A compact camera with super powers

The Leica CL interchangeable-lens camera produces razor-sharp pictures and has a flawless electronic viewfinder

Leica CL, with Elmarit-TL 18mm f/2.8 lens, £3,150
Leica CL, with Elmarit-TL 18mm f/2.8 lens, £3,150 | Image: Hugh Threlfall

Leica continues to step up its output of new models without losing its highest-of-high-end quality and (for all but its sub-£1,000 diffusion range) the prestigious “made in Germany” tag. As owner of three Leicas (two vintage 35mm models and a modern Q) I am always a bit nervous of new launches in case they are so irresistible I find myself needing to rearrange my Leica arsenal, with the substantial shelling out that would inevitably require.

The new Leica CL is a compact interchangeable lens camera that would be causing me such anxiety if I did not do almost all my photography with a 28mm wide-angle – the lens permanently fitted to my Q. With the tiny “pancake” 28mm lens I used to try out the CL, it is smaller and lighter than my already compact Q. However, the CL is not a “full frame” camera like the Q, which is to say its sensor is a little smaller than a 35mm negative, so an expert eye might spot that the photos are one notch below ideal. Full confession, though: I can’t tell the difference. The CL’s results for me were every inch Leica – razor-sharp and natural-looking.

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Other things I love about the CL: the electronic viewfinder is extraordinary – I couldn’t make out any pixels. In traditional Leicas, with an independent optical finder, the image is both quite poor and not wholly accurate; on digital cameras with an EVF, it’s usually a pixel minestrone. With the Leica CL, it’s like a real-life view. 

The CL is a proud and proper Leica in a handsome and practical form. There are cheaper cameras that are theoretically as good, but if you’re anything like me, the pride of ownership and technical satisfaction of shooting with a Leica will make you a 10-15 per cent better photographer almost before you’ve depressed the shutter button.

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