Leica CL Review: sober and bright mirrorless sensor APS-C designed to photograph the street (and with AF)

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Introduced just over a year ago, the Leica CL has some special and limited editions designed to continue to use the L-mount of the German manufacturer of APS sensor cameras (such as the TL). Recently, after getting to know the street edition of this small Leica CL, we wanted to analyze it to test its benefits and discover its design and its response in street photography first-hand.

First and foremost, we place ourselves in a context to better understand the key features that make them a camera specifically designed for street photography, but also suitable for almost any need on the go, with sober style and autofocus. In addition, of course, a 24-megapixel CMOS sensor, the image processor MAESTRO II and up to 49 AF points. A Leica in general, but intended for those who want to welcome the electronic viewfinder and the autofocus, but unlike the Leica TL put on a more classic design.

Main characteristics

Leica CL Review: sober and bright mirrorless sensor APS-C designed to photograph the street (and with AF)

MountLeica L-Mount (compatible with TL- and SL- lenses)
SensorAPS-C CMOS size (23.6 x 15.7 mm) with 24.24 effective megapixels and 3: 2 aspect
Video3840x2160p (4K) 30 fps, 1920x1080p (FHD) 60 fps, 1920x1080p (FHD) 30 fps and 1280x720p (HD) 30 fps
ProcessorMASTER II
StorageOne slot for SD / SDHC / SDXC cards, with UHS II support.
ISO sensitivityISO 100 up to ISO 50,000
SpeedFrom 30 s to 1 / 25,000 s (up to 1 / 8,000 s with mechanical shutter)
Continuous shootingUp to 10 fps with mechanical and electronic shutter. Max. 33 photos in DNG + JPG and max. approx. 140 photos in JPG.
screen3-inch TFT LCD with 1.04MP resolution and touch capability.
Electronic viewfinderResolution of 1024×768 pixels (2.36 MP); Amplification: 0.74x; aspect: 4: 3.
Dimensions131 x 78 x 45 mm
Weight403 g (with battery) / 353 g (without battery)
ConnectivityWiFi through Leica CL App

 

Design and ergonomics

Leica CL Review: sober and bright mirrorless sensor APS-C designed to photograph the street (and with AF)

The first thing that draws attention is that, despite sharing the L-frame with the TL2 (and after the alliance with Sigma and Panasonic), its design is original, more classic, very sober , alluding to the original Leica CL model (from the 70s). At least in his spirit: compact camera, light and easy to use. It can not be ignored that the work here of the manufacturer is exquisite. At least for those who like classic style cameras and rather sober, as is the case.

 

The sober and simple design tries to emulate, in its concept, the classic Leica CL of the 70s

If something should be highlighted in the first place is the inclusion of an electronic viewer . The first of the signature in a camera of this format, by the way. It is a viewfinder with an excellent resolution of 2.36 million points, 0.74x magnification factor and a really low latency. Its use is tremendously comfortable and its location in the upper corner, make it very comfortable, very Leica (in the style of its telemetric classics), in this sense.

Leica CL Review: sober and bright mirrorless sensor APS-C designed to photograph the street (and with AF)

In the upper part we also find two rotary knobs with their corresponding buttons in the middle, which are the most important parameters for the parameters (in addition to the trigger and the ignition switch). They are configurable, without hints and easy to use. Leica sought maximum simplicity without sacrificing all the possibilities that personalization can offer.
The rest of the body is characterized by simple lines, without any kind of grip that stabilizes the grip. Despite its light weight and superb solid finish, the handle gives a little more comfort, especially when working with one hand. It forces you to keep the camera safe at all times (and there is no rubber) or non-slip plastic material (polished metal only). Kit Street has a small handle that can be adjusted on the side. We want it to be standard, not just in a special edition.
Leica CL Review: sober and bright mirrorless sensor APS-C designed to photograph the street (and with AF)

In the back we have a 3-inch LCD screen with touch capability and, again, maximum simplicity of buttoning. The essentials that force a laborious navigation to reach certain controls and configurations (only one is really configurable). Nothing that can not be adapted with a little practice, in exchange for maximum simplicity, which is appreciated to focus on the main thing when working with it.

The autofocus

If something can attract to empower them buyers of this small Leica is precisely the incorporation of an autofocus system

If something can attract to empower buyers of this small camera is precisely the incorporation of an automatic focusing system. For those who want a Leica but do not like to use a rangefinder and manual focus. Thus, this Leica in search of simplicity incorporates an autofocus of 49 points for contrast detection . For a camera of its value may seem few, especially if we take a look at the specifications of the latest models of cameras, where the points offered are more numerous.

In principle, the AF works very well, correct in most of the scenes, without shining in the speed section but without failing excessively when light is scarce . All this accompanied by the Summicron-TL 23mm f / 2 ASPH . We can also choose the manual approach, since the objective is comfortable to handle in this sense and the help to focus offered by the system is very practical, with an assistant to enlarge the image and to refine.

We found no stabilization system but Wi-Fi connectivity (no Bluetooth or NFC, by the way), to send captures to the smartphone comfortably, as well as remote shot , something usual in almost any camera on the market.

Image quality and performance

Leica CL Review: sober and bright mirrorless sensor APS-C designed to photograph the street (and with AF)
Leica CL with Summicron-TL 23mm f / 2 ASPH @ f / 8; 1/100 s; ISO 800

The first images captured with the Leica CL surprised us pleasantly at first glance. The screen shows a great sharpness and a fairly interesting overall image quality. After testing it in different scenarios and checking the files on the computer, we corroborated the good performance of the APS-C sensor (which does not have a low pass filter). With a very faithful color reproduction and an excellent dynamic range .

 

Leica CL Review: sober and bright mirrorless sensor APS-C designed to photograph the street (and with AF)
Leica CL with Summicron-TL 23mm f / 2 ASPH @ f / 6.3; 1/80 s; ISO 400

The blur that it offers to its maximum opening is soft and of sublime quality

In addition to the good performance of the sensor, we must also highlight the work of the lens, whose optical quality leaves evidence of the usual level of the German manufacturer. Sensational in portraits, in details and in general scenes with different lights. The blur that it offers to its maximum opening is soft and of sublime quality.

Leica CL Review: sober and bright mirrorless sensor APS-C designed to photograph the street (and with AF)
Leica CL with Summicron-TL 23mm f / 2 ASPH @ f / 2.5; 1/40 s; ISO 2,500

Regarding performance at high sensitivities, we find that the sensor and the processor perform well up to ISO 6,400 . Although already at ISO 1,600 noise begins to be noticed, but it is contained. When the sensitivity is increased to reach its maximum values ​​is when the performance decreases significantly , offering files with a very noticeable noise making from ISO 6,400 is not very usable without applying some noise reduction in camera or, later, through of post-processing software.

Leica CL Review: sober and bright mirrorless sensor APS-C designed to photograph the street (and with AF)
Leica CL with Summicron-TL 23mm f / 2 ASPH @ f / 4; 1/100 s; ISO 6.400

The values ​​ISO 12.500, ISO 25.000 and up to ISO 50.000 that allows us, are not especially good. Neither are they with the color temperature in the automatic white balance mode, which, in general, is correct, but not very bright either.

Speed, video and autonomy

With regard to speed, it should be noted that the Leica CL is very agile, it shows that powerful processor that incorporates. Its start is fast, its autofocus with good light is good (not the fastest, but does not detract) and its ability to reach up to 10 fps makes it very powerful for bursts. Of course, using quick cards we will not have any delay.

As for the video, remember that it is capable of recording in 4K resolution at 30 fps and in Full HD at 60 or 30 fps. Of course, there is not much room to configure the recording, with a large part of the adjustments are automatic (including the ISO). So despite having great resolution, the options incorporated and its limitation make the video is designed for occasional uses, without much pretension.

Leica CL Review: sober and bright mirrorless sensor APS-C designed to photograph the street (and with AF)
Leica CL with Summicron-TL 23mm f / 2 ASPH @ f / 16; 1/50 s; ISO 1,600

The Leica CL moves in an acceptable line in terms of autonomy. The usual thing we find in most mirrorless cameras with electronic viewfinder . So for those who make intensive use, or want to travel with it, a second battery is recommended.

Gallery

Leica CL: opinion

Leica CL Review: sober and bright mirrorless sensor APS-C designed to photograph the street (and with AF)

It is a camera for those who like urban photography or travel , who want to bet on a Leica camera, with everything that comes with superb quality construction and optical quality. But especially for those who openly embrace the use of autofocus and an electronic viewfinder and are not demanding to have multiple options in video recording.

 

It stands out for its sober, simple and functional design and the fact of having a super sensor that performs very well in all kinds of scenes

It is a small, manageable camera with a solid construction. A sober, simple and functional design that has in its interior a super sensor that performs very well in all kinds of scenes. It offers an extraordinary sharpness (no low-pass filter) and a blur of those who fall in love at first sight , especially with large openings (such as the luminous lens Summicron-TL 23mm f / 2 ASPH). In addition, it is a fast camera, both in its general handling, as focusing and firing bursts if we need it. Its simple concept means that you can enjoy the photographic process without feeling overwhelmed by endless menus and options that are rarely used. It’s the seal of Leica, no doubt.

We can only find some drawbacks in the automatic white balance, something improvable and, above all, its performance at high sensitivities, where it offers images with too much noise.

It is an ideal camera for street photographers, traveling and who appreciate the classic and sober design of Leica, but with the advantages of the most current digital photography (AF, electronic viewfinder). The price, as is usual in the brand, is high compared to other models of the competition with similar characteristics (although not as different from its more direct competitor as the Sony A6500 , for example). But with everything it is a more accessible Leica , with all the possibilities that this mount offers (it is not an M, but it has a lot of potential and a good range of optics available) and the Leica manufacturing warranty. And it is something that is noticed from the first contact.

Where to buy


Leica CL Kit, a new option focused on urban photographers

 

85%
  • Characteristics
  • Design and Ergonomics
  • Controls and interface
  • Performance
  • Image quality

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