The Leica X looks like a high-end compact to die for

The Leica X is one step down from the classic Leica rangefinder series. It uses a 16.2 megapixel APS-C sized sensor rather than the full frame sensors now used in the rangefinder models. There is a already a Leica X Vario (the 'Vario' means zoom lens), but the fixed, fast aperture 35mm Summulix lens is what's different about this camera.

The older Leica X1 and X2 models continue, but they've morphed into the new XE model, also introduced at Photokina 2014. These also have a 16.2 megapixel sensor but use a cheaper 35mm equivalent f/2.8 Elmarit lens. The Leica XE is cute and neat, but the Leica X is the real deal.

Choose a view

The Leica X can be used as-is, but there's no viewfinder built in so pictures are composed on the rear LCD display instead. It does have autofocus, but you can also switch to manual and use the focus ring on the lens – this blows up a small section of the display so that you can focus very precisely.

But you can also get an add-on electronic viewfinder. This clips to the camera's accessory shoe and can be rotated for low-angle viewing. Interestingly, this viewfinder also includes a GPS receiver, so it can geotag your pictures as you shoot.

Taking control

In classic Leica fashion, the focus is on engineering quality and simplicity of control. The top of the camera has a shutter speed dial and an aperture dial. You set both to 'A' for program mode, turn just the shutter dial to 'A' for aperture-priority mode, turn just the aperture dial to 'A' for shutter priority mode and set both manually for full manual mode.

The Leica X will sell for 2,450 euros (approximately £1960 or US$3170) and the optional EVF is another 450 euros (around £360 or US$590). Painful, we think, but bearable.

The Leica XE will sell for 1,490 euros (that's almost £1200, or US$1930).

Rod Lawton is Head of Testing for Future Publishing’s photography magazines, including Digital Camera, N-Photo, PhotoPlus, Professional Photography, Photography Week and Practical Photoshop.