Is it worthwhile getting a Leica CL?

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by john_graham|5, Sep 26, 2010.

  1. Hi all
    I never owned a SLR or rangefinder camera - only got into serious photography in 2007 when I got a Canon 400D.
    I currently shoot with Olympus Micro 4/3 with Micro 4/3 lenses (Panasonic 20mm f1.7 mostly) and a few manual legacy lenses via adaptors (Olymlpus OM 50mm f1.4, 135mm f 3.5, Minolta Rokkor 45mm f2, Minolta M Rokkor 40mm f2).
    Now I am considering to get a Leica CL. I have the opportunity to get one together with a with Leica Summicron 40mm f 2 and a Minolta M Rokkor 90mm f4.
    I can also use both the Leica Summicron 40mm f 2 and a Minolta M Rokkor 90mm f4 on the Olympus PEN E-P1 via adaptor, but it it worthwhile also getting the Leica CL body?
    I'm wondering if the look from a Leica rangefinder with film is much different than digital Micro 4/3 with the M-lenses. Of course there is also a bit of nostalgia involved for me - I think that it would be cool to have an "old" camera in my collection.
    Finally, can you please share some ideas about the best way to develop film from a Leica? Own darkroom or "typical" development by giving the film to a photography shop or an elecronics chain store?
    And is it worthwhile getting a scanner to scan in negatives or developed photos?
    I know most of my questions I have to answer myself but qould appreciate some opinions and comments from others.
    Thank you in advance.
  2. First, your most important question. Is it worth getting a CL? It is a charming little camera. HCB used one. Problem is that the meter might peter out on you. It will then need to be fix by someone. I have one that needs the fix. I cannot tell you not to get it. I will ask whether you are prepared to fuss with the problems that with a working antique. There are other rangefinders that are almost of comparable size that are better. I am thinking of the current M-mount Zeiss Ikon.
    But you want an old man, I believe. Would an M6 classic be old enough for you? M6s are great camera and not overly expensive.
    The "look" of a full frame Leica will certainly differ from what you get with a Micro 4/3 camera. Perhaps the way the sound of a viola differs from that of a violin.
    I do not develop my own film, so let me pass on that business. I scan my film and think it is certainly worthwhile. I use a dedicated (so-called film) scanner, which generally is better than a flatbed. Good dedicated scanners are in short supply these days, and appear to be on the verge of being phased out. If you want to get a dedicated scanner get one now.
    If you want to learn traditional darkroom techniques and set up a darkroom you have my blessings.
  3. There are still repair people that can make CL's run like new, so I'd say go for it. The CL and the 40 'cron is a legendary picture making combo.
  4. The Minolta CLE (more automated and a TTL exposure sensor without the semaphore meter) was an updated version of the CL concept (Leitz and Minolta produced the CL together), which may be available as well, but I'm not sure it is as easily repairable as the CL Not sure of prices, but you can check the various sites.
  5. Thank you for the input so far, I will ponder on it for a while and also consider the alternatives...the benefit is that these types of cameras should be available for years to come. Maybe not so with the film supplies or am I mistaken?
    Have to read up some more on all of this.
  6. Hi John, it's worth it, not to have but to shoot film in it. But only if you want to shoot film.
    Film is better then digital, for me. And this is why-work flow. I shoot a roll of E-6 slide, if my exposure is correct, I'm finished. I have zero butt time in front of a PC, my camera is not a PC peripheral. I send in the slide, get back some low res scans, send a slide out for a print if I like it.
    So yea, if you want to add a film work flow get it. If you don't, take the money to Vegas and have a good time.
    Film will be here far longer then you.
  7. What's the price? If it's $2,500 no don't. But if it is $100 for the lot by all means get it.
    Contact Don Goldberg at DAG Camera Repair for costs on a CL overhaul. It will most likely need one if it hasn't been serviced in the last 6 or 7 years.
  8. My two cents worth is that you are better off buying a nice Bessa R2 or R2M. The Bessas are very much like a CL, but are a modern platform with a nice meter and lovely bright viewfinder.
  9. If you have a 40mm f/2 Rokkor M mount, that's essentially the same lens as the 40 Summicron, just with
    a different name. If you really want a CL, talk to Sherry Krauter at Golden Touch, she's an expert on
    them. For a few more bucks a good used Leica M6 is a more solid camera, and you can use your 40 Rokkor with it. Try KEH.
  10. John, I was also looking at getting a CL a few months ago. Luckily, my local camera shop had a one for sale, so I was able to handle the camera. Took me about 2 minutes to decide against it. I didn't like the way it felt. So, my advice to you is to try to do the same, if you can find one in a shop nearby, go and handle it. I think that will help a lot with your decision. As for me, I'd would follow Ray or Fredrick's advice. As far as developing goes, there is no reason to send your B&W film out for developing, definitely do it yourself. Search the B&W film forum for specifics on the small amount of equipment you need. You can get an inexpensive flatbed scanner at auction to start with. If you enjoy the whole process, then you can invest more time and money in a dedicated scanner. Another option is to shoot color film, have it developed and scanned, then convert to B&W as you do with your digital pics. I don't think you will really 'regret' getting any classic film camera. It's a lot of fun.
  11. The Leica CL is an intriguing camera. I have been tempted to buy one several times, but didn't pull the trigger because of the camera's foibles and idiosyncrasies iterated at the above link. I know Leica repair person Sherry Krauter personally uses a Leica CL, (she has sent me some of her images taken with it), so I'm assuming she is a fan of the system. She is also a specialist at repairing these cameras. I would call Sherry and ask her for her advice before buying the Leica CL available to you.
    There is definitely a difference in the look of a film image and a digital image, John. That's why so many photographers continue to use film. Several of my former colleagues still use medium and large format film in their studios and scan it, or have it scanned. Film is still the ultimate raw file, in my opinion.
    As far as processing your own film goes, color is out of the question except for wealthy masochists, but black and white is still a viable option and can provide you with a great deal of control over your images. It's also fun for a lot of hobbyists. You can limit your involvement to just processing B&W film and scanning it or going for a full darkroom and making your own prints. I don't recommend having a professional lab process your B&W film. Leave the color processing to them, but learn to develop your own black and white film. All you need is a daylight developing tank and reels, (Honeywell Nikor is my favorite), and a few other incidentals. I would look for them used on eBay. Then you can scan your processed negatives with a film scanner to digitize the images.
    Personally, I've been shooting color film and taking it to my local Costco for processing. They give me a DVD with the scanned images on it and the quality is good enough for my purposes. Also, the price is hard to beat. I can turn my color images into black and white images with my photo editing program. Not the same experience or results as shooting, processing and scanning B&W film myself, but infinitely more convenient for me, anyway.
    The problem is, who knows how long film will be supported by industry. Many types of film are already no longer available and places to process the film that is available are slowly disappearing. There are still a few labs locally here in Honolulu, but if I live long enough, I can see having to mail order film from places like B&H Photo and then send it back to the mainland for processing and scanning. Expensive and time consuming.
    Good luck with your decision, John. There are lots of things to consider. Don't forget Sherry Krauter. She could be your ultimate resource for information regarding the Leica CL.
  12. With all due respects, a CL's cloth shutter fires with a gentle "snick", a Bessa's steel shutter fires with a loud mechanical "ker-chunk". Also the CL is smaller than a Bessa.
    In certain hands, or shooting situations this might not matter. But for using these small RF's for their intended purpose (intimate contact with the subject and scene), the noise can be the deal breaker.
  13. I'd go for the CL over the CLE. While the CLE is more advanced in metering and automation, it shares electronics from the similar age Minolta SLR's. whice mean capacitors and resisitors are aging and replacment is not easy. Also, the CL uses batteries only for metering so you can continue using sunny 16 if the batteries are discharged. If the CLE's batteries die, then it's deader than a can of Spam, until you replace them.
    As long as the shutter and RF work properly, I'd buy a CL for myself even if the meter didn't work. The ones I've seen with non-functioning meters usually go for a lot less.
  14. The film advance was not so smooth as I wanted it to be, and so I sold my CL. I kept the 40mm-C Summicron.
  15. The Leica CL is a very nice little camera, and 40mm is a useful general purpose focal length. It is the next best thing to a Leica M, but it has advantages over the M too - itis smaller, lighter and more pocketable.
    Regharding film. I develop Black and White myself. It is quick, cheap, and easy to get good results. Then I scan it and get proper prints made from digital files.
    Developing colour film at home is just too expensive, time consuming, and hit or miss in the quality of the results. Minilabs are getting harder to find, but mail-order processing is still available, and I expect it will be for a long time to come. The set of prints you get is almost free. Most of them now offer scanning to CD. When you consider how long it takes to make one good scan - never mind 36 of them - the extra $5 or so for this service is well worth it.
  16. Agree with Elmo. I held a CL when my Dad offered me that or an M2 when I was 17. I took the M2 without hesitation and
    no regrets. If you want to ski a little off piste go for an M5. My more classic Ms feel like jewels by comparison. The M5 is
    a great user camera. The sensible things are the M6 or the Bessa. Don't miss out on the whole thing though, so get the
    CL if you like it. Lots here have loved theirs for its compactness, and they really love that 40.
  17. Yet another view. I also handled a CLE at a local pro shop several months ago, intrigued by the information I saw online. Overall, I did not really like the handling of the camera.
    I dropped the interest completely when I saw that it had a cloth focal plane shutter with flash sync at a measely 1/60th. If you want to do any significant fill-flash or more sophisticated lighting, 1/60th just doesn't work.
    Overall, I think the Olympus 35SP is a better camera, unless you're 100% wed to Leica lenses. The lens on the Olympus (7 element five group 42/1.7 Zuiko) is great. Has both center-weighted and spot metering, and flash sync from 1 second to 1/500th since the electronic shutter is in the lens.
  18. I owned a CL and sold it. I would not buy one. The meter mechanism is vulnerable and will be expensive to fix. Also, the viewfinder is NOT as good as an M. You'll have to be careful which lenses you mount (no collapsing 50). A neat camera in its day, but personally I'd avoid them.
  19. If you want to do any significant fill-flash or more sophisticated lighting, 1/60th just doesn't work.​
    By these criteria then a real Leica M (1/50th sync speed) is no good either. I think you are being too doctrinaire, myself. The Olympus is a neat camera, but you cannot change its lens.
    I personally would get a real M (M2-7) rather than a CL. Once you get a CL you will want a real M and so you might as well wait to get the real thing in the first place. The CL's rangefinder is prone to misalignment and the meter is expensive to replace (which may well be necessary). The 40mm Rokkor or Summicron, in my opinion, is the only reason to buy a CL or CLE (great lenses) as these have the 40mm framelines. However I would prefer a Bessa R3 if you like the 40mm view, myself.
  20. I think you're better off getting a Zeiss Ikon, or a Bessa R4a. The CL is getting up there in age, and it's better that they be kept for historical purposes if they are pristine.
  21. I have been collecting (rather than using) Leicas for more than 35 years - and one of my very first Leica purchases was a brand new CL with 40mm and 90mm Leica lenses bought in HK in 1975.
    At first I was very happy with it and it was used extensively over 2 years mainly with Kodachrome.Then a series of problems developed - the rangefinder went awry, the meter stopped working, and the very flimsy take-up spool broke. Took me a year to get a new spool. By this time the CL was being phased out and the M4 caught my eye. I used it solidly for 10 years and although not the best M around it was an absolute joy to use. I never felt that about the CL, which was made in Japan and actually doesn~t feel at all like a real Leica.
    You have had some good advice already, with Voigtlander, Zeiss and other alternatives, but if you really want a proper Leica, go for an M series - you will be in heaven.
    I passed over my Leica collection - all 22 of them! - last year to my son, who promised faithfully to keep them all in working order, including the CL, which I have to say still looks very pretty! These days I walk around with a Nikon D80 but my real dream would be that Titanium M9 - all 26.000 bucks worth of it.......
  22. "..the M4, not the best one around.." Blasphemy... ;-)

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