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Leica reimagines a ’70s rangefinder with the new CL mirrorless camera

Leica is giving the classic rangefinder CL camera digital guts. On Tuesday, Nov. 21, Leica launched the Leica CL, a digital camera with the same set of specifications as the TL2 launched earlier this year, but with a vastly different exterior modeled after the 1973 camera by the same name.

The list of technical specifications are nearly identical to the TL2 launched over the summer — the new digital CL uses a 24 megapixel APS-C sensor paired with a 49-point autofocus system. Video quality is 4K at 30 frames per second.

But while the sensor (and image quality) is the same as the TL2, on the outside, the two are vastly different cameras. Inspired by the original CL rangefinder, the remake uses an electronic viewfinder that’s also far to the left of the camera. At the top of the camera, two dials to control aperture, shutter speed, ISO and exposure compensation mirror the controls on the classic camera. Besides having that nostalgic look, Leica says the control scheme on the CL allows photographers to adjust settings without removing their eye from that viewfinder.

The large, 3.7-inch LCD touchscreen at the back gives away the digital guts, as well as a small LCD screen at the top of the camera that displays exposure parameters. While the physical controls are classically inspired, Leica says the touchscreen offers functions similar to smartphone photography. Using Wi-Fi, the CL can also connect to a smartphone to transfer photos for sharing or use as a remote release.

Along with the CL, Leica also announced a new Elmarit-TL 1:2.8/18 ASPH lens for the CL, TL2, and other Leica L mount cameras. The 18mm pancake lens offers a bright f/2.8 aperture and auto or manual focus. The lens is designed with a metal barrel. The lens joins the existing line-up for the Leica APS-C System as a wide-angle option that, according to Leica, offers both a compact design and exceptional picture quality.

The Leica CL will go on sale starting at the end of November, Leica says, with Amazon listing a December 15 ship date. The CL is available in black as the only color option, listing for $2,795 body-only or for $3,795 with the 18mm lens or $3,995 with an 18-55mm lens. The TL2, launched this summer, is available in black and silver.

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