Tour Montparnesse, Paris
Ever since I went digital in 2005 I've missed my Leica M6. It was quiet, compact and I never felt under gunned using it. For years I've been searching for a digital camera that fits that niche. The digital Leica Ms (8 and 9) have been too big and unreliable for me and none of the other compact cameras I have tried have been high enough quality.
Is the Leica X1 the answer to my needs?
I've had the X1 for a couple of weeks now. Even though the honeymoon is over I am still smitten with this little camera. Make no mistake it is quirky and far from perfect -it certanly isn't an M6, but it is still the best compact digital camera I have ever held.
Here is a 60 mile an hour assesment:
Full disclosure: while Leica has given me cameras in the past, I bought this one with my own money.
Most importantly for me this camera shoots publishable pictures. It's 24mm leica lens (36mm equivalent) is just about what I used on my M6. As you would expect it is sharp even wide open at f 2.8. For a small camera it has a large, quiet sensor. No noise through iso 400, very usable at 800. At 1600 things get pretty funky but it reminds me of pushing hp 5. There is a particular look that I don't mind at all. The digital file is a .dng (plus jpg) format. I get something like 400 images on an 8 gig card.
above iso 400 looks just great
The auto focus -frankly- BLOWS. It is slow and hesitant. Anyone who is used to using a nikon or canon dslr will hate it. The good news is that the camera is easy to manually focus. I zone focus just like I did with my M6. I have put a Voightlander 35mm external viewfinder on the camera (it has no built in viewfinder) and will probably buy the Leica finder when it is available.
above manual focus lets you get very close
The camera offers both automatic (shutter/aperture priority) and manual exposure. The controls are dials on the top of the camera, where you would expect them, not buried in a menu. Personally I think that the dials could be a little stiffer as they are pretty easy to knock out of place.
People have commented on the battery life. It is ok if you keep the lcd screen off, if you are using the lcd all the time carry and extra battery. I have yet to turn on the flash, but there is one built in.
I am hoping that there will be new firmware that will improve the autofocus but even as is the sensor and lens quality make up for any autofocus issues.
above Place de Voseges
It is expensive (2 grand if you can find it) and is definitely a second -or third- camera but one I am happy to carry with me.