Leica CL and C lenses


The Leica CL was introduced in 1973 and the fruit of a common design by Leitz and Minolta. The CL bodies were manufactured in Japan by Minolta. There are three different versions that only differ in name: Leica CL, Leitz Minolta CL, and Minolta CL. About 65,000 Leica CL's (not counting the Minolta versions) were made before production was halted in 1976. The rarest model is the special edition "50 Jahre" in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of Leitz (3,500 pieces).
The Leica CL is essentially a light-weight and compact M-style rangefinder camera. The camera was designed as a small-cost, yet fully-fledged, camera with the M lens mount. There are a number of differences with the Leica M cameras. Due to its compact size, the rangefinder uses a shorter base than the M, which limits focusing accuracy slightly, notably with f-stops below f/2.0 at 50mm or wider, and f-stops below f/4.0 at 90mm or higher. In practical terms, there is no issue unless you use very high-speed M lenses. Also, note that, while M lenses will as a rule fit on the CL, a few lenses cannot be used. CL lenses can be used on the M cameras, though they have a different mount and rangefinder coupling.

The Leica CL is a great camera to use as a complement to an R or M kit. In the case of the M, you can share lenses between the M and the CL. The camera is also more versatile than the Minilux (same focal length of 40mm), with the exception of flash use. I personally like it a lot, it gives great pleasure to work with an "old timer" that is about 30 years old, still works like a charm and produces top-notch results. Mind you, it takes some getting used to because all controls are smaller and different from the M cameras. But together with the two C lenses, this is a compact and light, yet very versatile and capable Leica outfit that will cover most situations more than adequately.

An excellent resource on the Leica CL, the Leitz Minolta CL and Minolta CL can be found here.
An overview of the Minolta CLE successor can be found here. If you understand Japanese, have a look here as well.
Some interesting information regarding what to look for before buying a CL can be found here.
Look here for a more skeptical opinion of the CL.
An excellent book on the CL (in German) is by Theo Kisselbach, Leica CL, Heering-Verlag, 1976, ISBN 3-7763-3360-X.

The CL with its contemporary C lenses, the Summicron-C 40mm f/2.0 and the Elmar-C 90mm f/4.0. Both are, even by today's standards, very good lenses. Especially at the center of the image, they deliver top-notch performance, even at the wider f-stops. Compared to the latest Leica lens designs, however, they are somewhat weaker in the field of the image.
The 40mm and 90mm lenses offer the most useful practical focal length combination. Both lenses are coupled with the Leica CL view- and rangefinder. On fitting either lens the appropriate brightline frame automatically appears in the finder.

The Summicron-C 40mm f/2.0 consists of 6 elements in 4 groups and has a double-Gauss design. The front lens contains glass with a high refractive index to deal with aberrations.
Closest focusing distance: 0.8 m. Weight: 130 gr together with its rubber lens hood.
Length from bayonet flange: 23.5 mm, screw-in rubber lens hood, folds back on the lens. Filter size: Series 5.5.
Leica catalog number 11542.

The Elmar-C 90mm f/4.0 consists of 4 elements.
Closest focusing distance: 1 m. Weight: 265 gr together with its rubber lens hood.
Length from bayonet flange: 61 mm, screw-in rubber lens hood, folds back on the lens. Filter size: Series 5.5.
Leica catalog number 11540. Comes with soft leather case.