About the CL

Brief History of the Leica CL

The Leica CL is the brainchild of German-based optics and camera company Leica and the Japan-based camera and electronics manufacturer Minolta in the early 1970s. Historically, the Leica CL marked the first instance of Leica licensing their famous M-mount system to any other company for production, and was the only time in Leica’s history that it collaborated with another company in the creation of one of their cameras.

Introduced to the European market as the “Leica CL” in April 1973 and as the “Leitz Minolta CL” in Japan in November of the same year, the CL sold for three years, being discontinued in 1976. All Leica CL cameras were manufactured in a Minolta factory in Osaka, Japan.

Rumors have swirled about why the Leica CL production was ceased, such as a belief that the CL’s sales were undercutting the sales of the rest of the Leica line (which was more cost prohibitive to the average individual) or the belief that Minolta’s production costs were too high, which resulted in lost profits for Leica, despite high sales figures. None of these rumors have been confirmed.

Why should I consider purchasing a Leica CL?

The Leica CL/Leitz Minolta CL is the smallest M-mount rangefinder ever built, which in and of itself presents an excellent reason to own one. While many other Leica cameras are considered “bulky,” and other off-brand M-mount rangefinders considered “too cheap” in their construction, the CL provides a perfect middle ground. Matter of fact, it’s the smallest Leica rangefinder ever made, including the M39 “screw mount” platform Leicas.

The lenses that were manufactured with the intention of being paired with the CL are considered some of the best value M-mount lenses available. Equipped with either a Leitz Summicron-C 40mm f:2 (Leica CL) or a Minolta M-Rokkor 40mm f:2 (Leitz Minolta CL), both lenses are highly regarded as being crisp, compact, and worthy of adding to your collection. A 90mm option was also available that is essential to “complete” the CL package.

The cost of a pre-owned Leica CL is much, much less than any of the other Leica M-mount options, such as the Leica M3, M2, and M6, which sell for at least two – if not three or four – times as much! While those Leica options do have their own lists of pros/cons, the truth is that with a Leica CL, you can obtain “Leica quality” images for a fraction of the price. The other great news? The Leica CL holds its value, just like most every other Leica camera.