Leica X-E (Typ 102)
Compact, Simple, Leica. Thats the essence of this little camera
22 Photos • 08 March 2017
The Leica X-E (Typ 102) is a high end compact camera with a fixed focal length non interchangeable lens. Which is amazingly compact for the images it delivers, this really amazed me when I first used it.
I bring it whenever I go biking and don’t want to lug my Leica S-E with me, or when just casually strolling through town just to have a camera with me. It’s virtually weightless and has captured my day to day life ever since I got it.
The X-E came out at the same time as the X (Typ 113), this is like what Leica has done before with the ‘-E’ models.
The Leica X-E is exactly the same as the Leica X2, just as the Leica M-E is the same as a Leica M9, and the Leica S-E (Typ 006) is the same as the Leica S (Typ 006). The only thing that sets these -E models apart from the ones they have been based on are their colours and aesthetics.
The little Leica X-E (Typ 102) comes with nice specs even today in 2017 while I am writing this article. Of course when compared to the competitors ‘equivalent’ cameras some things lag behind quite a bit, but mostly these are things that (for me at least) are not a deal breaker.
The camera features a 16.5 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor with an ISO range of 100 to 12500. The sensor has a nice dynamic range of close to 13 stops, this a little less than the Leica M (Typ 240) but more than a full stop more compared to the Leica M9.
The sensor we get in the Leica X-E is also used in the Leica T, Leica TL, Leica X (Typ 113), Leica X-U, Leica X2, Leica X-Vario, and quite a bit of other cameras by other camera manufacturers.
It features a Leica Elmarit 1:2,8/24mm ASPH. lens made up of 8 elements in 6 groups, with 1 aspheric lens element.
Autofocus is slow but precise, don’t expect to be able to get accurate focus on running kids etc. For me this is no problem but keep this in mind! A nice thing: The camera focuses as close as 30cm which makes it nice to get some close-ups of subjects. Something which is not possible with a Leica M (without macro spacer ring) since the close focussing range there is usually limited at 70cm. You can set the focus modes at 1 point, spot (even smaller 1 point), 11 points or face detection.
The camera has a leaf shutter integrated in the lens which can do exposures as long as 30 seconds, or as short as 1/2000th of a second. The outer values on both ends are not that extreme and can be limiting, 30 seconds is not really long, and 1/2000th is not really fast either. One upside about the leaf shutter is that you can sync your flash for fill in flash at all shutter speeds.
The camera has a pop-up style flash which is actually great for fill in flash.
The screen on the Leica X-E is nothing special, it’s a 2,7 inch LCD panel with 230 000 pixels which is really lacking and you can easily see the pixels at normal viewing distances. It works fine for what it is meant for though, which is framing and changing settings.
The Leica 1:2,8/24mm Elmarit ASPH. which is used in the Leica X1, X2 and X-E is nothing but great! It has the real ‘Leica Look’ which I am used to from all my M and R and S lenses. It has a neutral rendering, with soft fore and background unsharpness and no busy bite that annoys the eye.
The lens is sharp even wide-open at f/2,8 but gets even better when stopped down a little to f/4,0 or f/5,6
Even at f/5,6 it has nice background separation when focussing on subjects at closer distances like 1 to 2 meters.
Since we’re using the 24mm Elmarit lens on a APS-C sensor stopping down further than f/8 will decrease the overal image quality due to diffraction. I use f/5,6 for landscapes, or maybe f/8 if you need the depth of field, like when you focus on something fairly nearby but also want the background in focus. I only stop down to f/11 or f/16 if I need the depth of field, but you will notice a degrade in image quality compared to wider aperture settings.
The lens does exhibit some barrel distortion which in the RAW files is prominently visible on images with straight lines near the edges of the frame. This is easily fixed in post processing in Adobe Lightroom. There is no lens profile available so it’s no ‘1 click solution’. I am in the process of creating a profile for Adobe Lightroom which when done I will make available for download at the bottom of this article.
The camera works straight out of the box of course, but I’ve shot it a while now and have found my favourite settings that make it a perfect point and shoot camera for me:
“Focus Mode” I have this always set at “1-Point”. I focus at what I want keep the shutter release button half pressed, reframe and press further to take the exposure. Pretty much how you’d work with the Leica M cameras, or how I work with my Leica S etc.
“File Format” I prefer to always use DNG(RAW) files for maximum quality and postprocessing flexibility. So I have have set my X-E to shoot “DNG + JPG S. Fine” a fun thing about the sensor used in the camera is that it can Shoot JPEG only or DNG + JPEG but not just DNG.
I have set “Auto Review” to “Off” since I don’t want to see the image I just took immediately on the screen, I want to be able to take a few photos in succesion if I know the first didn’t work out how I wanted it. This is of course a personal preference, but I don’t like ‘chimping’.
“Shutter Volume” I have disabled this of course, the actual shutter of the camera makes enough noise to be heard anyway.
”Exposure Metering” I have set to “Center Weighted” and this works perfectly together with the “1-Point” focus technique since it measures exposure at the same spot as where you focus and then keeps it locked as long as you keep the shutter release button pressed halfway.
“Auto Rotate Display” I have set this to “Off” I rather turn my camera sideways when reviewing images than seeing the portrait images even smaller on the already small display.
There are numerous accessories by Leica for the X-E:
Leica Bright-Line Viewfinder
Leica EVF 2
Leica X-E Handgrip
Leica X-E Ever-Ready case
Leica X-E Leather Case
Leica X-E Protector
The Leica Bright-Line viewfinder is a viewfinder that slides in the flash shoe, in the settings menu of the camera you can then select you have the viewfinder attached which will turn the screen off so you can simply look through the viewfinder and click away.
The Leica EVF 2 is the same finder that fits the Leica M (Typ 240) and is a small lcd at the end of a tunnel, with horrible lag and image quality I’d stay away from this…
The other accessories are pretty self explanatory and might fit your style or not. There are also a lot of third party accessories available for the Leica X-E, usually they are marketed at the Leica X2, but since they are the exact same camera they are interchangeable.
So for example if you see an ever ready case for the Leica X2, it will fit your Leica X-E as well.
Thanks for reading
Below you will find a few more photos taken with the Leica X-E (Typ 102). I hope you have enjoyed reading and checking out the photos in my article and as always feel free to subscribe to my newsletter to receive an email when I publish a new article, or to leave your thoughts in the comments bellow. Donations are really welcome too since a lot of time goes into writing these articles. Donations can be made through Paypal contact me if you wish to donate. Thanks.
I much enjoyed reading this article. i have been intrigued by this leica xe cuz it is light and simple enough with.gorgeous image. I like a dog on the grass photo. thank you for this good work.
Brian JC Osborne
great camera !
I am a longtime M shooter, but stumbled on your work while attempting to satisfy my S system curiosity as the 006 has become almost affordable. You have a plain to the point style of writing which is just marvelous. I don’t think I would be happy lugging the S around but I just love the images! The X cameras are interesting, particularly with an optical finder, but I recently started playing with a T, the block of aluminum got me, but the “mini M” and conventional controls of the X cams is quite appealing. Thanks so much for your efforts, they are indeed appreciated.
Jip van Kuijk
Thanks so much for your kind words. Happy shooting with whatever camera you end up with. It’s the pictures that count!
Thank you for your good review article.
Can I ask you something?
The experience I’m having with this camera is that has a bad ISO sensibility. I cannot go upper than 800 for low light photos; otherwise, it will become very “grainy”.
Happen the same with you?
Jip van Kuijk
The camera, and especially the sensor is quite some years old by now. The low light performance is really good for the age of the sensor but you have to make sure to do the following:
Use of ISO 800 is fine, but you should have your exposure spot on, you can not expect to take a picture at ISO 800 which is too dark and then push it more in Lightroom.
Of course there will be some grain, but Lightroom is very good at minimising this, especially when you eventually print the image you won’t see it much.
I hope this helps,