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Leica CL versus Olympus PEN-F

The Leica CL (Typ 7323) and the Olympus PEN-F are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in November 2017 and January 2016. Both the CL and the PEN-F are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are based on an APS-C (CL) and a Four Thirds (PEN-F) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 24.1 megapixel, whereas the Olympus provides 20.2 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 Olympus PEN-F

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Leica CL and the Olympus PEN-F is provided 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 – the CL – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Leica CL vs Olympus PEN-F
Compare CL versus PEN-F top
Compare CL and PEN-F rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus PEN-F is notably smaller (12 percent) than the Leica CL. However, the PEN-F is markedly heavier (6 percent) than the CL. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the CL nor the PEN-F are weather-sealed.

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 PEN-F can take 330 images on a single charge of its BLN-1 power pack.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, just use the right or left arrows in the table to switch to the respective camera. Alternatively, you can also navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from the full list of cameras 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)
Camera
Model
Leica CL» 5.2 in 3.1 in 1.8 in 14.2 oz 220 n Nov 2017 2,795 i i Leica CL
Olympus PEN-F« 4.9 in 2.8 in 1.5 in 15.1 oz 330 n Jan 2016 1,199 i i Olympus PEN-F
Canon M5« » 4.6 in 3.5 in 2.4 in 15.1 oz 295 n Sep 2016 979 i i Canon M5
Fujifilm X-E3« » 4.8 in 2.9 in 1.7 in 11.9 oz 350 n Sep 2017 899 i i Fujifilm X-E3
Fujifilm X-T20« » 4.6 in 3.3 in 1.6 in 13.5 oz 350 n Jan 2017 899 i i Fujifilm X-T20
Fujifilm X-A3« » 4.6 in 2.6 in 1.6 in 12.0 oz 410 n Aug 2016 399 i i Fujifilm X-A3
Leica C-LUX« » 4.4 in 2.6 in 1.8 in 12.0 oz 370 n Jun 2018 1,049 i i Leica C-LUX
Leica M10« » 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 23.3 oz 210 n Jan 2017 6,595 i i Leica M10
Leica TL2« » 5.3 in 2.7 in 1.3 in 14.1 oz 250 n Jul 2017 1,950 i i Leica TL2
Leica TL« » 5.3 in 2.7 in 1.3 in 13.5 oz 400 n Nov 2016 1,695- i Leica TL
Nikon D3400« » 4.9 in 3.9 in 3.0 in 15.7 oz 1200 n Aug 2016 499 i i Nikon D3400
Nikon D5600« » 4.9 in 3.8 in 2.8 in 16.4 oz 970 n Nov 2016 699 i i Nikon D5600
Olympus E-M1 II« » 5.3 in 3.6 in 2.6 in 20.2 oz 440 Y Sep 2016 1,999 i i Olympus E-M1 II
Olympus E-M10 II« » 4.7 in 3.3 in 1.9 in 13.8 oz 320 n Aug 2015 799- i Olympus E-M10 II
Olympus E-M5 II« » 4.9 in 3.3 in 1.8 in 16.5 oz 310 Y Feb 2015 1,099 i i Olympus E-M5 II
Olympus E-M10« » 4.7 in 3.2 in 1.8 in 14.0 oz 320 n Jan 2014 699- i Olympus E-M10
Sony RX100 IV« » 4.0 in 2.3 in 1.6 in 10.5 oz 280 n Jun 2015 999- i Sony RX100 IV

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 PEN-F was launched at a markedly lower price (by 57 percent) than the CL, 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.

 

Sensor comparison: Leica CL vs Olympus PEN-F

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors 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 Olympus PEN-F a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the PEN-F is 39 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 2.0. The sensor in the CL has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the PEN-F offers a 4:3 aspect.

Leica CL and Olympus PEN-F sensor measures

With 24.1MP, the CL offers a higher resolution than the PEN-F (20.2MP), but the CL nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 3.92μm versus 3.34μm for the PEN-F) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the CL is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 9 months) than the PEN-F, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels. 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.

Unlike the CL, the PEN-F has the capacity to capture high quality composite images (40MP) by combining multiple shots after shifting its sensor by miniscule distances. This multi-shot, pixel-shift mode is most suitable for photography of stationary objects (landscapes, studio scenes).

CL versus PEN-F MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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
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
Olympus PEN-F« Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38881080/60p23.112.489474Olympus PEN-F
Canon M5« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.412.4126277Canon M5
Fujifilm X-E3« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p----Fujifilm X-E3
Fujifilm X-T20« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p----Fujifilm X-T20
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
Nikon D3400« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.813.9119286Nikon D3400
Nikon D5600« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.114.0130684Nikon D5600
Olympus E-M1 II« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/30p23.712.8131280Olympus E-M1 II
Olympus E-M10 II« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60p23.112.584273Olympus E-M10 II
Olympus E-M5 II« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60p23.012.584273Olympus E-M5 II
Olympus E-M10« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.812.388472Olympus E-M10
Sony RX100 IV« » 1-inch 20.0 5472 36484K/30p22.812.659170Sony RX100 IV

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the CL provides a higher video resolution than the PEN-F. It can shoot video footage at 4K/30p, while the Olympus is limited to 1080/60p.

 

Feature comparison: Leica CL vs Olympus PEN-F

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The CL and the PEN-F are similar in the sense that both feature an electronic viewfinder, which is helpful when framing images in bright sunlight. Moreover, their viewfinders offer an identical resolution of 2360k dots. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Leica CL and Olympus PEN-F in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

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
Olympus PEN-F«2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 10.0 n Y Olympus PEN-F
Canon M5« »2360 n 3.2 1620 tilting Y 4000 9.0 Y n Canon M5
Fujifilm X-E3« »2360 n 3.0 1040 fixed Y 4000 8.0 n n Fujifilm X-E3
Fujifilm X-T20« »2360 n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 4000 8.0 Y n Fujifilm X-T20
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
Nikon D3400« »optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 4000 5.0 Y n Nikon D3400
Nikon D5600« »optical n 3.2 1037 swivel Y 4000 5.0 Y n Nikon D5600
Olympus E-M1 II« »2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 18.0 n Y Olympus E-M1 II
Olympus E-M10 II« »2360 n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 4000 8.0 Y Y Olympus E-M10 II
Olympus E-M5 II« »2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 10.0 n Y Olympus E-M5 II
Olympus E-M10« »1440 n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 4000 8.0 Y Y Olympus E-M10
Sony RX100 IV« »2359 n 3.0 1228 tilting n 2000 16.0 Y Y Sony RX100 IV

The reported shutter speed and shutter burst refer to the use of the mechanical shutter. In addition, both cameras feature 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 PEN-F 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 and Olympus.

Review summary: Leica CL vs Olympus PEN-F

So what is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Leica CL or the Olympus PEN-F – has the upper hand? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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Reasons to prefer the Leica CL (Typ 7323):

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (24.1 vs 20.2MP) with a 12% higher linear resolution.
  • Better image quality: Features a larger and more technologically advanced imaging sensor.
  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/60p).
  • Easier setting verification: Has an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 1 year and 9 months after the PEN-F).

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Advantages of the Olympus PEN-F:

  • High quality composites: Can combine several shots after pixel-shifting its sensor.
  • More flexible LCD: Has swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • More compact: Is smaller (125x72mm vs 131x78mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (330 versus 220) out of a single battery charge.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology build-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (57 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in January 2016).

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the PEN-F comes out slightly ahead of the CL (7 : 6 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera.

CL 06:07 PEN-F

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the CL and the PEN-F in practical situations. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate. This is why expert reviews are important. The following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major 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
Olympus PEN-F«-82/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Jan 2016 1,199 i i Olympus PEN-F
Canon M5« »Rec82/1004/54.5/54/5 Sep 2016 979 i i Canon M5
Fujifilm X-E3« »Rec84/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2017 899 i i Fujifilm X-E3
Fujifilm X-T20« »HiRec82/1005/5-4.5/5 Jan 2017 899 i i Fujifilm X-T20
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
Nikon D3400« »Rec76/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Aug 2016 499 i i Nikon D3400
Nikon D5600« »-79/1004.5/54.5/54/5 Nov 2016 699 i i Nikon D5600
Olympus E-M1 II« »HiRec85/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2016 1,999 i i Olympus E-M1 II
Olympus E-M10 II« »HiRec80/1005/55/55/5 Aug 2015 799- i Olympus E-M10 II
Olympus E-M5 II« »HiRec81/1005/54.5/55/5 Feb 2015 1,099 i i Olympus E-M5 II
Olympus E-M10« »-80/1005/54.5/55/5 Jan 2014 699- i Olympus E-M10
Sony RX100 IV« »HiRec85/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2015 999- i Sony RX100 IV

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price 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 your choice using the following search menu. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please contact me, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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