The MINOLTA CLE – The Smart Rangefinder Camera Using Leica Lenses
The MINOLTA CLE is a 35mm rangefinder camera using Leica M lenses, which is originally the joint development of the Leitz Minolta CL. This camera has a compact body and the completely entire unique concept, although a lot of rangefinder cameras with the Leica M-mount were released in around 2000, including the BESSA R series.
The CLE’s slim square body is totally different from other rangefinder cameras or the Leica M models. Thanks to its unique shape, you will be easily familiar with M-mount lenses!
Alright then, let’s explore more deeply the CLE’s features!
The MINOLTA CLE
The CLE is a rangefinder camera produced by MINOLTA.
Firstly, I am going to tell you its performances and specifications!
Performances and Specifications of the MINOLTA CLE
As you have already known that the CLE is a Leica M-mount rangefinder camera. Its uniqueness as a camera with interchangeable lenses can be an automatic exposure aperture-priority mode.
When the CLE was released in 1981, MINOLTA had mainly marketed the SLR cameras with an aperture-priority exposure mode (e.g., the XG-E). In fact, there are the black/silver shutter release buttons and the shutter dial lined up in a row on the body of the CLE, just like the XG-E or the X700. Looked at from this perspective, you can easily see that the CLE’s camera system is based on other MINOLTA SLR cameras.
The CLE has an electronic horizontal-travel focal-plane shutter with cloth curtains. The shutter speed ranges from 1/1000 sec to a full 1 sec and B (Bulb). Even though many photographers are not happy with the exposure meter doesn’t work in manual mode, it is still tolerance level comparing to the Leica M models.
In addition, the finder has a bluish coloring and the bright frame lines exist for 28, 40, and 90mm lenses. As with the Leitz Minolta CL, the standard lens is a 40mm. Furthermore, the rangefinder base is approximately 19mm, and this has enough length for the 40 or 28mm lenses.
A Brief History of MINOLTA and Leica
If you would like to know the reason why the CLE can mount a Leica M-mount lens, you might need to know about a history of the business partnership between MINOLTA and Leica.
A new model of collaboration between those two companies was released in 1937, which differed completely from previous Leica M models. So, that’s the Leitz Minolta CL.
Today, the Leitz Minolta CL is usually known as the “Leica CL” in the world (“CL” stands for “Compact Leica”) and has a unique camera system that can move a mechanical arm like the Leica M5.
In those days, the compact rangefinder camera with a vertically-traveling cloth focal plane shutter made great contributions to the field of the M-mount rangefinder cameras. MINOLTA and Leica have further developed their cooperative relationship, and now we all know that the Leica SLR cameras and the R series are based on the MINOLTA SLR cameras.
It seems to be often said that the CLE was planned to be sold under the MINOLTA and Leica names, yet it wasn’t introduced as a result. You know why? I don’t know if it’s true but some people say that Leica couldn’t catch up with the reasonable design concept by Japanese camera manufacturer. In the event, the CLE was sold only in Japan.
Recommending M-mount Lenses for the MINOLTA CLE
The CLE offers the 28, 40 and 90mm frame lines. While the Leica 50 and 35mm lenses can physically mount on the body of the CLE, you might be better to use the lenses specially designed for the CL or the CLE.
The 40mm SUMMICRON and ROKKOR lenses
The CLE comes with a 40mm normal lens passed on from the Leitz Minolta CL.
A Leica SUMMICRON and a MINOLTA ROKKOR were sold as a 40mm M-mount lens. And then, a 40mm F2 lens was introduced by Leica.
MINOLTA made a MINOLTA M-ROKKOR 40mm F2 lens for the CL and the CLE.
If you have a chance, it might be a good idea to try a Voigtlander NOCTON Classic 40mm F1.4 lens produced by Cosina Voigtlander.
###The 28 and 90mm lenses
The CLE provides a 28mm frame line. It can accept each generation of the 28mm lenses including the Leica Elmarit 28mm F2.8 lens.
In addition, the M-ROKKOR 28mm F2.8 lens designed for the CLE can actually be more affordable than the Leica lenses, so it is also very easy to use!
As for the 90mm lens, there are a lot of options depending on your budget and purpose because the CLE can use both the Leica and M-ROKKOR lenses.
Get a Compact M-mount Rangefinder Camera, “MINOLTA CLE”!
The CLE is a small and compact rangefinder camera having an atmosphere of Leica cameras, but it is different from the Leica M models and the Bessa R came out in later years. The printed image of the photo feels like a certain elegant charm in Germany, even though the CLE was produced by MINOLTA in Japan.
The CLE is an evolution of the Leitz Minolta CL, while it fits comfortably in one’s hand as a real Japanese product.
Would you like to carry this practical camera when you go out?