Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1996/07/27

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Subject: Re: Leitz/Minolta CL: Question
Date: Sat, 27 Jul 1996 22:05:25 -0400


I use a CL with its original complement of the 40 and 90mm lenses. The
Minolta version of the CL was the CLE, and was a design all its own, more
conventional than the CL's. but also more convenient. The match needle light
meter of the CL is delicate and takes some time to understand its direction.
The strap arrangement of the CL takes some getting used to. The CLE strap is
standard. The CL shutter dial is in a strange place at first sight. It makes
sense when you start shooting with it. The Minolta CLE body is very hard to
find. Even the CL is a rare discovery now. I'll never consciously part with

The CL will take almost all Leica lenses, except the ones with the M
viewfinder optics attached. Frankly, I wouldn't use the CL with the heavier M
lenses; they make the CL unbalanced, since it is a truly compact camera. The
CL lenses use remarkable integrated rubber lenshades. The CL's 90mm is a
nifty optic with clear markings and is very light and convenient to handle. 

The CL is meant to produce a different type of photography, somewhat ahead of
its time. It permits carrying a high quality camera without its bulk or
weight; similar to that which the expensive point and shoot variety does now.
The CL is a professional quality focal plane job whose precision sometimes
slows me down; loading film under its hinged pressure plate and the strange
reverse spool winding. But once you get used to its peculiaritites, it will
give you superior quality results. 

The rangefinder base is short, so good eyesight or glasses is necessary. I
could no longer get even a used +3 diopter viewfinder eyepiece. The
viewfinder is brilliant.
The lens frames come up as the lens is inserted. It does have a 50mm frame,
which is very useful with a 2.8 50mm Elmar -- if you can find one. But why
would you want to? That 40mm f2 is first rate and does 35mm and 50mm work as
well -- and is twice as fast and even more compact than the slower Elmar. I
heard that Leica now produces a new version of the f2.8 50mm Elmar. I'd
prefer the old version.  

Above all, don't use collapsable Leica lenses with the CL. Such a lens will
destroy the meter cell that is positioned in front of the focal plane shutter
if a lens is collapsed by mistake. Again the golden CL rule: use it only with
its original lenses.

All in all, the CL is a real Leitz camera, made to original Leitz standards
even tho it was manufactured by Minolta for Leitz in the 70s.  

If you stay within the CL system, the CL will perform like the pro camera it
is. But it's for a dedicated Leica user. It can frustrate most other
photographers after a while.

It really is a (C)ompact (L)eica. The Minolta CL(E)lectronic is also in its
own class. I keep hoping that Minolta will bring back that CLE... Those
lenses deserve a second body. I wouldn't buy the AF phony RFs, but I'd grab a
new CLE even before it leaves the factory. Are you listening, Minolta??

Bob Rosen