Leica CL Review (13 Reasons why I prefer it!)
(Leica CL review vs Leica M240)
Qu. Ever wondered how the Leica CL compares to a Leica M240?
>> In this article I review both cameras during a wedding and list 13 reasons why you might prefer a Leica CL
Intro – Buying the Leica CL camera
I have had my new digital Leica CL camera for just over a week now so I am back with more Leica CL facts and thoughts. I bought the CL in a hurry to receive it in time for a Leica wedding photography booking yesterday. Adam and Becky’s wedding at South Farm, Royston (UK) had been 3 years in the planning with me in contact with them throughout. I think this lead to me being more excited than ever to try to produce some of my best wedding photos to date. (When a couple cares as much as I do about creating the best possible photos they always exceed results when it is only me interested. It is a team effort!) I hoped the Leica CL camera purchase would help me in my quest for raising the bar (wedding photography wise).
The Test – Leica wedding photography
For anyone who has never photographed a wedding, a wedding gives an environment to see the best and worst of any camera and lens. Equipment needs to work and jump when you shout jump. If not you don’t take it to a wedding. Simple. Over the years I have learnt and now try to pack only my best/ most reliable cameras and photography gear.
I did a lot of testing ahead of yesterday’s wedding (well a weeks worth!) so was confident the Leica CL camera was up to the job. I took my Leica M240 camera as a second body so I felt I had the wedding covered between the two Leica bodies.
Showtime! Leica CL vs Leica M240 Wedding
So which camera did I use the most for the wedding?
I expected to use the Leica CL maybe 10-20% maximum for a few 18mm wide shots and a few macro photos. I then expected to use the tried and tested Leica M240 camera for everything else. It didn’t pan out like that. I shot 80% of the wedding photos with the Leica CL! Using both cameras in the heat of the moment I soon appreciated what each camera could offer. Driving back at midnight I was trying to summarise the Leica CL vs Leica M240. While it is fresh in my mind a made a simple list, Leica CL vs Leica M240.
Results – 13 Reasons Why I prefer the Leica CL!
1. Lightweight Leica camera (super light!)
With the Leica CL 18mm Leica Elmarit-TL lens attached you can wear the CL around you neck all day and forget it is there. It is that lightweight.
2. Smaller and more compact than any Leica M
The Leica CL with the 18mm Leica Elmarit-TL f2.8 lens attached is tiny! If like me you are juggling cameras in the thick of the wedding action it is easy to slip the Leica CL into a large jacket pocket or top of a small camera bag to free up your neck/ hands.
3. Leica macro/ close up work! (not the usual 0.7m limit)
Macro photography was my first love when I first got into photography and I often miss it using a Leica M 240 rangefinder. The Leica CL with Leica M lenses attached let me give the wedding couple macro photos that have been absent in my wedding photography work for quite a while. I loved capturing the smaller details with a very shallow depth of field).
4. Through the lens view (not a rangefinder)
If you are not a Leica photographer what you may not realise is us rangefinder shooters focus and compose our photos without looking through the lens. Mad right!
We use a window in the top left of a Leica M camera body (other rangefinder like my Mamiya 7, 6, Fuji GF670.. etc). A rangefinder window is normally great unless you leave the lens cap on as you will not know you are not capturing photos especially if using a film camera. At least on modern cameras the photo preview normally appears on the camera rear LCD display.
The practical reason I list this is if like me you enjoy shooting through something, say vegetation (leaves of a tree) at a subject behind you can’t tell if a leaf is over the lens (unless one big leaf is over the rangefinder window and the lens!) With models I may ask them to tell me if they can see the lens as that means it can see them but for a wedding when working quickly I normally avoid such photos with a Leica M camera (or guess it and take a few shots).
In my Nikon D800 time I loved this style of shoot though photography as with a DSLR what you see is what you get. With the Leica CL the EVF gives the same what you see is what you get view and that is perfect for this shoot through style.
5. EVF exposure preview (I love it!)
During a wedding having a visual interpretation of how bright or dark an image will look if I press the shutter with the current settings is a huge help (unless using flash then less so!). I got into a lazy habit with the M240 of guessing the exposure on the first shot and adjusting as needed for the second. With the Leica CL I made full use of the EVF exposure preview and really enjoyed this feature.
6. I can see in the dark!
The Leica CL EVF give an almost night vision goggles view in low light/ darkness that I am not used to. I could see people and details to focus on in the dark easier through the EVF than through the optical viewfinder of the Leica M240. A great new tool to have when needed.
7. No rangefinder coupling necessity (use any lens!)
Unlike the Leica M cameras which requires you to use rangefinder coupled lenses that focus via the optical rangefinder / viewfinder, the CL will accept any lens via an adapter. I really enjoyed using different Leica M lenses but I might try some none Leica M mount lenses too going forward. It means I am no longer limited by 0.7m closest focus distance of the Leica M cameras (*unless use close focus goggles).
8. No risk of rangefinder calibration issues (Stress free!)
Unlike the Leica M cameras which are often plagued by needing rangefinder adjustment (especially older Leica M film cameras that may have taken a few knocks over the years), the Leica CL is not. The Leica CL is not a rangefinder cameras as it has no optical viewfinder (only EVF). This means for very important events such as wedding photography there is no added worry that the camera was knocked during the chaos that is every wedding and photos were now capturing out of focus. I had this happen to me with a Leica M3 during a wedding and it was not until I received the photos that I saw the soft focus images.
(Luckily they were supplementary film photos to the digital Leica M photos I was taking on the day).
9. Higher ISO ability (similar to the Leica M10 & Leica SL)
I think to my eyes the Leica CL gives me 2 stops more useable low light ability verses the Leica M240. My M240 sensor can create banding on photos at ISO 3200 so I try to use it at ISo 1600 or below. The Leica CL seems OK at ISo 6400 which is great for a low light wedding photography which is so often the case.
10. Improved dynamic range (You will be impressed!)
I sometimes clip the highlights with my Leica M240 if rushing photos such as during a wedding (and moving from bright to dark and back to light situations). I didn’t lose a single photo with the Leica CL yesterday! The CL dynamic range is better than the Leica M240 and said to exceed that of a Nikon D4 and other pro level cameras. Don’t underestimate the little guy!
11. Telephoto lenses on a Leica (and can focus easily!)
Focusing a long lens like a Leica Elmar 135mm f4 lens wide open can be tricky with the Leica M240 due to the small rangefinder patch. With the Leica CL EVF every lens is now possible and easy. I shot much of the wedding with a Leica M Summicron 75mm f2 APO with ease.
12. Wide lenses on a Leica (no external viewfinders needed!)
With the Leica M240 viewfinder it only gives a view (framelines) up to 28mm wide. Anything wider and you need to use an external viewfinder or focus via the LCD. I tended to not use the LCD to focus and I use a 1.4x maginifer loop on the viewfinder so even 28mm is near impossible to see. The Leica CL EVF means I can compose and focus a photo with even the widest of lenses. The widest I have is the 15mm Voigtlander Super-Wide Heliar lens but on a crop body like the Leica CL it is not so wide.
13. Compose with new angles (up high, down low, no limits!)
Normally I use the Leica M240 optical viewfinder to focus/ compose 99% of my photos. With the Leica CL however I found I was happily switching between the EVF and rear LCD. I tend to use the EVF if using a Leica M manual lens (via adapter) and the LCD for the autofocus 18mm Leica TL lens. Using the LCD to focus meant I no longer need to have my eye pushed up against the camera. This opens so many new opportunities for creative camera angles – up high, down low.
I really enjoyed this CL feature during the wedding. (When I used the Leica M240 + a wide 21mm lens for wedding photos previously I often just preset a distance on the lens. I stopped down and guessed the composition and used the camera over my head / at waist level.(Hyperfocal distance style where you stop the lens down to higher f stop to give greater depth in focus).
..it’s not all one sided!
Results – 3 Reasons Why I prefer the Leica M240!
1. Battery Life (Big is best!)
The larger size and capacity of the Leica M240 battery means you get much more photos per battery charge. 500 photos approx for the M240 battery vs around 220 photos for the Leica CL battery. “Fat” Leica M240 cameras have their uses after all! (*The new slimmed down Leica M10 now comes with a smaller battery than the M240).
In real terms this means the Leica CL eats batteries during a wedding. I had 1 spare battery plus charger but for next years weddings I will buy an additions Leica CL battery. (*Luckily the Leica CL batteries seem to charge quick).
2. Shallow depth of field (DOF)(Full frame wins!)
The Leica CL APS-C system design gives a 1.5x crop factor vs the full frame M240. This means for portraits at a set distance of say 0.7m the Leica M240 will give a more shallow DOF. It is not a problem for me but you might prefer the M240 if you love your creamy bokeh photos!
3. Better Ergonomics (A handful can be nicer!)
After a 9hr wedding using the Leica CL my hand was starting to cramp by the first dance. Please note I was using larger Leica M lenses not the 18mm lens for much of the day. The wider Leica M 240 body seems slightly easier on the hand. I could buy the addition Leica CL hand grip which would probably ease this but i’ve spent enough money already! (If I flex my hand for 10 seconds I was good to go again!).
Debrief – Leica CL Review vs Leica M240
Apologises if I overlooked any blindingly obvious camera features in this Leica CL review. After the wedding yesterday and using the Leica CL vs Leica M240 this was my conclusion. The Leica CL and I are still in our honeymoon period so this CL review may need updating going forward. That said, many of the points listed are simply fact and no time will change that. Safe to say I like the little Leica CL so far and much more than I ever expected!
Wedding photos.. coming soon
*Sorry I didn’t have an example wedding photo for each point made. I have not gone through all of yesterdays weddings photos yet. In a follow up post I will share the final selection of Adam and Becky wedding photos. (Also on my todo list I also need to post lots of other Leica weddings from this year!)
..time to go and cook some lunch/dinner as it is 11pm! These cameras (and related activities) are addictive! 🙂
Tempted by the Leica CL? Treat yourself!
Leica CL related posts / In the pipeline
- New Leica CL Digital Review
- More Leica Wedding Photography – My wedding blog
- The slimline Leica M10 vs Leica M240 review
- Leica M240 vs Leica CL images compared – to follow
- Digital Leica CL + Leica M lenses – to follow
- New Leica CL + Leica TL lenses – to follow
- Adam & Becky’s Leica CL Wedding (full) – to follow
- Leica M 50mm Lenses Compared (11 Lens Tested!)(2018)
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