Saturday, January 9, 2010

Leica X1 Prototype Review.

Just before Christmas, I received a pre-production X1, with the handgrip, for review.

This is the second prototype X1 that we have had for review. This one seems to have a near final version firmware installed, so I took it out for a test run.

My initial thoughts about the camera are that the controls are laid out nicely. The buttons on the back of the camera are similar to the M8/M9 and the D-Lux 4, so they will be familiar to many.

The size of the camera is not much larger than the D-Lux 4, but for this camera, I do like the grip. I have not yet seen or used the optical finder, but I think that I would enjoy using that with this camera as well. As the X1 has a fixed focal length lens, the optical finder seems like a perfect match. The little black dot on the rear of the top cover, below the accessory shoe, is a focus confirmation light. This can be seen in your peripheral view when using the finder.

The controls on the top cover are of solid aluminum and feel very nice. The layout will be familiar to most users. The flash is raised by simply depressing the top of the flash. I did some fill flash shots with manual exposure. In this regard, the camera operates the same as an SLR, which is awesome for a compact camera. For me, the idea of such a camera as this is to take it when you do not wish to carry your full sized camera, so all images in this article are hand held.

The flash is very balanced, but if you want a softer ratio, flash compensation is available. The metering is also very accurate. I used the camera in all metering modes and settled on the multi pattern metering as the overall best setting. The multi-point AF seems to work as it should, but I'm not a big fan of multi-point AF. I've used it with Canons and Nikons, and like the SLR's, the X1 does not consistently predict where I want it to focus.

ISO performance is impressive. The camera is capable of operating to ISO 3200. Usually, images made at the ISO max do not tend to look very good. ISO 3200 on the X1 is, in my opinion, actually usable. The noise that you would expect looks like film grain, which is quite novel for a digital camera.

The noise at ISO 800 is generally not noticeable. I'd probably just set the camera at auto ISO to limit to 800 and leave it at that.

There is some color fringing present in some of the images that I made. This is easy to dial out in Lightroom or Photoshop and I suspect that it will be dealt with in the final firmware that the camera ships with.

This last set of images shows the difference in image quality when used at each of the ISO settings.

My overall impressions of the X1 are that is photographs much like a point and shoot M8. The fit and finish and overall quality of construction are what we come to expect from Leica and are what you would expect of a compact camera that has a tag of $1995.00. Currently, RAW images can only be made in tandem with a JPEG image. I anticipate that this will be changed before the camera ships. Below are a few more images made with the camera, Click on any of these images to open up full TIFF files and check out the image quality for yourself.

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