Cyrus dAD3 repair – part 3

Not surprisingly, running the CD mechanism dry didn’t last forever. In part 2 I mentioned that the original CDM 12.4 was back in the player with all the old grease removed; since I didn’t have any replacement grease at the time, this is how it has stayed for the last couple of years. Has it really been that long? I’m surprised the player ran without a problem for all that time with lubricant stripped from the laser drive mechanism.

About a month ago it started muting again for a second or two at a time – usually twice, seemingly within the same timeframe regardless of disc, and to a much lesser extent than when the problem first occurred. I needed to get some proper grease for the job.

SPG (Special Plastics Grease) from Electrolube is what I went for as it seems to be aimed towards exactly what I was trying to achieve. It was time to strip the player down again, remove the CDM 12.4 and then totally strip that down into parts. A bit fiddly, but not too difficult a job. There was still a tiny bit of old grease in places and so I totally removed all traces using a small micro fibre cloth and cocktail sticks. Nothing escaped; gear teeth, laser rail, everything was dry. With SPG carefully applied and everything put back together, the time came to test by playing a few discs right through.

Flawless.

And I have enough SPG left to fix a few hundred more.

Nikon DE-1 finder for F2

In 1972 Nikon brought out the F2 to replace their groundbreaking F. Like its forerunner, the F2 was designed to be modular which meant that the finder could be exchanged, depending on intended size and function (this continued up to and including the F5 of 1996; in 2004 the F6 was introduced with a fixed prism finder). Without going into a long history, the F2 had various finders available over its production run until 1980, most of which had built-in exposure meters and lens aperture coupling. But there was one finder which had neither meter nor coupling to the lens: the DE-1. The F2 is often referred to as the F2A, F2 Photomic, F2AS, etc., depending on the finder fitted, but with the DE-1 fitted it’s simply a plain old F2. In this form the F2 is at its smallest, since there’s no bulky mechanism around the finder prism to to hold and drive the meter coupling. The price to be paid, of course, is a lack of exposure meter, meaning that an external meter would need to be used if personal experience and maybe the “sunny 16” rule wouldn’t suffice.

These days, DE-1 finders are expensive, since they are relatively rare – especially in very good condition. Some time ago I saw one on ebay marked as cosmetically almost mint (always taken with a handful of salt) but with a damaged prism inside. The damage was described as a “blob” which I questioned with the seller and decided that the prism silver coating had to be damaged. I bought it, because it was reasonably cheap in comparison.

What I received was intriguing. The finder top plate was almost mint – and for me to say that means that it’s almost flawless. I’d say the top plate alone is worth what I paid, so I figured I may as well see if I could service the rest, with nothing to lose; if it turned out to be useless, I could buy a bashed-up one and simply replace the top plate with this one. What I found was a strange mixture of old and new.

After removing the top leatherette to gain access to the four screws which enable removal of the top plate, it was clear that one of these screws was not an original. With the top plate off, the prism itself was loose and rattled slightly. Sure enough, there was silver coating damage – probably just age-related – which had been painted over with back enamel (in conversation at the time with Sover Wong, who repairs and services F2s and whose work I can thoroughly recommend, he suggested it may be the prism from an old F finder, as opposed to an F2 one). All the internal foam had turned to sticky goo and so the whole thing needed to be cleaned. I dismantled everything and carefully cleaned it all, including the eyepiece, before replacing all internal foams, re-seating the prism and replacing the top plate with an additional foam to prevent dust entering the eyepiece.

The underside of the finder was more of a surprise. Early DE-1 finders lacked the rubber gaskets around the base to help prevent dust getting in under the finder. These are fixed into place on later finders with plates and screws. My finder had rubber gaskets which had clearly been cut (crudely) from genuine gaskets and fixed to the insides with glue, since there was no provision to fix them in any other way to what was clearly an older finder made to look like a newer one! The glue wasn’t good so they were starting to come away. What’s more, a piece of the internal base metal had been sawn off, the reason for which I still don’t understand. Had I paid more for this finder I’d have been really annoyed at being fleeced in this way, but decided instead to make the best of what I had considering that perfect top plate. I cleaned-up what was left of the gaskets and stuck them back on with strong double-sided tape. I added foam the underside in a similar way to how pre-gasket finders have protective foam and, finally, the leatherette went back on to the top plate using contact adhesive.

A couple of days ago I noticed that the glue from the double-sided tape had decomposed and the gaskets were coming off again, so I did a better job this time using contact adhesive. I took the opportunity to check inside again and re-stick the leatherette on the top plate. Although it doesn’t stand out, the prism itself is damaged right along the centre of the view and so I may consider eventually replacing it in the unlikely event that I spot a cosmetically rough finder going cheap. What I have now could be an old-style underside, an even older prism, a newer top plate and rubber gaskets ripped from a newer finder and stuck on, to give a “franken” DE-1 which looks pretty good to me!

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Cyrus dAD3 repair – part 2

Following on from the previous post, it’s worth pointing out that the original CDM12.4 is back inside the CD player and is working perfectly. The laser diode had not failed, after all.

A few weeks after the surgery to replace the CDM12.4 inside the player, it started to mute in places and, once again, fail to read discs. In the meantime I had stripped down the original CDM12.4 and simply wiped away all the old grease, some of which had hardened. A swap back to the original unit (notably Philips branded, whereas the replacement CDM12.4 is not) and it’s been playing fine for a few months now. It may or may not last because it’s effectively running dry; it probably needs a proper re-grease with the right compound, which is something I can do when required. Nevertheless, it’s been perfect for about three months and counting, and I have spare parts should they ever be needed.

Cyrus dAD3Q CD player repair – part 1

I’ve had my Cyrus dAD3 (later updated with Q module) since 1997. It’s still a very decent player even by today’s standards and it’s been fault-free for many years. Recently, though, CDs started to periodically mute and, before long, failed to play or even be recognised. Realising there was something seriously wrong, I was not a jovial rabbit. I remembered having a warranty repair soon after I’d first bought it, since it failed to recognise a handful of my CDs, yet was fine with all others. It came back unchanged so I sent a couple of the affected CDs off to Cyrus, together with the player again, and this time it came back totally fixed. I remember being vaguely aware at the time that the dAD3 was built around a Philips CD transport/laser mechanism that others – many with different players using the same mechanism – had mentioned they were having trouble with. I assumed the mechanism had been replaced and I soon forgot about it, until the other day. So what to do? Send it to Cyrus to repair (about £300), upgrade to something new (equivalent player now is about £1200) or attempt to fix it myself. I’ve been on a bit of a make-do-and-mend roll lately so I decided on the latter option, based on the assumption that the Philips mechanism (possibly the laser diode) was failing. So the Philips unit in question is the CDM12.4 – this I found out quickly from t’internet. This small unit houses the spinning motor, laser and laser drive motor. It sits within the larger Cyrus tray drive assembly and it is a little fiddly to get out but, with a little coaxing and a few expletives, out it came. There’s a certain order in which things need to be taken out and there are some very small wires and fragile flex cables which need some care, but patience paid off in the end. Firstly, the entire tray drive assembly needs to be taken out and it’s not going to be possible to do that without first pushing the tray out and unclipping the Cyrus tray front piece, then pushing the door closed again. Careful removal of cables and two boards will then allow the drive to be removed. It’s then a case of unhooking wires, carefully pushing out the rubber mounts, opening the drive again and sliding out the Philips unit. This will still have the Cyrus spiring-loaded clamp attached; this is detached from the back, leaving the bare CDM12.4.

Tray drive seen from underneath; boards and cables removed

Replacement CDM12.4 units can be had for £15 on eBay, which all seem to be advertised as being new even though they clearly are not. I didn’t like the sound of some of the feedback comments so I decided to try a reputable electronic spares company instead. OK, twice the price, but no misleading descriptions and I’d like to think that a company such as this would test such things before selling with guarantee. Still, at a tenth of the likely repair cost, had I decided to send the dAD3 away, it had to be worth a shot.

CDM12.4 is lower middle, still with Cyrus clamp attached

So, this morning I began the reverse surgery. After a careful couple of hours the result was… nothing. To cut a long story short, I had mounted the tray drive assembly slightly too far back, so whereas the door closed, it hadn’t properly engaged at the front. Naturally I assumed the Philips unit was another duff one, but by process of elimination I found it simply wasn’t being allowed to engage fully. Once I’d fixed that I powered up, loaded a CD and… the display looked good and I could see tracks playing through. Finally it was done – or so I thought. Hooked back up to the system, I waited for the first CD to play. Nothing. Not a sausage. Although the display was running through properly there was no audio output. Two possibilities: the CDM12.4 was duff after all, or it was fine but something had gone wrong in the analogue stage. A quick check showed that the digital optical out was fine going into an external DAC, so that ruled out the CDM12.4. Oh dear. Had I screwed up the DAC or analogue stage in the player? My unjovial rabbit status had been resumed. I took the Q module out and flipped the connectors to STD from UPG. This meant that the original DAC, which the Q replaces, was put back into service. I had audio! Phew. So, at worst, I’d damaged the Q module but after flipping back to UPG and re-installing the Q, it worked! I guess I must have nudged it somehow, during surgery. So, for £30, a few hours of my time and a little bit of grumpiness, I have my player back. Not long ago I’d have seen this as an excuse to upgrade, but I actually feel much better having fixed what I consider to be all the CD player I’ll ever need. I have, therefore, saved £1170 on the cost of the current model. What shall I buy?

Nikon Coolpix 5200 battery door fix

http://jrhughes.wordpress.com/2011/09/03/nikon-lens-repair-af-s-dx-18-55-f3-5-5-6-vr/

Recently my father broke the battery door of his Coolpix 5200. He can be a little heavy-handed at times but I don’t believe it’s an uncommon problem for this door to break (or so I’ve read). The main part of the door is plastic and it’s held on by lugs which slide over corresponding lugs on the body; once the door lugs break – probably too much downward pressure instead of sliding to open/close – the door no longer fastens shut.

He took it into a camera shop and asked them how much it would be to repair: they quoted £60 just to look at it and said he may as well buy a new camera. No surprise there, then. So he stuck a small piece of gaffer tape to the door and affixed to the camera body; a bodge solution which looked horrible and wasn’t even very effective. 

Remembering the shop on a certain well-known auction site which I’d used to get parts to repair my father-in-law’s lens, I wondered if they’d have a replacement door. Sure enough, they did, so I ordered one. 

Recently my father broke the battery door of his Coolpix 5200. He can be a little heavy-handed at times but I don’t believe it’s an uncommon problem for this door to break (or so I’ve read). The main part of the door is plastic and it’s held on by lugs which slide over corresponding lugs on the body; once the door lugs break – probably too much downward pressure instead of sliding to open/close – the door no longer fastens shut.

He took it into a camera shop and asked them how much it would be to repair: they quoted £60 just to look at it and said he may as well buy a new camera. No surprise there, then. So he stuck a small piece of gaffer tape to the door and affixed to the camera body; a bodge solution which looked horrible and wasn’t even very effective.

Remembering the shop on a certain well-known auction site which I’d used to get parts to repair my father-in-law’s lens (see earlier post), I wondered if they’d have a replacement door. Sure enough, they did, so I ordered one. It cost me just £14 to get it shipped from the U.S. The shop is called Procamerarepair.

They dispatched pretty much immediately but it took a week or two to arrive. No problem, as it arrived in time for a meet-up with my parents and so I was able to replace the plastic door in about two minutes. Good as new! As ordered, the door comes with the metal hinge assembly but this is not required unless the hinge itself is also broken (in which case it would be a slightly more involved repair). He’s happy and I don’t have to think of his camera (which I bought him, incidentally) held together with a bit of gaffer tape.

Nikon lens repair: AF-S DX 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 VR

Here’s the background story: my Father-in-law had his Nikon D60, with 18-55 VR kit lens attached, on his shoulder when he dropped the lens cap. The cap rolled away and was about to disappear out of reach, so he ran to get it. Unfortunately his Nikon slammed against a metal railing, lens first; the lens came away, would not re-attach and there was no knowing how much damage to lens and camera had been caused.

When it came to me I could see that the whole mount was badly warped and that bits of it had broken off. The electronic connector block was hanging out and the surface which is supposed be flat to mate with the camera throat looked like a tiny roller-coaster track. My F-i-l was going to dump the lens but what he really wanted me to check was the camera, to see if it had been damaged by the impact. My first thought, though, was to save the lens from going to landfill.

It helps that I have taken a few of my own Nikkors apart before, for minor servicing/repair, and so I went straight to remove the whole mount assembly. I found the cause of the severe warp: a tiny lug had broken off inside and was lodged underneath the shims that it had previously been holding in place. I determined that I could get by without this lug, since it was too small for a reliable fix and the shims had one remaining lug to hold them in place before the main mount screws secured them. I re-assembled everything as best I could (the electronic connector block was still a bit loose as one of the screw housings had also broken away) and tested the lens. I had to hold it against the camera body, since two of three mount catches were missing, whilst testing AF, aperture and VR. All seemed to work fine – which was good news because that meant the camera was probably OK too. I feel sure that, had the lens mount been the usual metal instead of plastic, there would have been some significant damage or mis-alignment inside the camera. As it was, the mount absorbed the impact, breaking and warping, thereby saving the camera from any serious damage.

OK, so everything worked, but I wasn’t sure where exactly to get a new mount. I looked for similar lenses on a well-known auction site, being sold for parts, but found none. Thankfully I found a company in the U.S. which sells parts for camera repairs and they had the correct mount for about a tenner. So I ordered it and it arrived a couple of days ago.

The repair itself is quite straightforward. The three main screws are removed, as well as three much smaller screws holding the central sleeve in place. There are two more tiny (but different) screws which hold the electronic connector block in place. There will be a number of shims, which will be specific to each lens and they are to adjust the distance between main mount and optics (i.e., sensor to lens distance). The image below shows the lens barrel, the broken mount to the left, the electronic connector block and, in the background, the inner mount sleeve and shims. Click on any image for a larger version.

Two things need to be done before the main mount can be replaced: the sprung aperture guide is removed to be attached to the new mount as is the small connector with sprung pin, shown near the centre of the image above. Now we’re ready to prepare the new mount.

The aperture guide slots into the underside of the mount and the spring is attached:

The sprung pin is attached:

Then the shims are returned. Notice the guide lug at the top right; there should be another on the bottom left next to a screw hole but it’s missing, so the shims can shift around a bit. This gets fiddly when finally putting it all together as the aperture guide needs to be carefully placed on the correct side of the aperture pin in the lens, otherwise the aperture won’t work at all, but getting the correct positioning can move the shims so that screw holes don’t line up.

With the aperture guide in the correct position and the main screws loosely in place, all that remains is for the inner sleeve to return to its rightful place. Care must be taken with the five tiny screws: two of them have slightly larger heads and a finer thread pitch. It is these two which hold the connector block in place, whereas the other three secure the inner sleeve to the main mount.

After tightening all screws (not too tight – this is a plastic mount, after all), a good clean and mount to camera body, all is well. Focus is accurate and VR works as it should. One more saved Nikon lens to add to my count (OK, that makes two in all – but hey).

One final thought: those shims are thin. Some of them are extremely thin. They are of different thicknesses and will have been put together in that combination for this particular lens and its original mount, so it could be argued that they are no longer an accurate set for this lens. Since all my testing shows focus to be spot-on, though, they appear to be good enough.