Often I read negative comments about in-camera charging. The criticism isn’t aimed at the feature itself, rather it is concerned with the suspicion that manufacturers are cutting corners and saving cash on providing a single-battery charger unit.
Quite apart from this argument, however, in-camera charging is a wonderful thing and I would like to see it adopted universally. Before you protest, hear me out.
The big advantage of in-camera charging is that you don’t have to remember to pack the charger. One less thing to think about. And, even if you do sling the charger into your bag, there is room for error. I own a number of Leica cameras, all with similar-looking chargers (with the exception of the one for the Q/2 and SL/2 which is quite distinctive). I’ve caught myself out on a couple of occasions packing the wrong charger. I now have the name of the camera Dymo-taped on the units to avoid any danger of error.
Of course, you need a micro-USB cable (or USB-C in the case of the SL2) but it’s no great problem if you forget it. You can buy a micro-USB cable almost anywhere in the world, and USB-C is now also becoming a commonly stocked item. In contrast, proprietary charges (especially Leica chargers) can be expensive and almost impossible to find in an emergency.
Cameras equipped with a charging port can be topped up between outings so, in theory, you always leave home with a full battery — whether or not you intend to take a spare. It’s pretty much the same argument as I’ve used with my new Jaguar I-Pace which now never leaves home without a “full tank”.
As for manufacturers cutting costs by not including a charger pod, I can live with that although in fairness I don’t really think it’s happening. My experience is that most do come with a charging unit in addition to the in-camera facility. For most of my cameras (other than the unique Leica Q/SL charger) I have third party tandem units which work from the same micro-USB cable and can charge two batteries at once. They cost very little and are often less bulky than the manufacturers’ units. And it is less of a disaster if you lose them or leave them in the hotel room.
My pet hate is OEM chargers with proprietary detachable plugs (with a variety of international options) which are impossible to replace. Wise manufacturers employ a standard ∞ socket so you can easily find a cable abroad if you forget to pack one. As it happens, I have a selection of mains cables with local plugs which I have purchased cheaply from electrical stockists in most countries I have visited. Or, better, still, I use these chargers with an appropriate Apple plug.
I’m a convert to in-camera charging, as you can understand. In time, I hope all cameras will come with a charging port and, I think, that port should be USB-C if only for its ambidextrous nature. Trying to insert a micro-USB plug needs a visual check to make sure it is the right way up for the socket.
Leica convenience test
How do Leica’s current cameras stand up the convenience test? Not well, as you will see below. Only the SL2, the TL2 and the PanaLeica compacts are fully charged for the roaring twenties….
As you would expect, there is no charging port in the venerable M body. I can make an exception for the M because a port would spoil the lines, even if technically feasible. The camera comes with a Leica-branded charger which features the very useful ∞ socket so you can easily find a local cable. Full marks for that thought. But forget to pack the charger and you are scuppered unless you can find a Leica stockist. Good luck to Wayne in the ‘Stans!
Leica Q and Q2
No ports on these cameras either — you just have to remember to pack the charger pod. The original Q uses the same battery as the CL and V-Lux but the Q2 moved to the larger SL battery.
It’s a bulky item which you won’t replace easily if you leave it at home. But, as with the M charger, it does have the universal ∞ mains input socket instead of a dedicated plug so forgetting the cable isn’t a disaster. Frankly, this is my one big gripe with the Q2. I envisage owning one for a long time and it is disappointing that it doesn’t share the SL2’s charging convenience.
Leica SL and SL2
Unlike the SL, the SL2 does have a USB-C port which I consider to be the current gold standard for in-camera charging. You can happily travel without a charger and you can easily buy a replacement cable if you lose one or forget to take it.
These cameras use the same charger unit as the Q and Q2, so the same problems of replacement-in-extremis apply. If I had an SL I’d consider the upgrade to the SL2 just for this added convenience.
Leica CL and TL2
No charging ports for the CL but, strangely, the TL2 does feature a USB-C port. It seems like a retrograde step to cut the interface from the CL, presumably entirely for cosmetic reasons.
Both models come with a dedicated charging unit (with ∞ socket) but you must remember to pack it for the CL. Again, an impossible situation if you find yourself nowhere near a Leica agent with one in stock, and this isn’t a given.
Leica D-Lux 7 and C-Lux
Both cameras come with a charger (with ∞ mains socket) but also accept a micro-USB cable for in-camera charging. You can afford to forget the charger, rely on cable input and enjoy carefree roaming.
As you will see, Leica is late to the in-camera charging party. But the SL2 gives us some hope that, at long last, the point has been made. Is it too much to hope that all future cameras will incorporate a USB-C port? However, the absence of the port on the CL when the earlier TL did have in-camera charging, is a worry. It’s no longer an excuse to say that a charger port can harm weather protection because the SL2 manages all this very neatly.
You may say that in-camera charging is not a solution because you wish to charge up a spare outside the camera. By all means, take the charger when you travel. But, at least, with a power input port in the camera, you will never be stuck. In practice, I find it quite convenient to keep one full battery as a spare and top-up the camera’s battery in the hotel overnight. And, if you must, it’s no great hardship to charge batteries consecutively in the camera.
As I said earlier, I do try to buy third-party double chargers for any camera I own. They are compact, light and effective. They are not as fast as the mains-powered OEM chargers, but they are certainly good enough for overnight loading via a USB cable. In many cases, though, it’s significant that I now don’t bother to pack them. Instead am happy to rely entirely on in-camera charging on the cameras with ports — my SL2, D-Lux 7 and Sony RX100 VI.
Finally, the presence of a USB charging port on any camera enables it to be charged from an external reserve battery similar to those many of us carry to replenish our phones during the day.