Leica X1 Review

June 28, 2010 | Mark Goldstein | |

Your Comments

35 Comments | Newest Oldest First | Post a Comment

#1 Matt

Beautiful camera, but slightly out of my price range. I could see paying $2k for high-end 35mm camera thirty years ago when it might have been a camera that would last you forever (at that time), but with the technology of digital cameras advancing as fast as they are, I really can’t imagine who would buy this. It has great specs, but it will be outdated before you will get your money’s worth out of it.

7:46 pm - Monday, June 28, 2010

#2 KevG

I once owned a Leica M2, together with a 35mm f2.8 lens.  Yes it was quite expensive, but it had been made in 1961, and up to last year when I sold it, was still going strong, turning out beautiful prints and slides.  The X1 is VERY expensive, and £90 for the grip plus £250 for the optical viewfinder pushes the price up to £1735.  This is way too much, and I can’t see Leica selling many of them.  This, together with the reported sluggishness of the camera’s focusing and recording systems is also unforgivable. Anyone paying this much for a camera is entitled to expect lightning fast responses, not snail-like slowness as described by the reviewer.  Hopefully Leica are listening and issue some firmware upgrades to solve some of the speed (or lack of it) problems.  Meanwhile I’ll stick to my Canon G9 and Olympus E-600 DSLR.

8:18 pm - Monday, June 28, 2010

#3 Walter

Nice camera, but the shutter release is mushy and there is noticeable lag. Even pre-focused, there is a noticeable delay between tripping the shutter and the picture being taken.

The price is far too high for what it is.

11:36 pm - Monday, June 28, 2010

#4 zebarnabe

It’s a leica…. price is…. well… usual…

Image quality is quite epic… but for the price they could at least have done the rest near perfect… it’s like having a car with awesome looks and a powerful engine (metaphore to the sensor/lens) and then make the suspension horrible…. no one wan’t to drive that car… but just having it and looking at it is just plain awesome…

This camera is obviously for leica collectors/fans and/or rich people status… ...if you’re not in this group ignore it (unless you find one at 400~500$ or something)...

11:47 pm - Monday, June 28, 2010

#5 misha

Don’t get me wrong. But for 2 grand, I could have a Nikon D700.

3:06 am - Tuesday, June 29, 2010

#6 Hans Benndorf

I don’t need pricey photographic jewellery hanging around my
wrist. I also take the Nikon D700 without hesitation, it takes better
photos too.

5:13 am - Tuesday, June 29, 2010

#7 payment protection insurance

I continue to have absolutely no use for video on my DSLR. I’m a photographer. Not a videographer. I can’t afford to upgrade my equipment to work with video, and have no desire to.

Good job still keeping it real Leica.

7:36 am - Tuesday, June 29, 2010

#8 misha

“I continue to have absolutely no use for video on my DSLR. I’m a photographer. Not a videographer.”

When I was a student, I took classes in both still and film. I had two cameras: a 35mm SLR, and a 16mm cine. Now…

Think about it.

7:41 am - Tuesday, June 29, 2010

#9 Antony Shepherd

The best thing about this camera from my viewpoint are the dials.

One dial for shutter speed
One dial for aperture
One dial for ISO.

The three main settings you want to change on simple dial controls where it’s completely obvious what the settings are.
I’d love to see those controls copied by other manufacturers.

10:05 am - Tuesday, June 29, 2010

#10 rcz

Is there a Panasonic version of this camera?

3:32 pm - Tuesday, June 29, 2010

#11 Francis lhotelin

Nice review. There is an error about image stabilization, there is no anti-shake mechanism in the X1, it is entirely based on electronic (dixit DPreview: Instead it’s a form of electronic stabilization which combines color information from a correct exposure with luminance data from a second)AND it is only available in JPeG mode.

5:12 pm - Tuesday, June 29, 2010

#12 Thomas

The Sigma DP2 has quite the same image quality as the X1 (up to 400 ASA). Working with zone focus the DP2 has the better manual focus system. The price of a second hand DP2 is roundabout 350 €.

8:48 pm - Tuesday, June 29, 2010

#13 jojo

Leica is dying

11:49 pm - Tuesday, June 29, 2010

#14 Hans Benndorf

They already smell funny

3:02 am - Wednesday, June 30, 2010

#15 zebarnabe


I guess LX5 the sucessor of LX3, that is still to come ... it should be very similar to this, but with some more versatile lens… and cost a fifth of the price… there are also some rumors about a panasonic compact with m43 sized sensor… i wouldn’t be surprised if it was identical to this camera ...

9:26 am - Wednesday, June 30, 2010

#16 Francoise

My Sanyo digital camera takes as good pics as this. waste of money.

7:03 pm - Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Unashamedly Leica. Most people buy this for the exclusivity of the “red dot”. I would stick with D300s I have or better still with D700. Nice try, Leica!

6:33 pm - Thursday, July 1, 2010

#18 Michael J

I’m sorry but this is silly. If you really must go get a M8 or M9 for practical use, if you want a compact pro P&S get a Canon G11, or spend way less and get an Olympus E-PL 1 with a pancake lens. I’m sorry, leica makes amazing gear, but this has only two points, a red dot and a nice dial layout.

9:27 pm - Friday, July 2, 2010

#19 jezza

wait for panasonic to release something very similar, or even a more advanced, version of it….

oh, for about half the price too!!

once again lieca is showing itself up as mega overexpensive, trading on brand loyalty and the red dot of envy, when the truth is they are just not worth the cash anymore. I think todays rival manufacturers have got so much better that you need to filter out the leica legacy and see the camera for what it is…

strange that the leica versions of the panasonic/leica collaboration models are still viewed higher than the panasonics… its psychology…


11:45 pm - Tuesday, July 6, 2010

#20 Riki H

Absolutely amazing for all shots,perfect ISO for night shorts,Real colors, easy to use,first class!!!!!!

7:03 pm - Thursday, August 26, 2010

#21 Ray G

I have both Canon and Leica X1, and believe me, in the image quality stakes, the X1 leaves the G11 for dead!

6:37 am - Saturday, October 16, 2010

#22 Cornelis visser

I have read the review and the comments on your side,  and find it one of the best I have seen about the X1 To me its all about the size and the quality of the camera,  The compactness of the camera so its easy to carrie around.  And I am not denying the fact that I always wanted to own a real Leica.  Yes I am waiting for my Black version of the X1 hopefully before Xmas.

10:43 am - Saturday, December 11, 2010

#23 Derek

this is a junk , I never even think of this you know the Oly EPL1 is a better camera system and it does have better IQ as the MZD lenses are better than this compact camera lens.

well, in film era , maybe 20years a go , we could fork out this kind of money for a Leica because we knew its value would not go down so soon…..

but digital tech advances so fast , and all cameras go dated in just a matter of a year, so how can any one not a collector spend this much money on a COMPACT toy camera?

well, like many said , if you can spend this much money on a compact , you ‘d better get a FF such as the 5D2 or the D700 or the A900.

imo, this product is just ridiculous , I dont think there are as many rich and naive consumers as Leica counted in this kind of bad economy.

10:50 pm - Sunday, December 12, 2010

#24 rc

Great Camera, but only for real pros! Not weekend warriors like most of the posts. If you don’t own one and only heard your uncle’s friend use one well stay out of the blog~and go back to your mother’s basement and read your comics.

5:31 am - Thursday, December 30, 2010

#25 NICK

Yes you could get a Nikon D700 for the same money but it wouldn’t be a Leica would it? Plus it would hang around your neck like a millstone and you wouldn’t carry it in your bag all the time, ready for anything.

dSLRs are great if you’re going out to specifically take photos, but compacts are better for having to hand. If I could afford it, I’d buy this camera. It’s not about tech spec, it’s about photography. Some people don’t seem to get that.

9:42 am - Sunday, April 10, 2011

#27 Citeprince

A great camera altogether, even better after the software update. Sorry for those who compare with Canon compacts but the sensor size produces images that cannot be compared.  This small Leica is now the only option to get a large sensor is a tiny camera. And compared to the Fuji, the
Leica is so much smaller anyway.

Images are not at the M9 level but they are better in high Iso and altogether stunning if you use the camera properly. But this is a camera, not a high-tech gadget…

2:35 pm - Wednesday, April 13, 2011

#28 nick

Well I have a Canon G11 and as I am not blowing up images any bigger than a computer monitor size the quality is fine.

lets be honest, most of us never print past 6x4 so in most cases image quality is not that big an issue. In fact to be honest, not many of us ever actually run out prints at all!

4:32 pm - Wednesday, April 13, 2011

#29 cubeover

I have SIGMA DP2s, it makes better photos, and costs 1300 less. This one is only for guys with M9, who also want a “smaller sister” to their big d1ck Leica.

5:01 pm - Sunday, September 18, 2011

#30 George

Note that in the Leica forums the inexpensive $ 2K X1 is compared favorably to the IQ of a $ 7K M9 with a 36mm $ 4K lens.  By people who own the M9.

Pictures from the X1 have Leica “pop” and Leica colors. 

Best review I’ve seen was by Steve Huff.  He noted it had less distorsion than the Fuji X100, better colors, more contrast, more pop.  Steve did not buy it, as it was his wife’s camera to be and he already has an M. 

But as a purist example comparison, if you put a 10 ounce X1 in your jacket pocket and take a picture from it, know that you are getting M9 IQ.  Only for that lens, yes.

The Fuji X100 weighs 15 ounces compared to 10.  And it has distorsion and no pop.  And sticky blades.

Those who think that a cell phone is getting the same IQ should stay with the cell phone absolutely.  Why buy a piano when you can tap along with a toothpick on your teeth?

8:06 am - Thursday, November 24, 2011

#31 photographer 1234567890

To George (above comment):  Well said!

Most people that love to dis products on forums, never own them or have taken a single picture themselves with the product in question!

To compare a Leica X1 to a D700 is ridiculous!  They are in completely different classes (size and price).  They only way optically that a D700 can be compared to a X1 is with a high end prime, which makes the D700 + prime significantly more expensive and SO MUCH LARGER!  Of course an FX DSLR with a larger buffer and a TTL optical finder for operation alone is better than a X1, but you are holding a brick, and you need a case on your shoulder to carry it.  Plus you stand out in a crowd with it.

The Leica X1 (and Fuji X100, micro 4/3, Sigma DP) cameras are ones to stick in a jacket or cargo pant pocket; or briefcase or purse!  With larger sensors than CC (compact sensor) cameras (LX5, G12, P7100, X10) you can get decent to excellent IQ and better high ISO performance in a compact form.

To anyone who compares the X1 to a G12 (or other CC camera) you haven’t learned how to bring out the potential of a Leica lens and larger sensor!

Even the LX5 that has a Leica lens on it, it is still limited by the CC sensor.  Looks good on a computer monitor, but due to the enormous compression of the image from a CC sensor, good is the best you can hope for.

The Leica X1 is for someone who knows, or wants to learn, how to master photography and produce excellent images!

Many Leica owners are average photographers; people with the money to spend on equipment, but never bring out its potential!  That is why a lot of the pictures posted taken with Leica is as unremarkable as pictures posted taken with a Canon G12 (and other CC cameras)!

The camera / lens does not take the picture, the photographer does!

If you want to take excellent pictures first learn about photography and art and form.  Just like a musician who can barely hold a tune, a better guitar will not help him, and a better camera / lens will not help the unskilled photographer.

First, learn how to master whatever camera you now have, then consider what to upgrade it to.

To those who are happy with their photography and the musicians who can entertain with a house guitar, yes a better lens or musical instrument will help you produce better images or serenades.

A master instrument will only preform mastery in a master’s hand!

1:05 am - Tuesday, January 31, 2012

#32 photographer 1234567890

To “cubeover” (comment #29 above):

Come on now be honest, you do NOT have a DP2s!

If you did you know that the lens flares and has average bokeh and contrast, compared to the superior Leica X1 in these areas.  The tones are typical Sigma, decent but not in the category of the intangible tones and character of Leica and Zeiss.

More importantly, the Foveon sensor in Sigma cameras is ONLY 4.7mp!  It is a huge marketing misrepresentation to advertise them as 14mp!  They are 3 layers of 2652×1768.  So technically the total is 14mp, but the file is 2652 X 1768 = 4.689mp!

If you only look at your pictures on a computer monitor or big screen TV, there is enough mp for that, but if you print, it is limited to a 4.7mp file and corresponding small size print.  True with a good exposure, the 3 layers of information should interpolate well, but that involves advanced knowledge and work flow to do this.  A sensor like the Leica X1 that has a native 12mp will give you a print much larger than a 4.7mp file, straight out of the camera.  Also, a 12mp sensor well exposed, will also interpolate to a larger file, and being almost 3 times more mp to start, must have the advantage.

The Sigma appears to be a camera to create rich colour files for computer monitor or TV screen viewing, but cannot be compared to a native 12mp sensor of the Leica (and others) for prints, and a Sigma Lens does not have the tonality and performance of a Leica lens.  However for the price, for people who do not print, it can be a good choice!

If you had a Sigma DP2s you’d already know this!

5:31 am - Thursday, February 2, 2012

#33 Jei

Lovely little camera capable of amazing results in the right hands.
The 24mm Elmarit lens / APS-C sensor team shines.

11:00 pm - Wednesday, March 28, 2012

#34 Leica and Nikon User

The X1 has great IQ. It is simple and easy to use and fits in my pocket.  I purchased a used one in excellent condition so I did not get hit with the full cost, but I do have all the benefits.  Instead of one camera with multiple lenses weighing a ton… my camera bag is user friendly now with 3 used Leicas X1, DLux5 and VLux4.  No turning back… waiting to get a good deal on my next Leica Full frame

8:01 pm - Sunday, December 7, 2014

#35 Rick

Bought this X1 when it came e out, I had the Nikon D700 at the time.
My first thoughts were wow, beautiful camera, I don’t judge a camera until I take it out 5 or 6 times and truly understand what it’s for.

I like the B&W effects…....
I’ve taken side by side w/ my D800….D800 wins….X1 on it’s own wins also….just a different look…

Now in 2016, my go to camera is;

Leica X1 - 50% of the time
Nikon D800 - 20%
Fuji X pro 1 - 15%
Leica D5 - 10%
Fuji X10 and Dlux 30 - 5%

4:41 am - Friday, March 11, 2016

Entry Tags

compact, 12 megapixel, RAW, manual, 2.7 inch LCD, APS-C, CMOS, leica, DNG, 3fps, 36mm, x1, Leica X1 Review

Tracker Pixel for Entry