Leica CL Lockdown: It's all or nothing in the latest firmware update
On Friday I was praising Leica for the CL firmware upgrade which enabled button locking. As readers know, it’s something I’ve been campaigning about since the launch of the camera last November. To reprise the problem, the four-way button pad is too easily nudged — in my case by the ball of my right thumb — and moves the focus point around the screen. Since I like to fix the focus in the centre and then use the focus-and-recompose method, this wayward focus point makes the camera very frustrating to use. It's one of the main reasons I haven't used my CL as much as I would have liked.
It was the same when the SL launched two years before. The new joystick was nearly as vulnerable as the four-way pad on the CL. It was impossible to keep the focus point locked in the centre. Then, in April this year, the SL 3.3 firmware permitted disabling of the joystick. This was exactly what many of us had been asking for since 2015. At that time, the CL still had the annoyingly sensitive and vulnerable four-way pad.
So I was delighted to learn on Friday that Leica had acted and introduced a button-lock feature. What I didn’t understand at the time was that the “improvement” locks all the buttons, including Play, Fn, Menu, the two adjustment dials and the four-way pad. It’s complete lockdown and all for no apparent reason.
Far from solving our problem, the new firmware just makes matters worse. With lock enabled, the camera becomes a simple point-and-shoot device. It lacks the ability to change aperture, speed or exposure compensation. It also prevents access to the Favourites Menu and makes it impossible to review a picture.
What madness is this? It seems to me like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. I wish someone at Leica would enlighten us. Just why is this total lockdown a good idea?
Readers were quick to point out the problem. Keith summed up the situation: “(the update) appears to lock the CL into a point-and-shoot mode with no user input possible. In my quick testing, it adjusted either the shutter speed or the Auto ISO to get the right exposure, with the aperture fixed to the value set on entering lock mode. It behaved like this for P, A, S and Auto. For M it seemed to lock both aperture and shutter speed and change the ISO when possible.”
My old friend Don Morley, one of the most experienced professional photographers I know, was even more critical. He has been a great fan of the TL and is now a CL user. As he acknowledges, “The results from a CL with any of the T, TL, CL lenses are potentially stunning if the photographer gets it right, but Leica seem determined to make getting it right needlessly harder”
He continues, “in my view at least, the latest firmware, far from improving matters. has created THE most frustrating camera I have ever used. It is even more frustrating than it already was. Come on Leica what are you playing at?“
Today I took the CL out for a spin and tried the lockdown. I can tell you that I agree entirely with Don. This is the most ridiculous “improvement” I have ever encountered from Leica. As Hank of Beckmeyer Photographs ponders: “One wonders if the software people ever use these cameras.”
Despite the excellent results from the CL — it is a fantastic camera once set up correctly — I have been discouraged from using mine in the past three months because of the problem with the errant focus point. I thought that Leica had listened and enabled a lockdown of the four-way pad — that is all that was necessary. If they had done just that I would have been satisfied. But no, they have solved one problem by creating an even bigger one.
It seems to me that there are now two options. The first is to revise the all-button lock feature so that it works only on the four-way pad outer buttons (the centre button is not a problem). The second is to add a button lock menu item so owners can customise which buttons are locked. Other manufacturers, including Fuji, have done this successfully. But the big question remains — just why does someone at Leica think it's a good idea to offer a total lock-down feature?
I would be interested to hear from readers if anyone thinks a total lockdown of all buttons and adjustments on the camera is in any way sensible? I don’t think so, but then I could be missing something. I hope that Leica will acknowledge this error and do something about it quickly. In the meantime, I am not encouraged to use the CL.
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