Entry 194 : Review - Leica X (Typ 113)


Hello, everyone.
The back end of 2015 and the start of 2016 have been more hectic than the junction to Skudai Indah on a Wednesday afternoon.
I've been talking so much about this camera for the past few months and I'm pretty sure you're all sick of waiting.
Even though I have delayed this review for so long, I did manage to write in my VSCO Journal, paying tribute to New York City with photos shot using this camera.
Do check that out here whenever you feel like it.

Anyway, let's just cut to the chase and get to why we're all here today:

Leica X

I've gone back and forth with the review for this camera.
It's honestly gotten more difficult to review cameras after I've started to shift gears, going from an all-out technical Nazi to more of a "feeling" type of person.
I keep relaying the same thing to a lot of people, where I've begun to focus on the craft more so than on the tool.
Moreover, only getting short periods of free time to actually go out to do any sort of photography has made me more appreciative of the moments I get to concentrate on photography instead of my other commitments, so things like specs and features go over my head almost immediately.
However, there are some major things to talk about the Leica X, and I intend to give this review my all; because I owe you all as much.

What's to know about the X?
It's basically a companion camera (can't say it's compact because it's quite large to be in that class), possessing a lovely 23mm (35mm equiv.) fixed lens and a very large maximum aperture of f1.7 (although there's a caveat to this).
With a 16MP APS-C CMOS sensor and a simplistic design, the Leica X might have been the camera Leica enthusiasts had been asking for for quite a long time.
Alas, it comes with a few potential deal-breaking traits.

Design & Feel

Took this in my mom's bathtub

No kidding, the overall design of the camera is what makes it right up there with the other Leica cameras in terms of looks.
Simplistic dials with minimalist markings and a clean finish on the front and rear really showed off a trademark Leica style.
Now, most people would disagree with me on this, but I personally found the brown on silver match to be a bit of an ugly pairing.
Not that I have anything against browns (or silvers), I just personally think that silver tops and faux leather bodies are too mainstream.
We see this in most cameras nowadays, and yes it is due to the retro style that has recently regained popularity.
I'm more of a black on black kind of guy, and I guess this particular color scheme was too flashy for my liking.

On the other hand, the feel of the camera was comfortable and I had no problem with gripping or handling.
The camera was not as heavy as I would have expected it to be, and although on paper it is heavier than a D-Lux, I could've sworn that the D-Lux felt much sturdier and heavier.
This may be due to the build material of the X and not much to do with the overall mass.

Next is where I find myself at a state of ultimate contradiction.
Time and again I try to convince myself that this isn't a problem, that all I have to do is adapt.
But it must be mentioned, and I must be frank.
The Leica X does not have a viewfinder.

Not a built-in viewfinder, at least

Above is the Visoflex, Leica's solution to the absence of a built-in viewfinder.
Commonly coupled with the Leica T, the Visoflex is admittedly a bright, beautiful contraption to use, but I really couldn't see myself always mounting it on my X, for two good reasons:

  1. It constantly flips up and down whenever I put the camera to my side.
  2. I wear glasses, so whenever I put to my eye, it flips up upon contact with my glasses.

Therefore, I did away with the Visoflex throughout my whole time with the X.

Now, why would I find myself in such a dilemma?

Well, the thing is, I did well even without the viewfinder.
I started to take shots from a variety of angles and perspectives, I tried panning shots (which I really loved) and I could communicate better with my subjects.

Featured on my VSCO Journal: Moving NYC
Leica X | f/8 | 1/30 sec. | ISO-800 | 23mm (35mm equiv.)

On the contrary, I couldn't see my focus that clearly, which resulted in a lot of misses in focus.
Because I was manually focusing the whole time, I would have appreciated a more reliable viewfinder to ensure much more accurate focus.

It really depends on what you personally need (and want) in terms of a viewfinder, but I think that I would have done slightly better with one.
At the end of the day, I was happy with the design and feel, but at a crossroads when it came to the absence of a (built-in) viewfinder.


Mirror for the mirrorless
Leica X | f/4 | 1/250 sec. | ISO-400 | 23mm (35mm equiv.)

Responsive dials, familiar menu layout (to the D-Lux), and a breeze to shoot quick snaps and fleeting moments, the only hiccup about the operations of the X is that the focus throw is too damn short!
Here's a little story of why this is important:

Once upon a time, I wanted to select my AF point.
I didn't know how, so I used manual focus ever since.
The end.

. . .


The thing is, when I was fiddling around with the camera to get used to it, I immediately noticed how the AF selection would be a pain for very swift photography (you would have to press and hold the [FOCUS] button on the rear before selecting the point), so I opted to use manual focus instead.
This wasn't at all a bad idea, since the lens on the camera has actual focusing distance markers despite it being a focus by wire setup!
The reason they (Leica) could pull this off was because they had a limit on the focusing ring, where an extremity to the left would result in close focusing and to the right would be to switch into auto-focus once the ring went beyond infinity.

Anyway, manual focus was easy and smooth, with the focusing distance markers coming in handy for hyperfocal photography.
Even so, I noticed that the focus throw was incredibly short, especially going from 3 meters (if I'm not mistaken) straight to infinity.
This meant less leeway for fine-tuning and a higher tendency for back focus.

Back /to the/ Focus
Leica X | f/2.8 | 1/500 sec. | ISO-200 | 23mm (35mm equiv.)

Just a tinge out of focus
Leica X | f/2.2 | 1/250 sec. | ISO-1600 | 23mm (35mm equiv.)

As you can see, the need for a slightly longer focus throw is undeniable.
I loved manual focusing on the X because it felt "real" in a way that the focusing didn't feel forced.
The focusing distance markers were reliable and I liked that the X is only one of few companion cameras that have it (not sure if there are others actually).

Another funny thing about focusing is that, even if you've set the camera at f1.7, which is the widest aperture of the lens, the closer you focus, the smaller the maximum aperture becomes.
This means that, the closer your subject is, the less wide your aperture becomes.
For instance:

Too close for comfort
Leica X | f/2.8 (camera set to f/1.7) | 1/125 sec. | ISO-800 | 23mm (35mm equiv.)

Despite manually setting the aperture to its widest at f1.7, the camera will automatically adjust it to f2.8.
There is no way to go around this and this apparently happens because Leica want to ensure the best outcome from the camera.
Do they automatically compensate for something they lack?
I don't know, and I personally didn't find it too bothering.
Since I shoot in manual mode all the time, I never go wider than f2.8 just so that I don't have to constantly remember to adjust my settings accordingly. 

But still, for those who need that extra stop of light, it might be a problem.

Weather-sealing (Or Lack Thereof)

The Leica X does not have weather-sealing, which basically means don't go shooting in unfavorable conditions.

But guess who went shooting in unfavorable conditions?

This guy
Shot on film by Fariq Yosman

Disclaimer: I did not purposely go shoot in the rain.
It just happened to start raining while we were in Washington D.C. and I couldn't get out of the rain, nor did I bring any sort of camera bag to keep my camera in.
So I shot a few frames and took cover under a sculpture of eagles while waiting for the rain reside.

After it stopped raining, I shot off a few frames before realizing that the camera had some focusing issue.

Oh no

At first I thought water had gone into the camera somehow and messed with the focusing motor or whatever.
But then I thought that that wouldn't be logical since I've been using manual focus and even at infinity, the camera wasn't sharp.

Not sharp; cue panic attack
Leica X | f/1.7 | 1/500 sec. | ISO-100 | 23mm (35mm equiv.)

I didn't know what to do.
It couldn't have been my fault, right?
Mind you, it was winter in the United States and it was raining all day.

Anyway, after a few minutes of tucking the camera under my armpit near my body, the condensation on the inside of the lens finally cleared up and I regained the ability to shoot sharp, clear images again.

Thank God.

The cold weather didn't have any other adverse effects on the camera, though.
The battery life was excellent, the camera never shut down on itself nor did it have any problems with its response time.
I guess, as long as it's not exposed to water, it'll work just fine.

Image Quality

Ah, my favorite part of reviewing Leica cameras.
And I shall let the photos speak for themselves.

Upstate New York
Leica X | f/2.8 | 1/500 sec. | ISO-200 | 23mm (35mm equiv.)

Washington Monument
Leica X | f/8 | 1/250 sec. | ISO-800 | 23mm (35mm equiv.)

Times Square, NYC
Leica X | f/11 | 1/15 sec. | ISO-800 | 23mm (35mm equiv.)

Evidently, the color rendition, tones and overall picture quality is unsurprisingly superb.
It was also awesome to see the in-camera stabilization work its magic at super slow shutter speeds as in "Times Square, NYC" above.

Working with the RAW files in Lightroom, it was as if I was reliving every single moment.
There is a dimensionality that comes with shooting at such small apertures, and to bring the photo to life made them much more meaningful.
The way the camera treats skin tones, LED highlights and even natural light accentuates a sense of realism in the rendition, and the handling of such harsh lighting situations is flawless.

Loving that backlight
Leica X | f/1.7 | 1/60 sec. | ISO-800 | 23mm (35mm equiv.)

Not only that, the monochrome transformations are equally incredible.

Abe is watching
Leica X | f/1.7 | 1/1000 sec. | ISO-100 | 23mm (35mm equiv.)

On the subway back to Brooklyn
Leica X | f/2 | 1/60 sec. | ISO-800 | 23mm (35mm equiv.)

These are some high ISO tests.
I never had to go above ISO 1600, so you'll have to look elsewhere for extreme low-light tests.

The Bifröst from USA to Canada
Leica X | f/1.7 | 1/125 sec. | ISO-1600 | 23mm (35mm equiv.)

Fancy seeing the colors of Jalur Gemilang here
Leica X | f/1.7 | 1/250 sec. | ISO-1600 | 23mm (35mm equiv.)

I have absolutely no complains whatsoever about the image quality.


I have an apparent love-hate relationship with the Leica X.
I had a grand time using it on my trip to the USA with my family, and it enabled me to capture moments I couldn't have even imagined, in the various ways that I did.
I loved that it wasn't too fiddly and that all I needed was an eye for a frame and a finger for the shutter; everything else was just a turn of a dial.

But the joyous moments of sheer photographic escapism should not blind me from being objectively honest about the camera as a modern day creation, and I dare say that Leica should have put more into making the X.
Ignore the viewfinder debacle and see how the camera doesn't even have WiFi capability, and the fact that it's focusing system is still pretty dodgy.
It does okay in terms of video, but people don't want "okay" anymore; nobody settles for less these days.
And I can't even shoot in a little rain? Come on!

I'm not sure if there is a place for the X in the industry, let alone in the bags of people with other more affordable options.
Of course, Leica being the art connoisseurs that they are, they know that the artist chooses whatever brush he/she strokes to create whatever masterpiece they intend.
Pay no mind to what others say, at the end of the day, if it's a Leica, there will always be a place where it belongs.
And yes, it does do whatever you want it to do for almost any sort of photography.
Plus, the 35mm equivalent lens is extremely versatile.

Unfortunately, I don't think the X should be longed, nor should it be long before there's a new X in the midst of all this new technological advancement.

. . .

Or maybe there is?

Huge shout out goes to Leica Malaysia for providing me the Leica X to take on my three-week trip to the USA back in December 2015.
Do check out their website and like them on Facebook!
Also, if you're ever in the city, drop by the Leica Store @ Avenue K to get your own hands-on experience with any of the Leica line-ups, including the M's!

Check out all the photos from this review and more at my Flickr gallery here.
Also, do check out my VSCO Journal here for more photos of New York City.

Thanks for your visit to the very first entry of 2016 at THE FEAR.
I hope to continue to bring you guys more compelling content and much better quality reviews, previews and news!

Till next time, take care.

DISCLAIMER: I do not represent Leica or any other brand that might be showcased/mentioned in this review. This review is written for THE FEAR, delivered with utmost honesty and sincerity.