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Wednesday, 08 September 2010


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Have you played with an X1 at all? It looks great on paper, but when I handled it at the store I knew I'd be cursing the slow operation and low-res screen much as I cursed those aspects of the DP1...I'd expect more from a compact camera that costs about the same as a new full-frame DSLR like the Canon 5DII.

I appreciate that it's a larger sensor, but it's just too much money, and other, much cheaper cameras these days do the same or better in nearly all aspects.

Now, if they stuck a little rangefinder on top of it, all bets are off...

Setting aside the film vs. digital thing for a moment, there is little reason I shouldn't own and love this camera.

For small format I shoot a Zeiss Ikon with a 35/2 Biogon almost permanently attached.

The one stop of speed difference is irrelevant given the high iso performance of the X1. Have you seen what this thing can do in all sorts of light? It's quite something.

I think that anyone complaining about the 2.8 is not doing the math (both in terms of usability and size).

But the price. It is a tremendous mental block. All the mirror-less offerings just seem like such a better use of money.

I don't understand the "one, non-interchangeable lens" bit. Any camera can be a one-lens camera if you simply have the discipline to buy only one lens for it.

Get a NEX. It'll focus much faster. Put the rest of the money into Exposure 3 and some plane tickets. I swear, if the NEX had a red dot on it, people would suddenly be discovering ambiguous references in the bible to it.

I may be alone in my thoughts on this, but for me the main reason I wouldn't buy a Leica X1 is the lens. Not the fact that it is a fixed prime, but because it's a fixed prime.

I've got no doubt that the X1 is a really fine camera for it's intended use, but the cost (about £1400 in the UK) is not negligible. I gave the X1 serious consideration, and could have afforded it, but I'm old-fashioned enough to believe that something of that sort of cost should have a very long lifespan.

The fact that the lens is permanently fixed means I would worry about it breaking (electronic motors especially), and the whole camera then becoming a paperweight or only useful again after expensive repair. I chose a Panasonic GF1 in the end, and if the lens breaks, then it's not the end of the camera. If the camera breaks, then I've lost about £300, but still got a working lens.

I don't know how likely it would be for the Leica X1 lens assembly to fail over the next 20 years, but the chances won't be negligible. The lens assembly is pretty much the only moving part on the camera (twiddly knobs aside), and that was enough to put me off.

Would anyone at all pay k$2 for this thing if it didn't have the red Leica dot on it? Probably a pointless question, since the answer is obvious. (Whether the answer is obviously "Yes!" or obviouisly "No!" will vary from person to person.)

Functional Foto Fashion!

Bling for the Blessed!

The gratuitous, garish, gold glob of the camera world.

"...only because it's so simple and limited in how much it can be accessorized—has been overlooked."

I agree with that...it is very hard to accessorize an accessory.

I also agree with the point AFotS made about there being not much to talk about...

...although, if I had more money than I knew what to do with, I too would hang one of those around my neck before I went to The Club.


Cheers! Jay

While I prefer an optical M-style range/viewfinder, I like the fact the camera is just about as small as a Barnack Leica. Seems to be a return to Barnacks original philosophy, of a small, light, quiet, pocketable camera.

Frankly this is where I think digital SHOULD be going-to the Barnack concept. Computers and other electronic devices have been getting smaller and lighter, but digital cameras--SLRs--seem to be getting bigger, bulkier, and heavier.

Shame some digital camera manufacturer can't do like Maitani did with the OM camera--make an SLR packed chock-full of goodies in a body no bigger than Barnack Leica.

Hmmm. Leica again.

Who among us working stiffs has 2 grand to drop on a specialty camera? Any interchangable-lens camera can also be a single lens unit if that's your desire. Check out the hundreds of adapters available (including tilt/shift!) for the Sony NEX-5. (Ranked between the D300s and the M9 over at DxoMark.)

So many primes available (with wider apertures) - new and used. The final cost of such a combo will be up to the buyer, but it will almost certainly be much cheaper than the X1.

And for those that want a camera with all the same advantages (fantastic image quality)and disadvantages (slow operation, poor focusing and battery life) the Sigma DP2 can be had for less than half the price! I'd love to be able to justify the X1 for all sorts of reasons wrapped up with notions of "quality", "pedigree" etc. But when you get down to the money, the DP2 image quality is just as good.

I don't know whether people on photo forums are all geniuses, and the camera manufacturers are all idiots, or if there's some other problem in the works, but it seems to me that all we want is the X1 and the P7000 mushed together.

I won't buy the X1 because of its absurd price for what it delivers-- one focal length which is not my favorite (35mm equiv.), bad autofocus, impossible manual focus (according to the review at DPR), slow start-up, poor battery life,etc. On the other hand, it's picture quality is (according to the same review's sample photos ) the same or slightly better than the D300s, and at high ISOs, far better that M4/3, which is amazing.

The P7000 offers instant-on, fast autofocus, reasonable manual control, etc. It also has a sensor that is one-eighth the area of the X1's, and can't in any way compete in picture quality above the snapshot level.

If the X1 had even a short zoom (28-105 equiv) and better autofocus, both of which are widely available in other cameras, I'd buy it; if the P7000 had even a m4/3 sensor, I'd buy it. But they don't. Why not?

After using a M4/3 camera for the past few months I can understand the appeal of Leica X1. What bothers me about the X1 it is a mid-spec device that does nothing very much better than similar cameras costing half as much money. No matter how you slice in comparison to other similar cameras it is inadequate for the price you are expected to pay. All nonsense about premium goods aside, the X1 is not good enough to justify the price. I know this is an old song.

On the other hand using the Oly E-PL1 has led me to consider the possibility of acquiring a second-hand Leica digital M camera. A few months of shooting on the street has changed the way I see and shoot to the point that my DSLRs stay at home most of the time. After many years of trying this and that, the street has really caught my attention. Maybe I'm ready for a Leica.

I want an X1, too. But it would have to be under $1000 before I'd consider it. Not that I can't afford $2000 ... I can, just nowhere near trivially enough to do so on an X1. More to the point, though, I can't bring myself to spend money even on something I want when there are other things that show me the thing I want is a lousy value.

NEX doesn't cut it. It's the antithesis of the X1 and the lens selection is even worse (aside from the possibility of adapted lenses, which make it less compact). I'd love to see a better NEX and better lenses. The GF1 and 20/1.7 might be the next best thing, but the sensor leaves a bit to be desired. I'm not sure about the newer Sigmas (I tried an older DP2, not DP2s, and it was terribly slow).

The surprising thing to me is that there isn't more competition in this market. Sigma and Leica could be selling like gang busters if they were more appealing; micro 4/3 has had a big market to itself and is only recently sharing it with NEX and its 2 lenses. You'd think that on the one hand, the early entrants would be exploiting their advantage with more appealing products and on the other hand, other players would be in the market by now. So many photographers have been asking for cameras like these for so long, and each time (Sigma, Leica, NEX ...) manufacturers come sort-of-kind-of close, but frustratingly far. (I left micro 4/3 out because I think that they're doing the best job of appealing to the broadest array of photographers with sensible, not quirky, cameras).

- Dennis, still waiting for a compact m43 with the GH1's sensor and articulating LCD or a NEX designed for photographers with a compact prime that's not an ultrawide or a fixed lens APS-C that performs as well as a $200 digicam.

The NEX plus VC 35/1.4 is a great option for around $1300.

The straight forward controls and clean lines make me drool; this is what a camera should look like. You can set exposure without looking at it, no button clutter, size and IQ good.
Sadly for me it all goes downhill once you get into the details. Slow focusing would not be a problem if the camera had some kind of prefocus setting-routine (should be easy in software). The collapsing lens makes it pocketable, but also less rugged. No shade. And most important for me: with a fixed prime, how hard can a simple OVF be?

i love the size of the x1.

i hate the slow focus/no good manual focus option.

i love the fixed, prime, quality lens.

i hate that it is 'only' f/2.8.

love the sensor size and quality.

i don't love the price, but i could adapt, maybe.

for people saying they want a zoom lens: get an lx3 (or now, an lx5). or whatever. you have lots of options; people who want the advantages of a prime on a compact, don't.

for people saying they want interchangeable (prime) lenses: personally, i would kind of rather have several versions of the camera, all with fixed lenses, at different focal lengths. i mean, i would buy one at 28/2, 35/2, and 50/1.4, if they made them, and if there were a real, physical manual focus option. we pay more for the lens alone on the m-system, and there, what we really want is a separate body for each of our most-used lenses anyway; so why not, when a fixed lens design permits optimization and other advantages?

finally, for people who think f/2.8 is plenty fast enough, or an insignificant difference from f/2: it is not fast enough. the 'three degrees of darkness' post two down from here (nice post btw), to me is kind of like 'three degrees of more light than i usually have to work with'. i routinely shoot at iso1250, f/1.4, and 1/6th. and that's because that's the sort of exposure necessary in the routine environments where i live: this isn't boldly going where no one has gone before, seeking out new extremes; it's just life. i want to photograph life whenever i can. now, the thing is, that at the edge of where digital sensors are routinely delivering pretty good quality, f/2 will just barely get me shutter speeds which are usually workable; f/2.8 will not. i've tried, but it doesn't work. okay, sometimes it works, but mostly not, which is plain frustrating. and, in terms of background blur/subject separation, f/2 just is a whole lot more versatile than f/2.8. yeah, i know getting a little bit closer will have a big effect on bg blur, but it's another case of being right at the edge of a common application: a routine framing for an environmental portrait at 35mm equiv puts you at a distance where f/2 gives much nicer blur.

okay, that's enough ranting. it's just that this camera is close to something i would jump to buy, but not quite there, and that's always a bit of an annoyance.

If the I had the money, I'd buy it, but I don't so I won't. The "buy it" consideration inclueds the fact that I would not be particularly bothered with the slow operation of the camera, everything else is perfect, except the fact I do not have enough money at this time.

Every year I build an album with selected family photos from the previous years adventures. I order a nice book from apple, all 8x10, maybe 30 pages or so. I've been at it now 4 years.

Last year my wife who is the opposite of a camera person, started noticing how much better the quality of some of the prints were.

I looked and sure enough she picked up on the difference between the dslr I use around home, and local trips, and the lx3 I take on trips.

Were the panasonics photos bad, no. But even in 8x10 there was a noticeable real difference. But I'm not going to take $2000 camera plus lenses on trips overseas. I don't want to carry it, and mostly I don't want to worry about having it stolen should I leave it In the room because I don't want to take it to dinner. Or worry that I can't go for a swim because it would be sitting unguarded on the beach.

Which brings me to the x1. Very very tempting, but it seems unreasonablly costly given that I can get similar results from a m4/3, with more flexibility due to being able to change lenses. Sell the x1 body for $1300', and let me buy two primes for just under a grand each.... Then I'd be convinced. And leica that means you'd get 3000 from me, and maybe more, more money for you, and a happier consumer!

Two grand!!!

the thing i find most attractive about the x1 is also the thing i find least attractive about it (other than the ridiculous price): the lens. i love the idea of a high quality 35mm equivalent, especially one that can retract into the body when not in use to save space. unfortunately, i can not live with f/2.8 or without decent manual focus (i don't care if has autofocus). if it were f/2 and that bit of lens that is always sticking out of the body functioned as a real (mechanical) focus ring i would be quite tempted. as it is i have no interest in the camera. i bought a sony NEX instead and am very impressed with it (especially with a quality manual focus/aperture lens). my only real complaints are that there is no good compact 35mm equiv lens option (i'm stuck with 60mm equiv right now).

as far as the comment about f/2.8 being plenty goes, it really depends on what you plan to shoot. that's fine if all your shooting is during the daylight hours and you don't want a particularly narrow dof. i shoot at night and indoors a lot and am continually surprised how much difference a single stop makes. i normally use an f/1.2 lens but every once in a while try out my f/1.8 to make the camera that much smaller. every time i do i end up very frustrated at the number of shots i can't get at iso 3200 or lower.

I'd love it if my E-PL1 had the X1's twin control dials on the top. If the Japanese manufacturers don't release models with that simplified interface, they're leaving some money on the table.

"Dennis, still waiting for a compact m43 with the GH1's sensor and articulating LCD or a NEX designed for photographers with a compact prime that's not an ultrawide or a fixed lens APS-C that performs as well as a $200 digicam."

Ooo, rare to see someone appreciate the GH1's sensor. I still prefer that form factor over the GF1 because of the built-in EVF.

Seriously, I wonder if we remove the red dot from the X1, and rename the brand to "Samsung' or some other brand, would the curiosity surrounding it still be there? Would the comparisons to the M9 still be drawn?

Assuming the same lens and sensor, and the exact same body design.....

All this talk about the NEX and no mention of the Ricoh GXR/A12, which has perhaps the same APS-C sensor as the X1 or, at least, the same sensor as the Nikon D300 and now sells in the US for $927. Granted the lens is 50mm EFOV and not 35mm like the X1, but a 28mm EFOV sensor-lens module is coming out later this year. It also has an optional EVF, although I prefer to frame with the 920,000 pixel LCD.

The AF is a fast enough in bright light, after a fiirmware upgrade, but slow in low light and the manual focus I find unusable, but what I do works well for me: I pre-focus by using AF to focus at the plane of focus that I want and then, press one of the programmable function buttons to switch to MF, which fixes the focus. Together with manual spot exposure, this way of shooting, like on the Ricoh GRD3, has virtually no shutter lag. The user interface is excellent, similar to the GRD3. Here are some GXR/A12 shots.


ZOMG David! Didn't expect to see you here. Hello. And you of all people calling out Leica on, well, being Leica.

Hmm. If I want to use an APS-C fixed lens compact with slow focusing, I'll stick to my Sigma DP-1!

"Seriously, I wonder if we remove the red dot from the X1, and rename the brand to "Samsung' or some other brand, would the curiosity surrounding it still be there? Would the comparisons to the M9 still be drawn?"

It's because of the red dot that Leica can make the camera and still make a profit. Samsung or some other brand could make the same camera but the build quality wouldn't be as good and purchasers of the same camera would be shopping for features. Even the basic Panasonic LX series is guilty of feature creep.

I scored a X1 three weeks ago, and can vouch for how hard they are to find. Before that, I had a Fuji F31fd (now the wife's), a Sigma DP1, a DP2 and a GF1 with the 20mm pancake. I once tried the D-Lux 4 (Panasonic LX3) but returned it as noise was objectionable as early as ISO 320, and I never understood what the hoopla was about that model. For "serious" shooting I have a Canon 5DmkII and a Leica M9, but I also wanted a camera I'd carry everywhere with me in my jacket pocket.

The GF1 is almost that camera. Close, but no cigar. Unfortunately, it is just a tad too heavy and a tad too big, and I started noticing I did not carry it around any more, and thus it was not meeting the primary requirement of portability. If I am going to keep it in the briefcase, I might as well take the M9 with a 28mm or 35mm pancake. Off to eBay it went.

The X1 is not much smaller on paper, but those few millimeters make a world of difference, and it is also much lighter, and that also matters.

So far, I'm liking it. Image quality is excellent, even at ISO 1600 (far better noise levels than the M9), whereas the GF1 would exhibit objectionable noise at ISO 800 (granted, the GF1 has 1.5 extra stops of aperture for equivalent depth of field). AF is slow, as others commented, but not as crippling as the DP1/DP2. The dials on top are indeed too loose and get knocked off the previous position far too easily.

I wish the firmware had a preset for hyperfocal focusing, alongside AF and MF. I also wish they had included a retaining cord for the cap as they did on the D-Lux 4

I can't compare it to the NEX or the Samsung NX100, of course, but I think the idea of an interchangeable lens compact is fundamentally flawed. The only lens that makes sense in a compact is a pancake, and in most cases you only have one available lens selection, and an awkward one at that on the NEX with its overly wide 24mm-e.

There is a severe price to pay in bulk and weight for the interchangeable lens mount. I hope Nikon and Canon avoid that mistake when they eventually come out with their large-sensor compacts.

For those who wants to buy the X1:
The optical viewfinder is GREAT!
and very accurate.
And the handgrip gives...better grip.
Problem: less pocketable...

Money is one thing ....end result the other.

Birding or action photogs obviously wouldn't be interested in the X1, plain old ordinary photogs would welcome it's size, it's IQ and it's ability to shoot good images at 3200 ISO

Look around the web for images produced by the X1 they are magnificent especially considering it's size.

And yeah 35mm needs to be length one likes, not every-bodies taste I'm sure.

All in all the AF isn't as slow as one is led to believe, the battery life is quite OK, I get around 450-500 images, but don't use the LCD screen at all. I have a VC OVF. Manual Focus/Range focusing could perhaps be better, hopefully a firmware update will add some functionality to this.

all in all, very expensive indeed, worth it? ... very subjective, I think it might be, but then again my car which I love definitely isn't worth what I paid for it, but I bought it and love it nevertheless...

If there is a hipster city in the world, that is Barcelona [hipster as in that commercial of the Honda Jazz].

Turns out you can buy an x1 at any time, no problem, as there is enough stock of it, and dropping prices.

Not bashing the camera, which will most probably be as good as the equivalent Sigma.

"Samsung or some other brand could make the same camera but the build quality wouldn't be as good"

I think this is wrong. The quality would be *better*. Assuming it could charge the same price.

The issue is that Leica, as the supplier to the carriage trade and the photography category's only true maker of Veblen goods, can, because of its heritage and brand recognition, charge much more for its products. And when you charge more, you can provide better quality. Lesser companies don't have that luxury. They can't sell their products for as much. Who would buy a $2000 fixed prime digicam from Samsung? Nobody. But if Samsung (or Panasonic or Sony or whoever) *could* charge $2k for a fixed prime digicam--and sell them at that price--the quality would be *awesome*.

A good example of what I mean can be seen in the example of two lenses that were available simultaneously a few years back: the Leica f/2.8 Elmar-M and the Nikkor 45mm ƒ/2.8P. Both were manual-focus four-element Tessar-types of nearly identical specification, both from legendary makers of optics. In my opinion, the Nikkor was the better lens. Leica got to charge over $1000 for its lens, and yet the Nikon lens, at over $300, was widely criticized for being excessively expensive. That's just the way it goes with public perception and consumer expectations.

If Nikon or Canon or Olympus or Pentax could get as much for its lenses as Leica does, the quality would be fully the equal of Leica's and probably better. But they can't. They don't occupy that part of the market. And if Leica had to compete on price alone....


I think you do very nice work with the X1.


If the X1 came with a 28mm (equivalent) lens, and was a bit more responsive, then I'd seriously consider selling my GF1 and diving in. Someone made the point that the DP1/DP2 was about the same, but I lost interest in the DP cameras because of the reports of poor ergonomics.

Yes, stuff like that is important to me. For me, nothing ruins the pleasure of photography more than constantly fighting with little buttons and LCD menus in order to accomplish basic tasks. The X1's top panel, with those two exposure dials, is like a revelation. It shows that this is a camera for photographers, not a camera for gadget geeks.

I know the Sigma DP cameras have been mentioned. I have a DP1 and really like it as a pocket camera. The sound when you press the shutter is - the sound of no sound.

But what I really like is the current price. Amazon has the DP1s for $299.

I have to agree with the comments about the Sigma DP line. I've had one to play with for about a week now. Its quirks seem to be the same as those of the X1. I don't know how the image quality compares but I do know that I love the pictures I'm getting from its Foveon sensor and its fixed prime is an excellent lens. I haven't tried it yet, but I intend to test using the optional optical viewfinder that slides into the hotshoe, turn off the screen, and try some manual zone focusing and the old adage "f8 and be there." Except I'm going to try f4 given the sensor size/lens focal length. That would eliminate completely any delay from the autofocus and make it a camera that is quick to use. I think.

But to me the one-lens "constraint" is part of the appeal of the X1, and part of why I may buy one.

Another option to consider is the Ricoh GX100/200 - I have the GX100. You can't get past the small-sensor problems but...

You get a 24-72mm-e f2.5-4.4 lens with "step zoom", which lets you select 24,28,35, 50 or 72mm-e, so you can easily stick to one focal length and learn to 'see' that way.

Combine step zoom with "snap focus" - Ricoh-speak for focus fixed at 8.2 feet - and you've got a hyperfocal setup which is fast (no focus lag obviously), light and discreet for street shooting. The EVF is the worst that I've seen, but for composition it's serviceable, it sure beats using the screen, and it tilts upwards. The sensor is very noisy, but there is a DNG option.

I also like the fact that you can attach a neck strap, rather than just a wrist strap. The camera is so light and small that it doesn't hurt my wrecked neck, and I find it convenient to have the camera parked on my chest. The camera is very comfortable and secure in my hand, beating every other compact that I've held by a few miles.

Here's an ISO80 street shot:

You can use the flash with the EVF attached and horizontal. Full sun, midday (yuk), ISO100, 72mm-e, EV-0.7, forced flash, cropped, curves, levels: http://mandenomoments.com/ruth-burge/efb23a31 (it's nothing special, but the family liked it and that's the main thing).


It's lacking a built-in viewfinder and a decent way to focus manually, but otherwise it comes pretty close to my idea of the ideal decisive-moment camera:


I'd love to see a company like Nikon to release a similar camera, but I don't expect them to have the right mindset, so to say. Nor do I have high hopes in Sony or Panasonic/Olympus. Don't get me wrong, they all build great cameras, technically, but I'm sure they'll shy away from something that's so charming because it's so simple.

My money is waiting for the Leica X2.

Just an observation:

If you go to Luis Cavaco's Flickr page, you might notice that 90% of the photos are sharp from front to back, and wouldn't make sense if that were not true. He actually manages the relationship of things in the foreground and background.

As Mike said in another thread: "The fixation with shallow depth of field is a recent phenomenon, provoked by tiny digicam sensors and their corresponding very short lenses. "

If you lurk on other photo fora nowadays, it's pretty common to see folks claim that they use or need a whizflex f1.4 or 1.2(!) lens for their street photography, and that they shoot wide open all the time. Different strokes, of course, but WTF?

Paris, I fully agree with you. I know (personally or via Internet) a couple of photographers who bought expensive fast lenses (like Leica's Noctilux) and now almost always shoot wide open. What I find so strange about this is that their choice of lens obviously dictates the style of the pictures they shoot. (And I won't even mention that a lot of their photos aren't focused correctly.) There's even a supposedly professional photographer in Denmark who offers seminars and writes on his website about "best practices" that he "always [sic!] uses Leica lenses fully open." Heck, I'm sure I wouldn't pay for a seminar with this guy.

What happened to all the photography heroes of the olden days? Did anyone ever see a famous photo from Cartier-Bresson, Erwitt, Koudelka, Robert Frank, and so on that looked as if it had been shot wide open on purpose (i.e. even if there was enough light)?

[Mike, maybe that could be a theme for a blog entry?]

Hi Mike,

I'm really touched about your nice comment about my X1 pictures.
I'm also glad that those pictures contributed to the discussion about the qualities and defaults of the camera (i agree whit you, Paris). The best camera is definitive the one that makes you feel good about making photos, it depends of course what kind of pictures you want to do. If i could afford the M9 whit a 1.4 35 mm i wouldn't say no !!

Luis Cavaco

As things go, and as a consequence of my renewed interest in good compact cameras from this post. I was looking at similar cams and realized that the price of Sigma DP1s has gone down about 50% recently to £250 in the UK, and well the rest is history.

I am happily waiting for it in the post, not quite X1, but also for about 1/6th of the price, I can afford for it to be even slower. :o)

I just tried an X1 for the first time at the Tokyo Leica Store. I loved the form factor, IQ, etc. and didn`t have any issues with the f/2.8 lens. The slowness of the AF floored me, though. Yeah, I`d heard all about it and actually went in with a "I bet it`s not THAT bad" attitude but it was actually worse than I`d imagined. This is an inexusable flaw that should have brought Leica`s designers all the way back to the drawing board. If we get an X2 some day and the AF speed is at least equal to the cheap Canon point and shoot my 63-year-old mother owns,I will buy two.

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