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Date: 27/09/2014 | By: Mathieu

Photokina 2014: Hands-On with the new Leica X and Leica X-E

leica x photokina

Photokina 2014: Hands-On with the new Leica X and Leica X-E

Amongst the new products announced by Leica at the Cologne event, there were also three new cameras in the compact and X range. We already talked about the new D-Lux (Panasonic LX100 clone), so now let’s have a look at the new X and X-E cameras.

The Leica X (Typ 113): a beautiful large sensor compact camera

E-M1, 1/13, f/ 5/1, ISO 200
The Leica X with the optional Visoflex EVF

The Leica X is an APS-C camera that has the same sensor as the Leica X2, Leica X-Vario and Leica T. The main difference is the lens. The X model has a new fixed focal length of 23mm (35mm equivalent on full frame) with a fast aperture of 1.7 (branded as Summilux) instead of the 24mm f/2.8 found on the X2. The lens also has a minimum focus distance of 20cm. The performance seems to be faithful to Leica quality. It is sharp at the fastest aperture and seems to deliver a nice and attractive out of focus area.

LEICA X (Typ 113), 1/50, f/ 25/10, ISO 100
LEICA X (Typ 113), 1/50, f/ 2.5, ISO 100

The camera has been designed to be as elegant and minimalistic as possible. It features an all-metal build and the front and rear body shells are made of magnesium. The top plate is machined from a single block of metal. On top you have a shutter speed dial and an aperture dial. Curiously, Leica decided not to include a proper aperture ring despite the lens being larger than the other X series lenses. It is comfortable and light to hold but as with the other X cameras, the X Typ 113 doesn’t have any sort of front or thumb grip. There is an optional landscape grip sold separately.

E-M1, 1/10, f/ 5/1, ISO 200

E-M1, 1/13, f/ 5/1, ISO 200

On the rear, you have a 3” LCD screen with 920k dots (better than the X2), a button layout on the left and a simple control pad on the right. The menu is intuitive and simple to navigate. The camera also features a built-in flash and an optional EVF that can be purchased separately (the same one compatible with the Leica T).

E-M1, 1/13, f/ 5/1, ISO 200

The APS-C 16mp CMOS sensor delivers very good performance overall just like the other models featuring it. The ISO range goes from 100 to 12500 but the maximum shutter speed is more limited in comparison to other APS-C cameras (only 1/2000s). The continuous shooting capabilities go from 3fps to 5 fps.

In our brief test at the Leica booth the autofocus did well in terms of speed and locking but looking at the pictures, it actually missed more than one shot even though I got the “AF lock” confirmation on camera, so it doesn’t seem 100% reliable. The AF system has 11 points only (contrast detection). There isn’t any built-in stabilisation system so at 1/40s you might already be out of the safe zone as you can see in some of the samples we took.

The Leixa X-E (Type 102): a smaller and more compact version of the X2

The Leica X-E is the smallest camera in the X family. It features the same Elmarit 24mm f/2.8 and the same APS-C sensor but in a smaller package. Below is a size comparison between the two cameras.

The X-E also has a full-metal body with the shutter and aperture dials on top. On the rear, the LCD screen is the same as the X2 which means it is smaller and with less resolution (2,7” and 230k dots). It is nice to use and you can also appreciate the compact size of the camera and its attractive design.

The autofocus performance seems to be the same as the Leica X. The 24mm lens is very compact and protrudes when the camera is turned on. With an equivalent focal length of 36mm, it offers the classic focal length reportage photographers like to use.


The new Leica X cameras make the family more complete now with different solutions in terms of size and lens specifications. And of course there is also the Leica T (check-out our hands-on about it) which is the recent APS-C interchangeable lens system released by Leica this year. The German brand also announced two new lenses for that system: the wide angle zoom 11-23mm f/3.5-4.5 and the telephoto zoom 55-135mm f/3.5-4.5.

According to Leica, the X series is one of their best sellers. They are simple and intuitive to use, the image quality is certainly there but we cannot avoid mentioning that in terms of features and overall performance, there is strong competition out there. Not only, but other products might have a far more appealing price.

Related Leica articles from Photokina 2014

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The MirrorLessons team will be attending this year’s Photokina, where the products mentioned in this article will be on display to touch and try. To stay updated on our latest hands-on review articles, be sure to keep an eye on our Live Blogging page and follow us on FacebookTwitterGoogle+ and Instagram!

About the author: Mathieu Gasquet

Mathieu Gasquet is a professional photographer with French and Italian origins. Besides running his own video and photography studio 3Dit Lab, he is also the official photographer for the National Cinema Museum in Turin. You can follow him on Google+, Twitter or Facebook!

  • Mathieu

    A nikon D4s is a totally different camera and yes it is very expensive but isn’t designed for hobbyist but only professionals that are willing to invest in such a camera knowing everything there is behind, including pro support.
    A D4s and a Leica M are totally different products, made by totally different brands with a totally different philosophy. I think that Leica knows exactly what they are doing and yes a new factory is certainly a very good sign. But again, my remarks are only on the X series and not on everything they produce. We could talk about the S2 for example, that is far more expensive than every other camera we mentioned :) But here again it is a different product and I actually never tried it, so it is hard for me to say more about it. It could be too expensive or it could deliver something than none of the other digital camera can.

  • Mathieu

    You’re right. I just correct it now. Sorry for that.

  • Marcel

    This statement is inaccurate: “The X model has a new fixed focal length of 35mm (50mm equivalent on full frame)… ” The Leica X has a 23mm (35mm FF equivalent) focal length.

  • soundimageplus

    Sure Leica cameras have a lot of competition, but it doesn’t seem to hold them back. While the multi-national, omni-product companies are making losses, Leica have just opened a new factory to cope with demand. It wasn’t so long ago that you couldn’t get a new Leica M lens anywhere because they couldn’t make enough of them. So despite seemingly pricing themselves out of the marketplace, in fact the opposite is happening.

    I’m far from wealthy, but as I said I’m on my 11th.Leica and because of the resale value they are actually the ‘best value’ cameras that I buy. Yes people are on budgets, but that budget can be anything. I mentioned in a previous reply how much people spend going out drinking on a weekend and these days considering what people spend on other items a Leica X isn’t that expensive.

    My objection about the way Leicas are written about is also the double standard. Should sites stop writing about Nikon D4’s or Sony RX1’s just because they are beyond the means of hobbyist photographers? I imagine nobody would suggest that, but it’s Leica (and Leica owners don’t forget) that get the abuse. I’m actually pretty fed up of being accused of being some trust fund dilettante with more money than sense or some luxury brand obsessive hoodwinked by the red dot into buying an inferior product with an inflated price. I’m neither but it seems in some peoples eyes I can only be one or the other.

    I would also suggest that in an age that glorifies the ordinary a company such as Leica, who seek to create products with high production values should be applauded rather than reviled. Your posts about the cameras are very balanced and written without bias, but some of the comments that people in forums etc. post are inaccurate and misleading as well as being unpleasant. And it’s that I object to.

    Finally, I would say that I agree with you totally about Fuji. They seem to have the same aesthetic as Leica, but because of manufacturing savings can offer great value, while still retaining quality. But with their discounting and deals they have produced a situation whereby, certainly in the UK, the resale value of Fuji gear is very poor. Great if people are on a budget, since it’s possible to put together an amazing Fuji outfit for not a lot if you buy S/H. But they aren’t Leica, even though it’s clear that’s where their inspiration comes from.

  • Mathieu

    It is difficult no to mention the price in this case. The Leica X series is expensive in comparison to other APS-C systems that offer more (from a technological and features point of view) for a cheaper price. Yes the Leica X cameras have a wonderful build as for every Leica products but truth is that customers also care about price. The M system is different because it is unique really. There isn’t much competition therefore we can say that an M camera costs a lot of money but there isn’t anything similar on the market. So in the case of the M system I think the word “expensive” isn’t appropriate because you cannot really compare it to another product. Same for the Leica T because it is different in many aspects than other APS-C systems. But we cannot say the same about an X2 or an X-vario really. And they might not be for hobbyist but some other APS-C cameras aren’t either.
    Leica cameras also hold their values better than any other cameras for the simple reason that other brands make their camera last for one year only or even less. The drops in price with the Sony RX1 or even Sony A7 are just a consequence of releasing to many similar products in the market every six months.
    From a build quality point of view, I think that most cameras today can endure a long time if we are not affect by G.A.S. and we take care a little bit about our gear.
    I respect Leica for its marketing decisions and for remaining constant with their philosophy, but we cannot ignore today that some of their products have a lot of competition. And the success of Fujifilm cameras is also an interesting example on how you can build cameras that have a simplest and “pure photography” approach without be to expensive and with the latest technology available. And I am not saying that Fuji cameras are better than Leicas.
    On MirrorLessons we get a lot of request for advices about which camera to get and most people are on a budget. So we cannot ignore that when we write about gear.

  • soundimageplus

    The price of Leicas hovers above them like a bunch of circling crows. I’m as guilty as anyone else in failing to write about them without mentioning the price and it seems hardly a comment, review or article can be published without mentioning how much they cost. It’s not as if other gear isn’t expensive. A Nikon D4s is £5000+ the same price as a Leica M. The Zeiss Otus 55mm f1/.4 is £3000+ which makes it actually more expensive than a lot of Leica M lenses.

    Now both of those are bigger, so there seems to be an apparent perception that you get ‘more for your money’. And that has always been the case. Leicas are usually small and I’ve read more than one commentator who has mentioned that this may be the reason for it.

    Others have mentioned that the market for Leica cameras isn’t the enthusiast / hobbyist one that we all inhabit. It’s more a group of people with a decent income who are interested in photography and want what they perceive to be the ‘best’ or something close to it. It’s the same kind of thinking that buys designer brands and is of course the car market is an obvious example of this.

    There is the fact that Leicas are (mostly) hand made in Germany by workers who expect a larger wage packet than they do in countries that manufacture most of the cameras and lenses from far east manufacturers. Also Leica don’t compromise on materials. They make their cameras look good and feel good. My Panasonic FZ1000 is a wonderful camera, but boy does it feel and look cheap. And if I pick up my Leica T after putting down my Sony a6000 the difference is VERY noticeable.

    Add in the fact (as I constantly write) Leicas hold their value better than any other camera I’ve ever used. you get a 1yr. no quibble unconditional guarantee (Which I’ve used having destroyed a Leica M8. My fault entirely, but I sent the bits back to Leica and back came a new camera. No charge) and Photoshop Lightroom is usually bundled with the camera.

    I’m currently on my 11th. Leica. I’ve owned M rangefinders and the X series and have lost significantly less than anything else I’ve owned when I’ve sold them on. I’ve also had an enormous amount of pleasure using them and they have always been my ‘persona;’ cameras and not just work tools. And for me, that pleasure is worth paying for.

    And no, I’m not going to deny that part of the pleasure is the red dot and the fact that when I pick a Leica up I am aware that it is a ‘luxury’ brand and one that is steeped in history and photographic mythology. And non-professional owners of high-end Nikon and Canon gear get the same pleasures I’m sure.

    Finally, I would mention the Sony RX1, which attracted far less bile when it was announced that any Leica. The whole outfit cost as much as my Leica T did a few weeks ago. Since then the price has dropped like a stone (in some cases 50% of it’s original price) and S/H value is obviously affected by that. So why did that camera get such a good press? and Leicas, when they announced get trashed.

    I know which camera I’d rather own and use.

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