But despite being the real McCoy, the Leica X cameras haven't been all that great. Previous versions have come with large APS-C sensors—always a plus in a compact camera—but have been held back by relatively slow lenses. If you can never change the lens, it makes those high Leica price tags even more difficult to swallow.
The Leica X (MSRP $2,295) changes all that. Not only does it have a new APS-C sensor, but it also has a fast 23mm f/1.7 lens to complement it. At $2,300 it's certainly not going to win any awards for affordability, but if you're in the market for a Leica camera, the X is a more practical way to get that red dot in your kit bag.
Leica styling, just smaller
Like previous Leica X cameras, the new Leica X (Type 113) has a design language that is very similar to Leica's M-series rangefinders. Its body is an oblong rectangle with rounded sides. It's wrapped in faux leatherette, with magnesium alloy front and rear plates and anodized aluminum top and bottom plates.
The design is simple, striking, and stays out of your way while you're shooting. There are no scene modes or panoramas—no pet face detection settings. It's just a Leica, designed for taking photos.
You control the Leica X via two control dials on the top of the camera, a focus ring around the lens, and a control dial on the back. There are also buttons around back for accessing the menu, and a pop-up flash. Though one of the top dials predictably controls shutter speed, the other actually controls aperture. The lens ring is used exclusively for focus, with the nice addition of a focus scale giving yet another nod to M-series cameras.
The only downside to this is that the top dial could've been used for tweaking ISO speeds, which instead requires a trip to the menu. The menu is pleasantly straightforward, but it feels a bit odd not having aperture control on the lens itself.
Shooting with the Leica X is otherwise enjoyable and direct. The focus system is contrast-only, but it was snappy even in Leica's dim Photokina booth. The shutter has a pleasant response time, and the new 23mm f/1.7 lens is a real boon for low-light shooting. It's tough to make any calls about quality without more time with the camera, but the faster lens feels like a leap forward compared to previous Leica X models.
Not as technologically advanced as the Leica S—unbelievably
Leica has been on a tear recently, updating classic cameras like the Leica S with all kinds of new technology like Wifi, GPS, and 4K video. It feels a bit like watching a man who has woken from a 30-year coma to learn about all this crazy new technology we have now. You mean I can transfer files without wires?! This is heavy!
The Leica X doesn't feel quite so modern by comparison, as it's more or less a typical APS-C point-and-shoot. It's got a very nice 23mm f/1.7 fixed lens and we'll never complain about getting a 16.2 APS-C sensor in a camera this small, but everything else here is pretty standard for a premium compact. No Wifi, no GPS, and no 4K video.
For hardware you've got a 3-inch, 920k-dot LCD, HDMI and USB 2.0 outputs, and a rechargeable battery that should be good for around 350 shots. The camera offers shutter speeds from 30 seconds to 1/2000th of a second, 1080/30p video, and an ISO range of 100–12,500. It shoots continuously at 5fps for up to 7 RAW+JPEG shots, with DNG RAW files.
A respectable, if overpriced, addition to the Leica family
There are two ways to look at the Leica X. On the one hand, it's a much more affordable, genuine Leica experience than investing in an M- or S-series camera. It's also far more expensive than comparable cameras, with only the full-frame Sony RX1 costing more in this part of the market.
If you take price out of it then it's a perfectly competent APS-C compact camera with superb build quality, gorgeous Leica styling, and what is sure to be a wonderful 23mm f/1.7 lens. And price aside, the quality construction is certainly one reason for recommending the Leica X (Type 113) over the competition.
But if you're after a Leica camera we'd be remiss if we didn't recommend the new Leica T as well. The T also has an APS-C sensor, genuine Leica attention to detail, and feels much more modern by comparison. It's got a touch-centric user interface that might sour old-school enthusiasts, but it's also got (very expensive) interchangeable lenses.
As with any Leica, whether that's worth it is a very personal decision. For my part I enjoyed shooting with the Leica X, but not for three times what it costs to buy a Ricoh GR.
Meet the tester
TJ is the Executive Editor of Reviewed.com. He is a Massachusetts native and has covered electronics, cameras, TVs, smartphones, parenting, and more for Reviewed. He is from the self-styled "Cranberry Capitol of the World," which is, in fact, a real thing.
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