There is a premiere Time for everything, including for the well-known German camera manufacturer Leica. In this case, it is the first waterproof camera that can take photos underwater. Some compromises have been made here and there to make this happen, but at the end of the day it still looks – and for the most part – like a Leica.
Priced as verified: $ 3,295 at authorized Leica dealers
- 16.2 megapixel CMOS APS-C sensor
- Leica Summilux 23mm f / 1.7 ASPH. Lens (corresponds to 35 mm FOV in 35 mm format)
- 3 “TFT LCD monitor with approx. 920,000 pixel resolution
- Contrast-based autofocus with 11 fields
- 5fps continuous shooting
- Shutter speed from 30s to 1⁄2000s
- ISO range from 100-12,500
- 1080p HD video recording at 30 fps
- Can be used underwater
- 1600 mAh battery
- Weighs 634 g
My personal experience with Leica cameras dates back to the introduction of the Q and then the SL, where I found that the quality of one of these German cameras is simply irresistible: both image and aesthetics. In fact, my experience with Leica cameras does not go back decades, but three years – I’m 19 years old, after all – but anyone who has experience with other full-frame or crop sensor cameras knows the difference.
In reality, however, the XU is a service for the Leica community as there is no such camera for fans of the brand.
Nevertheless, the Leica XU will neither replace your SLR camera nor your mirrorless one. In fact, it’s not suitable to take the place of any of your other cameras – it’s a kind of action camera with waterproof and dustproof properties.
It also doesn’t have the fastest auto focus and shutter when in use, and it’s really the only downside to the XU that gives me the biggest hassle. Without a viewfinder, your photographer’s eye remains in favor of the 3-inch screen, which is not desirable when taking a photo of the subject (I would recommend an optical accessory for this). It’s also not shot in 4K for the price, and it’s not a full-frame camera either, so it’s really a specialty. You have to really like pool shoots to have a camera like this one.
If I see the XU for what it is – an adventure / action camera – I am more likely to forgive its shortcomings as a Leica camera. In reality, however, the XU is more of a service for the Leica community, mainly because there was no such type of camera for fans of the brand. The downside, however, is that the XU can be viewed as “just another expensive camera” by everyone else – they wouldn’t be wrong.
All that is said below are unedited (except for size) photos from the XU:
The image quality is great considering that the XU is really an X-Type 113 camera in a waterproof case. When the autofocus locks, it makes a good impression in the images despite the lack of precision control for the focal point. The XU’s automatic white balance will also glow under most conditions.
35mm is always a nice focal length and definitely helps if you’re taking wider still images or just trying to better frame your subject with the LCD’s grille.
Video is a different story: this camera is much better at taking still pictures, so you’re not necessarily on your way to becoming the next Jacques Cousteau. I would use the video feature sparingly just because it isn’t particularly noteworthy and is limited to 1080p quality at 30 frames.
Giving the XU a final verdict is a difficult thing. It’s overpriced as a camera given the specs, but the quality, durability, and brand save the XU in some cases.
A hard-to-open battery compartment that feels like an autofocus system that’s slower than I’d like it to be (without being able to manually adjust the focus point) and a small battery make it harder to sell than it should be. Olympus and Pentax offerings offer similar or better performance at a fraction of the cost.
Of course, competitors in the adventure camera sector may not have that “Leica feel”, but on the other hand the XU never felt like a fully equipped Leica from the start. Still, it’s practical.