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Leica X1 vs Fuji X100: in studio test

This is a second part (read first part here) of my review of Leica X1 and Fujifilm X100 P&S cameras. I still call them this way, as having a viewfinder does not change a nature of the camera, IMO :-)
Now we’ll see how both cameras perform in a “sterile” studio environment. It will beeasy to find any imperfection when we have a perfect lighting and both camera andsubject are steady. Focusing was not manual, I was relying on a camera ability to focuson a newspaper at straight angle. Meaning if you see something blurred, this is how thecamera auto-focused the subject using the central focusing point on both.

Here is how setup looked like, image composed by Fuji X100:

leica x1 and fuji x100 in studio test comparison
leica x1 and fuji x100 in studio test comparison

 

The lighting was simple: I had 2 PCB stripboxes on both sides of the test board. Two E640 lights worked in constant color mode.

Below is a sequence of different images done by Fuji X100 and Leica X1. By default you see image made by Fujifilm X100, and it will be replaced by Leica’s version of it on mouseover.

1.Fuji X100 and Leica X1, full composition:

Mouseover to see Leica

leica-vs-fuji-studio-test-full-image
leica-vs-fuji-studio-test-full-image

Images looks very similar, but even at such small resolution lens distortion becomes apparent on a Fuji X100 image. This is what I was afraid of when was comparing specification on part one of this review: Fuji has very short (by physical length) macro lens, and it looks like this solution compromised quality. Comparing to Leica, Fuji has very serious distortion issues. Lets look closer:

2. Fuji X100 and Leica X1, 100% crop, F2.8, center of the composition:

Mouseover to see Leica

leica-vs-fuji-f2-8-center-crop
leica-vs-fuji-f2-8-center-crop

I see more contrast on Leica’s side, but this can be due to a slightly different brightnessof the images. I had to adjust lighting every time I switch cameras, as the ISO was different at the same aperture. (I want to use both cameras at their “native” ISO). The interesting things start happening when we go to the paper’s edge:

3. Fuji X100 and Leica X1, 100% crop, F2.8, corner:

Mouseover to see Leica

leica X1 vs fuji X100 f2.8 corner crop
leica X1 vs fuji X100 f2.8 corner crop

What can I say.. Wow! Despite Fuji X100 23mm Fujinon lens was not wide open, even at F2.8 the quality on a corners got reduced dramatically. Heavy chromatic aberration (CA) and distortion affected the image produced by Fuji. Leica’s 24mm Elmarit lens looks almost like a “L” class here… (Canon “L” lenses family)

Lets close lens half way down and look at another corner:

4. Fuji X100 and Leica X1, 100% crop, F8, corner:

Mouseover to see Leica

leica X1 vs Fuji X100 f8 corner crop
leica X1 vs Fuji X100 f8 corner crop

CA and distortion are slightly better at F8 (talking about Fuji X100), but where are the contrast and sharpness have gone? Both files was processed with the same, default setting (only white balance was adjusted) , but it looks like Leica has better linear resolution and sharpness. It might be that Fuji went slightly off focus, but this is a part of the test: everything is static, and I have no excuse for the camera focusing system. However, I still beleive that this is a true Fujinon resolution at corners.

4. Fuji X100 and Leica X1, 100% crop, F16, corner:

Mouseover to see Leica

leica vs fuji at f16 corner crop
leica vs fuji at f16 corner crop

Leica X1 is definitely better at F16… as expected.

So, what do I see here? Leica’s retractable “trunk” (this is how I called its lens in part one of the review) seems to do much better job of delivering good quality image to a camera’s sensor. Yes, Fuji is better looking camera because of its nice flat lens, but they sacrifice a lot to make such design work.
Or… May be I am wrong? I have not seen any significant difference between Leica and Fuji in the first part of the review, where both cameras was used outside a studio, where these cameras will operate in real. Does anyone will notice that extra quality Leica provides has for additional $800 and long lens?

To make comparison more interesting, I’ve added my girls portraits, done in studio with strobe lighting. I was curious to see if there will be the same difference in sharpness and image quality as I’ve seen on previous tests:

4. Fuji X100 vs Leica X1, studio portraits.


Fuji X100, F5.6 1/2000 sec, full composition:

fuji-x100-studio-portrait-sample
fuji-x100-studio-portrait-sample

100% crop from the image above:

Fuji X100 1005 crop-in-studio-review
Fuji X100 1005 crop-in-studio-review

 

Leica X1 @ F7.1,  1/1000 sec:

Leica x1 studio portrait sample
Leica x1 studio portrait sample

100% from the image above:

Leica X1 100% crop-in-studio-review
Leica X1 100% crop-in-studio-review

 

Do you see any difference? Both cameras has default ACR sharpness on 100% crops, and honestly I do not see any difference in image quality. This is how real life is different than synthetic tests!

Now, the last one:

6. Shadow and highlight recovery:

Highlights recovery appears to be exactly the same on both, Leica and Fuji. Because the lighting was adjusted every time I switched the cameras, it was very subjective to judge where color was completely wiped out and where is was not. Therefore I’ve decided not to post the images form highlights test. You can simply take it as I said: it is there same, or run test by yourself:-)

Shadow recovery was more interesting for me. I’ve got these two underexposed images below and was trying to recover the highlights. Even the lighting was not 100% the same (ISO was different,  plus, I found that even at the same exposure Lieca was brighter then Fuji), results are different.

Fuji X100, mouse over for Leica X1:

leica vs fuji underexposed
leica vs fuji underexposed

Then I’ve applied this for both images:

 

leica-fuji-underexposure-conversion
leica-fuji-underexposure-conversion

100% crop form the image above. +3.4 exposure and +100% recovery.
Fuji is what you see, mouseover for Lieca:

Fuji and leica 100% crop shadow recovery
Fuji and leica 100% crop shadow recovery

Again, Leica shows better IQ because of the superior lens and slightly better A/D conversion algorithm. Or may be it was CMOS chip captured more color information.  Still, the major difference in IQ comes from the Leica’s better lens performance, IMO.

The conclusion:

It is apparent that Lieca’s extra $800 comes not only from a red label, like I was thinking after I’ve done first part of this review. German engineers has proved again that they know how to build good quality glass.  However, the charm and user’s sympathy (talking about my and my wife’s opinion) is completely on a Fuji X100 side.  Plus, in real life situations it might be hard to see superiority of the Leica’s lens. Simply look at kids studio portraits and outdoors results: do you see any issues with the Fuji lens? I doubt you’ll find any. Architecture shots might have more difference though.

As for the question I have asked in a previous post, “Which one to keep?“, here is my own answer:
None of these two. We’ll get Canon 7D and will use it with 50mm F1.4 lens we already have (lens potentially upgradable to F1.2 version:) . Same price for a completely mature performance (comparing to our two heroes) and full HD video packed in a twice as large body and lens. The camera’s size and stylish appearance will be the things we sacrifice, but not the image quality and camera overall performance. Priorities, priorities…

What do you think? if you have any cool images done by Fuji X100 or Leica, feel free to post them in a comments: I am sure they will be interesting to see for everyone.

ADD: RAW files from both cameras, feel free to download them here.

All the best t everyone!

Alex

P.S I am getting ready to test Elinchrom Digital Style Combo 600/1200RX/A3000N Two Head Kit and Skyport I received recently. Want to see how they will be comparing to Einstein 640 monolights. Bear with me!

46 Responses on Leica X1 vs Fuji X100: the final round. In-studio performance"

  1. Paul says:

    Awesome post! Do you have any samples of studio work done by the x100? I have a 5d2 and I love the studio work done with it, I was just wondering if the x100 is able to pull off some professional studio work as well.

  2. Ben Jamieson says:

    I know I’ml ate to the party here (sorry Alex – I have so many sites to follow!), but I think I’ve just been sold on the X100.

    As a wedding photographer, who shoots often on long, late physically demanding sesions for 12 hours straight, I’ve lately found I just don’t have the energy to clean my 7D’s, recharge everything and lug it around in between my weddings. This has meant I’ve not been shooting for me. And I miss it.

    With the lower cost, and ‘real world’ similarities of the two, the x100 is wining for me – and I sorely need a ‘me’ camera again, one that’s always there, easy to carry, and can be with me everywhere, all the time, but is more than just a ‘micro-sensor’ P&S

    Thanks for your very informative review! Fuji owes you a commission on this one!

  3. MichaelHD says:

    Steve, what about sony nex-5n or sony nex-7 with zeiss 24/1.8…. Anybody compared these camera to x1 or x100…?

  4. Jonas says:

    I think the portrait studio test actually showed noticeable difference. Open the two pictures in their respective tabs and flick back & forth to see what I mean. The Fuji’s color tones doesn’t even come close to the Leica’s. If it just made the fabric of the chair all greyish, it wouldn’t be a big problem, since that’s not the focus of the short, but the skin tones are actually affected. Or put another way: The kids look healthier with the Leica… ;)

  5. Bradley says:

    X1 also comes with $300 MSRP Adobe Lightroom, so in the end it’s an extra $500 for the lens and the “red dot.”

  6. Tony says:

    Have a look at this test: X100 vs 5dmk2 vs X1.
    http://www.geocities.jp/danjiri60/x100.html

    The Leica X1 newspaper pictures obviously had benn USM sharpened in camera…

    • Tony,
      Why do you think Leica apply sharpening? I shoot in RAW with both cameras, both were processes exactly the same. USM in RAW? this is something new to me;-)
      I think Fuji got blurred because I was shooting with 1/4000 at 2.8 and camera is not suppose to support such shutter on 2.8. But there is a bug in soft allowing this, and people say it may cause bad focus.

  7. John Chimoskey says:

    Sorry; too complex for me. I’m done.

  8. John Chimoskey says:

    I do not know how to post images here. I use LR3 and PS5 to process them, but they are on my computer, and do not have URL, as far as I know.

    • Sorry, I can’t host your images here. There are tons of free services to host files and share from there. Dropbox for up to 2Gb (you can post hi-res there) , flickr for web-size.

      • John Chimoskey says:

        @Alex Koloskov, Thank you. I like your review and I agree that in real use X100 is probably as good as X1, or even better for some users, and it is not quite as primitive. But after following the D series Nikons, simple (but with essential features) is refreshing. And you can see I have a fairly strong Leica bias, inspite of the absurd pricing and atiquated designs. I have some images on fb but they are accessable by “friends” only; I’ll try to put some on flickr. (By the way, I am strictly an amateur, but a dedicated one.) Thanks.

      • John Chimoskey says:

        @Alex Koloskov, I think I have created a Gallery at Dropbox with two albums (2010, 2011). There are a couple images from 2010 from my first X1 and a 2011 album with a few recent images from my current X1. They won’t add much to your fine review, I’m afraid, but they give some idea of whan an amateur can do with the Leica X1. I have put the DNG files and small JPGs for each image in the albums. I hope the link works; I have been at this all day.

        https://www.dropbox.com/photos/JEC%27s%20X1%20Photos

        • John,
          That was not a correct link to your public folder. It opens mine (if i register) or it will ask user to register.
          You can share files there by right click and “get a public link”.. after you’ve made it public:

          This will work.

  9. John Chimoskey says:

    Last March I bought an X1. I used it very carefully so I could recover much of my cost if I decided to sell it. I used a voigtlander 35mm viewfinder with X1 and it worked very well. IQ was stunning at all Isos and apertures. Then X100 was announced, and like many folks, I thought that is the camera Leica should have made. So by December I had sold both and waited for X100. Then 3 things happened: 1. the X100 reviews began, 2. I decided from personal experience that the m4/3 cameras (ep1, EP2, GF1) are not nearly as good as they are touted to be and that X1 IQ is better. 3. Reviewing my X1 images I could not help noticing that there is something special (positive) about them. Last month i got another X1 & VC 35mm finder and I am using this one like I mean to keep it. I just plain love it. In Hong Kong (eBay) I found an X1 adapter tube and on that I can put a 52mm Marumi achromat +5 close up lens and at f8 get superb AF close-ups; images are twice the size of the image made without +5 at 30cm. Another interesting thing to note is about the JPG that is necessary with DNG. Last time I kept them small to get more DNGs on a card, thinking they are a nuisance. This time I use them in super-fine, Hi-Contrast B&W mode. (“Like Tri-X”, Leica Rep.) That way i get B&W (JPG) and color (DNG) images every time I shoot. In addition, I often use -1, 0, +1 EV exposure bracketing; then I get six image with a huge range of tonality in B&W and color. Bracketing is very fast but there is a delay writing the images. Just for the record, I have used M2R, M-3, M4-2, M4-P, M6 and M8 Leicas. I thought M8 was an awful camera, not ready for prime time, and got rid of it quickly. But I loved the film Ms and they usually had a little 35mm Summicron on them; X1 is the same sort of photo experience for me!

  10. Justin Day says:

    Thank you for this wonderful review. It was very well written and extremely detailed. I’ve had my eye on the Fuji X100 since I first heard about it. You have certainly helped my decision. Fantastic job!

  11. Keith T says:

    Good review. I shoot with Canon 5D MKII and am currently on the hunt for a good quality travel camera as I travel frequently on business. I had already ordered (on back order at the shop) a X100 but after seeing this review may re-consider based on the considerable write times that people have mentioned. 7 seconds to write a RAW is unacceptable when shooting street or travel photography (IMO). I think I may have to look at the more expensive X1. Still love my Canon 5D MKII but just don’t like carrying them around as they are extremely heavy with L lens attached.

    Keep up the great, and I must say honest reviews! This is what I would like to see in more reviews; the facts in a well laid out format with not all the excess and advertising!

  12. A. Non says:

    Your experience with the X100 is consistent with mine. The X100 locks up for 7-10 seconds after every shot while it saves the image. During the lock-up time, you can’t change the ISO, set the ND filter, change the auto-focus point, adjust the manual focus, switch between OVF and EVF etc. Does the Leica X1 have a similar problem?

    • I’ve noticed longer-then-expected writing time in both, Leica and Fuji, but it was not camera-related issue, IMO: I had very old and slow SD cards in both cameras. I think both will perform much faster if used with new hi-speed SD cards. What do you have in your Fuji?

      • A. Non says:

        @Alex Koloskov, With a 30MB/s Sandisk Extreme SDHC card, I had 7-10 second write times for one RAW+JPG and 30 second write times for a RAW+JPG burst. Andy Westlake posted some times for other cards and settings: http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/FujifilmX100/page10.asp . After my bad experience with the X100, I’m seriously considering the X1.

        Can you change the Leica X1 settings while it is saving an image, or do they lock up like the X100?

        If you had to choose between the X1 and the X100, which would you pick and why?

        • Hm.. Not good. I mean that it that slow even with fast card.
          Unfortunately I can’t check anything with X1 or x100, have already sent them both back to a store. Not 100% sure, but I think Leica does not respond on the input while saving the image, same as Fuji.

          The biggest disadvantage for me was slow focus and shutter lag on both cameras. Sort of unacceptable, as I was not able to shoot kids. It looks like Fuji lens is not good at close distance, plus, I was shooting at “not allowed” settings on Fuji on my studio test. You can read my thread on DPreview.com.

          I really hope your issue with the write time is fixable with a new software update. I liked X100 more than Leica, and potentially can buy version II of this camera, if they release it it one day. Otherwise, it will be Canon 7D. Leica is not an option for me: too plain and too expensive for P&S.

        • A. Non says:

          @Alex Koloskov, Thanks for the reply. I also sent back my X100, guess there’s not much point in trying the X1.

  13. Geoff says:

    Thank’s man!

    This review (and the website) is excellent. Articles are interesting, with techniques but not too much. Just perfect.

    In my case, I just bought a Leica X1 (like “ratty mouse, i’m travelling all around in Asia and I wanted a good compact etc…).
    I was thinking a lot after my purchase as the Fuji X100 is the “camera of the year” for everybody on Internet etc… + some people who can’t affort for the Leica X1 like talking about it (in a bad way) without trying.
    All i can say is both are great cameras. I supposed it’s normal (compared to their price) that Leica has better lens than Fuji. Cause it’s what the X1 has, nothing else than a good lens.
    The most important thing is to get a camera that could make you happy everytime you look at it, everytime you use it. And improves your creativity. And that X1 is pretty cool for that :). I’m sure Fuji is cool too. Then why should we fight? And I agree that with kids, a faster focus wouldn’t be too much ;).

    Anyway, most of people forget than the photographer is the most important thing. Cartier Bresson, Capa, they didn’t have any of those cameras in the review, and they could still beat our ass.

    I’ve just added your website in my favorite links ;)
    Keep it up!

  14. Alex, you are not wrong. This is exactly what I have found in the open-air test. I had no prejudice against X100. In fact, I love the way it handles, and a presentation mahogany box was a very cute amenity. An then… It took me literally three minutes to find lighting conditions and subject matter to come up with a picture showing exactly what you have here, but much more visible: CA, smearing, color spills…

  15. Jenkins says:

    You are right, I have the Canon 7D and I am always impressed with it’s handling and image quality, but I am fed up with carrying it about every day. Yes, I think the fuji is beckoning – in fact it might be my first ’2nd’ camera which is used more than my ’1st’ camera.

    Top review, well done!

  16. Ratty Mouse says:

    IMO, you are completely missing the point of both of these cameras. ANY SLR with a 50mm lens, or especially the 14mm 2.8, is worlds heavier, larger, and less likely to be carried around. THAT is where the joy of the Fuji X100 lies. Within the 23mm focal length, there is NOTHING like carrying around a camera that small! I just returned from an 8 day trip to South Korea. I took my Fuji S5 Pro, and my X100. The S5 Pro was for when I needed wider angle shots. The X100, everything else. Away from the large palaces, the X100 was FANTASTIC. I NEVER, EVER traveled so light. It was WONDERFUL! And the IQ is just spectacular. Finally, the silent X100 proved essential in many of the VERY quiet temples in Korea. Impossible to fire off my SLR without being VERY disturbing.

    I am going to own a camera like the X100 FOR LIFE after this recent experience.

    • Ratty,
      Why do you think I am missing the camera’s purpose? I still think they were made to be small and compact yet have a good IQ to carry around every (travel) day.
      It just looks like we have very different pockets size and travel routes:-) We always travel with kids, which means we carry with us lot of stuff, and our pockets and bags could easily fit DSLR. Quiet shutter? I bet it is very quiet in Fuji and Leica, but I forgot what world “quiet” means, leaving for 3.5 years with our kids.. they never quiet:-)

      I completely agree with you, it must be really enjoying to have Fuji with you. But remember, by doing this review I was trying to fit either camera in my pocket:-)
      Thank you!

  17. Sasha says:

    I would get a rebel instead of 7d for non-work purposes. less bulky, less weight…

  18. J says:

    I agree, the Einstein vs. Elinchrom should be interesting. Just wondering why some photographers have a preference for monolight strobes and some for powerpacks with flash heads. We have the latter at the museum and well, they were here when I got here and so I use them (Norman P2000D packs that must be 30 years old and Speedotron heads with Chimera softboxes).

    • My first serious (non serious was $30 screw-in strobes) was a Novatron 400ws power pack with 3 heads. Was pretty cool experience, but first thing I’ve noticed is luck of completely independent power control of the heads: I can’t have 1:3 ratio for example.. or 1/10.
      So, my next was set of PCB monolights, and I am still on PCB lighting:-)
      Will see how good and friendly Elinchromes will be.
      Thank you!

  19. Roger says:

    Alex
    I have enjoyed your blog for a good while now and all I can say is, keep up the good work. It is much appreciated. Your next head to head, Einstein vs Elinchrom, is something I am looking forward to . I have made my choice already but have neither at the moment but about to buy an Einstein hence my interest .

  20. MauroB says:

    Alex

    many thanks for posting the extended test, which I was waiting for.

    That somewhat confirmed my impressions on testing both cameras in “real world” shots: the X1 slightly ahead (5%) in IQ, the X100 leading in usage flexibility (awful firmware aside). The deal breakers were focus speed, which I found unacceptable on the X1, and X100 framing options.

    Actually, in “real world” shots, the X100 is very close to the M8 + 28mm f2.8 Elmarit-M, which is a heavier and more expensive package.

    As P&S cameras, both X1 and X100 are very expensive propositions. I believe that if the X1 did not exist, Fuji would have priced the X100 at 800 Usd.

    And I am convinced that critical corner sharpness is really not that important since main X1 and X100 usage, as proper P&S’s, will be confined in the “environmental portraiture”, “documentary” and “street” realms, where contest and composition matter more than edge to edge sharpness and consistency. Anyone buying either X1 or X100 for landscape or architectural photography is committing to unavoidable compromises without getting enough IQ in return.

    I have not yet decided if in the end I will keep the X100. There is so much distance between the pictures posted by some well-known bloggers and those taken by myself that I believe there is something weird somewhere. I agreed with Fuji to send the camera for calibration – when it’s back I will take my final decision. Supply shortage will help a potential sale.

    Best regards,

    Mauro

    • tcab says:

      @MauroB,
      Am still undecided re the x100 myself.
      Any results from the calibration? Was it focussing, dynamic range or overall image quality that wasn’t living up to the pictures you’ve seen? What about Flickr – have you compared your shots with x100 shots on Flickr?

  21. JonathanJK says:

    I enjoyed reading this, thanks. I do have one concern though.
    How does a 7D with a 1.6 crop + 50mm lens compare to the wide angle nature of either of the cameras you reviewed?

    • Jonathan,
      7D has the same sensor size as Fuji and Leica, meaning the it will be the same x1.6 crop factor. If I put 24mm lens on 7D it will end up with the same angle of view of 35mm, exactly as Fuji and Leica. However, 50mm (x1.6=80) seems more useful for me. For wide angle I can use 14mm F2.8 L lens I have.. with 5D Mk II. But this is completely different story:-)

      • mazen says:

        @Alex Koloskov, but you can’t pluck a 7d in your shirt and walk into a club snatching undercover shots of the underlife for a book cover

        • Yep, I can’t. But I never had or going to have such situations where I need to bring camera undercover in my pocket, really:-)
          BTW, I’ve got Nikon Coolpix S1800 – small, full-auto jpeg only $200 shooter to carry with me to shoot kids on a playground. Focus is faster than on both, X1 and X100:-)

  22. Libby says:

    Thanks Alex – Have been waiting for this. I had seen some awful X1 samples awhile back, but they were done in awful conditions too. While I’m still not sold on an X1, after seeing the Fuji “off focus” as you put it and the chromatic aberration, I’ve now knocked the Fuji off my buy list too. It’s not that I really need a new camera – I was looking at the Fuji as a supplement for travel etc.

    You are right about the testing. I have 3 different static subjects I like to shoot on any new camera. It takes all of the other variables out of play. Thanks so much for taking the time to do this.

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