Leica X1 Mk.II: Is it time for a no-frills, 35mm fixed-lens compact?
What is it about the Leica X1 that keeps me returning to it time after time. It is antiquated, has a 12MP 2009-era sensor, a dreadful screen and is a bit of a slowcoach when it comes to saving files. Autofocus is equally leisurely and there is no viewfinder. What’s to like about all this?
Quite a lot, as it happens. I have other cameras of course, most of them far more competent on paper than the X1 (or its X2/X-E successors), but I tend to pick up the X1 if I am going out with no particular intention of taking serious photographs. It’s always there and, despite all its shortcomings, is still a lovely camera to handle. Invariably, too, someone will come up and ask what it is, complimenting it on its cuteness.
The small size, lightness and endearing appearance all have something to do with it. And with an optical viewfinder it definitely does look cute, like a vintage Leica. The one thing I dislike is the automatic push-pull lens which I compare unfavourably with the fixed lens of the X100 series. And, without a suitable thread, there is no way of fitting a protective UV filter unless you invest in some rather kludgy third-party gear. I have a cheap automatic flower-petal lens cap attached to my X1. It’s as ugly as sin but does the job.
Yet the Leica X1 is a camera that has already become a classic. Fans love it for its frailties rather than its ability to compete with modern gear. Wouldn’t it be great if Leica introduced another small fixed-lens APS-C camera to compete with the likes of the Fuji X100F?
The Fuji X100 came after the X1 and I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that the camera was named to trade on Leica’s ground-breaking reputation with the X1. I can’t prove it, of course, and I could be wrong. But is this where Fuji got the X from? If so, it has been a successful bit of poaching and they’ve done a lot with the letter.
A fixed-lens 35mm camera similar in size to the X100F (with viewfinder, of course) would go down well among Leica fans and I am sure it would be a great success for Leica. You could argue that the Leica Q fills this gap, but the smaller footprint of the X1 or X100 is still attractive to many. And the smaller sensor means that the lens, therefore the overall profile of the camera, can be smaller. Fuji has carved out a strong market for this format and, with the retro styling, the X100F is more Leica than Fuji in heritage. It is beautiful, just like the X1, pocketable and handy to have around.
What about it, Leica? Could we have a new X1 please?
Regulars readers will know that our Australian contributor, John Shingleton, is a great X1 fan and following are some of his articles featuring this evergreen camera. We will be publishing yet another article later this week, recounting his experiences with the camera on a trip to Paris.