The Leica X1 has a large DSLR-like APS-C CMOS sensor in a compact body for the ultimate quality, but is the X1 the ultimate luxury fixed-lens compact? The What Digital Camera Leica X1 review...
Leica X1 review – Features
There’s no getting around the fact that the Leica X1 is a specialist compact for a knowledgeable, niche market. Anyone considering buying an X1 will desire its fixed lens (no zoom here) as a particular format of working. There’s no lens-based nor sensor-based image stabilisation system, instead a system that takes two frames and combines them into one. The X1’s 2.7in, 270k-dot LCD to the rear isn’t the most up-to-date of technology in terms of size or resolution and, unless using the 36mm optical viewfinder hotshoe accessory, there is otherwise no viewfinder on the body itself.
Capable of shooting Raw + JPEG files in Adobe’s universal DNG format (or JPEG as a standalone format, but not DNG on its own) at up to three frames per second, and including full PASM controls, the X1 is undoubtedly a creative compact for the discerning photographer – the large APS-C sensor and fixed 24mm (36mm equiv) f/2.8 lens are both a clear testament to this.
Leica X1 review – Design
The Leica X1 is unlike pretty much any other compact camera on the market today. Sat next to the yet more up-market Leica M9 there are perhaps some external similarities, but these are entirely different cameras.
The X1’s PASM shooting modes are controlled using two top-dials – one for shutter speed, the other for aperture. Leave both dials set to ‘A’ (Auto) and Program mode ensures, select aperture and leave the shutter dial set to Auto and you have Aperture Priority (Shutter Priority achieved using opposite dials) or select controls on both dials for Manual exposure. There are no locks on either dial which can lead to the occasional knocking of settings, though this isn’t a problem as quick accessibility to change settings is a must.
Other controls include a five button array to the left side of the LCD screen on the rear to control Playback, Focus/Delete (this isn’t a particularly suitable combination due to accidental deletion during playback), White Balance, ISO and Display Info. A usual d-pad is aligned to the right side of the screen with exposure compensation, AF/MF, flash and timer controls on the four-way directions, plus a rotational wheel to the outside that can facilitate zooming in on playback and other functions. Above this is a rear thumbwheel which controls manual focusing.
Move into the exterior menus, however, and a rather uninspiring black and dull-turquoise colour aren’t too easy on the eyes. It’s also tricky at times to work out which option is selected (for example, Delete Single/All is a two option only menu, which led to an unexpected card format the first time it was used) at times. Furthermore the menu is one long stream to scroll through on a single page which doesn’t lend itself well to quickly locating options.
The X1’s overall body design is very quirky though and is further complimented by accessories that include: a 36mm optical viewfinder, attachable grip and leather strap (each sold separately). The X1 looks modern in a retro-kitsch kind of way, and thanks to its low-weight magnesium body is light to carry around, though feels a little more ‘plasticy’ than it actually is.
One slight niggle is the placement of the SD card in the battery compartment, as this is bothersome to access when the optional grip accessory is attached.