CLA - with more modern cameras?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by RaymondC, Jan 19, 2020.

  1. I sent my battery free medium format cameras for a CLA service. Wondering about newer cameras, does a CLA service exist and to what level?

    If you take a modern Nikon F5 or a Canon EOS 1v / 3, or a Canon EOS 5D / Nikon D810 camera film or digital, full of electronics, apart from adjusting the mirror, the aperture lever and 1 or 2 foam seals what else is there? Is there a lot less to do than a battery free camera? How important are they on these cameras?

    Many thanks.
  2. Even with mechanical cameras, CLA was often a hit-or-miss operation. There used to be posts on the internet where real repair persons posted examples of supposedly CLA'd cameras (I especially remember Contax RFs and Exaktas) that had been opened, but no cleaning, and just a lot of oil pissed all over. I tried Googling™ "camera CLA fraud", but did not find the posts I remembered.

    For electronic cameras, it's true that the fewer mechanical parts, and the ability to simply replace circuit boards may make it both easier and harder. I haven't had a new camera fail on me for quite a while, but there used to be repair people who were savvy, often even approved by the manufacturers who no longer worked on the older cameras. It may be like old MGs and Triumphs where many of my friends had two of them, one for parts...

    There are not a few digital cameras that may be more cheaply replaced with "pre-owned" ones, than actually repaired
  3. Yes why repair a D700 Nikon if one could just get a D800 for maybe $600US or just another D700. Or another D70 or D90 for that matter (!).

    To be a bit fair with film cameras while proper CLA can last quite a bit for a hobbyist, CLA are not exactly cheap. But if cheap was the goal they wouldn't be using film. Here in NZ we have 1 guy left here who does medium format camera repairs (and large format). Possibly a total of 2 or 3 that does 35mm not including the less reputable places. In this city, they have all retired, I did try to visit one at his home, he was said to be repairing on a selected basis but he went into a retirement home 3yrs ago.
  4. true enough, I suppose, but some still usable electronic film and digital cameras are often much cheaper used - often less than a repair.
  5. D700 only goes for $300US on the big auction site, that's not much more than a comprehensive CLA. With modern cameras there is not that much more to worry about like the past - seals, foams, bellows.
  6. The cost relationships between manufacturing and servicing have changed a lot over the decades. It used to make sense to service things, but when you consider what a professional service person has to bring in hour-wise to survive these days, not many would be willing to pay the price. I suspect most modern cameras aren't designed to be "serviced" in the way we might think of it. If something breaks or isn't working right, you just replace the whole module.Combine that with manufacturers who won't supply parts (you know who you are...) and it makes more sense to just replace anything that isn't under warranty. Especially if you can find a good used one. I do my own service on older cameras and some manual primes, but never touch anything that would be a tragedy if I wrecked it.

    Can't remember the name, but it brings back the memory of walking into a famous camera repair place in NYC that serviced all the pros. I was just a high school student working on the yearbook, but they took my TLR and gave it a quick once-over, including an autocollimator check, while I waited. No charge. The place was busy as heck. Would have been 1971 or 2.
    robert_ante and DavidTriplett like this.
  7. Not to mention electronic film cameras.

    CLA: Clean Lubricate and Adjust, works for mechanical systems with oils that thicken,
    or otherwise change with age. It isn't a huge amount of work to clean out some old oil and
    put new oil in its place. Some cameras get shutter curtains replaced (especially cloth
    focal plane shutters) but otherwise not much. There might be some adjustments, but I suspect
    in many cases one checks the shutter speeds and finds them close enough.

    It might be that newer oils work better, so newer cameras need less cleaning and oiling.

    The gears needed to mechanically time shutters down to 1s are at least slightly complicated,
    but electronically timed depend only on certain electromagnets, which work about the same
    at any speed. The failure modes are very different. The problem might be easy to fix,
    but it takes a lot of work to take apart, find the part to fix, and put it back together.

    I have a Leica If that I might have someone work on. Not so many other cameras
    where the cost is likely to be reasonable for the benefit.
  8. My newest camera is an F-1 New or Minolta X-570.
    I also have a F2-S and OM-1n.
    I just had the Oly and Canon in for Repair/CLA.
    It was about 150 bux for each camera..... plus shipping.
    Yes, it is frequently "cheaper" to buy another one, but those will also need (most likely) a similar scenario.
    I want my cameras to work properly, i do not give a zhit if the CLA exceeds the resale value of the camera.
    I have never understood why people play that mind-game.
    Why not just sell all of your cameras..... think of how much cheaper THAT would be.
    robert_ante likes this.
  9. Leica list (in connection with sensor exchange). I'd also check my regional CPS / Nikon partners, what they are offering. CPS seem AF and viewfinder + sensor dirt focused for cameras (unless they spot more problems and sell you their repairs of those). Considering the amount of abusable moving parts inside stabilized AF zooms, I would expect those to need CLAs and send them in together with my camera.
    I'd hope for CLA being an option when I'll notice buttons & dials becoming less reliable but Pentax replaced a shutter release unit already in the mid 80s
    I have no clue if sync contacts wear out inside electronic cameras too.
    I'm usually not buying CLAs as such or routine maintenance. I turn cameras in, when I see their need for whatever. But I am not planning to start travelling the world in a couple of months.
    If I had ambitions to share a demanding AF or RF lens between my film beater & digital, I'd send all 3 of them in, together and would also add other demanding lenses, if I had such.
    Good point! Especially(!) when we are talking film cameras.
    Shooting elderly digitals, I do go for pre-owned replacemnts, in case of damage by impact and keep kind of working ones for the next trade in offer by a manufacturer.

    I have no clue what a CLA service might spot 10 rolls before the problem would become visible to you. I guess some electronic shutters have their "usual suspects", like a capacitor, likely to die, that could get exchanged during a CLA.
  10. Most likely this was Marty Forscher's Professional Camera Repair, THE place to get cameras overhauled or salvaged from the '40s thru the '80s. It was located in the midtown Diamond District, back when it also doubled as the Camera District. Marty was the guy who infamously (and affectionately) described the Nikon F as his paragon of durable repairable "hockey puck" camera.

    Marty Forscher, Who Tended Cameras and Owners, Dies at 87
  11. A lot of purist "my-camera-at-any-cost" types (I've been one) feel this way, until their favorite system drains their kid's college fund with repetitive, recurring, wallet-shredding repair bills. The third time your Hasselblad 50mm Distagon leaf shutter (or worse, diaphragm) craps out and costs you $480 to overhaul is around the time you start thinking maybe dumping it for scrap on eBay and buying a replacement for $400, then banging on that til it inevitably breaks, might be a better way to go. Or maybe you just walk slowly away from the system for awhile before it kills you (until it lures you back in down the road).

    Some of this stuff does get really ridiculous to maintain. We find ways to justify it, but there are days when it sucks the joy out of the thing remembering how much you've sunk into it (and no, unless you're still shooting three rolls a day, it doesn't really "pay for itself"). Getting dragged around by some of these repair gurus can get on your last nerve as well: it would be more palatable if they'd just be upfront about what their average fee is certainly going to be, instead of always pitching at half then inevitably doubling it.

    Your talent, experience and tools are worth paying for, or I wouldn't be talking to you in the first place. Please don't waste my time (and yours) with an initial 50% estimate, then hit me with a flurry of emails adding 10% more for this "while its open necessary widget" and 30% more for " the leaf shutter is separate from the aperture, if you want the sluggish aperture fixed its 30% more for the bailing wire that actuates it" plus 20% more for what would be a $2 plastic trim piece in any other camera brand. Plus no guarantee at all that the lens/body/back won't go out again in exactly the same manner two years from now. Then theres the wait list to contend with: if that doesn't send you running to eBay instead of repair, nothing will. I thank the photographic gods every day that I never developed a fetish for vintage Leica or Rolleiflex: between the guru personality issues and wait lists I'd lose whats left of my marbles.

    And yet.. I hold onto my 'blad kit anyway, despite the fact within ten years every last properly-trained Hassy tech will be dead or retired. And have sent some Nikon stuff to be restored by the (truly awesome and wonderful) Sover Wong, despite the international round-trip airmail costs alone being more than the average Nikon F2 body or motor drive will ever be worth again.
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2020
  12. The shutter curtains travel time would need to be adjusted. This is a mechanical adjustment. After that the shutter needs be adjusted also but it's a software adjustments. Also the meter will need to be checked and calibrated and this is also software adjustments.
  13. If I could pay for a CLA and have some number of years of guaranteed dependable
    use from a camera or lens, then that might be true.

    But really, a CLA doesn't give much guarantee at all.

    Many years ago, I had a Vivitar 24mm/2.0 lens. (I still have it, actually.)

    After not so long, the aperture decided to stay full open.
    It is kind of a fun lens, though, so I paid to have it fixed.
    After not all that long, the aperture stuck open again, I believe in
    less time than the lens lasted originally.

    Then I found a used Nikkor AI 24/2.8 on sale for a price,
    as well as I remember, comparable to the cost of CLA for the 24/2.0.

    Many years later, and that lens still seems to work fine.

    Now, maybe Vivitar uses bad oils when they build the lens, but then
    the CLA should have replaced that with better oils. The original one
    will still work fine if I happen to need it at 2.0, though I haven't done that.

    In either the case of CLA or buying a used replacement, you don't know
    how long either will last. You might hope that the CLA will last
    longer, but I have no reason to believe that. If a used one costs
    less than the CLA, it likely seems a better deal.
  14. Guarantee of what.?
    All my CLA come with a guarantee, but not for forever.
    I am the original owner of one of my Nikon and Canon. In the last 30 years i have had a CLA done 3-4 times.
    A CLA is not a guarantee that the rewind crank will not break, or that a hot shoe wire wont break.

    How long does an oil change last in your car. If you change it, is there any guarantee.?
    SURE there is, but not against the brakes going out or the waiter pump breaking.

    You do not want to CLA a 30 year old camera, but your answer is to buy Another 30 Year Old camera.?
    What guarantee is that.?
    If the camera you own is in good order, CLA THAT one.
    I have never had the seller of a used camera guarantee that the camera would be trouble free for years to come.
    Unless it has been done "recently" , you should simply assume they will ALL need At Least a CLA.
    You also need to be aware of who is performing the "CLA". :)
  15. Rewind cranks and hot shoe wires mostly don't need cleaning and lubrication.

    For a camera, the big one is the shutter mechanism and shutter timing mechanism.
    For a 30 year old lens, it is the aperture linkage, and maybe AF mechanism or
    zoom mechanism. These parts need lubrication, the existing lubricants can dry up,
    move around, or otherwise not work as well as they did originally.

    One hopes that by cleaning out old lubricants and replacing them with new ones,
    the original condition and lifetime will be restored. Often enough, that doesn't
    happen, though I don't know the exact reason. Maybe the new lubricants aren't
    as good as the original. Maybe the old ones don't get completely removed, mix
    with the new ones, and don't lubricate well.

    At current labor costs, it is pretty expensive to get into all the spots that need
    cleaning and lubricating. Maybe they don't take all the parts apart, but only enough
    to reach, squirt some cleaning agent in, and then squirt some lubricant in.

    For whatever reason, CLA often doesn't give as much additional life as one
    might expect.

    On the other hand, due to falling interest in film cameras, and less obviously
    the lenses to go with them, many are available for low prices. Often much lower
    than the costs for a good CLA.

    For me, I don't expect to shoot a large number of rolls though any camera
    that I already have or might buy. It is likely, but not guaranteed, that a bought
    camera will last me plenty long enough, relative to the cost.
  16. I just had an old 85-250 Nikkor repaired/refurbed. I sent it in because the diaphragm was sticky, no real surprise on a 60’s/70’s era lens. $100 later they had sorted out several other problems and it works perfectly. Money well spent for a lens that delivers a unique ‘look’ for want of a better word. I’ll keep spending money to keep these film cameras running because I like them. Economy has little to do with it. I received a very nice F4S this afternoon and am looking forward to a test roll tomorrow. My more elderly digital bodies, well, they aren’t aging as gracefully.

    Rick H.
  17. I had a D800 repaired a few years ago(actually sent in a few weeks before the D850 was announced, so back when they were still relatively pricey). The stop down lever was broken, which required a pretty thorough tear down. I THINK it went to Midwest Camera Repair(the shop I bought it from sent it), and they did what they called a CLA. They also replaced the shutter-that was my choice since the count was at 150K and the only real extra cost was the cost of the shutter since the camera was already apart to that point. I think the total bill was around $350.

    One thing about older mechanical cameras-most were designed to be used basically daily and also serviced every few years(if not more often) before something broke. Many ills on some brands, like Hasselblads, seem to come as much from lack of use as they do from wear. I'm guilty in that one too-I haven't used any of my Hasselblad kit since December, and desperately need to get it out but haven't.

    It's a miracle honestly that some of the old stuff still works at all.

    I'll also add that, as someone who has spent a fair bit of time bent over a watchmaker's bench, I find mechanical cameras on the whole to be fairly crude mechanical devices. The tolerances are sloppy(even on "premium" cameras) and the way they're assembled/accessed for repair can sometimes be baffling. Of course, it's also not really fair to compare them to watches, as the forces involved are a lot higher and a lot more varied. The difficult in repair somewhat comes down to the fact that a camera has multiple parts you have to routinely interact with and handle, whereas a watch is safely kept in its case where your only real interaction is winding it and occasionally setting the time. Still, though, I'm hurting from the $600 check I wrote this past week for service on my Rolex...
  18. I think Clean, Lube and Adjust is more a reference to a different era of manufacturing. Classic film cameras that today require CLAs were made with components that could be cleaned and adjusted to their tolerances. At a certain point the manufacturing philosophy changed to replace not repair where components were made in assemblies that could be swapped out, especially in today's Digital age. Now if something breaks on your modern camera, they just replace the assembly, including shutters, sensors, etc etc. So I don't think CLA really applies that much on modern cameras.
  19. Lol that was funny! But yes it is a miracle. It's rough handling that usually destroys photographic equipment. Gears in a film advance mechanism can stand only so much horse power from a strong and speedy thumb on the advance handle. Same goes for shutter cocking handles on manually cocked shutters as on folding cameras. Power flowing through electronics all day, day after day, is bound to shorten their life if they're not regularly switched off. Speed dials on the top of cameras, or any speed dial for that matter really should be turned slowly. A lot of these mechanisms are pretty delicate and need a soft touch to ensure longevity.

    The two types of cameras that present the greatest risk on the second-hand market to-day are: those that are electronically operated (very risky), and those that have complicated mechanics that are too elaborate for their own good and require a genius to fix (Note the thread on the Contaflex Super. Also, here at home, the electronics in my humble but mint Petri FT has just thrown in the towel. I have the new Ektachrome 100E in it partially exposed. But luckily I have a spare board to fit which of course means parts cameras are very handy at times.)
  20. Shutter needs be checked and adjusted. All metering functions need to be checked and recalibrated if needed. For the digital camera the sensor needs to be checked too.

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