Vintage Camera Repair Tips

random camera repair tips 

So in the spirit of independence and the desire to be the master of your own stuff...

A few simple camera repair tips that have been gleaned from thirty-nine years of repairing cameras. Some of the tips are original, but I have forgotten which ones, and for those that are not, I can only say thanks to the originator. Success on any of the outlined repair endeavors depend entirely on your skill. 

diode modification  

 often only the bottom cover needs to be removed - single battery light meters taking the 1.35 volt mercury cell -place an ECG109 or SK3090 equivalent germanium diode in line between the battery contact and meter circuit - direction of the cathode band depends on the polarity of the system -  light meters using two 1.35 volt mercury batteries: place a 1N4007 or equivalent silicon diode as described above - install 1.5 volt batteries and test - if the diode is installed incorrectly… no harm done - flip the diode and retest the diode / diodes installed should bring the voltage of replacement 1.5V battery close to that of the original 1.35V mercury cell -- Experience shows a silicon diode has a voltage drop of approximately 0.7V (varying 0.1V depending on the sub), while a germanium diode has a voltage drop of approximately 01.6V - 0.2.2, making the silicon diode (1N4007) the preferred choice for two battery meter systems. Though germanium diode (ECG109 with a voltage drop of 0.160V) is the best in the area of forward voltage drop in single battery systems they are increasingly hard to find and more expensive, the silicon diodes are cheaper and apparently easier to find.

Experience shows a zener diode is not a good choice for a substitute. A silicon or germanium, conducts in one direction only, whereas a zener diode conducts in both directions, but at different voltages.

Substitue for

ECG109 - OA90

1N4007 - DO-41 

see the Fix Old Cameras videos on the (Canon Ftb) or (Olympus OM-1) diode modification 

ECG109 / OA90 / NTE109 Diode (1 each $7 free shipping or 2 each $12 free shipping)

IN4007 Diode (4 each $7 free shipping)


fix a hole in a cloth shutter 

  for a pin hole apply with a small bladed screwdriver a small flat dot of black opaque 100% silcone sealant (found at auto parts stores) let dry over night… the next day test for proper operation - for a larger hole take strips of fiber scraped from the inside of a junk camera case or the fibers stripped out of 35mm film canister seal and mix with fabric craft glue (suggest to use Aleene’s Original Tacky Glue) - add a drop or two of permanat black ink (India ink will work) - put a spot of the glue on a plastic lid and mix in the fibers and ink - wait for it to get slightly tacky then with a small bladed screwdriver work over the hole and blend and taper - let it dry over night… the next day test for proper operation

fix a squeaky Canon AE-1 

   remove the name plate cover around the lens mount - then remove the upper lens bayonet mount screw nearest the shutter button - insert a curved oiling needle through the removed screw’s hole - apply a drop or two of light oil to the mirror escapement bearing - use only the smallest amount  of oil to prevent migration of the oil to surrounding mechanisms - if possible practice on the removed mirror box of any junk Canon A series camera

 (see Fix Old Camera video)

repair a jammed Pentax K-1000

    remove bottom plate - check to see if mirror charge lever has slipped past the latch position, if so, reposition and test operation

  (see Fix Old Cameras video)

fix a Leicaflex meter with a linear adjustment

    early models of the Leicaflex have a meter-zero adjustment located in the film chamber between the rewind fork and the mirror housing - the head of this adjustment screw can be seen poking through the camera body - set the camera for proper exposure for the light conditions then turn the cam screw until the pointer and needle align - lock the cam to the ASA selector with the lock nut, recheck at various light levels


general cleaning and oiling 

dip a needle or the tip of a small screwdriver into a pool of oil (Nyoil is excellent) and just touch the part needing lubricant.

never put liquid directly on a lens or other glass - moisten the micro fiber wipe or soft chamios coth with the cleaner - note that vintage reflex and rangefinder mirrors are usually front-silvered to avoid ghost images - you risk removing the silver if you're not extremely careful when cleaning

light seals substitutes

for film door groove   black cotton crochet yarn - strips cut from a computer mouse pad, cut a little wide and stretch for an adhesive free fit - strips of black felt from salvaged film canisters

for hinge and mirror  cut to fit, strips of black felt salvaged from used 35mm film canisters - cut to fit, 9”x12” sheet of black self-adhesive acrylic felt (found at fabric and craft stores) - cut to fit, 8.5”x11” sheet of black self-adhesive craft foam (found at fabric and craft stores)  or camera light seal foam 

basic camera repair tools and supplies

 set of precision slotted screwdrivers - J.I.S. crosspoint screwdrivers - adjustable pointed and slotted spanner wrench (see Fix Old Cameras video) - precision tweezers and a few dental picks

additional tools  

 soldering irons with fine tip (a standard 25 watt with coil holder works nicely) - needle files - small needle nose pliers - small adjustable jawed pliers - snap ring pliers - scalpel-type knife - jewlers loupe - small clamps and forceps

some lens repair tools

   blower and brush - canned air (take care not to invert when using) - various jars lids and dental damns to use for friction rings (see Fix Old Cameras video)


cleaners and solvents

    some 91% isopropryl alcohol (drugstore varity) for most cleaning applications - or 99% isopropryl alcohol or liquor store grain alcohol (pure ethanol with a trace of  distilled water; leaves absolutely no residue, but is a bit pricey for cleaning) -  some type of gentle metal and plastic cleaner - for cleaning leather and vinyl a non-oily conditioner (you don’t want the camera to squirt out of your hands) - some lighter fluid or naptha for cleaning severely stuck moving metal parts, handle with care as it is extremely flammable and unstable - a quality lens / glass cleaner - lint-free wipes or micro-fiber cloth or soft chamois - 

a bucketload of wooden stick cleaning swabs

lubricants and adhesives   

light Teflon-impregnated oil for little parts (a pen-like dispenser is nice) - or a light watch oil (Nyoil) - for lens helicals a high-quality (bike shop variety) synthetic bearing grease (will not gum up like the original natural grease - Pliobond adhesive for gluing leatherette and cosmetic parts

bonus tip   

a camera that is thoroughly cleaned is much better off...

 than a camera that has only been thoroughly lubricated

bonus tip too

   Circuit Writer Adhesive  it bonds small wires and electronics like solder but with no heat, it is very conductive and it sticks to metals that solder sometimes doesn’t - once dry it is fairly strong and slightly flexible - for tight spots you can squeeze it onto a small slotted screwdriver and apply it.