"It's waterproof up to 60 feet" he said. That sounded like a challenge. 

Taking pictures outdoors means weather. Adventure photography usually means I'm outdoors for a long time, exposed to far rougher weather than some headshots in a park. My two main digital camera options these days are a Canon 5d, and a Sony A7. The biggest issue with my Sony a7 is the lack of weatherproofing. The Canon 5d, while very well weather sealed, is a heavy beast. 

That's where the Leica X-U comes in. 

Day two of Leica on Loan from @LeicaStoreBoston. (Read about day 1 here.) This time I was checking out their compact camera line. Diana Hunt joined me for a few hours to walk around the Boston Garden and up Newbury street. She borrowed a Leica D-Lux, and I grabbed the X-U.

Shooting underwater

We hadn't made it 1 block before I found a fountain. Several sparrows were bathing themselves outside of Exhale Spa. I dunked the camera in and started taking pictures underwater. The birds scattered when I invaded their space. No pictures of bathing sparrows. Diana to put her hand in the water so I had a subject.

It's hard to frame a shot if the camera is underwater, and you're not. But, with it's 35mm equivalent lens I was able to shoot from the hip pretty well. Focusing was harder. The X-U has plenty of autofocus points, and focus speed is pretty quick. But, it doesn't always pick the spot I want it to. I always felt like I was shooting blind, hoping for the best. Sometimes that actually worked. I'd love to take this rig into the ocean for some scuba diving action. That would put it through the paces. 

A few blocks more, and we entered the Boston Common.  A group of cyclists pulled wheelies up and down the path. I tried catching them in action, but I was sill figuring out the controls for the camera. The autofocus didn't keep up with their speed. Manual focus override displays a zoomed in box in the center of the screen, so you can still have the "viewfinder" feel. That worked fine for still objects, but I couldn't use it to track moving targets. When they came back for another pass by us, I set the shutter speed to 1/40th of a second and got some nice blurry action shots. One of them came out of his wheelie, planting his front wheel perpendicular to his direction of travel, and immediately went over the handlebars. He emerged laughing and unscathed. 

Continuing into the Boston Garden, I tested the near range of focus with some birch trees. My Summicron 50 won't focus on anything closer than 3 feet. That makes detail shots very difficult. The Leica X-U focuses down to 20cm, about 8 inches. It captured the texture of the birch bark beautifully. 

I played around in a few more fountains. Green Oak leaf bunches floated in one. I even convinced Diana to slip off her shoes and socks, and go walking around in another one. The water in the fountains was clear enough to get some good pictures. The water in the pond with the swan boats was another matter entirely. Murky green makes for a tough shot. I found an albino squirrel prancing along the grass in the garden. Too skittish for a close-up, I manage to capture it leaping in mid-air. 

Shooting on the streets.

After the Garden, we walked down Newbury street. I got to test the camera with more conventional subjects. The color range on a pink rose really stands out. I wasn't sure what to expect from this lens. Waterproofing can cause color aberrations. Or washed out saturation. Neither of those happened here. At f/3.2, the lens wasn't even stopped down all the way. It still achieves a nice shallow depth of focus and great color contrast. There's some slight linear distortion on the edge of the long side the frame. That's something I never get with my Summicron. But that one doesn't go underwater. Smooth, even color gradients and a warmth to skin tones make this camera suitable for portraits even on dry land. I got a little lens flare, shooting directly into the sun. That's an effect I rather like, so I don't consider it a negative.

All in all, this camera can produce stunning pictures. With more time and familiarity, I think I could get over my few usability complaints. It's very hard to design a camera with pro-level features that are instantly usable as soon as you pick it up. Leica's traditional minimalist design aesthetic require familiarity for ease of use. They maintained their standards for image quality even in a fully-submersible camera. While my adventure photography usually takes me to great heights, this is the camera I'd take if I found myself going underwater for a change. Or, perhaps just out walking in the next rain storm.

Interested in using any of these pictures? Let me know.