Leica TL Review

January 16, 2017 | Gavin Stoker | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The Leica TL is a new compact system camera with a 16-megapixel APS-C sensor and an upgraded AF system. Manufactured from a single block of aluminium, the Leica TL also offers an innovative touchscreen 3.7-inch display with 1,230k dots, built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, a pop-up flash and hot shoe, 1080p Full HD videos, 11-point AF system, full range of advanced controls from manual exposure to manual focus, sensitivity range of ISO 100-12500, maximum shutter speed of 1/4000th of a second, JPEG and DNG RAW file support, 32GB internal memory, and a continuous shooting rate of up to 5 frames per second. Available in black, silver or a titanium anodised finish, the recommended retail price of the Leica TL is £1450 / $1695 body only.

Ease of Use

Hand crafted objects of desire – the crème de la crème of the camera world, famously wielded by Magnum photographers navigating war zones – as well as the well-heeled photo enthusiast navigating a Mayfair parking space. That’s pretty much the public image of Leica in a nutshell. Into this rarified world (with attendant great expectations) cruises the new 16.3 megapixel Leica TL, a compact camera cleverly fashioned from a single block of aluminium. It’s available in a choice of three finishes: sensible black, striking silver (the version we were sent for review) or – classy titanium, further distinguished via beveled edge detail to the top and bottom plates. Even the box the camera arrives in plays like a bit of theatre; it unfolds like a cake box; a present that unwraps itself.

At a manufacturer’s recommended £1450, the ‘TL’, claimed to be a step on from the Leica T, is actually one of the less expensive Leica’s you can buy, despite its luxurious presentation. It’s comparable in terms of ticket price with the mirror-less camera alternatives of Sony’s A6500, Fuji’s XPro2 and Olympus’ OM-D E-M1 Mark II. Options for various coloured straps at £70, plus accessories, including leather body protectors at £105 each, do however suggest that this is a camera being as much presented as a lifestyle statement as it is a photographic tool.

It’s not all rich man’s plaything however: the camera is naturally a component of a photographic system, being directly compatible at the time of writing with six ‘TL’ lenses; three prime lenses and three zooms, as well as ‘SL’ optics thanks to shared L bayonet mount. Leica says that via adapter it’s further compatible with its M and R series lenses. So there is no need to worry that investing in a Leica TL is going to leave us short of capable accessory options.

At the Leica TL’s core is an APS-C CMOS sensor, rather than full frame chip, but given the competitors in its price bracket that’s fair – not everyone needs a full frame sensor. Unusually for a dedicated camera these days, and doubtless with a nod to the large internal memories of smartphones and tablets, the camera sports a large-ish 32GB internal memory – with Leica claiming sufficient space for 1000 shots.

Perhaps also indicating that its manufacturer expects the audience for this camera to be photographers upgrading from their smartphones, a larger than average 3.7-inch touch screen is provided. Naturally the camera is also Wi-Fi equipped and a free Leica TL app for both iOS and Android camera users was available on release, allowing the smartphone or tablet to be used as a remote control/alternative viewfinder for the camera. Though the camera is obviously thicker in depth than a standard smartphone, it is however roughly the same width and height. Official dimensions are 134x69x33mm and it weighs 384g.

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Front of the Leica TL

Photography reduced to the essentials is the pitch here. So overall the Leica TL has a very minimalist, uncluttered appearance, thanks to said touchscreen and the fact that with the exception of the raised on and off switch – which doubles as a means of activating the pop-up flash and incorporates the shutter release button at its centre – all other controls are either set into the top plate, or are of the virtual variety, accessed via touch screen.

What is most obviously missing here – and which may be a deal breaker for some – is a built in eye-level viewfinder, something its competitors in this price bracket most definitely offer. An accessory ‘Visoflex’ viewfinder is, however, available in black, featuring both a built-in eye sensor and tilt and swivel functionality for those who do prefer to shoot with the camera held up to their eye, rather than held out in front of them like a smartphone. Exclusively designed for the T system, this will set you back £360 alone. However it does also feature a built in GPS option as an added bonus.

In terms of accessories, Leica provided a compact 23mm f/1.2 fixed lens with our review sample, along with a slightly more versatile – but still relatively compact – 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6mm zoom. We were able to fit it into the pocket of a winter jacket with relatively compact 23mm lens attached.

So, let’s examine the Leica TL’s features and functionality. From the front, then, our silver review sample looks slick enough to prompt ‘wows’ from those in the photo trade we showed it to, the familiar Leica red logo the most prominent feature here, save for the lens mount and small window positioned top right which houses its AF assist lamp.

What passes for a grip (it’s actually more of an undulation to the body) is smooth to the touch – here we’re basically trying to get a firm hold on a piece of polished metal – though at least there’s enough space provided to wrap four fingers around its gently curved frontage. In practice, though, we found ourselves steadying this chunk of metal with both hands to take a shot, with not exactly much real estate to get a firm purchase on over at the other side of the camera either. Overall the experience left us longing for a padded handgrip and thumb rest, if, admittedly, the inclusion of either would of course ‘spoil’ the camera’s feature-lite visual aesthetic. Design wise we guess the Leica TL is a bit of a ‘marmite’ product; it will immediately appeal thanks to its intentional minimalism, or it won’t, and a more traditional control layout and camera design will be sought out instead. We found ourselves admitting it, without outright loving it.

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Rear of the Leica TL

The Leica TL’s ports – including a single slot for optional SD/SDHC card – are protected via a thin plastic flap that forms the right hand back edge of the camera, and is lifted via application of your thumbnail. Whilst it is easy enough to slot in a SD card of any variety, we found it trickier to retrieve it, as there is not much real estate into which you can squeeze the necessary finger and thumb to grip the card as it emerges. The other flank of the camera features a built-in speaker, with the stereo microphones via which its Full HD video clips capture sound being located either side of the vacant hotshoe on the camera’s top plate. Here we also find the integral flash, sunk and therefore ‘hidden’ when not in use, but raised via a turn of its on/off power switch to arrive at the flash logo setting. At this point the spring-loaded bulb pops up ready for action, its settings selected and implemented via touch screen. It’s another bit of visual theatre that admittedly looks damn cool.

Located just behind the power switch/shutter release button are two identically sized control/command wheels – or ‘click wheels’ as Leica refers to them – that look like they might also pop up if given a firm press, but in fact remain level with the top plate, the ridged edges accessible via the back of the camera only. Said edges are easily accessed and turned via the thumb, enabling the user to scroll through menu options and settings, otherwise selected via a swipe or tap of the finger directly on the screen; so pretty much everything apart from turning the camera on or raising the camera flash can be controlled via the LCD rather than physical buttons.

Just in front of these two top-plate dials, and to the right of the shutter release button/power switch (if viewing the Leica TL from the back), is a dedicated video record button – its use self explanatory due to the familiar red dot in the centre of the button itself. Hit this and the rear screen immediately changes ratio to show a wide screen view as recording commences – with best quality recording at 1920x1080 pixels and up to 30fps. No sign of 4K here yet.

The Leica TL is commendably lightning quick to power up however; flick the power switch to on and we’re up and running as fast as we’d expect to be if using a pro DSLR instead – i.e blink and you’ll miss it quick. Half squeeze the shutter release button and auto focus is not quite as rapid for busier scenes however, the screen before our eyes visibly adjusting, the small square focus indicator changing from turquoise or red to green to let us know focus has been determined. Still, the screen is impressively clear and life-like in its relay of colour and detail and after a while we started forgetting that we missed an eye level viewfinder. In its absence you simply get on with it.

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Top of the Leica TL

So far, so intuitive, but start to use the Leica TL in earnest and one notices that not only are we missing a built-in eye level viewfinder, we’re also missing a dedicated physical playback button for reviewing our captures at a single control press.

We had to delve into the Leica TL’s set up Menu and select the ‘Auto Review’ option before we could review our just-captured images; here we can select the duration that the images are displayed before they disappear from view. A brisk downward or upward swipe of the finger lets us look at pre-captured images, which is simple enough, though it does feel a bit disconcerting to be missing a physical button to enable review of our stills or video. At first the TL also appears to be missing any eyelets for attaching a strap or any sort, until a read of the manual reveals what we’d at first thought to be covered screws on each flank of the camera are in fact recessed and therefore hidden eyelets, retrieved with the aid of metal pins provided in the box – of the type you would use for retrieving your SIM or memory card from your smartphone. All very 21st century. At times, the camera’s intended minimalism and concessions to style do seem to make for an unnecessarily fiddly user experience, but at least the touch screen is rapidly responsive to each selection and easy and intuitive enough to navigate.

For example, top right on the menu bar – as viewed on screen – is a selection of shooting modes. As expected these include the familiar Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual priority and a fifth option – being a smattering of scene modes, which illuminate in red as you touch upon them. Here we find a fully Auto shooting option, along with presets for shooting sports, portraits, landscapes, night portraits, snow/beach scenes, fireworks, candlelight, sunset and, most unusually, a digi-scoping preset.

The rear screen, which features its own built-in brightness sensor, also naturally provides access to the Leica TL’s set up modes. Here we’re provided with a grid-like array of virtual buttons, each large enough to respond to a finger or thumb press without the user accidentally selecting the adjacent control. Viewed from top left of screen to button right, the first virtual button provides access to light sensitivity settings including auto and otherwise running from a manually selectable ISO100 to ISO12600, which is plentiful. Next up is a selection of white balance settings including user-definable options, whilst exposure compensation is likewise accessed via the LCD, here offering a standard +/-3EV gamut. In terms of shooting file formats – well this feature gets its own button too. User selections include Fine or Super Fine JPEG settings, plus JPEG + DNG files combined, again in either Fine or Super Fine mode. The advantage of DNG files over standard Raw format being that they can be opened in just about any software and quickly too; we were able to use the built in Adobe Preview software that came with our iMac.

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The Leica TL In-hand

In terms of the on-screen menu, user-selectable resolution is up next, ranging from 1.8 megapixels if you really get caught short of memory, up to the full 16-megapixel capture. The adjacent button is for the flash modes; incidentally, even if you’ve raised the flash, if you want to force it to fire you’ll have to delve into this menu. The other option is just to leave it on full auto setting, which is the default. There are also either forced/fill-in flash and red eye reduction settings and auto/red eye reduction settings combined, plus slow sync and slow sync and red eye combined. Self-timer settings, Wi-Fi activation, and adjustments to focus mode can be made via the subsequent three buttons on the back screen. Auto focus wise we get a choice of AF continuous, single shot or manual focus. The latter can be an option if you find the AF momentarily confused by busy scenes. Drive mode can also be controlled here – with the choice of either single shot or continuous capture – plus the monitor brightness and colour adjusted.

The options don’t end here however. The last button on the screen is a ‘+’ mark. Press this and you can add other options to the screen menu, including metering – Spot, Multi Field Metering or Centre Weighted options – and access the likes of video resolution (choose from 720P or default 1080P). In fact, the more you play the more you find – including a familiar nine zone compositional grid overlay and a live histogram. Whilst Fuji has its film simulation modes on its cameras, ape-ing the likes of Velvia if you're looking for a well-saturated image, Leica has similar here and has termed them ‘Film’ modes. The regular default option is Standard, whilst we also unsurprisingly get Vivid, Natural, B&W Natural, plus B&W High Contrast. Sub options here also include the ability to adjust Contrast, Sharpness and Saturation for each.

A mains charger for the lithium-ion battery provided is included out of the box, though the battery can also be replenished if left in the Leica TL via aid of a USB lead. To retrieve the battery, the battery release catch/lever at the base of the camera has to first be turned/thrown, at which point the ‘head’ of the battery pops up. At first we were puzzled as subsequently grasping this with finger and thumb and trying to retrieve it proved fruitless; there was a degree of resistance from the camera that we didn’t want to force. After a little head scratching it emerged that a press down on the partially emerged battery prompts it to spring out fully, and we were then able to slot it into the provided charger/ mains plug. Battery life is a respectable 400 images, or 160 minutes of video. Likewise at the base of the camera, centrally located, we also find a familiar screw thread for the tripod – some features obviously being sacred.

So far, so good. While there are various quirks, as outlined above, that we found a little disconcerting when comparing the Leica TL to a more traditional camera – ultimately it feels as though it sits between the twin stools of smartphone and dedicated compact in terms of the functionality being pared back and built around the LCD screen – it is nevertheless usable, swift and responsive. So, at the end of the day, you don’t really have to concern yourself too much with how to achieve something; it just does it, leaving you free to concentrate on your subject. Talking of subject, how does the Leica TL fare when it comes to image quality? Read on to find out!

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 16 megapixel Superfine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 6Mb.

Shooting across the dullest of January days, our super bright f/1.2 23mm lens would seemingly be perfect – yet even with the grey clouds over-head or completely featureless skies, we never dared to set the camera anything above ISO100 for risk of the image winding up over exposed. Even then we found ourselves wanting a bit more contrast and visual ‘bite’ to our images when shooting in default ‘Standard’ – something the photographer can always add later of course, or simply choose the ‘Vivid’ option from the Leica TL’s on-screen ‘Film’ modes.

Conversely, if we dialed things down to end up with an image that was slightly underexposed, an application of Levels showed that the file retained plenty of detail. We were less impressed with instances of purple fringing being visible where the dark branches of a tree met featureless skies, for example, if in fairness this is a common complaint of consumer digital cameras, albeit ones that usually cost les than £1500. Colours also benefitted from saturation being increased once the shots had been downloaded and viewed on a desktop to give them added punch and ‘pep’ – although again the information is there in the original image to allow us to have a bit of a play later. Colours straight from the camera appeared, to our eyes, more muted and dull than the original scene. You can of course simply select the built in ‘Vivid’ colour option if realising this at the time.

In terms of low light shooting, image noise/grit doesn’t visibly start intruding until ISO3200, and only upon close inspection. At ISO6400 we’re losing edge detail and at top whack ISO12500 the image is distinctly sandy looking across the whole of the image. We’d expect a DSLR in this price bracket to give us a slightly better performance, but then we are talking about the APS-C sensor being twinned with a physically larger piece of glass in the case of said DSLR.


There are 8 ISO settings available on the Leica TL. 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)

iso12800.jpg iso12800raw.jpg


The flash settings on the Leica TL are Auto, Auto+Red-eye reduction, Forced on, Forced on+Red-eye, Slow Sync., Slow Sync.+Red-eye reduction, and Studio first curtain. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off

Flash On

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are a couple of portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Auto setting or the Red Eye Fix option caused any amount of red-eye.

Flash On


Red Eye



The Leica TL's maximum shutter speed is 30 seconds in the Manual mode, which is great news if you're seriously interested in night photography.



Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Leica TL camera, which were all taken using the 16 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 TL 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 Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 22 second movie is 40.3Mb in size.

Product Images

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Front of the Leica TL

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Front of the Leica TL / Pop-up Flash

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Side of the Leica TL

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Side of the Leica TL

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Rear of the Leica TL

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Rear of the Leica TL

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Top of the Leica TL

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Bottom of the Leica TL

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Side of the Leica TL


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Side of the Leica TL

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Front of the Leica TL
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Memory Card Slot
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Battery Compartment


One of the more affordable and usable Leica cameras on the market, the Leica TL looks great if you’re into a minimalist finish and a lack of visible buttons – its paucity of physical controls thanks in part to the intuitive operation and size (at a large 3.7-inches) of the provided touchscreen. 

We missed a couple of more traditional features straight off the bat however; namely an eye level viewfinder (though one can be bought as an accessory for an extra £360), along with a dedicated image review button. Yes, finding/retrieving your images is simple enough once you’ve figured out that an upward or downward swipe of your finger across the LCD screen in front of you is all that is necessary to retrieve shots, but it feels more like a feature of a smartphone than a dedicated digital camera. 

The Leica TL therefore most obviously sits between two potential audiences: that of smartphone users seeking to upgrade to a dedicated camera that looks as cool as their iPhone does, and then the dedicated photo enthusiast/camera junkie, who doesn’t baulk at the thought of spending £1500 or thereabouts on a compact camera – albeit one with a ‘proper’ APS-C sized sensor and the ability to change the lenses in use. Since that is pretty much where the photographic market is at the moment, Leica could well have a hit on its hands.

4 stars

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

Main Rivals

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

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-Pro2

The new Fujifilm X-Pro2 is an exciting flagship premium compact system camera. The weather-proof X-Pro2 offers a brand new 24 megapixel sensor that's claimed to rival full-frame DSLRs, an improved hybrid viewfinder, faster processor and AF system, and a host of other improvements. Read our Fujifilm X-Pro2 review to find out if it can live up to its early promise...

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...

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...

Olympus PEN-F

The new Olympus PEN-F is a new premium compact system camera boasting a gorgeous retro design and some pro-level features, including a new 20 megapixel sensor, 5-axis image stabilisation, 10fps burst shooting, vari-angle 3-inch LCD touchscreen, 4K time-lapse movies, an electronic shutter and built-in wi-fi. Priced at £999 / $1199 body-only, is the PEN-F all style and no substance? Read our in-depth Olympus PEN-F review to find out...

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 is a new premium compact system camera aimed firmly at enthusiast photographers. With a new 20 megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor, dual lens and in-body image stabilization, built-in tilting electronic OLED viewfinder, 3 inch free-angle OLED touchscreen, 4K video and photo modes, integrated wi-fi and NFC connectivity, and a weather-proof rangefinder-like design, can the Panasonic GX8 live up to its early promise? Read our in-depth Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 review complete with sample images, test shots, videos and more to find out...

Sony A6300

The Sony A6300 is a new high-end compact system camera that features the fastest auto-focusing system in the world and the highest number of AF points. With a 24.2 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, 4K movie recording, high-res 3-inch tilting LCD screen, electronic viewfinder and built-in flash, the Sony NEX-6 also offers 11fps burst shooting, wi-fi and NFC connectivity, and downloadable PlayMemories Camera Apps. Read our in-depth Sony A6300 review to find out if it's the best Sony APS-C camera yet...


Lens Connection Leica L bayonet fitting with contact strip for communication between lens and cameras
Lens System Leica TL lenses and Leica M lenses using Leica M Adapter L
Sensor CMOS sensor, size APS-C (23.6 x 15.7 mm) with 16.5/16.3 million pixels (total/effective), format aspect ratio 3:2
Resolution JPEG:4928 x 3264 (16 megapixels), 4272 x 2856 (12.2 megapixels), 3264 x 2160 (7 megapixels), 2144 x 1424 (3 megapixels), 1632 x 1080 (1.8 megapixels), DNG: 4944 x 3278 pixels
Picture data file formats / compression rates Selectable: JPG Superfine, JPG Fine, DNG + JPG Superfine, DNG + JPG Fine


Video Recording Format MP4
Video resolution / frame rate Selectable: 1920 x 1080 p, 30 fps or 1280 x 720 p, 30 fps
Storage media 32 GB internal memory; SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards, multimedia cards
ISO range Automatic, ISO 100 to ISO 12500
White balance Automatic, presets for daylight, cloud, halogen lighting, shadow, electronic flash, two manual settings, manual color temperature setting
Autofocus system Contrast based
Autofocus metering methods Single point, multiple point, spot, face detection, touch AF
Exposure modes Automatic program, aperture priority, shutter speed priority, manual setting, scene exposure modes: Fully automatic, sport, portrait, landscape, night portrait, snow/beach, fireworks, candlelight, sunset
Exposure metering Multiple field, center weighted, spot
Exposure compensation ±3 EV in 1/3 EV increments

Automatic bracketing

Three pictures in graduations up to ±3 EV, adjustable in 1/3 EV increments
Shutter speed range 30 s to 1/4000 s
Picture series Approx. 5 FPS, 12 pictures with constant picture frequency, then depending on memory card properties
Flash modes Automatic, automatic / red eye reduction, always on, always on / red eye reduction, slow sync, slow sync / red eye reduction
Flash exposure compensation ±3 EV in 1/3 EV increments
Flash synchronization Sync time: 1 / 180 s

Guide number of built-in flash unit

for ISO 100

Recovery time of built-in flash unit Approx. 5 s with fully charged battery
Monitor 3.7’ TFT LCD, 1.3 million pixels, 854 x 480 per color channel
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, access method: Infrastructure operation
Power supply Leica BP-DC 13 lithium ion battery, rated voltage 7.2 V, capacity 985 mAh (based on CIPA standard); approx. 400 pictures, charging time (after total discharge); approx. 160 min
Connections Micro USB port (2.0 High Speed), Leica flash interface with integrated connection for optional accessories; battery charging via USB connection with possible with max. 1A
Charger Leica BC-DC13, input: AC 100-240V, 50/60Hz, automatic reversing, Output: DC 8, 4V 0, 65A, Weight: approx. 90g, Dimensions: approx. 96 X 68 X 28 mm
Body Leica unibody solid aluminum design, two removable dummy plugs for carrying strap and other accessories, ISO flash shoe with center and control contacts for connection of more powerful external flash units, or for attaching the Leica Visoflex electronic viewfinder
Tripod thread A 1/4 DIN 4503 91/4”)
Dimensions 134 x 69 x 33 mm
Weight Approx. 384 g / 339 g (with / without battery
Items supplied Camera body, carrying strap, 2 carrying strap release pins for detaching the carrying strap, battery (Leica DP-DC13), charger (Leica BC-DC13) with 6 adapter plugs, USB cable
Software Leica App (free download remote control and picture transfer in Apple™ App Store™/Google™ Play Store™).
Warranty 2 years

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