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Leica X1 vs Fuji X100: the final round.

In-studio performance

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.

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


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


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

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

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.


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

Mouseover to see Leica

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:


6. Fuji X100 vs Leica X1, studio portraits.


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


100% crop from the image above:

Fuji X100 1005 crop-in-studio-review

Leica X1 @ F7.1, 1/1000 sec:

Leica x1 studio portrait sample

100% from the image above:

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:

7. 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

Then I’ve applied this for both images:


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

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!


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!

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