A Hike with the Leica X1

It’s been said that the best camera is the one that is in your hands when you want to capture a fleeting image. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a wonderful moment and had no camera with me to capture it. Very frustrating…but that’s where the compact camera shines. It’s small enough to put in your coat pocket or small bag, always ready when you need it.

I had the opportunity recently to take the Leica X1 out for one of my hikes along my favorite beach. I have to admit up front that I’m not a huge fan of compact cameras mostly because of their small sensors and lack of quick auto focusing. I’m spoiled shooting DSLRs with their lightning fast auto focus and 8-10 photos per second frame rates, not to mention their large sensors. But, do I carry one everywhere I go? No way.

The Leica X1 is small enough to carry at all times and with it’s APS-C size sensor, produces beautiful images. The auto focus is also much improved over many past point and shoots I’ve used. Not DSLR fast, but getting better.

The beauty of the X1 is it’s large sensor in such a small package. Combine that with Leica’s legendary optics and you have a great compact camera.

The X1 comes with a true Leica lens. An Elmarit 24mm f2.8 ASPH lens. I’m not a fan of fixed focal length cameras, however if I were to choose just one focal length, it would be a 35mm field of view and that’s what the X1 gives you.

The camera is a joy to just look at. It is beautifully designed with all metal construction, clean lines and a leather trim. It fits well in my hand and most of the functions I want are exactly where I would expect them. And those that are accessed through the menu system are easy to find. The menu system of the X1 is by far the easiest I’ve ever navigated. It’s flow is very intuitive making getting to various functions quick and easy.

The X1 has an optional optical viewfinder and handgrip. I highly recommend both. Shooting outdoors and composing an image on an lcd is difficult no matter what camera is in your hands. Using the optical viewfinder is the way to go to precisely frame your shot and Leica was clever enough to have an LED light up close to your eye to let you know when the camera has locked focus. The optional hand grip just makes the camera feel more secure in your hands.

The X1 has been out for 2 years now and hopefully we’ll be seeing some added features and improvements soon in the next version. What I’d like to see is a 2-3 X zoom without sacrificing the compact size, a closer macro capability and quicker auto focus. Give me those three improvements and this camera will be my go to compact camera.

So, here are a few X1 photos from my hike on Limantour Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore.

It was good practice for me to leave behind all my gear for this hike along the beach. Keeping it simple using one fine camera with one very fine lens.

The 35mm field of view is how I see the world. If I were stuck with just one lens, 35mm would be my choice.
I was pleased to see that the Elmarit 24mm f2.8 ASPH lens could handle the subtle detail in the sand drift. 
Although I wish the X1 had better macro capability, all I had to do is crop into this image and with the large sensor, I was able to get closer without sacrificing much in quality.

Leica X1 Key Features
Compact lightweight body with analogue features
Fixed 24mm f2.8 lens (angle of view equivalent to 35mm lens on a full frame)
12.2 MP APS-C CMOS sensor
Full range of manual controls along with program, shutter and aperture priority exposure modes
DNG raw format recording

The Leica X1 is available in silver (shown above) and in all black. Stop by at Camera West and check out this classic camera.

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