Leica CL camera reviews

The first reviews and opinions of the new Leica CL mirrorless camera ($2,795) are in:

"For me, the Leica CL has the same fun factor as the Q. The TL lenses provide an excellent addition for other focal lengths if you‘re willing to get into the APS-C format, which I found very easy. However, as long as the CL doesn’t have a back-button focus it won’t be able to replace a Q in my opinion. The CL can also be combined very well with my other cameras and lenses. The Vario-Elmarit-SL 90-280mm is an unbeatable and (relatively) manageable telephoto zoom with image stabilisation and autofocus up to 420mm. Alternatively, I can cover the most important focal lengths of 16-135mm with the TL 11-23mm and the SL 24-90mm. An important aspect to me is that the CL closes a gap in the SL system with the 60mm macro." (Ingo-Cordes)

In sum, the CL isn't terribly different from the TL2, but Leica is clearly pitching it at Leica-philes who prefer the classic form and dials. The biggest addition is the built-in electronic viewfinder that goes a long way to transforming it into a rangefinder-like model beloved by fans of the brand. What's missing compared to rivals is image stabilization and USB transfers, items that probably aren't deal-breakers for most wannabe Leica buyers. (Engadget)

The biggest difference between the TL2 and the CL is the CL’s integrated electronic viewfinder. It has a 2.36-megapixel display mounted on the top left side of the camera (when viewed from the rear). As far as electronic viewfinders go, this one won’t blow anyone away -- even the viewfinder on Leica’s own Q bests it — but it is much better than the detachable viewfinder that slides into the hotshoe on the TL2. (TheVerge)

Key to the CL’s appeal is the way Leica has pared it right back to the essentials, which is (quite literally) the company’s motto. So rather than feeling like it’s been built by a team of engineers hell-bent on fitting every imaginable feature into the smallest possible box, the CL gives the impression that it’s been designed by people who are themselves passionate photographers, with the sole aim of giving fellow photographers the best possible tool. As a result, it works pretty much perfectly out of the box; it’s a really smart, elegant design that even manages to look fabulous without feeling the need for superfluous cosmetic flourishes. (Trusted Reviews)

The CL is a nice combination of what we tend to regard as ‘traditional’ Leica and modern technology. Thanks to Leica’s craftsmanship, it looks and feels like a high-quality camera and thanks to the company’s imaging knowhow it also delivers high-quality results. Although I think it needs a few quirks sorting out with a firmware upgrade, I really like the control arrangement and interface of the CL. It manages to get a lot of functionality out of relatively few buttons and dials without seeming completely dependent on the touch-screen. It’s also very intuitive to use so you get to grips with the camera quickly. (CameraJabber)

With the menu systems of the Leica cameras becoming more and more consistent it has become very easy to pick up an SL an M10 or a CL and just start shooting. Leica’s insistence on only providing what you need to achieve your image has kept the menus simple and logical. The Leica CL is small enough to be a constant companion and competent enough to be a good backup body to an SL or an M10. It has excellent autofocus and a straightforward and configurable interface. The build quality is impeccable, and more to the point it’s a delight to use. (Macfilos)

On balance, the Leica CL is a nicely-designed camera that is pleasant to use. It's not perfect, but compared to the T/L and TL2 that came before it, it's more practical for everyday photography and easier to get to grips with. The built-in viewfinder is excellent, and I appreciate the more or less conventional button-and-dial interface, and the straightforward, M10-inspired menu. Less convincing is the touchscreen implementation. While the ability to set focus by touch in some AF modes, and scroll through / zoom into images in playback is really handy, the frequent problem of the AF point being repositioned by my nose, and the 'always on' swipe functionality did frustrate me. (Dpreview)

In our meeting with Leica, they stated the Leica CL digital isn’t anywhere as robust as the Leica SL. They’d take it out in a drizzle of rain, but not in a rain storm. Indeed, the Leica CL digital has no weather sealing. However, it still feels fairly solid in the hand. It isn’t Leica SL or Leica M solid though. In fact, the Leica Q feels more solid than this. That makes sense though as this camera isn’t really at that high of a point in the company’s lineup of products. (ThePhoblographer)

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. (MadeInWetzlar)

Other reviews:

Related videos:

Leica CL sample photos (more available at Dpreview, Ephotozine and Leica's website):

Leica CL

Like the new Leica CL Facebook page and the Leica TL2 Facebook page.

Leica CL pre-order links: B&H | Adorama | Leica San Francisco | Leica Miami | Popflash | Park Camera | Reddotcameras

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  • DouglasGottlieb

    Dear Leica: congrats on the CL — it looks like a great camera. Now please add a fixed 35 (23mm) 1.7 and weather sealing and call it an XZ (sexy). When can I pre-order?

    • eric

      Yes, I’ll second that. I would have liked to see a fixed compact street shooter like the ricoh gr but in 35mm, codename WhyhasntLeicamadethisyet. It would sellout immediately and be impossible to find for a long time. Unfortunately, good ideas don’t always get made. I think the CL actually makes the TL line look more attractive if you’re just looking for a second body to pair with your M or SL. It’s cheaper and a sleeker design. I imagine the CL was made for older people who maybe were turned off by the slick appearance of the touchscreen TL. But for younger folk, there probably more likely to go with the TL or wait for the Q2. As an M user, I don’t really need a mini-m, i would however like a fast auto-focus pocket size camera with Leica glass that could be used as an alternative to a smartphone.

      • DouglasGottlieb

        I spent a few hours shooting the TL2 recently and loved it. Size, handling and UI were all fantastic. It is the best touch UI of any camera I’ve seen by far, and I’ve used almost all manufacturers’ cameras. But for me, a VF is required and I don’t like the concept of it being an accessory. I understand why the TL is all screen based. That’s ingenious positioning. I’m probably in the tiny minority of folks who’d want both the TL UI AND an EVF.

        I’d imagine that a new X is coming in a few months. I’m looking forward to that.

        I’d also love to see this style in FF (the interchangeable lens Q) but doubt that will happen as it would likely hurt both M and SL lines.

        I wonder if we’ll ever see a mirrorless S. Or even an update. Seems like the X1D is grabbing that space.

        • eric

          They probably left out the evf from the TL2 because of the CL having it. It looks like both use the same sensor and of course can share tl glass.

          Im not so sure there will be a new X? Isn’t the CL kind of its replacement.

          An interchangeable Q probably won’t happen but you never know. I would never want that as i like rangefinder style too much. if people want a plain old auto mirrorless there are already options out there.

          I would bet Leica comes out with something new that gets close to medium format and is similar to X1D. That upper tier market is hot right now, also with fuji gfx and pentax. Leica would be crazy to ignore that segment.

          • DouglasGottlieb

            Agreed. The TL and CL are nicely differentiated.

            But I do think there is room for an X alongside the CL line and hope that it is not dead. The X is significantly more compact than the CL with the 23 (35) field of view and the fixed lens speaks to a different segment. Lots of folks want only a tiny “35” and having a leaf shutter is pretty great for anyone interested in (gasp) using flash with Leica 😉

            But, yes, that CL/18 combo looks pretty sweet and pocketable.

            But far from the X price point.

          • eric

            Yeah, I would be open to purchasing a new 35mm X like camera. I actually think this is a smarter move to attract younger users than dabbling in mobile photography. If Leica made a pocketable 35mm fixed camera and threw in Wifi a lot of people would be interested. Assuming they keep the price around $2k to $3k.

            Im sure the marketing department doesn’t like these products though because you lose out on selling the customer more lenses. For every CL or TL model sold, leica is making even more money off the couple of lenses people get per camera.

      • Franklin Berryman

        According to DPreview, the “Leica glass” is made in Japan.

        • eric

          Most Apple products are made in China, so what’s you’re point? Where something is assembled matters little to me, as long it’s assembled correctly and with good materials. The japanese have a long history making lenses and Leica is well known to partner with others for certain designs.

    • I am afraid this won’t happen. I think Leica wants you to buy the CL+18mm lens.

      • DouglasGottlieb

        🙁 I might need to pick up a second hand X

        • kahiri78

          We are on the same boat 🙂

  • Brennan McKissick

    I’d rather have a Q.

  • jlauch

    “Since Leica SL and TL lenses do not have an aperture ring, there is no depth of field scale.”

    Really leica?

    • jc

      No depth of field scale in autofocus mode with L lens, but in manual focus mode the depth of field scale shows on the LCD with the TL. Is this feature missing on the CL?

      • jlauch

        Not according to the manual.

        The TL manual show a DOF scale. For whatever reason they have gotten rid of this for the CL.

  • Leica should consider making marmite. Haven’t seen a more polarising camera than this one…

  • soundimageplus

    Not quite sure why everybody coos about the CL ‘old school’ design. I for one loved the T and now the TL2. Uncluttered, sleek, superb view screen and really easy to shoot with. The add on EVF is also far better than anyone gives it credit for. I guess Leica has to cater for it’s perceived market. (BOF’s??) but I for one have no issue with with modern smartphone styling. Less fiddling, more picture taking is for me. I’ll be passing on the CL as I see no advantages over the TL2. And yes that includes the built in EVF.

    • eric

      I agree. I really like the look of the TL2 after seeing it in person. It has a very smartphone generation appeal which for a basic camera is great. I sense the CL is trying to be an alternative design to the TL rather than being something that different. But I can’t complain, this has been a great year for leica with the release of the M10. Excited to see what they release next year.

    • kahiri78

      The T looks way more handsome
      Than CL. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder 🙂

      • RONIT

        The T has a modern look and it is very subtle in design, clean flats with sharp edges, embodies just the essence, very Leica. CL is a classic Leica design, its selling point will be as a nice point and shoot for those who will treat this as a fashion accessory. or as a serious mirror less body for those who want that Leica classic look but have it all modern under the ‘hood’

  • Дмитрий

    you are not wrong about the price?
    it’s a miracle hardly worth 900$ now
    2.4 to the viewfinder, the crop … what we hope the lake frolicking their consumers
    5200$ worth of fuji gfx 50

    • Don’t try to make any logic in Leica’s pricing. Leica was is and will be expensive.

      • RONIT

        thats right, I would say no amount of complain about their high prices will convince them to bring it down. That said they do listen to customer feedback and lets keep at constructive criticism to help ourselves as well as Leica.

        Now that I see that this is reminiscence of the Leica M2 and before, I kind of now see the legacy behind the design, the EVF sticking up still bothers me but its a small thing. Love the wheels and overall its a nice little camera. Seeing reviews of this, I like it and appreciate it, price aside, I like it for what it is. Love the M like menu and control dial and button layout. Still I will not buy it, I have the T and its a beauty of a camera, 16MP works great for me, I am content. Got to say Leica makes cameras that are hard to get over, right? I like that! I would rather see my self investing in a Q like camera that has the ever-present M mount, FF sensor and really good EVF, I will pay $5k – $6k for that rather than close to $3k for this here.

        • kahiri78

          The T is indeed a beautiful looking camera.

          If I have the T series camera, there is absolutely no reason for me to get/”upgrade” to another Aps-c camera. Better save for the Q. But that just me.

          • RONIT

            This here CL is surprisingly a very compact body, same size as the T/TL/TL2! One thing GOOD about the T is the 16MP on that 1.5x sensor, it has the same pixel density as 24MP on a full frame, that makes the pixel size the same and it is more forgiving in low light conditions, produces very natural grain even at high ISOs, I have wide aperture primes that I use with the T and I try keeping the ISO around 400 or less if I can help it. Nice images. But one thing I found out was using the magnification to manual focus – I can not seem to get clear live view to hit focus, it just does not resolve what the sensor is actually seeing, but when you snap the shot, its clear, just because it does not let me see clear detail during live view and zoomed in, I am very much in the dark when it comes to focusing at 0.95 etc. This is one drawback of the T, I am sure a firmware update is needed but that will not happen since this model is discontinued.

    • Of course they are expensive, leica has a market share of 1 percent, fuji way more then 10 times… even you have to understand that value! and the great thing is, u don´t have to buy it, so what´s the fuss… but be careful, even such a small camera kicks a lot of asses…afraid?? hahaha

  • Дмитрий

    cheap to manufacture expensive in the sale
    is there at least 1 advantage over Sony а6500 а7г3

    • Obviously Leica is not for everybody. Also, you cannot compare the CL with the full frame a7r3.

      • Brennan McKissick

        You can based on price lol. It might as well cost the same amount by the time you add a lens.

  • Matt Random

    I wish that the TL zoom lenses had OIS. If I need to resort to SL lenses for OIS I might as well just get an SL instead.


    I think Leica did not feel the need to up the resolution on the EVF cause its good enough for framing and auto focusing, it is good enough, why make it better, right?

  • JJ

    No back button focus? That can’t be right…?


    Just a few days ago on cyber monday, the sony A7RII was selling for $1,899, free shipping no tax on ebay, wow! I thought about the CL and how one is paying almost $1k more and its a APS-C. Difference between night and day between sony and leica. That said I did not buy the A7R MK 2……..nor will I buy the CL, I want that leica Q like body with M mount and SL EVF, please Leica give us one in 2018! I was so depressed I looked into the SL, what it offers is perfect for me – great EVF, FF, 24MP hits the sweet spot but man that thing is a tank of a body @$5k. Guess I will keep waiting.

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