A CLA experiment (long)
I've kind of had something like this in mind for some time, but I finally made up my mind to do it in August - I wanted to send out most of my gear for CLAs, but I wanted to send it to different places to get a feel for the different services. I was pleasantly surprised all around.
I had previous had experience with DAG as he CLA'd my M3 in 2005. I honestly do not remember the turnaround time, but the cost was somewhere around $275. The camera has functioned perfectly since.
Since I already had a pretty good idea about DAG, I wanted to use other vendors for my 'experiment'.
Golden Touch - I have a dual-range summicron that was generally in pretty decent shape, but was showing signs of age. The focusing ring was a little sloppy, the aperture ring was a little stiff and there was some haze inside.
I sent Sherry Krauter an email and got a response within a couple of hours. She gave me an estimate of $95 to CLA the entire lens or $65 to CLA just the business end. I opted for the $95 option and sent her the lens on August 16th. (I live in NY - she is in NY)
The lens returned on September 25th via UPS. She had cleaned the elements and aperture blades, lubricated all necessary bits, relacquered one element for $5 extra and adjusted the lens to Leica tolerances. Total cost - $70, plus $17 shipping and tax.
Why was it cheaper than the estimate? I do not know, but the work she did was first rate. The haptics of the lens are much nicer and the glass is pristine. It's a new old lens.
Method of payment -you send Sherry your camera or lens, she does what she has to do and then she ships it to you with an invoice. You pay the invoice when it is received.
Essex Camera - I have a Canon P with a 50/1.4 Nikkor that has basically needed work for quite some time. The rangefinder focus was off, the camera was long past due for a CLA and the lens had a ton of dust in it.
I emailed Essex and got a preliminary estimate of $220 to take care of what illed the camera and lens. I sent it to them on August 16th.
About five days later, I got an estimate in the mail for $159.00. As per their instruction, I signed for the repair and sent the estimate back with a check. Why was it cheaper? Again, I don't know.
I received the camera back, packed as if it were expected to go through a war zone, on September 12th. It smelled great - like light gear oil. The rangefinder focus was adjusted and the viewfinder was sparkling clean - entire camera was worlds smoother than it was and the lens had been cleaned and lubricated. Really nice work at a very nice price - I will use them again.
Fedka.com - Prepare for a rave. To date, everyone who I have used to repair, CLA or otherwise work on my camera gear has been very professional, very pleasant and very competent. But, even in that crowd, Yuri Boguslavsky of Fedka stands out.
I have a Kiev 4am - it is a lot like a lot of other FSU rangefinders...inexpensive, a little rough around the edges with a hazy viewfinder and dial and shutter haptics that were anything but smooth.
I had noticed that Fedka.com fairly recently started advertising CLAs for FSU cameras - $80 for a Kiev, $60 for Zorkis and Feds. MY Kiev cost me $25 with a nice Menopta lens - an $80 CLA for a $25 camera? I was curious.
The process of having your camera CLA'd with Fedka is a little different. You go to the website, find service and buy a CLA by essentially adding it to your cart and paying for it. On September 13th, I ordered a Kiev CLA and paypal'd $80, plus return shipping.
The next morning, I got an email from Yuri directing me to send the camera to the tech in the Bronx, NY. Several days later, I got an email stating that the camera was received and processed.
Here is where Fedka stands out....as the camera is CLA'd, you're essentially kept up to date by Yuri himself. (Camera received, we've begun work, we've identified these issues, we have fixed these issues and your camera has shipped...followed by an email asking whether you received the camera and if you were satisified.) The one on one attention is unique and I appreciated it.
I received the camera back on September 26th. (And they apologized for the delay! Normal turnaround time is apparently 5-7 days.) The shutter speeds had been adjusted, focus adjusted, viewfinder cleaned - the cleaning and lubricating of the focusing mechanisms and the shutter advange made a huge difference in the feel of the camera. Again, the great smell of light gear oil. The viewfinder might be twice as usable as it was prior. Like the others, very nice work.
So, the question - is an $80 CLA worth it for a $25 camera? If you have a good example of a Russian rangefinder, it's worth more than you paid for it and probably more than you could sell it for - if that makes sense - so the $80 is well spent.
Would I used Fedka again? I am sending a Zorki to Yuri this week. The turnaround time and the attention paid to the customer was head and shoulders above the others - and I was not disappointed in the least with the other vendors.
All in all, I was very happy with the experience - great to know that there are good options out there to maintain some of these old cameras. I did not come across anyone that I would not hesitate to recommend or use again myself. In fact, I'm sending gear out to these same vendors this week.
Last edited by JohnM : 09-27-2006 at 22:34.