The Leica CL – 1st Look Video

Hey! Been shooting with a Leica CL for a few days and have been really enjoying it. The CL was manufactured in the 70’s by Minolta in Japan for Leica. It has an M mount and most of the CL’s that are found today come with the Leitz 40mm Summicron. This particular CL was recently at DAG for a CLA and the meter works great, the camera is in great shape and its been a blast to shoot! Not quite the same as shooting an M6 or M7 but it’s still similar.

My full review will be up soon as I have not yet gotten any film back yet, but will this week. Here is a first look video of the CL…enjoy! BTW, this camera came from Collectible Cameras in Phx, AZ. They have LOADS of old cameras and collectibles, including Leica gear 🙂

BTW, this video was made with the Sony NEX-5 and 18-55 kit lens!


  1. I’ve owned a lower s/n 130xxxx CL since about ’89 along with the 40 and 90mm lenses and over the years have collected a goodly number of filters. I also have a Canon 135mm smnt lens with an M adaptor along with the viewfinder that came with it. I have used it for portraits and as a tele for landscapes and as long as it stopped down and I take time in focusing it has worked well and focusing has not been an issue. I admit when using it, I ALWAYS use a tripod. Also, have a Visioflex adapted to use with it. When these came out originally, I saw it and the M5 at the local Leica dealer and never thought of them as competing cameras. Strange how persons perceive things. No more than a Nikkormat competing against the F-1.

    I got mine more as a favor than than lusting for it. A friend and professional photographer had run into some financial problems and came to me to see if there was any equipment I had a yearning for. I already had a Bronica ETRS system and also used a Rolleiflex 6×6 as well as some other mf cameras and my only 35mm user was the fantastic Minox ML. I mentioned the only addition I’d like at some time would be a Leica M system. A few days later he showed up at the doorstep with the CL and lenses. After buying ti he mentioned it was the camera he had used when he acted as my photographer at my wedding so I knew I would be the limiting factor.

    I sent the CL to Leica for a CLA and the cost was very reasonable. Meter, rangefinder, etc were all in spec. They did ask about replacing the top plate that has a very slight ding but as my cameras are users and not trailor queens, I declined.

    The Summicron-C 40mm is without any doubt as good as any lens I’ve ever used and the 90 Rokkor is no slouch either. While the 4 seems the natural for the CL, as I have not owned a 35mm SLR for some years the CL has been my 25mm camera. Well, not exactly true. I do have and use the 35mm backs on my ETRS when I want or need something more versitile but do not want to shoot mf for some reason.

    When I taught photography and did competition shooting, I used the CL and went up against a good number of guys using totl Nikon and Canon with thousands invested against my bargain CL and it came down to one thing – our individual abilities. However, in the competion, several judges could pick out the slides produced with the Leica and were consistently right. These guys were old timers and had years of judging under their belts. So, they seemed to prove there is a unigue Leica look, at least in my eyes and I could also see it back then.

    The CL while never my main camera has had a lot of use and never left me hanging. I do use most of the time a Weston Ranger 9 meter with the Adams Zone System scale when I do b&w rather than the built in meter. The built in meter on mine with good enough that I can not get better with the Weston when shooting slides.

    The prior owner use MF for his weddings but used the CL for the the walk arounds rather than an SLR. So, it had seen some heavier use than probably most CLs up until the time I purchased it. As I used the Bronica and Rollei as well as a Polaroid 180 and 195 for most of my shooting, the CL has not been heavily used since but as I am geting older, I have had to sideline the Bronica, just geting too heavy to carry. I did pick up an Olympus E-520 as a replacement for the Bronica and to enter the 21st century but as good as the results are, I find little advantage in it as a carrier. I have pulled the CL out, dropped in a CHRIS battery adaptor and fired it up. I did look at a M6 but the boddy felt too large and I could not see carrying it around as much as I would carry the CL. So, the CL is fast becoming my main camera.

    The CL bashing by Leica snobs I think is unwarranted. It was Leica spec’d and designed from the ground up. QC at Minolta was done by Leica and to the company’s standards. If it is not a Leica, then the same can be said of the post SL SLR Leica cameras as these were also not made Leica in Germany and in fact had less Leica design work on them then the CL. I for one do not claim any of these models are not Leicas. In fact, I suggest that the CL is closer to a Leica than the M5 as it comes closer to the original design goal of the 35mm Leica than the M5 as well as the other M series cameras. Small, high quality yeilding a photo otential limited by the ability of the photographer rather than the equipment.

  2. Hi, there,

    I love the Leica CL from the first time I saw it, maybe 2 years back. However, I have been sourcing around to get one in my hands. From the stories, I have heard with the Leica CL’s sold online, I am still trying to purchase the Leica CL on ebay but clueless if it is reliable :-(.

    Wondering if any one would have some ideas where I should look for …..

    Still Looking,
    Warm regards,

  3. I’m glad you’re so enthusiastic about the CL (and slightly saddened that you prefer the CLE). I really think it’s a hidden gem that needs its praises sung more often. I’m looking forward to reading your delayed in-depth review.

    What I find interesting is the way that so many people seem to use the CL as a snapshot camera, rather than a serious one. That includes not only yourself (in the two or three Tri-X shots you’ve posted elsewhere) but also the couple of previous commenters who post links to their Flickr sets. Is this because it’s so pocketable and comes so easy to hand, do you think? Also, most CL owners seem to have other, more “heavyweight” equipment that they use for their more considered work. Personally I think that’s a shame.

  4. It makes me very happy that you’ve discovered the CL, and even moreso that you’re reviewing this 40-year-young gem. I’ve been using mine for 20 years now, on three continents, and it’s my favorite travel film camera. Sherry Krauter, mentioned above, resuscitated it five years ago, and it’s doing well. A few tips: the Rokkor versions of the lenses are often cheaper and take more common 40.5mm filters. (Zeiss often used this filter size.) Also, while the meter can be a failure point for the CL, if you think your meter has shut off unexpectedly, be sure that you’ve extended the advance lever all the way. I find that if I “flip” the advance a little too quickly it may bounce back just a couple of mm, disengaging the meter, but gently moving the advance lever to the limit brings it back. Remember that you’re always in spot metering mode; once you get used to it, it’s a great feature. I wish you many happy years with your CL!

  5. I love this camera. I have 2 of them and they are 2 of my favorite “going out” film cameras. If I go to a party where there may, or may not be, too many people, the CL is the way to go every time. I don’t have to worry too much if it gets bumped, and I can still take great photos with the 40mm M-Rokkor.

  6. Woohoo, can’t wait for the review: that’s my camera! I’ve said it before, that 40mm is an amazing lens, and a perfect normal if you take the 35mm film diagonal. Filters are a problem though, but 36mm push-on filters (non-leica) work. I’ve actually found a reasonably priced series 5.5 yellow filter once, but it didn’t fit under the rubber collapsible hood. Have fun with it!

  7. great little camera Mr. H. cant wait for review. Ive been to Collectible Camera many times. Sandy has a great shop there with tons of old stuff to look at. Looks like you keeping cool in good ole Arizona. cheers

  8. @Jonathan: Not really…the CLE is great because it is aperture priority, but it also needs a battery to shoot, whereas I let the battery die in my CL and have been using my brain based light meter for 6 months. The meter and shutter are difficult to find parts for in the CLE; Sherry Krauter and Leica techs will service the CL but often not the CLE. The CLE has a slightly longer rangefinder base and the 40/2 Minolta version takes normal size filters (the Leitz takes an odd 5.5 series). The CLE is pretty great, though I love my CL and would rather have both rather than one or the other!

    You can check out a ton of my leica CL shots at (folder “recently”). The 40 is just great, whether it’s the Minolta or the Leitz version.

  9. I personaly chose the Minolta CLE, better on all aspects than the CL, in my opinion. Is there a particular reason for choosing the CL, Steve?

    • I agree, had the CLE while my friends have the CL, I like the CLE better, especially for the metering. May be for the M-mount shooters in those days who chose to have 1 body would choose the CL, I had a M5 around the same time frame which is why I got the CLE instead as my travel camera which I ended up using a lot more than my M5.

  10. My fave thing about the CL is the position of the shutter speed dial… Can’t wait to see what you get back on your first roll. I’m loving more and more what I’m getting out of my CL, especially as I’m processing my film at home now (totally blame your site for that!)

  11. Love the CL…it was my first m-moun camera. Tiny, perfect lens, quiet, decent viewfinder. You’ll get a lot of mileage out of that 40…try it on the m9, too!

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