Leica X-U Review

April 29, 2016 | Amy Davies | |
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Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 16 megapixel Superfine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 6Mb.

In good conditions, the Leica X-U can produce some excellent images - as we’ve come to expect from Leica cameras. Many rugged or waterproof cameras often suffer with poor all-round image quality, so it’s nice to see a camera which you could realistically use even when not faced with tough conditions.

There’s bags of detail, again, what we’d expect from a large APS-C sensor. The overall impression of noise is good, but if you examine JPEG images at ISO 3200, you can see there’s a fair bit of noise introduced to images - which is something to bear in mind if you want to crop an image.

That said, the X-U is not without its faults. There seems to be quite a strong problem with cyan colouring of skies in JPEG images - our sample shots show that in some landscape images, the sky is overly vibrant which results in an unnatural look. Luckily, the DNG raw files don’t seem to suffer from the same problem, where colours are much more realistic.

Automatic white balance is generally very good, while there’s a specific underwater white balance mode which helps even out any problems with odd colour casts when photographing underwater. All-purpose metering is also good in the majority of shooting conditions, except where there’s a very high contrast situation which may prevent completely accurate renditions.

Because the sensor is so large, and the lens can open up to f/1.7 you can get some great shallow depth of field effects. It would be nicer if you could focus a little closer than 20cm though, as it makes shooting macro subjects near on impossible - if you’re into scuba diving and the like, you may relish the opportunity to photograph detailed shots, but the focusing may not be up to the task for close objects.

There’s not too much in the way of creative options for the Leica X-U, with just a few “film modes” to choose from. Leica probably wants to keep it simple, but it would be nice to have a few more options here.

Noise

There are 7 ISO settings available on the Leica X-U. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting:

JPEG RAW

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

iso100.jpg iso100raw.jpg
   

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

iso200.jpg iso200raw.jpg

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso400raw.jpg

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

iso800.jpg iso800raw.jpg

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

iso1600.jpg iso1600raw.jpg

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

iso3200.jpg iso3200raw.jpg
   

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

iso6400.jpg iso6400raw.jpg

Focal Range

The Leica X-U's lens provides a focal length of 35mm in 35mm terms, as demonstrated below.

35mm

focal_range.jpg

Chromatic Aberrations

The Leica X-U handled chromatic aberrations extremely well during the review, with very limited purple fringing mainly present around the edges of objects in high-contrast situations, as shown in the example below.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

chromatic1.jpg

Macro

The Leica X-U offers a Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is 20cms away from the camera.

Macro

macro.jpg

Flash

The flash settings on the Leica X-U are Automatic, automatic/red eye reduction, ON, ON/red eye reduction, long-term synchronization/red eye reduction, OFF. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (35mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (35mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are a couple of portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Auto setting or the Red Eye Fix option caused any amount of red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)
flash_on1.jpg flash_on1a.jpg
   

Red Eye

Red Eye (100% Crop)

flash_redeye.jpg flash_redeye1.jpg

Night

The Leica X-U's maximum shutter speed is 30 seconds in the Manual mode, which is great news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 30 seconds at ISO 200.

Night

Night (100% Crop)

night1.jpg night1a.jpg

Film Modes

The Leica X-U offers 5 different film modes.

Standard

Natural

filmmodestandard.jpg filmmodenatural.jpg
   

Vivid

B&W Natural

filmmodevivid.jpg filmmodebandwnatural.jpg
   

B&W High Contrast

 
filmmodebandwhighcontrast.jpg