First Roll - CineStill B&W XX Through A Leica CL

My first “first roll” post on this blog. This is a “not a review” type post, where I ramble on about a specific piece of gear (or a collection thereof) and a first roll that was shot using said equipment.

The Gear

The Leica CL came to me as one of my many purchases on the bay. It looked great on the seller’s page and it looked decent when it arrived. It is a small and heavy camera. The smallest camera that I own. Together with the haptics, it gives me a feeling that it is indeed solidly built. Despite the size, I can get a good grip on it, which allows me to carry the camera with ease and at the same time I can reach all necessary functions without adjusting the position of my hand. The shutter speed dial at the front of the camera takes some getting used to, but the positioning does work quite well. The viewfinder and the rangefinder patch are bright, but small. The rangefinder patch shares the available space in the viewfinder with a readout of the selected shutter speed, the light meter reading and two labelled frame lines (no guessing, sweet!). The frame lines depend on the mounted lens. In my case, it shows the 40mm and 50mm lines.

Out of the box, the rangefinder needed adjusting: At infinity, it was impossible to align the edges in the double image. As I did not want to send the camera out for adjustment right after I got it, I went to work on it myself. There is a small plastic cap near the accessory shoe that hides a double screw which allows for horizontal and vertical correction of the secondary image of the finder. That plastic cap is easily destroyed, and of course, I did not manage to get it off without mangling it in the process. Instead of going through the cap, it is possible to disassemble the top of the camera with ease (just a few screws, the film advance lever and the shutter button need to be removed). I should have done that instead, as the film advance lever was sticky and needed some lubrication, too.

Operation of the light meter is annoying: You need to advance the film and cock the shutter. Only then, you can activate the light meter by pulling the film advance lever out until you feel the first bit of resistance. The light meter does work, but the readings are completely off. The reason for this is, that the mercury battery that is expected to be used is 1.35 volt. The replacement batteries provide 1.5 volts. There is a small modification that fixes the problem with the help of a diode that brings the voltage down to appropriate levels, but I did not yet get around to doing this.

The lens that I got with the camera is the Leica C Summicron 40mm f/2. It is said to be the smallest M-mount lens that Leica has ever built, and it certainly is a very compact one that complements the Leica CL perfectly. The screw-on rubber lens hood with the stick-on cap isn’t to my fancy, though. I managed to screw it on too tight, and in an attempt to get rid of it, I disassembled the lens: The focusing ring became one part, the optics with the aperture another. I ended up replacing the screw-on hood and stick-on cap with a cheap regular snap-on cap. Another weirdness is that the labels and markings are dissolving partially from a bit of sweat and water. It looks like the previous owner tried to fix the faded paint themselves, but chose water-soluble paint. For now, I will have to guess which aperture I have selected.


I was looking for a small camera that I can chuck into my bag or maybe even carry around in my jacket pocket. The Leica CL fits the bill: For me, it is a nice always-with-me camera. When I am on my way to work or back home, or when I am travelling somewhere, it is always with me. A quick grab and I am ready to shoot. And as already mentioned, I can get a solid grip on it. I have read reviews that say that focusing is a bit harder compared to other “full size” Leica rangefinders. The reason is the short effective range finder base length, but at least for the 40mm focal length, it works well. It should be mentioned, that I mostly used an aperture at f/8 and did not try any portrait photography with the lens wide open. Somehow nobody wants to play “willing subject”, and the unwilling ones run away faster than I can frame and shoot them. The light meter is useless to me as long as I have not done the diode mod to make the camera compatible with the battery voltage. That is not a big problem with my lazy shooting style thanks to the latitude of the film stock in use. I just go with an approximate ”sunny 16” rule. The shutter speed dial is sometimes hard to turn with one finger. Sometimes it is smooth. A bit hit and miss. The shutter speed reading in the viewfinder is nice and allows to fiddle with the dial while the camera is directly in front of my face. One more thing worth mentioning handling-wise, is the left-sided camera strap mountings: They are a bit problematic when you want to use a wrist strap on your right hand, as I usually do.


My first roll that went through the Leica CL was CineStill B&W XX. As I already mentioned in ”5 Frames - Alpsee On CineStill B&W XX”, the pronounced fine grain of this film stock makes judging the sharpness of the image harder than necessary. From what I can see, the 40mm f/2 is sharp at the apertures that I used. I have not done any exhaustive image analysis, and I have no idea which shot was taken at what aperture, anyways. This is just my overall impression. As is the observation, that contrast is better in moderate lighting. When the scene was brightly lit by the sun, the negatives came out of the scanner a bit flat. That might have been caused by my lax approach to exposure, though, with the sunny frames being overexposed. I often just run around with 1/250 as shutter speed.


I like the Leica CL a lot. It has its problems, and my copy is a mixture of “really nice” and “noticeable wear and tear”. The size does make it a good everyday camera that suits my needs. I am happy with the purchase.

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