While the Fujifilm and Leica have different looks, the concept is the same: upscale compacts with large sensors, fixed high-speed lenses, and lots of exterior controls
In those situations where you do want to compose the picture, a viewfinder is much faster than the LCD, and keeps the camera steadier. And in bright light, a viewfinder is much, much better.
Of course, keeping inconspicuous with the Leica and particularly the Fujifilm is problematical. Editors found themselves peppered with questions when out and about with these cameras (a frequent one being “Oh, is that a film camera?”).
Back in the day, remember, the street shooters’ Leica M3’s and Canon 7’s and Nikon S’s looked pretty much like ordinary cameras, similar to the cameras snapshooters used: Not so with the new modern classics. (Today, the ultimate street shooter’s camera would be a cellphone with an APS-C-size sensor.)
So will this trendlet turn into an actual trend? We can see it happening. Cameras like this are about cult status as much as they are performance. And while early sales appear to be driven by photo enthusiasts, we predict that once critical mass is reached, these models will turn into The New Cool Thing I Must Have. We have, after all, seen it happen before with the luxe 35mm models.
And while we can’t say for sure whether, say, Canon or Nikon will get into this game, we’re certain that people in those companies will be taking notice. We just hope that, if they do jump in, they won’t use “X” in their model names.
Rangefinder Look-alikes, Can They Compete?
Sigma DP2S: Foveon Sensor
Olympus E-P2: Top PEN Model
Panasonic GF2: Four Thirds ILC
With sensors considerably smaller than those of the X-cameras, advanced compacts such as the Canon PowerShot G12 and Nikon Coolpix P7000 are not really in the same league. The only truly comparable cameras are the Sigma DP-series, the DP1x and DP2s (each $650, street). These use the unique Foveon X3 sensor, made up of three 4.7MP layers sensitive to red, green, and blue, and slightly smaller in area than an APS-C sensor. The Sigmas sport fixed 28mm f/4 and 41mm f/2.8 equivalent lenses, respectively. Like the Leica X1, they lack an optical viewfinder, although you can opt for an accessory shoe-mount bright-frame finder ($120, street).
We tested the DP2, predecessor of the DP2s (the newer model has an updated processor) back in September 2009 and gave it a High overall rating based on 1925 lines of resolution and noise that stayed at least Low up to ISO 400; noise went into Unacceptable territory at ISO 1600. Color accuracy was Excellent. Contrast-detection autofocus was slow, although Sigma states it has been sped up in the “s” version. All in all, we’d say both the Fujifilm X100 and Leica X1 offer a nicer shooting experience.
That leaves the rangefinder-style ILC cameras—the Olympus Pens, Panasonic Lumix GF2, Samsung NX100, and Sony Alpha NEX series. These offer the advantage of interchangeable lenses, although, even wearing a super-compact pancake lens, they will need a bigger pocket to hide in than the Fujifilm X100 or Leica X1. Their imaging ability is roughly on a par with the X-cameras, although the Fujifilm actually outperformed all those ILCs we have tested.
Another compelling argument for the ILCs is price: You can get some of these models, with zoom lens, for half the price of the Fujifilm—or one-third the price of the Leica.