Leica X (Typ 113) Review

February 23, 2015 | Mark Goldstein | |

Introduction

The Leica X (Typ 113) is a 16.2 megapixel compact camera with an APS-C sized, 23.6x15.8mm CMOS sensor with a 3:2 aspect ratio, image-stabilized Leica Summilux 23mm f/1.7 lens with 10 elements in 8 groups (2 aspheric lens elements) that provides a focal length of 35mm in 35mm terms, HD 1920x1080 video at 30 fps in the MP4 format, and a 3-inch LCD screen with 920,000 pixels and 100% field of view. The X (Typ 113) has both a pop-up flash and a hot shoe, and it offers a full range of advanced controls from manual exposure to manual focus. Other key features of the Leica X (Typ 113) include a sensitivity range of ISO 100-12,500, maximum shutter speed of 1/2000th of a second, JPEG and DNG RAW file support, and a continuous shooting rate of up to 5 frames per second. The recommended retail price of the Leica X (Typ 113) is £1550 / $2295.

Ease of Use

The Leica X (Typ 113) is alomst identical to the cheaper X-E camera that was released at the same time, and which we recently reviewed. Consequently, most of the comments that we made about that camera apply equally to the new X (Typ 113) model. The new X (Typ 113) has either a brown / silver colour scheme, or the stealthy all-black version that we tested, with two-thirds of it having a leather texture to aid grip.

The Leica X (Typ 113) has a 16.5 megapixel CMOS chip, boasting an effective 16.2MP. This pumps out a purported 16.1-megapixel effective resolution. The brand new lens is one of the main differences between the X Typ 113 and the X-E, offering a slightly wider 23mm focal length (35mm equivalent in 35mmm terms due to the 1.5x crop factor at play here) but most importantly a much faster maximum aperture of f/1.7 (versus f/2.8 on the X-E). This has resulted in a signifcantly bigger lens barrel that makes the camera less pocketable than before, but the f/1.7 aperture opens up a lot of extra creative possibilites. There is the continued ability to incrementally alter the aperture from f/1.7 to f/16 via the dedicated top plate dial.

As a result, and this was also true of the X-E, the X (Typ 113)'s looks mirror its maker's rangefinder cameras, such as the M9. As well as two rather stiff top plate dials via which manual adjustments can be made to shutter speed (from 30 seconds to 1/2000th of a sec) and the aforementioned aperture dial, there is a disc-shaped flash neatly sunk into the top plate. Spring-loaded, it leaps forth with a thumb-shove of the manual catch provided top left of the back plate, its minimalist appearance adding to the camera's cachet of cool.

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Front of the Leica X (Typ 113)

Naturally there is a vacant hotshoe for an accessory flash too, to which can alternatively be attached Leica's lovely optical 'Bright Line' viewfinder for around £269 or an EVF 2 electronic viewfinder if preferred, which will set you back around £360. Yes, admittedly that last price would buy you a high-end compact with a 1/2.3-inch sensor outright, but such a camera is not quite in the X (Typ 113)'s rarified class.

Another big upgrade from the the X-E is that the X (Typ 11) now offers a video mode - Full HD 1920x1080 pixels at 30fps in the MP4 format, to be precise, stopped and started by a new one-touch movie record button on the top of the camera, with built-in stabilisation and an integrated HDMI-out port for playback on an external device.

the size of the back plate LCD has also been upgraded to 3-inches, plus the resolution - in the absence of any provided viewfinder out of the box - is now a much more respectable 920k pixels, bringing the X (Typ 113) up to date with comparable cameras.

The Leica X (Typ 113) comes with a two-year warranty as opposed to the usual one, a year's accidental damage cover, and a download option for Adobe Lightroom, with the code provided once the product has been registered.

As with the X-E, the fact that we don't have a zoom to play with here prompts a more considered approach to picture taking, in that the photographer has to physically step forward or back to alter what's included in the frame. You also have to get up close to and interact with your subjects; a camera for surreptitious candids this is not. Leica claims that the 23mm lens was chosen because it's a classic length for photojournalism, with the minimum focus distance now at an improved 20cm, making the camera slightly better suited to macro shots.

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Rear of the Leica X (Typ 113)

The front of the Leica X (Typ 113) is adorned with the (in)famous red Leica badge and logo which stands out due its position top left of the lens, with a detachable hard plastic clip-on cap provided as protection for that renowned glass.

Just right of the badge, if viewing the camera front-on, and nudging closer to the lens surround, is a small porthole containing the traditional AF assist/self timer lamp. Between the top and bottom of the faceplate there is also a wide band of leather padding that is largely there for show than serving as a practical form of grip. In fact there is nothing resembling a traditional handgrip provided with the camera at all, though there is an optional accessory grip for just under £100. Having said that, the solidity and weight of the X (Typ 113)'s build - a much heavier than average for a compact 486g with battery - means that it didn't feel like the Leica would suddenly slip from our grasp at any point.

There's now a generously sized focusing ring with a ridged edge and clear distance markings from 0.2cms to infinity. Moving the focusing ring on the lens from MF to the AF setting activates the fast and quiet auto-focus system. Though the auto focus occasionally hunts to find a target, overall it's quick to lock onto and determine focus and exposure. The front part of the lens can be be unscrewed for the threading on of attachments.

The X (Typ 113)'s top plate meanwhile features most of the attributes we've already touched on, such as the pop up flash, hotshoe offering full compatibility with the Leica SF 24D and SF 58 system flash units, aperture and shutter speed dials, plus the on/off switch that ergonomically encircles the shutter release button. This isn't just a power switch however as the two 'on' settings provided here directly alternate between single shot ('S') and continuous shooting ('C') options (3fps or 5fps to a maximum 7 shots) - so you've always got these drive modes literally at the tip of your forefinger.

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Top of the Leica X (Typ 113)

Flick the switch to 'S' or 'C' setting and the Leica readies itself for action in 1-2 seconds. Squeeze the shutter release button in single shot mode to take a maximum resolution 'Super Fine' JPEG and the screen instantly displays the resultant image, much quicker than the X-E. Take a top quality JPEG and Leica's 'DNG' file version of Raw and the camera isn't any noticeably slower however, plus the advantage of the DNG format is that it can be opened directly by Photoshop without specialist conversion software required.

Media of choice is the expected 'all varieties of SD card' whilst the unit also comes with 110MB of internal memory out of the box. The back of the Leica X (Typ 113) features the aforementioned switch for raising the flash over at the left hand side, whilst a command dial sits over at the top right.

With the 3-inch LCD screen taking up about two thirds of the back plate, this has left room for a row of five function buttons ranged vertically down the left hand side of the screen, whilst over at the right hand side sits a familiar cross key/command pad style arrangement.

The buttons at the left of the LCD are both clearly marked and instantly comprehended. From the top we have a 'play' button for reviewing previously captured images, whilst next up is a combined delete/focus button. The 'focus' element comes into play once the user has switched from default auto focus to manual focus via the setting on lens barrel; whereby a central portion of the image is enlarged - as when using live view on a DSLR for manual focus - and a sliding scale of between 0.2 metres and infinity (and the same distance given in feet) provided to adjust the focus range accordingly. With the bigger screen scale and higher resolution we found it easier to accurately determine pin sharpness than on previous Leica X models.

Alternatively if leaving the camera to its own auto focus devices the user has a choice of a single point AF, a DSLR-like 11-point AF, spot or face detection AF settings.

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The Leica X (Typ 113) In-hand

In addition, it's worth mentioning that a press of the delete button immediately brings up the option to delete one image or all, with your choice highlighted by a black overlay on an otherwise dark grey background. As conventional wisdom usually has it that a lighter colour highlights the menu option in play - rather than black, as here - we were brought to the threshold of accidentally deleting all images on several occasions until we got used to this bucking of tradition.

The next button down on the backplate strip of five is for manual white balance adjustments, and here, in addition to automatic, the usual suspects are provided: tungsten, fluorescent, flash, (daylight) cloudy, (daylight) shady, along with the ability to take your own white balance setting. The button directly beneath governs ISO settings, with here the range going from ISO100 to a top end ISO12500, presented as with the previous setting as a toolbar overlaying the right hand side of the screen.

The bottom button of the row of five on the X (Typ 113) is the menu button. As we'd expect this is where the nitty gritty of the camera's operation is decided and acted upon. Naturally enough it's here that we choose the camera's resolution, with options ranging from 1.8 megapixels all the way up to 16 megapixels, plus opt for a level of compression. The JPEG options are either JPEG fine or the optimum 'super fine'. Then there's the chance to pair a super fine JPEG with a DNG file, or a fine JPEG with a DNG file. We don't then get the opportunity to shoot Leica's version of Raw on its own.

Also via the menu screen's we can select the camera's metering modes, with multi field metering, centre weighted metering and spot metering all offered up. Further options include the ability to turn image stabilization on or off, individually adjust sharpening, saturation and contrast in camera - with the default setting being 'standard' and the other alternatives ranging from 'low' to 'high'. Interestingly we also get 'preset film' options ranging from the default standard through vivid, natural, black and white natural and black and white high contrast.

Moving to the set of cross keys on the right of the screen, at twelve o'clock we find an exposure compensation button, with adjustable settings ranging from a standard -3EV to + 3EV. Subsequent presses call up a further exposure bracketing option across the same incremental steps, plus flash exposure compensation. Moving clock wise through the cross keys, and at three o'clock we find a button governing the more comprehensive than usual flash settings. These cover: auto, auto with red eye reduction, forced flash on, forced on with red eye reduction, slow sync, slow sync with red eye reduction, plus a fairly blinding (yet effective) studio flash option for triggering external slave flash units. The last of the three options is presented in the self-timer control, which throws up an option of two seconds or 12 seconds, and that's it.

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Side of the Leica X (Typ 113)

In the centre of these three buttons we find a button labeled 'info', though in truth it's function is closer to that of a standard 'display' button rather than providing the on-board manual its name might suggest. A press of this in capture mode removes icons for the shooting mode in play, number of shots remaining, battery life, focus and metering mode from the screen to provide a clear view of the subject, whilst a further press brings up a nine zone compositional grid for which to practice our Rule of Thirds.

Whilst the left hand flank of the X (Typ 113) is devoid of features save for a lug for attaching the strap, the right flank features a flip open door protecting two ports: one a five pin mini USB socket and the second for the HDMI output.

The base of the Leica X (Typ 113) meanwhile features a marginally off-centre screw thread, with a large catch protected compartment housing both the supplied BP-DC8 lithium-ion battery and port for optional removable SD media alongside it. The battery is good for around 260 shots according to the manual and claimed CIPA standards from a full 200-minute charge, which is hardly that impressive.

But what of the images the Leica X (Typ 113) delivers? Do they knock spots off the competition and justify the price tag here? Click forward to our next section to find out...

Entry Tags

review, samples, 3 inch LCD, compact, test, sample images, 16 megapixel, jpegs, RAW, manual, raw, 35mm, APS-C, CMOS, 5fps, leica, DNG, dngs, Leica X Typ 113, Leica X Typ 113 Review