First released in 1973, the Leitz Minolta CL is the smallest (and one of the cheapest) M-Mount camera you can buy. The CL is often dismissed because it's not an "M" model, and because it was made by Minolta. While the build quality certainly doesn't stand up to the likes of an M3, the CL is still a great little camera for someone looking to get into the Leica M system on a budget.
|Unlike "M" cameras, the shutter-speed dial is on the front of the body
The CL has a great viewfinder, which displays much more information than most Leicas. For instance, all the selectable speeds (1/2 to 1/1000th, plus B) are shown at the top of the finder, with a needle that points to the current selected speed. There is also an internal light meter (the second leica rangefinder ever to have one), with a match-needle readout on the right side of the finder. The CL's rangefinder patch is not as clear or contrasty as other M cameras, but is still waaaaaay nicer than most other cameras in the price range.
|Waaaaay easier to load film on the CL
Ergonomics are good, despite the camera's tiny size (4.75"x1.25"x1.25"). All the controls are placed pretty much exactly where you'd want them. Film loading is way easier than on M cameras, as the entire back conveniently slides off. You don't have to awkwardly push the film in through the bottom of the camera with the CL!
I took my CL with me for a short road trip, and used it to capture an abandoned mini-golf course I found. I used a Minolta Rokkor-QF 40mm f/2 Lens, and Ilford Delta 400 film. Here are some of my photos:
Thanks for looking!