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Chronology of the Minolta brand  New window

Manufactured in Japon from () 1973 until () 1975.
Index of rarity in France : Rare (among non-specialized garage sales)
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Inventory number: 11541

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Minolta CL

Traduction de Christian Surle

Leica or Minolta ? That question remains without answer.... and this camera can wear both caps.

“CL” camera is an atypical camera. It results from a short collaboration between two brands, which will continue with production of the R3 Leica.

Leica, who was experimenting decreasing sales and seeing the world invaded by cheap Japanese rangefinder cameras, tried to make a “democratic Leica”. It was sold at a very reasonable price (for a Leica) with twin-dedicated lenses.

Minolta took advantage of this cooperation to refresh its reputation towards its national competitors, still storing Leitz technology up.
Thus, the CL was conceived by Leitz in West Germany, and produced by Minolta in Japan.
This was a tremendous commercial success: 65.000 units have been manufactured in only 3 years !.
Different versions of CL will appear: the original “LEICA CL” – the rare “LEICA CL – 50th Anniversary” of 1975 (3.500 units, it was commemorating Leica’s fiftieth anniversary) – the “LEITZ MINOLTA”, initially devoted to the Japanese market, and “MINOLTA CL” engraved on the ultimate bodies. 

So, this is a 35mm semi-auto and fully mechanical rangefinder, for 24 x 36 exposures – a compact one compared with other Leica’s – 510 grams with 40mm lens – and interchangeable M (or C) bayonet lenses. 

  • Lenses


While Leitz lenses mount is called “M”, the twin dedicated lenses mount for CL is named “C”. These are “Leitz-Wetzlar” stamped lenses: a C f: 2/40mm Summicron, and a C f: 4/90mm Elmar.

These two lenses marked “C” feature a so-called “economical” focusing extension, more direct than on “M” models. Moreover, Leitz is said having declared that precision constraints had been “softened” on “C” model. True or false ?. Leitz could fear that these two “cheap” lenses invade their bodies to the detriment of other much more expensive “M” lenses. Thus, “M” lenses can be fitted on CL model and vice-versa. All but the telemeter, slightly less accurate on CL than on “M” models, may limit the use of “M” big and very bright zooms.

You can find two versions of f: 2/40mm lens:

  • A “C” Leitz-Wetzlar Summicron, made by Wetzlar and fitting CL and most Leitz-Minolta CL’s.
  • An “M” Minolta Rokkor, made by Minolta and fitting CL Minolta’s, and later on CLE’s.


These two lenses are the same but the second one was manufactured in Japan, with Japanese coated lenses. But one must observe that Minolta bodies are well stamped “M”, which could let think that these feature a real Leica “M” mount.

You can find three versions of f: 4/90mm lenses:

  • A “C” Leitz-Wetzlar Elmar that will fit CL models and most Leitz Minolta bodies.
  • A rare “M” Rokkor - Made by Leitz – that would fit some Leitz Minolta models.
  • An “M” Minolta Rokkor that will fit CL and CLE Minolta’s.


Everything is different between Elmar and Rokkor lenses, as well as on “C” and “M” models as for the 40mm lens. The only mystery remains the Leitz Rokkor lens, stamped “M” while everything designs it as a “C”, since it was made by Leitz.
You can observe too that Minolta Rokkor lenses coating will be improved when fitting CLE model. Rokkor serial number is engraved on their body base.

  • Viewing: coupled telemeter with automatic parallax correction. Collimated frames for 40/50 and 90mm lenses. The 40 and 50mm frames are permanent, while 90mm replaces 50mm’s one on Elmar lens. The selected speed is reminded on top of the finder by means of a hand, together with a coincidence hand on the right for exposure setting. Very contrasted and wide size telemetric picture (but slightly smaller than on “M” models). A very bright, comfortable and pleasant viewing.
  • Cell: This is a TTL camera, i.e. that the cell is behind the lens. As on the elder M5, CL model features a CDS cell behind the lens fitted on a semaphore arm. This arm folds according to winding. Light measurement is made slightly pulling the arm away from the body and, when releasing, the arm folds back and the cell vanishes just before shutter opening. The cell is supplied by a PX625 (1.35 v) battery “hidden” in the body, under the film receptor roll. You can use films from 25 to 1600 ISO.   
  • Shutter: horizontal cloth shutter, unlike “M” models with vertical move. Speeds work from ½ sec to 1/1000° sec + B. X sync is at 1/60° sec. A very practical to use notched thumb wheel, ideally placed on top of the release, allows speed selection with one finger only.


 I have been using this fantastic small camera for the last 15 years, as a “globe-trotter”, and without any reliability problem. The twin strap eyelets are very practical for shoulder transport.
Scorned by some people or out-of-reach for others, this camera is bordering two worlds. However, it is practical, discreet, features beyond reproach making and finishing, and also a diamond: its really outstanding Summicron lens. It is one of the best lenses I have ever used, with an incredible “result”!
And this is not because the Leitz badge.... since the Rokkor is equivalent.
On the other hand, the Elmar never impressed me, while I think that the 90mm Rokkor is excellent.
Many CL’s are sold naked, dismantled by “M” models or coming from medical use.
The only defect I find in this camera is its semi-auto mode, which needs some practising to achieve slide snapshots > the settings must be very accurate.
A selectable aperture-priority auto mode could have been introduced to “multi-purpose” this outstanding small camera.
I have been shooting with other Leica cameras together with my CL, so I cannot but recommend anybody wanting to experiment a Leica to buy it.         Serial numbers below:
1973-74: 1300001>1335000, 1974-75: 1395001>1410000, 1975-76: 1425001>1440000.

My camera, presented on this page, wears n° 1035144.... a 1961’s M3 number !.
Would the Russians have struck again ?!...

Minolta CL

Minolta CL

Minolta CL

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