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Leica X1 review: Leica X1

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In terms of user-friendliness, the quiet X1 allows you to be as hands on, or off, as you wish. While the camera can be used in automatic mode as a simple point-and-shoot, manual adjustments to shutter speed and aperture can be made via chunky top-plate dials. These ensure that, in terms of looks and layout, the X1 echoes the company's rangefinder cameras, including the revered M8.2. A pop-up flash is neatly hidden beneath a top-plate disc that rises majestically when pressed. It's very cool indeed. There's also the option to add an accessory flash. This is a premium compact with bells on.

As well as ensuring the camera is a tactile joy to use, the X1's key functions can be adjusted via its top-plate wheels and dials without delving into menu screens, therefore acting as time-savers.

Image detail from our review model, loaded with Final Firmware, was crisp and stunningly lifelike. The results were closer to the fine detail produced by a dSLR and top-quality optic than the X1's compact shell would suggest. Panasonic Micro Four Thirds cameras with Leica lenses have smashed close competitors in the Olympus Pen range in the past, especially when it comes to delivering smooth, film-like colour tones and pin-sharp detailing. The X1 takes that smooth look and lifts it up a notch with eye-catching effect.

The X1's images have less of a flat, digital quality to them. The X1 displayed an attractively shallow depth of field that came close to the success we achieved with the Sigma SD15 and its Foveon X3 CMOS chip, without the horrible noise at higher ISOs. This camera's incredible image quality is the result of the lens and sensor working in perfectly tuned harmony. Which is why you're paying a price equivalent to a decent dSLR and a quality lens.

Conclusion

What we have in the Leica X1 is a hybrid, rangefinder-like compact camera with a dSLR-sized sensor, for a price that pitches it against semi-professional dSLRs, such as the Canon EOS 7D and Nikon D300s. Is it worth the extra spend? If optimum picture quality is your key concern, the answer is yes.

Its target market, as well as being cash-laden, will undoubtedly already own a dSLR and be browsing the displays of Harrods and Selfridges for a capable back-up. The rest of us can only dream as we go out and buy a Panasonic LX5 from the local Currys, instead.

Edited by Emma Bayly

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