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Leica CL versus Leica SL

The Leica CL (Typ 7323) and the Leica SL (Typ 601) are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in November 2017 and October 2015. Both the CL and the SL are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are based on an APS-C (CL) and a full frame (SL) sensor. The CL has a resolution of 24.1 megapixel, whereas the SL provides 24 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Leica CL vs Leica SL

The physical size and weight of the Leica CL and the Leica SL are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also toggle the display to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left side – the CL – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Leica CL vs Leica SL
Compare CL versus SL top
Compare CL and SL rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Leica SL is considerably larger (50 percent) than the Leica CL. Moreover, the SL is substantially heavier (110 percent) than the CL. It is noteworthy in this context that the SL is splash and dust-proof, while the CL does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. Hence, you might want to study the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.

The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Leica CL» 131 mm 78 mm 45 mm 403 g 220 n Nov 2017 2,795 i i Leica CL
Leica SL« 147 mm 104 mm 39 mm 847 g 400 Y Oct 2015 7,450 i i Leica SL
Canon 200D« » 122 mm 93 mm 70 mm 453 g 650 n Jun 2017 549 i i Canon 200D
Canon M6« » 112 mm 68 mm 45 mm 390 g 295 n Feb 2017 779 i i Canon M6
Canon 80D« » 139 mm 105 mm 79 mm 730 g 960 Y Feb 2016 1,199 i i Canon 80D
Canon M5« » 116 mm 89 mm 61 mm 427 g 295 n Sep 2016 979 i i Canon M5
Canon 1D X Mark II« » 158 mm 168 mm 83 mm 1530 g 1210 Y Feb 2016 5,999 i i Canon 1D X Mark II
Fujifilm X-A3« » 117 mm 67 mm 40 mm 339 g 410 n Aug 2016 399 i i Fujifilm X-A3
Leica C-LUX« » 113 mm 67 mm 46 mm 340 g 370 n Jun 2018 1,049 i i Leica C-LUX
Leica M10« » 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 n Jan 2017 6,595 i i Leica M10
Leica TL2« » 134 mm 69 mm 33 mm 399 g 250 n Jul 2017 1,950 i i Leica TL2
Leica TL« » 134 mm 69 mm 33 mm 384 g 400 n Nov 2016 1,695- i Leica TL
Leica Q Typ 116« » 130 mm 80 mm 93 mm 640 g 300 n Jun 2015 4,249 i i Leica Q Typ 116
Leica M Typ 240« » 139 mm 80 mm 42 mm 680 g .. Y Sep 2012 6,950- i Leica M Typ 240
Nikon D3400« » 124 mm 98 mm 76 mm 445 g 1200 n Aug 2016 499 i i Nikon D3400
Nikon D5« » 160 mm 159 mm 92 mm 1415 g 3780 Y Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
Nikon D5600« » 124 mm 97 mm 70 mm 465 g 970 n Nov 2016 699 i i Nikon D5600

Any camera purchase will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The CL was launched at a markedly lower price (by 62 percent) than the SL, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

 

Sensor comparison: Leica CL vs Leica SL

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Leica CL features an APS-C sensor and the Leica SL a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the SL is 133 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Leica CL and Leica SL sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the Leica CL offers a higher resolution of 24.1 megapixel, compared with 24 MP of the Leica SL. This megapixel advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 3.92μm versus 6.00μm for the SL). However, it should be noted that the CL is much more recent (by 2 years and 1 month) than the SL, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that neither of the two cameras has an anti-alias filter installed, so they are able to capture all the detail the sensor resolves.

CL versus SL MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
Leica CL» APS-C 24.1 6014 40144K/30p----Leica CL
Leica SL« Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p25.013.4182188Leica SL
Canon 200D« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.613.4104179Canon 200D
Canon M6« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p----Canon M6
Canon 80D« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.613.2113579Canon 80D
Canon M5« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.412.4126277Canon M5
Canon 1D X Mark II« » Full Frame 20.0 5472 36484K/60p24.113.5320788Canon 1D X Mark II
Fujifilm X-A3« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p----Fujifilm X-A3
Leica C-LUX« » 1-inch 20.0 5472 36484K/30p----Leica C-LUX
Leica M10« » Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992-24.413.2213386Leica M10
Leica TL2« » APS-C 24.1 6014 40144K/30p----Leica TL2
Leica TL« » APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p----Leica TL
Leica Q Typ 116« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.312.7222185Leica Q Typ 116
Leica M Typ 240« » Full Frame 23.7 5952 39761080/25p24.013.3186084Leica M Typ 240
Nikon D3400« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.813.9119286Nikon D3400
Nikon D5« » Full Frame 20.7 5588 37124K/30p25.112.3234388Nikon D5
Nikon D5600« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.114.0130684Nikon D5600

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, and both provide the same movie specifications (4K/30p).

 

Feature comparison: Leica CL vs Leica SL

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The two cameras under review are similar with respect to both having an electronic viewfinder. However, the one in the SL offers a substantially higher resolution than the one in the CL (4400k vs 2360k dots). The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Leica CL, the Leica SL, and comparable cameras. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Leica CL»2360 Y 3.0 1040 fixed Y 8000 10.0 n n Leica CL
Leica SL«4400 Y 3.0 1040 fixed Y 8000 11.0 n n Leica SL
Canon 200D« »optical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 5.0 Y n Canon 200D
Canon M6« »- n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 4000 9.0 Y n Canon M6
Canon 80D« »optical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 8000 7.0 Y n Canon 80D
Canon M5« »2360 n 3.2 1620 tilting Y 4000 9.0 Y n Canon M5
Canon 1D X Mark II« »optical Y 3.2 1620 fixed Y 8000 16.0 n n Canon 1D X Mark II
Fujifilm X-A3« »- n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 4000 6.0 Y n Fujifilm X-A3
Leica C-LUX« »2330 n 3.0 1240 fixed Y 2000 10.0 Y Y Leica C-LUX
Leica M10« »optical n 3.0 1037 fixed n 4000 5.0 n n Leica M10
Leica TL2« »- n 3.7 1230 fixed Y 4000 7.0 n n Leica TL2
Leica TL« »- n 3.7 1230 fixed Y 4000 5.0 Y n Leica TL
Leica Q Typ 116« »3680 n 3.0 1040 fixed Y 2000 10.0 n n Leica Q Typ 116
Leica M Typ 240« »optical n 3.0 920 fixed n 4000 3.0 n n Leica M Typ 240
Nikon D3400« »optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 4000 5.0 Y n Nikon D3400
Nikon D5« »optical Y 3.2 2359 fixed Y 8000 14.0 n n Nikon D5
Nikon D5600« »optical n 3.2 1037 swivel Y 4000 5.0 Y n Nikon D5600

The reported shutter speed and shutter burst refer to the use of the mechanical shutter. In addition, the CL features an electronic shutter, which makes silent shooting and higher burst speeds possible. However, this mode is less suitable for photographing moving objects (rolling shutter) or shooting under artificial light sources (flickering).

Both the CL and the SL are current models that good online retailers will have in stock. You can check the latest prices, for example, at amazon. Neither of the two has a direct predecessor, so perhaps they will constitute the origins of new camera lines for Leica.

Review summary: Leica CL vs Leica SL

So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Leica CL or the Leica SL – has the upper hand? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Reasons to prefer the Leica CL (Typ 7323):

  • Less disturbing: Has an electronic shutter option for completely silent shooting.
  • More compact: Is smaller (131x78mm vs 147x104mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 444g or 52 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (62 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years and 1 month of technical progress since the SL launch.


Arguments in favor of the Leica SL (Typ 601):

  • Better low-light imaging: Features bigger pixels on a larger sensor for better high-ISO images.
  • More detailed viewfinder: Has higher resolution electronic viewfinder (4400k vs 2360k dots).
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (400 versus 220) out of a single battery charge.
  • Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in October 2015).

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the match-up finishes in a tie (5 points each). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera.

CL 05:05 SL

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the CL or the SL handle or perform in practice. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased. This is where reviews by experts come in. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The full reviews are available by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Leica CL»----4/5 Nov 2017 2,795 i i Leica CL
Leica SL«-84/1004.5/54/54/5 Oct 2015 7,450 i i Leica SL
Canon 200D« »HiRec78/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2017 549 i i Canon 200D
Canon M6« »-80/1004/54.5/54/5 Feb 2017 779 i i Canon M6
Canon 80D« »HiRec84/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Feb 2016 1,199 i i Canon 80D
Canon M5« »Rec82/1004/54.5/54/5 Sep 2016 979 i i Canon M5
Canon 1D X Mark II« »-89/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2016 5,999 i i Canon 1D X Mark II
Fujifilm X-A3« »-74/1004.5/5-4/5 Aug 2016 399 i i Fujifilm X-A3
Leica C-LUX« »----4/5 Jun 2018 1,049 i i Leica C-LUX
Leica M10« »--4/5-4.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595 i i Leica M10
Leica TL2« »--4/5-4/5 Jul 2017 1,950 i i Leica TL2
Leica TL« »----4/5 Nov 2016 1,695- i Leica TL
Leica Q Typ 116« »-80/1004.5/5-4.5/5 Jun 2015 4,249 i i Leica Q Typ 116
Leica M Typ 240« »--4/5-- Sep 2012 6,950- i Leica M Typ 240
Nikon D3400« »Rec76/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Aug 2016 499 i i Nikon D3400
Nikon D5« »-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
Nikon D5600« »-79/1004.5/54.5/54/5 Nov 2016 699 i i Nikon D5600

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please send me an email, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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