Learning the ways of the Leica X1

I wasn’t sure what to make of the Leica X1 before I got it and typically read loads of reviews etc before purchase, some helped and some hindered.  I’d never owned or used a Leica before so was not sure what to expect.

Up front, I have to say that this is an older digital camera and with that comes a few prerequisites.

  1. When you replace the battery you have to set the date and time
  2. The monitor isn’t great in low light

But what you do get is a bare-bones camera which allows you to set it for your style of photography  (three users settings in total) and one that lets you worry about what you want to capture rather than lots of buttons and gadgets.

I have set mine up for three different settings

  1. Street Photography black and white with high-speed autofocus (used with f8-f16 and a 1/30speed limit and auto ISO)
  2. Natural colour photography with autofocus 
    (used with f11-16 and a 1/30speed limit and auto ISO)
  3. Manual zone focussing in black and white for shooting from the hip street photography 
    (used with f11 and a 1/30speed limit and auto ISO)

It’s been just over a week since I took ownership of the Leica X1 and I am really loving it.

I had some other settings with high contrast, vivid colour and lots of manual focusing but think this camera works best as I have set it

I also found when I was manually focusing the camera because it’s new, I was not holding it steady and trying to remember the dials, hold the camera and take the shot were all a bit too much and caused me to shake the camera and my shots were out of focus.

Windswept beach huts, f/16 ISO 100 1/60

This isn’t to say all automatically focused shots are in focus but you have to be aware where the zone focusing is set when you press the shutter button. 

One thing is sure though when the shot is in focus the photograph this camera produces are really sharp.  There’s lots of detail and interest in the shots and I am constantly surprised how each photo (whether landscape, portrait, street photography or a photo of Tilly), all come out really clear.

I have a very small gripe with the camera and that is the popup flash.  When I hold it in portrait orientation and manually focus, I tend to hold the camera on the top and bottom to steady it and have a couple of time, popped the flash open by mistake.   I have also taken a landscape with the flash by accident.  This is a minor gripe though and one I have to simply get used to.

I have been hunting for a camera I can take everywhere with me and I tried with the tiny Pentax Q and the Ricoh GRII but neither really grabbed me in the same way as the Leica X1.

I know this camera is older than my Olympus EM5 MKII, I know it has its limitations and I know that I am restricted to a single focal length but that all adds to its charms.

This camera makes me think about what I want to shoot.  What photographs I want to achieve rather than what I could possibly do with the camera.  There simply are no distractions.

Tate Modern, f/16, ISO 800 1/30

Being able to set my user profile and see the JPEG image on the screen as I shoot is brilliant, especially when shooting in black and white as I see instantly what I am about to capture.   (I shoot in JPEG and RAW so I have the choice but am pleasantly surprised with the JPEGs created by the camera.  So much so I have created a couple of Lightroom Presets to that I can make my RAW files (and other non-Leica files) look like the JPEGs from the X1).

There’s something about the way you approach photography with the Leica that makes you think about the composition, the exposure, framing and the lighting.

Unlike the other small cameras, I have managed to get out and shoot with it.  To keep it in my bag and to make myself take a break from my hectic work and shoot during my breaks.

In the short space of a week, I have managed to shoot in natural landscapes, busy capital cities, sunny days on the coast, amongst grey brooding skies and bright winters days.  Every time the Lecia has surprised.  Every time I got what I wanted from my shot and sometimes a little bit more.



Richard had a try with it on Saturday whilst we enjoyed a day on the coast and took a couple portraits of me.  SImple basic shots in natural light and the final result was brilliant.

Natural lighting, f/2.8 1/30 ISO 100 Straight out of the camera

Yes, there is some grain in the shots but not really a lot of noise.  The camera admirably manages to automatically control the ISO (I have a set a maximum of 800). 

You end up with photographs with character.  Photographs that feel like they could come from an analogue camera.

Maybe this is what Leica was attempting with the new M10-D?  I’d argue they have already found it in the X series.

At this point, I have to be honest as this is where WordPress lost the content of this post and I wrote so much more about the camera.

Sadly I cannot remember everything I lost but wanted to post what I have managed to recover.  I hope you found this post insightful and interesting.

I shall look forward to continuing to shoot with the Leica X1 and am considering using it as my everyday camera when we head off to NYC in a couple of weeks time.

If you have any questions about the Leica X1, please leave me a comment.

Interested in my kit? Find out more here https://kit.com/keith1974


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