Henry Phillips of Gear Patrol reviews the new Leica CL. Bottom line, it’s a mirrorless interhangeable lens camera with a crop sensor that takes Leica L lenses and the bigger M and R lenses with an adaptor.
It’s a camera that I would love to own. I’m a Leica nut, and I just adore their lenses for high quality photographer-oriented usability. There’s no blaming the lens if your shot doesn’t work out.
The camera looks good, is well-designed, has some nifty features, and it has a tonne of cool.
But it’s not for me. There’s the cost. At $A3 800 for a basic kit with an 18mm f2 lens, that’s a lot of money to shell out. You’re not going to do it on a whim. You’ve got to really want this camera. Buying a suite of lenses won’t come cheap. You can easily drop a couple of thousand dollars on a single Leica lens, and that’s not for one of the really good ones.
Second, it’s a crop sensor, and crop sensor interchangeable lens cameras, mirrorless or DSLR, are a drug on the market. There’s a lot of competition. I can think of the Olympus Pen F as something very similar, which (I think) looks far more handsome and has some goodies that the Leica doesn’t. And is half the price.
Like image stabilisation and an articulated rear screen. Image stabilisation compensates for a little bit of hand-held camera shake – especially in low light shooting when exposure times get longer – and an articulated or tilt screen makes for shooting at odd angles, such as low level or up over your head, much easier.
On the plus side, it has a viewfinder.
Now, don’t get me wrong, this is a superb camera. You’ll take some wonderful shots, it won’t weigh heavy in your hand, you can pack it for travel without using up all your carry-on, you can switch lenses as required, you’ll have that Leica quality.
But I won’t be trading in my Leica 109 anytime soon. It gives similar performance with an excellent fixed zoom lens, is a joy to shoot with and is about a quarter the cost.
Or my Leica Q. A full-frame fixed lens camera, which makes it a rare bird in the market, and is absolutely the best camera I’ve ever owned. Or likely to.
All that being said, unless you have at least two lenses or some really specific use cases — macro photography comes to mind — it may be worth considering shelling out the extra cash for one of Leica’s full-frame offerings. If you’re just going to buy the 18mm kit, you can have an unequivocally better travel camera in the Leica Q for about $500 more.
Image credit: Gear Patrol