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.
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.
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.
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.