Updated: First two test rolls scanned and notes are provided below in italics based on the results.
This is a first thoughts post and I have a lot of them.
Recently went on a 7Artisans M mount bender (exhibits A, B, and C). I like them all so much that, as much as I tried to fight it, I was drawn to purchase an M mount film body again. (Makes no sense, but if you are looking for photography to make sense you are likely not doing it right.) After much obsessive research, I settled on trying out a Leica CL.
It is very early in my ownership yet, but I now realize I have not been listening to the right voices with regards to the Leica CL. And not the voices in my head mind you. I always agree with the voices in my head.
But those other voices… The internets will let you down sometimes. Took a moment for me to realize that the shortcomings listed by the internets did not apply to me.
- Short rangefinder base length does not focus apertures wider than f/2 and lenses longer than 90mm well. But…
- I do not enjoy focusing at 90mm given the tiny bit of rangefinder real estate available to frame with in the middle so a longer lens than that will not happen.
- The main lens I intend to use with it is an f/2. Plus it is easy enough to close any other lens down to f/2.
- The Bessa R2 (first shot below) I had has this same narrow base length issue and I never had a problem focusing the 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1 with that. In real-world use this is not an issue. The Leica CL (second shot below) focused the same lens at f/1.1 without issue.
- Not built as well as a proper M.
- What is?
- It is built a far sight better than the Voigtlander Bessa R2 I had. Considered it to put behind my 7Artisans lenses, but gave it back two frames into a return trial run once I remembered how “squishy” it felt in hand. Pretty to look at though.
- My CL example feels like a small monoblock brick compared to most any other camera I own. My fairly new A7III already has corner scuffs while this camera from 1975 does not have a single one.
- The consensus of my photo nerd grouping is that the Leica CL is built just fine. Better than any of us expected.
- Some M lenses will not work on it.
- Um. Don’t buy those.
- Was built in Japan, not Germany.
- Some say it is fragile and if the camera breaks it may not be repairable.
- I use Russian cameras.
- Time will tell, but this camera feels robust in hand and not at all fragile.
- Viewfinder not as good as a proper M.
- What is?
- I use Russian cameras.
- The photo nerd grouping approves of the viewfinder.
And it does not stop there. Leica M adherents look away now. Nothing to see here.
Because… (Swivels head around checking for Leica M adherents within earshot.) Psst… I really like the Leica CL. I mean a lot. Come closer… So far more than the.. (Checks over shoulder again.) …the M3 I had. And I really liked that camera. Could say I loved the M3. Why did I sell it, then? Fair question. My inner
cheapskate budget-minded self (one of the voices) has great issues. That voice views a camera body as a shutter equipped light-proof appliance to hold a lens the proper distance from the film plane. It does not give one whit about heritage and could not make sense of a non-internal-metered 35mm body for such a princely sum. (Easily swooned by non-metered medium format bodies, however.) All the poetic “look and feel” prose in the world offered will not sway it. After the Leitz M pixie dust fog cleared I agreed.
But there’s more. The CL has perks in my book.
- I really like the vertical shutter dial orientation. Works great with the in viewfinder shutter indicator. The Bessa R2’s dial was more awkward and had no readout in viewfinder.
- Shares a near-silent cloth shutter with the M rather than the metal thwack of the metal shuttered Bessa.
- 1/1000s shutter speed like the M and Bessa.
- In viewfinder meter readout is great. Good old needle readout. And so far the “upside-down” underexposed up/overexposed down has not been an issue for me. Took a few minutes, but I have adjusted. I did like the Leica Meter on the M3, but still prefer metering in the viewfinder. I prefer a needle to the three lights in the Bessa R2.
- The way the meter is turned on by pulling out the winder slightly is a nice touch. Much preferred over the Bessa R2 light shutter press method
- Has a mechanical shutter so if the meter ever packs it in you are still good to go.
- Small. Quite small and tidy with the 7Artisans 35mm f/2 attached. An M3 is not large, but with the Leicameter attached it was not what one would call small either. A good looking rig, however.
- Bottom and back of the camera come off for easy film loading.
- I find this camera to be quite the looker.
- Can technically still say I own a Leica. I am not completely immune to Leitz pixie dust.
- Now for the big one. This camera costs far less than what I paid for my M3 and M3s cost even more now. Less than half of what a clean, fully functional M5 goes for. Costs less than a quarter (almost a fifth) of what a clean M6 goes for.
Yahtzee. Jenga. So on and so forth.
Now, look. I have nothing against Leica M bodies. Just wished they cost less, but that is not reality. If you have got it like that then like Zero Mostel said in the (original and only one I acknowledge) Producers, “…baby when you’ve got it! Flaunt it! Flaunt it!”
I sincerely mean that. If I had it like that I would do the same… Maybe. I really love a good deal. Bang for buck is my first consideration always. I am a guy that could technically pay more for a vehicle but takes great delight in daily driving a Trooper surplus Charger bought for peanuts.
Would rather it over any fancy pants and reasonably priced civilian variant or other escalating aspirational four-wheeled conveyances. My Dadmobile is more than good enough for the task at hand and looks good doing it. The same applies here.
Samples from the first two test rolls.
Ongoing gallery here and below are some shots of the camera.