Leica goes swimming with the fishes with its new X-U camera

Out of the blue, Leica has announced what looks like a waterproof version of its X-E compact camera. The X-U (Typ 113) has an APS-C format sensor and a 23mm (35mm equivalent) f/1.7 Summilux lens. The body is fully waterproofed down to a depth of 15m and features an underwater protection filter.

Leica says the X-U is also shock-resistant, dust-sealed and shatterproof, which suggests somebody actually went out and tested it. And with a camera that costs £2,400 in the UK and $2,950 in the US (about AU$4,287), that must have taken some nerve.

You can get a red floating carry strap for £50 or $95 (about AU$103) – you are definitely going to want one of those if you take this camera into the water – or a £32 or $65 (about AU$66) black neoprene outdoor wrist strap.

Leica X-U

Leica X-U

Despite the eye-watering price, this is a camera that’s very interesting, not to say unique. You can get a cheap ‘tough’ compact for a tenth of the price but you’ll be stuck with a small sensor and middling image quality. Or you could get a regular DSLR or mirrorless camera, buy a dedicated and expensive waterproof housing the size of a small car and stagger round looking like an idiot. So the Leica X-U does have a crazy price tag, but we can’t think of any other camera that delivers both DSLR quality and action cam resilience.

Well there is one. The Nikon 1 AW1 is also waterproof and shockproof, and freezeproof too. You can buy one for around a quarter of the price of the Leica X-U and it has the advantage of interchangeable lenses. It has a smaller 1-inch sensor, however, so although the Nikon will deliver pictures miles better than those from tough compacts, the Leica has it beaten for outright image quality. It’s APS-C sensor captures 16-megapixel images and it can shoot 1920 x 1080 full HD video too.

The Leica X-U does nothing to dent Leica’s reputation for being a luxury brand, but no-one else has made what is effectively a high-end adventure cam, so Leica deserved some credit as an innovator too.

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1 Comment
  1. Reply Elmira Mohr February 1, 2016 at 1:46 am

    Right, let's not sit on the fence and actually pretend this is an actual Leica camera.
    It is a repackaged Panasonic camera, made by them in Japan, with Leica branding stuck on.
    I'm not knocking Panasonic, because they make great cameras, but Leicas business model is these rebadged models for consumers and the real Leicas like the M series, which are handmade in Germany, are for the Pros and enthusiasts.
    Both charge a ridiculous premium for that red dot, but buying a rebadged model instead of the Panasonic version is "I'm with stupid economics"…

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