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Nick's Classic Corner - No 35 - Leica CL

Discussion in 'Classic Models & Marques' started by Benchista, Nov 12, 2013.

  1. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    The story of this little camera is quite well-known - the joint venture between Leica and Minolta, resulting first in the Leica and Minolta CL, later in the Minolta CLE. It wasn't really a commercial success, but for me, it's a wonderful little camera.

    First up, it has more than a touch of the Rollei 35 about it - shutter speed dial on the front, rewind crank on the base, whole back comes away for loading, battery (mercury) inside the body, pressure plate hinged to the body, not part of the back - even an outstanding 40mm lens as standard. And the same feel of qualty. However, it's a very different camera - the major advantages being interchangeable M-mount lenses, and a rangefinder to focus them.

    The viewfinder has bright frames for 40mm, 50mm and 90mm lenses, with parallax correction. There were two lenses specifically designed for the camera, the 40mm f2 Summicron-C and the 90mm f4 Elmar-C. Both were pretty cheap by Leitz standards, but both are good performers - the 40mm is one of my all-time favourite lenses, and often gets a trip out on my EOS M. It's tiny, but precise - it has a tab to assist focusing. The CL has a small effective rangefinder base, but it focuses these lenses fine - what it does struggle with are longer or faster lenses. The rangefinder spot is bright. At the top of the viewfinder, the selected shutter speed (1/2-1/1000 with a vertically-running cloth focal plane shutter ) is shown by a red needle, with a match needle on the right. Note that the camera only meters when wound on, with the lever in the stand-off position - winding on moves a metering arm in front of the shutter.

    The shutter's not as quiet as a true M, but it's hardly deafening. Operation is as smooth as a very smooth thing, finish is great and it's just a lovely little camera to use. For me, it's the spiritual grandparent of today's viewfinderless CSCs - it's not much bigger than a compact, but much more versatile, and that lens! Leica were never all that happy with it - they worried about it taking sales from "real" Ms. Shame, as I think it could've been much more successful and the start of something really big. Or rather small...
     

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