Leica CL Street Kit with Summicron-TL23mm f2 ASPH. – Rationalizing an irrational decision

I have been on the fence about acquiring a Leica ASP-C camera for some time. One does not need to study the specifications for more than two minutes to realize that for the price, one can easily buy a Japanese camera for far better bang-for-the-buck.

I have been casually following the second hand market to see if a good bargain for a Leica CL or TL2 will show up, but perhaps I was following a bit too ‘casually’, I never saw one on the second hand market or the only one showed up was in silver. The CL Kit with the 18mm is an attractive package, but 28mm (eq) has never been my perspective. I either like it wider at 21mm or 24mm or my favortie remains the ‘boring’ 35mm. So when in December 2018, Leica launched the Leica CL Street Kit with Summicron-TL 23mm ASPH., it grabbed my interest. I actually did not find out about it until a few days ago, and now I have a CL Street Kit in my hands.

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The CL with the 23mm seems to be a great compromise of portability and image quality. I have always wanted a perfect ’35mm setup’… I have owned all iterations of the Fujifilm X100 series (up to X100F) and Sony RX1R II. As I wrote previously, the reason I ended up selling my Fujifilms is that of what most people love about Fujifilm… the color profiles. Also, the 23mm f2 lens on the Fujifilm X100 series becomes so soft once you start to be close to your subject. You don’t need to reach ‘macro’ distance to experience this. It is a fine lens otherwise. The Sony RX1R II is absolutely state-of-the-art when it comes to image quality. The Zeiss 35mm f2.0 lens produces beautiful renderings, and with the Sony 42MP pixels, one can crop to 50mm equivalent and still end up with 18MP. Oddly, Sony does not provide such a cropping function in camera, where the 24MP Leica Q offers users to crop the 28mm lens to produce 35mm and 50mm crops with just 15MP and 8MP respectively. I love the Sony RX1R II, but I sold it because it was one of the most frustrating cameras to use. The camera is so tiny that my hand would cramp up after prolonged use. Not to mention, the battery life is absolutely ridiculous. I think the battery is the reason why the RX1R II cannot do 4k video with the a7R II and a7R III, both cameras use the same sensor, can. Leica Q would have been an option, but again it’s mainly because of my preference of the 35mm perspective over the 28mm which held me back. If the Leica Q2 has a 40+ MP sensor and allows me to crop from its 28mm lens to 35mm and still give me decent resolution, that would likely be in my future as well.

Back to the CL. The CL is very light and small. I wouldn’t mind the TL2 as I already have the Visoflex for my M10-P, and the built-in memory of the TL2 is a nice bonus. The cheaper price point does not hurt either. But at the time of buying, the TL2 was only available in Silver and there were not kits available.

The Leica CL Street Kit with Summicron-TL 23mm f2 ASPH. comes with some other goodies, such an additional battery, hand grip, and leather strap. Frankly, I don’t think I will be using any of them. I prefer to use a leather half case and a Rock & Roll strap anyway. The extra battery is the only useful item. But even without all the goodies, the lens and body alone make the kit worth its price. On top of the Kit, I also purchased the Leica M-Adapter L and the Summilux-TL 35mm f1.4 lens.

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The Leica CL pairs with the Summicron-TL 23mm very nicely. The resulting package is smaller than the Fujifilm X-E3 with the Fujinon 23mm f2 lens. The ergonomics are excellent. The minimalistic design philosophy of Leica is refreshing and frankly one of the main reasons why I ended up buying it. It feels a little like Apple vs the PC world. There are lots of Apple-haters out there, just like there are lots of Leica-haters as well. It is not designed in a way that will please everyone, but it has a much clearer focus on the basic essentials of photography than any other camera brand (Fujifilm comes in second in my mind).

The question is, with all the excellent cameras on the market, why would one pay so much premium for Leica? Is it even possible to rationalize such an irrational purchasing decision?

Short answer is no. To put it bluntly, Leica CL does not offer good ‘value’. The premium does buy you excellent built quality and user experience. There is certainly an intangible emotional element to the decision.

I shall report back after some use of the system. In the meantime, here’s a photo of my Leica CL.

Leica CL with Summicron-TL 23mm f2.0 lens
Leica CL with Summicron-TL 23mm f2.0 lens Photo taken by iPhone X

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