Camera Geekery: Leica CL, the orphan Leica

The Leica that was not or the orphan Leica as it may be known. This camera is a Leica, and it is a truly great Leica too. But the funny thing is, it is not really a Leica in the truest sense. It is a Minolta if you really want to be pedantic about it, and camera geeks are nothing if not pedantic.

This camera and the other versions (Minolta CL, Minolta CLE) were all made by Minolta, with the design assistance of Leica. The CL was only in production for three short years, but in that tiny amount of time it managed to gain a form of legendary status. Mainly for being the smallest M mount camera ever made (CL stood for Compact Leica), one of the only TTL M mount cameras and for being really rather beautiful. Just look at this thing….

The CL was the smallest M-mount camera ever made, but it was not popular. Why, you might ask. Well, it was because it didn’t really fit in with the idea of a Leica. It was designed to be a budget Leica, that could use M-mount lenses of a certain specification. This was a camera that suffered from a lack of advertising and lack of knowledge, which is a massive shame, because this is a fantastic camera.

Not that this camera is without its own problems. It is a machine after all, and machines will always have issues. The problems that most commonly manifested themselves with this camera were as follows: Slow shutter speed issues, Mercury cell (bugger to replace), and lens incompatibility. You see, not all Leica lenses will fit on this camera. Aside from the lack of rangefinder settings, there is a problem with how shallow the body of the camera may be on certain lenses. There are lists available online though to help you find out what lenses you can use for this cracker of a camera.

This camera was discontinued because it was classed as unsuccessful, which doesn’t make a great deal of sense seeing as approximately 65,000 of them were made and the outsold M Leica cameras, but then that might be the reason why they were stopped. How could this little camera beat an M? Another foolish move on the part of Leica? Who knows, but we have them and they are wonderful.

Would you like to get your hands on a CL or a CLE? If you would then you can contact me here.
As usual, please leave comments, tell me how you feel, what you think etc. If you want to add anything about the camera, that is fine too. I love to hear what is on your mind.