Otto Schulze On The Leica X1

Otto Schulze runs a full-time fine art wedding photography studio based out of Denver, Colorado. He gets to travel all over the world to document that special day in the lives of his clients. Otto does not manage to capture all the beautiful emotion, anticipation and expectation of each wedding day on his own, however. He relies on the team of the Leica M9 and new 35mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH lens, his equipment of choice. Recently, Otto had the opportunity to field-test the Leica X1 and share his thoughts with us.

Q: How does shooting with the Leica X1 and its 35mm equivalent f/2.8 lens compare with shooting with the Leica M9 and the latest 35mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH? Are there any advantages in the X1’s minimalist concept?

A: I think the minimalist concept and design of the X1 is without a doubt its strongest point. If you think the unobtrusiveness of the M9 allowed you to shoot people without them being bothered by it then you’ll love the X1. It’s so small. People just let you in. And this little compact packs a punch. The view through the attached viewfinder is a delight and feels very much like the M9.

Q: Your images shot with the Leica X1 seem to have the same graphic quality of your Leica M images suggesting that it’s the photographer not the camera that matters most, but do you think there is any difference between the kind of photographs you shoot with the X1 because of its operating characteristics?

A: This has probably been my favorite thing about the X1 – which is that I feel like I’m shooting an M! With the little viewfinder attached to the hotshoe the approach and feel of shooting the X1 is exactly what I love about rangefinder shooting. I think this is why the images share a resemblance. Now again, it’s not as precise as the M9 or any other Ms with regards to focusing, etc. The lens or sensor doesn’t perform on the same level, but as far as shooting approach and feel, to me, it is exactly the same.

Q: Do you think images you shoot with the 35mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH lens on your M9 and the 24mm F/2.8 Elmarit lens on the X1 have any similarity — do they both have that have that Leica look people talk about? Does the shallow depth of field with the f/1.4 open up different picture possibilities?

A: No I don’t think the X1 lens has that classic Leica look or feel. And for me, especially because I love shooting wide open, the lack of that extreme shallow depth of field of say an f/1.4 lens is a bit of a loss. However the Elmarit lens on the X1 is a fine lens. Honestly, it doesn’t have the same wow factor for me as say the new 35 Summilux does. But again for a compact camera lens it really is superb!

Q: You mentioned that the AF system of the X1 was not perfect but that you had no problem with it. Can you enlarge upon that statement?

A: The AF on the X1 has been one of the main complaints about the camera from others, especially the speed of the AF and yes, it is slow. But for me with the rangefinder style of shooting the speed of the AF does not matter at all. With the X1 in most cases I set the focus manually and wait for the scene to unfold. So the AF is no issue for me. After all, the AF on the M9 is quite poor as well (laughs).

Q: How does the performance of the Leica M and the X1 compare when shooting at high ISO settings such as ISO 1250 and ISO 1600?

A: I’ve only had the X1 for a week now and haven’t truly had a chance to really test the performance at high ISO settings. However, I have taken a few shots here and there at ISO 1600 and from what I’ve seen they look to be incredible! It’s really quite astounding again when considering that this is a compact camera.

Q: Does the CCD sensor in the Leica M9 provide a different look, feel or color balance than the CMOS sensor in the X1?

A: Yes it does. The detail and sharpness of the M9 sensor is far superior to that of the X1. I must add that in that regard the M9 is superior to all 35mm DSLRs I’ve used as well. The M9 sensor just has a crispness to its files that’s second to none so that’s in no way a negative towards the X1. I must say that I do prefer the color of the X1 sensor. I’m not sure why, but I really like the color balance of the files.

Q: Do you think the X1 is a “true Leica” and are you planning to acquire a Leica X1 personally to perhaps use it as a backup or supplement to your M9? If so, in what situations would you be inclined to use the X1?

A: Yes absolutely the X1 is a ‘true Leica’! It is for me simply because when I take it in hand my thought process and eye does exactly what it does with any M in hand. For that alone it is undeniably Leica. As far as purchasing one … well that would honestly depend on just how good the Fujifilm X100 turns out to be. But for the first time in my life I will purchase a compact camera either way and use it to seriously shoot the streets. I think as a street camera the X1 really is a game changer for me. It will go with me everywhere.

-Leica Internet Team

You can see more of Otto’s work on his website, www.ottoschulzephotographers.com.