Many Leica fans will perceive it as a sad anniversary: Today six years ago, Leica launched the CL, as their new APS-C camera. On 21 November 2017, Leica promised an “ideal balance between state-of-the-art technology, mechanical precision and compact construction”. As we know today, it was the beginning of the end.
After the revolutionary but luckless Leica T, later renamed TL and still later greatly improved to the Leica TL2, the CL seemed to fulfil all wishes. A fairly familiar user experience, a built-in electronic viewfinder with decent quality (by standards then) and a clear design allusion to the Leicas as they had become iconic over the decades. On 21 November 2017, it was announced and shipped only a few weeks later.
On the Leica CL anniversary, let’s not forget the nice lens line-up
Add to this a nice lens line-up with three zooms (11-22, 18-56, 55-135) and four primes (18/2.8, 23/2.0, 35/1.4, 60/2.8), and success seemed to be secure finally. Leica had invested quite some money into their APS-C mirrorless system, and the CL should be the breakthrough. But sales were soon slowing down, and on the fifth Leica CL anniversary, the obituaries for the system were already written.
How could this happen? Newcomers might have been more attracted to Fujifilm’s APS-C range with continuous improvements both on lenses and cameras, image stabilization and some more state-of-the-art features. Leica aficionados soon saw the advantages of the full-frame part of the L-mount world. And existing Leica APS-C users… were not so many.
Other brands had more success with APS-C cameras
The rest is history. But let’s remember, on this Leica CL anniversary, all the euphoria about a new Leica on that November 21st, six years ago. Marketing talk was even that the CL was the camera Oskar Barnack would invent today. Compared to the force of this statement, Leica’s commitment to the CL and possible successors was remarkably short-lived. The CL was to be the last APS-C camera ever to leave the Leica works. Other companies had more success with their APS-C ventures. The Fujifilm X100 is in its fifth iteration now and still in high demand, with Leica-like waiting lists.
So let’s light six candles today for our good friend. The Leica CL anniversary, however, is more than a day of grief. This beautiful small camera is still much loved in parts of the community, and second-hand prices tell the story of a desirable product. If only Leica had…. – this sentence has often been brought to a fitting end. Pick any of the popular options:
… given the APS system enough marketing attention;
… brought a CL2 with IBIS early enough;
… offered a few more interesting APS-C L-mount lenses;
… really cared to a mid-price (by their standards) level line-up;
… (fill in your own explanation/expectation).
The Leica CL anniversary raises one question: How long…
For now, we can indulge in memories and hope the best for the future regarding our existing Leica CL cameras. How long will Leica support and repair the CLs? Will they become modern classics, just as Keith James is claiming for his Leica TL2 camera? Will the new CL be mentioned in the same breath as its namesake, the analogue Leica CL from 1973 (a camera which was discontinued because it was too successful and stopped people from buying the more expensive Leica M cameras)?
Just some of my favourite images with the Leica CL with various lenses
Read on in one of many Macfilos articles on the Leica CL
On the occasion of the Leica CL anniversary, here come some links, for the old times’ sake as well as for everybody who is discovering the Leica CL only now:
- Macfilos coverage of the Leica CL launch
- Mike Evans’ assessment of the Leica CL
- Jono Slack’s authoritative review of the camera
- Andrew Tobin swapped his M10 for a CL and reviews the 55-135 APS telephoto zoom
- Mike Evans’ coverage of the Leica CL retirement and Stefan Daniel’s statement
- Jörg-Peter Rau’s suggestions for owners of orphaned APS-C L-Mount lenses
- An overview of current APS-C cameras shows that this segment can be successful
- Review of the Pixii camera, in some respects, a successor to the Leica CL
- The Paul Smith, the Bauhaus and the Jungle by Jean Pigozzi special editions of the CL (once again sure harbingers of the end)
- Episode in the M Files on the original, film-loading Leica CL
And much, much more. Just type “Leica CL” into the search on the Macfilos home page!
What feelings do you have for the Leica CL? Still in love? Parted with it? Happy to have never bought one? Or having one in the drawer with a more or less bad conscience? Have you made your peace with Leica’s decision to give up APS-C? Or is the time of mourning still not over? Let’s discuss in the comments section!
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