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Leica X1 "Fever" Spreading Like Wildfire

PostPosted: Fri Feb 26, 2010 12:10 pm
by Detail Man
I am no expert (as I am sure is evident). And I have only read what others say about the Leica X1 priced at $2000 USD (not to mention those ultra-inexpensive accessories). These things make me scratch my head in disbelief, though. Prior to purchasing my Panasonic DMC-LX3, I borrowed my neighbor's Leica D-Lux4 to take some test shots. I marveled as he proudly explained the small fortune that he had paid for the hand-grip and the cheesy "optical viewfinder". I privately concluded that (like buying a Mercedes-Benz), Leica's market is for people to whom money is secondary to a warm emotional feeling somehow brought about by their "retro" tank-like styling, and ludicrously expensive accessories. But, I'm sure that those lenses are "cherry-picked" at the factory, and that firmware that makes about a 1/3 stop difference in exposure levels and almost no difference in the color (both being readily adjustable on both cameras) somehow makes the D-Lux4 "holy grail" compared to the plebeian pleasures of the DMC-LX3 at nearly half the price (before the cost of those Leica accessories) ...

I have purchased and used no less than 5 Panasonic Lumix camera models (LZ5, FZ30, FZ50, TZ4, and LX3) for a total cost of $2000 USD. All of them have featured Panasonics's effective Optical Image Stabilization ("Mega OIS"). With the exception of the LZ5, all have had Leica lens-systems (or whatever Leica allows Panasonic to put their brand-name on). With the exception of the TZ4 (where I resorted to spot-auto-focus mode only in all situations), they all auto-focus reasonably well down to EV (ref ISO=100) of 5.0. While image-sensor noise is problematic when shooting at over ISO=100 (with the LZ5 and FZ30), both cameras have taken many fine photographs, and are free from the over-aggressive Noise Reduction that plagues so many small-sensor (around 1/2.5 Inch diagonal sized) multi-Mpixel compacts to this day. Such over aggressive NR plagues the FZ50 and the TZ4 - but the FZ50 shooting RAW is free from the disappointing "Venus III JPG Engine" and is viable when shooting RAW up to ISO=200 with no post-processing NR being necessary at all, and the TZ4 is OK at less than a couple of Meters, does nice macro, and cost me a mere $200 USD brand-new. The LX3 is improved over the LZ5 and TZ4, and is very good (used with DxO Optics Pro and the LX3 support Modules) shooting in "raw" up to a few Meters distance, and is also nice for macro.

If I could combine all of my 5 Panasonic cameras (which cost me $2000 USD total) into one compact camera, would the Leica X1 be that camera?

(1) It appears to be larger (124 x 60 x50 mm), thicker, and heavier (330 grams all loaded up) than the DMC-LX3 (which is barely "pocket-able" itself at 109 x 62 x 45 mm, and weighs only 265 grams "all loaded up"):

(2) It has a large image sensor (23.6 x 15.8 mm) that is only about 22% larger (in pixel-size) than the DMC-LX3 - yet, for all that extra active sensor size, appears to have virtually the same "chroma-noise" as the Panasonic GF1 (with a smaller 17.3 x 13.0 mm image-sensor size, about 52% higher pixel-density, and a measured 20% higher actual measured ISO sensitivity in-camera): ... ield.shtml

Correction (May, 15, 2010):
Actually, from the following images within DP Review web-page linked below, the Leica X1 (compared to the Panasonic DMC-GF1) is:
> Better where it comes to "chroma" noise test results: ... chroma.png
> Better where it comes to "grey noise" test results: ... g-grey.png
> Worse (below around ISO =1100) where it comes to "black" noise test results: ... -black.png


(3) The combination of the larger image-sensor active area together with the (actual) 24 mm focal length:
results in a DOF (at minimum F=2.8) of 0.54 Meters at a sensor-subject distance of 1.5375 Meters. At that same precise distance the DMC-LX3 DOF (at the same F=2.8) equals Infinity.

(4) The (35 mm equivalent) full wide angle is 35mm (compared to 24mm for the DMC-LX3), and the minimum F=2.8 (compared to F=2.0 for the DMC-LX3):

(5) It has a 2.7 Inch LCD screen with only 230,000 "dots" (as opposed to the LX3 which has a 3.0 Inch LCD with 460,000 "dots"):

Then things get even quirkier and murkier:


"The X1 is necessarily dependent upon contrast-detect autofocus, which has been honed to a fine art on small sensor compacts but suffered something of a chequered history on larger sensor systems. The X1, in truth, isn't going to set the world alight with its focus speed - it's not terrible, but Panasonic has set the bar extremely high with its G series cameras and the X1 just can't keep up. It simply can't focus quickly enough to lock on to a subject that won't stay still for long, and this sluggishness does limit the camera's flexibility to some extent (it's just not as suitable for grabbing quick shots as a DSLR, or the GF1)."
"The previous "champ" for ultra-slow autofocus, at least in my testing, was the Olympus EP-1 which is one of the worst cameras for candid photography I've ever tried. Didn't think it was possible, but the Leica X1 trumps that model, taking at least two to three seconds to lock in. That's a lifetime in street photography. Worse yet, the Live View on the X1's 2.7-inch screen is extremely slow and jerky making it hard to track your subject if there's any fast movement." ... 80ab5?pn=2

Manual Focus:

"... the X1's implementation of manual focus has a couple of problems. Most importantly, in anything other than dim light the lens stops down uncontrollably, and doesn't open up again to F2.8 for focusing. This makes really accurate manual focus impossible, especially if you're aiming for selective focus at F2.8."

"Live" Histogram:

"The big problem with the X1's histogram is that it is quite clearly based on the screen display. And after a while, you come to realize that this doesn't necessarily reflect the final exposure." ... "Unfortunately, the histogram also disappears when you press the exposure compensation button, so you can't tweak exposure while watching the effect on the histogram. Instead you have to guess, and see what you get." ... "When you then half-press and hold the shutter button for focus / exposure lock, the display finally attempts to set its brightness to truly reflect the exposure. Bizarrely, though, the histogram also dismisses itself at this point, just when it might actually be accurate ...":

Image "Stabilization":

"There is an Image Stabilization setting on the camera's menu, but it isn't what you think. The X1 does not have either optical or sensor-based image stabilization. What Leica has implemented seems a bit strange, and here's what the manual says about it...
The camera takes two pictures automatically in series with this function, one with a faster and one with a slower shutter speed (you will hear the shutter operate twice during the operation). Then, it takes the data of the two exposures and combines them into one with digital image processing.
• Therefore, please hold the camera steady until the shutter has released
the second time.
• Due to the function using two exposures, it can only be applied with
static subjects.
• Image stabilization is only possible with shutter speeds within the range
of 1/4s to 1/30s and sensitivities up to ISO 1600.
This seems to me to be far less useful that the IS found on other cameras, and almost seems to have been added so that a check-box can be ticked off. Frankly, if it only works when the subject is stationary, and when the shutter speed is very low, it's of little practical value ..."
: ... ield.shtml
"The X1 features image stabilization, but it's not based on lens or sensor movement. Instead it's a form of electronic stabilization which combines color information from a correct exposure with luminance data from a second, shorter exposure to produce the final image. Its Achilles Heel is that this only works in JPEG - if you're recording DNGs it won't do anything, even when set to 'On' in the menu.":

"Macro" mode:

While the 60 cm minimum focusing distance (in normal operation) is not too surprising, it's that "ultra-close" 30 cm "macro" minimum focusing distance that really "grab"s me ... :P

Another glowing perspective on the Leica X1:

"using this handsome and expensive ($2,000) little camera is not a pleasant experience. In fact, it's an unmitigated slog that makes you wonder how much user testing Leica did before they released the X1.": ... 80ab5?pn=1

"Though this attractive and well-built little camera is capable of capturing images that rival those taken with high-quality digital SLRs, using it is such a slog you might wonder why you spent all that money on it. Though it beats the pants off the Canon Powershot G11 and Panasonic Lumix GF1 when shooting at high ISOs in low light, those two models are far more enjoyable to use, come with video modes (the X1 has none), and are considerably cheaper. (In the case of the G11, you could buy four of them to one X1.) It's hard to deny the potential of this terrific high ISO performer but, in the end, the X1 is a disappointment.": ... 80ab5?pn=3

I am afraid to tell my neighbor about the X1 - lest he might exhaust his (what must be a small) fortune on one, forthwith ... If he did, I'm not sure if I could live with myself for being a party to such carnage ... But, who am I to judge (or to endeavor to protect others from themselves) ... back to my business of working with those plebeian Panasonics and my low-rent processing software ... :P

Re: Leica X1 "Fever" Spreading Like Wildfire

PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 8:15 am
by ricohlizer
i enjoyed that , a good read

Re: Leica X1 "Fever" Spreading Like Wildfire

PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 12:14 pm
by barnvelder
I enjoyed that too!! Very sensible stuff.
As someone who was tempted enough for a while to put down a pre-order on an X1 it sums up nicely why I withdrew the order and went for a Ricoh GRD3 instead.
I know it's not the same as a Leica - but is a very good compact camera and is such a pleasure to use.
I think I've gone through dreaming of a Leica and come out the other side in the 21st (rather than the 20th) century.

Re: Leica X1 "Fever" Spreading Like Wildfire

PostPosted: Thu May 20, 2010 9:18 pm
by jsrockit
Well, I'm one of the people, who I guess you think are foolish, who bought an X1. Why did I buy it? Simple menus, dedicated dials, nice design, big sensor, good lens. To me it is comfortable to use... a lot of the Japanese cameras have horribly convoluted menu systems, no dedicated dials, and a cheaper overall feel to them. I've been a Leica M user for many many years and this compact digital works the way I expect a camera to work (depsite the slow AF). Don't just assume that those of us who bought the X1 are stupid and rich. You have mentioned 5 P&S cameras and asked if the X1 is worth the same... my answer would be yes, but I'm a quality over quantity type. Now, I'm not going to say that there aren't better deals than the X1... that would be foolish, but for those of us that prefer a simpler digital camera with dedicated dials and a simple menu, the X1 is the best choice. Sometimes a lack of features and a bare bones approach is refreshing compared to the "swiss army" approach of many cameras these days.

PS: Why did you spend so much time researching a camera you hate so much? It seems like it is many people's hobby on the internet these days.

Re: Leica X1 "Fever" Spreading Like Wildfire

PostPosted: Thu May 20, 2010 10:02 pm
by odklizec
I don't think that people who bought X1 are automatically rich and definitely not stupid! In my opinion, people who bought X1 are people who did some research and found X1 to be the best camera for their needs. I always looked at M8 and now M9 with a great respect. It may be limited to just MF lenses, it may be expensive like a hell, but I really like it and wish to have one. As for X1, I just think that Leica can do thing better.

There is no excuse for not implementing only the best in class LCD, currently available in cheaper cameras (like in GRDIII or even CX3!). Slow AF could be forgotten with reasonable manual focus implementation (proper focusing ring) with some manual focus helpers. And I can understand the call for simpler menu, but not functionality reduced menu! I think many people will agree that Ricoh menu is a symbol of simplicity. It just allows great level of customization and features that makes the photographer's live easier. It may appear long and hard to learn for novice user, but most of the things you will set once and then you can forget about them. Most of GRD/GXR functionality can be set via external controls.

All in all, I think that X1 could be a strong competitor with addressed faults and design quirks and somewhat reduced price. On the other hand, I can understand why people buy it and love it ;)

Re: Leica X1 "Fever" Spreading Like Wildfire

PostPosted: Fri May 21, 2010 1:40 am
by jsrockit
That's fair odklizec... believe me I wish it was faster in the AF dept and I wish I could actually see the LCD in bright sunlight...well, and I wish it was cheaper. I'm not going to sit here and say it is a good deal. However, for me... it works 99% of the time fine. I'm not sure what you mean by the X1's menu being "fuctionally reduced." It feels perfect to me. Then again all I need is a ISO button, a shutter speed dial, and an aperture dial.

The M8 isn't perfect either... the framelines suck, the shutters fail, and it was crazy expensive new. You don't buy a Leica looking for the best deal... you buy a Leica because you like the fact that they have one foot in the past and make no nonsense cameras. Unfortunately, Leica's tend to be the best cameras for my needs. That said, I'd love to have a GRX. I've had to leave the GRD behind after being spoiled by larger sensors. I'm hoping that Ricoh somehow figures out how to make a GRD IV with a larger sensor.

Re: Leica X1 "Fever" Spreading Like Wildfire

PostPosted: Fri May 21, 2010 2:13 am
by Detail Man
jsrockit wrote:... I'm one of the people, who I guess you think are foolish, who bought an X1 ... Don't just assume that those of us who bought the X1 are stupid and rich ... I'm a quality over quantity type. Now, I'm not going to say that there aren't better deals than the X1... that would be foolish ... Why did you spend so much time researching a camera you hate so much? It seems like it is many people's hobby on the internet these days.


I don't hate inanimate objects (such as a camera). Nor do I hate my friend, or people who purchase a Leica X1. Money is less of a concern for some than it is for others - and it is not my personal business to dictate how others choose to use their money. But sometimes people may take a critical look at what a camera buyer may get (or not get) with the spending of money - and it is not unusual (or a bad thing) that others may find themselves disagreeing ...

I had just purchased a Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 for $400 USD, and was amazed and puzzled as to why my friend was so enamored with paying twice as much ($800 USD) for his Leica D-Lux 4 (which only has very minor differences in camera firmware where it comes to exposure level and color rendering), $150 USD for the "hand-grip" that he would not need with a DMC-LX3, plus $350 USD for a the "optical viewfinder". The pricing of all this Leica stuff just seems outrageously expensive to me. This particular case (D-Lux 4 versus DMC-LX3) does not appear to offer "quality" commensurate with the outlay of a larger "quantity" of money. So, it seemed to me that there must be something else going on - something more intangible, and residing on an emotional (more than technical) plane.

chichornio had (at the time of the post) expressed an interest in the possibility of purchasing a Leica X1. Unfamiliar with the camera myself, I spent about one hour reading reviews about the Leica X1. The dedicated adjustment knobs of the Leica X1 are nifty, and there seems little doubt that the image-sensor is one of high quality.

I (personally) find it hard to fathom the idea of (me, personally) purchasing a camera costing $2000 USD that:

(1) Has a 2.7 Inch LCD with only 230,000 "dots" resolution;

(2) Has a minimum aperture of 2.8;

(3) Has a minimum focus distance of 30 cm;

(4) Has an AF mode that is reported to be inferior to Lumix G-Series models costing less than half as much to purchase;

(5) Has a MF mode that automatically "stops-down" the aperture with increasing light levels (whether the user likes it or not);

(6) Has a "Live Histogram" that disappears from the display as soon as it is based on the actual exposure level upon half-press of the shutter button - before the user actually takes the shot;

(7) Does not have any mechanical image stabilization functionality.

Having purchased a DMC-LX3 for $400 USD that:

(1) Has a 3.0 Inch LCD with 460,000 "dots";

(2) Has a minimum aperture of 2.0;

(3) Has minimum focus distance of 1.0 cm;

(4,5) Has AF and MF modes free from the reported limitations of the Leica X1;

(6) Has a "Live Histogram" that does not disappear from the display as soon as it is informative (and needed);

(7) Has functional Optical Image Stabilization offering something between 2 and 4 "stops" of mechanical stabilization.

I just found myself "scratching my head". I have (on this forum's DMC-LX3 thread) been both critical of the DMC-LX3's shortcomings, as well as complimentary where credit is due. I am interested in opinions that are critical of my hardware - as I learn something tangible from acquiring such knowledge. Perhaps I am myself foolish for assuming that spending $400 would buy "quality" ... :P ... I would add that were it not for the comprehensive optical corrections (including "Lens Softness" with deconvolution deblurring) that DxO Optics Pro 6.x (costing $99 USD until June 15, 2010) performs (in software), I would not be find the lens-system of the DMC-LX3 to be adequate for my applications. I do not doubt that the Leica X1 has a much higher quality Leica lens-system!

Inanimate objects like cameras do not have feelings, and can (and perhaps inevitably will) be criticized as well as lauded for this or that asset/liability. Quality is something that many rightly desire - there is no unitary criterion for rating a camera (only personal preferences for what elements of functionality, performance, and image quality are most important to that particular user).

But reading about and speculating about something that I have not myself used can be a dicey business - so I am glad that chichornio now has the benefit of a real Leica X1 "hands-on" user who can communicate the assets/liabilities of the Leica X1 that you perceive as a result of actual use! ... :) Some of the Leica X1 samples that I have found do demonstrate very good image quality!

Peace, DM

Re: Leica X1 "Fever" Spreading Like Wildfire

PostPosted: Fri May 21, 2010 4:06 am
Hi Jeremy,
You´ve made your point, and I agree with you in almost 99% of your statements. Even I´ve almost decided to save the money to buy the DMC-GF1/20mm F1.7 kit. But... There is always a but... How long the Micro 4/3 will last? I´m making a mistake maybe? I wonder why Leica will release a camera (the X1 in this case) taking some much time to be able to the public? I "want" to believe that there´s a hidden secret that just X1´s real owners can disclose. As I´ve said before in another thread, I would like to have the Leica X1 for just a day and try it. But that´s impossible in South America (in fact the X1 will be sold here at about u$s3.500!!!!! because of custom taxes).
Then again, only real X1 users can explain to us why they have spent u$s 2.000 in a fixed normal lens-poor LCD rendering-slow AF-old system menus-etc. pro-almost-pocket camera. Any "industry oriented" reviews are useless for me. I don´t even care about the 100% crop comparition!!! Give me a well exposed RAW file, let me print the file at a "exposition" size" (from 50x60 til 90x110) and then we´ll have the final conclusion. But as I´ve said before, I guess that the X1´s secret relies in a carefull sensor-lens combination optimazed for IQ raw files. Nothing else, nothing more.

Re: Leica X1 "Fever" Spreading Like Wildfire

PostPosted: Fri May 21, 2010 4:10 am
I'm hoping that Ricoh somehow figures out how to make a GRD IV with a larger sensor

As a proud owner of a noisy but great GRD2, I agree with you.I´ll hope this will happen one day. I have the same dream. Big sensor/1.4 lens combo in a GRD body... I know they can do it, I don´t know why!!!

Re: Leica X1 "Fever" Spreading Like Wildfire

PostPosted: Fri May 21, 2010 5:12 am
by Detail Man
CHICHORNIO wrote:... But... There is always a but... How long the Micro 4/3 will last? I´m making a mistake maybe?

Well, the image sensors will only get larger in size (not smaller), further dramatically reducing the Depth of Field (if that matters in a user's particular applications) - so one might find Micro 4/3 to be a nice compromise between 1/1.7" image-sensors and the even larger image-sensors in DSLRs and upcoming camera models. Where it comes to the market options/availability of add-on lenses, your concerns are wise - but (in the end) the manufacturers are likely to continue to "obsolete" last years "flavor" in an effort to entice the customer to purchase newer hardware. There is little or nothing that we as consumers can do about these profiteering "juggernauts" on the part of camera manufacturers ...

My usual practice is to let a given desirable technology mature to the point where options exist and the price is dropping (due to the arrival of "new kid on the block"), and then purchase that desired technology after having had a chance to analyze and evaluate it. From the early 6 Mpixel digicams that we still know and love to today, the "megapixel wars" have all too often made the newer compact camera models look like worse options for users seeking image-quality and a reasonable amount of user-control at the same time.

It may well be that the only way to overcome the optical limitations of pocket-able compacts sporting small, non-protruding, (fixed or add-on) lens-systems is the use of greater amounts of software-based post-processing. This is certainly the case where it comes to the DMC-LX3 - which "shines" only when shooting in "raw" and when using DxO Optics Pro (version 6.2 or higher) to correct the lens-system's optical distortions/aberrations (particularly DxO's unique "Lens Softness" corrections implementing deconvolution deblurring).

This introduces even more complexities surrounding whether or not a specialized and unique software application such as DxO Optics Pro supports a given camera/lens combination ... as many camera customers (including Ricoh owners) well know. Who want's to base their camera and lens purchasing decisions on what a software manufacturer (such as DxO) has added (or may in the future add) to their "supported camera/lens" list? I got lucky when DxO announced that they were adding the DMC-LX3 to their "supported cameras" only after I had purchased the DMC-LX3 ... :P

... the X1 will be sold here at about u$s3.500!!!!! because of custom taxes ...

Ouch! That hurts! I hope that the single Leica dealer in your country has a service/repair department. Imagine paying a fortune in shipping/insurance to air-ship a defective camera to another continent - only to possibly expose the image-sensor to cosmic-rays that might damage your image-sensor and cause "hot pixels" on the return-trip back from the factory-service location.

Assuming that the results of the user-implementable "pixel-mapping" on the DMC-GF1 corrects for defective pixels in the recorded "raw" (as well as the JPG) image-files (something that at least some Pentax camera models appear to be able to do), the DMC-GF1's "pixel-mapping" feature may represent another positive aspect as defective pixels arise during the life of the image-sensor.