Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1996/10/03

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Subject: Re: CL vs CLE features?
Date: Thu, 3 Oct 1996 15:05:24 -0400

At 01:24  03/10/96 +0100, you wrote:
>Could someone who is familiar with these two cameras please list their
>features and explain the differences? This information seems quite hard
>to come by. I notice most of the discussion here is about the CL but the
>CLE sneaks an honourable mention here and there. 
>joe b.
I am not all that familiar with the CLE, but I'll try to give you some
background. Leica developed a relationship with Minolta some years ago (late
60s maybe). Their first cooperative effort according to Leica resources was
the CL. It appears that Leica wanted to develop a lower priced rangefinder
to compete with the developing slr competition and as a result developed
several designs one being a design protype of what evolved into the Minox
35mm clamshell cameras and the CL. It is said the design is totally Leica
with input from Minolta, and others say the opposite, but it really does not
matter. The final body was assembled in Japan at Minalta under Leica
supervision and QC. The Leica CL lenses were from Leica Germany.

As part of this arrangement, Minolta got the rights to market an almost
identical camera in Japan. Mistakenly, it is thought to be the same camera,
but according to several articles from the period there are differences. The
lenses for the Minolta were manufactured in Japan and the body backs are not
interchangable. The filter thread of the lenses are also different because
in Japan they apparently use a different thread.

This accounts for the Leica CL and the Leitz-Minolta CL. Leica marketed the
camera from about 1972 through 1976. After they ended production, Minolta
assumed world-wide sales of the Minolta version and Leica produced the 90mm
Rokkor for it. I do not know when final production ceased.

Minolta thereafter (about 1980, I think) using a body shell which looks very
similar to the CL series and using the Leica M mount produced the CLE. I
think it was aperature priority and manual. Its main differences from a user
stand point was the metering system was changed to read from the film (or
shutter curtain) and the viewfinder was changed to outline a 28mm, 50mm and
90mm lens, rather than the 40, 50 and 90 of the CL series.  

The 2+ cameras address the same market conceptually from 2 different ways.
1) Those who like strictly manual cameras and a built in light meter and
those who like more automation. Technically, the CL is more akin to the M
series than the CLE, while the CLE is more akin to the G-1. I think this is
why there is some debate between various owners of these cameras as to which
is preferable. If another poll were taken as to preferences, I surmise the
CL owners would prefer the M series in concept and the CLE owners would
prefer the G-1 in concept. Maybe this would be an interesting marketing
surve for both Contax and Leica.

Now, before everybody rips apart this commentary, I don't have any of my
reference material available and therefore this all from memory. Also, I am
not a collector, or a Leicaphile on the type where I get into the technical
stuff. PLEASE embellish add to, and correct this information so we may all

Oh, one more thing, though I still don't understand it logically; the
Minolta lenses will work on the M series, but not the Leica produced CL
lenses. Most, but not all M series lenses will work on the CL (because of
the metering arm), but should work on the CLE (with the same limitations as
they do on the M6 because of the metering.
Brian Levy, J.D.
Toronto, Ont.