Why Leica X1 is so special?

by Enche Tjin on October 7, 2009

untitledLeica X1, is a compact camera that has fixed lens and image sensor equivalent to those of digital SLR camera. At $1999, X1 is probably the most expensive advanced compact camera around.  What makes Leica X1 so special?

Design and handling

Unlike most compact cameras which are developed by electronic company, Leica is developed by a photography oriented company that exist for almost a century. The design and handling is simple and intuitive to use. There are two dedicated aperture and shutter speed dials, and buttons for major settings such as ISO. WB etc.

Most compact cameras or even beginner DSLR cameras do not have dedicated buttons for those setting. As a result, you need to push many times to get the setting you want. By the time you get it right, you might lost the moment.

Built Quality

Leica has been known to produce cameras that last for generation. Leica X1 is not an exception. The exterior is made by metal (not plastics like other compacts), and the quality control and precision are impeccable. Fortunately, the weight of this camera is as light as other advanced compacts.

The lens

Leica lenses are known for its superiority. Leica commits in fixed focal length with large aperture. X1 lens is equivalent to 35mm focal length. Along with 50mm, this focal length is very popular for many photographers in the last century.

Who is this camera for?

This camera is for photographer not a casual shooter/consumer. It does not has zoom lens which is essential for many consumers. It does not have fancy colors and not pocketable.

What makes it NOT so special?

While Leica lens are superior, and the focal length is about right for every day usage, the aperture of f/2.8 is not as good as many other Leica lenses. Panasonic LX3 / Leica D-Lux 4 has maximum of f/2 aperture. Ricoh GRD III has f/1.9 aperture. Bigger aperture is better because you can gather light easily. But this doesn’t mean that LX3 or other advanced compact will have shallower depth of field, because the differences of image sensor.

Leica X1 LCD screen is also 1-2 years out of date. Many compacts and DSLR cameras have hi res (910k resolution) and even AMOLED (Samsung WB1000), but X1 only has 2.7″ 4:3 aspect ratio screen with low res 230k. It is also interesting to note that X1 has 3:2 sensor not 4:3.

Does this camera worth the price?

X1 is arguably the best compact camera for photographer (not consumer) right now. $1999 is a bit high, much higher than competitors which has approx. $699 price tag. (Sigma DP2 and Ricoh GRD III). Like other electronic gadget, the price will drop 10-20% if there are replacement for the product in several years in the future. Because the uniqueness and quality of the camera, you might want to consider one.


image from dpreview.com

Leica compared to competitors

Camera MP Lens LCD IS Dimension Price
LX3/D Lux4 10 24-60mm f/2-f/2.8 3″ 460k Yes 109 x 60 x 27 mm, 257g $500
Leica X1 12 35mm f/2.8 2.7″230k No 124 x 60 x 50 mm, 310g $1995
Sigma DP1s 4.6 24mm f/4 2.5″ 230k No 113 x 60 x 50 mm, 278g $630
Sigma DP2 4.6 41mm f/2.8 2.5″ 230k No 109 x 62 x 45mm, 265g $630
Ricoh GRD III 10 28mm f/1.9 3″ 920k No 108.6 x 59.8 x 25.5 mm, 188g without battery $699

Also check: Leica X1 specifications

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Alan November 7, 2009 at 4:40 pm

Under the what makes it not so special you imply the aperture of the Lx3 and GRD iii will give them a shallower depth of field. In both cases the use of a much smaller sensor gives a much larger depth of field regardless of aperture.

admin November 7, 2009 at 4:51 pm

you’re right thanks!

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