Leica CL

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by paulcooklin|1, Jun 16, 2010.

  1. Hi - I have the oppurtunity to buy a Leica CL but Im not familiar with rangefinders. I use a host of 135 and 120 SLR's. My questions are how 'easy' is it to focus with a CL compared with an SLR. Presumably the paralex is difficult to see in low light? Does anyone own or have used a CL and if so, what's your impression of the camera.
    Lenses - what are the lenses like for the Leica...Ive done a little looking and Ive seen some good names, but have no reference. I would probably get 2-3 lenses, 20-ish, 50 and maybe a 100, what would you recommend.

    How different is the CL compared to the M system. Is the viewfinder bright?
    Im thinking of using it for street photography, landscapes and architecture primarily. I shoot Ilford Panf and Velvia mainly.

    I like the idea of it being small and easy to carry around compared to mt SLR's.

    If you can offer any views/comments it would be much appreciated.
  2. Hi Paul,
    What do you mean by "paralex?"
    The CL is a Japanese made camera, designed by Leica. It is cheaper in quality. At this late date, most of the CL's need repair. They have weak points, things that go wrong chronically. Plan on spending about $300 for a complete CLA. The winders break, and the meters need work.
    This is not the best camera for a super wide lens. It doesn't have the framelines. The only framelines it has are 40, 50, 90. It has a short rangefinder base, so it is not as accurate with long fast lenses, especially wide open.
    If your idea of a street camera is one that's inconspicuous, this camera is ideal. It is almost silent, and it is small.
    Hope that helps.
  3. Paul, I've been shooting with Leicas for nearly 60 years, and like Michael (above) have found the CL to be a superb camera for street shooting. In my old age I've switched mostly to digital cameras, but I always keep a CL in my bag for backup.
    In my experience the manufacturing quality is quite excellent (a cooperative project of Leitz and Minolta) but they are now about 40 years old and should have a CLA before depending on them. $300 seems a lot higher than I'm used to paying.
    I do fine the viewfinder excellent (better than most M's), and easily seen with glasses. My second favorite of all Leica lenses is the 40mm Summicron.
  4. If you are shooting street landscape and architecture, there really is no reason to get a 90.
    For architecture, I think you might need something like a 21 (getting to some expensive glass territory), plus a viewfinder. For street, perhaps you can do with a 40 summicron, in which the CL already has the framelines.
    Leica viewfinders are great in low light compared to SLRs, as there is no lens or mirror dimming the field.
  5. Ok, thanks for the replies.
    So, how do I focus with the CL and the viewfinder (converging lines?) and presumably you cant see the DoF?
    Can you recommend 3 lenses. short, mid and 90mm. Im looking for the sharpest with the nicest bokeh. Will it take all M mount lenses, what should I be looking for with regards to the mount.

  6. So, how do I focus with the CL and the viewfinder (converging lines?) and presumably you cant see the DoF?
    Can you recommend 3 lenses. short, mid and 90mm. Im looking for the sharpest with the nicest bokeh.​
    Focus just like any other M. As mentioned above, the baseline isn't long so fast wide open shooting isn't great for fast 50/90mm. There are lenses problematic for the CL, the 35mm 1.4 Pre-asph is one...You don't want lenses with deep/long rear elements due to the spot meter swing arm.
  7. Nope, you can't gauge depth of field with an RF camera; frankly, I could never do that with a 35mm SLR either. Some people say they can.
    My first camera was an RF, so the focusing system comes naturally to me. If you don't expect it to work like an SLR, you should have no problem adapting.
    Bokeh is a slippery slope. If that's the prime consideration and budget isn't a factor, look at the Mandler-designed lenses from the '60s and '70s like the M-Summicrons. Great resolution and excellent rendition of tones.
    The 40/2 Summicron-C designed for the Leica CL is a good starting point; shoot that for a while and decide if you want to go longer or wider. It might be all you need.
  8. The CL is a very nice small camera - great viewfinder and nicely made. Very often the meter needs attention - this can be pretty expensive ($300+) if a new CdS cell is required. Like others I recommend the 40mm Summicron or Minolta Rokkor (for the Minolta CLE but fits the CL perfectly). The only issue I had with the CL was that the rangefinder is not very robust, I found mine got misaligned fairly frequently. The other "disadvantage" is that it will almost inevitably make you want to get a "real" M which is a more expensive game.
    For a 21mm I recommend the Voigtlander 21mm f4 and also suggest you get a 90mm Elmar-C or Rokkor 90mm (essentially the same lens with different cosmetics). The 90mm f4 lenses were designed for the CL or CLE and match well with its rangefinder accuracy. You can put other 90s on the CL, but you may find that the rf will not be accurate enough shooting wide open to get things in focus. I used a 90mm Elmarit f2.8 which was OK, but the f4 lenses are a better fit on this small camera.
  9. Paul,You can't "see" the d.o.f. but you can read it from the engraved (not just painted) scale on the 2 superb Leitz lenses for this neat little camera.
    I use d.o.f. scales all the time and is regrettable that the vast majority of dslr manufacturers have no such markings on their lenses these days.
  10. Well...I do DOF by finding the range of the farthest and closest targets, then use the DOF markings on the lens to estimate a reasonable focus with corresponding aperture. It's slow, but accurate. Using an SLR DOF preview isn't really that accurate as you sort of need to judge by eye.

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