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X100 beats the Leica X1 - brief impressions in more ways than one
Old 02-22-2012   #1
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X100 beats the Leica X1 - brief impressions in more ways than one

Yesterday I bought a Leica X1. Today I took it back and exchanged it for an X100 and a store credit. Here is the story, which I am telling here because DPReview Fuji Talk is a wasteland of idiocy, and I am loathe to upset the faithful in a Leica forum.

I've had my eye on both cameras for a while. I bypassed both of them for years because the X1 was AUD$2500 and the X100 was fraught with buggy firmware and aperture blade issues.

The X1 has recently gone on special for AUD$1890, and the X100 has had the bugs ironed out. So I went to my local pusher, er, camera dealer, and tried them out. And I left with the X1.

When I got home, the problems began. First I found that the shutter was considerably louder than I thought. Lots of people say that you can barely tell when the X1 has taken a photo. Well, I am saying that those people are either deaf or hard of hearing, because the X1 is more audible than the Ricoh GXR aps-c modules, which aren't the quietest of the bunch. I wanted something I could shoot in a silent art gallery, and the X1 wasn't it. The X100 I handled in the shop was much more quiet, but I had my heart set on the X1, so I conveniently ignored the sound, much to my detriment.

Then I figured, hey, what about the image quality? It doesn't have to be a silent camera if the images are good. So I shot a bunch of test photos against my Ricoh GXR, which I absolutely love. I was shocked to see that the Ricoh produced better image quality, particularly in terms of detail, highlight retention, and naturalness of colour. The Leica lens did produce some nice bokeh, but I liked the GXR (both 28 and 50 modules) better in every other regard.

Focus speed! The GXR disturbingly overtook the X1 in every circumstance. I had read that the X1 was a bit slower, but I wasn't expecting a very noticeable difference. And that was with firmware 2.0 installed, too.

There were only two operational factors where I liked the X1 over the GXR: startup speed and quietness. The GXR 28mm module starts slowly and makes an awful grinding screech as the lens extends. The X1's lens zips out quickly and efficiently.

But then the other noises began. All digital cameras adjust the aperture for changing exposure situations. But the X1's aperture was one of the most intrusive and annoying I've ever heard. It was a repetitive TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK that drove me crazy! None of my many cameras sound anything like that!

Add to that the fact that the camera appeared to have been used. There were two images in the internal memory dated from last November (it is now late Feb). A potted cactus and a window thick with rain. And the file number was something like 30076! There goes the idea of a pristine new camera. The body was in pristine condition but somehow it had someone else' photos in it, and a wacky file number.

My dealer was very attentive and told me to bring it back, and that it was okay to exchange it for something else if I wanted. I had another good play with the X100 and I was sold. Everything that bothered me about the X1 was fine in the X100. It was quick and quiet, which is exactly what I want. I placed an order for the black limited edition model and the waiting has begun.

Thank you particularly to David Manning for his delightful X100 work. I guess I helped you decide to get that Contax T3. Now you are returning the favour with the X100.
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Old 02-22-2012   #2
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Interesting experience. The X1's retracting lens and omission of an optical viewfinder are it's two main problems IMO. I wouldn't consider a $2K camera with a retractable lens personally.

The x100 however is pretty magnificent. I'm going to Japan next month and it's all I'm bringing.
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Old 02-22-2012   #3
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great story, and congrats on your x100! it does require attention and creativity to learn to get the best of it, but it is time well spent in terms of the rewards you will receive from it. it is the best low light cam ive ever used or seen used. the files at 3200 are simply astounding.

as for the leica, i am so glad to read stories where facts beat hype. for all the talk of the superiorarity of leica quality, its attention to detail, etc, i am constantly astounded by the products they have the gall to put out in the market. if any other company put out a $3000 camera that could not render black, had banding issues, couldnt shoot in low light and required you to put filters on your $3000 lenses (read M8), they would rightly have gone bankrupt. and honestly tha ts just the tip of the iceberg, we won't even get into sensor defect/breaking issues and cost of repair. ive had digi cams since my first 2mp olly, and the vf on the constantly breaking digilux 2 was the absolut worst ive ever used by far.

anyway, enough of my leica-irrationality rant, congrats on your X, and if you have any particular issues or questions, please feel free to PM for help!
tony
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Old 02-22-2012   #4
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I did a similar head to head test.
For my part I found the X1 files marginally superior (in clarity) to the X100, the menu clearer and it was more pocket-able, however I found the focus lag of the X1 to be awful and the X100 beat it in almost every other aspect (speed, ergonomics etc.).
The great viewfinder of the X100 was the icing on the cake.
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Old 02-22-2012   #5
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Archiver,

The X100 will serve you well. It takes most of us a while to figure out how to operate the camera in different circumstances. Don't forget that sometimes it's useful to focus in EVF mode and compose/shot in OVF mode. Initially in MF mode it's helpful to use the audio beep to signal focus lock. After you become familiar with how AF behaves, you can turn the beep off and return to silent operation.

Enjoy.
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Old 02-22-2012   #6
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Sounds like you like the Ricoh GXR quite a lot. How does that compare to the X100?
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Old 02-22-2012   #7
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Can't comment on the comparisons with other cameras, but the X1 shutter noise is actually artificial and can be set in the menu: shutter sound: > off > low and > high. I suspect your sound was set to > high
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Old 02-22-2012   #8
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I had an X1 for a bit and I really liked the pictures it produced, but I was using two workarounds to overcome the camera's weak points. I was using the screw-in metal hood which allowed me to leave the lens extended and I was using an old Yashica external viewfinder for framing.

I'd still like to give an X100 a spin.
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Old 02-22-2012   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gavinlg View Post
Interesting experience. The X1's retracting lens and omission of an optical viewfinder are it's two main problems IMO. I wouldn't consider a $2K camera with a retractable lens personally.

The x100 however is pretty magnificent. I'm going to Japan next month and it's all I'm bringing.
Gavin, your profile says you are in Melbourne. Did I meet you one day at Camera Lane? I saw a guy who was getting a strap for his X100, which was in a brown case. Meanwhile I was buying a module for my GXR. I asked the guy how he liked it, and he said it was great, much lighter and easier to carry than the 5D Mark II. Was that you?

Japan is AWESOME. I was there for three weeks in 2010 and I still think about it all the time. The M9, three lenses and the GRD III were my companions then.
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Old 02-22-2012   #10
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as for the leica, i am so glad to read stories where facts beat hype. for all the talk of the superiorarity of leica quality, its attention to detail, etc, i am constantly astounded by the products they have the gall to put out in the market. if any other company put out a $3000 camera that could not render black, had banding issues, couldnt shoot in low light and required you to put filters on your $3000 lenses (read M8), they would rightly have gone bankrupt. and honestly tha ts just the tip of the iceberg, we won't even get into sensor defect/breaking issues and cost of repair. ive had digi cams since my first 2mp olly, and the vf on the constantly breaking digilux 2 was the absolut worst ive ever used by far.

anyway, enough of my leica-irrationality rant, congrats on your X, and if you have any particular issues or questions, please feel free to PM for help!
tony
Thanks, Tony. I'm really looking forward to putting the X100 through its paces.

I was so disappointed with the X1. Slow to focus, noisy shutter, and that g*ddamn TICK TICK TICK of the aperture blades adjusting. I was also surprised to feel the looseness of the dials, and how they didn't feel very sturdily attached to the body, and the buttons felt thin and plasticky, too. The design is beautiful but somehow the build quality didn't give a sense of solidity.

I have a M9, which I adore. Its build quality and tolerances are awesome. Even the buttons and mode dial feel nice and solid. But the X1 felt flimsy by comparison. Whether this reflected the actual build quality, I don't know, but haptics are a large factor in our perceptions of quality.
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Old 02-22-2012   #11
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I was very surprised by the shutter sound of the X1. Every time I get a camera I turn off all beeps and clicks until the camera is as quiet as it can be. Then I listen carefully to the mechanics so I can tell what is physically produced and what is generated by a speaker. The X1 was still noticeably more audible than the Ricoh GXR. The X1's shutter had a higher pitched sound which made it more obvious, although the overall sound level was about the same, perhaps a smidge louder.

I will be testing the X100 head to head with the Ricoh GXR as soon as I can. I do not expect there to be much difference in image quality; if anything, I believe that I will slightly prefer the Ricoh because of the way the raws render in Lightroom, with heaps of micro-detail and a 'dense' look to the colours. But I loved handling the X100 because it sits well in the hand, has all the right functions accessible with dials, and that EVF was a revelation! I wasn't expecting just how good it would be to have this gorgeous heads-up display projected inside! The shutter is much more quiet than the GXR, it seems to start faster, and it seems to focus just as fast, maybe faster, in lowish light. I'm also looking forward to a 35mm equivalent, which I can't get with a GXR.

Thanks for all the support and suggestions, guys. I am tentatively hopeful about this camera. My black X100 should arrive some time next week!
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Old 02-22-2012   #12
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Sounds like what you are after is an Hexar AF actually.
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Old 02-22-2012   #13
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Ricoh needs to produce a pancake 35/2.5 module for the GXR system ASAP. The modules available are great but I want a lens that doesn't extend when I shoot. give me something that focuses internally and is reasonably compact and the GXR will become a daily shooter.

I'd be interested to try the X1, actually. It seems like a decent camera with some odd quirks.
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Old 02-22-2012   #14
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Sounds like what you are after is an Hexar AF actually.
But that is a film camera, right ? With a top-notch lens, though ...
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Old 02-22-2012   #15
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Interesting experience. In summer 2011 I was also contemplating X100, X1 and GXR and after lot of contemplation in a camera shop (and playing with them all for half an hour) I left the shop with the GRDIII What I really wanted was the X1 actually for the size, but the slow AF (after firmware update) and really low quality LCD (and lack of EVF) kept me away from it - as well as clumsy controls (GXR is so much better in that regard). I really liked the size and the surface finish of the black X1 .

I completely agree that Ricoh should bring a 35mm module - but it really could be faster the f/2.5. But who knows whether that will ever happen ...
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Old 02-22-2012   #16
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Gavin, your profile says you are in Melbourne. Did I meet you one day at Camera Lane? I saw a guy who was getting a strap for his X100, which was in a brown case. Meanwhile I was buying a module for my GXR. I asked the guy how he liked it, and he said it was great, much lighter and easier to carry than the 5D Mark II. Was that you?

Japan is AWESOME. I was there for three weeks in 2010 and I still think about it all the time. The M9, three lenses and the GRD III were my companions then.
No that wasn't me, but it sounds eerily similar to me. I'd agree with it's much lighter and easier to carry than my 5d..

And yep, can't wait to get back - this will be my 3rd trip in 4 years!
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Old 02-22-2012   #17
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I completely agree that Ricoh should bring a 35mm module - but it really could be faster the f/2.5. But who knows whether that will ever happen ...
I would go for any 35mm equivalent module at this point, especially if the lens is a pancake style. I'd like something more compact than the 28mm. The lens barrel extends into position whenever you turn on the camera it it just seems really delicate. I didn't have any problems with mine but accidents happen. I hear the 50 doesn't extend the same way the 28 does. Is this true?
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Old 02-22-2012   #18
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I would go for any 35mm equivalent module at this point, especially if the lens is a pancake style. I'd like something more compact than the 28mm. The lens barrel extends into position whenever you turn on the camera it it just seems really delicate. I didn't have any problems with mine but accidents happen. I hear the 50 doesn't extend the same way the 28 does. Is this true?
I am with you about the 28. I love it but the extending lens just seems a bit iffy to me. The 50mm only extends when in macro mode; otherwise it only pops out a millimetre or two. In normal focusing ranges it extends maybe 3mm max.

If Ricoh were to make what would essentially be a X100 module, with a 35/2 pancake non-extending lens, silent shutter, and the ability to awaken from sleep with the shutter button, I would be all over it.
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Old 02-22-2012   #19
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If Ricoh were to make what would essentially be a X100 module, with a 35/2 pancake non-extending lens, silent shutter, and the ability to awaken from sleep with the shutter button, I would be all over it.
+1 and some more. And no AA filter of course
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Old 02-22-2012   #20
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Add to that the fact that the camera appeared to have been used. There were two images in the internal memory dated from last November (it is now late Feb). A potted cactus and a window thick with rain. And the file number was something like 30076! There goes the idea of a pristine new camera. The body was in pristine condition but somehow it had someone else' photos in it, and a wacky file number.
Hard to really give a camera a fair shake if you bought it used, thinking it was new. The owner before you could have damaged it and brought it back. Really bad business practice by the camera store, to sell an expensive camera (any piece of equipment for that matter) as new when it really wasn't.

Both cameras are capable of producing great images, but personal preference will dictate which one is right for you. Enjoy your new camera
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Old 02-23-2012   #21
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Interesting experience. The X1's retracting lens and omission of an optical viewfinder are it's two main problems IMO. I wouldn't consider a $2K camera with a retractable lens personally.

The x100 however is pretty magnificent. I'm going to Japan next month and it's all I'm bringing.
Remember that the X1 was around a full year earlier... before the X100, it was the best APS-C compact (i used mine for a year before the X100). It's lens has less distortion than the X100, but in all other areas, I felt the X100 was better. The worst issue with the X1 was its slow AF... ridiculously slow AF.
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