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Test/ First Impression Leica CL, The last L mount APSC system

Lsake

Active Member
Today, I received a used (good condition) Leica CL as part of a trade in for some older gear I was no longer using. This camera was of interest to me, as its pretty much the only game in town if you want a really compact L mount camera with a built in EVF. Here I will give my first impressions after unboxing, taking some basic test shots, and having a poke around the RAW (DNG) files. I will mostly be comparing to my S5 which is my most used camera.

Build and materials
Very good, the cold metal top and bottom plates feel solid. The buttons and dials are solid and tactile. It’s light on buttons compared to my S5, but this is inline with the way the camera is designed to operate. More on that below.

Screen and EVF
The rear screen is really bright and clear, it feels like it has a pretty high frame rate. The EVF I’d say is on par with the S5 EVF. Manually focusing with peaking enabled is pretty easy. There is also a little top LCD that displays settings, I really enjoy this.

Operation
It’s unconventional but I like it. the two top dials are not labelled, both have a button set inside the dial. The left one is a mode button, press it to select the PASM mode. The right button operation can be configured based on your mode, as can both dials. In M I have the right button open the ISO settings, right dial is shutter speed, left is aperture control. The rear FN button I reserve for white balance selection. Despite not having many buttons compared to my S5, it doesn’t feel like any settings are difficult to get to. Once you get it setup the way you want its very quick to use.

Focusing
The AF system is pretty dated, 49 AF points and basic face detection. It’s sort of like going back to a Lumix G80 (understandable as it’s from a similar time). It works fine, but there is no clever subject detection modes etc. For manual focus there is 3x or 6x punch in with focus peaking, it’s fairly easy to get it right.

Image quality and RAW files
The JPEGs look good, the colours and contrast in standard profile are well balanced and natural. There aren’t that many profiles to choose from, there’s a couple of monochrome ones and standard/natural/vivid. RAW files have good shadow recovery, but highlights will become unrecoverable if over exposed by a stop or more. Noise can be noticeable from ISO 1600 in darker scenes. For some reason Adobe do not have camera profiles for any Leica L mount cameras, so you can’t really match camera profiles when editing the RAWs.

Lens Compatibility
So far I have only tested with the Sigma 45mm f/2.8 but it works flawlessly. The aperture can be controlled from the ring or the dial on the body. Settings are fed back correctly and displayed on the top LCD. Auto focus seems to work just fine and flicking the AF/MF switch on the lens puts you straight into full time manual focus. I think this is because the Leica CL received firmware updates to make it fully compatible with L mount alliance member lenses before it was “discontinued”. Strangely lightroom recognises the CL with the sigma lens, and offers lens profiles… just not camera colour profiles.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be trying to test more lenses, including some Minolta MD lenses, and maybe even the sigma 100-400mm.

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  • Apple - iPhone 11
  • iPhone 11 back dual wide camera 4.25mm f/1.8
  • 4.3 mm
  • ƒ/1.8
  • 1/9 sec
  • Pattern
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  • ISO 500
 
APS-C seems to be on the rebound. It would be interesting to see Leica jump back in. Is the lens mount the same as L mount full frame?
 
APS-C seems to be on the rebound. It would be interesting to see Leica jump back in. Is the lens mount the same as L mount full frame?
It’s exactly the same mount, but has a somewhat confusing history.

The L mount made it’s debut on a Leica APSC camera called the Leica T around 2014. For some reason they called it the T mount, and shortly after released the full frame SL and called it the L mount… even though it was mechanically and electronically the exact same mount. To try and alleviate the confusion this caused, they renamed the Leica T to the Leica TL to denote it was the same L mount as the SL. Leica TL (APSC) and SL (full frame) lenses can be mounted on any “L” mount body. Shortly after the announcement of the L mount alliance in 2018, Leica released firmware updates to make the CL compatible with alliance member lenses.
 
Excelente review. The CL was always on my radar but, you know... I wish Lumix makes a full frame CL... actually, as a Panasonic Lumix user, owner of a S5 and a S1R, I would immediately buy a rangefinder style Lumix camera with the specs of the S5II.

But, as an owner of the Nikon Df and former owner of the Zfc, if Panasonic Lumix is too slow in releasing that RF S5II, I would buy the new Nikon Zf instead...
 
Excelente review. The CL was always on my radar but, you know... I wish Lumix makes a full frame CL... actually, as a Panasonic Lumix user, owner of a S5 and a S1R, I would immediately buy a rangefinder style Lumix camera with the specs of the S5II.

But, as an owner of the Nikon Df and former owner of the Zfc, if Panasonic Lumix is too slow in releasing that RF S5II, I would buy the new Nikon Zf instead...
I’ve seen many people comment about wanting a Lumix rangefinder style camera. I’d not used one before but having had the opportunity I can say in practise, for me, it doesn’t really matter where the EVF is located. Although I would say that the design of the CL is very nice, it looks a bit more… “fashionable” if thats a thing a camera can be.

I took it out with the sigma 45mm for a few hours yesterday and the biggest thing I noticed was how much lighter and less noticeable it was on the strap compared to the S5. This was great as it was one of the main reason for my interest, it’s about 300g lighter than the S5.

It would be nice to have a FF version of the CL because the crop factor was sometimes a pain. I wouldn’t mind if it was Lumix or Leica branded aside from a Leica version will probably be expensive.
 
I have had the CL since launch, in fact I'm on my second one, when Leica announced it was finishing with apsc and only guaranteeing support for another six years I promptly bought another, as for me it's the best body other than my M for manual lenses. My original has taken tens of thousands of images. I took the opportunity to go with the silver body this time as it looks nice (shouldn't matter I know) with my silver lenses. Mine has been used with pretty much every L mount lens along the way, up to and including the Sigma 150-600 but for travel, which is when it shines, now I usually just take the Sigma 18-50 2.8, though the TL 18-56 is a better but slower lens, and often the Sigma 90mm 2.8.
 

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I have had the CL since launch, in fact I'm on my second one, when Leica announced it was finishing with apsc and only guaranteeing support for another six years I promptly bought another, as for me it's the best body other than my M for manual lenses. My original has taken tens of thousands of images. I took the opportunity to go with the silver body this time as it looks nice (shouldn't matter I know) with my silver lenses. Mine has been used with pretty much every L mount lens along the way, up to and including the Sigma 150-600 but for travel, which is when it shines, now I usually just take the Sigma 18-50 2.8, though the TL 18-56 is a better but slower lens, and often the Sigma 90mm 2.8.
Your silver CL looks gorgeous. I’d love at some point to get a small M lens like a 35mm summicron. For now I have a set of tiny vintage Minolta MD primes. For manual focusing I find these are nicer than the modern electronically coupled lenses.

It is a shame that Leica discontinued the CL, it seems that they genuinely put a lot of thought into the design. I imagine if it were to come back it would probably just share the SL sensor.
 
I'm a Nikon wildlife and landscape shooter (Z9/Z8 and exotic Z-series Super Telephotos), but I've always loved the styling and simplicity of the CL digital. A CL - VarioElmar kit popped up on my radar in 9/10 condition for $1950, and I've been shooting it for 2 weeks now. I absolutely love this camera. It definitely out punches its weight for image quality, build, and simple elegance. The color science behind the processing engine is great and the AF is fine if you don't expect it to behave like a camera built after 2020. I am shooting it in AFS, single shot, small-field AF... seems to be perfect with these settings. I plan on adding either the 18mm elmarit or 23mm sumicron and will call it a day.
Linked are a few pictures I've made with the CL since getting it two weeks ago...
 

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Nice images... Being a nature photographer, I'm also thinking about the 55-135 Leica Vario-Elmar, I've heard that it is very good. However, at this point, I'm sticking with one lens to see how much I use the CL... it's a camera that is designed for a different type of shooter than me. To the point, I spent the better part of sunrise and a hot humid morning with my Z9 and 800MM lens photographing hummingbirds.... yet, there is something really charming about the Leica CL.

cheers,
bruce
 
There are rumors of a full-frame Leica CL coming in 2024. If the rumors are true, I’m hoping for a less-expensive Panasonic equivalent. Given the development agreement between the two companies, I could see it happening. But I have a CL and would dearly love to see another rangefinder-styled APS-C camera for L-mount, because I have a number of APS-C lenses for it. I’m hoping Sigma may come through for us since they recently introduced a new APS-C zoom for L-mount.
 
There are rumors of a full-frame Leica CL coming in 2024. If the rumors are true, I’m hoping for a less-expensive Panasonic equivalent. Given the development agreement between the two companies, I could see it happening. But I have a CL and would dearly love to see another rangefinder-styled APS-C camera for L-mount, because I have a number of APS-C lenses for it. I’m hoping Sigma may come through for us since they recently introduced a new APS-C zoom for L-mount.
I admit I'd rather have a FF... but most important is the size/rangefinder body. (To answer one of the posts above... the reason for a rangefinder body, aside from the smaller size, is that I'm a right-eye shooter, and putting the viewfinder in the upper-left keeps my face away from the rear LCD - particularly significant for touchscreens.)

I use the Sigma fp as my primary camera, because I love the size/weight/control simplicity; but the one thing I really wish it had was a built-in EVF. The add-on EVF is serviceable, but bulky and kinda clunky, and it blocks the USB-C port for charging and file transfer.
 
There are rumors of a full-frame Leica CL coming in 2024. If the rumors are true, I’m hoping for a less-expensive Panasonic equivalent. Given the development agreement between the two companies, I could see it happening. But I have a CL and would dearly love to see another rangefinder-styled APS-C camera for L-mount, because I have a number of APS-C lenses for it. I’m hoping Sigma may come through for us since they recently introduced a new APS-C zoom for L-mount.
I would love a range finder FF from Panasonic, in a CL like size. From time to time I'm thinking about a CL, but I have no APS-C lenses and I'm not sure if I want to have some. I would prefer to have everything full frame.

However, I haven't got high hopes for a FF range finder with L-Mount in 2024. I think S1, S1R and S1H successors are more important for Panasonic at this point and I can't see Panasonic bringing that much cameras in just one year. Maybe 2025.
 
I use the Sigma fp as my primary camera, because I love the size/weight/control simplicity; but the one thing I really wish it had was a built-in EVF. The add-on EVF is serviceable, but bulky and kinda clunky, and it blocks the USB-C port for charging and file transfer.
I'm in the same situation with the fp L: it's become my main camera, but I'd really like a version with a built-in EVF if the size could be kept down as much as possible.
 
I would love a range finder FF from Panasonic, in a CL like size. From time to time I'm thinking about a CL, but I have no APS-C lenses and I'm not sure if I want to have some. I would prefer to have everything full frame.

However, I haven't got high hopes for a FF range finder with L-Mount in 2024. I think S1, S1R and S1H successors are more important for Panasonic at this point and I can't see Panasonic bringing that much cameras in just one year. Maybe 2025.
I took a look at the Sony A7Cii recently and it's really very nice. An L-mount version of this at a similar price point would be hard to resist.
 
I took a look at the Sony A7Cii recently and it's really very nice. An L-mount version of this at a similar price point would be hard to resist.
I recently got to have a look at the Sony A7CR: it's really not that much larger than the Sigma fp L without the viewfinder and, from DPReview's test and samples, the image quality is very similar. I'd have been seriously tempted if it'd had a decent viewfinder (not good if you wear glasses) and rear screen, but the resolution of both is low enough to make it hard to judge focus and depth of field. Plus I don't particularly like the way Sony cameras operate, although the new menus on the latest models are a significant improvement.

I, too, would find an L-Mount version almost impossible to resist...
 
I recently got to have a look at the Sony A7CR: it's really not that much larger than the Sigma fp L without the viewfinder and, from DPReview's test and samples, the image quality is very similar. I'd have been seriously tempted if it'd had a decent viewfinder (not good if you wear glasses) and rear screen, but the resolution of both is low enough to make it hard to judge focus and depth of field. Plus I don't particularly like the way Sony cameras operate, although the new menus on the latest models are a significant improvement.

I, too, would find an L-Mount version almost impossible to resist...
The Mark ii version has an improved EVF - more Mp and a higher magnification. It's a decent step up from the original.

But there's no way I'm going to buy another system for one body!
 
The Mark ii version has an improved EVF - more Mp and a higher magnification. It's a decent step up from the original.

But there's no way I'm going to buy another system for one body!
According to DPReview the A7Cii (33MP) and A7CR (60MP) have higher magnification than the original A7C: 0.7x instead of 0.59x, but it's still the same 2.36M dot panel.

And yes, I'm too heavily invested in L-Mount now with 3 Panasonic zooms and 4 Sigma I series primes to want to swap.
 
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