Before the rush

Before the rush
by evan-pak

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I've seen the term used in used lens listings, e.g "recently CLA'd".

I have a few questions, but I think they're related enough to only warrant one post:

  • What does CLA stand for, and what is it?
  • How much does it generally cost?
  • How do you decide whether a lens might need CLA?
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It means : (C)lean, (L)ubricated, (A)djusted. – Maxwell Sep 12 '11 at 10:19
up vote 7 down vote accepted

"Clean, Lubricate, Adjust", as Maxwell said. It is usually encountered when discussing Leica camera bodies, those things need a checkup every two decades or so. But, yes, lenses can be CLA'd too.

For lenses, it basically means dismantling the thing, cleaning dust and other deposits from the lens surfaces, replacing the goop that lubricates the focus and aperture mechanisms, and (hopefully) putting it all back together in working order.

If I had an old lens where I could see fogging on the internal glass surfaces, where the focus mechanism was uneven, too stiff or too loose, or ditto the aperture mechanism, I'd consider having it CLA'd. I have no hard data on what it'd cost for a lens though; for what it is worth I did pay a couple hundred Euro for CLA on a Leica M3 camera body recently.

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I don't know about usually used for Leica bodies. I have noticed it mentioned in nearly every used rangefinder I've ever seen. – dpollitt Sep 12 '11 at 17:56
True, true. But Leicas make up a lot more of the mass of rangefinders in use than they used to do when they were new :) – Staale S Sep 12 '11 at 18:57
It sounds like you have a few extra Leica rangefinders laying around, could you send me one? :) – dpollitt Sep 12 '11 at 19:33
Well... a Leica I, 1929, a III, 1936, an M3 and an M5, but... nah, I'm keeping'em :) – Staale S Sep 12 '11 at 21:04

C-Cleaned L-Lubed A-Adjusted

I recently had my 1969 Canonet rangefinder CLA'd for about $85 which is on the cheap end if you are requiring a similar service. Lens CLAs will vary by your region, lens model and complexity, and so on.

To decide if you need this, I would consider the age of the equipment, its previous use and physically examine the lens and use it to determine if any maintenance is required. If it was heavily used in the past, is older then a few years old, or has obvious signs of dust or internal issues, then you probably want to send it in to get repaired or CLA'd.

Depending on how adventurous you are, you can do this yourself. The trick is putting it back together!

  • One opinion of a shop that does "Overhauls" rather then CLA services: here
  • Another opinion of getting CLA services: here

Summary: CLA = Regular maintenance on camera equipment

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