How did this happen?

I blame it partly on my discovery of Vivian Maier a year or two ago but, if I’m to be honest, medium format has been in the back of my mind for many years. I’ve seen the odd Hasselblad when scouring various camera shops over time but admiration was really as far as it went. The desire to try a larger format than 35mm never went away and it seems the Maier effect must have accelerated the inevitable. Drawn more to 6×6 than any other (645 too much like 35mm, 6×7 too bulky) I purchased a TLR* quite cheaply, restored it and love the results on film. Square format it would be, then, so a Hassy was bound to happen eventually.

This is a 501CM which was made in 1997 and came as a boxed kit with A12 film back, 80mm Zeiss Planar T* “new-C” f/2.8 lens, Acute-Matte-D crosshair screen and waist-level finder. It was less expensive than expected, partly due to the lens and partly the external condition. The lens is essentially a CF with the F bit removed (to distinguish from the original C-type), introduced to cut costs at the expense of a feature that not many would apparently need. Both body and lens were coated in a layer of grime which, thankfully, I was able to remove thanks to my OCD-fuelled cleaning but, unfortunately, years of filth has caused some pitting in the chrome. There’s nothing much I can do about that but I’m satisfied that both body and lens are now clean (the lens looks almost new now).

Of course, no auction-site purchase would be complete without an issue or two (OK, perhaps I exaggerate) and the first of these was immediately apparent: the screen was distractingly grubby and no attempt at cleaning would make it good. After some research I discovered that the shockingly-expensive AM-D screens are made of two layers, and it became clear that the dirt was in between. “Don’t ever take the screens apart or you’ll ruin them” was the message I was reading over and over, so I took it apart and very gently but thoroughly cleaned both layers. Whatever it was has actually permanently etched the top glass layer, sadly, although I was able to drastically improve things. I can only imagine that the screen had become wet at some point and some glass-etching fungus had grown in-between, where it had stayed damp for some time. Anyway, re-assembly was much more difficult; it can be done as long as swearing is permitted.

Issue #2 was more tricky because I was still getting a feel for how the camera operated as a unit. I put the occasional wind-on jam and A12 winder looseness down to my inexperience but more research indicated that there could be problems with sticky old grease in the back’s mechanics. Off came the cover (with this latest A12 the dark slide holder needs to be removed first: four screws hold it on to the rear of the magazine casing) to reveal no sticky grease but one gear wheel with two missing teeth! Said teeth were floating around inside but hadn’t caused any mischief themselves; the problems were down to the gap in the gear, resulting in it sometimes catching and sometimes another cog free-wheeling inside the gap. No idea how two teeth were sheared off without causing damage to another cog as well, but that was the situation and I can understand why the seller had missed it. I actually managed to glue the teeth back on – talk about intricate – and everything worked perfectly, but it didn’t last, of course. And, because I’d taken the back apart to check and fix what was meant to be a common issue, I couldn’t return the kit even if I’d felt inclined to. I couldn’t find any A12 parts here and the alternative seemed to be to pay for a full service and repair.

Whilst away on holiday I managed to find a service manual, the cog part number and a nice chap in the U.S. who happened to have one new. The part was waiting for me when we returned home a few days ago. I used SPG to lubricate the teeth of the new wheel, because the description is similar to that of the grease specified in the service manual (and I already have SPG!) and spent an hour or so fitting it and making sure all the bits were working properly. Success!

I’ve fixed the light trap (temporarily: it needs a new foil part but don’t have that yet, so I trimmed a small breakage to stop it catching on the dark slide) and I’ve adjusted the film progress indicator because its rotation was slightly off. This indicator should be red when no film is in, white when it’s freshly loaded, and should gradually turn to red as the film is used up; mine was slightly off and fixing it was more difficult than it sounds. Not essential, but since it’s there I want it working properly.

One last thing has been done prior to the imminent film test. I bought an extra screen (pre- Acute-Matte as I’m not made of money!) with a split prism. This confirmed my suspicion, when using the AM-D screen, that infinity focus (and, therefore, everything else) was ever so slightly off. At the lens infinity stop a distant image was still not quite aligned. I’ve corrected for this with a tiny adjustment of the mirror stop (right side whilst facing front of body).  I’m aware of the factors which can contribute to focus alignment in Hasselblads and have confirmed that focus is correct across the whole screen, so I’m quite confident. Aside from impact damage (no sign of that) the mirror stop is the most likely factor following hundreds or thousands of shots and there are, thankfully, no foam pads to deteriorate under the gliding mirror of this model. Testing will confirm. If something such as body length needs adjustment, I’ll send it to a specialist. If it’s instead the lens, I’ll soon find out. Optimistically, though, I think this mechanical marvel is all good to go now.

*TLR = Twin Lens Reflex. Eg., Vivian’s Rolleiflex or, in my case, a Yashica Mat.

Konica M-Hexanon 90mm f/2.8 – part two

So what went wrong? The copper tape is naturally quite soft and the small force of the camera RF roller against it, when left in one focus position for a while, would result in a tiny indent. We’re talking an almost imperceptible pit in a foil surface already only a few microns thick but it’s enough to slightly throw calibration at that point. Still good, but not good enough.

The job need to be done properly and for that I needed to buy a new spanner wrench (seen below, £10) with points at the ends. Even then, I had to grind some of it down but I finally had enough leverage to remove the collar which holds the cam – and its shims – in place.

After one failed attempt (that copper foil is like very sticky gold leaf) I managed to thicken one of the shims. This may sound an odd way of doing it but it was easier to modify the thicker of the existing shims than to add the copper foil to the surface that the shims sit on, or to the cam itself. Some very careful cutting with a scalpel and the job was done. Once put back together the calibration is spot-on without the fragility of having foil stuck to the contact surface of the cam.

A final few words on coding. As this is not a Leica lens, and especially since it was discontinued well before the first digital M (M8) with the now standard 6-bit lens coding, the digital M has no way of knowing, automatically, what lens is attached. There happens to be a screw in just the place where, if painted black, it gives the impression to the code reader that the lens is a Tele-Elmarit 90/2.8. Note from below that I had to leave a small amount to the right of the screw as reflective silver; this works perfectly and the paint stays because it’s recessed. When I set auto-ISO I have the minimum shutter speed set to 2x(focal length) and it’s nice to have this working seamlessly together with my coded lenses.

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.


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!



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.

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.