Enthusiasts of Leica rangefinder cameras, and you know who you are, will welcome the Leica CL as a harkening back to the original small format cameras designed by Oskar Barnack in the 1st part of the 20th century, including the requisite reddish coloured dot. The Leica CL mirrorless camera ($2,795, body only) is relatively small (5x3x2 inches) and lightweight (14.2 ounces with battery pack, sans lens), making it highly portable and well suited to candid and street photography, thus a good companion on travels and for documentary-style photography.

The Leica CL mirrorless camera will take the L-mount bayonet so it can be utilized with Leica TL and SL lenses along with Leica M and R lenses with an adapter. The body itself is constructed with top and bottom lightweight aluminium and front and back wall magnesium materials. It has the classic Leica feel and touch (including that oh-so specific shutter release) which will have Leica enthusiasts humming a happy tune with both EVF and LCD monitors and various other digital accoutrements.

Check Out: Best Lenses for Leica CL

Leica CL: Price

Leica CL: Specifications

Sporting a 24.2MP APS-C-size sensor with no AA filter, the Leica CL can deliver a native ISO range of 100 to 50,000. Shutter speeds range from 1/25,000 to 30 secs. The camera can record both JPEG and 14-bit Raw (DNG structure) still images and 4K video and features 49-point contrast-detection AF with one, multiple, spot, face recognition, and contact AF, plus release functionality and manual focus capability.

The Leica CL’s EVF is certainly high resolution with 2.36 million dots while the LCD sports 1.04 million dots, but is not tiltable. There is no built-in flash but a sizzling shoe contact is present, and while there is normally built-in Wi-Fi, there is neither Bluetooth nor NFC online connectivity.

In addition to standard Exposure modes, there are numerous Scene modes available, including Sport, Portrait, Landscape, Night Portrait, Snow/Beach, Fireworks, Candlelight, Sunset, Digiscoping, Miniature, Panorama, and HDR. When shooting in Plan, a shift of the equivalent exposure is obtainable between aperture and shutter rate; +/- 3 EV exposure settlement is available as well.

Leica CL: Handling

The top of the Leica CL sports activities two large dials that can be used for a variety of settings, as well as a small LCD. Relatively few buttons are present: two dial-with-button combinations on the top side; three buttons on the back on the left of the monitor; and a button-and-navigation-ring combination (“direction pad”) on the trunk.

The Leica CL is usually fitted with a large built-in monitor and an electronic viewfinder. Sadly, the monitor does not tilt or swivel. The LCD monitor by default shows some of the image settings, such as the type of white balance and ISO. Regrettably, the setting icons and abbreviations are arranged on a black background that covers a section of the image.

The default view on the Leica CL’s monitor is about 16:9 and not the entire 3:2 still image. Hence, the monitor preview is definitely a crop of the image to be photographed, which can cause problems in picture composition as the user may forget that the area of the image isn’t shown. One can turn off the settings and see the entire composition, but the complete view is not the default.

The settings proven on the monitor cannot be changed by touch, but only through the menu. The menu can’t be navigated by contact, although one can use touch to move and activate the concentrated point. (Note: Sometimes more than one touch is required to acquire sharpness.) Focus and shutter release can be activated with touch control, although it is not possible to set the Leica CL to focus at first touch and later launch the shutter with another contact.

The Leica CL’s viewfinder does give a 100% field of look at and it has a diopter that may be locked. The eye sensor for switching between monitor live to watch and viewfinder reacts a bit slowly: also, it is easy to take a photo with one’s nose when putting the viewfinder up to the eye, but only if focus and release touch functions are enabled in the menu.

The initial press of the Leica CL’s Menu switch telephone calls up a customizable “favourites” menu, while a second press of the Menu key opens the longer main menu. One can only scroll forwards through the menu-going back again a page isn’t possible. The menu, which offers the sole route to many settings, could be navigated with the direction pad. A single programmable (FN) key is available. It is also possible to save a complete set of menu settings as a “user profile.”

There are 49 contrast-detection AF points. The focus options available via the menu include spot, field, multi-point, tracking, and face-detection types of autofocus. The manual concentrate must be established via the menu, although it is definitely facilitated with the 3x or 6x enlargement for focus assistance, concentrate peaking, and the fast return to the full image (for pre-shot composition) with a light touch on the shutter discharge. There is absolutely no built-in image stabilization: it’s only offered if the lens in use has that feature.

Leica CL: Still Image Quality & Performance

Resolution: The picture quality of the Leica CL is good for this small sensor. At ISO 100, it uses 94% of the theoretical maximum of its sensor, recording 1,870 line pairs per picture height. The resolution remains high throughout the lower selection of ISO configurations: the CL uses 90% or more of its sensor up through ISO 1600 (90%), and in fact through ISO 6400 (91%). The very best two ISO settings are not as good: at ISO 25,000, 85% of the sensor is used, and at the top ISO of 50,000, 82%.

Leica CL: Video Quality

Video recording is clearly not the main focus of the Leica CL’s setup, which is evident by the fact that only two web pages are allocated to this topic of the 99 web pages in the manual. There are no external connector jacks on the camera, which includes a lack of options for connecting an external microphone or headsets. The built-in microphone is at the top of the camera body and picks up sound moderately well.

The manual does note that only a portion of the sensor can be used for video, connecting this to the modification in the effective focal length of the lens used.

The Leica CL can record video in 4K at 30 fps, or Full HD at 60 or 30 fps, or HD at 30 fps. However, most other settings are automatic, also ISO. Although the manual implies that ISO is settable, the option is definitely greyed out when the camera can be in video mode. The limitations you can assign to the auto ISO range through the menu are simply not referenced. Among options in the video are settings to record movies in black and white or very saturated colours. Manual focus is available, and concentrate peaking does work in video, although scene enlargement does not.

Overall, however, the quality of video frames is certainly good and fairly consistent in both brighter (presumably low ISO) and darker (presumably high ISO) conditions.

The Leica CL uses 86% of the theoretical optimum of its sensor, 931 collection pairs per picture elevation at “low ISO” and 926 at “high ISO.” The automatic white stability functions well in both instances. As with the still image results, sharpening is mild.

Leica CL: Conclusion

The Leica CL is normally a good-looking mirrorless camera produced by a company with an excellent popularity in the photographic field. The small size, especially with a small lens, makes it extremely portable, and offering the general Raw DNG structure is a real plus. While the rather poor efficiency at high ISO configurations might be a drawback, and video capacity is clearly not one of its attractions, it could prove to be a good choice for those who want a very capable still camera for travel and road photography, especially those who appreciate Leica quality together with the budget to afford it.


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