PW

Leica CL versus Nikon D850

The Leica CL (Typ 7323) and the Nikon D850 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in November 2017 and July 2017. The CL is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the D850 is a DSLR. The cameras are based on an APS-C (CL) and a full frame (D850) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 24.1 megapixel, whereas the Nikon provides 45.4 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 Nikon D850

The physical size and weight of the Leica CL and the Nikon D850 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. 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 use the toggle button 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 – the CL – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Leica CL vs Nikon D850
Compare CL versus D850 top
Compare CL and D850 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D850 is considerably larger (77 percent) than the Leica CL. Moreover, the D850 is substantially heavier (149 percent) than the CL. It is noteworthy in this context that the D850 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.

Concerning battery life, the CL gets 220 shots out of its BP-DC12 battery, while the D850 can take 1840 images on a single charge of its EN-EL15a power pack.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

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)
Leica CL» 5.2 in 3.1 in 1.8 in 14.2 oz 220 n Nov 2017 2,795 i i
Nikon D850« 5.7 in 4.9 in 3.1 in 35.5 oz 1840 Y Jul 2017 3,299 i i
Canon M5« » 4.6 in 3.5 in 2.4 in 15.1 oz 295 n Sep 2016 979 i i
Fujifilm X-E3« » 4.8 in 2.9 in 1.7 in 11.9 oz 350 n Sep 2017 899 i i
Fujifilm X-T20« » 4.6 in 3.3 in 1.6 in 13.5 oz 350 n Jan 2017 899 i i
Fujifilm X-A3« » 4.6 in 2.6 in 1.6 in 12.0 oz 410 n Aug 2016 399 i i
Leica C-LUX« » 4.4 in 2.6 in 1.8 in 12.0 oz 370 n Jun 2018 1,049 i i
Leica M10« » 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 23.3 oz 210 n Jan 2017 6,595 i i
Leica TL2« » 5.3 in 2.7 in 1.3 in 14.1 oz 250 n Jul 2017 1,950 i i
Leica TL« » 5.3 in 2.7 in 1.3 in 13.5 oz 400 n Nov 2016 1,695- i
Nikon D3400« » 4.9 in 3.9 in 3.0 in 15.7 oz 1200 n Aug 2016 499 i i
Nikon D5« » 6.3 in 6.3 in 3.6 in 49.9 oz 3780 Y Jan 2016 6,499 i i
Nikon D500« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 30.3 oz 1240 Y Jan 2016 1,999 i i
Nikon D5600« » 4.9 in 3.8 in 2.8 in 16.4 oz 970 n Nov 2016 699 i i
Nikon D810« » 5.7 in 4.8 in 3.2 in 34.6 oz 1200 Y Jun 2014 3,299- i
Nikon D610« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 Y Oct 2013 1,999 i i
Nikon Df« » 5.7 in 4.3 in 2.6 in 26.8 oz 1400 Y Nov 2013 2,749 i i

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. 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 somewhat lower price (by 15 percent) than the D850, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. 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 Nikon D850

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 tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Leica CL features an APS-C sensor and the Nikon D850 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D850 is 131 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 Nikon D850 sensor measures

With 45.4MP, the D850 offers a higher resolution than the CL (24.1MP), but the D850 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.35μm versus 3.92μm for the CL) due to its larger sensor. However, the CL is a somewhat more recent model (by 3 months) than the D850, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units. 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 D850 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for most cameras. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Leica CL» APS-C 24.1 6014 40144K/30p----
Nikon D850« Full Frame 45.4 8256 55044K/30p26.414.82660100
Canon M5« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.412.4126277
Fujifilm X-E3« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p----
Fujifilm X-T20« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p----
Fujifilm X-A3« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p----
Leica C-LUX« » 1-inch 20.0 5472 36484K/30p----
Leica M10« » Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992-24.413.2213386
Leica TL2« » APS-C 24.1 6014 40144K/30p----
Leica TL« » APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p----
Nikon D3400« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.813.9119286
Nikon D5« » Full Frame 20.7 5588 37124K/30p25.112.3234388
Nikon D500« » APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.014.0132483
Nikon D5600« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.114.0130684
Nikon D810« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.714.8285397
Nikon D610« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.4292594
Nikon Df« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280-24.613.1327989

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, and both provide the same movie specifications (4K/30p).

 

Feature comparison: Leica CL vs Nikon D850

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the CL has an electronic viewfinder (2360k dots), while the D850 has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Leica CL and Nikon D850 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera 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
Leica CL»2360 Y 3.0 1040 fixed Y 8000 10.0 n n
Nikon D850«optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 9.0 n n
Canon M5« »2360 n 3.2 1620 tilting Y 4000 9.0 Y n
Fujifilm X-E3« »2360 n 3.0 1040 fixed Y 4000 8.0 n n
Fujifilm X-T20« »2360 n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 4000 8.0 Y n
Fujifilm X-A3« »- n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 4000 6.0 Y n
Leica C-LUX« »2330 n 3.0 1240 fixed Y 2000 10.0 Y Y
Leica M10« »optical n 3.0 1037 fixed n 4000 5.0 n n
Leica TL2« »- n 3.7 1230 fixed Y 4000 7.0 n n
Leica TL« »- n 3.7 1230 fixed Y 4000 5.0 Y n
Nikon D3400« »optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 4000 5.0 Y n
Nikon D5« »optical Y 3.2 2359 fixed Y 8000 14.0 n n
Nikon D500« »optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n n
Nikon D5600« »optical n 3.2 1037 swivel Y 4000 5.0 Y n
Nikon D810« »optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 4000 5.0 Y n
Nikon D610« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 6.0 Y n
Nikon Df« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 5.5 n n

Both the CL and the D850 are current models that good online retailers will have in stock. You can check the latest prices, for example, at amazon. The D850 replaced the earlier Nikon D810, while the CL does not have a direct predecessor.

Review summary: Leica CL vs Nikon D850

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Leica CL better than the Nikon D850 or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.

ilogo

Reasons to prefer the Leica CL (Typ 7323):

  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • More compact: Is smaller (131x78mm vs 146x124mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 602g or 60 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can take a broad range of non-native lenses via adapters.
  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced segment (15 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 3 months after the D850).

ilogo

Advantages of the Nikon D850:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (45.4 vs 24.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 37%.
  • Better low-light imaging: Features bigger pixels on a larger sensor for better high-ISO images.
  • Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (2359k vs 1040k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (1840 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 on the market for longer (launched in July 2017).

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D850 emerges as the winner of the match-up (9 : 7 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision.

CL 07:09 D850

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the CL and the D850 in practical situations. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable. This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The detailed reviews can be accessed by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review scores
  Camera cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Leica CL»----4/5 Nov 2017 2,795 i i
Nikon D850«HiRec89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jul 2017 3,299 i i
Canon M5« »Rec82/1004/54.5/54/5 Sep 2016 979 i i
Fujifilm X-E3« »Rec84/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2017 899 i i
Fujifilm X-T20« »HiRec82/1005/5-4.5/5 Jan 2017 899 i i
Fujifilm X-A3« »-74/1004.5/5-4/5 Aug 2016 399 i i
Leica C-LUX« »----- Jun 2018 1,049 i i
Leica M10« »--4/5-4.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595 i i
Leica TL2« »--4/5-4/5 Jul 2017 1,950 i i
Leica TL« »----4/5 Nov 2016 1,695- i
Nikon D3400« »Rec76/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Aug 2016 499 i i
Nikon D5« »-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 6,499 i i
Nikon D500« »HiRec91/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 1,999 i i
Nikon D5600« »-79/1004.5/54.5/54/5 Nov 2016 699 i i
Nikon D810« »-86/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2014 3,299- i
Nikon D610« »HiRec87/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 1,999 i i
Nikon Df« »-81/1004/54/54/5 Nov 2013 2,749 i i

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings are only valid when refering to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

 

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 update the database with the necessary infos.

vs

    You are here  »   »