5 frames with...

5 Frames with a Leica CL – By Dan Castelli

December 5, 2017

I’ve had a love/hate relationship w/my Leica CL. I like its small size & the M-mount capabilities. I dislike its front mounted s/speed dial and the removable back. I rarely used my CL, so in late spring 2017, I decided to put away my M2, and I would exclusively work with my CL for the summer.

I used the 40mm Rokkor-M and Tri-X. I’m not crazy about the CL’s semi-spot meter and its poor low-light performance, so I fitted a Voigtlander VC II meter to the camera. I carried the camera, extra film and a little accessory pouch in a small Domke bag.

The first few outings were awkward: I once opened the camera w/out rewinding the film (duh, rookie mistake!)

As the summer progressed, the brain, hand & camera merged. I got comfortable with the placement of the s/speed dial; shooting 36 exp. rolls meant less film changes. I found myself subconsciously making a meter reading and setting the camera controls. I grew fond of this little Leica and learned to accept its idiosyncrasies and work around them.

The CL’s main advantage is its unobtrusive size. I’m essentially invisible – little attention is paid to an older, low key individual. I can work with this small, black camera and not be disturbed. Then something catches my eye and: click/gotcha!

I’m pleased I finally got around to working on this self-imposed summer assignment. I’ll add an additional CL to my armamentarium. Meanwhile, enjoy the photos.

A link to my flickr account: flickr.com/photos/dcastelli9574

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  • Reply
    Stephen Malagodi
    December 7, 2017 at 7:50 pm

    The CL is my ‘subway’ camera. Small, unobtrusive, quiet, inexpensive. I use it late night wandering the streets and subways. If someone knocks me on the head, at least they don’t get the M6. And you know, it still feels like a Leica.

    Nice pics, btw.

    • Reply
      Dan Castelli
      December 12, 2017 at 10:41 pm

      Dear Steve,
      Thanks for the comments. I’m glad you liked my pics. When my wife & I visited Florence Italy three years ago, I slipped my CL in a jacket pocket for our after dinner strolls around that beautiful city. I loaded it with Delta 3200 and used a small hand-held meter for exposure. Had fun shooting w/out the worry of any type of incident.

  • Reply
    Doug Gottlieb
    December 7, 2017 at 8:29 pm

    I love my CL, for the reasons you’ve noted, but also for your quibbles. I’m a fan of the both front dial and the film loading. Like you, I’ve also added the tiny Voigtländer meter: it seems like it was tailor made for the CL. And the 40mm ‘Cron? Who cares if it isn’t one of the holy lengths (35 and 50)? It is fills both needs for me and is the only lens I ever shoot on the CL. For everything else, well, that’s what the M3 is for!

    Great post. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply
      Dan Castelli
      December 12, 2017 at 10:49 pm

      Thanks Doug. Using the Voigtlander meter gives the camera a second life. I found the 40mm lens just fits what I see. Like a comfortable pair of jeans, it feels natural. And, like your M3, I’ve got my M2 or my Nikon FE2.

  • Reply
    Karl Valentin
    May 11, 2018 at 6:44 am

    Owned one a few month but never really liked it.
    Maybe just because its to small for me or a Minolta in a Leica outfit ?

  • Reply
    Dan Castelli
    May 11, 2018 at 4:50 pm

    The CL camera ‘family’ did have it’s quirks – during the 1970’s, Leica seemed to zig when everyone else was zagging.
    As for the Leica/Minolta partnership – the series of Leica Reflex “R” bodies were essentially Minolta SLR’s…the Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit M is a Minolta lens in Leica clothing.
    The size can be a detriment for some photographers. I found the camera to be much more ‘hand friendly’ after I added the leather half-case.
    Thank you for taking the time to read my review and responding.

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