Why Switching From a Sony Mirrorless Camera to a Leica Camera Made Sense for Me

Why Switching From a Sony Mirrorless Camera to a Leica Camera Made Sense for Me

Switching gears in the world of photography can often feel like a leap of faith. The high cost of doing so doesn’t help either. Therefore, the decision to switch from one camera system to another is not taken lightly.

If anything, transitioning from a trusty Sony full frame mirrorless camera, the a7R II, to a Leica APS-C camera, the Leica CL, is daunting and scary, especially after being a big fan of using Sony mirrorless for almost a decade. Yet, for me, this move made perfect sense. Let me walk you through the reasons why after reflecting on my decision and navigating doubters for almost a year.

Size Does Matter

Firstly, size does matter. Recalling through my memories of being a hobbyist photographer, for the longest time my priority list has secretly always revolved around size. It took me a decade and countless camera and brand changes to realize I should stop ignoring it. Let me explain, the idea of carrying a small camera never really appealed to me for the longest time as also being a professional photographer, we are carrying no less than 20 kg of equipment all the time. And Sony at that point in time fulfilled the awkward middle ground of being a small size body and big in everything else. Despite all my efforts in trying to make it small for me to bring it out for a casual shoot, I always ended up with a bag full of lenses and batteries as I was being too afraid of missing out and compromises that I could not afford to have. Then here comes the introduction of Leica CL to me which I took a leap of faith into trying Leica again. This time around, the truly compact nature of the Leica CL appealed to me greatly. Months into using it, I realized a change in my shooting style, and most importantly I was no longer that afraid of missing out on shots and constantly working the compromises to my advantage with composition. This is also when I realize that I have slowly transitioned into a passive observer of a scene, documenting life without intruding on it. There is a weird way how Leica cameras facilitate a connection to people and surroundings in a way that larger, bulkier cameras couldn't.

Confidence Through Simplicity

Next, let’s talk about confidence, the elephant in the room that most people ignore. While the Sony a7R II is a high-resolution powerhouse that has all the technical capabilities that would swallow the Leica CL for breakfast, there is still something that Leica CL has that instills a different kind of assurance when photographing. When shooting with the Leica, there's a sense of 'getting the shot' that I hadn't experienced throughout my years of photographing with all the first and second-generation Sony mirrorless cameras. I suspect that it has something to do with the overall experience of operating the camera and the solidity of the camera. Having this amount of confidence through the simplicity of operating the camera would mean less time worrying about technicalities and more time fully immersed in the creative process and feeling the moment.

Compact Is Still the King

For the longest time, the debate of smartphone camera dominance has led many, including myself, to believe that the market no longer desires compact cameras. However, this overlooks a crucial distinction. Based on the current resurgence of high demand for compact cameras such as the Fujifilm X100V and Ricoh GR III, and my own experience of using a small compact camera, I strongly believe that it is not that photographers do not want compact cameras, but rather, they do not want a subpar one. These smaller cameras not only offer size and weight benefits but also remove barriers between photographer and subject. Imagine being in an intimate social setting, hiding behind a big camera can feel awkward, off-putting, and disconnected most of the time. Smaller cameras do the exact opposite, allowing a more natural interaction, and fostering genuine connection and conversations. And with the Leica CL’s discreet presence, it totally fulfills my requirements in capturing these moments authentically.

Aesthetic Appeal

In addition to the factors previously discussed, there's another aspect of the Leica camera that probably has nothing to do with photography which also contributed to my decision to make the switch. Its aesthetic appeal, if anything, this is probably the most fanboy thing every Leica owner will say. Unlike any Sony mirrorless camera, which screams "photographer" and attracts unwanted attention, the Leica CL exudes a timeless elegance that blends seamlessly into any environment, allowing me to document scenes without drawing unnecessary attention to myself. Furthermore, the Leica's aesthetic versatility extends beyond photography. It can double as a prop or fashion accessory when needed, seamlessly integrating into various contexts. Whether I'm shooting street scenes or attending a social event, the Leica complements my style without overshadowing it. This aesthetic allure adds another layer of appeal to the Leica camera, making it not only a practical tool for photography but also a statement piece that enhances my overall experience as a photographer.


When comparing the Leica CL to the Sony a7R II, it's clear that both cameras have their strengths and weaknesses. While the Sony may excel in resolution and technical features, the Leica offers a different shooting experience altogether. And personally, It's not just about the specs. It's about how the camera feels in your hands and how it allows you to connect with your subjects on a deeper level and foster creativity through experimentation in your photography approach.

In conclusion, my switch from a Sony mirrorless to a Leica CL was a decision driven by a combination of factors, and each of these elements contributes to a more fulfilling and immersive photography experience. So, when considering your next camera upgrade, it is more important to ask yourself what kind of experience do you want to have behind the lens than to ask yourself what is the latest and greatest camera that you want.

Zhen Siang Yang's picture

Yang Zhen Siang is a commercial photographer specialising in architecture, food and product photography. He help businesses to present themselves through the art of photography, crafting visually appealing and outstanding images that sells.

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I also had the Leica CL on my radar as a camera for roadshows of all kinds. However, I didn't want to buy a camera that was already 7 years old. Leica is probably working on a worthy successor.
Until then, I'll make do with my new Fuji X100VI as a documentary camera, even if it does have too many buttons and unneeded options on board. Ultimately, the important thing is to deactivate everything unnecessary and turn it into a high-quality point and shoot camera.

yes, camera age used to be my concern too until recently I have finally made peace with myself and realise that I really dont need the latest and greatest for my work. Though it is always nice to have the latest bell and whistle, I dont really find them attractive anymore or at least to have an impact in my work. So far I have found the sweet spot of cameras that launch in somewhere around year 2017 to 2019 to be sufficient for my usage.

And oh, sad to also say this but Leica has decided to discontinue the CL line. So I will most probably enjoy the CL until it stop working. (Hopefully never)

Yes, the CL line will not be continued, which is a real shame. My reasons for not buying a 7-year-old camera are mainly that perhaps 6 years of the camera's life have already been used up - even if it is a Leica ...

I was also thinking more of the continuation of the D-Lux line. Leica is currently working on a Leica D-Lux 8, which again could be interesting. Not as small as a CL, but probably not much bigger either. This could then be an option for me instead of a CL, if available at all after the launch (Q3 can only be ordered with a very long delivery time).

I was very lucky to have gotten a good unit from someone who barely used it.. which made sense to me. Yes.. I do not think the size different of the D-Lux would be that much at all if they ever launch a new one.. but last i heard.. Leica has decided to discontinued all their APSC camera production.. but until then we have to keep an eye on their releases.. I am secretly hoping that Leica took notice what a fan we have for the CL and continue production for CL2 haha

This comparison is pretty much apples to pomegranates. If you want a smaller camera, why not an a7CII or a7CR?

They are never meant to be similar, that is why I made the switch. The focus of the switch is also emphasizing on the change of my needs, from predominantly needing a camera for work and casual to bringing it out for casual use only keeping the need for work cameras separated. a7CII or a7CR or even sony A6700 series would not be suitable for me too as they are actually not much smaller than the many sony cameras I had previously. The closest alternative I could think of is the Fujifilm X100 series and yet that is a compromise as I could not change the lens when I wish to.

--- "a7CII or a7CR or even sony A6700 series would not be suitable for me too as they are actually not much smaller than the many sony cameras I had previously"

Just pointing it out. If body size was a factor, those 3 Sony's you mentioned are smaller than the Leica CL.

a6700: https://camerasize.com/compare/#726,910
a7CII: https://camerasize.com/compare/#726,912
a7CR: https://camerasize.com/compare/#726,911

Well, just to point out if you have actually used them you would not be using this link to measure them out. In terms of width and height, I believe there is a minimum that you can go before it becomes awkward to hold and let alone shoot with. The most important point that you may miss out is the camera thickness. That is the thing that will make it awkward for you to bring out or put into a small bag to carry around. Yes, body size (or should i specify thickness) is one of the factor but lens size is also an important factor to consider as well which I keep it out from my discussion as different people may use it with a different lens. Anyway, this is just a simple article sharing a personal decision coming from experience after using using multitude of cameras.

I agree that the size of other cameras is comparable, but you have to factor in not only depth but weight as well.

Fuji X100VI: 521g
Leica CL with 18mmF2.8: 483g
Leica CL with 23mmF2: 557g
Sony A7C2 with Samyang 35mmF2.8: 622g

Everybody has a personal limit in weight and size when a camera becomes "too big" or "too heavy".
For similar reasons like Zhen Siang Yang, I just bought a X100VI. (I used a X100T from 2015-2017 almost exclusively, so I knew what I'd get.)
If the X100VI had come without image stabilization, I might even have bought a A7C2 with the Samyang 35mmF2.8 as travel camera.

But the elephant in the room is user experience.
I love the dedicated marked dials on my X100VI, whereas other people like changing parameters with front and back dial. Cameras from different manufactures handle differently, which is a good thing.

PS: When the Leica CL was released in 2017, I had a hard look at it, despite the price. For me the deal breaker was that it has no flip screen.

A7blahblah is still a Sony. The author states: “While the Sony may excel in resolution and technical features, the Leica offers a different shooting experience altogether.”

I standby the principle, if its the tool for you.. it will be the right tool regardless of brands. While the recent generations of Sony are extremely capable in every aspect in fact more than I could ever utilise for casual work. But when I do not need those functions in my daily casual shoot basis, I would prefer the money to be put into other aspect of the camera. Eg, aesthetic, the shooting experience, ergonomics, etc.

Never mind

I appreciate your concept. I just returned from Japan. Rather than shlep around a Canon R5 or R3, I opted for a Canon M6 Mk2. Lower profile and it provided all the pixels I needed.

yes, part of the experience of going light is to keep space for ourself to enjoy and experience the entire process of the travel and being present in the moment

I also made the switch...after many years of event and photo journalism, I decided it was time for a change...I bought a Olympus TG-6 and I have never looked back...for street photography it is non plus ultra...in any weather condition, it performs like a swiss army knife and is even perfect for a second snap and shoot at events...the IQ is as good as any modern digital can perform, so you see, your assesment is rather based on the high quality Leica, that can never be disputed yet many cameras perform at the same level for a much better price...
Greetings from Berlin

yes, there are in fact many more cameras out there that can easily outperform the Leica CL and I wouldn't deny that at all. That is why it is very personal in terms of what gear to choose from. Like yourself choosing the Olympus TG-6 that could perform well to your needs.

Sorry, but that is just rubbish. The tiny little sensor in the TG 6 certainly does not produce ´IQ as good as any modern digital can perform’ There is simply no comparing the awful files out of the TG 6 with those produced by a premium larger sensor camera. I bought the Olympus and got rid of it quickly. I know that every one here feels entitled to an opinion but your assessment is simply absurd

maybe just maybe everyone has a different tolerance and standards to IQ.. if its a camera that produce images that Matthias is happy about i believe its the right tool. After all happiness should also be an index of measuring the right camera haha

I should have been more specific...by no means do I compare the tiny TG-6 sensor to APSC or any larger digital format...I bought the fantastic TG-6 as a add on to my existing main gear. btw,I have made prints from the TG-6 as large as 11x14 inches or 20x30 cm...and I would say, that 90% of my customers view my photographs on a lap top or TV monitor...all is well Paul...take care...

well done! A lot of people are not printing images these days. I am glad you are still doing them.. I believe whatever camera it is if you have the right skill, you may just be able to pull it off.. having all the specs in the world may not equal to quality imagery

I think you should admit that a "Leica" makes you still feel professional, while a Nikon Z6 with a 28mm f/2.8 would not. We are talking about a 3500$ camera setup, three times the price, with the same compact feeling, albeit a necessary grip on the cheaper one. I can only second Mathias' comment that "yet many cameras perform at the same level for a much better price".

Well I have nothing against any other brands, in fact i personally do keep my eye close to the nikon Zfc as well. Just havent wrap my head around spending money to get another camera when my current setup works well to my needs. And yes again, there will always be a camera that is cheaper, more capable. But the question to ask is are they the suitable one for you? If yes, then it is the right camera for you

Have a look at Fuji. The Nikon Zfc is a fine camera, for all I know, but you have to be aware that Nikon doesn't offer lenses with (marked) aperture ring. (The same goes for the Nikon Zf.)

I don't know how other people take images, but aperture priority is my most used mode of shooting. That's why I love to have aperture on a dedicated marked dial.

PS: I admit that I started with photography as a hobby back in the 1980s and because of that I'm used to lenses having an aperture ring.

yes.. people have moved on towards digital nowadays with no marking on the lens.. which is sad but then I dont really recall myself using them much except when I am working. So I do still make sure my working lenses have all the necessary markings

I have no longer a real use for an aperture ring. I can see the aperture on the display or in the viewfinder. The Nikon ZF has even a small display to show the aperture on the top, if you are in that retro style. The Z6 shows all settings in a display on top. But more importantly, do you really prefer to look through the viewfinder and fumble with the aperture ring on the lens in front of the camera? For me, the thumb dial on the back works a lot easier.

Personally I would prefer dial as well.. it just feels a little faster to operate but for majority of my work stuffs, I am shooting tethered so it dont really matter as I will most likely be changing the settings on the tethered device.

I imagine my old Fuji X-E2 with the 18mm f/2 provides much the same experience you speak of. While I love my Canon 6D, it's a tool, very utilitarian. And though my Olympus E-M5 is a solid beauty, at times I find it to be "too much": too many buttons, too fiddly, too complicated and too easy to accidentally change shooting settings. But the X-E2 just feels right, all the time.

yes it the tools works well for you, then it is the tool for you regardless which camera it is.. I am glad you found your favourite tool

I share the fun of having a small, light. inconspicuous camera.
From 2015 to 2017 I used a Fuji X100T almost exclusively. Since 2017 I used a Fuji X70 as every day camera and five weeks ago my X100VI arrived.

Different cameras give different experiences and personal preferences decide which are experienced as pleasant and which as unpleasant.
What's more universal is how most people react to cameras (and lenses) of different sizes. Big cameras and lenses can be intimidating, especially if the front element of the lens is big. A lot of people act differently if they register that they are photographed with "professional", i.e. big gear.
For that reason I used my X70 in combination with a X-T30 with XF50mmF2 on family events. It gave me the FF equivalent of a 28mm and a 75mm FoV. Both cameras are so inconspicuous that I got lots of great candid shots, while still getting way batter quality than with a smartphone.

PS: Cameras are expensive, so it makes sense to turn the old saying "The best camera is the one you have with you." around and say: "Don't buy an expensive camera you're not prepared to carry with you."
But that's only me and YMMV.

PPS: When the Leica CL was released in 2017, I had a hard look at it, despite the price. For me the deal breaker was that it has no flip screen. (Again, other people don't care if a camera has a flip screen or not.)

I don't get this article. You compare a Leica APSC to a Sony FF. You are very likely aware that there is a line of Sony APSC cameras that started with the NEX line (I had an NEX 5N for many years. I switched to the A6000 and then to the A6600.I also have a Fuji X100T. So, I can tell you from my own experience that the A6xxx cameras are smaller than the X100 cameras. All your arguments about size of the Sony vanish if you compare apples-to-apples. The Sony cameras also have a grip, which is almost non existent in the X100 cameras.
I don't know anything about the Leica you are using, but I am sure I am safe when I venture into saying that comparing technically the A6600 (I am not even mentioning the A6700) to the Leica CL is an exercise in futility.
So, you are left with the esthetic appeal which is very personal, but granted, a Leica has always a very pleasing design

well a little backstory is that the comparison came from a very personal experience that I have made in the most recent event. I used to not understand the hype about Leica and was pretty proud with all my sony cameras (all the way from nex 3 to sony A7 series), laughing people who are using leica as the "posh" photographers and never thought I would be one of them that pays premium for it. And I also used to have a strong bias towards APSC not being able to deliver what a full frame camera does.

In terms of size, we should also take into consideration the entire setup, including camera thickness with a decent quality lens on. Whereby we do not have to make compromises and fumble around just to make it work.

Yes you are right that the nex 5 is can be smaller with the right lens, but I can assure you that be it image quality or build quality it doesnt come anywhere close to the CL. And also yes, the current sony is very capable of smoking the CL, but my decision is also bias towards personal satisfaction whereby the camera that makes you feel good and confident shooting with is the camera to go with.

Don't get me wrong, I am not criticizing your decision to go with a Leica. And I am not talking about comparing it to an NEX 5. I only mentioned that I started my Sony journey with the NEX5R.
The photo I showed is of an A6000. Since you brought up size several times in your decision making process, an A6600, technically way superior to the Leica CL is at least as inconspicuous as the CL. Put a decent zoom of about 16-55 on it and you have a great street photography kit that fits in your pocket and does not break the bank. The Fuji X100T produces nice photos under good light conditions but don't expect too much with Fall foliage colours or under challenging light conditions.

yes i always have an issue with colours on fuji files.. unless i surrender to their jpeg which is pretty awesome. Well I used to use A6000 and A6300 with the 15-55 as well which is pretty comparable to the CL in terms of specification, it just didnt speak to me well in terms of the image, build quality and also the compactness (of course I am also comparing it with the smallest lens available on Leica). The Sony has the equivalent size lens of 16mm, but the image out of that lens is just horrible. Which is why I ended up where I am today. Well, the whole article is based on the basis of my latest experimentation and after using the CL for almost a year. I am pretty contented now.

I recently purchased a Leica TL2 with similar sentiments….except I just like having different cameras at my disposal. I’m 100% hobbyist. I must say that the TL2 is the most solid feeling unit I own too. If all Leicas have similar build quality then I totally get the appeal.

Speaking from experience those who haven’t or resist using a leica would struggle to understand what’s all the hype on leica about. Likewise to me, I have a few more cameras that I can switch them around for different purposes.

I haven’t use much leica so I can’t comment on that but those that I’ve used they’re pretty well build

It really comes down to using the right gear for the application. Shooting street scenes vs landscapes vs wildlife vs weddings vs studio, etc. all require using varying types of cameras and corresponding gear to make "the shot". Leica is the top shelf compact camera as is Hasselblad to medium format. If it fits your needs and pocketbook, go for it. But keep in mind, other options will work too.

Yes you are correct! Which is why this is a very personal opinion that I’m sharing from my most recent experience considering my needs altogether.

"the Leica CL exudes a timeless elegance that blends seamlessly into any environment, allowing me to document scenes without drawing unnecessary attention to myself"

After I just scrolled through the first paragaphs, I had to stop reading here. What a load of influencer marketing bullcrap. 🤣🤦🏻‍♂️🤮

I switched from a Canon to a Sony due to Canon leaving the M mount and desirable M50 body at a dead end. I love my Sony and I continue being rewarded by the grand diversity of first- and third-party lens availability. But I harbor no shade for Canon as that was their business decision, even though it rendered my entire ecosystem of equipment obsolete. I enjoyed that little M50 immensely. But my A7R IV takes amazing photos. It has a most impressive sensor on it, still used today in new models. It never disappoints and the ecosystem of ancillary equipment will not suddenly be made obsolete any time soon.