Leica CL Review

November 21, 2017 | Amy Davies | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The Leica CL is a new compact system camera, which fits in the same line-up as the Leica TL2, which was announced in the summer of 2017. It uses the same lens mount as the TL2, which also accepts lenses from the SL range.

The components of the CL are very similar to those found in the TL2. For example, it has the same 24 megapixel APS-C sized sensor, along with a Maestro II image processor.

Where the CL differs mostly from the TL2 is in its body design. While the older camera uses an entirely touchscreen interface, with all image composition taking place via the screen, the CL has a smaller screen but an integrated viewfinder, plus the addition of some buttons which you can use to set key parameters.

With the introduction of the new 18mm f/2.8 pancake lens, there are 7 compatible TL lenses, plus 7 SL lenses, and a further 49 M lenses and 64 4 Lenses, which can be used with the CL with an adapter.

At the time of writing, the Leica CL price is set to be £2250 body only, or £3150 with the 18mm lens (prime kit), or £3275 with an 18-55mm Vario Kit lens.

Ease of Use

The Leica CL has a classic rangefinder style shape, with the added bonus of not being as complicated to use as something like the Leica M10. The main reason for this is that it has autofocus, coupled with an easy-to-use viewfinder. The advantage of the viewfinder being on the left in the same style as a rangefinder however means that you can keep your other eye on the scene unfolding in front of you, making it ideal for street photography, or indeed anything where the scene may change while you’re taking the photo (this only applies if you’re a right eye shooter, though).

Similar in size to the Leica X2 compact when used in partnership with the 18mm pancake lens, the Leica CL makes for a great walk around camera, being light and compact. Despite this, it feels well built and has the high-quality construction that you associate with Leica branded cameras - the CL is made in the German factory.

Leica CL
Front of the Leica CL

Looking at the CL from above, you’ll see the dials and buttons you’ll need to control the most fundamental aspects of the of the camera’s operation. There’s the shutter release button, but also two dials which feature buttons in their centre. Press these buttons to jog between different settings, including aperture, shutter speed, ISO and exposure compensation. The buttons will have default options, depending on the shooting mode you’re in - but you can also customise the dials and buttons to control different settings if you prefer. If you hold down the right hand button for a couple of seconds, other options which you can change will also appear.

Also on the top of the camera is a small LCD screen which shows you the key settings you have selected. It shows aperture and shutter speed, which is a great feature for discreet shooting situations - you can make sure the camera is set to however you want to shoot before moving it anywhere near your eye ready to shoot. A clever function of this screen is that automatically illuminates if the camera senses that it is dark - you can switch off this function if you want to though, if you need to remain discreet in darker conditions.

Leica CL
Front of the Leica CL

A hotshoe is found on the top of the Leica CL, via which you could add optional accessories, such as a flash - there isn’t one inbuilt into the CL. As already mentioned, the viewfinder of the CL is found on the left hand side of the camera body. This means there’s a bump on the top plate to accommodate it. There’s an eye sensor on the viewfinder, meaning it will automatically turn on when you lift the camera to your eye, and off again when you take it away. There’s a dioptre adjuster next to the viewfinder - a nice touch is that you need to pull it out away from the camera body before you can adjust it, then push it in to lock it into place. This prevents accidental unwanted changes, for example when the camera is in your bag.

Moving to the back of the CL - there are three buttons along the left hand side of the screen, with a navigation pad found to the right. This is a change from the all-screen back of the TL2, but is still few enough not to overwhelm.

Leica CL
Rear of the Leica CL

The three buttons are a Play button, for seeing your images in playback, a customisable Function button (Fn) which can be set to change whichever setting you feel is most necessary, and the Menu button. When you press the menu button, you’ll see that you’re presented with a “Favourites” menu - this is a bit like a quick menu, only featuring the most common settings. You can add or remove settings to these favourites, again ensuring that you use the CL however you feel is best.  At the bottom of the favourites menu, you’ll see that you can access the main menu - it’s here you’ll find more extensive settings, including the ability to customise your settings.

You can use the navigation pad for a number of different things, including scrolling through your images in playback, and setting the autofocus point. In playback, you can use the scrolling dials on the top of the camera to zoom in to check critical focus.

Leica CL
Top of the Leica CL

The Leica CL has both a mechanical and electronic shutter. By activating the electronic shutter, you can shoot completely silently which is useful for discreet situations. It also facilitates a fast shutter speed of 1/25000, as compared to the 1/8000 available with the mechanical shutter - this is very useful if you want to shoot at wide apertures in bright sunlight. It’s worth remembering that you’ll need to reactivate the mechanical shutter if you want to use long shutter speeds.

Although not primarily controlled by touch, the CL never-the-less has a touch-sensitive screen. You can use it to set the autofocus point, but there’s a slightly annoying problem here. In order to use it for this purpose, you need to set the AF mode in the menu to “Touch AF”, or “Touch AF + Release” - the latter means that the shutter will be fired once focus is achieved. Once you’ve done that, you won’t be able to use the buttons to set the autofocus point, meaning if you lift the camera to your eye, you won’t be able to change the AF point unless you take it away from your eye again. So, basically, you can either use the touchscreen, but sacrifice being able to change AF point with the viewfinder, or, you use the buttons and not be able to use the touchscreen to set AF at all. It would be nice if you could use either the screen or the buttons at all times - perhaps this small niggle could be fixed with a firmware upgrade though.

Leica CL
The Leica CL In-hand

There’s just one door on the bottom of the CL, which hides the battery and memory card slots. The CL accepts SD cards, and is compatible with the faster UHS-II cards.

The Leica CL has inbuilt Wi-Fi for remotely controlling the camera, and transferring shots across to a smartphone. At the time of writing however, the app was not available so we weren’t able to put this to the test. We’ve had success with using Leica’s apps before, with cameras such as the Q, so we have every confidence that it will work well.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 24 megapixel Superfine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 12Mb.

As we’d pretty much expect from anything bearing the famous Leica brand, image quality from the CL is excellent.

Colours directly from the Leica CL camera are very pleasingly saturated, without being unrealistic. The Standard “Film Type” setting is a good choice to leave the CL shooting in for most situations - with the Vivid setting being good when subjects could use a little boost in saturation.

Automatic white balance does a decent job in the majority of situations, producing accurate colours under artificial lighting, with just a hint towards yellow or warmer tones. Under overcast skies, colours can also be a little warmer than is accurate - switching to a specific white balance setting is recommended if you’re looking for ultimate accuracy.

The overall impression of detail is fantastic when looking at images at A4 or below, and you can see if you zoom in at 100% that the CL is capable of resolving very fine detail. When it comes to low light images, the CL copes well all the way up to ISO 6400. Images taken at ISO 12800 are useable, if you’re only intending to use them small, but ISO 25000 and above is probably best avoided if you can help it.

All-purpose metering is a good option for most everyday scenes, with nicely balanced exposures in the majority of conditions. Switching to spot metering for high-contrast situations can be beneficial, as can dialling in some exposure compensation - this doesn’t seem to be too common a problem however.


There are 9 ISO settings available on the Leica CL. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting:


ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

iso100.jpg iso100raw.jpg

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

iso200.jpg iso200raw.jpg

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso400raw.jpg

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

iso800.jpg iso800raw.jpg

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

iso1600.jpg iso1600raw.jpg

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

iso3200.jpg iso3200raw.jpg

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

iso6400.jpg iso6400raw.jpg

ISO 12500 (100% Crop)

ISO 12500 (100% Crop)

iso12500.jpg iso12500raw.jpg

ISO 25000 (100% Crop)

ISO 25000 (100% Crop)

iso25000.jpg iso25000raw.jpg

ISO 50000 (100% Crop)



The Leica CL's maximum shutter speed is 30 seconds in the Manual mode, which is great news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The following shot was taken at 30 seconds at ISO 100.



Film Styles

The Leica CL offers 5 different film styles to choose from.







B&W Natural


B&W High Contrast


Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Leica CL camera, which were all taken using the 24 megapixel Superfine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample RAW Images

The Leica CL enables users to capture RAW and JPEG format files. We've provided some Leica RAW (DNG) samples for you to download (thumbnail images shown below are not 100% representative).

Sample Movies & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 3840x2160 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 19 second movie is 215Mb in size.

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1980x1020 pixels at 60 frames per second. Please note that this 18 second movie is 59.5Mb in size.

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1980x1020 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 19 second movie is 46.3Mb in size.

Product Images

Leica CL
Leica CL
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Leica CL


Leica CL
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Leica CL
Leica CL


The compact system camera market at the moment is particularly strong, with something to suit just about every type of customer. 

Traditionally, Leica users are those who crave high image quality in a body which is well-built and has traditional looks. Nothing changes with the CL, which builds upon the success of the TL2 to bring something arguably even better - especially if you like a viewfinder. 

Handling and usability is great, with the simple combination of dials and button presses for the most important camera settings being an intuitive system that you very quickly get used to. 

The classic rangefinder style of the Leica CL makes it a discreet choice for street photography, so photographers who are into that kind of shooting are going to love it. We’ve only had the opportunity to test it with the 18mm lens, which makes for an ideal walk around pairing, but the fact that there are now several different lenses to choose from in the system suggests that its one that’s here to stay. 

Similar in essence to the much more expensive, and much more complicated to use Leica M series, the CL is something which appeals to those who want an entry into Leica products without the faff of a manual focus rangefinder - and though not exactly cheap, the CL is still much more affordable than it’s full-frame brother. 

Image quality is excellent, with great detail and lovely colours. The fact that it can shoot 4K video is also a bonus for anybody who likes to create movies in an off-the-cuff style but would still like them to be high quality. 

When it comes to downsides for this camera, aside from the relatively high price, there aren’t too many. The main ones centre around the screen - a tilting screen would have been handy for awkward compositions (including from the hip), while the fact that you can either use the screen to set autofocus or use the buttons (but not at the same time) is a little annoyance that could be easily solved. 

Overall, the Leica CL is a fantastic APS-C compact system camera with only a couple of relatively minor niggles (some of which could be fixed with firmware upgrades). Anyone with a desire to own something with the classic red-dot could be easily drawn towards it - just make sure you have relatively deep pockets. 

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4.5
Features 4
Ease-of-use 4.5
Image quality 4.5
Value for money 3

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Leica CL.

Canon EOS M5

The Canon EOS M5 is a brand new compact system camera that offers 24 megapixels, 9fps continuous shooting, Dual Pixel CMOS AF, full HD 60p high-definition videos, and a touch-screen interface. Other key features of the EOS M5 include a tilting 3-inch LCD screen, ISO range of 100-25600, and wi-fi and NFC connectivity. Is Canon's new mirrorless model the camera that enthusiasts have been waiting for? Read our Canon EOS M5 review to find out...

Fujifilm X-T2

The Fujifilm X-T2 is a new compact system camera that builds on the success of the popular 2-year-old X-T1, most notably by adding 4K video recording, a more sophisticated auto-focusing system, and a wealth of other improvements. Read our in-depth Fujifilm X-T2 review to find out if it's worth the upgrade...

Leica TL2

The Leica TL2 is an incredibly stylish mirrorless camera, offering a massive 3.7-inch touchscreen display, 20fps burst shooting, 24 megapixels and 4K video recording. But is it a case of style over substance? Read our in-depth Leica TL2 review now to find out...

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

Capable of shooting at 18fps with focus tracking, the new Olympus O-MD E-M1 Mark II is a blisteringly fast professional compact system camera. Read our in-dpeth Olympus O-MD E-M1 Mark II review to find out if this speed demon can really deliver the goods...

Panasonic G9

Panasonic have enjoyed a lot of success with the video-centric GH5 camera, and now they've turned their attention to the enthusiast and professional stills photographer with the release of the exciting new G9. Read our in-depth Panasonic G9 review now to find out more...

Sony A7 II

The Sony A7 II is the first full-frame compact system camera in the World to feature built-in 5-axis stabilisation. Other key improvements include better ergonomics and build quality, faster auto-focusing and startup, a wider range of video options, and greater customisability. Is this the best ever Sony full-frame compact system camera? Read our Sony A7 II review to find out...


Camera type: Digital APS-C system camera

Lens mount: Leica L bayonet with contact strip for communication between lens and camera
Compatible lenses: Lenses with Leica L-Mount, Leica M/R lenses using the Leica M-Adapter L/R-Adapter L
Sensor: APS-C sized CMOS sensor (23.6 x 15.7 mm) with 24.96/24.24 million pixels (total/effective), aspect ratio
Photo Resolution: DNG: 6016 x 4014 Pixels (24 Megapixels), JPEG: optional 6000 x 4000 Pixels (24 Megapixels), or 4272 x
2856 Pixels (12 Megapixels), or 3024 x 2016 Pixels (6 Megapixels)
Photo file formats/compression
Rates: Optional: DNG, JPG or DNG + JPG
Video recording format: MP4
Video resolution/frame
Rate: Optional: 3840 x 2160 p (4K) 30 fps, 1920 x 1080 p (FHD) 60 fps, 1920 x 1080 p (FHD) 30 fps or 1280 x 720 p (HD) 30 fps
Video recording time: Depending on ambient or housing temperature video recordings are possible up to a maximum length of 29
minutes, maximum file size is 4 GB, if a recording exceeds this limit, the respective part is automatically stored in another file
Storage media: SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards, multimedia cards, UHS II-standard is supported
ISO range: Automatic, ISO 100 to ISO 50000
White balance: Automatic, presets for daylight, cloudy, halogen lighting, shadow, electronic flash, two memory slots for manually
metered settings, manual color temperature setting
Autofocus system: Contrast-based
Autofocus metering
Methods: Single point, multi-zone, spot, face detection, touch AF
Exposure modes Automatic program, aperture priority, shutter speed priority, and manual setting, Fully automatic, sport, portrait, landscape, night portrait, snow/beach, fireworks, candlelight, sunset, digiscoping 
Scene Modes: Fully automatic, sport, portrait, landscape, night portrait, snow/beach, fireworks, candlelight, sunset, digiscoping,
miniature, panorama, HDR
Exposure Metering Methods: Multi-zone, center-weighted, spot
Exposure compensation: +/-3 EV in 1⁄3 EV increments
Automatic exposure Bracketing: Three pictures in graduations up to 􀀀+/- 3EV, adjustable in 1⁄3 EV increments
Shutter speed range: 30 s to 1⁄25000 s (up to 1⁄8000 s with mechanical, beyond that with electronic shutter)
Picture series: Max. approx. 10 fps with mechanical shutter/ 10 fps with electronic shutter function, max. approx. 33 pictures
(DNG+JPG) and max. approx. 140 pictures (JPG only) at full speed, then depending on memory card properties
Flash modes: Adjustable with attached, system compatible flash
Flash exposure compensation:􀀀 +/-3 EV in 1⁄3 EV increments
Flash synchronization: 1⁄180 s
Monitor: 3” TFT LCD, 1.04MP, touch and gesture control possible
Viewfinder Resolution: 1024 x 768 pixels (2.36 MP), enlargement: 0.74x, aspect ratio: 4:3, eye relief: 20 mm, eyepiece: adjustable +/- 4 dioptres, with eye sensor for automatic switching between viewfinder and monitor
Top-Display: Resolution: 128 x 58 pixels
ISO Accessory shoe: ISO accessory shoe with center and control contacts for Leica flash units
Self-Timer: Selectable delay time 2 or 12 s
WLAN: Complies with IEEE 802.11b/g/n standard (standard WLAN protocol), channel 1-11, encryption method: WiFi-compatible WPA™/WPA2™
Power supply: Leica BP-DC12 lithium ion battery, rated voltage 7.2 V (7.2 V D.C.), capacity 1200 mAh, (based on CIPA
standard): approx. 220 pictures, charging time (after total discharge): approx. 140 min manufacturer: Panasonic Energy (Wuxi) Co., Ltd. made in China
Interfaces: Micro (type D) HDMI port, HDMI 1.4b standard is supported, USB type C port, USB 3.0 Super Speed standard is supported, battery charging via USB connection possible with max. 1 A, accessory shoe with Leica flash interface with integrated connection for
optional accessories 
Subject to changes in design and production.
Charger: Leica BC-DC12, input: AC 100–240 V, 50/60 Hz, automatic switching, output: DC 8.4 V 0.65 A, manufacturer: Shin Tech Engineering Ltd., Made in China
Body: Top and bottom covers: milled and anodized Aluminum, front and rear body shells: Magnesium Tripod thread: A 1⁄4 DIN 4503 (1⁄4“)
Body dimensions (WxHxD): 131 x 78 x 45 mm
Weight: Approx. 403 g/353 g (with/without battery)
Scope of delivery: Camera body, bayonet cap, carrying strap, accessory shoe cover, battery (Leica BP-DC12), charger (Leica BC-DC 12), mains cables (EU, US, local mains cable)
Software: Leica CL App (remote control and picture transfer, free download in Apple™ App-Store™ / Google™ Play Store™)

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