Friday, May 29, 2020


 By  José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Dr. Heinz-Georg Nordmann, member of the Leica Historica e.V and author of excellent articles in the legendary Vidom magazine, during the Photokina 2018 in Köln (Germany) holding in his hands a Leica CL Silver coupled to a tiny 8 elements in 6 groups (four of them aspherical) Elmarit-TL 18 mm f/2.8 ASPH (equivalent to a 27 mm lens in 35 mm format) and making up an exceedingly compact and light photographic gear optimized to shoot handheld, following the fundamental keynotes set forth by Oskar Barnack in Wetzlar (Germany) between 1931 and 1935 through the screwmount Leica rangefinder cameras with interchangeable lenses Leica 1 (Model C Standard Mount), Leica Standard (Model E), Leica II (Model D), Leica III (Model F) and Leica IIIA (Model G) before his death on January 16, 1936.
© jmse

One year and six months have elapsed since the introduction of the 24 megapixel APS-C format mirrorless Leica CL digital camera by Leica Camera AG in November 2017, and in spite of lacking any stabilization system and being far from the host of electronic functions and technological breakthroughs featured by many APS-C format mirrorless cameras manufactured by other respected brands, it has turned into the reference-class photographic tool in its product segment in terms of image quality, elegance of design, constructive standard, handling convenience and optomechanical quality of world-class lenses available for it.


It´s really amazing that after launching into market such stellar performing cameras like the medium format Leica S, the 24 x 36 mm format Leica SL mirrorless EVF and the 24 x 36 mm format Leica M10 rangefinder (also the pinnacles of their respective product scopes),

Maike Harberts, Product Manager of Leica APS-C Cameras and designer of the Leica CL. 
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Leica Camera AG had the ingenuity, insight and historical perspective to build
The sleek lines of the Leica CL are a relish to behold. It´s an exceedingly compact (131 x 78 x 45 mm) and light (403 g) mirrorless digital EVF camera, featuring a 23.6 x 15.7 mm APS-C sensor with a crop factor of 1.53, a surface area of 370.5 mm2 and aspect ratio 3:2. The elegant simplicity of design and minimalist product philosophy of this photographic tool are truly fascinating. Moreover, in spite of its exceedingly small dimensions and very low weight, this is a very solid camera. 
© Leica Camera AG

this exquisite and retro styled APS-C format mirrorless digital camera with such a high level of craftsmanship and conceptually harking back to Oskar Barnack´s keynote of tiny and exceedingly comfortable to use photographic camera shooting handheld in symbiosis with also petite and top-notch lenses matching the compactness of the body.

Because to all intents and purposes, though lacking a RF (it features an electronic viewfinder on top left of the camera back, so viewing for a photographer is similar to a classic analogue Leica rangefinder camera),

© Leica Camera AG

the Leica CL (Typ 7323) is a homage to the lineage of screwmount 24 x 36 mm format analogue Leica rangefinder cameras from second half of twenties, thirties, forties and fifties and also to their forefather, the Ur Leica from 1914, however incredible it may seem, already well within the digital era and at the end of the second decade of XXI Century.

To properly fathom this, it is important to grasp the paradigm change that digital era has meant to photography from an image quality viewpoint, to such an extent that current APS-C and Micro Four Thirds format digital cameras have occupied the place of 35 mm analogue format, while the present digital 24 x 36 mm format cameras yield an image quality comparable to analogue medium format cameras.

In addition, albeit rendering different visual aesthetics and bokeh, excellent medium format digital cameras like the Fujifilm GFX 50S, Fujifilm GFX 50R, Fujifilm GFX 100, Hasselblad X1D-50C, Hasselblad H6D-100C, Hasselblad H6D-400C, Pentax 645Z and others produce an image quality comparable to 4 x 5 (10 x 12 cm) analogue large format cameras, and the medium format digital Leica S3 delivers an image quality comparable to 5 x 7 (13 x 18 cm) format analogue large format cameras.
Oskar Barnack´s initial idea was to build a Ur Leica prototype camera loaded with 18 x 24 mm format cinematographic black and white film that he had been using throughout second half of 1911, 1912 and 1913

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with a metallic movie camera he had created and coupled to a Zeiss Kino Tessar lens to make a number of motion pictures tests with a constant exposure time of 1/40 s.

But The Genius realized that each individual 18 x 24 mm cinematographic frame could only be enlarged with good results on photographic paper up to approximately 13 x 18 cm, so utterly aware that it was necessary to get good quality enlargements up to 20 x 28 cm and even more for the success of his Leica Ur prototype, he opted for doubling its length up to 36 mm, giving birth to the 24 x 36 mm format with 2:3 golden proportion.

Id est, in 1914, even the best available cinematographic black and white 18 x 24 mm frames were too small to beget acceptable results beyond postcard size.

Even, the Leica 72 cameras (of the 150 units made at Leitz Midland, Ontario, Canada, taking 72 exposures instead of 36 on standard 35 mm film) which were tested by Walter Mandler (eminent lens designer) and Otto Geier (Supervisor of the Optic Department ) in mid fifties, could only yield acceptable results beyond 20 x 30 cm with ISO 32 Kodak Panatomic-X black and white film, whose very low sensitivity made it unpractical for a significant percentage of photographic contexts shooting handheld. 

But roughly sixty years later, the stunning digital technology has made possible to fulfill an old dream : the construction of very small and light photographic cameras boasting very little state-of-the-art APS-C digital sensors conceptually related to the 18 x 24 mm format cinematographic analogue standard, but now able to yield excellent 50 x 70 cm and even larger prints on photographic paper.


The pretty compact and light (131 x 78 x 45 mm and 403 g) Leica CL mirrorless digital camera

Cutaway of the Leica CL coupled to a Leica-TL 35 mm f/1.4 ASPH. The camera includes a mechanical shutter with maximum speed of 1/8000s and an electronic one reaching 1/25.000 s. In addition, it features a very fast and accurate contrast based AF, whose speed has significantly been improved with respect to the Leica TL. 
© Leica Camera AG

features a 2.36 megapixel superb integrated electronic viewfinder with 0.74x magnification and located on upper left corner of the body back, in the style of classical analogue Leica rangefinder cameras.

Leica CL back area, highly reminiscent of the M10, with the central touchscreen, only three buttons (PLAY, FN AND MENU) on the left and a four way switch on the right, with a middle button. The eyepiece of the exceedingly bright and clear electronic viewfinder is visible on top left. In the same way as happens with 24 x 36 mm format both analogue and digital rangefinder Leica cameras, that location of the EVF (unlike slr cameras featuring the VF on middle top of the rear zone, so the vision of the other eye and what happens outside the frame is blocked) enables the photographer to preserve the binocular nature of human being, so he/she can see what is taking place inside the frame and outside it, and understand much better that the world continues outside the frame. Though not reaching the stratopsheric level of the Leica SL electronic viewfinder, the German photographic firm has made a strenuous effort with the Leica CL EVF which is really first-class, with excellent colours and virtually imperceptible lag. 
© Leica Camera AG

In addition, it boasts a latency time below the threshold of perception and  has a diopter adjustment dial, while regarding filming capabilities, it yilrds 4K video at 30 fps and Full HD at 60 fps/30 fps.

© Leica Camera AG


Right off the bat, Leica knew that only achieving a second to none image quality in the APS-C segment stemming from the synergy between first-class AF primes and zoom lenses, a very good digital sensor and an exceedingly fast and accurate dsp would it be able to be successful with the Leica CL mirrorless camera in such a highly competitive domain as the APS-C sphere, where a lot of firms of the photographic market had already excellent cameras in 2017, particularly Fuji (with models like the Fujifilm X-Pro2, Fujifilm XT-2 and others) and Sony (Sony Alpha 5100, Sony Alpha 6000, Sony Alpha 6300, Sony Alpha 6500, Sony Alpha 6400, etc).

But aside from its tremendous optical know-how and experience, Leica Camera AG had a decisive advantage when it came to designing top class lenses for its Leica CL mirrorless APS-C format camera with built-in viewfinder:

© Leica Camera AG

the highly versatile and efficient large size bayonet L Mount with an inner diameter of 51.6 mm and an exceedingly short flange distance of only 20 mm.

This breakthrough L mount, the most important one in the history of Leica hitherto along with the M mount ( featuring an inner diameter of 44 mm and a flange distance of 27.80 mm, created by Hugo Wehrenfenning in Wetzlar in 1950, together with the first prototypes of Leica M lenses) offers some major advantages:

a) Its very large diameter enabling to couple both highly luminous lenses for 24 x 36 mm format (even f/0.95 and f/1.2) and objectives for APS-C one.

b) The exceedingly sturdy build, with four flange segments guaranteeing an excellent stability and coupling tightness between camera and lenses.

c) The very short flange distance of 20 mm, which makes possible to use through adapter a myriad of lenses with different mounts and from various epochs, both AF and manual focusing ones, particularly the superb Leica M aspherical lenses.

d) The electronic contacts inside the L-Mount enabling an easy and fast communication between camera and lenses, as well as making possible a very quick autofocus and being prepared for future new functions, updatings and improvements.

Dietmar Stuible, designer of TL lenses for the Leica APS-C System. 
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Therefore, Leica created a wide range of TL lenses specifically designed and manufactured for the L Mount and its APS-C cameras.

Most of these gorgeous objectives like the Summicron-TL 23 mm f/2 ASPH (April 2014), the Vario-Elmar-TL 18-56 f/3.5-5.6 ASPH (April 2014), the Super-Vario-Elmar-TL 11-23 f/3.5-4.5 ASPH (January 2015), the Apo-Vario-Elmar-TL 55-135 mm f/3.5-4.5 ASPH (January 2015), the Summilux-TL 35 mm f/1.4 ASPH (March 2016) and the Apo-Macro-Elmarit-TL 60 mm f/2.8 ASPH (September of 2017) already existed before the launching into market of the Leica CL and were initially coupled to the also APS-C format Leica T (April 2014), Leica TL (November 2016) and Leica TL2 (July 2017).

With those superb primes and zooms for APS-C sensor and L-Mount, the Wetzlar based firm had paved the way for the introduction of the Leica CL boasting interchangeable lenses and an excellent electronic viewfinder, while the Elmarit-TL 18 mm f/2.8 ASPH (November 2017) appeared coupled to the camera at the moment of its presentation, setting up a new standard of compactness regarding camera body/lens combination.

© Leica Camera AG


The Leica APS-C System of cameras and lenses which began in 2014 with the introduction of the Leica T (winner of both the IF Gold Award in the Product Category and the Technical Image Press Association 2015 Awards for Best Design) was significantly boosted by Leica Camera AG in November 2017 with the presentation of the Leica CL mirrorless boasting a built-in EVF.

Definitely, the German photographic firm has strongly bet on this unique photographic system through the Leica CL, a very compact digital camera with interchangeable lenses, oozing remarkable beauty of design, minimalism concentrated on the essential things, solid build, an excellent electronic viewfinder, first-string construction with noble metals like in the top and bottom covers made of milled and anodized aluminium, along with front and rear magnesium shells, as well as being hugely convenient to use shooting hand and wrist.

And it has come up trumps making it a sales success, something truly praiseworthy, because the APS-C field is one of the most disputed arenas in the photographic market, with many great cameras made by different firms and yielding truly professional image quality, in addition to featuring oodles of cutting-edge electronic functions.

This unexpected success has been truly impressive, since the German photographic firm had previously three different systems of cameras and lenses being the world benchmarks in their respective categories:

a) The Leica S System of medium format cameras and AF lenses, with the S primes and S-Vario Zoom lenses designed by Peter Karbe ( currently the foremost optical designer in the world), the best objectives for MF ever made and delivering stratospheric image quality.

b) The digital Leica SL System made up by the Leica SL mirrorless EVF digital camera and its Leica SL lenses and zooms, the best ones ever made for 24 x 36 mm format, designed by Dietmar Stuible, with overall supervision of Peter Karbe and some insight by Sigrun Kammans, also yielding stratospheric image quality, even the zooms.

Suffice it to say that the Apo-Vario-Elmarit-SL 90-280 mm f/2.8-4 zoom renders an imaging performance approaching very much the manual focusing Apo-Telyt-R 280 mm f/4, diffraction limited at f/5.6.

And this deserves great accolades from an optical and mechanical viewpoint, since the Leica SL primes and zooms include the autofocus module increasing very much the designing difficulties to get maximum image quality feasible while simultaneously keeping a not excessively big size and weight.

c) The digital Leica M System of 24 x 36 mm format rangefinder cameras and manual focusing M lenses, embodied by the Leica M10, Leica M10-P and Leica M Monochrom, a prodigy of compactness for its format, delivering exceptional image quality shooting handheld with available light, particularly in dim conditions, an environment for which it is optimized thanks to the very small size and weight of cameras and lenses enabling to very comfortably shoot handheld and with outstanding stability, so sharp pictures can be taken at very slow speeds of roughly up to 1/8 s
Thereupon, the superb lineup of autofocus lenses created from scratch by Leica Camera AG for its APS-C System of cameras featuring 23.6 x 15.7 mm sensor integrated within the L-Mount, has been a pivotal factor for the success of the Leica CL:

© Leica Camera AG 
- The 9 elements in 6 groups (two of them aspherical) Summicron-TL 23 mm f/2 ASPH ( equivalent to a 35 mm f/2 ASPH in 35 mm format). The jewel of the crown of the array of APS-C System Leica-TL lenses, delivering stratospheric image performance, with an optical quality between Walter Mandler´s non aspherical 6 elements in 4 groups Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 Fourth and Fifth Versions and Peter Karbe´s 7 elements in 5 groups Apo-Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 ASPH.

An exceedingly compact lens boasting a length to bayonet mount of 37 mm, a largest diameter of 63 mm and a weight of 154 g.

It clearly outperforms the superb 10 elements (two of them aspherical) in 6 groups Fujinon XF 23 mm f/2 R WR lens for APS-C format, as well as being 26 g lighter and featuring one element less in its optical formula, which is a remarkable tour de force accomplished by the Wetzlar photographic firm.

Anyway, the quality / price ratio of the Fujinon XF 23 mm f/2 R WR lens is virtually unbeatable.

On the other hand, the bokeh rendered by the Summicron-TL 23 mm f/2 ASPH at f/2 and f/2.8 aperture is by far the most beautiful among the lenses of its focal length and widest aperture created for APS-C format hitherto, so it is a stellar performer for creative pictures in which it is important to highlight main subjects or products using very shallow depth of field with out of focus surroundings, though the utterly metallic and excellent 11 elements in 8 groups (one of them aspherical) Fujinon XF 23 mm f/1.4 R ASPH is superior when it comes to generating selective focus, thanks to its widest f/1.4 aperture.

© Leica Camera AG

Besides, its tiny dimensions, very light weight and  focal length equivalent to a 35 mm wideangle objective (the par excellence lens in reportage photography) turn it into a great all around performing lens in such different genres like street photography, travel, fashion (with wonderful film like skin tones and highly useful ability to explore different planes of sharpness), product imagery, architecture (its correction of distortion is really impressive) and all kind of low light environments.

It goes without saying that the mechanical construction of this lens is stunning and enables the photographer to flawlessly use it for many years.

Its uniformity of performance is truly commendable, with exceptional values of resolving power and contrast between f/2 and f/8, without forgetting state-of-the-art coatings and commendable control of chromatic aberrations.

© Leica Camera AG

- The 10 elements (four of them aspherical) in 7 groups Vario-Elmar-TL 18-56 mm f/3.5-5,6 ASPH zoom lens (equivalent to a 28-85 mm standard zoom in 35 mm format) yields exceptional sharpness from edge to edge, high contrast, amazing richness of details and priaseworthy microcontrast resulting in superb colours and depth.

It´s true that its luminosity is relatively low, but it was necessary to preserve the camera / body compactness, since a constant f/3.5 aperture ( let alone a f/2.8 one) delivering this level of optical performance would have meant excessively large dimensions and weight, together with a much steeper price.

© Leica Camera AG 
As a matter of fact, this Vario-Elmar-TL 18-56 mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH zoom lens features very small dimensions (length to bayonet mount of 60 mm x largest diameter of 63 mm) and weight (256 g).

Obviously, it is not such a perfect lens as the Summicron-TL 23 mm f/2 ASPH and it suffers from very small levels of barrel and pincushion distortion, slight degree of chromatic aberrations on corners and borders when shooting high contrast subjects and field curvature, and it´s true that some in camera corrections are made, particularly at the shortest range of the zoom (something nowadays common in virtually every brand), but it doesn´t matter to practical effects, because this zoom was designed with top image quality and outstanding beauty of bokeh at the widest apertures of the medium and long focal lengths of its zoom range as top goals.

© Leica Camera AG

- The 12 elements (four of them aspherical) in 8 groups Summilux-TL 35 mm f/1.4 ASPH (equivalent to a 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH standard lens in 35 mm format) has a dazzling cosmetic appearance and yields extraordinary values of resolving power, sharpness and contrast, with a great evenness of performance between f/1.4 and f/5.6, its sweetest spot being at f/4.

It´s a relatively big (length to bayonet mount of 77 mm x largest diameter of 81 mm) and heavy (428 g) lens, weighing 93 g more than the Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lightweight black version and 32.4 g less than the Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH silver version.

But it has paid off, since the Summilux-TL 35 mm f/1.4 ASPH is incredibly sharp at all apertures and across the frame, in addition to rendering true Leica colours and microcontrast, with the added benefit of a very beautiful and creamy bokeh, whose image aesthetics is related to the excellent Leica DG Nocticron 42.5 mm f/1.2 for Micro Four Thirds format.

And it is important to grasp a fundamental tenet as to this kind of highly luminous Leica TL lenses : in the same way as happens with the Leica M lenses, they were designed and manufactured to be mostly used at the widest apertures and only stopped down to control depth of field.

And the most prominent traits of this standard lens will be shown shooting wide open, because images it delivers, even at f/1.4, are crisp.

Furthermore, it features internal focusing, enabling an easy use of polarizers and graduated filters.

© Leica Camera AG

The anodized metal barrel of this lens, available in silver or black colour, is simply gorgeous and very sturdy.

On the other hand, its resistance to backlighting and veiling flare is remarkable.

Regarding its bokeh at the widest apertures, it is very nice and smooth, and in the same way as happened with the Summicron-TL 23 mm f/2 ASPH, this lens boasts an impressive correction of distortion.

Moreover, the short telephoto nature inherent to this lens (equivalent to a 50 mm in 35 mm format) and its large f/1.4 aperture turn it into a great objective for portraiture.

© Leica Camera AG 
- The 12 elements in 10 groups (one of them aspherical) Apo-Vario-Elmar-TL 55-135 mm f/3.5-4.5 ASPH zoom (equivalent to a 80-200 mm in 35 mm format).

It is very small (length to bayonet mount of 110 mm x largest diameter of 68 mm) and light (weight of 500 g) for the range of focal lengths it covers.

Its sharpness and contrast at f/5.6, f/8 and f/11 approaches the one yielded by stellar M primes like the Apo-Summicron-M 90 mm f/2 ASPH and the Apo-Telyt-M 135 mm f/3.4, while its optical performance at f/3.5, f/4 and f/4.5 is excellent.

It´s true that its relatively low luminosity and lack of any stablization makes that photographers have to be careful in contexts where light conditions are dim. But that isn´t an unsurmountable hindrance at all,

© Leica Camera AG

since the very good high iso capabilities of the Leica CL, with extraordinary image quality up to ISO 3200 and very good up to ISO 6400 can solve it in most situations.

In addition, the 135-200 mm equivalent stretch of this amazing zoom fills a gap not possible to cover with Leica M cameras, whose rangefinder ability to accurately focus encompasses up to roughly 135 mm focal length.

Though there have been some voices suggesting that this is a great lens for sports and wildlife photography, in my opinion that´s not true, because there are better choices for this aim in the APS-C sphere from Fuji and in Micro Four Thirds scope from Panasonic and Olympus, with superior AF speed and more comprehensive range of highly luminous zooms and long telephotos for these photographic genres, including equivalent to 300 mm and 400 mm supertelephoto lenses which can be conveniently used shooting handheld.

Evidently, the image quality delivered by the Leica CL in symbiosis with its TL primes and zooms is second to none and its AF is very accurate, fast and reliable.

But nowadays Panasonic, Olympus, Fuji and Sony mirrorless EVF cameras with Micro Four Thirds and APS-C sensors get the upper hand in autofocus speed and tracking of moving subjects, fundamental ingredients for action photography, whether sports or wildlife.

The Leica CL was not designed to photograph fast action, which doesn´t mean that it couldn´t be made getting very high marks in the hands of an experienced photographer.

© Leica Camera AG 
Therefore, the Apo-Vario-Elmar-TL 55-135 mm f/3.5-4.5 ASPH zoom (equivalent to a 80-200 mm in 35 mm format) is with its uncompromising image quality (matching the best primes in every focal length of its range, though with lower luminosity) a sensational lens for landscapes, travel photography, pictures of details of buildings and architectural edifices, portraits, etc, excelling at its amazing versatility, exceptional sharpness and contrast, very natural skin tones, out of focus areas nicely drawn with excellent 3D separation if the photographer is able to find the best distances between subjects and backgrounds, and a stunning homogeneity of optical performance in center, borders and corners of the frame.

© Leica Camera AG

And of course, this zoom is a true Leica lens, yielding not only the Leica look in pictures, but also a bit muted colours more biased to Kodachrome aesthetic of image than the widespread big saturation in them widespread in vast majority of lenses from other respected brands, always understanding that saturation can be susbsequently enhanced through computer after the photographic act.

In addition, this is a truly apochromatic lens, so colour fringing has been reduced to negligible levels, in the same way as any remaining residual aberration, id est, the secondary spectrum, which becomes increasingly significant in telephoto lenses.

© Leica Camera AG 
After using it in real photography conditions, many professional photographers and connoisseurs have wondered at the extraordinary optical performance of this zoom, in spite of its relatively low luminosity and being coupled to a camera like the Leica CL featuring an APS-C sensor, and have asked themselves how this is possible.

There are a number of reasons for it, but one of the key factors is that when Leica Camera AG uses the term " APO ", its criteria for that apochromatic correction on the entire image circle are by far the most stringent in the photographic industry regarding this aspect and go well beyond those set forth by the classic definition of apochromatic correction.

As a matter of fact, after watching some of the pictures made with the first prototypes of the 7 elements in 4 groups Elcan-R 180 mm f/3.4 lenses used by the U.S Army in 1972 during the Vietnam War, Walter Mandler, its optical designer at Ernst Leitz Midland, Ontario (Canada) realized the huge potential that this true apochromatic correction could have in future with technologies that didn´t exist at the moment (and that had made to optimize the whole imaging performance of that early version of the Apo-Telyt-R 180 mm f/3.4 for medium and long distances, with a minimum focusing distance of 2.5 meters) not only for telephoto lenses but also for zooms.

And in a conversation that he had with the world-class expert in photographic Tom Abrahamsson in late eighties in Canada, both of them coincided that XXI Century would see amazing zooms yielding optical performance comparable to the best primes in every focal length of its range, something that started to be utterly attained with the extraordinary manual focusing 11 elements in 8 groups Vario-Elmarit-R 28-90 mm f/2.8-4.5 ASPH produced between 2004 and 2009, which however incredible may seem (that zoom was a masterpiece) was significantly improved by the stratospheric 18 elements (four of them aspherical) in 15 groups Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90 mm f/2.8-4 ASPH from 2015 and the 23 elements in 17 groups Apo-Vario-Elmarit-SL 90-280 mm f/2.8-4 from 2016, both of them autofocus and manufactured until presently for the Leica SL full frame mirrorless EVF camera.

Suffice it to say that the Apo-Vario-Elmar-TL 55-135 mm f/3.5-4.5 ASPH zoom for APS-C format, launched into market in 2015, belongs to the early stage of that lineage of AF Leica zoom lenses sharing the L Mount.

© Leica Camera AG

- The 14 elements in 11 groups (four of them aspherical) Super-Vario-Elmar-TL 11-23 mm f/3.5-4.5 ASPH zoom (equivalent to a 17-35 mm in 35 mm format).

It is a very small ( length to bayonet mount of 77 mm / largest diameter of 73 mm ) and light ( weight of 386 g) angular zoom,

This is a wonderful lens yielding extraordinary sharpness on the whole image surface, both in center, corners and borders, even at the widest apertures, which is a remarkable optical feat, because to create such a wideangle zoom lens with this level of optical performance within compact dimensions and low weight is something exceedingly difficult.

© Leica Camera AG
Both professional photographers and advanced amateurs can get a great mileage of it in architecture, landscape, detailed and expansive street views, group photography, etc, as a very versatile zoom lens able to cover an ultra or more moderately wide angle of view.

It lives up to the Leica standard of quality, with an oustanding uniformity of performance between the widest apertures and f/8, reaching its peak at f/5.6, though the improvement is so small that to practical effects you will only gain depth of field on stopping down.

There isn´t a perfect lens, so to attain the near stratospheric image quality this objective achieves, very slight barrel distortion between 11 and 14 mm had to be preserved.

And something similar happens regarding vignetting, with a value of 1.5 EV at widest f/3.5 aperture in the 11 mm focal length.

© Leica Camera AG

This is a very compact zoom lens for its ultrawide angle of view coverage, is very well built and it is the benchmark in mechanical construction and image quality among this kind of zooms for small sensors, even beating in resolving power, sharpness and contrast the also extraordinary Olympus Zuiko Digital 7-14 mm f/4 ED zoom lens (equivalent to a 14-28 mm f/4 in 24 x 36 mm format, introduced in September 2004) for Four Thirds System, with an optical formula featuring 18 elements in 12 groups (two of them being aspherical — the second one manufactured with a topflight grinding, great diameter and a more than daring curvature along with a remarkable thouroughness in the cutting of its borders, and the much smaller sixteenth one made with ED glass — , two Super ED ones — the forth and the sixth, the latter being a bit smaller — , and one ED — the fourteenth — ) and a weight of 780 g, superior to the Leica zoom in the correction of geometric distortion and in extremely low fall-off for such a wide coverage lens, with a commendable homogeneity of very high definition and contrast between center and corners, even at 7 mm (thanks to the preservation of some colour fringing in the extreme short focal area).

© Leica Camera AG

 - The 10 elements in 9 groups (four of them aspherical) Apo-Macro-Elmarit-TL 60 mm f/2.8 ASPH (equivalent to a 90 mm in 35 mm format), with a length of 89 mm, a largest diameter of 68 mm and a weight of 320 g.

It is a super sharp lens producing gorgeous colours, while its AF, though accurate, is slower than the Summicron-TL 23 mm f/2 ASPH and the Summilux-TL 35 mm f/1.4 ASPH.

This lens is a stellar performer in portraiture, landscape, fashion photography, product photography and travels, as well as being an excellent lens for macro shots, taking advantage of its minimum focusing distance of 16 cm.

© Leica Camera AG

The cosmetic beauty of this entirely metallic objective, manufactured in aluminium, is a riveting sight, as well as boasting a first-string mechanic construction.

On the other hand, the creamy and very beautiful bokeh yielded by this telephoto lens at f/2.8 and f/4 enables any photographer to enhance his/her creativeness in all kind of pictures in which can be important to make subjects stand out.

© Leica Camera AG

- The 8 elements in 6 groups (four of them aspherical) Elmarit-TL 18 mm f/2.8 ASPH (equivalent to a 27 mm lens in 35 mm format), an extremely compact and light lens,

© Leica Camera AG 
featuring a length of 20.5 mm, a largest diameter of 62 mm and a weight of 80 g.

A Leica CL coupled to the tiny Elmarit-TL 18 mm f/2.8 ASPH. On the right of the Leica logo can be seen the Self-Timer LED / AF assist lamp.
© Leica Camera AG 

It is the smallest wideangle APS-C pancake lens in the world) and sets up a conspicuously compact combo coupled to the Leica CL camera, resulting in an overall weight of only 483 g,

© jmse

enabling to shoot hand and wrist with unmatched levels of comfort and great stability, being a fantastic walk around choice for street photographyy, travel photography and reportage, since the 28 mm focal length is one of the most adequate for those genres, with the big depth of field inherent to its wide coverage.

© Leica Camera AG 

On the other hand, its tiny focusing ring is placed around the lens front and works in a smooth way. The AF is fast and very quiet.

© Leica Camera AG

In addition, the optical design of the Elmarit-TL 18 mm f/2.8 ASPH boasts an uncommon resistance to flare, so it doesn´t need a lens hood.

Regarding falloff, it is also very well controlled, with a little presence of it at f/2.8 and being reduced to negligible levels from f/4 onwards.

The correction of distortion is excellent, with exceedingly low values barely perceptible in images.

In the same way, chromatic aberrations are very well controlled even in the borders of pictures made in high contrast scenes.

As to bokeh, it is very beautiful, creamy and rounded, but with a 27 mm f/2.8 equivalent wideangle lens like this, APS-C format capabilities when it comes to getting shallow depth of field in creative photography are more limited than with 24 x 36 mm format.

In this regard, the entirely metallic and excellent 8 elements (two of them aspherical) in 7 groups Fujinon XF 18 mm f/2 ASPH, though not reaching the second to none levels of resolving power, sharpness and contrast of the Elmarit-TL 18 mm f/2.8 ASPH, is a far better choice to create selective focus, as well as featuring a praiseworthy low weight (116 g) for its widest f/2 luminosity.


 © Leica Camera AG 
The 24 megapixel 23.6 x 15.7 mm APS-C is the same excellent one featured by the previous Leica TL2.

And the symbiosis of this 24 megapixel APS-C sensor of the Leica CL mirrorless EVF camera with the Leica TL lenses, both primes and zooms, has proved to be great.

Top area of the Leica CL camera. From left to right can be seen the 2.36 megapixel electronic viewfinder, the diopter dial, the accessory shoe, the setting wheel with its button inside it, the LCD top display to control shooting parameters, the main switch with shutter release button in its center, and the second setting wheel with its setting wheel button in its middle. The design is a riveting sight oozing top class minimalism everywhere, with a really laudable machining of metallic surfaces, ascertaining an unswerving lust for build quality without compromises. 
© Leica Camera AG  
For a professional photographic tool like this, highly probably 24 megapixels is the ideal and most balanced quantity, enabling to do top-notch quality enlargements up to 50 x 70 cm and even more on photographic paper and of course to get publishable images in any illustrated magazine, including double page pictures.

Leica will never enter any megapixel wars, since the number of them is not the key factor at all.

How many people will ever make enlargements beyond 50 x 70 cm size ?

And there are further reasons.

To name only an example, it was apparent what happened when Canon launched into market its superb 50.6 megapixel Canon EOS 5DS and 5DS R reflex professional cameras, because the stratospheric resolving power of the 24 x 36 mm format sensors featured by both cameras needed really extraordinary lenses to match them, so the Japanese photographic firm had to design improved new versions of already existing professional lenses, resulting in the Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8 L IS III USM, Canon EF 100-400 mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS II USM, the stratospheric Canon EF 11-24 f/4 L USM or the well advanced in design Canon EF 24-70 mm f/2.8 L III USM still to be presented.

As a matter of fact, vast majority of highly experienced professional photographers working in sports, wildlife photography, fashion photography and other genres, have kept on using till now the 22.3 megapixel Canon EOS 5D Mark III, the 20.2 megapixel Canon EOS-1 D X Mark II, the 30.4 megapixel Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, and the 20.8 megapixel Nikon D5, without forgetting the increasingly thriving 24.2 megapixel Sony A9 mirrorless full frame EVF camera, also sporting exceptional virtues for sports photography, in addition to boasting an incredibly accurate and fast AF.

Because a figure between roughly 22 and 30 megapixels has proved to be the most balanced one to get the best possible results as to resolving power, sharpness, dynamic range and image quality at high and very high ISOs.

© Leica Camera AG

Therefore, the 24 megapixels of the Leica CL APS-C sensor are more than enough to attain really professional image quality, with the added advantage of the lack of optical low-pass filter for maximum image resolving power.

Regarding the manufacturer of this excellent APS-C sensor of the Leica CL, there isn´t official information about it, but hints suggest that it could be an improved version of the 24 megapixel APS-C one featured by a lot of mirrorless EVF cameras from other brands and optimized to get the best feasible optical performance with Leica TL and M lenses.


© Leica Camera AG

It is the same one originally built for the 24 x 36 mm format Leica SL mirrorless EVF camera, being very fast and getting extremely efficient image noise reduction easiness, being able to handle sensitivity ranges between ISO 100 and ISO 50,000.

And that amazing speed makes possible to attain a maximum burst shooting of 10 images per second, in addition to enable that the memory buffer can hold up to 33 pictures at a time in a combined DNG RAW format / JPEG, and up to 140 photographs shooting in JPEG.


Albeit the optical and mechanical quality of the current lineup of Leica TL primes and zooms specifically designed for APS-C sensor within L Mount almost leaves nothing to be desired, it isn´t less true that there is a very interesting choice of coupling the Leica CL through Leica M-Adapter L to the

© Leica Camera AG

superb Leica M lenses, specially those ones featuring widest apertures between f/1.4 and f/3.4, which have proved to work like a charm in symbiosis with its 24 megapixel 23.6 x 15.7 mm sensor:

© Leica Camera AG
- The Summicron-M 28 mm f/2 ASPH, equivalent to a 43 mm f/2 lens, with a weight of 256 g.

- The Summilux-M 35 mm f/1.4 ASPH, equivalent to a 53 mm f/1.4 lens, with a weight of 314 g.

- The Summicron-M 35 mm f/2 ASPH, equivalent to a 53 mm f/2 lens, with a weight of 255 g.

Coupled to a Leica CL camera, the Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH turns into an exceptional 75 mm f/1.4 lens for portraits, fashion photography, product photography and all kinds of pictures in which can be relevant to highlight the main subjects or objects using the largest apertures, while simultaneously rendering the surrounding areas out of focus with very beautiful and smooth bokehs. © Leica Camera AG

- The Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH equivalent to a 75 mm f/1.4 lens, with a weight of 335 g.

© Leica Camera AG 
- The Summicron-M 50 mm f/2, equivalent to a 75 mm f/2 lens, with a weight of 195 g Version 4 and  242 g Version 5.

- The Apo-Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 ASPH, equivalent to a 75 mm f/2 lens, with a weight of 300 g.

- The Apo-Summicron-M 75 mm f/2 ASPH, equivalent to a 115 mm f/2 lens, with a weight of 430 g.

- The Apo-Summicron-M 90 mm f/2 ASPH, equivalent to a 138 mm f/2 lens, with a weight of 500 g.

5 elements in 4 groups Apo-Telyt-M 135 mm f/3.4, an extraordinary medium telephoto lens. The 1.53 crop factor of the Leica CL camera turns it into a formidable 206 mm f/3.4 lens greatly expanding its reach beyond the 135 mm focal length limit of the 24 x 36 mm Leica M cameras with their optical rangefinder, thanks to the excellent electronic viewfinder of the APS-C format Leica CL mirrorless EVF camera. © Leica Camera AG

- The Apo-Telyt-M 135 mm f/3.4, equivalent to a 206 mm f/3.4 lens, with a weight of 450 g.

All of them yield exceptional image quality attached to the Leica CL and are very compact and light for their luminosities, flawlessly matching the very small dimensions and light weight of the Leica CL mirrorless EVF camera.


The manual focusing Cosina Voigtländer lenses in Leica M mount are a second alluring option to attach to the Leica CL, since these excellent objectives feature a sterling optomechanical quality/price ratio, and amongst them stand out:

© Cosina Voigtländer  
- The Hyper Wide Heliar 10 mm f/5.6, an impressive rectilinear lens equivalent to a 15 mm f/5.6, with a weight of 312 g.

© Cosina Voigtländer
- The Ultron 21 mm f/1.8, equivalent to a 32 mm f/1.8 lens, with a weight of 412 g.

- The Ultron 28 mm f/2, equivalent to a 43 mm f/2 lens, with a weight of 244 g.

© Cosina Voigtländer  
- The Nokton II 35 mm f/1.2, equivalent to a 53 mm f/1.2 lens, with a weight of 470 g.

© Cosina Voigtländer

- The Nokton 35 mm f/1.4, equivalent to a 53 mm f/1.4 lens, with a weight of 200 g.

- The Ultron 35 mm f/1.7, equivalent to a 53 mm f/1.4 lens, with a weight of 238 g.

- The Ultron 35 mm f/2, equivalent to a 53 mm f/2 lens, with a weight of 170 g.

- The Nokton 40 mm f/1.2, equivalent to a 61.2 mm f/1.2 lens, with a weight of 315 g.

- The Nokton 40 mm f/1.4, equivalent to a 61.2 mm f/1.2 lens, with a weight of 175 g.

© Cosina Voigtländer

- The Nokton 50 mm f/1.1, equivalent to a 75 mm f/1.1 lens, with a weight of 428 g.

© Cosina Voigtländer 
- The Nokton 50 mm f/1.2, equivalent to a 75 mm f/1.1 lens, with a weight of 344 g.

© Cosina Voigtländer

- The Nokton 50 mm f/1.5, equivalent to a 75 mm f/1.1 lens, with a weight of 220 g.

© Cosina Voigtländer

- The Heliar 75 mm f/1.8, equivalent to a 115 mm f/1.8 lens, with a weight of 427 g.
Moreover, the Leica CL can also be coupled through adapter to the extraodinary manual focusing Leica R lenses, many of which are still the optomechanical world benchmarks for 24 x 36 mm format reflex cameras in their focal lengths and luminosities, like the Super-Elmarit-R 15 mm f/2.8 ASPH (equivalent to a 23 mm f/2.8 lens), Elmarit-R 19 mm f/2.8 Version 2 (equivalent to a 28 mm f/2.8 lens), the Summilux-R 80 mm f/1.4 (equivalent to a 120 mm f/1.4 lens), Apo-Macro-Elmarit-R 100 mm f/2.8 (equivalent to a 150 mm f/2.8 lens), the Apo-Summicron-R 180 mm f/2 (equivalent to a 270 mm f/2 lens), the Macro-Elmarit-R 60 mm f/2.8 (equivalent to a 90 mm f/2.8 lens), Vario-Apo-Elmarit-R 70-180 mm f/2.8 (equivalent to a 105-270 mm f/2.8 lens), the Apo-Summicron-R 90 mm f/2 ASPH (equivalent to a 135 mm f/2 lens), the Apo-Telyt-R 280 mm f/4 (equivalent to a 420 mm f/4 lens) and others.


The APS-C format arena of mirrorless cameras and lenses is one of the most disputed ones of the photographic market.

And there have been two firms mostly ruling the roost in this scope until now:

a) Fujifilm, with its Fujifilm X-series of mirrorless EVF cameras since it launched into market the Fujifilm X-100 in March 2011, which would be subsequently followed by such great cameras like the Fuji X-Pro1 (2012), Fuji X-T1 (2014), Fuji X-Pro2 (2016), Fuji X-T2 (2016), Fuji XT-3 (2018), Fujifilm X-T3 and others, featuring the excellent X-Trans APS-C CMOS sensor.

In addition, the lineup of lenses manufactured by Fuji for its APS-C sensor cameras is by far the most comprehensive in this sector, with sixteen primes and eleven zooms, which makes up a total of 27 lenses, many of whom are excellent and boasting outstanding optical performance/price ratio.

Besides, the Japanese firm has done a great effort, designing and manufacturing two 56 mm f/1.2 lenses (equivalent to 84 mm), a 16 mm f/1.4 (equivalent to a 22.4 mm), a 23 mm f/1.4 lens (equivalent to a 52 mm f/1.4 lens), a 8-16 mm f/2.8 zoom (equivalent to a 12-22.4), a 16-55 f/2.8 zoom (equivalent to a 22.4 x 82 mm), a 50-140 mm f/2.8 zoom (equivalent to a 75-210), so with these AF primes and zooms it has got some advantage on Leica regarding highest luminosities, in addition to an exceptional 200 mm f/2 supertele lens (equivalent to a 300 mm f/2) which goes 100 mm beyond the maximum reach of the Apo-Vario-Elmar TL 55-135 mm f/3.5-4.5 ASPH zoom (equivalent to a 80-200 mm) and with much wider aperture.

Moreover, many of these lenses offer 4-4.5 stop optical stabilization through the interaction between advanced linear motor unit for focusing and linear motor unit for OIS.

b) Sony (which has clearly devoted most of its resources and ingenuity to its superb line of mirrorless 24 x 36 mm format EVF Alpha series, of which the 42.2 megapixel Sony Alpha 7RIII has been a tremendous success since its introduction on October 25, 2017, with amazing level of compactness only second to the analogue screwmount Leica mirrorless with rangefinder cameras in this regard and delivering exceptional image quality thanks to its state of the art sensor, and which will attain the best possible results and handheld shooting convenience coupled to Leica M lenses through adapter to E-Mount, as well as matching the tiny dimensions of the camera), having manufacture hitherto excellent cameras like the 24 megapixel Sony Alpha 5100, Sony Alpha 6000, Sony Alpha 6300, Sony Alpha 6500, Sony Alpha 6400 (a great camera, whose impressive speed and accuracy of autofocus, particularly the AF tracking with moving subjects is almost on a par with the full frame professional reflex cameras from Canon and Nikon), etc.

Highly sofisticated cameras, many of them sporting breakthrough electronic capabilities like the 4D Focus with improved predictive autofocus, sensor shift image stabilization and others.

And in the same way as happens with the Fujifilm APS-C cameras, they offer an excellent quality / price ratio.

© Leica Camera AG

Therefore, it seems incredible that Leica, whose market experience in the APS-C domain is relatively recent and dates back to 2014 when it introduced the Leica T and the L Mount, can compete in this field with the best APS-C format cameras from Fuji and Sony (featuring a host of electronic breakthroughs and functions) and with the added theoretical disadvantage of its TL lenses lacking any stabilization system.

But it can do it, with the Leica CL, because there are significant aspects in which this camera is nowadays the reference-class photographic tool in the APS-C product segment:

© Leica Camera AG 
a) The beauty of design and contours, an area in which Leica has traditionally been an international driving force. In this regard, the gorgeous lines and appearance of the Leica CL, a highly stylish camera, are a relish to watch, being both modernist and classical.

b) The constructive quality of materials. The Leica CL is entirely metallic, with the body made of magnesium, while top and bottom plates are manufactured in anodized aluminium, so it is a very sturdy camera that will keep its enticing cosmetic appearance for many years of intensive use.

© Leica Camera AG

c) The second to none optical quality of Leica TL primes and zooms. Leica has clearly opted for getting maximum image quality feasible, with lenses whose size and weight match as much as possible the exceedingly small dimensions of the Leica CL, so widest apertures of TL primes range between f/2 and f/2.8 (with the exception of the Summilux-TL 35 mm f/1.4 ASPH, equivalent to a 50 mm f/1.4), while TL zooms feature largest luminosities between f/3.5 at their shortest range and f/4.5 or f/5.6 at their longest one.

And in spite of the somewhat limited range of seven native TL lenses (four primes and three zooms), if we add to it the further possibility of coupling the Leica CL camera to the highly luminous Leica M and Voigtländer lenses with M mount through adapter, the available choice of superb lenses for this very small and light photographic tool becomes really extensive.

d) The lack of any system of optical image stabilization has enabled Leica to design the extraordinary TL primes and zooms without any compromise,

© Leica Camera AG 

yielding exceptional image quality, not only regarding admirable levels of resolving power, sharpness and contrast for such a small APS-C sensor, but also with regard to very nice and smooth bokeh, true Leica aesthetics of image, etc.

© Leica Camera AG   
To create and manufacture lenses with this level of optical performance including OIS would have meant compromising the image quality desired by Leica Camera AG, the dimensions and weight would have increased, the production cost would have significantly soared and the price for customers would have been higher.

And in my opinion, this absence of image stabilization isn´t any problem in real photography with the Leica CL, since its capabilities shooting handheld are exceptional, even beating the 64% heavier Leica M10 and M10-P (two great cameras in this aspect, hugely optimized to get pictures hand and wrist), and with the invaluable help of its remarkable performance at high sensitivities up to ISO 6.400.

e) The product personality. The Leica CL is a unique camera, with character to spare and a feel of solidness and reliability on its whole surface quickly conveyed to any photographer using it.

f) An exceedingly accurate contrast detection phase AF. Priority has been given to precision over speed.

It doesn´t mean at all that Leica TL lenses be slow.

As a matter of fact, they are very fast, but Fuji and Sony get the upper hand in this regard within the APS-C environment, though the reference-class firms of the mirrorless EVF photographic market with small sensors in terms of AF speed and accuracy are Panasonic with its formidable Panasonic G9 Micro Four Thirds camera and Olympus with its OM-D E-M1 Mark II and OM-D E-M1X Micro Four Thirds cameras.

g) Leica TL primes and zooms have been designed in Germany and manufactured in Japan, with the exception of the Summilux-TL 35 mm f/1.4 ASPH and the Macro-Elmarit-TL 60 mm f/2.8 ASPH, made in Wetzlar.

All of them have been built with Leica manufacturing standards, very stringent tolerances,

© Leica Camera AG

© Leica Camera AG

impressive craftsmanship and using

© Leica Camera AG

© Leica Camera AG  
state-of-the-art machines, with an exhaustive quality control unit by unit.

© Leica Camera AG 

h) Leica TL primes and zooms have been created to deliver exceptional optical performance under various image conditions.

Hundreds of different tests were made far beyond the typical MTF charts, with objectives being put to their paces in a number of places and climatic contexts.

i) Very elegant minimalism. The Leica CL is a camera with an uncluttered design, both in its shapes, its intuitive menus and in its very small quantity of dials, only the necessary ones, to foster the taking of decisions by the photographer.

l) The Leica CL has thoroughly been designed in such a way that the photographers can do everything without taking their eyes from the viewfinder, so they won´t have to disengage to look for any button or dial.

© Leica Camera AG

m) The colours yielded by the Leica TL lenses, particularly the primes, are really gorgeous and make a difference.

Once more, Leica shows its immense optical know-how in this side in which it had already achieved landmark accomplishments, even in the smaller Micro Four Thirds Format, with its state-of-the-art Leica DG Elmarit 200 mm f/2.8 Power O.I.S (equivalent to a 400 mm lens) coupled to the Panasonic G9 camera.

Whatever it may be, and in spite of the fierce competition in this product segment, in my humble opinion the Leica APS-C System of Mirrorless Cameras and Lenses has got a very promising future ahead and is now well grounded

In addition to impeccably work with the native AF TL lenses, the Leica CL (evolutive pinnacle of the German photographic firm APS-C System which was born in 2014) has proved to also admirably operate coupled to Leica M lenses through adapter and makes up a very good backup to the Leica M10, because the controls layout is very similar and photographers can feel really comfortable, without a protracted learning curve. As a matter of fact, the Leica CL is a kind of Mini Leica M in a number of aspects.
 © Leica Camera AG  
with the Leica CL, a gorgeous minimalist camera in which Leica Camera AG has brought to fruition a very special professional photographic tool oozing its firm ethos, keeping controls and menus to a minimum, with everything instantly and easily accessible, and has managed to create a not massive but loyal market niche of customers having a penchant for obtaining great images, relishing a commendable user experience, engineering at its highest level and leveraging the reference-class optomechanical performance of the autofocus Leica TL lenses within the APS-C mirrorless EVF scope, shooting handheld with unmatched levels of comfort, in addition to experiencing the unique value of emotions embodied by its timeless design and the tactile feelings of the first-class materials with which it is built.

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