Small Cameras pt.2-Leica x1

When I finally won an eBay bid for my long-coveted Leica x1, when it arrived, after I finished marvelling at the packaging (what care, what consideration these people have) the first thing I did was to climb online and see if it was fake.  Search: "Leica x1 counterfeit scam." Hmm. Nothing.  But this camera is so light, surely it's a plastic knock-off of the dignified Leica of which I've dreamt.  I snapped a picture of the desk in front of me.  Hmm.  Best picture I've ever seen. Not fake then. Or at least, a very, very good fake, featuring luxury optics that outperform any camera I've ever held.  


It took me about two hours to love everything about this camera.  The leather strap (!) the camera comes with isn't adjustable, but it's the perfect length.  I never wanted to mess with those silly plastic toggles on another camera again.  I never wanted to be responsible for choosing a proper camera-hanging-from-the-shoulder-length. Above all, I never wanted to be weighed down with another clunky piece of kit again. Compared with this light little beauty, all other cameras seemed like carrying a laptop around one's neck.  People walking aroudn with thier d5100's or whatever started to look awfully silly.  

No viewfinder? A little ghetto, but that's okay, I thought, I'll just compose right here in this--wait, completely horrible LCD screen. Hmm. Back to the counterfeit theory. Leica is a terrific, and a terrifically arrogant company. They make dictatorial choices, which are admirable in thier audacity sometimes, and sometimes infuriating. They've decided, see, that people don't really look at images on the camera's LCD screen, or, they shouldn't be looking at images that way, so they've put a perfectly-functional, but woefully basic screen on a screamingly sharp piece of design; having maxed out the sensor quality (within reason) and lens quality, they've cut things that don't matter (in their estimation) so much. For more thoughts on the company's approach: its glories and attendant frustrations, check out my favorite camera review ever, or find this beautiful essay by Anthony Lane about the history of Leica Cameras, recollected later in Best American Essays 2008

I had a great time making pictures with this device.  I carried it everywhere, some days not clicking a single frame, and still not feeling bad about having toted it around due to its size, weight, and ergonomic reward. I was often frustrated with not being able to focus (the camera does a great job of focusing on its own, but I like to decide what's clear and what's not; plus, I'm faster) but all frustrations melted with the easy intuitive menu, the simple button placement (everything I need in a click, or turn of the smart metal wheel atop the camera), and big, bright files (if occassionally over-saturated colors).


Self. Photo by Amber Willett. Taken with Leica x1.

I had to sell it in the end, because I had to feed my family, and because it can't make videos.  I don't know anything about these things, whether video would be hard to impliment, or whether it's a simple software add that Leica doesn't deign to grant because they're being purists.  Either way, I'm often called upon to make little videos of dance performances, or poetry readings, and I can't very well have a house full of tech equiptment to accomplish tasks that an iPhone can handle. I miss it though.  I sympathize with camera critic Steve Huff, who loved his Leica x1, then sold it, then bought it back after a year because its magic--and that's really what it seems like--called back to him even over the twenty cameras he'd had in between. I may just re-buy one myself when I'm in the position to, unless I find an unbeatable deal on the nearly-identical-but-for-the-added-possiblitiy-of-an-EVF Leica x2.