If you followed my Analogue Adventures over the past year you probably noticed I have been shooting quite a bit of 35mm film lately. Doing that, I discovered things I like as well as things I don’t like. Either way, I decided to continue with these Analogue Adventures as I think there is still a lot to be learned for me, but I also decided to get a second analogue camera with M-mount for doing that.
Why a second analogue body?
As I mainly use prime lenses I am already used to going out with two cameras at the same time, I have been doing the same with digital for years. It is simply faster just grabbing a different camera from the bag than constantly changing lenses and some of my M-mount lenses are also a bit “delicate”, which makes changing them somewhat more bothersome.
And then there was another issue: with just one analogue camera you only have one ISO available at any given time. This is clearly something that bothered me, so with two cameras I will most likely load one camera with a slower film and the other with a faster film, giving me some added flexibility.
Requirements for the second camera
My Leica M6 was expensive to begin with, in addition to that it needed an expensive initial repair – the warranty it came with was useless, as the shop’s repair guy only went to Youtube-University – and the next repair is already around the corner (possible light leak when changing lenses I discovered on my Istanbul trip).
Long story short: I set myself a limit of 1000€ this time, which already ruled out all the Leica M-series cameras (with exposure meter) as well as the Zeiss Ikon ZM.
I was also looking for a lighter and possibly smaller camera. The Leica Ms feel nice in the hand, but they are not exactly lightweight.
Already the first time I was looking for an analogue camera with M-mount I had a look at all the possible options, or at least I thought so, as I did in fact discover another camera I didn’t have on the list before: the Zeiss Ikon SW (SW = SuperWide). At first sight this looks like a Ikon rangefinder camera, but it comes without an actual rangefinder. It has the Ikon ZM electronics and technology (aperture priority, exposure meter, electronic shutter curtain) and build quality, but it lacks a rangefinder window, so you need to resort to zone focusing. It is also available for a third of what a normal Ikon ZM is going for.
I almost bought one. I like wide angle photography so I considered using it with my 15-24mm M-mount lenses, but then it wouldn’t really be usable with any lenses longer than that, so in the end I didn’t. But what other options were left?
- Voigtländer Bessa
Last time I ruled those out because of their design and questions about their build quality. Nothing has changed here. There are many different versions available though, the Bessa L for example is a cheap and ugly copy of the Zeiss Ikon SW, I could have even bought one for as little as 120€, which makes spending 700€+ for an Ikon SW rather questionable.
- Konica Hexar RF
Sometimes they are a bit more expensive than the 1000€ I set as a limit, but the real issue here is that these are completely impossible to get repaired if anything breaks. No one in Japan can repair these, my favorite repair guy from Amsterdam cannot repair them either and because there have only been a few made it is also difficult to find an affordable donor body for parts.
- Leica CL
Last time I ruled it out because of the limited choice of framelines (they are only available for 40, 50 and 90mm lenses). Now I want to add that I find it very ugly with the shutter dial on the front and the positioning of the strap attachments. Loading film is also a bit bothersome. It should not be dismissed that this is one of the smallest and cheapest M-mount cameras though.
- Minolta CLE
I was strongly considering this one last time, but ultimately ruled it out because I wanted a mechanical camera and one with all the typical framelines – especially 35mm – not just 28/40/90mm.
The Minolta CLE
With the M6 I already have a mechanical camera with 35mm framelines, so this time I decided to get the Minolta CLE.
A few things – good and bad – worth noting about this camera:
- it has an electronic shutter
- it has 28, 40 and 90mm framelines
- it has an on/off switch and won’t do much without batteries
- with film it is only 400g
- meter only works in aperture priority, not manual mode
- the rangefinder doesn’t work with some bigger lenses that obstruct the rangefinder window right on top of the bayonet
It also looks like a decently designed camera to my eyes, not something put together from leftover spare parts (looking at you, Leica CL and all the Bessas).
Condition of the Camera
Many CLEs I came across showed yellowed writings, especially on the front, I ruled all of those out from the start.
I didn’t come across a good offer from a dealer (and the warranty of the M6 was a bit worthless to begin with) so I took the potentially higher risk and bought the CLE from a private seller from Italy on eBay this time. Buying a camera which is more than 40 years old, you never really know what to expect, so I am happy to report, that:
- all electronics seem to work without issues
- rangefinder infinity calibration is spot on
- outer appearance looks clean and good
From the listing’s pictures it was also noticeable that the light seals are in bad condition, so I ordered a light seal replacement kit from eBay as well.
I thought I have been scammed here as it took forever for this kit to arrive and the seller wasn’t responsive at all, so I cut my own replacements out of DC-fix (affiliate link) I still had lying around:
Before actually going somewhere with this camera I again exposed a roll of film to see if the shutter times and the rangefinder coupling are working properly. And I also needed to see how 35mm and 50mm lenses work considering the lack of framelines for them.
The lack of framelines for 35mm lenses did bother me quite a bit – not a big surprise – but because the Voigtländer VM 35mm 1.2 III Nokton is almost as heavy as the Minolta CLE itself, it also doesn’t balance exactly great, so I decided to import a Voigtländer VM 40mm 1.4 Nokton Classic from Japan – the cheapest 40mm M-mount option and a very compact one.
My name is Bastian and I am your expert here when it comes to ultra wide angle lenses, super fast portrait lenses (ranging from a 50mm f/0.95 to a 200mm f/1.8) and I also have reviewed way too many 35mm lenses.
Don’t ask me anything about macro or wildlife shooting though.