The Leica CL: First Impressions
I began using the Leica TL lenses and initial "Leica T" the day it arrived at our store in Rancho Mirage three years ago. At the time I was regularly using the Fujifilm X-T1. That quickly changed as I fell in love with the Leica TL glass. I believe this is some of the best glass on the market. The TL and TL2 are unique. I love using them for their simplicity, and Avangard approach to mirrorless photography. I find myself handing my camera off to my daughter all the time because it is just that easy to use. The TL camera body had one major thing missing that I am sure many TL users would agree with. There is no EVF built into the camera. I normally shoot the TL2 without the use of the EVF because the added bulk was annoying and ruined the compact form factor that I loved the TL for. I never thought it would be possible to get an EVF into the camera body and retain the small footprint of the camera. Then comes the Leica CL, the CL is a more "functional" approach to the TL system. It is just the basics, and finally, it features a superb built-in EVF. I have been using the CL now for a couple days, and have taken it out for a full day of photography. So, without any further ado here are my initial thoughts on the new Leica CL.
The Leica CL features a beautiful 2.36 million dot EVF that is perfect for this system. It is not as good as the Leica SL's viewfinder but it more than adequate for using the Leica TL lenses and manual focusing Leica M glass. I put a Noctilux on the CL as soon as I got it in my hands, and it was a breeze to focus. I think, unlike the Leica TL2 I will be using more M glass on the CL simply because it is so easy. The focus peaking is clean and crisp and allows for instantaneous and accurate manual focus.
The controls on the Leica CL look very familiar... they are nearly identical to the Leica M10 on the back and the two dials on the top act a lot like the top and rear dials on the Leica SL, so I had no problem figuring out how the camera controls worked right off the bat. These controls are in the typical Leica style and are minimal and straightforward. The Leica CL is really a breeze to figure out as soon as you pick it up.
The CL's menu, on the other hand, is also very simple. It is not anything like the TL2 menu, but rather more along the line of the SL or M10 menu. There is really nothing hard about figuring this menu out, and I found my self setting everything up in just a few seconds before shooting.
The CL has probably the best sounding shutter I have ever run into on any camera, especially any mirrorless camera. The dials, shutter, and form all make for a very positive feeling camera when out shooting... nothing new here. This is Leica.
When out using the CL I was never second guessing where controls where or how to change my settings around. This CL just gets out of the way and lets you focus on photography. This is something I love about the Leica M, Q and TL cameras, and there is nothing different here on the Leica CL.
The Leica CL features wifi connectivity for pairing to your smartphone and tablet which makes for a great way to get photos off of the camera and quickly post them. I also find my self-using the wifi feature a lot to control the camera when it is on a tripod. The CL app for ios and android works the same was the M10, SL, Q, and TL apps, and is pretty easy to use and straightforward. The only gripe I might have with the CL is that it doesn't have any USB ports on the camera. I exhausted the battery at the end of the day of shooting, and it would have been extremely nice to have the USB 3.1 port on the camera so I could just drop it back in my bad and plug it into my USB power bank allowing it to charge, and getting a little bit more use out of one battery. I never use the USB port on my cameras for transferring images, so the lack of ports on the camera is not the end of the world, it just means you will need to carry an extra battery and maybe a nightcore charger if you want to charge in the field.
I found that the battery on the Leica CL (The same BP-DC12 that can be found in the V-Lux and Q cameras) was more than adequate to run the camera all day long with wifi on occasionally. I usually did not turn the camera off while walking around but rather let it go into "sleep" mode and then waking it up as soon as I pick it up to make an acquisition.
The Leica CL, though it features some of the best tech out there in the mirrorless market, doesn't feel like an electronic. It feels like a camera in every possible way. I spent the day using the CL alongside the MP, and I could not complain about the feel of the Leica CL. With many of the mirrorless cameras out there, even though they create some beautiful results, they feel like an electronic. I hate this, I love the feel of a real camera in my hands, the positive click from the shutter, controls that don't have me guess as to what they do, and a form that is thought through. This is the result of Leica's excellent photographic pedigree.
Who is the CL for?
I think the Leica CL is for a broad range of photographers. It is perfect for someone just getting into photography and looking for a camera that is simple enough to get started yet broad enough to grow into. The Leica CL would also make a great second camera for the regular M or SL user that wants a smaller body with AF options and the ability to use their existing lenses.
There was nothing new with the results since I have been using the Leica TL2 now for several months. The sensor renders results that look just like my TL2 files. Which is fine by me! I love the images off of the TL2 and could ask for nothing more from the CL. The images are crisp, and give me an organic look that you just fall in love with.
All images were shot with a combination of the 35mm Summilux-TL and the 11-23mm Vario-Elmarit-TL.
I think I have found my favorite camera of 2018. I love the TL glass, I can use my M lenses on the CL with easy, and this camera fits much of what I capture. Like many Leica Cameras, the Leica CL beckons you to shoot it more and discover new possibilities.
The Leica CL comes body only, and kited with either the 18mm Elmarit-TL or the 18-56mm Vario-Elmarit-TL. The Leica CL will ship at the end of November, and we have samples in all three of our stores for testing.