Why I Choose the Minolta CLE Over Any Leica M

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The best 35mm film cameras in the world are Leicas. This is a known fact, right? And the best of the best is surely the M series, yes? I mean, at this point in time the argument is essentially decided. If someone with no experience in photography were to dip their toe into the hobby in even the most superficial way, this unassailable opinion is so ubiquitously plastered across forums, websites, and social media, that it would take a true maverick to even entertain thoughts to the contrary.

The party line is always the same. The best photographers in the world, and the old-timey shooters who shaped the very foundation of photography, all use and used Leicas. The timeless Bauhaus aesthetic, the auditory discretion, the compact and perfect form factor, the brass, the hand-built precision; the M is an instrument of Zen, an extension of the eye, an artist’s brush. The mystique is so dense it’s palpable.

But what if I told you that a lot of what you’ve read about the M series is overwrought hyperbole? What if I said there’s a camera that takes everything that everyone loves about the M and improves on it? What if I told you that Leica doesn’t make the best 35mm rangefinder in the world?

Many readers have already answered “I’d say you’re an idiot,” and clicked away to a site that more eagerly accepts the established narrative. For those who’ve stuck around, thanks. As a reward for your open-mindedness, let me show you a camera that’s, in many ways, the best M mount camera around.

Meet the Minolta CLE. By now you’ve probably heard about this camera. After all, it was first released way back in 1980, and in the ensuing three-point-six decades there’s been much written about the machine. But for those who may not know, enjoy a quick history lesson.

In the 1970s, Leica entered into a technical cooperation agreement with Minolta through which the two brands would share ideas and designs, and help each other manufacture cameras, lenses, and component parts. For the most part this meant that Minolta would develop and manufacture things for Leica to put their name on, though there were instances of the inverse occurring; Minolta used a Leitz-developed, Copal-produced shutter in their exceptional XE-7 SLR (a camera that would go on to be modified and sold as the Leica R3).

Early in the agreement, Leica requested a camera that would be cheaper to produce, cheaper to buy, and as capable as their well-known and loved M series. the result was the Leica CL, a Minolta-designed M mount rangefinder with built-in metering and a lower price point. In line with most of Minolta’s body of work, the CL was an excellent camera, and it sold very well. But Leica soon tired of their own machines losing market share to Minolta’s less expensive “Leicas”, and ended production of the camera.

It’s often stated that with the discontinuation of the CL, so too ended the partnership between Leica and Minolta. This is not the case. Minolta went on to produce components, cameras, and lens elements for their German friends right up until the late 1990s when Minolta’s focus shifted to more modern, hi-tech machines. Similarly misleading is the glut of forum posts that state Leica was disappointed with Minolta’s quality, and that the German quality control officers rejected more than sixty percent of Minolta lenses. There’s no evidence to support this whatsoever, and Minolta’s long-standing reputation as a powerhouse in optics flies in the face of this rumor, which reeks of Leica elitism run amok.

When the CL was discontinued Minolta sought to enter the M mount market with a camera bearing its own name. The result was the CLE, a technically masterful camera that improved on every aspect of the Leicas before it. This camera offered everything everyone loved about the Ms and so much more. What were the most important technical improvements? Through-the-lens metering with an informative LED-equipped viewfinder, off-the-film dynamic flash metering, and aperture-priority auto-exposure in addition to full manual mode (a combination of features not found on a Leica M series camera until 2002). And there’s so much more.

Minolta CLE review (1 of 7)

I know what you’re thinking, and I agree; the M series are amazing cameras. They’re gorgeous. They’re masterful. They’re impeccably built and legendary. It’s true. You’re right- but I think the CLE is better, and here’s why. To this day, thirty-six years after it was built and ten years after Minolta sold its camera-making interests to Sony, the CLE is still the only M mount rangefinder that offers such a complete combination of general features matched with the specific qualities that are so ultimately prized by Leica lovers.

But the M is the most beautiful camera in the world…

People swoon over the aesthetics of the M, typically because of the way it carries itself as a stark, minimalist icon of a bygone era. And I understand this. Whether it’s an M2, M3, or an M6, Leica machines are purposeful, refined, and stoic (we’re ignoring the M5 for… reasons). Their cameras were gorgeous, but the company continued to release the same old, same old for too long. A fact that’s become painfully glaring in most recent days, as Leica seems content to showcase bloated, digital caricatures of their previously iconic designs. With the M series having remained so essentially similar for so long, many observers find their physical appeal to be waning. The over-saturation effect is certainly not helped by the ubiquitous nature of today’s social media, which ensures that our Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr feeds are never without a daily overabundance of shots of Leicas.

By contrast, the CLE is downright refreshing. It almost seems like the camera Leica would have designed had they not been afraid of offending the sensibilities of their devotees. It’s sharper, more concise, and more refined than the Ms before it. The modern angles are cleaner, the sharper lines are more distinctive, and the black-only paintwork evokes a welcome and impressive air of professionalism. The CLE is a gorgeous camera, and while this opinion is entirely subjective, I think it’s fair to say that most will find it at least as beautiful as any M before it.

But the M is the best street photography camera in the world…

The M is small, discreet, and quiet, so it’s perfect for street shooting, right? Yeah, that’s absolutely true, but the CLE is smaller, more discreet, and quieter. The crown for tiniest Leica M is worn by the M4, which comes in at 138 x 77 x 33.5mm / 545 grams. All other Ms are larger and weigh more. The CLE measures 124 x 77.5 x 32mm / 380 grams, smaller and lighter than even the smallest M. In fact, the only M mount rangefinder that’s smaller than the CLE is the Minolta-designed Leitz CL.

It’ll also catch fewer eyes on account of its blacked out livery. The CLE was only ever mass-produced in black (though special editions came in gold, and in limited numbers), while most Ms are sparkly, flashy chrome. Certainly black Ms are available, but expect a financial hit. An original black M will stress the budget of all but the most well-heeled photo geek at a price that can typically pay for three or four CLEs.

Minolta CLE review (3 of 7)

This final point really shouldn’t matter to any rational mind, but since I see it cited so often as a superlative quality of the M I feel I have to address it. My decidedly non-scientific testing (placing a decibel meter next to both cameras in my quiet office) reveals that the shutter release of the M3 and M4 is louder than the shutter release of the CLE at every shutter speed. Winding on the machines produces louder noises from the Leicas as well.

Perhaps the popular opinion of the M’s perceived dominance as a street machine is influenced by Henri’s (you know who I mean) use of the Leica. If the progenitor of the craft used one, it must be the best, right? But remember that he fathered street-craft long before the original M3 even existed, so how can this be? In any case, objectively speaking the CLE could easily be regarded as a better street choice over even the stealthiest M.

But the M is the highest quality camera ever built…

Certainly the M trumps nearly every other camera in the realm of build quality. Leicas are truly masterful pieces of engineering. But at what cost? As I’ve already mentioned, Ms are heavy cameras. While lots of photo geeks love this, let’s not blindly conflate weight with quality. I’ve shot a toy camera with blocks of lead glued into the bottom to give it a feeling of quality. It was not a good camera. I won’t say that the CLE feels more robust or stronger than the M series- it doesn’t. But it doesn’t feel any worse.

Leica fans will squawk about brass and metal, and claim the CLE is cheap and tawdry. I love brass, but just because the CLE isn’t brass doesn’t make it less of a camera. The top and bottom plates of the Minolta are made of an extremely durable and impact resistant material that’s finished to an impeccable standard. Polycarbonate covers were coated in copper and electro-plated with a black-chrome finish. Upon disassembly we can also see that these covers are decidedly thicker than nearly any other polycarbonate camera covers I’ve ever disassembled.

Time marches on. So too does technology. Today, we want a camera that’s not only well-built but one that will travel well. The CLE uses metal intelligently, and adds plastic and electronics where possible to lighten the load. This doesn’t mean the camera feels cheap, as many Leica lovers would have you believe. Indeed, its heft is quite surprising given its minuscule dimensions. It’s metal where it counts, feels solid and dense, and is capable of taking a beating without being overtly chunky. Advancing the film and cocking the shutter is a beautifully mechanical action that’s smooth as silk. Shutter release is quiet and clean. Dials, knobs, and levers actuate with mechanical fluidity and settle into their detents with precision.

Claims that the CLE can’t rival the Ms in reliability are dubious, though prevalent in places where Leicas are put on a perch. Yes, the Ms are mechanical cameras and the CLE is electronic, and though mechanical cameras fail with the same unpredictability as do electronic cameras, the electronic nature of the CLE seems to be a pretty big blot on the camera’s record for some Leicaphiles. For those concerned with this, I say there’s an easy way to allay your fears; whether buying an M3 or a CLE, buy one that looks good. If a camera looks like it’s been through the mill it’s probably going to be less reliable than a gently-used model. Through my shop I’ve sold a lot of CLEs to a lot of happy customers. I’ve also been shooting mine for a long time with no issues (even after it fell over a footbridge into a snowbank).

It uses common, inexpensive batteries and the original strap provides a compartment for storing spares. It’s the digital age. Don’t be afraid of electricity.

Minolta CLE review (2 of 7)

Okay, the CLE sounds neat, but can’t the M do all the same stuff…

The M series has always promoted the pure photographic experience. Typically this is done through marketing, usually a black-and-white video with tinkling pianos accompanied by a voiceover from a well-known and respected photographer as he discusses the way that the M provides only what is necessary to make a perfect image. And there have been many perfect images made with Ms over the decades. That much is true.

But the CLE does the same thing. We have an aperture ring on every lens, and a shutter speed dial on the top of the camera. We can connect with the essence of photography just as easily here as we can with an M. In manual mode, the experience is identical, and even improved through the use of technology. LEDs in the viewfinder showcase the selected shutter speed, while also informing as to the suggested setting based on the through-the-lens light meter reading.

While there is certainly something to be said for adjusting shutter speed and aperture, getting to the heart of the craft, and shooting in manual mode, sometimes that’s just impractical. Yes, I’m a photography enthusiast. I love photographs and I love challenging myself to make decent photographs. But sometimes I want to relax. Sometimes I’m out with my leash-tugging dog, or I’m in an obtusely hostile and unfamiliar part of the city at midnight, or I’m on a slippery-decked boat. Sometimes I’m doing things or being places where I’m more interested in what’s happening around me than I am in my camera’s settings. It’s in these moments that I want auto-exposure, and the CLE gives me that. Most importantly, the CLE’s auto-exposure system yields a degree of artistic control through its allowing depth-of-field adjustment (aperture) and exposure adjustment through an exposure compensation dial (shutter speed). I find this compromise to be functionally perfect, and a welcome addition to full manual mode.

And this part is important, so I’ll say it again; the CLE’s metering system and auto-exposure system are unfailingly perfect. This wonderful camera uses a light meter to read exposure off the film plane and steplessly and continuously varies the shutter speed to suit. When shooting faster than 1/60th of a second, the camera meters off of a multi-colored segment pattern on the shutter curtains. When exposures are longer than 1/60th of a second, the camera reads light from both the shutter curtain and the film surface itself. This system is among the most advanced of any film camera, and it works impeccably.

Furthermore, when using a flash the metering system operates in a dynamic way, measuring light directly from the film plane and exposing exactly as required by ambient light and light produced by the flash.

Minolta CLE review (4 of 7)

Equally important to the conversation, this combination of features is unmatched in the range of Leica Ms. There isn’t a Leica M series camera that offers the scope of metering and exposure modes that the CLE offers. The closest we get is the M7, which was made more than twenty years after the CLE, is notably chunkier and heavier, and much more expensive.

The CLE’s viewfinder is uncluttered and gorgeous. It doesn’t offer the massive magnification favored by some Leica enthusiasts, but what’s here is nothing to complain about. Framelines are bright and beautiful, and automatically appear and disappear depending on what lens is mounted. Native framelines exist for 28mm, 40mm, and 90mm lenses, and while these focal lengths are a bit abnormal in the minds of some, for me they’re perfect. The rangefinder patch is contrasty, bright, and adequate, and while the Ms are certainly easier to focus the CLE isn’t a slouch. It’s still easy, it’s just not as easy. Bright LEDs bring the rangefinder into the modern age, and show us everything we need to know.

Any M mount lens can be used with the CLE, barring a few that are so large that they impede the rangefinder window or protrude too far into the camera body. These lenses are so few as to have little impact on photo geeks looking to build a solid lens kit. Minolta’s own M-mount Rokkors comprise a set of some of the best and most underrated optics around, and the just-different-enough focal lengths are appealing to those, like myself, who are tired of 35mm and 50mm standards. The 40mm M-Rokkor, in particular, is regarded by the few who noticed as one of the best 40mm lenses ever produced. And while some examples of the 28mm lens exhibit a strange affliction in the form of little white dots on the front element, unaffected versions of this lens are also commonly rated at the top of their class.

If it’s that great it must be expensive…

You can’t discuss Leica without discussing price. They’re expensive cameras, and sometimes I feel that that’s a big part of the reason people hold them in such high regard. I mean, essentially they’re just nicely-crafted but obsolete cameras that cost a lot and are out of reach for most shooters. Even the most primitive Ms are expensive, while the M that comes closest to matching the CLE in features will run into the quadruple-digits.

Logically, the CLE should cost more, being the more advanced machine. But as is often the case in this hobby, logic doesn’t hold much sway. A perfect, pristine CLE will cost between $390 and $490. While that’s still a lot of money for many people, I have no compunction in declaring it the very best camera that anyone could buy in this price point. In fact, I think the CLE is just about the best 35mm film camera I’ve ever owned.

Minolta CLE review (7 of 7)

Is it really that good?

I recognize that this article might be received with equal parts passive interest and vociferous resentment. To be clear, it’s not my intention to hatchet the M series at the knees. One of my favorite cameras of all time is the M2. I’ve loved that machine for years and that’s never going to change. But I’ve run a lot of rolls of film through Ms and I’ve run a lot of rolls through the CLE, and I feel impelled to get the word out that the CLE is simply a better camera.

It does more, feels better, travels lighter, and costs less than any M I’ve ever used. While some other cameras do specific, individual things better, the CLE offers a combination of features, size, performance, and style that can’t be beaten by any M series machine. It’s a camera that works with me in a way that the Ms never have. It’s slow when I want to be slow, it’s fast when I want to be fast, and it helps me make better photographs. The CLE is the best 35mm rangefinder I’ve ever used, and if this article inspires a like-minded shooter to discover the camera of his or her dreams, I’ll have done my job.

Get your own Minolta CLE from F Stop Cameras, through eBay, or via Amazon

CASUAL PHOTOPHILE is on ElloFacebookInstagram, and Youtube

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  • Reply
    Ed Worthington
    May 23, 2016 at 7:51 am

    Great and interesting article as always James, that’s what I like about this site, not afraid to give a point of view that flies in the face of fanboy reasoning.

    • Reply
      May 23, 2016 at 10:16 am

      Thanks bud!

  • Reply
    Randle P. McMurphy
    May 23, 2016 at 10:16 am

    Excatly the point why I still read and comment here. In this case the Minolta is just the better Leica CL.
    The reason why Leica still sells cameras is beause people like to buy myths.
    For me the picture counts and it is made 15cm behind the finder !
    As a result of that gear does have less effect in creation of outstanding pictures.
    But when you spend thousands of Dollars or Euros for stuff you always feel caused to justify why…….

  • Reply
    May 23, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    Very interesting article! You do leave out one thing and this was the dealbreaker for me. The CLE doesn’t have framelines for 35mm lenses. According to my research, you get a 28mm framelline when you mount a 35mm lens. When I consider how much difference there is between a 35mm and 40mm lens, that just seems too big a difference to be able to compose accurately.

    • Reply
      May 23, 2016 at 1:01 pm

      I know what you mean. A lot of people prefer 35 and 50, for sure. Guessing the framelines can be tricky, so I know why you’d feel that way.

  • Reply
    May 23, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    Great article, one question: where are you finding CLE’s for those prices? I’m in Europe and struggling to find any anywhere near that price.

    • Reply
      May 23, 2016 at 2:36 pm

      Thank you for the kind words. With patience, I can find them on eBay at these prices. Japanese sellers especially tend to sell them lower and (at least here in the USA) we aren’t charged any import fees or taxes on film cameras coming from Japan. The prices I cited are representative of body only sales. With lenses the prices climb to around $600-800 depending.

      The eBay link I published will match results to your geographical location, so feel free to browse, expand the search to incorporate Japanese sellers if it isn’t already, and good luck.

      • Reply
        May 23, 2016 at 2:39 pm

        Amazing, thank you.
        Well written article too, feel free to check out the photography website/magazine I’ve helped establish, we focus on photography and also photographers and their creative process, as well as their gear.
        Looking forward to reading more of your articles in the future.

        • Reply
          May 23, 2016 at 2:46 pm

          Sounds great! And the site looks gorgeous. I’d love to know more about it. Feel free to get in touch with me via email at contact@fstopcameras.com. There’s nothing I love more than connecting with photo friends.

  • Reply
    May 24, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    Great review, James!

    Just curious about what you mean with this:
    “The closest we get is the M7, which was made more than twenty years after the CLE, is chunkier and heavier, and still doesn’t manage to offer dynamic shutter speed adjustment in aperture-priority mode.”

    To the best of my knowledge the M7 is an aperture priority, dynamic shutter speed camera… Or do you mean something else (that I then missed :-))?

    • Reply
      May 24, 2016 at 1:15 pm

      Apologies, and thank you for drawing my attention to this. I misspoke here and have corrected the article. The M7 does indeed steplessly adjust shutter speed in aperture-priority mode, as does the CLE. The points about the M7 being larger, heavier, and pricier do maintain relevance.

  • Reply
    Tina Kino
    May 26, 2016 at 11:49 am

    Thanks James for that interesting article. Stumbled upon this via Ello, by the way.

    Definitely made me think about getting a CLE which was sort-of under my radar until now.

    A question about the finder / framelines though – which are shown in your image above? It looks a bit weird.
    I tried to find photos of the CLE’s finder with the different framelines showing, alas did not find them – do you perhaps have some you could post?
    Thank you (especially interested in seeing what the 28 and 40mm frameline look like in the CLE’s finder).

    Have a nice day!

    • Reply
      May 26, 2016 at 2:09 pm

      Hey there, Thanks for the kind words.

      In the photo of the viewfinder included in the article you’re seeing the 28mm framelines. They’re at the edges of the viewfinder and move with parallax correction. I should be able to upload a shot of the 40mm framelines for you as well. I’ll let you know. Thanks again!

      • Reply
        Tina Kino
        May 27, 2016 at 9:57 am

        ..yes, that would be perfect!


        • Reply
          May 27, 2016 at 2:42 pm

          Hi Tina, This is not my shot, but here’s a photo via a Flickr user that shows the 40mm framelines. Hope this helps! https://www.flickr.com/photos/datatw/2264572911

          • Tina Kino
            May 27, 2016 at 3:27 pm

            ..there’s two sets of frame lines in that picture, right? Is it the 40mm ones in the center, and the 28mm at the edges?


          • James
            May 27, 2016 at 3:40 pm

            That’s correct. The 28mm frame lines are always viewable with the CLE.

          • Tina Kino
            May 27, 2016 at 3:45 pm

            Thanks for clarifying, James!
            Hope to get my hands on one of these soon..

  • Reply
    Christos Theofilogiannakos
    June 2, 2016 at 8:19 am

    The “CLE vs Leica-M” argument is pure crap. There’s a specific “raison d’etre” behind the Leica-M which is completely different from that behind the CLE, so I don’t see how one could even compare the two, esp. at such high prices used CLEs command (very close to a M3 or M2). The simple fact that you can still get a fully mechanical Leica serviced to a state that will potentially make it work like new for another 10-15 years and then simply repeat that to get 10-15 years more, makes the whole comparison laughable. I don’t own a Leica-M (probably I won’t ever be able to afford one) but comparing the CLE to the film M-Leicas is just nonsense.

    • Reply
      June 2, 2016 at 11:27 am

      I don’t think the comparison is laughable or nonsense, and I think dismissing the CLE in that way is pretty ignorant.

      • Reply
        Christos Theofilogiannakos
        June 2, 2016 at 3:00 pm

        I’m not dismissing the CLE which is in all intents and purposes a very good camera. I think that the comparison with the fully manual M-Leicas (or even the M7) is nonsensical simply because they represent two completely different approaches to rangefinder photography, hence saying that the CLE is “better” than the M3/4/5/6 is a void argument. A person setting out to buy a M-Leica is looking for something that just isn’t there on the CLE.

        • Reply
          Todd Walderman
          September 7, 2016 at 2:42 am

          It’s not nonsensical to compare a cle to a m3 or even less nonsensical to an m7. They are all boxes to hold film with features to assist the photographer’s desire to expose film with m and l glass. Comparing a cle or bessa or ikon to a leica prodiced camera body is reasonable. I have a cle and and an M2 as well as a cl and previously a bessa. The cle is a great camera for making photos and a pleasure to use. Having a metering and flash system as it does in many ways makes it superior to the leica cameras without those capabilities. It’s a more capable system than leica in several ways but being built of brass is not one of its features. The self timer is another wonderful feature as is it light weight. I use those features to decide which camera I will use on any given day. My favorite is the cl for its size and the placement of its shutter speed wheel. The only fault I have with the cle is the shutter button because I prefer to use a soft release which will not work with the cle. All cameras have some fragility and that is never a deciding factor for me. If it were, I would rather use a minolta SRT than a leica any day. I never feel as vulnerable to loss as I do when I am toting the leica.

  • Reply
    June 5, 2016 at 12:57 am

    Oh dear James,

    I think you have upset Christos. I suspect he is one of those Leica lovers you mentioned.

    Something that always amazes me is actually how often Leica cameras need servicing. I have 40 year old Nikon and Minolta, 50 year old olympus’s and none have ever been serviced to my knowledge and have had serious use and hammer, and all going strong.

    I recently bought a mint CLE and can’t agree more with your article. I lovely, lovely little camera. I am not crazy about the 40mm frame lines but the 28mm are simply excellent.

    Anyway, you have written an accurate and excellent article that my leica using friends won’t like, but if they would or could only be honest with themselves they would have to agree. I’m afraid it’s a it like telling them that their wife (or husband) is not actually as good looking as they thought! No one wants to hear that.



    • Reply
      June 5, 2016 at 12:58 am

      Thanks for the kind words bud! I think Leica users are a little CLA happy, but maybe I’m a little CLE happy. 😉👍

  • Reply
    Sandro Carboncini
    June 19, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    I’ve got my father’s CLE camera and I would like to take some pictures with it but the Led exposimeter works properly only in A mode. It is right? It’s very strange to me.

    P.s. My compliments for the very high design quality of your internet pages

    • Reply
      September 17, 2016 at 5:23 pm

      Hi Sandro
      That is by design, unfortunately. For some reason Minolta decided to turn off the light meter when you use the manual setting.

  • Reply
    June 25, 2016 at 5:03 pm

    You run the risk of owning a brick in a decade or two when the electronics inevitably go; the CL was fully mechanical w. a battery for its meter–Much preferred, IMO.

  • Reply
    July 30, 2016 at 5:15 am

    Interesting and provoking article. Amongst the cameras I use are two absolutely perfect condition CLEs. And I love them for what they are. But.. to claim they are better than a Leica M, any Leica M let alone an M7 is quite the stretch. In rangefinder photography the rangefinder base length with viewfinder magnification determines focus accuracy. In the CLE this is far shorter than any M, which means that it is possible to focus an M to a much better degree. As the CLEs age, the electrics start to go, and one sign is the notorious jumping LEDs. When you activate the meter, the LEDs will bounce around before settling on the correct reading. This does not improve with age..
    The film advance lever is incredibly smooth – smoother than my Ms – but it feels fragile in comparison. Nothing like a Minolta XK film camera which feels incredibly solid. The meter in the CLE turns off if you put it in manual mode! The M7 meters in auto and manual. I have no idea why Minolta designed it like this. It may not seem like a big deal but the CLE does not have an AE lock, so to lock the exposure you would switch it to manual. And find out that your meter no longer works. The M7 has an AE lock.
    In use, the CLE taken by itself is delightful but because it is so small, my medium sized hands keep resting on the lens release button while in use. Not very good. You hold an M, and it feels perfect.
    Where the CLE rules is when using 28mm lenses. The VF with a 28mm lens is just perfect. Better than anything else I have used.
    Ultimately they are not competitors so none of this matters. The price difference is so great that they play in different leagues.

    Peace out

    • Reply
      Lukasz Kalinowski
      August 8, 2016 at 9:21 am

      I think the reason why manual is not metered is possibly the fact of center weighted metering. Manual metering can be useful for zone metering technique, but you wouldn’t be able to use it without the spot metering anyways. I admit that I never used it, so it is still just my speculation. Also in regard of Exp.Lock I have found it more comfortable to use Exp. Compensation right before the shot, which corresponds well with the idea of pre-visualising the frame etc.

      I have read that the LED jumping is not a sign of electronic deterioration, but dust inside: https://www.cameraquest.com/cle.htm
      “Like any other electronic camera, the CLE is sensitive to dust and dirt inside the cover. Dirt can give you erratic meter readouts or other problems, a common and easily curable CLE repair.”

      On the other hand I am surprised that people decide to keep the CLE always ON. Even if it’s going to enter sleep mode, that could also make a difference to the longevity of the camera electronics.

  • Reply
    July 30, 2016 at 5:42 am

    p.s forgot to mention just discovered this site and bookmarked it. I love it, including your shop!

    • Reply
      July 31, 2016 at 12:23 am

      Thanks, my friend! Happy I can contribute something to your free time.

  • Reply
    Todd Walderman
    September 7, 2016 at 2:53 am

    I doubt highly the intent of leica or any manufacturer of a camera was to develop a new philosophy of photography. If you would really like to feel the camera disappear from the process, try street photography with a minolta XD and a 58mm lens. The viewfinder dissolves the barrier between photographer and the subject. The closest to that experience I have had with a rangefinder was a Nikon s and the bessa r3a. 1:1 viewfinders are great. I do enjoy the feel of my m2 but I really don’t feel connected to the scene with a 35mm lens and a magnified viewfinder.

  • Reply
    September 7, 2016 at 4:12 am

    I don’t know how i missed this, but the intro photo showing the CLE through the lens mount of an M is very clever and well done!

  • Reply
    September 11, 2016 at 9:24 am

    This article made me sell all my Voigtlander RF gear and buy CLE with 21mm and 40mm m-rokkor. Thanks.

  • Reply
    Andre Tampubolon
    September 14, 2016 at 10:13 am

    A very well written review, James. I guess you clearly explain objectively why you like the CLE so much.
    As a happy owner of the M3, I *do* miss several things like:
    – built-in light meter. Sometimes I’m not in the mood of carrying real light meters (or using phone apps)
    – being able to use lenses wider than 50mm directly without any addons/workaround.

    So the CLE natively supports 28mm and 40mm, I rarely use 28mm, except for landscape stuffs. I’m mostly a 35mm guy, though. Never tried the CLE before, but I have some experiences with Minolta SLRs, and yes they are awesome. I expect the CLE to be awesome too.

    Boy time to put the CLE on my todo list 😀

  • Reply
    September 17, 2016 at 5:41 am

    It’s a great little machine. The only niggle is how they (I guess Leica) ‘crippled’ it by only having frame lines for 40 instead of 35/50. Good thing I like 28mm/40mm because they are perfect with this camera. Shooting with the Voigtländer 40mm is a dream combo.


  • Reply
    September 17, 2016 at 11:54 am

    Great article! I’ve had a CLE and CL for almost two years now and they’ve changed the way I see—I come from a lifetime of Nikon SLRs, which I still use. But these two have become my favorite day-to-day shooters. And I agree, they do everything that a traditional M would, at less cost, with less weight, and greater convenience.

    I still want an M6, though. 🙂

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