Leica CL Review

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Basic Specifications
Full model name: Leica CL
Resolution: 24.24 Megapixels
Sensor size: APS-C
(23.6mm x 15.7mm)
Kit Lens: Non-Zoom
(27mm eq.)
Viewfinder: EVF / LCD
Native ISO: 100 - 50,000
Extended ISO: 100 - 50,000
Shutter: 1/25000 - 30 sec
Max Aperture: 2.8 (kit lens)
Dimensions: 5.2 x 3.1 x 1.8 in.
(131 x 78 x 45 mm)
Weight: 17.0 oz (483 g)
includes batteries, kit lens
Availability: 11/2017
Manufacturer: Leica
Full specs: Leica CL specifications
Leica L bayonet APS-C
size sensor
image of Leica CL
Front side of Leica CL digital camera Front side of Leica CL digital camera Front side of Leica CL digital camera Front side of Leica CL digital camera Front side of Leica CL digital camera

Leica CL Review -- First Impressions

by Jeremy Gray
Posted 11/21/2017

Leica has long been known for their stylish premium cameras and lenses. Their newest APS-C interchangeable lens camera, the Leica CL (not to be confused with the 35mm CL rangefinder from the 1970s), keeps in that tradition. Whereas the Leica TL2, which shares the same 24-megapixel image sensor, employs a thoroughly modern design, the new CL harkens back to a more classic camera design, complete with a built-in viewfinder and more physical controls than the sleek TL2.

Let's take a closer look at the new Leica CL and dig into its design, specifications and features.

Leica CL Key Features and Specs

  • Compact and lightweight APS-C system camera
  • 24-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
  • ISO 100-50,000
  • Built-in 2.36M-dot electronic viewfinder
  • 3-inch 1.04M-dot touchscreen
  • Top status LCD
  • Utilizes the Leica L-mount (TL and SL lenses)
  • Can be adapted to use M/R lenses
  • Maestro II image processor
  • 10 frames per second continuous shooting
  • 33-frame DNG+JPEG buffer, 140 JPEG buffer
  • 4K/30p and 1080/60p video
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
The Leica CL has a retro-inspired design.

Camera Body and Design: A premium Leica camera with timeless styling

The CL has a very classic Leica design. The camera, complete with the trademark Leica red dot, is quite compact for an interchangeable lens camera. Speaking of the lenses, the Leica CL has a Leica L-mount bayonet, although it can be used with adapted Leica M/R lenses in addition to the native Leica TL and SL lenses. The camera has dimensions of just over 5 inches wide (131 millimeters), 3 inches high (78 millimeters) and is under 2 inches (45 millimeters) in depth. It weighs 14.2 ounces (403 grams) with the battery installed.

As is par for the course with Leica, the camera is constructed to be rugged and durable. The top and bottom covers are milled and anodized aluminum and the front and rear body shells are constructed using magnesium.

Looking at the front of the camera, the only button to be found is the lens release. A small self-timer / AF assist lamp is located beside the Leica badge. On the top of the camera, there are two control dials with central buttons, a shutter release button with surrounding power switch, a hot shoe, dual microphone grills, and a 128 x 58-pixel status LCD which shows aperture, shutter speed and exposure mode. On the topic of the hot shoe, there is no built in flash but the camera has a maximum flash sync of 1/180s.

There are not many buttons on the rear of the Leica CL. The 3-inch touchscreen takes up much of the back of the camera and offers touch and gesture controls.

Turning our attention to the rear of the camera, there are not many physical buttons on the Leica CL. There is a centered 3-inch touchscreen LCD monitor, which has 1.04 million dots. The camera offers touch and gesture controls via the display. To the left of the display are three buttons: Play, Function and Menu buttons. To the right is a directional pad with a central button. Save for the electronic viewfinder (more on that shortly) and its diopter adjustment dial, there is nothing else on the rear of the camera other than a card access lamp and a speaker grill.

The "EyeRes" viewfinder has a "latency time below the threshold of perception" (we're not sure exactly what that means in terms of delay) and has 2.36-million dots. The new viewfinder was developed specifically for the Leica CL camera. The 35mm-equivalent magnification is quite large at 0.74x, it has a 20mm eyepoint, and a -4 to +4 diopter adjustment. An eye sensor is provided to automatically switch between the EVF and monitor.

Image Sensor and Exposure: The Leica CL is equipped with a 24-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor

With a 24-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, which appears to be the same one as is in the Leica TL2, the Leica CL promises impressive image quality. Hopefully we will be able to get one to put through our laboratory testing to see how Leica's impressive claims compare to real-world testing. The CL has a native ISO range of 100-50,000 and records JPEG and DNG RAW images. There is automatic ISO available as well.

The CL includes a variety of scene modes in addition to the standard program, aperture priority, shutter speed priority and manual shooting modes. These scene modes include: Fully Automatic, Sport, Portrait, Landscape, Night Portrait, Snow/Beach, Fireworks, Candlelight, Sunset, Digiscoping, Miniature, Panorama and HDR.

As you can see, the CL includes a tiny status display. The two control dials flanking it have buttons in the center.

Exposure compensation is available in 1/3 EV increments for a total of +/- 3 EV. The camera is equipped with multi-zone, center-weighted and spot metering modes. You can bracket three exposures throughout the exposure compensation range.

The CL has both mechanical and electronic shutters, allowing a shutter speed range of 30 seconds to 1/25,000 seconds. The mechanical shutter has a fastest available shutter speed of 1/8000s, which is quite fast.

Autofocus and Performance: 49-point AF and 10 fps shooting

With a 49-point contrast-detect autofocus system, the Leica CL uses the same autofocus system as the Leica TL2. The Maestro II-equipped CL offers fast shooting at up to 10 frames per second with a specified 33-frame buffer when shooting DNG+JPEG images and 140 JPEG frames (JPEG-only) at full speed. Your shooting speeds when the buffer is full will depend upon your SD card. The UHS-II standard is supported by the single SD card slot in the CL.

Video: 4K UHD video at up to 30 frames per second

Thanks to its Maestro II processor, the Leica CL can record 4K UHD video at 30p. 1920 x 1080 (Full HD) video can be recorded at 60p or 30p and 1280 x 720 (HD) is available at 30p. Touch AF is supported and exposure is fully automatic, though exposure compensation is available. There are also microphone gain, wind filter and electronic stabilization options. Video is recorded in MP4 format with stereo audio, individual clips are limited to a maximum of 29 minutes, and maximum file size is 4GB though the CL's videos can span multiple files.

Battery and card slot access are at the bottom, away from the on-axis tripod socket.

Connectivity and Power

The Leica CL is equipped with a built-in Wi-Fi module with 802.11b/g/n standard. The camera can transfer images to compatible smartphones, tablets or computers and offers remote shooting on iOS and Android devices via the new Leica CL app. The remote control application includes remote shooting and changing of exposure settings.

If you're wondering where the ports are on the Leica CL, there simply aren't any. Besides the hot shoe, battery compartment and UHS-II SD card slot, there is nowhere else to plug anything into the Leica CL.

Regarding power, the Leica CL has a somewhat underwhelming CIPA-rated battery life of 220 shots per charge from its BP-DC12 lithium-ion battery pack. The battery is said to fully charge in approximately 140 minutes via the included dedicated charger.

The Leica CL is seen here with the new Elmarit-TL 18mm f/2.8 ASPH. pancake lens.

Leica CL Pricing and Availability: Coming soon at a high price

The Leica CL is arriving by the end of November, finished in black. The camera body will retail for US$2,795. A bundle with the new Leica Elmarit-TL 18mm f/2.8 lens is available as well, which will sell for $3,795, which is a savings of around $300. There is also a zoom lens bundle with the Leica CL and Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 lens for $3,995. This is a savings of $450.


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