HYDE is a young contemporary art magazine. They recently started with a series of interviews and asked me to contribute a few lines. Go check out their website or maybe have a peek at the interview if you find the time.
I’m one of yours. Throughout the years I’ve been sporting a lot of your models.
We’ve started out with a D70, that was and still is a great camera. It’s excellent. I still use it for portraits on sunny days. I love the fact that you didn’t put a mechanical shutter in there. Why did you stop doing that?
Then came your D90, which was also great. I mean, HD filming on a DSLR? That’s rad. However, now you’ve come with the cheaper D3100 that supports HD filming and autofocus, the D90 might be going on early retirement. I also have a Nikon FM. There’s no way to dislike this camera. Photographers in the eighties used to carry them with them during Arctic expeditions, who doesn’t want a camera that can do that. The D300 is the machine I mainly use. It’s as weatherproof as a camera will get, built as a brick and quick as Speedy Gonzalez – 8fps, that’s an action sports photog’s dream.
Nikon, I love you dearly, and I will never leave you.
But Nikon, make room, because there’s this little camera that has somehow found a way into my camera bag, the Leica X1.
Well, for starters there’s this. (Girls, don’t look.)
But there’s a handful of other reasons. Leica’s, and especially the rangefinder M’s, are small (compared to (D)SLR’s), quiet and therefore ideal for photojournalism, not to forget dead sexy too. It’s precision crafted German engineering, a Porsche in cameraland if you like. Many famous photographers, like Bresson and Sieff, have been using Leica’s. With almost a century of experience in the making you expect the best and nothing less.
It’s drop dead gorgeous, and it will fit your jacket.
Let’s do this.
Note: These are just my opinions, chopped up in short paragraphs, coming from my experiences with the X1. For charts and in-depth comparisons look elsewhere.
Leica’s in general are for experienced photographers, and the X1 is no exception. Both aperture and shutter speed are controlled by dials on top of the camera, true Leica style. ISO, white balance and focus can easily be changed from the camera back.
I heart the X1 for it’s size. It’s smaller than a DSLR, and about 10 times as light too. It will fit in your jacket. With the good weather we’ve had the past few weeks I’ve been carrying it with me everywhere.
The two most important ingredients for a good camera are its lens and its light sensor. This is where the X1 will exceed every point-and-shoot camera in the world, and maybe even further. The reason why the camera is the size that it is is because of the light sensor they put in there. It’s a bit bigger than the ones they normally put in point-and-shoots, hence giving you better quality pictures. It has the same size as the one used in the Nikon D300, and that’s why it’s terribly good in low lights.
Although some will probably dislike the fact that there’s no zoom on the camera, I don’t see that as a shortcoming at all. The lens Leica put in there is tack-sharp, even at 2.8, maybe even sharper than my Nikon primes. I shoot it wide open 90 percent of the time. In combination with the all-around 35mm focal length there’s a perfect party match.
Continuing on that matter. The bokeh is stunning. Definitely better than its Nikon equivalent. The sunstar, or whatever you may call it, is pretty too. I counted 14 rays in total.
Oh baby I like it RAW. Yeah, the X1 is capturing in RAW, easing post-processing.
The X1 works seamlessly with Elinchrom Skyports. In combination with macro AF-ing, will make it a affordable studio camera for product shots.
One thing I had to get used to is the Liveview composing. Sure the LCD is big and bright, but I prefer a viewfinder. (It’s a general thing, I don’t like LV-ing on a DSLR either.) Good thing Leica came with one for the X1 too, but you’ll have to buy it separately. Bummer.
Focussing on the X1 is so-so. There are 11 focus points, divided in four fields. One in the bottom, one in the top and one on each side. Unfortunately the autofocus will always choose the subject that is closest by to focus on and that’s kind of hard if you want depth in your front field. UPDATE: You CAN select fields(!), by putting the camera in Spot mode. Whilst pressing the DELETE/FOCUS button select your field using the directional buttons. Thanks for the heads up Rob. Therefore I’ve been using the MF a lot. Prefocus and snap. It’s a bit slower, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll actually start to enjoy it. I can’t help to over think that a manual focusing ring on the lens would have made this camera a banger.
The slower focussing is no biggie in action sports, architecture or any field of photography where there’s control over action and composition, but is harder to dial if you’re into photojournalism and the more unpredictable kinds of photography.
This one is something else.
Normally I’m not that keen on point-and-shoot cameras, they often lack capabilities. But the X1 is so much fun!
It has a great allround lens that’s great for portraits, architecture and even action sports, but due to the lack of accurate autofocus control not so great for photojournalism. This however could easily be fixed in a firmware update. Let’s hope Leica thinks the same way.Update: They already did. (By the way, I was using the 2.0 firmware.)
The X1 is a small DSLR, stripped down to bare essentials, a racer if you like.
Is it worth the money? That’s for you to decide. But it’s a champ, that’s for sure.
Here’s a few.
ISO 100, F2.8, 1/1000. Good neutral colours.
ISO 200, F2.8, 1/2000
ISO 1600, F2.8, 1/40. Lovely bokeh and grain in this one.
ISO 100, F2.8, 1/2000
ISO 800, F2.8, 1/50
ISO 400, F2.8, 1/400. It’s tack-sharp, even wide open.
ISO 100, F4.0, 1/800. The X1 is quiet and unobtrusive.