Minolta and Leica always had a love-hate relationship, with Minolta loving Leica cameras and designing several cameras after the Leica models -- and Leica hating the market share that Minolta was taking away from them with their "cheap" cameras. But as production costs continued to rise in Germany, Leica looked for ways to cut costs while expanding their market share. As a result, over the years, Minolta produced several of Leica's cameras and lenses. Sure, Leica made modifications to the cameras after they arrived in Germany, Portugal or Canada, and they put the lenses through "rigorous" German quality control, changed the lens mount and some cosmetic changes, but it's really the same gear. Leica owners that say their Leitz R3 with a Vario-Elmar 80-200mm f4.5 is better (or produces better pictures) than the Minolta XE-7 with a Rokkor-X 80-200mm f4.5 are living in a fantasy world. In reality, all of the cameras were made on the same assembly line in Minolta's factory in Japan and the lenses came out of the same vat of melted Minolta sand and had the same coating. At the time (mid '70's), the Leitz R3 with a Vario-Elmar 80-200 f4.5 cost SIX TIMES as much as the Minolta XE-7 with a Rokkor-X 80-200mm f4.5. That's quite a high price for German "quality control". There are rumors that circulate claiming that Leica rejected over 70% of Minolta's lenses. Such a notion is ridiculous. No company would ever do business with another company where they had to reject such a high percentage of items. Another wild claim is that Leica made such radical changes to the items that they could be marked "Made in Germany". Absolute rubbish. If you look at any Vario-Elmar 80-200 f4.5 -- or any other Minolta-made, Leitz lens -- it clearly states, "Made in Japan". Yet another high tale is that Leica was unsatisfied with Minolta's quality, so they ended the relationship. This is just more garbage. Leica continued to buy Minolta cameras and lenses for many years (see below). Most of the APO elements in Leica lenses were made by Minolta, and Leitz continued to buy Minolta cameras until 1997. Eventually, Leica went one way in the photographic industry and Minolta another. Leica stuck to a more traditional path and Minolta ventured into unknown territory. So, of course, Minolta items were no longer of interest to Leitz. But to suggest that Minolta's equipment is somehow inferior compared to the same gear with a Leica label is silly.

The first cooperative agreement between the companies was back in 1972. Leica decided to produce a compact Leica (CL) camera that would be less expensive than their existing models.  But in order to keep production costs down to a minimum, they needed the camera to be manufactured by an outside company with hi-tech capabilities and low labor costs. Leitz was able to reach an agreement with Minolta, and the Leica CL was born.


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