Why the Leica CL is the Best Digital Leica

I borrowed my friend Dav’s new Digital Leica CL for the weekend in Singapore– and man, I was blown away.

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To start, I think the Leica CL is the best digital Leica camera currently on the market as of 2018. Why?

First of all, it is the most ‘affordable’ Leica in the lineup.

Secondly, it is well-built, solid, looks good, has beautiful aesthetics, has solid and nice and ‘clicky’ buttons, and is also ultralight!

Leica M lenses for life!

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I tested the Leica CL with a Leica-M lens adapter, with the Leica 24mm f/2.8 lens (an older Leica lens). Effectively after the crop factor of the Leica CL, it is roughly a ~35mm full-frame equivalent lens.

With this setup; I thought to myself:

“Why have a digital Leica-M rangefinder? This setup seems superior.”

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First of all, I prefer shooting with an LCD screen, because it allows me to frame more accurately. I wear glasses, so when I use a rangefinder window, I cannot accurately frame with any lens wider than a 35mm lens. With an LCD screen, “What you see is what you get” — meaning, your framing is 100% accurate to what you see and what you shoot!

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Secondly, the setup is lighter. The Leica CL is far lighter than a digital Leica M — which means, less fatigue your shoulders, neck, or wrist– which means, the longer you can shoot. And the longer you shoot, the more you will shoot, and the more likely you are to make a good photo! And the more you shoot, and the more good photos you make, the happier you will be!

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Shooting on the streets with LEICA CL

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Shooting street photography on the LEICA CL was a beautiful delight.

Things I liked:

  1. Turn-on-turn-off time is extremely fast. No lag here.
  2. Very fast buffer: Shot the entire card with a Transcend 128gb card, in RAW, with no buffering problems! (I still remember the old days of buffer issues on the Leica M9)
  3. Good and simple menus: I like the three button system on the left; a beautiful move done by Leica to simplify and subtracting the superfluous.
  4. Feels super solid: Not sure what it is built from, but it feels nice and strong — the same feeling of ‘confidence’ you feel when shooting with a digital Leica M camera.
  5. Really like the colors that come from the camera. In other words, image quality is excellent.
  6. Shooting with the Leica CL and LCD screen feels more flexible. I found myself shooting more with my reaction times; and the best feeling — getting into the ‘zen zone’ of shooting! Also on a side note, Little India in Singapore is probably one of the best places to shoot street photography for colors, vibrancy, friendly folks (and great food at the Hawker Center).
  7. The dials are excellent. I love the minimal dials on top, especially the ease of changing exposure compensation. A lot of these photos were shot in the middle of the day at -2 or -3 exposure compensation, giving you those rich colors, and black blacks.

Thoughts on the equipment

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First of all, if you’re gonna get the Leica CL; I don’t recommend getting the “TL” lenses. It is like buying really expensive Panasonic lenses (in my eyes). Instead, get the Leica M-adapter, and buy some old-school Leica M lenses. Why? The lenses will last your entire life; the TL-styled lenses won’t have as much ‘future-compatibility’ with “plug and play”.

The Leica CL ain’t cheap. And to be frank, it will probably be ‘upgraded’ with a Leica CL version 2 in the next few years — and thus the price/value of the Leica CL will drop a lot.

So some practical thoughts:

  1. I will not purchase the Leica CL. Why? I already have a film Leica MP at home with the Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron which I really like. I generally don’t like to buy new digital Leica cameras, because it is like buying a new iPhone (we all know how much the price drops).
  2. However, if you have the money, I would recommend the Leica CL as the best ‘value’ digital Leica camera available! There is seriously nothing wrong with the camera — I can only sing its praises.
  3. Recognize that a Leica CL isn’t going to be a camera ‘for life’. It will probably be good for at least 1-2 years.

Why this is a huge innovation

I am a huge fan of the Leica CL, because it is a case-study in minimalism.

  1. Fewer buttons (only 3 buttons on back, and simple dials on top).
  2. No superfluous markings on the camera (simple and clean).
  3. Less price (cheaper than other Leica digital cameras in the range)
  4. Less weight (means you will carry it with you more, and shoot more!)
  5. Probably co-engineered with Panasonic/Lumix– which I actually really like (I am currently shooting with a Lumix G9 and Lumix LX100) #lumixinatti

Rating: 10/10

Solid camera– great job Leica and whoever worked on it! Excited to see what you have up your sleeve next!


Pictures with Leica CL

Shot on RAW and processed with VSCO Lightroom preset (Kodak Portra 800HC):

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