Leica X1 Review

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Basic Specifications
Full model name: Leica X1
Resolution: 12.20 Megapixels
Sensor size: APS-C
(23.7mm x 15.6mm)
Lens: Non-Zoom
(36mm eq.)
Viewfinder: LCD
Extended ISO: 100 - 3200
Shutter: 1/2000 - 30 sec
Max Aperture: 2.8
Dimensions: 4.9 x 2.3 x 1.3 in.
(124 x 60 x 32 mm)
Weight: 10.1 oz (286 g)
MSRP: $1,995
Availability: 12/2009
Manufacturer: Leica
Full specs: Leica X1 specifications

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Non-Zoom APS-C
size sensor
image of Leica X1
Front side of Leica X1 digital camera        

Like Sigma's DP1 and DP2 before it, the Leica X1 couples a fixed focal length lens with a much larger image sensor than is found in the typical compact digital camera. The Leica X1 is based around a twelve megapixel CMOS imager which is similar to the area of an APS-C film frame - the same size as the imagers found in most low to mid-range digital SLRs, and just a little bigger than the 4.6 megapixel Foveon sensors used in Sigma's cameras. Unlike Sigma's cameras which capture full color information at every pixel location, the Leica X1 uses a traditional Bayer RGB filter to capture only one color at each pixel location, with the remainder interpolated from surrounding pixels. With a 35mm-equivalent focal length of 36mm, the Leica X1's lens sits almost precisely in the middle ground between the DP1's 28mm-equivalent lens, and the DP2's 41mm equivalent lens. The maximum aperture of f/2.8 for Leica's lens matches that of the DP2, and noticeably betters the DP1's rather dimmer f/4.0 lens. The Leica X1 can focuses as close as 12.2" / 30cm, the same distance as available in the DP1 and almost as close as the 11" / 28cm rating for the DP2.

The Leica X1 offers ISO-equivalent sensitivities ranging from 100 to 3,200, as compared to the Sigma DP2's ISO 50 to 1,600 and the DP1's ISO 100 to 800 ranges. Images are framed on a 2.7" LCD display with 230,000 dots of resolution - a little larger than the 2.5" displays on Sigma's cameras, but with the same dot count. Intelligent multiple, center-weighted or spot metering are available, and as well as shooting in Program mode, the Leica X1 photographer can opt for Aperture- or Shutter-priority or fully manual shooting. Autofocusing is contrast detection-type with face detection capability, and offers a choice of one or eleven-point AF with either standard or high-speed modes. Manual focus is also available. Eight white balance settings are available, including both Auto and two Manual modes plus five presets. A built-in manual popup flash offers both red-eye reduction and slow synchro modes, although the company hasn't published a specification for flash range at the current time, and there's also a flash hot shoe for external flash strobes.

One feature offered by both of Sigma's cameras that is conspicuously absent from the Leica X1 is a movie mode. The X1 records only still images, in either .DNG Raw or JPEG file formats. Images are stored in either 50MB of built-in memory, or as with the Sigma cameras, onto Secure Digital cards including the newer SDHC types.Connectivity options include high-definition HDMI video output (rather than the standard-def NTSC/PAL of the Sigma cameras), and USB 2.0 High Speed computer connectivity. Power comes from a proprietary Lithium Ion rechargeable battery, with a charger included in the product bundle. Unusually, Leica is offering a full copy of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom free of charge with the Leica X1, but without any physical media. Instead, customers must register their camera with Leica to gain access to a downloadable version of Lightroom.

The Leica X1 ships in the USA from December 2009, and pricing has not been disclosed at this time.

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