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Leica’s new CL is a small mirrorless camera with vintage charm

Leica’s new CL is a small mirrorless camera with vintage charm


It’s a Compact Leica

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Leica CL
Leica CL

Leica is today announcing the latest camera in its portfolio, the APS-C class CL. The CL is a very similar camera to the TL2 released earlier this year, with the same image sensor and overall performance. But it has a more traditional design than the futuristic TL2 and should appeal to those wanting a classic style camera that’s smaller, lighter, and of course, significantly cheaper than Leica’s flagship M10 rangefinder.

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.

The other big difference with the CL are the control dials and small LCD display on the top plate. Like the TL2, the two control dials are customizable and can be programmed for whatever parameter you want to control. But on top of each dial is a button that toggles a secondary function, making it easy to switch between two entirely different control schemes. In addition, the black and white LCD screen between the dials displays settings, battery, and exposure indicators, so it’s easy to check things on the go. It even lights up automatically in dim lighting.

The back of the CL is a mix between the TL2 and its fully touchscreen control system and the Q’s button-based system. Basically, the CL combines the two ideas: its rear display is fully touch and gesture enabled, but it still has buttons and a four way controller.

The CL is noticeably more compact than the TL2, and Leica likens its size to the fixed-lens X2 released a few years ago. It’s roughly the same size as the Fujifilm X-E3 and only slightly larger than Sony’s extremely compact A6500.

Inside, the CL has a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor (the same one as found in the TL2) and Leica’s Maestro II image processor. It can shoot up to 33 DNG and JPEG full resolution images at 10 frames per second and shoots 4K video at 30 frames per second or 1080p video at up to 60 frames per second. Leica boasts a 14 stop dynamic range and ISO up to 50,000. The CL’s contrast based autofocus system has 49 points to work with and the camera offers both a mechanical and electronic shutter.

Interestingly, the CL doesn’t have any I/O ports to speak off — the only way to get images off the camera is to remove the SD card and put it in a computer or use Leica’s iOS or Android app to wireless transfer images to a phone or tablet.

The CL is compatible with Leica’s TL mount system, which now boasts a total of seven lenses, including a new, compact 18mm f/2.8 option. It’s also compatible with the seven lenses in the SL system, and Leica offers mount adapters to use M- and R-mount lenses on it.

For the first time, Leica will be selling the CL in bundled kits, in addition to body only options. A kit with the new 18mm lens will cost $3,795, while a kit with an 18-55 zoom lens will run $3,995. The CL body alone costs $2,795 and the 18mm lens will sell for $1,295. All options are available to order starting today.