Leica X1 High ISO

First, you should know that this article is not meant to be a test or a full comparison.  I’m working on some more scientific results related to the X1 and the new Leica X2 (when it arrives!).  However, I shot a few sequences at an ISO of 1600 as was truly amazed at the results.  This is partly due to the fact that I think (again, not scientific) my M-8 is not as crisp at 1600 as the X1 was.  The crispness I am referring to is not because of focus or lens sharpness, but rather the results of the high speed ISO on the digital sensor.  So, here is the example, full size and enlarged to show detail.  What this exercise has done is sparked my interest to compare the M-8 sensor against the X1 and the X2.  Don’t hold your breath, but eventually I’ll get it done!  See the images below.

So this is my cat, Sandy, enjoying the cool floor of the screen porch.  The dark floor does a great job of contrasting with her sandy fur.  What I noticed first is that this photo at full resolution, no cropping, looks crisp.  Fur and wiskers are the first to go when losing detail.
Graceful Pose

Graceful Pose

I left this image reduced to 500 pixels on the long edge, using 240 ppi when exporting from lightroom.  However, there is no post editing done, purely a raw image exported to a smaller size.  I tried to give you a larger image, but the full size export is over 9mb and that seems too large!
Next is the best part.  The image below is a small cropping that I exported full size, no reductions in pixels, no post-processing.  Notice the grain in the background, but also notice just how crisp the wiskers, eyes and fur still are.
Graceful Pose - Close Up

Graceful Pose – Close Up

Even the reflections in the eyes show detail.  The noise is pleasing grain, as Leica has always intended with their digital sensors.  I believe the larger APS-C format helps here where the Dlux series falls short with the smaller four thirds sensor.  All this from a 3 year old technology.
Again, no scientific results here, but at first glance, I am happy with image quality.  Many have suggested that ISO 800 was the upper limit of the X-1 although some have been happy all the way up to 3200.  I have also seen what appears to be similar grain and sharpness with ISO 6400 using the Leica X2.
Can’t wait to try it and I hope this sparks some interest in testing your camera to the limits.  I believe that proper exposure is critical to high ISO photography.  Pushing and pulling should be done post processing as any other method just increases noise.

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