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Leica SL versus Leica CL

The Leica SL (Typ 601) and the Leica CL (Typ 7323) are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in October 2015 and November 2017. Both the SL and the CL are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are based on a full frame (SL) and an APS-C (CL) sensor. The SL has a resolution of 24 megapixel, whereas the CL provides 24.1 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 SL vs Leica CL

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Leica SL and the Leica CL 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 width, height and depth measures 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 side – the SL – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

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

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Leica CL is considerably smaller (33 percent) than the Leica SL. Moreover, the CL is substantially lighter (52 percent) than the SL. It is worth mentioning in this context that the SL is splash and dust resistant, 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 following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. 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 SL» 5.8 in 4.1 in 1.5 in 29.9 oz 400 Y Oct 2015 7,450 i i Leica SL
Leica CL« 5.2 in 3.1 in 1.8 in 14.2 oz 220 n Nov 2017 2,795 i i Leica CL
Canon 80D« » 5.5 in 4.1 in 3.1 in 25.8 oz 960 Y Feb 2016 1,199 i i Canon 80D
Canon M5« » 4.6 in 3.5 in 2.4 in 15.1 oz 295 n Sep 2016 979 i i Canon M5
Canon 1D X Mark II« » 6.2 in 6.6 in 3.3 in 54.0 oz 1210 Y Feb 2016 5,999 i i Canon 1D X Mark II
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-A3« » 4.6 in 2.6 in 1.6 in 12.0 oz 410 n Aug 2016 399 i i Fujifilm X-A3
Hasselblad X1D« » 5.9 in 3.9 in 2.8 in 25.6 oz .. Y Jun 2016 8,995 i i Hasselblad X1D
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 TL2« » 5.3 in 2.7 in 1.3 in 14.1 oz 250 n Jul 2017 1,950 i i Leica TL2
Leica Q Typ 116« » 5.1 in 3.1 in 3.7 in 22.6 oz 300 n Jun 2015 4,249 i i Leica Q Typ 116
Leica M Typ 240« » 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.7 in 24.0 oz .. Y Sep 2012 6,950- i Leica M Typ 240
Nikon D5« » 6.3 in 6.3 in 3.6 in 49.9 oz 3780 Y Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
Nikon D500« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 30.3 oz 1240 Y Jan 2016 1,999 i i Nikon D500
Nikon D7200« » 5.4 in 4.2 in 3.0 in 27.0 oz 1110 Y Mar 2015 1,199- i Nikon D7200
Nikon D750« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 26.5 oz 1230 Y Sep 2014 2,299 i i Nikon D750
Sony A6300« » 4.7 in 2.6 in 1.9 in 14.3 oz 400 Y Feb 2016 999- i Sony A6300

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. 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 SL vs Leica CL

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better 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 SL features a full frame sensor and the Leica CL an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the CL is 57 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Leica SL and Leica CL sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the CL offers a slightly higher resolution of 24.1 megapixel, compared with 24 MP of the 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.

SL versus CL 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 following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

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 SL» Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p25.013.4182188Leica SL
Leica CL« APS-C 24.1 6014 40144K/30p----Leica CL
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-E3« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p----Fujifilm X-E3
Fujifilm X-A3« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p----Fujifilm X-A3
Hasselblad X1D« » Medium Format 51.3 8272 62001080/25p26.214.84489102Hasselblad X1D
Leica C-LUX« » 1-inch 20.0 5472 36484K/30p----Leica C-LUX
Leica TL2« » APS-C 24.1 6014 40144K/30p----Leica TL2
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 D5« » Full Frame 20.7 5588 37124K/30p25.112.3234388Nikon D5
Nikon D500« » APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.014.0132483Nikon D500
Nikon D7200« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.514.6133387Nikon D7200
Nikon D750« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/60p24.814.5295693Nikon D750
Sony A6300« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.413.7143785Sony A6300

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. 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 SL vs Leica CL

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The two cameras under consideration 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 SL, the Leica CL, and comparable cameras. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or, 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 SL»4400 Y 3.0 1040 fixed Y 8000 11.0 n n Leica SL
Leica CL«2360 Y 3.0 1040 fixed Y 8000 10.0 n n Leica CL
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-E3« »2360 n 3.0 1040 fixed Y 4000 8.0 n n Fujifilm X-E3
Fujifilm X-A3« »- n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 4000 6.0 Y n Fujifilm X-A3
Hasselblad X1D« »2360 n 3.0 920 fixed Y 2000 2.3 n n Hasselblad X1D
Leica C-LUX« »2330 n 3.0 1240 fixed Y 2000 10.0 Y Y Leica C-LUX
Leica TL2« »- n 3.7 1230 fixed Y 4000 7.0 n n Leica TL2
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 D5« »optical Y 3.2 2359 fixed Y 8000 14.0 n n Nikon D5
Nikon D500« »optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n n Nikon D500
Nikon D7200« »optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 8000 6.0 Y n Nikon D7200
Nikon D750« »optical Y 3.2 1229 tilting n 4000 6.0 Y n Nikon D750
Sony A6300« »2300 n 3.0 922 tilting n 4000 11.0 Y n Sony A6300

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 SL and the CL 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 SL vs Leica CL

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Leica SL or the Leica CL – has the upper hand? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.


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: Can take more shots (400 versus 220) on a single battery charge.
  • Better sealing: Is weather sealed to enable shooting in dusty or wet environments.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in October 2015).


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 will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 444g or 52 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • 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.

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 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.

SL 05:05 CL

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the SL or the CL 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 why expert reviews are important. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known 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
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Leica SL»-84/1004.5/54/54/5 Oct 2015 7,450 i i Leica SL
Leica CL«----4/5 Nov 2017 2,795 i i Leica CL
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-E3« »Rec84/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2017 899 i i Fujifilm X-E3
Fujifilm X-A3« »-74/1004.5/5-4/5 Aug 2016 399 i i Fujifilm X-A3
Hasselblad X1D« »rev81/100--4/5 Jun 2016 8,995 i i Hasselblad X1D
Leica C-LUX« »----4/5 Jun 2018 1,049 i i Leica C-LUX
Leica TL2« »--4/5-4/5 Jul 2017 1,950 i i Leica TL2
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 D5« »-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
Nikon D500« »HiRec91/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 1,999 i i Nikon D500
Nikon D7200« »HiRec84/1004.5/54/54.5/5 Mar 2015 1,199- i Nikon D7200
Nikon D750« »HiRec90/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2014 2,299 i i Nikon D750
Sony A6300« »Rec85/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2016 999- i Sony A6300

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, 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? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just use the search menu below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored. If the camera you are interested in is not available, please send me an email, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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