a few G lenses: 50/1.4, 18-70, 55-200, 70-300, all fairly cheap lenses, but used with the V1 they are quite outstanding, as it does away with any edge softness. Sadly, there are no fast Nikon 1 lenses, and fast DX (or FX) G lenses are often very expensive, the AF-S 50/1.4G being an exception.

    The wife has a lot of lenses for her OM-D, as she have had her E-PL1 for quite a while, Some came into her possession due to DPReviews enthusiastic comments, some through Steve’s recommendation.

    The lens we bought after Steve’s recommendation, but never got on terms with, was the Pentax FA31.

    Every test told us The FA31 was outstanding, but it suffered terribly from flare, never mentioned in the tests we read. Built like a tank, weighing a lot, it didn’t quite make the grades, ever.

    We also have sold our FA43, a lovely lens in every respect, but the sale of both these, and a K-5, will finance next camera purchase – either a V2, or a second OM-D (the latter works splendidly with our remaining Pentax K Mount lenses, if you have the Novoflex adapter).

    • Tord how does the OMD do with sharpening turned down a notch at up to about ISO 1000?
      Are you shooting jpeg or raw?

  24. Thx for this crazy comparison.
    I own the V1 and thought about an upgrade to the X2.
    After a close look at the pictures i’m very happy to keep shooting with my Nikon.
    A ’50’-prime would be a welcome addition to the system.

  25. I wish I lived within striking distance of that amazing desert scenery. We have beautiful countryside here in the UK but no hot wildernesses like you guys have in the US 🙁

    • Sedona has 4 seasons. In the summer, the temperature is about 100 degree F(10 degrees cooler than Phoenix desert). Nice and dry. Winter may have light snow. A lot of hiking trails.

  26. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for this very interesting post.
    May I ask you what kind of post-production was used for the green chair / purple table picture ? Which parameter did you re-enforce ?

  27. Seems like any of these cameras stopped down, produce an acceptable/comparable file. This bodes well for the new Sony RX100. Soon you will have another camera to throw in the crazy comparisons!

  28. Any chance will we see the new Sony DSC-RX100 in one of these crazies soon? It looks very interesting!

  29. I prefer the warmer tones of the X2 but for sure the Sony will make nice 8X10 prints for my walls. The bug is that if you crop then print large you end up with pretty bad results. The Plus is that you can put zooms on it and they seem pretty small and light. I used to love my NEX but now there has been no improvement in the lens offering, they are still way too big. A V1 with a 10mm and a 10-30 and a 30-110 and you get a pretty light setup. I will wait to see what Leica has in its sleeve for photokina before I pull the trigger on anything. The ONE was out of question but the more I see galleries from it the more attractive it becomes…

  30. Interesting comparison indeed. A ‘normal’ point & shoot customer after seen this, most likely, wouldn’t pay USD2000 for an X2 when the Nikon cost USD500 and doing the job equal or better.
    In addion, without knowing it, the display MUST be better on the Nikon? Leica is a disgrace here!

  31. For viewing on screen, it’s getting to the point where most cameras can do an excellent job. The fast auto-focus on the Nikon might actually make it the winner for those of us with small kids. My old NEX-5 struggles a bit when chasing my 2 year old, and if I was going to buy a different camera, between these two the auto-focus speed might be enough to push me to take the Nikon over the Leica. (Although in truth I’d buy a NEX-5N over the Nikon).

    • It’s interesting you say that, I’ve got a Nex 5 and have also been looking to upgrade/change and have found the V/J1 interesting as well as the Fuji X100 or even X10.

      More and more I realise the Nex 5 is a good, competitive camera and I’m probably being silly but what I don’t like is simply its color signature! The Leica shots always look nice for the same reason Olympus Pen shots do – lovely warm (but not unnatural) color balance.

      For all the talk of sharpness, megapixels and all the technicalities I think color signature remains a highly underrated factor! My camera is fine but I’ve never grown to love it because there’s something unappealing to me about the way it renders color, in every other respect it’s fine and I’d be an idiot to consider a “downgrade” to a Fuji X10 but I’m doing exactly that! 🙂

      • Very good comment. It is never just about sharpness, sensors etc.
        Color quality and overall image quality counts for a lot! That’s where my Leica lenses and Zeiss lenses beat every other camera i’ve owned! by miles.

  32. That interior shot of the waitress is a cracker! love the b&w image too – this might be a crazy comparison but that Nikon holds it’s own against the leica.

      • Largest spiders I’ve ever seen in my life were in Sedona. In the rental my wife just stopped the car as we watched one cross the street (rural road). Crazy f’in big. Somewhat impressed with the little J1. Curios about a Nikon J1 vs Fuji X10 for iq.

  33. Too mucj noise/jpeg artifacts on the OM-D. Don’t know if you have come with another setting to give it some justice.

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