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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
|1.||Leica X1||124 mm||60 mm||32 mm||306 g||260||n||Sep 2009||1,995|
|2.||Olympus E-PL1||115 mm||72 mm||42 mm||334 g||290||n||Feb 2010||599|
|3.||Canon G16||109 mm||76 mm||40 mm||356 g||360||n||Aug 2013||549|
|4.||Fujifilm X100||126 mm||75 mm||54 mm||445 g||300||n||Sep 2010||1,199|
|5.||Leica X Typ 113||133 mm||73 mm||78 mm||486 g||350||n||Sep 2014||2,295|
|6.||Leica D-LUX 6||111 mm||68 mm||46 mm||298 g||330||n||Sep 2012||699|
|7.||Leica X2||124 mm||69 mm||52 mm||345 g||450||n||May 2012||1,995|
|8.||Leica D-LUX 5||110 mm||65 mm||43 mm||271 g||400||n||Sep 2010||699|
|9.||Leica V-LUX 2||124 mm||80 mm||95 mm||520 g||410||n||Sep 2010||849|
|10.||Olympus E-P3||122 mm||69 mm||34 mm||369 g||330||n||Jun 2011||799|
|11.||Olympus E-PL2||114 mm||72 mm||42 mm||362 g||280||n||Jan 2011||599|
|12.||Olympus E-PL3||110 mm||64 mm||37 mm||313 g||300||n||Jun 2011||599|
|13.||Olympus E-P1||121 mm||70 mm||36 mm||355 g||300||n||Jun 2009||799|
|14.||Olympus E-P2||121 mm||70 mm||36 mm||355 g||300||n||Nov 2009||799|
|15.||Panasonic LX5||110 mm||65 mm||43 mm||271 g||400||n||Jul 2010||499|
|16.||Sony NEX-3||117 mm||62 mm||33 mm||297 g||330||n||May 2010||599|
|17.||Sony NEX-5||111 mm||59 mm||38 mm||287 g||330||n||May 2010||699|
|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.
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.
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).
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.
| DXO |
|2.||Olympus E-PL1||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.5||10.1||487||54|
|5.||Leica X Typ 113||APS-C||16.1||4928||3264||1080/30p||..||..||..||..|
|6.||Leica D-LUX 6||1/1.7||10.0||3648||2736||1080/60p||..||..||..||..|
|8.||Leica D-LUX 5||1/1.7||10.0||3648||2736||720/60p||..||..||..||..|
|9.||Leica V-LUX 2||1/2.3||14.0||4320||3240||1080/60i||..||..||..||..|
|10.||Olympus E-P3||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||1080/60i||20.8||10.1||536||51|
|11.||Olympus E-PL2||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.4||10.2||573||55|
|12.||Olympus E-PL3||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||1080/60i||20.9||10.3||499||52|
|13.||Olympus E-P1||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.4||10.4||536||55|
|14.||Olympus E-P2||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.5||10.4||505||56|
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.
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.
|5.||Leica X Typ 113||optional||n||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/2000s||5.0||Y||n|
|6.||Leica D-LUX 6||optional||n||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/4000s||11.0||Y||Y|
|8.||Leica D-LUX 5||optional||n||3.0||460||fixed||n||1/4000s||2.5||Y||Y|
|9.||Leica V-LUX 2||202||n||3.0||460||swivel||n||1/2000s||11.0||Y||Y|
Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the X1 and the E-PL1 write their files to SDHC cards.
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.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|5.||Leica X Typ 113||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|6.||Leica D-LUX 6||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|8.||Leica D-LUX 5||Y||mono||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|9.||Leica V-LUX 2||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
|1.||Leica X1||3/5||..||+||..||4/5||Sep 2009||1,995|
|2.||Olympus E-PL1||..||86/100||69/100||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2010||599|
|3.||Canon G16||4/5||+||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2013||549|
|4.||Fujifilm X100||3/5||..||75/100||4/5||5/5||Sep 2010||1,199|
|5.||Leica X Typ 113||3.5/5||..||..||3.5/5||4/5||Sep 2014||2,295|
|6.||Leica D-LUX 6||..||..||..||4/5||4/5||Sep 2012||699|
|7.||Leica X2||3/5||..||..||3/5||4/5||May 2012||1,995|
|8.||Leica D-LUX 5||..||..||..||4.5/5||4/5||Sep 2010||699|
|9.||Leica V-LUX 2||..||..||..||..||..||Sep 2010||849|
|10.||Olympus E-P3||..||83/100||74/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2011||799|
|11.||Olympus E-PL2||3/5||83/100||71/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2011||599|
|12.||Olympus E-PL3||3/5||+ +||72/100||4.5/5||4/5||Jun 2011||599|
|13.||Olympus E-P1||..||+||66/100||4/5||4.5/5||Jun 2009||799|
|14.||Olympus E-P2||3/5||+||69/100||4/5||4.5/5||Nov 2009||799|
|15.||Panasonic LX5||4/5||+||73/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2010||499|
|16.||Sony NEX-3||..||..||70/100||4.5/5||4/5||May 2010||599|
|17.||Sony NEX-5||3/5||+ +||71/100||4.5/5||4/5||May 2010||699|
|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.
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.
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 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 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|
|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|
|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 Stabilization||no shake reduction||In-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|
|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 Life (CIPA)||260 shots per charge||290 shots per charge|
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)|
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