The Leica X1 is a beautifully constructed hybrid camera with a great quality lens, but is it worth the hefty price tag?
Leica is known for the exquisite craftsmanship of its cameras and for the hefty price tag that accompanies them. The story here is exactly that: the Leica X1’s knobs and dials recall a traditional Rangefinder camera such as the Leica M8 beloved of photo enthusiasts while the £1,400 price tag will be enough to make all but the truly smitten blanche. Quality costs, as they say, and we can’t help but admire how the camera body incorporates a disc-shaped flash that rises effortlessly when pressed gently.
We were also delighted to find the Leica X1 incorporates a 12.9Mp APS-C sized sensor. This sensor is as large as those found in most consumer digital SLRs. This proves the rule that the bigger the chip the greater the light-gathering property and the better the resulting images.
Despite a robust all-metal build the Leica X1 manages not to feel like a dead weight in the hand. It can be used in automatic mode as a point-and-shoot camera – though you’re unlikely to buy such a pricey and capable model for this purpose. Manual adjustments to shutter speed and aperture are made via chunky top plate dials rather than tabbing through onscreen menus. If you know what you want to achieve it’s fairly fast and easy to use. Most importantly, if you need the ultimate in picture quality, it’s worth spending the extra that the Leica demands to get it.
Panasonic Micro FourThirds cameras equipped with Leica lenses trumped close competitors in the Olympus' PEN range in past tests. Their pin-sharp detail and smooth film-like colour tones proved exceptional. The Leica X1 ramps up the effect still further. The results we got using it were stunning. Yes, it’s costly and – perhaps just as much of an issue for some – the 24mm lens on the front, (equivalent to 36mm on a 35mm camera), cannot be changed. But it’s a Leica lens, and that comes with its own cachet.
There are sacrifices to be made. The close focus distance is around 30cm and there’s no movie mode on the Leica X1.
Another disappointment is that while the 2.7in LCD is generous enough in size, its 230K dot resolution is no better than you’ll find on £100 snappers. Still as we’ve noted image quality is what counts and on that score the Leica X1 produces crisp results that are more life-like and less obviously digital in origin than we’re used to seeing. Just a shame you’ll need an account with Harrods – or Leica’s own Mayfair store – to be able to afford one.
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