I had fun walking around shooting the camera and the newest lens... Oh! I didn't tell you about that? Well.....


I screwed up on a scheduling thing. The Day of the Dead Festival at Waterloo Park in Austin, Texas is tomorrow afternoon/evening, from 2pm to 7pm. Not today! I got to an empty park and then, surprised, I checked the details on my phone. Dumb photographer. But undaunted I headed downtown to see if anyone else was celebrating. 

As you can see in the image above I was using my new (to me) Leica CL and also a small, new lens. The lens is an inexpensive, TTartisans 35mm f1.4 lens which covers APS-C but not full frame. I bought it to have something small and light to carry around on the CL. It's totally, totally manual everything; no AF, no exposure automation, no exif info. But it's available in L mount without the need for an adapter and even destitute bloggers can afford one... it's a whopping $75 at B&H Photo. Less than the price of a Leica brand lens cap. 

I've never used it before. It just came on Thursday. So it's the only lens I took with me this afternoon. I have to say that it's reasonably sharp in the center at f1.4, much better at f2.5, and absolutely fine at f4 and f5.6. I included this dour looking image of myself because it was shot at f2.0 and I think the detail around my angry looking eye is really good. I also like the way stuff falls in and out of focus. I'm loving the punch in for manual focusing and now that I've had the opportunity to use the camera with a fully manual lens on the front I'm happy to report that I spent three hours downtown, shot about 175 photographs and came back home with the original battery I had inserted this morning still showing a full charge. Much better. That's more like what I expected.

Here's some color stuff from the ramble through town: 

I stopped in to use a restroom at the historic, Driskill Hotel.
You gotta love a place that still provides cloth hand towels.
A nice touch. I'll drop by more often.

And the restrooms are so well appointed. 

Austin photo pro and teacher, Chris Caselli, shooting some 
photos for the Mexic-Arte Museum festivities. 

The signature squint.

All images= CL + TTArtisans 35mm f1.4 for APS-C.

Sorry to be so slow at moderating comments lately. 
We're trying for an hour or less but we have to sleep sometime.

The CL is a fun camera. I'll be using it a lot for a while. Sorry.
Hope it doesn't get too boring. But take heart, we're still publishing 
7 days a week, barring acts of civil disturbance or the intrusion 
of an angry God. Let those comments fly; I'd like to practice my speed moderation skills.

A First, Tentative Outing with a Leica CL.


PDA Band. I found these guys at the Tau Ceti art installation and asked 
if I could take their photos. They were delighted. 
And delightful. 

I talked a little bit about the Leica CL earlier. Yesterday, with three batteries charged and the Panasonic 20-60mm lens on the front of it I took the small, unobtrusive camera downtown just to get the feel of it. The two wheels on top mystified me at first. I finally got them figured out but I should have read the owners manual first. The CL is a small, light APS-C camera which is an obvious homage to the original Leica screw mount cameras of the 1930's, 40's and 50's. It's visually spare and minimalist which makes it ultimately stealthy. Cover the red dot with a piece of black tape and you'd have a nearly invisible camera to work with. 

The camera has a very good 24 megapixel sensor and fast processors. A major advantage for someone who already owns Leicas of a similar generation (think: Leica SL or SL2) is that the menus are very, very similar so there's not a lot of confusion going from one model to another. A second advantage is that the CL shares the same lens mount with the SL series of cameras as well as a TL series that is dedicated to the APS-C format. The lenses in both systems are interchangeable between all cameras although using the TL lenses on the full frame cameras will automatically trigger an APS-C crop. 

The CL has a very usable, but not remarkable, EVF with which to focus and compose. It's a nice and compact camera that would make a very good back-up camera for an SL or SL2 system. There are a number of TL lenses and after market, third party lenses that will fit on the L mount but are designed for the cropped, APS-C sensor only. I am hesitant to buy a whole series of dedicated lenses for the CL if I can just as happily press full frame SL and full frame, after market L designs into use. But your mileage will vary. There is an aesthetic advantage to some of the lower priced Chinese lenses as they are mostly much smaller and unobtrusive. Less obvious. But all are completely manual in use. No auto exposure, no AF, and no exif information transferred.

Right now the logical zoom lens to use with the camera, for me, is the Panasonic 20-60mm lens since, in APS-C World, that combination of focal lengths equals a very useful range. In "full frame speak" it's equivalent (in terms of angles of view...) to a 30mm to 90mm zoom lens. And for me that's a very useful range of focal lengths. It's also a logical body to use if you need extreme telephoto reach since your garden variety 70-200mm zoom would extend to 300mm and the density of the sensor means good detail and resolution even at 300mm.

So, how did it feel to work with? I've grown more and more comfortable with Auto-ISO lately and that takes a bit of stress out of the equation. I set it so the lowest shutter speed with this camera is 1/125th of a second. I tend to use the "A" mode of the camera so that eliminates yet another variable. That leaves me with having only to intervene with exposure compensation and switching to appropriate apertures to get the depth of field I want. All of this makes it more of a point and shoot camera and less of a customization nightmare. 

You can set up a CL so that the camera uses the EVF exclusively for all the shooting duties; from composition and focusing to exposure evaluation. The rear panel, when used in the this mode, is only active for image review and when you need to access the menu. It's a great way of working because there isn't as much temptation to stop your process and gander at the rear LCD after each little flurry of exposures. It makes the camera, at least for me, into more of an analog style shooting camera instead of an always on digital camera. 

As far as handling goes, the body is rounded and doesn't have a lot of points of good purchase for my hands in its stock form. I knew from using other, smaller cameras that it would feel better in my hands with a thumb rest on the back. I ordered a Hoage thumb rest that fits into the hot shoe of the camera on the same day I ordered the camera. I was not disappointed, the thumb rest makes my camera-hold more secure. 

When I'm walking to get somewhere quickly I toss the camera over my left shoulder on the original, leather, Leica strap that shipped with the camera. It's so light I can barely feel it there. But when I slow down and look for images I'd like to shoot I tend to wear the camera with the strap around my neck and the camera bouncing on my rock hard abs. 😆 Then, when I see something interesting, I just grab that camera and bring it up to my eye. It's not as stealthy as it would be if I were to give up the full camera strap altogether and just use a wrist strap with the camera but I'm never really worried about being ultimately stealthy so I'm fine making the visual declaration that there is a photographer in the area... It's hard to miss seeing any camera that's bouncing there, right in the middle of one's torso. 

The camera should be a very popular one come winter as it seems to stay fairly warm if you turn off the power saving mode and just let the camera sit on "simmer" between shots. It won't warm up a cup of coffee but alternately you probably won't need gloves for any but the most severe weather.

And all that heat has to come from somewhere so you really do need to bring along extra batteries. If I were walking around a new (to me) city for a full day, and shooting with abandon, as I usually do, I think I'd go thru a battery just about every two hours. So, a long shooting day would need at least one battery in the camera and three more in the pockets. Four total for leisure work in a long day. But if I were shooting for money and it was a typical, busy job I'd feel more comfortable with six total batteries in the bag and a charger in tow. 

And that brings up another point of resistance for some people... the camera is completely port-less. You will not find doors on either end of the camera. No USB, no HDMI, no microphone or headphone jacks. It's just bare, rounded corners. If you want to recharge a battery you'll need to pull it out of the camera and put it on a charger. If you need to transfer files to your computer you'll need an SD card reader. The camera is set up to be almost a completely dedicated shooting tool and not a post production hub. You need to know this going into your purchase of a CL. Believe me! With this camera you are NOT paying more for video capabilities...

If you want ports and plugs and internal battery charging then skip this camera and get an SL2 or SL2S camera instead. They've got the ports and the set-ups you want. 

I spent some battery time setting up the camera and then I used it to take photos during my walk. I depended on the "power saving" setting to extend the battery life but by the end of the walk (about an hour and a half) the battery was just about to throw in the towel. I currently have three Leica batteries and two Sigma fp batteries, all of which work in the camera. I'll likely buy a couple more Sigma fp batteries because they are half the price of Leica batteries and I'd conjecture that they are identical, aside from the logos and part numbers...

It would be nice if batteries lasted longer but then Leica would have had to increase the camera body size and some of its charm would have been cancelled. Batteries are relatively cheap. We can always use them again in a Sigma fp or fp L. 

I need to get used to handling a smaller and lighter camera. Reducing the weight and making the camera more invisible is different for me. And you know how badly we humans react to change. 

I will say that no one took as much as a second look at my camera. It just screams: "tourist/amateur/toy" camera. No one batted an eye when I asked if I could photograph them. And that's exactly what I wanted out of the camera. 

Now, let's take a moment to discuss the results. The camera is highly neutral. The images I got were sharp and detailed and the color looked great. The output seems to match the kind of color and tonality I've been getting from my appropriately tweaked SL cameras. That's a great thing, in my opinion. I like for camera families to match; more or less. 

I shined my Cole Hahn shoes just before I left the house but I'd already scuffed them only a half hour in to my walk. I should walk more carefully but that might interfere with the "fun quotient." 
f5.6 is snappy, sharp, high res, and contrasty. More of a nod to the lens
than anything else. But I have to give the camera some credit too. 
Still trying to get a good photo of the mannequin with the big flashy bow...
Day of the Dead art on the windows at the Mexic-Arte Museum on Congress Ave. Lovely. 
Spiffy car detail. Twin turbo something or other. Goes 10 MPH on Mopac at Rush Hour.
Just like all the other cars....

I think that the CL can be a bitchy little camera that has some operational glitches. I noted today that when I brought it into the office it had abandoned the settings I'd engaged earlier and headed back to its defaults. I had the new settings set up in "profile #1" so it was a one click operation to reset them back to where I'd set them before but I need to understand if the internal clock battery just needs some longer term charging or if I'd hit a reset somewhere. But that means the CL has a certain amount of personality and I'm glad to tolerate that if the other choice is just another homogenous and mundane tool, bereft of the certain whimsical nature that makes all of this more fun....

This afternoon I'm going to a Day of the Dead Festival and I'm taking the CL and the Sigma 45mm f2.8 lens with me. They look perfect together and I'm hoping they work well with each other. Both have the latest firmware installed so.... we'll see.