It had been a long time that I was on market for a small camera to complement my Leica M system. Indeed, we will soon move to Argentina I needed of a small camera to carry along all the time and that would not prove to be to much of a loss if it ever gets stolen (which is a high risk in some cities of the country). After surveying thoroughfully the market, I opted for the Leica X1. Here are a few reasons why :
Phone addict, Lausanne. Leica X1 at 36mm F2.8, 1/125, ISO800
- first and above all, I got a wonderful deal since I basically acquired it at a 50% discount. That is new from an authorised dealer and with a 5 years extended warranty. I always felt it was initially overpriced compared to competition, yet at that discounted price, I believe it is good value. I did also consider the newer Leica X2 but did not deem that its improvements (bigger sensor, better auto focus, electronic viewfinder) were essential to my style of street photography. And sincerely, I am tired of the pixel wars. The sweet spot for street photography is in my opinion around 10 to 15 mpx, no need for more.
- it is one of the only compact camera with aperture and speed dials. I almost exclusively shoot in manual mode so having these directly accessible is a must. The other contender here was the Fuji X100, but I did not like its small viewfinder magnification (0.5 vs 0.72 for the X1 external optical viewfinder). At 35mm, I need a good magnification to see all the details of a scene.
- the image quality is stellar, and most importantly, the X1 renders in a way that is similar to the M system. I did a comparison of the X1 vs the Leica M8 + 24mm Elmarit and found colors, contrast, clarity, dynamic range and bokeh to be very similar. Sure the M8/9 are still better performers, but the X1 pictures are excellent for such a small camera.This ultimately means that I can switch from one system to the other and keep homogeneity in my work.
The sleeping Sioux – Bern. Leica X1 at 36mm F8.0, 1/500, ISO100
- It has an APS-C sensor which allows some control over depth of field. I won't get a lof of blur yet it is possible to create some background separation when the subject is within 2 meters.
- the manual focus mode works pretty well (especially since the 2.0 firmware update). It is not great, yet one can easily work with it by zone focusing. As for its auto focus, which has been often critiqued as very slow, I think it is decent when set-up adequately (1 point High speed, screen turned off). Anyways, I don't anticipate to use it much, manual focus is in my opinion much easier to work with in street photography.
- This is a Leica. Though it might sound like a snob or fan boy statement, it is not. The X1 has the same menus and button layout as Leica M's, retains the same ADN in terms of design and ergonomics, and also uses the Dng raw files format. Why change a set-up that works well from the shoot to the post processing.
An American in Bern. Leica X1 at 36mm F11 1/250, ISO800
It has only been a week since I started to shoot with it. My learning curve is therefore still very steep. I'll report more on it once the honeymoon is over and will have gathered better insights on its strengths and drawbacks.