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Leica X1 vs Olympus E-PL1

The Leica X1 and the Olympus PEN E-PL1 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in September 2009 and February 2010. The X1 is a fixed lens compact, while the E-PL1 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on an APS-C (X1) and a Four Thirds (E-PL1) sensor. Both cameras offer a resolution of 12.2 megapixels.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Leica X1
versus
Olympus E-PL1
Leica X1   Olympus E-PL1
Fixed lens compact camera Mirrorless system camera
36mm f/2.8 Micro Four Thirds lenses
12.2 MP, APS-C Sensor 12.2 MP, Four Thirds Sensor
no Video 720/30p Video
ISO 100-3,200 ISO 200-3,200
No viewfinder, LCD framing Viewfinder optional
2.7 LCD, 230k dots 2.7 LCD, 230k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
3 shutter flaps per second 3 shutter flaps per second
no shake reductionIn-body stabilization
260 shots per battery charge290 shots per battery charge
124 x 60 x 32 mm, 306 g 115 x 72 x 42 mm, 334 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica X1 and the Olympus PEN E-PL1? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison

The physical size and weight of the Leica X1 and the Olympus E-PL1 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The X1 can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the E-PL1 is available in four color-versions (black, blue, yellow, white).

Size Leica X1 vs Olympus E-PL1
Compare X1 versus E-PL1 top
Comparison X1 or E-PL1 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-PL1 is notably larger (11 percent) than the Leica X1. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the X1 nor the E-PL1 are weather-sealed.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the X1 has a lens built in, whereas the E-PL1 is an interchangeable lens camera that requires a separate lens. Attaching the latter will add extra weight and bulk to the setup. You can compare the optics available for the E-PL1 and their specifications in the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the X1 gets 260 shots out of its BP-DC8 battery, while the E-PL1 can take 290 images on a single charge of its BLS-1 power pack.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras there.

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Body Specifications
    Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Leica X1 124 mm 60 mm 32 mm 306 g 260 n Sep 2009 1,995 i
2.
 
Olympus E-PL1 115 mm 72 mm 42 mm 334 g 290 n Feb 2010 599 i
3.
 
Canon G16 109 mm 76 mm 40 mm 356 g 360 n Aug 2013 549 i
4.
 
Fujifilm X100 126 mm 75 mm 54 mm 445 g 300 n Sep 2010 1,199 i
5.
 
Leica X Typ 113 133 mm 73 mm 78 mm 486 g 350 n Sep 2014 2,295 i
6.
 
Leica D-LUX 6 111 mm 68 mm 46 mm 298 g 330 n Sep 2012 699 i
7.
 
Leica X2 124 mm 69 mm 52 mm 345 g 450 n May 2012 1,995 i
8.
 
Leica D-LUX 5 110 mm 65 mm 43 mm 271 g 400 n Sep 2010 699 i
9.
 
Leica V-LUX 2 124 mm 80 mm 95 mm 520 g 410 n Sep 2010 849 i
10.
 
Olympus E-P3 122 mm 69 mm 34 mm 369 g 330 n Jun 2011 799 i
11.
 
Olympus E-PL2 114 mm 72 mm 42 mm 362 g 280 n Jan 2011 599 i
12.
 
Olympus E-PL3 110 mm 64 mm 37 mm 313 g 300 n Jun 2011 599 i
13.
 
Olympus E-P1 121 mm 70 mm 36 mm 355 g 300 n Jun 2009 799 i
14.
 
Olympus E-P2 121 mm 70 mm 36 mm 355 g 300 n Nov 2009 799 i
15.
 
Panasonic LX5 110 mm 65 mm 43 mm 271 g 400 n Jul 2010 499 i
16.
 
Sony NEX-3 117 mm 62 mm 33 mm 297 g 330 n May 2010 599 i
17.
 
Sony NEX-5 111 mm 59 mm 38 mm 287 g 330 n May 2010 699 i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down.

Sensor comparison

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Leica X1 features an APS-C sensor and the Olympus E-PL1 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-PL1 is 39 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 2.0. The sensor in the X1 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-PL1 offers a 4:3 aspect.

Leica X1 and Olympus E-PL1 sensor measures

Even though the X1 has a larger sensor, both cameras offer the same resolution of 12.2 megapixels. This implies that the X1 has a lower pixel density and larger individual pixels (with a pixel pitch of 5.51μm versus 4.29μm for the E-PL1), which gives it a potential advantage in terms of light gathering capacity. It should, however, be noted that the E-PL1 is a somewhat more recent model (by 4 months) than the X1, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that at least partly compensate for the smaller pixel size.

The Leica X1 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus PEN E-PL1 are ISO 200 to ISO 3200 (no boost).

X1 versus E-PL1 MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

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Sensor Characteristics
    Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
1.
 
Leica X1 APS-C 12.2 4272 2856none...... ..
2.
 
Olympus E-PL1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.510.1487 54
3.
 
Canon G16 1/1.7 12.0 4000 30001080/60p21.011.7230 54
4.
 
Fujifilm X100 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/30p22.912.41001 73
5.
 
Leica X Typ 113 APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p...... ..
6.
 
Leica D-LUX 6 1/1.7 10.0 3648 27361080/60p...... ..
7.
 
Leica X2 APS-C 16.1 4928 3264none...... ..
8.
 
Leica D-LUX 5 1/1.7 10.0 3648 2736720/60p...... ..
9.
 
Leica V-LUX 2 1/2.3 14.0 4320 32401080/60i...... ..
10.
 
Olympus E-P3 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.810.1536 51
11.
 
Olympus E-PL2 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.410.2573 55
12.
 
Olympus E-PL3 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.910.3499 52
13.
 
Olympus E-P1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.410.4536 55
14.
 
Olympus E-P2 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.510.4505 56
15.
 
Panasonic LX5 1/1.7 10.0 3648 2736720/60p19.610.8132 41
16.
 
Sony NEX-3 APS-C 14.0 4592 3056720/30p22.112.0830 68
17.
 
Sony NEX-5 APS-C 14.0 4592 30561080/60i22.212.2796 69

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The E-PL1 indeed provides for movie recording, while the X1 does not. The highest resolution format that the E-PL1 can use is 720/30p.

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The X1 and the E-PL1 are similar in the sense that neither of the two has a viewfinder. The images are, thus, framed using live view on the rear LCD. That said, the E-PL1 can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the VF-2. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Leica X1, the Olympus E-PL1, and comparable cameras.

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Core Features
    Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
(000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Leica X1none n 2.7 230 fixed n 1/2000s 3.0 Y n
2.
 
Olympus E-PL1optional n 2.7 230 fixed n 1/2000s 3.0 Y Y
3.
 
Canon G16optical n 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 2.2 Y Y
4.
 
Fujifilm X1001440 n 2.8 460 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
5.
 
Leica X Typ 113optional n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0 Y n
6.
 
Leica D-LUX 6optional n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 11.0 Y Y
7.
 
Leica X2optional n 2.7 230 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0 Y n
8.
 
Leica D-LUX 5optional n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y Y
9.
 
Leica V-LUX 2202 n 3.0 460 swivel n 1/2000s 11.0 Y Y
10.
 
Olympus E-P3optional n 3.0 614 fixed Y 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y
11.
 
Olympus E-PL2optional n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y
12.
 
Olympus E-PL3optional n 3.0 460 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 n Y
13.
 
Olympus E-P1none n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n Y
14.
 
Olympus E-P2optional n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n Y
15.
 
Panasonic LX5optional n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y Y
16.
 
Sony NEX-3optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 7.0 n n
17.
 
Sony NEX-5optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 7.0 n n

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the X1 and the E-PL1 write their files to SDHC cards.

Connectivity comparison

For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Leica X1 and Olympus PEN E-PL1 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
    Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Leica X1Y----mini2.0---
2.
 
Olympus E-PL1Ystereo---mini2.0---
3.
 
Canon G16Ystereomono--mini2.0Y--
4.
 
Fujifilm X100Ystereo---mini2.0---
5.
 
Leica X Typ 113Ystereomono--mini2.0---
6.
 
Leica D-LUX 6Ystereomono--mini2.0---
7.
 
Leica X2Y----mini2.0---
8.
 
Leica D-LUX 5Ymonomono--mini2.0---
9.
 
Leica V-LUX 2Ystereomono--mini2.0---
10.
 
Olympus E-P3Ystereo---mini2.0---
11.
 
Olympus E-PL2Ystereo---mini2.0---
12.
 
Olympus E-PL3Ystereo---mini2.0---
13.
 
Olympus E-P1Ystereo---mini2.0---
14.
 
Olympus E-P2Ystereo---mini2.0---
15.
 
Panasonic LX5Ymonomono--mini2.0---
16.
 
Sony NEX-3Ystereomono--mini2.0---
17.
 
Sony NEX-5Ystereomono--mini2.0---

Both the X1 and the E-PL1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The X1 was replaced by the Leica X2, while the E-PL1 was followed by the Olympus E-PL2. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Leica and Olympus websites.

Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Leica X1 or the Olympus E-PL1 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

ilogo

Arguments in favor of the Leica X1:

  • Better image quality: Features bigger pixels on a larger sensor for higher quality imaging.
  • Richer colors: The pixel size advantage translates into images with better, more accurate colors.
  • More dynamic range: Larger pixels capture a wider spectrum of light and dark details.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Larger pixels means good image quality even under poor lighting.
  • Ready to shoot: Has a lens built-in, whereas the E-PL1 requires a separate lens.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter even though it comes with a built-in lens (unlike the E-PL1).
  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in September 2009).

ilogo

Reasons to prefer the Olympus PEN E-PL1:

  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 720/30p video.
  • More framing options: Can be equipped with a hotshoe-mounted accessory-viewfinder.
  • More flexible: Takes interchangeable lenses and can thus be used with specialty optics.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (290 versus 260) out of a single battery charge.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (4 months) more recently.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the X1 emerges as the winner of the contest (8 : 6 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

X1 08:06 E-PL1

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Leica X1 and the Olympus E-PL1 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Prime Lens Compact Camera and Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the X1 or the E-PL1 perform in practice. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate.

Expert reviews

This is where reviews by experts come in. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.

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Expert Camera Reviews
     Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Leica X13/5..+..4/5 Sep 2009 1,995 i
2.
 
Olympus E-PL1..86/10069/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2010 599 i
3.
 
Canon G164/5+..4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2013 549 i
4.
 
Fujifilm X1003/5..75/1004/55/5 Sep 2010 1,199 i
5.
 
Leica X Typ 1133.5/5....3.5/54/5 Sep 2014 2,295 i
6.
 
Leica D-LUX 6......4/54/5 Sep 2012 699 i
7.
 
Leica X23/5....3/54/5 May 2012 1,995 i
8.
 
Leica D-LUX 5......4.5/54/5 Sep 2010 699 i
9.
 
Leica V-LUX 2.......... Sep 2010 849 i
10.
 
Olympus E-P3..83/10074/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2011 799 i
11.
 
Olympus E-PL23/583/10071/1004.5/54.5/5 Jan 2011 599 i
12.
 
Olympus E-PL33/5+ +72/1004.5/54/5 Jun 2011 599 i
13.
 
Olympus E-P1..+66/1004/54.5/5 Jun 2009 799 i
14.
 
Olympus E-P23/5+69/1004/54.5/5 Nov 2009 799 i
15.
 
Panasonic LX54/5+73/1004.5/54.5/5 Jul 2010 499 i
16.
 
Sony NEX-3....70/1004.5/54/5 May 2010 599 i
17.
 
Sony NEX-53/5+ +71/1004.5/54/5 May 2010 699 i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Leica X1:
Check Ebay offers
Olympus E-PL1:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just use the search menu below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Leica X1 vs Olympus E-PL1

    Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.

    Camera Specifications
    Camera Model Leica X1 Olympus E-PL1
    Camera Type Fixed lens compact camera Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens 36mm f/2.8 Micro Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date September 2009 February 2010
    Launch Price USD 1,995 USD 599
    Sensor Specs Leica X1 Olympus E-PL1
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor Four Thirds Sensor
    Sensor Size 23.7 x 15.6 mm 17.3 x 13.0 mm
    Sensor Area 369.72 mm2 224.9 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 28.4 mm 21.6 mm
    Crop Factor 1.5x 2.0x
    Sensor Resolution 12.2 Megapixels 12.2 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4272 x 2856 pixels 4032 x 3024 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 5.51 μm 4.29 μm
    Pixel Density 3.30 MP/cm2 5.42 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video 720/30p Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 3,200 ISO 200 - 3,200 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 54
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 21.5
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 10.1
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 487
    Screen Specs Leica X1 Olympus E-PL1
    Viewfinder Type no viewfinder Viewfinder optional
    Viewfinder Magnification
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.7inch 2.7inch
    LCD Resolution 230k dots 230k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Leica X1 Olympus E-PL1
    Focus System Contrast-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 3 shutter flaps/s 3 shutter flaps/s
    Image Stabilizationno shake reductionIn-body stabilization
    Fill Flash Built-in Flash Built-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDHC cards SDHC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Leica X1 Olympus E-PL1
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Leica X1 Olympus E-PL1
    Battery Type BP-DC8 BLS-1
    Battery Life (CIPA)260 shots per charge290 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 124 x 60 x 32 mm
    (4.9 x 2.4 x 1.3 in)
    115 x 72 x 42 mm
    (4.5 x 2.8 x 1.7 in)
    Camera Weight 306 g (10.8 oz) 334 g (11.8 oz)

    Did you notice an error on this page? If so, please get in touch, so that we can correct the information.

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