The Minolta CLE is a fantastic camera, and this version combines fashion with functionality.
With the deal that Leica and Minolta made many years, Minolta created the CLE. Some circles will say that it’s the superior camera. Others swear by their Leicas. But I think everyone will agree that this 50th-anniversary edition is gorgeous. Using the same M mount lenses everyone loves, this camera is a beast. It places the shutter dial on top vs. Leica’s front-facing dial on the CL. And most importantly, it places the strap lugs on both sides. Leica, on the other hand, put them both on one side.
This is for photographers who’ve always wanted a Leica but didn’t want to pay A La Carte prices. Cameras like this still use the M mount and offer awesome features like aperture priority. That’s a dream for many photographers out there when shooting street. Everyday shooting is great with aperture priority. Load it up with some 1600 ISO film, and you’ll be good to go.
The Minolta CLE in question is also very clean. If you look at the images, you’ll see that there’s not a whole lot wrong with it. It looks almost new. Of course, there’s a bit of wear. But it’s not damning to the value or the functionality. Even the light meter works!
Functionally, it will work mostly like the Minolta CLE. But there’s one big difference and that’s the shutter. This camera uses a battery to power the shutter. The Leitz Minolta and Leica versions use mechanical shutters. Overall though, there isn’t a lot to complain about if you’ve used the CLE. Some photographers like them more than Leica’s options.
Ken Rockwell, who I’ve learned to really respect, says the CLE’s finder is better than the Leica M7’s. Here’s a quote from his review:
“Blaming the failure of the M5 on the CL (instead of the fact that the M5 lost the Leica Vision of small cameras, big pictures), Leica did the wrong thing and cancelled the CL, seeing it as competition. Companies don’t last long when they work in their own interests instead of the customer’s interests.
Leica killed the popular CL after only three years. The dumping of the CL marks Leica’s turning away from being driven by making innovative photographic products for photographers, to a company that instead focuses on making fashion baubles for the man who has everything.”
What made the 50th-anniversary edition so special is the exterior. There’s beautiful leather on it. Mind you, if you use this camera a lot, the leather will begin to wear away. With that said, I’m not sure you’d want to use it all that often. And if it were me, I’d probably be a wise guy and ironically wear white gloves when handling it. Otherwise, it’s not a bad idea to put it in a half-case. And there are lots of them out there still made. Maintaining this camera might be tough to do, though. The standard CLA shouldn’t be a problem, but anything more complicated could require 3D printing, if anything.