Leica CL review

John Wade looks at the smallest and  lightest Leica model ever made

THE LEICA CL was designed by Leitz and sold with two German lenses made specifically for the camera, while the body was manufactured by Minolta in Japan.

At a mere 12x7x3cm (without lens), the CL is remarkably compact, despite featuring through-the-lens metering and a lens mount that accepts most Leica M bayonet-fit lenses.

The Leitz lenses designed for the camera are a standard 40mm f/2 Summicron-C and a telephoto 90mm f/4 Elmar. Bright frames in the viewfinder give the view for each, alongside a coincident image rangefinder coupled to the focusing.


View of the Leica CL from the top

The focal-plane shutter travels vertically, its speeds of 1/2-1/1000sec set on a dial on the front of the body.

The shutter is mechanical, but the CdS meter needs a PX625 mercury cell. Metering is via a sensor that swings in front of the film as it is advanced. The wind lever is shifted slightly from the body to turn on the meter, then exposure is measured and set by adjusting shutter speeds and apertures until a needle lines up with a notch in the viewfinder display. The sensor swings away again just before the shutter fires.


Breaking down the CL (l-r): Detachable back, body, 40mm lens, 90mm lens and flexible rubberised lens hood

The Leica CL offers a great and an inexpensive entry into the Leica M-mount system.

What’s good

Vast range of lenses available, light and compact, extremely quiet shutter.

What’s bad

Meter sensor arm can get stuck in front of the fi lm, slightly higher voltage modern batteries might lead to inaccurate exposure, battery can only be changed when the back is open.

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