Leica and Minolta signed a technical cooperation agreement in June 1972. One of its results was the joint development of the Leica CL, a compact rangefinder camera introduced in 1973 and discontinued a few years later. The CLE was a new rangefinder body resembling the Leica CL.
The Minolta CLE has an electronic focal plane shutter to 1/1000, and a TTL (through-the-lens) SPD (Silicon Photo Diode) exposure meter with aperture-priority automatic or manual exposure, and automated ambient and flash exposure metering system continuing to work and dynamically adjusting the shutter speed and TTL-OTF flash during the exposure itself. The ambient metering worked in a very similar way to that employed by the then current Olympus OM2n SLR camera. Ambient light was measured by the SPD as it was reflected off a pattern on the shutter curtains. It also proved particularly useful if filters were being used. None of these features would appear on any other body for M-mount lenses until the Konica Hexar RF of 1999 (which has all but TTL-OTF flash metering and dynamic exposure). The viewfinder has projected frames for 28mm, 40mm and 90mm focal lengths.
The Minolta CLE is reputed to be relatively reliable. The CLE is based on the Minolta XG-series SLRs, for which there are plenty of parts and donor bodies available.
Three lenses were made by Minolta specially for the CLE: the M-Rokkor 28mm f:2.8 wide-angle, the M-Rokkor 40mm f:2 standard and the M-Rokkor 90mm f:4 tele. The 28mm lens has some problems with the durability of the coating, and it is recommended to check the presence of white spots on the coating before buying.
The Minolta CLE was sold in black finish, except for a gold edition, limited to 300 and sold only in the Japanese market. The top plate is gold with black engravings. The bottom plate, strap lugs, hot shoe and lens release button are gold too, as well as the metal parts of the advance lever and shutter release. The shutter speed disc and lens rings have gold colour numbers. The set includes a standard lens with gold plated bayonet mount and a leather case with a plate marked CLE GOLD LIMITED.