Home Cameras/Lenses Leica Leica CL firmware 3.1 update. Another missed opportunity

Leica CL firmware 3.1 update. Another missed opportunity

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This morning I downloaded the new 3.1 firmware for the Leica CL and, as far as I can determine, the one improvement many of us have been begging for has again been overlooked. There is still no way of selectively locking the focus point to the centre of the screen or, at least, of locking the four-way pad to avoid inadvertent adjustment.

For those who prefer to use the focus and recompose method (which is something that is projected as a virtue when using a rangefinder camera), the CL remains a particularly truculent beast.

Despite two major firmware upgrades, it is still impossible to selectively lock the D-pad or fix the spot/field focus to the centre of the frame

Instead, as far as I can see, we have a list of items that most users will find yawn inspiring:

  • AF/AE lock added to the FN menu
  • Manual video exposure mode added
  • Moveable zoom position of the magnified life view in manual focus
  • Focus peaking sensitivity
  • Touch AF generally on/off for different AF modes.
  • EVF brightness adjustment
  • 4K video file size limitation lifted
  • Auto ISO adjusted to give priority to a correct exposure
  • WLAN renamed to Leica Fotos
  • L-Mount lenses can be updated via a separate lens update file

The adjustment to EVF brightness is welcome and useful. For my use of the camera, however, the rest of this list is of marginal if not academic interest. As Stephen J points out (comments, below) it is possible to add AF-L to the FN menu and this gives a quick shortcut to locking focus. But it doesn’t stop the AF point from moving around the screen in response to jogging of the D-pad.

Centre focus miss

Having updated my CL, I find that the only way to fix the focus point (spot or field) to the centre of the frame is still to lock down the entire camera. This feature, introduced in the previous firmware update, also prevents alteration of exposure, shutter speed or exposure compensation. In fact, about all you can do is press the shutter and twiddle the zoom, if the lens has one. This is a travesty, yet it is the only way to tame the focus point for users who aren’t interested in touch focus or moving the focus point around the screen.

If the camera is not locked down, the focus point will dance around as the ball of the thumb hits the four-way pad. Lock the camera and nothing can be adjusted, although the focus point stays obligingly where you put it. Talk of sledgehammers and nuts springs to mind. I have not met anyone who can think of a reason for locking down the entire camera so absolutely no adjustments can be made.

The simple answer, which Leica appears not to countenance, is a menu item to lock the D-pad with the ability to assign to a function key. This would be far preferable to locking down the entire camera.

Despair

I begin to despair about Leica’s commitment to the traditional user. It seems that all the focus now is on attempting to attract smartphone photographers who have developed an interest and may be ready to move to a more traditional camera. I do not think this is the right approach.

Smartphone users who move to a traditional camera are not expecting it to function in exactly the same way as their phone. They will accept and understand that more direct control over exposure and focus is a good thing and is one of the big advantages of a specialised tool.

The camera lock, typically accessed via a long press of the left-hand ring button prevents all exposure adjustments and is, therefore, overkill in preventing movement of the centre focus point. The D-Lux 7 and other cameras have a similar lock-down feature but, because of the manual controls, including focus, mode and compensation, the feature is actually useful. None of the TL lenses has an aperture ring and all other controls are soft, so a lockdown is universal and inconvenient

We are told frequently that no one now wants to use centre focus with focus-and-recompose, rangefinder fashion. Yet I know that this is patently untrue. Many people I speak to and many readers I’ve heard from still prefer this method of shooting.

If this is the best Leica can do, some two years into the life of the camera, I cannot criticise anyone for ditching the CL system and buying a Fuji. At least Fuji understands its core customers. The CL is a great little camera but, in my book, it is let down dramatically by this one feature. As a result of this latest failure to act, I am losing patience with the Leica APS-C system, despite the impetus given by the L-Mount Alliance

A fully detailed description of all the changes, for what they are worth, is available here on the Red Dot Forum.

By the way, I shall be delighted if anyone can prove to me that there is a way to lock the focus point without locking down the camera. It could be that I’ve missed something and I will be very happy to be proved wrong.

Readers’ views are appreciated. Please comment below.

38 COMMENTS

  1. Sorry to hear, I figured with all new engineers they hiring this would be solved. Instead go FUJI go Cult RICOH GR series.

    • John, I am hoping someone is going to tell me I am wrong and that Leica slipped in a shortcut to selective lock without mentioning it.

  2. Hi Mike, You can lock the focus point by including it in the FN menu, press that button, focus on the point that you want and half press the shutter button. Now while you have the shutter button half pressed, recompose and take your shot.

    I was messing about with it last night, but I was distracted by your great article yesterday on George Mallory. When men were men, with very stiff lips.

    Anyway, I don’t suppose I will use the Focus Lock tool much, I have got used to multi point focus, with L mount, and focus peaking with manual lenses.

    The addition that I liked, and does seem to work is the auto iso mod, thus:

    “Auto ISO behavior… The new auto ISO has the priority to create a correct exposure.”

    I haven’t tested it properly yet, but it seems to choose a better shutter speed than I have seen it (very annoyingly) do before, a few times.

    • “You can lock the focus point by including it in the FN menu…..”

      Sorry Mike, that line should read:

      You can lock the focus point by including AF-L in the FN menu…”

      • Thanks, Stephen. I will try this out tomorrow. Maybe it will be the solution I requested. In which case I can take a more positive view

    • Stephen, I just added AF-L to the FN button and, as you say, it does allow you to focus and lock the focus point so you can recompose. However, it doesn’t answer the main problem. the lack of the ability to keep the focus spot or field point stuck to the centre of the screen. If it has been jiggled by the thumb and has moved, for instance, to a corner, locking the focus is only have the answer. When taking a quick shot, a focus-and-recompose photographer will expect the focus to be in the centre of the frame. If it isn’t there’s a good chance the shot will be lost while they are searching around the screen for the focus point. Do you agree or have you found something I haven’t? I’ve asked Don Morley to have a look at this as well.
      ,

      • Thanks Michael, I think I finally understand why Leica are having trouble giving you what you want. I agree that it is not an unreasonable request either.

        What I reckon is at the root of this is the different focussing options available to the user, there are three in the menu, Multi-field, Spot, Field, Tracking and Face Detection. is that three of those options depend on the ability of the computer to constantly reassess the points of focus in the frame, they are designed to by dynamic. Meanwhile the other two are static.

        But what does the programmer do when he is confronted with a crude set of options regarding this logic? He may only be able to make the behaviour consistent, and it is more useful to have the dynamic focus samplers, remain so.

        Obviously this would be easier if the internal software engine was written in a very low level language like assembler. I have no idea whether this is so, but modern techniques often employ easy programming interfaces, so that the programmer is more of an enabler than a creative. Scripting vs coding.

        So by retaining the (in the manufacturers eyes) advantages of dynamic auto focus for all of those users who were once film photographers with M cameras and its OVF, they will lose the young turks for whom such dynamism is regarded as a benefit, rather than a loss.

        I think this is as close as you are going to get without throwing out the bathwater, but I think it is clunky and as such, not particularly useful.

        • All very logical, Stephen, and you could be right. But why doesn’t Leica pronounce on this and kill it off for good and all. Then we know were we stand. However, it is odd that Fuji can do it.

  3. OK, so no CL for me at present… I´m staying with my M9 and Monochrom 1; their focus point certainly remains where it should be…;-)

    Seriously, I DID have half an idea to get a CL as a complement/backup to my 2 M´s. Only, now I realise this `feature´ is something that would drive me NUTS, so I´d better stay with what I already have.

  4. Sadly my CL nuts have long been driven. This camera could be so brilliant if only Leica would listen to so many of we complaining customers and sort out the wandering focus point but as is this dammed frustrating camera instead just continues to drive owners like me mad. Wish I could afford to just bin it and go back to my previously much loved Fuji X-Pro 2.

  5. I bought a mint used CL with the Elmarit TL 18mm a few months back and am absolutely delighted with it.
    Whilst I acknowledge that it is frequently used with my M lenses, I haven’t experienced the wayward focus point problem when using the TL lens.
    Maybe I have a pointed thumb!
    Having said that, the ability to lock the focus point would be a useful feature.
    I wouldn’t trade my CL for a Fuji, which I find too fiddly, but each to his own.

    • I agree this isn’t something that bothers everyone. For some reason, I have always been susceptible to this problem right from the X-Vario which had a very sensitive four-way pad. It must be something to do with the way I hold the camera with the ball of my thumb hitting the pad.

  6. I have to think, after all the wailing and gnashing of teeth over this seemingly simple addition not being made, that to do so is much more involved that we all think. If it were simple, it would have been done already.
    Someone at Leica’s software management team has discovered that in order to fulfill this one “simple” request, much of the camera’s firmware would have to be re-written, and many (possible) new bugs would/could be introduced. And someone, in Leica’s financial management team, has decided that this would be too costly to deal with, especially after the sensor fiasco of the M9 and the lens fiasco of the S series..
    What else can explain this after all this time?

    • This could well be right, Hank. However, there is another factor and that is the likely involvement of Panasonic. Take the D-Lux 7, for instance. In suffers from exactly the same problems as the CL in that the focus point can easily be moved and there is no direct way to lock it in the centre. The D-Lux 7 has a similar lock-down feature to the CL but there is one big difference. With the D-Lux 7, there are physical controls for aperture, shutter speed and exposure compensation. So you can happily lock down the camera but still have access to all the main adjustments.

      The CL operates in exactly the same way with the exception that, as a camera with soft controls, everything gets locked down. I suspect that Panasonic designed the functionality of the firmware for the CL based on other models in the range. I can’t prove this, of course, but the lock-down feature is something of a giveaway.

  7. Sorry Mike, I had hoped that it would happen this time. I will stick to my X and Df combination for the time being.

  8. I’m happy with the update given the new range of L lenses becoming available. I have personally never worried — or been even aware — about the “shifting” center point focus. I use multi field and it always shifts where I wish. The CL I have to say has been for the last six months during my sabbatical in Europe, the consistent take along, always with me, camera. With the 18-56 and sometimes the 55-135, it has quickly, easily, and handily, served all my needs as an architectural and urban photographer in every city, village, and church – with a great rendering in low light spaces. Indeed, I have to say that my M10, and my Lumix S1R, have almost never left the hotel!

    • You have a good point and your view is similar to that of Jono Slack who sees no need for a focus centre lock. We’ve discussed this many times. With multi-field, the problem doesn’t arise. It is only a problem when trying to do the traditional focus-and-recompose which is my preferred way of shooting — born, no doubt, of long exposure to rangefinders. I do intend to give multi-field a gallop out of interest. Certainly for street photography when using wide-angle lenses and narrow apertures, critical focus is less important.

      • I am wondering whether fashion hasn’t got something to do with this too?

        For a good while after buying the CL, I was unhappy with it, since it doesn’t fit into my arsenal nicely, I was fretting over the idea of compatibility. A 35mm lens should be just that, not 35 on some cameras but anything from 50 to 100mm on other devices, that is not consistent.

        For the last few years, the concept of “bokeh” has been very prominent. The problem with multi-field is that the feature is trying to maintain the best overall focus.

        Great for landscape, not so great for portraits.

        But then as Anthony says here, I looked at it as a great “go anywhere” system, and as soon as I did that, I began to use it differently. For instance, I have sold my WA zoom and just retained the 18-56 kit zoom, and it neatly does everything I want when travelling.

        When being what I laughingly call artistic/creative, I am likely to use an M, a TLR, my Texas Leica, a Pinholio, or even a field camera, mess around for many hours and then chuck the result either in the bin, or in a folder, never to be seen again.

  9. Hi, the centre focus and shift is critical to me in capturing a fleeting moment and being sure focus is where I want it. Multi-field focus generally picks the most close object or most contrasty object and that is not what I want especially with narrow depth of field apertures. this is a trivial firmware fix and I do not understand why Leica does not fix this.

  10. I have used focus and recompose for decades. It is my way of composing and taking photographs. I would very much like for Leica to make the adjustment so often requested. However, dealing with the moving focus point is, for me, a small irritant to endure for the joy and results the Leica CL gives me. No camera is perfect (I also have “fiddled” with Fuji) and no Leica is perfect for everyone. For me, the CL comes the closest and I am very pleased to have it.

    • I have also taken this view, although I cannot understand why Leica refuses to countenance this mod. It is, after all, the most Wesentlich feature demanded by M shooters. Fuji and others have done this, recognising that some photographers still prefer focus and recompose. Recently I have taken to locking the camera down and accepting that I need to go through the unlock rigmarole if I want to change aperture or compensation. Most times, especially for casual photography at slower apertures there’s no need to fiddle.

  11. Hi Mike,
    I do not have a problem with a shifting focus point, perhaps because I have a thunb grip and a half case.
    This requires a conscious effort to reach the four way pad.
    My M10 has a fixed focus point that I love and have used on M series and Barnack cameras since 1959.
    Cheers
    Philip

  12. If you disable Touch AF in the menu system, you should not have the problem of touching the screen and moving the focal point by mistake.

    • I generally disable touch screens and I have done that since I had the CL. It seems to be the D-pad that is the culprit and, as I say elsewhere, it is a very individual thing. Some people never experience the problem, others are plagued by it. Perhaps, as pointed out elsewhere, a half case might help. The grip doesn’t help as far as I am concerned.

  13. Philip’s reply tells me why I don’t have a problem with shifting focus – I have a thumb grip. And this is really needed with the long 55-135 and heavier lenses!

  14. My apologies Michael, but I replied to your reply, including the usual quota of double-dutch, and then subsequently read Hank’s comment below, which I suspect is at the heart of the problem.

    There is a piece of fairly crude software, possibly controlled by Panasonic and which refuses to play nicely.

  15. No kidding,I’ve been in the Leica store a couple of times over the past year or so with cash in my pocket to buy a Leica CL and as much as I wanted a one, both times I came out empty handed. It’s because I consider that missing focus lock in the center to be one of the “essentials”. Leica doesn’t it seems.
    I’m right with you on this Mike! Where’s the Wesentlich when you need it?
    No choice but to wait for a CL2 I guess.

    • I wish I had any confidence that the CL2 will rectify this omission. It is more than likely to double-down on the pandering to this elusive “new user” who they think is incapably of using a camera unless it reproduces everything they are used to on their phone camera. Leica is intransigent on this issue when, as champions of the rangefinder, they should make centre-focus-point lock a selling point for all their digital cameras. They can’t even be bothered to respond and explain why we don’t need centre focus.

  16. Having read all of the above with great interest, and also digested everything Leica themselves wrote about it before deciding to chance/risk installing this latest 3.1 firmware the final persuader to try it was the very last item on Leica’s installation instructions which said- ’10/. Confirm the upload of your personal settings from the SD card’

    This implied reasurance was of some considerable importancet to meas all of my boringly set settings have been lost on each and every previous firmware update and hence my initial reaction to 3.01 was, not much in it, and maybe better to stick as was rather having the bore of re setting all of my cameras very numerous settings all over again.

    Maybe it is all my fault? And maybe I should have followed my own misgivings but sure enough 3.01 deleted everything including my copyright info and all user settings exactly as before? It also put my camera into ‘P’ mode as its default setting which truly annoyed as this is a setting I would never ever choose to use.

    However to get to the really important point as taken from several of the Macfilos coments above, no matter I thought, its a price worth paying if I too can set my AF Lock up via the Fn button or however else so my single focus point stays central and thus just where I want the little horror it to stay, but for me at least sadly that too failed,

    Any advice on this matter from anyone please would be very much appreciated, for instance is it just me that having done said AF Lock setting I cant even bring this option up by fe Fn or any other button?? Don

    • The new firmware did overwrite all my settings for function buttons and preferred options. But I suppose I could have saved all my settings to a profile and then downloaded the profile for save keeping before updating. As it was, I didn’t have much to out back to have it the way I wanted.

      I think I responded to Stephen J on this topic of AF-Lock. All it does is to lock the focus on a half press of the shutter button. It doesn’t govern where the focus field or spot market is located on the screen. So in this respect, nothing has changed. We could always set AF-L but the function can now be allocated to a button rather than having to go through the menu.

      On balance I always prefer to update to the latest firmware although it may be prudent to wait a week or two!

      • I took the precaution of exporting my settings before updating my firmware to 3.1. Then swapped memory cards to the one containing the updating file. On the prompt it accepted my instruction and saved the settings to the firmware file. Likewise at the end, I imported the settings and all was well. My belts and braces measure was not needed.

  17. TAKING A GRIP
    Mike, your first picture shows a front view of holding a CL. It would be helpful if you could also show a rear view to help me make a point. (When I can find a model, I will send a picture of how I hold the camera. But here is a simple description)

    First, as you know I always use a handgrip with my cameras. So my right thumb is almost vertical, possibly offset to the left by about 30 degrees. The right side of the ball of my right thumb is in contact with the right wheel; useful for making adjustments when needed. The face of my right thumb loosely straddles the direction pad, without meaningful contact. My index finger rests on the shutter release button. My grip is relaxed, unstressed and responsive to control needs.

    Focusing is a different matter and it seems we all have our pet methods. Mine for on-the-fly shooting is to use face-recognition accepting that the camera will quite often not choose the target I had in mind. No problem. I immediately resort to hybrid focusing, starting as above then locking whatever position the camera has chosen and manually fine-tuning to the correct target for sharp focus with my left hand. Focus peaking aids this method and is achieved virtually without a delay. I change the colour as necessary. This would not work so well for street photography, which I seldom do. For that I would mainly rely on face-recognition, manually refined in some cases with static subjects.

    It does surprise me how little is written about this hybrid method; maybe because few photographers employ or attempt to master the technique. It saddens me that you continue to suffer from focus point migration against your will. Back to basics and refine your handling technique.

    • Dear David, Thanks for this very helpful description. I admit that my problems are probably self-inflicted by the way I hold the camera. I do have the Leica thumb grip attached, and that helps enormously, although it doesn’t completely eradicate the problem. Strangely, the Q2 also has a wayward focus point but I have had absolutely no problem.

      I will have a go at the hybrid method you describe. Maybe you would like to put a short article together, accompanied by some of your excellent photographs, to illustrate the point.

      My main argument is that a centre focus lock should be included. Then we would have a straight choice and not have to resort to workarounds. Only this week I was checking the menu of my Sony RX100 VI and found an option to lock centre focus. If Sony can do it (plus Fuji and others) why can Leica not do it. As the company that still preaches focus-and-recompose (to any rangefinder buyer), it would be logical to create the rangefinder centre-focus patch on all the company’s digital cameras.

  18. Glad to have the opportunity to share this with CL users.
    The dancing white cross on your eye is really annoying. But finding tons of hot pixels in your pics, just deceptive.
    I explain myself. Shoot longer than about 1/15 sec. Process it giving top clarity and contrast. And all the dark, even not so dark, areas will then appear like the starry night. It happens randomly, some times yes, some others not. More yes than not.
    I sent lots of samples to Leica customer service. And they answered that yes, but tolerance and bla bla bla. For at the end ignoring me.
    No, it’s not about my unit. I owned three and they behave all the same.
    So, that’s the very first they must solve through new firmware.
    The point is they’re absolutely proud about they perfection, so they mind just nothing.
    Amazed no one realized that before.
    3.1
    how is that a camera like the CL comes from factory without evf bright control?, what do those engineers think?
    yeah, locking exposure with FN is useful and using zone instead of spot focus can avoid the cross
    At the end, I really enjoy the camera. And my Fuji’s too.
    Please, check those hot spots guys. And contact me if you wish.
    Last point.
    I also suggested those genious’ of Leica support to increase maximum exposure time in following firmwares. But imagine finding stars among hot pixels in a half hour shot.
    Thanks

  19. Am aware of the focus issue, tried to shoot a dark item in shadows, and the AF just couldn’t find it. So that shot was lost. But the CL allows so many others, quickly taken. It permits additional refinements/adjustments as one wants, needs, chooses. It’s this flexibility that makes it so nice to use, with the exposure triangle, choice of auto or manual, use of M or TL lenses, the EVF (set on BW only, much better for composition), etc. so yes, I agree on the focus issue is a problem, but not quite so major one as suggested.

  20. I’ve clicked off 8k+ shutter clicks on my cl, and the focus point moving inadvertently is rarely a problem for me.

    Only a handful of time have I accidentally moved it all the way to a corner, but a quick double tap on the screen and it’s right back where I want it – and this is rare.

    I’m very used to the double tap. If I know I’m going to shoot a similar composure, I move the focus point.. and when done, TAP TAP and it’s back to center. Maybe it’s just my overly cautious handling of the camera in general, but I rarely find my spot focus point has moved.

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