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Japan – Leica X1 & iPhone

Last month, I had the privilege of traveling to Japan for a short holiday with my wife.  This is our third trip there in as many years and we had a great time again.  We mainly travelled to Hokkaido to cover some areas that we missed out on during our first trip there.  As always we really enjoyed the food and the scenery.  We were there just in time to see the cherry blossoms blooming in Sapporo!

On the photography side of things, this was more a rest and relax trip so I was not expecting any “serious” photography.  I carried a Leica M9 digital rangefinder camera and a Leica X1 compact camera.  The M9 did not really get much use as I wanted to test the X1 which was new to me.  There are many proper reviews of the X1 out there on the internet so I will just give some of my own impressions.  The X1 which has a 24mm f2.8 fixed lens, coupled with a large sensor to give a 35mm field of view was quite a pleasant surprise.

Main pros for me:

  • The 35mm field of view is my favorite focal length.
  • The quality of the images that came out of the camera were stunning and not something that I was used to seeing coming out of a small point and shoot camera. The edge to edge sharpness and clarity of the images was wonderful.
  • To me the quality of the images at high ISOs was excellent.  I did not hesitate to shoot at ISO1600.  For the Leica M8/8.2, the max I would shoot at would be ISO640.
  • Size of the camera was nice and small.
  • Most settings are within easy reach and straight forward to set (shutter speed, aperture, ISO, etc).

Main cons for me:

  • No optical viewfinder.  I still prefer using optical viewfinders that are built into the camera.
  • Focusing was slow.  This was a main problem for me.  It was just too slow for my liking.
  • LCD screen becomes quite hard to see in bright daylight.
  • The dials at the top of the camera that set aperture and shutter speed move too easily and can be accidentally moved.
  • Expensive.

I got around the first 3 cons listed above by adapting the X1 to the way I shoot my manual Leica cameras.  I used a small 28/35mm Voigtlander optical viewfinder and slotted it into the X1’s flash hotshoe.  Using the 35mm framelines of the optical viewfinder, I could still frame the shots quite accurately (Cons 1 and 3 solved) without using the LCD screen which I turned off.  For situations where lighting was pretty good, I switched the X1 to manual focussing and set the camera to focus at around 3m with the aperture set to around f5.6 or f8.  This more or less ensured that everything from 1.5m to 60m at f8 would be in focus.  With these settings, the X1 really became a point and shoot camera.  It was just a matter of looking through the optical viewfinder, composing and shooting.  No lag (Con 2 solved).  I only needed to check that the shutter speed was high enough once in a while and adjust the settings accordingly when lighting conditions changed.

Here are 3 shots from the X1.

When it comes to cameras, I will use the one that I am most comfortable shooting with and/or most fun to shoot with.  So the funny thing about photography during this trip was my iPhone’s camera got the greatest workout!  I actually shot more photos on my iPhone than the M9 or the X1 individually and almost as many as the 2 combined together.  Here are some shots from my iPhone which was the most fun to shoot with.