Leica announces CL system camera with built-in viewfinder
This afternoon Leica has introduced a new APS-C system camera, based on the L mount, and borrowing the designation of the much-loved 1970s compact film camera, the CL. It follows closely on the introduction of the TL2 but adopts a more traditional approach to body and controls. For the first time on a Leica crop-frame system camera, the SL has a built-in viewfinder. It has the same sensor and processor as the TL2 and results should be similar.
The body is compact, looking similar to the old X1 but actually much more like the X and X Vario in size. It has a three-button back, similar to the M10 and the menu system is largely the same as the M10 from first impressions. A unique feature is the small LED status indicator panel between the two control dials. While very small, it provides information at a glance. Apart from the SL and last-week's Panasonic Lumix G9, it is the only mirrorless camera with this DSLR-style display.
The 2.36MP viewfinder has a greater degree of eye relief than the Q and is said to be more suitable for glasses wearers. One expert I spoke to said that it was very similar to the viewfinder in the Q, although of lower resolution. The 4.4MP finder on the SL remains the benchmark.
It is difficult to overestimate the impact this new camera will have on the Leica brand. Without question, the lack of a built-in finder has held back sales of the T and TL. There was widespread disappointment when the TL2, worthy as it is and aimed at a different market as it is, turned out to be no more than an upgrade to the existing product.
It's worth mentioning a few minor details which I gleaned at this morning's press conference. First, there are no ports on the CL, therefore no in-camera charging as on the TL2. That's disappointing for me. There is no in-body stabilisation and, of course, none of he TL lenses have stabilisation. However, it is encouraging that the CL uses the same battery as the Q and V Lux. In an era when every camera body seems to have a different battery configuration, it's good to have this conformity.
Fuji in sights
While Leica has been producing a long list of X and T cameras, including the X1 and X2, the X and the X Vario — and, of course, the three T models — without internal viewfinders, the opposition has been making hay. Many of my friends have moved over to the Fuji X system for their crop-frame fix, largely because of the viewfinder issue. While most of them still stay loyal to the M rangefinder, there is no doubt that Leica’s APS-C business was haemorrhaging. With luck, the arrival of the CL will stop that bleed. I am sure that Leica fans will now think twice before moving to Fuji or Sony. Indeed, some of the departed could well return to the fold.
The CL body will cost £2,250 including VAT. It also comes in kit form with the new 18mm f/2.8 Elmarit at £3,150 or £3,275 with the 18-56mm zoom. These prices are as I expected (the CL body is £160 more than the combined price of the TL2 and the Visoflex viewfinder).
We have much more to come on the CL, including a full review by Jonathan Slack who has had a prototype in his hands for several months. In the meantime, I have no doubt that this will be a turning point for Leica.
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LEICA PRESS RELEASE IN FULL
Free for release after: 21 November 2017 at 3 p.m. (CET)
A new camera expands the Leica APS-C System:
the Leica CL unites innovative technologies, extremely easy handling and iconic compact design in a perfect balance.
Wetzlar, 21 November 2017. Leica Camera AG has expanded its APS-C System product portfolio with a new camera that unites innovative technologies, extremely easy handling and iconic design: the Leica CL. Its ideal balance between state-of-the-art technology, mechanical precision and compact construction makes it the perfect everyday companion – especially for spontaneous and discreet pictures.
The Leica APS-C System now offers two camera models made in Germany – the Leica CL and the Leica TL2. In technical terms, they are equals, but their design and handling concepts could hardly be more different: reflecting the traditions of Leica in the form of the iconic Leica CL and, in contrast, the futuristic look of the Leica TL2. Together with the extensive portfolio of TL-Lenses, they create a system that makes it possible to experience a special kind of photography.
One of the outstanding features of the Leica CL is its electronic viewfinder with EyeRes technology developed by Leica especially for this camera. With a latency time below the threshold of perception and a resolution of 2.36 million pixels, the EyeRes® viewfinder offers an impressive viewing experience and numerous advantages: As the final image is visible in the viewfinder before the shutter release is pressed, users have complete control over the composition of their subjects.
In combination with the high-resolution, 24 MP, APS-C format sensor of the Leica CL, a Maestro II series processor and fast autofocus with 49 metering points guarantee maximum
picture quality in all photographic situations. The Leica CL is not only an impressive still picture camera, but this also applies to moving pictures captured with its video function at a resolution of up to 4K at 30 frames per second.
The Leica CL is also equipped with an integrated Wi-Fi module. Pictures and videos can be sent by wireless connection to smartphones, tablets or computers and quickly and easily shared by email or on social networks with the Leica CL App for iOS or Android. In addition to this, the remote function of the app allows mobile devices to be used as an off- camera viewfinder or to alter exposure parameters – for example when shooting with the self-timer function or from unusual angles.
The Leica CL establishes the unmistakeable simplicity of iconic Leica design in the compact system camera class. In every respect, this compact camera is an ideal companion with a user-friendly handling concept that makes it an intuitive tool. All essential controls are located on its top plate. In addition to the electronic viewfinder, there are two dials for setting the aperture, shutter speed ISO value, and exposure compensation. Everything is so conveniently located that photographs can be made without taking the camera from the eye. An additional display on the top plate instantly provides information about all relevant settings and exposure parameters. Together with the perfectly defined release pressure point, this ensures that users have absolute control over every picture they take with the Leica CL.
The extensive portfolio of TL-Lenses is also available to the Leica CL. The lenses offer superior imaging performance and are responsible for the exceptionally high picture quality delivered by the Leica APS-C System. The portfolio of compact and fast lenses with focal lengths from 17 to 200 mm offers infinite opportunities for all kinds of creative photography. The elegant simplicity of the design of the three zooms – the Super-Vario- Elmar-TL 1:3.5–4.5/11–23 ASPH., Vario-Elmar-TL 1:3.5–5.6/18–56 ASPH. and the APO- Vario-Elmar-TL 1:3.5–4.5/55–135 ASPH. – and four prime lenses – the Elmarit-TL 1:2.8/18 ASPH., Summicron-TL 1:2/23 ASPH., Summilux-TL 1:1.4/35 ASPH. and the APO-Macro-Elmarit-TL 1:2.8/60 ASPH. – perfectly complement the Leica CL, not only in terms of technology, but also in looks.
Developed by optical engineering specialists in Wetzlar, the Leica TL-Lenses all offer the
exceptional imaging performance for which Leica lenses are famed. The combination of optical and precision engineering expertise and the use of finest materials in their construction ensures their constant quality and reliability in use.
Thanks to the L-Bayonet mount shared by the Leica TL- and SL-Systems, SL-Lenses can also be used without an adapter on the CL and the TL2. Appropriate adapters are also available for using Leica M- and R-Lenses on the cameras.
An extensive range of technical- and style-accessories ideally complements the APS-C System.
The black version of the Leica CL will be available from the end of November.