Justin Low

I really like the Minolta CLE—it’s very compact and quiet. Terrific companion to a Leica M. Unfortunately, they are getting on in age, and some have hazy viewfinders. Fortunately, that is easily resolved. The CLE’s top plate is easily removed, and today we shall see how.

Tools Needed
Screwdrivers (#00 and #000 Philips)
16mm flexiclamp
Spanner wrench (with flat and pointed tips)
Small sliver of sticky tape

Hot Shoe
First, remove the hot-shoe cover by inserting the toothpick into the small recess near the contacts. Gently pry the cover upwards, and pull it backwards.

You will reveal 4 screws under the cover, 3 of them are dull brass, one of them shiny chrome (bottom left). Remove the chrome screw only.

Shutter Release and Speed Selector
Using a spanner wrench (flat tips), remove the retaining ring around the release button. Hold the button down, as there is a spring underneath and you don’t want it to jump out.

Next, pull out the whole shutter speed dial. Try to get it out as a single unit, if not you have to piece back the ISO selector, and the speed markings. That’s not too hard, and you may want to clean the copper ring under the ISO selector.

Film Advance Lever
Take your 16mm flexiclamp and gently unscrew the capping screw. Turn clockwise to loosen, anti-clockwise to tighten. (UPDATE: Robert J. contacted me, informing me that this screw is reverse threaded, and I have updated my directions accordingly. I apologise for any confusion.) You will reveal a chrome retaining screw. Remove this screw with the spanner wrench. Lift off the entire lever. There are some more screws underneath so try to get them out together.

You will see a retaining piece under the lever, secured by two small screws. Remove these screws and the retainer.

Remove the small screw in the lens mount, at the 12 o’clock position. Also, using the spanner wrench, remove the ring to the side of the viewfinder (for the remote release).

Lastly, paste a piece of tape on the silver button that locks the shutter speed dial at ‘A’ to prevent it from dropping out when you remove the cover.

You should now be able to slide the top cover off. Do that gently and you’ll gain access to the inside. The top cover is plastic—something that I didn’t know before.

The cloudiness is usually on the inside glass surfaces of the top cover, so clean that with some lens cleaning fluid and a cotton swab. You might have to swab the viewfinder surfaces themselves, but do not touch the rangefinder mirror as that is front-coated and delicate.

Reassembly is simple if you’ve followed my steps. Just reverse the process, keeping in mind the holes in the retaining rings that should match with the appropriate protrusions.

The CLE is pretty friendly to work on. Go slowly and gently, being careful not to damage any parts, and you should be fine. If you wreck your camera, please don’t blame me.


  1. Justin,
    I bought a bag of parts from a camera shop as a grab bag with “most of a CLE”. After seeing your article, I started putting things back together and now have a mostly working CLE. What is odd is that the shutter second curtain travels with the first almost 2/3 of the way across the film plane and then stops for the shutter time.
    Any thoughts?

    — Leo · 24 January 08 · #

  2. Justin,
    To me it seems you are wrong saying the advance lever caping screw loosens anticlockwise. This is what I tried and broke the screw. It loosens exactly in the opposite direction, please check. My problem is that this part is practically unavailable and without it the CLE can not be operated. Do you have an idea where could I get this capping screw?

    — Peter · 26 September 11 · #

  3. I got my CLE with a badly done repair job and the meter didn’t work properly, so I got it repaired. Probably the best place to get a CLE serviced is through former Minolta service technicians. www.kameraklinik.de is run by former Minolta technicians and they have lots of parts to repair the CLE. If you just need a part, it might be worth shooting a mail their way and ask for what you need.

    Good luck!

    — Tobias W. · 9 September 12 · #

  4. Hello Justin:

    Would you know if it is possible to alter the Minolta CLE so that the meter remains activated on manual exposure settings?

    Thank You, richard

    — Richard Volet · 26 April 13 · #

  5. Bought Minolta CLE on ebay and though self timer light will flash as well as battery check I cannot wind and no lights in viewfinder. Any suggestions.

    — Thomas Shafovaloff · 24 November 14 · #

  6. Repair completed on Minolta CLE. Seems to be working now after removing bottom cover and moving a gear with what appeared to be some type of inertial arm. Subsequently however had intermittent LED stuck on low exposure. Meter and shutter working ok on Automatic but intermittently LED non responsive. Left camera on overnight and LED lights retruned to normal. Suspect some sort of static problem with internal electronics. Again, leving camera ON overnight solved the problem!
    Thomas E. Shafovaloff

    — Thomas Shafovaloff · 15 January 15 · #

  7. LED problem returned but had attached a non OEM flash and after firing it everything worked fine. Must be some oxidation on contacts to circuit board from flash shoe that were bridged using a flash sending all that power through the system.

    — Thomas Shafovaloff · 21 July 15 · #

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