The X1: Now an AMAZING street photography machine!
Like most Leica X1 owners, I was excited for the firmware update released on March 29th mainly for the predicted autofocus improvements. However, 2.0 brought other features less discussed. I glossed over three of these features when I first read the improvement list, namely the depth of field indicator, the manual focus position-save, and the one minute auto power-down. But after playing with these together, my experience and utilization of the X1 has completely transformed. I'm posting this to share how, and why these three features combine to turn the X1 into the perfect street photography tool.
I live in Chicago's loop. I ride my bicycle every day to the bus or the train station to get to Hyde Park's university campus. On nice days I go along the lakefront the whole way on my bicycle. In any one of those situations, it's a street photographer's dream, and I always have my X1 out and ready to go.
With the new depth of field indicator, X1 users can see the in-focus area of a picture they would take based on the current aperture set on the top dial. The APS-C sensor has a significantly wider DOF (depth of field) than a full-frame camera. In fact, at F16, DOF is from 4 feet to infinity. This is amazingly versatile since that range covers 99% of street photography situations. Even in the close quarters of the bus or train 4 feet is an easy distance to either create or just find yourself having for the photo. Sure the camera had the same depth of field present before. But without the indicator, the only way of knowing it's limits would have been to do a series of tests.
Think about this for a moment- a small sensor compact couldn't have produced most of the bokehlicious photos the X1 can produce, have the same low light capability, or render shallow depth of field when wanted for subject isolation, all positive characteristics of a larger sensor. But with a larger sensor than the X1, such as the M9, it's much harder to have such a deep DOF at 35mm angle of view- you'd have to have f stop 32 on your lens. In other words, the X1 has fantastic depth of field versatility.
The 1 minute auto power off allows me to have my X1 around my shoulder in the continuous shot mode, but powered off to save battery. This means that a simple press of the shutter turns it on, much quicker than turning the lever, and also there is no chance of accidentally putting it in self-timer mode (when you are in great haste to capture a shot you see) or having to look down at the switch to ensure you put it in the right mode.
Also, with the MF position saving, the lens is now focused at the same position when you turn on the camera too. So it's always in that 4ft to infinity focus range.
Things we are all familiar with, such as the top dial for aperture, make this simply awesome. On even a cloudy day, with auto ISO and shutter speed, I can confidently put my X1 on F 16 with a simple turn of the dial and have instant photo capability. It has renewed my love for the significant changes you can quickly make on the X1 with all the simplistic controls.
Forget AF speed! We now have IMMEDIATE / INTERMINABLE focus for street photography. With your camera auto-powered down, press the shutter, and with a second press you have an instantaneous in-focus photo.
The only thing that could make it quicker is if in 2.01 (;-) they remove the useless "auto power off cancel" message, which has you wait a second to capture. But I've found that if I press the shutter when I grab the camera from my hip (to turn it on) the message is gone by the time I have framed the shot in my viewfinder and press the shutter to take the shot- especially from the hip.
Being in a big city almost all the time, I can't stress enough how perfect this camera is now for street photography. The combination of the simplistic controls, unsurpassed IQ, portability / stowability, DOF versatility, MF position save, and 1 minute power save (among other things) make this camera one of the best heavyweight street shooters in a small package. Thank you Leica for an excellent firmware update.
Here are some shots I've been able to capture with the combination of these features.