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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 sensor. The SL has a resolution of 24 megapixel, whereas the CL provides 24.1 MP.

Body comparison

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. 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).

Leica SL vs Leica CL front
SL versus CL top view
SL and CL rear side
Body view (SL on the left)

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Leica CL is notably 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 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 comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
Camera Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Leica SL (⇒ rgt) 147 mm 104 mm 39 mm 847 g 400 YES 2015 7,450 latest check
Leica CL (⇒ lft) 131 mm 78 mm 45 mm 403 g 220 no 2017 2,795 latest check
Canon 77D (⇒ lft | rgt) 131 mm 100 mm 76 mm 540 g 600 no 2017 899 latest check
Canon 80D (⇒ lft | rgt) 139 mm 105 mm 79 mm 730 g 960 YES 2016 1,199 latest check
Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) 158 mm 168 mm 83 mm 1530 g 1210 YES 2016 5,999 latest check
Hasselblad X1D (⇒ lft | rgt) 150 mm 98 mm 71 mm 725 g .. YES 2016 8,995 latest check
Leica M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 no 2017 6,595 latest check
Leica TL2 (⇒ lft | rgt) 134 mm 69 mm 33 mm 399 g 250 no 2017 1,950 latest check
Leica TL (⇒ lft | rgt) 134 mm 69 mm 33 mm 384 g 400 no 2016 1,695discont. check
Leica Q Typ 116 (⇒ lft | rgt) 130 mm 80 mm 93 mm 640 g .. no 2015 4,249 latest check
Leica X Vario (⇒ lft | rgt) 133 mm 73 mm 95 mm 680 g 450 no 2013 2,850 latest check
Leica M Typ 240 (⇒ lft | rgt) 139 mm 80 mm 42 mm 680 g .. YES 2012 6,950discont. check
Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 160 mm 159 mm 92 mm 1415 g 3780 YES 2016 6,499 latest check
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 147 mm 115 mm 81 mm 860 g 1240 YES 2016 1,999 latest check
Nikon D7200 (⇒ lft | rgt) 136 mm 107 mm 76 mm 765 g 1110 YES 2015 1,199discont. check
Nikon D750 (⇒ lft | rgt) 141 mm 113 mm 78 mm 750 g 1230 YES 2014 2,299 latest check
Sony A6300 (⇒ lft | rgt) 120 mm 67 mm 49 mm 404 g 400 YES 2016 999discont. check

The listed 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

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 tent 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
Sensor size
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Sensor size

Despite having a smaller sensor, the CL offers a 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
Sensor resolution
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Sensor resolution

For most 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 Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Leica SL (⇒ rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 4K/30p 25.0 13.4 1821 88
Leica CL (⇒ lft) APS-C 24.1 6014 4014 4K/30p .. .. .. ..
Canon 77D (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p .. .. .. ..
Canon 80D (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 23.6 13.2 1135 79
Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 20.0 5472 3648 4K/60p 24.1 13.5 3207 88
Hasselblad X1D (⇒ lft | rgt) Medium Format 51.3 8272 6200 1080/25p 26.2 14.8 4489 102
Leica M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992 no .. .. .. ..
Leica TL2 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.1 6014 4014 4K/30p .. .. .. ..
Leica TL (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 16.1 4928 3264 1080/30p - - - -
Leica Q Typ 116 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.3 12.7 2221 85
Leica X Vario (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 16.1 4928 3272 1080/30p 23.4 12.7 1320 78
Leica M Typ 240 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 23.7 5952 3976 1080/25p 24.0 13.3 1860 84
Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 20.7 5588 3712 4K/30p 25.1 12.3 2343 88
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 20.7 5568 3712 4K/30p 24.0 14.0 1324 83
Nikon D7200 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.5 14.6 1333 87
Nikon D750 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.2 6016 4016 1080/60p 24.8 14.5 2956 93
Sony A6300 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 4K/30p 24.4 13.7 1437 85

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

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 Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Leica SL (⇒ rgt) 4400 YES 3.0 1040 fixed YES 8000 11.0 no no
Leica CL (⇒ lft) 2360 YES 3.0 1040 fixed YES 8000 10.0 no no
Canon 77D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 1040 swivel YES 4000 6.0 12 no
Canon 80D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 1040 swivel YES 8000 7.0 12 no
Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1620 fixed YES 8000 16.0 no no
Hasselblad X1D (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 920 fixed YES 2000 2.3 no no
Leica M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.0 1037 fixed no 4000 5.0 no no
Leica TL2 (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 3.7 1230 fixed YES 4000 7.0 no no
Leica TL (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 3.7 1230 fixed YES 4000 5.0 YES no
Leica Q Typ 116 (⇒ lft | rgt) 3680 no 3.0 1040 fixed YES 2000 10.0 no no
Leica X Vario (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 3.0 920 fixed no 2000 5.0 YES no
Leica M Typ 240 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.0 920 fixed no 4000 3.0 no no
Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 2359 fixed YES 8000 14.0 no no
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 2359 tilting YES 8000 10.0 no no
Nikon D7200 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1229 fixed no 8000 6.0 12 no
Nikon D750 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1229 tilting no 4000 6.0 12 no
Sony A6300 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2300 no 3.0 922 tilting no 4000 11.0 6 no

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.

Summary

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):

  • 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 SL comes out slightly ahead of the CL (5 : 4 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.

SL 05:04 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. The detailed reviews can be accessed, respectively, on the websites of cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
dp
review
ephoto
zine
imaging
resource
photography
blog
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Leica SL (⇒ rgt) - 84/100 4.5/5 4/5 4/5 2015 7,450 latest check
Leica CL (⇒ lft) .. .. .. .. 4/5 2017 2,795 latest check
Canon 77D (⇒ lft | rgt) .. 82/100 Silver 4.5/5 .. 4/5 2017 899 latest check
Canon 80D (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 84/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2016 1,199 latest check
Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) - 89/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2016 5,999 latest check
Hasselblad X1D (⇒ lft | rgt) - - - - 4/5 2016 8,995 latest check
Leica M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) - - 4/5 - 4.5/5 2017 6,595 latest check
Leica TL2 (⇒ lft | rgt) .. .. 4/5 .. 4/5 2017 1,950 latest check
Leica TL (⇒ lft | rgt) - - - - 4/5 2016 1,695discont. check
Leica Q Typ 116 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 80/100 Silver 4.5/5 - 4.5/5 2015 4,249 latest check
Leica X Vario (⇒ lft | rgt) - - 4/5 4/5 4/5 2013 2,850 latest check
Leica M Typ 240 (⇒ lft | rgt) - - 4/5 - - 2012 6,950discont. check
Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 89/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2016 6,499 latest check
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 91/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2016 1,999 latest check
Nikon D7200 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 84/100 Silver 4.5/5 4/5 4.5/5 2015 1,199discont. check
Nikon D750 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 90/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2014 2,299 latest check
Sony A6300 (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 85/100 Gold 5/5 5/5 5/5 2016 999discont. check

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 comparisons

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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