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Sony RX1 versus Leica X1

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 and the Leica X1 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in September 2012 and September 2009. Both the RX1 and the X1 are fixed lens compact cameras that are based on a full frame (RX1) and an APS-C (X1) sensor. The Sony has a resolution of 24 megapixel, whereas the Leica provides 12.2 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Sony RX1 vs Leica X1

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Sony RX1 and the Leica X1 is provided in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also use the toggle button to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left side – the RX1 – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Sony RX1 vs Leica X1
RX1 versus X1 top view
RX1 and X1 rear side
Body view (RX1 on the left)

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Leica X1 is somewhat larger (1 percent) than the Sony RX1. However, the X1 is substantially lighter (37 percent) than the RX1. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the RX1 nor the X1 are weather-sealed.

Concerning battery life, the RX1 gets 270 shots out of its NP-BX1 battery, while the X1 can take 260 images on a single charge of its BP-DC8 power pack.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
Camera Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Sony RX1 (⇒ rgt) 113 mm 65 mm 70 mm 482 g 270 no 2012 2,799discont. check
Leica X1 (⇒ lft) 124 mm 60 mm 32 mm 306 g 260 no 2009 1,995discont. check
Leica X Vario (⇒ lft | rgt) 133 mm 73 mm 95 mm 680 g 450 no 2013 2,850 latest check
Leica D-LUX 6 (⇒ lft | rgt) 111 mm 68 mm 46 mm 298 g 330 no 2012 699discont. check
Leica X2 (⇒ lft | rgt) 124 mm 69 mm 52 mm 345 g 450 no 2012 1,995discont. check
Leica D-LUX 5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 110 mm 65 mm 43 mm 271 g 400 no 2010 699discont. check
Leica V-LUX 2 (⇒ lft | rgt) 124 mm 80 mm 95 mm 520 g 410 no 2010 849discont. check
Nikon D5300 (⇒ lft | rgt) 125 mm 98 mm 76 mm 480 g 600 no 2013 799discont. check
Panasonic LX5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 110 mm 65 mm 43 mm 271 g 400 no 2010 499discont. check
Sony RX1R II (⇒ lft | rgt) 113 mm 65 mm 72 mm 507 g 220 no 2015 3,299 latest check
Sony A3000 (⇒ lft | rgt) 128 mm 91 mm 85 mm 411 g 470 no 2013 329discont. check
Sony A7 (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 474 g 340 YES 2013 1,699discont. check
Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 465 g 340 YES 2013 2,299discont. check
Sony RX100 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 102 mm 58 mm 38 mm 281 g 350 no 2013 749discont. check
Sony RX1R (⇒ lft | rgt) 113 mm 65 mm 70 mm 482 g 270 no 2013 2,799discont. check
Sony RX100 (⇒ lft | rgt) 102 mm 58 mm 36 mm 240 g 330 no 2012 649discont. check
Sony NEX-7 (⇒ lft | rgt) 120 mm 67 mm 43 mm 400 g 430 no 2011 1,349discont. check

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. The X1 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 29 percent) than the RX1, which puts it into a different market segment. 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.


Sensor comparison: Sony RX1 vs Leica X1

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the 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 Sony RX1 features a full frame sensor and the Leica X1 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the X1 is 57 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Sony RX1 and Leica X1 sensor measures
Sensor size

With 24MP, the RX1 offers a higher resolution than the X1 (12.2MP), but the RX1 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.96μm versus 5.51μm for the X1) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the RX1 is a somewhat more recent model (by 3 years) than the X1, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.

RX1 versus X1 MP
Sensor resolution

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

Sensor Characteristics
Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Sony RX1 (⇒ rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 25.1 14.3 2534 93
Leica X1 (⇒ lft) APS-C 12.2 4272 2856 no - - - -
Leica X Vario (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 16.1 4928 3272 1080/30p 23.4 12.7 1320 78
Leica D-LUX 6 (⇒ lft | rgt) 1/1.7 10.0 3648 2736 1080/60p - - - -
Leica X2 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 16.1 4928 3264 no - - - -
Leica D-LUX 5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 1/1.7 10.0 3648 2736 720/60p - - - -
Leica V-LUX 2 (⇒ lft | rgt) 1/2.3 14.0 4320 3240 1080/60i - - - -
Nikon D5300 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.0 13.9 1338 83
Panasonic LX5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 1/1.7 10.0 3648 2736 720/60p 19.6 10.8 132 41
Sony RX1R II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 42.2 7952 5304 1080/60p 25.8 13.9 3204 97
Sony A3000 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 19.8 5456 3632 1080/60i 23.7 12.8 1068 78
Sony A7 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.8 14.2 2248 90
Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 36.2 7360 4912 1080/60p 25.6 14.1 2746 95
Sony RX100 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 1-inch 20.0 5472 3648 1080/60p 22.5 12.4 483 67
Sony RX1R (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 25.0 13.6 2537 91
Sony RX100 (⇒ lft | rgt) 1-inch 20.0 5472 3648 1080/60p 22.6 12.4 390 66
Sony NEX-7 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60i 24.1 13.4 1016 81

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The RX1 indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the X1 does not. The highest resolution format that the RX1 can use is 1080/60p.

Feature comparison: Sony RX1 vs Leica X1

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The RX1 and the X1 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. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Sony RX1, the Leica X1, and comparable cameras. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Sony RX1 (⇒ rgt) no no 3.0 1229 fixed no 4000 5.0 6 no
Leica X1 (⇒ lft) no no 2.7 230 fixed no 2000 3.0 YES no
Leica X Vario (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 3.0 920 fixed no 2000 5.0 YES no
Leica D-LUX 6 (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 3.0 920 fixed no 4000 11.0 8.5 YES
Leica X2 (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 2.7 230 fixed no 2000 5.0 YES no
Leica D-LUX 5 (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 3.0 460 fixed no 4000 2.5 7.2 YES
Leica V-LUX 2 (⇒ lft | rgt) 202 no 3.0 460 swivel no 2000 11.0 9.5 YES
Nikon D5300 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.2 1037 swivel no 4000 5.0 12 no
Panasonic LX5 (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 3.0 460 fixed no 4000 2.5 7.2 YES
Sony RX1R II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1229 tilting no 4000 5.0 no no
Sony A3000 (⇒ lft | rgt) 202 no 3.0 230 fixed no 4000 2.5 6 no
Sony A7 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2400 no 3.0 1230 tilting no 8000 5.0 no no
Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt) 2400 no 3.0 1230 tilting no 8000 4.0 no no
Sony RX100 II (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 3.0 1229 tilting no 2000 10.0 15 YES
Sony RX1R (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 3.0 1229 fixed no 4000 5.0 6 no
Sony RX100 (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 3.0 1229 fixed no 2000 10.0 YES YES
Sony NEX-7 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2359 no 3.0 921 tilting no 4000 10.0 6 no

Both the RX1 and the X1 have build-in prime lenses. The RX1 has a 35mm f/2.0 optic and the X1 offers a 36mm f/2.8 (focal lengths in full frame equivalent terms). Hence, the Sony provides a wider angle of view than the Leica. The RX1 offers the faster maximum aperture.

Both the RX1 and the X1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The X1 was replaced by the Leica X2, while the RX1 was followed by the Sony RX1R.

Review summary: Sony RX1 vs Leica X1

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Sony RX1 or the Leica X1 – has the upper hand? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.


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Arguments in favor of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (24 vs 12.2MP) with a 40% higher linear resolution.
  • Better image quality: Features a larger and more technologically advanced imaging sensor.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 1080/60p movies.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.7") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1229k vs 230k dots).
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (4000/sec vs 2000/sec) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Better light gathering: Has a lens with a wider maximum aperture (f/2.0 vs f/2.8).
  • Wider view: Has a wider-angle lens that facilitates landscape or interior shots.
  • More modern: Reflects 3 years of technical progress since the X1 launch.

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Reasons to prefer the Leica X1:

  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 176g or 37 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale value.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (29 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in September 2009).

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the RX1 is the clear winner of the match-up (10 : 4 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera.

RX1 10:04 X1

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the RX1 and the X1 in practical situations. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased. This is why expert reviews are important. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites. You can find the full text of the reviews, respectively, at cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
.com
dp
review
.com
ephoto
zine
.com
imaging
resource
.com
photography
blog
.com
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Sony RX1 (⇒ rgt) - 79/100 Gold 4/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2012 2,799discont. check
Leica X1 (⇒ lft) - Rec - - 4/5 2009 1,995discont. check
Leica X Vario (⇒ lft | rgt) - - 4/5 4/5 4/5 2013 2,850 latest check
Leica D-LUX 6 (⇒ lft | rgt) - - 4/5 - 4/5 2012 699discont. check
Leica X2 (⇒ lft | rgt) - - 3/5 - 4/5 2012 1,995discont. check
Leica D-LUX 5 (⇒ lft | rgt) - - 4.5/5 - 4/5 2010 699discont. check
Leica V-LUX 2 (⇒ lft | rgt) - - - - - 2010 849discont. check
Nikon D5300 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 79/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2013 799discont. check
Panasonic LX5 (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 73/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2010 499discont. check
Sony RX1R II (⇒ lft | rgt) - 82/100 Silver - reviewed 4.5/5 2015 3,299 latest check
Sony A3000 (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec - 4/5 4.5/5 4/5 2013 329discont. check
Sony A7 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 80/100 Silver 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2013 1,699discont. check
Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 82/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2013 2,299discont. check
Sony RX100 II (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 79/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2013 749discont. check
Sony RX1R (⇒ lft | rgt) - - 4/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2013 2,799discont. check
Sony RX100 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 78/100 Silver 4/5 5/5 5/5 2012 649discont. check
Sony NEX-7 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 81/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2011 1,349discont. check

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.


Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just use the search menu below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored. If the camera you are interested in is not available, please send me an email, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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