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Friday, April 27

When good cameras go bad...

I'm suffering from camera fatigue. Not that I'm fed up of them, you understand. For, as Samuel Johnson said, "When a man is tired of cameras, he is tired of life." No, it's the cameras that are fatigued and, apparently, fed up living a creative, fulfilling existence. My litany of camera woes has been steadily mounting in recent years.

For what seemed like decades I'd had no trouble to speak of from any bits of my equipment - then things started to fall slightly apart. (Anyone in their mid-50s will read that last sentence and quite possibly nod along in sympathy).

The King of Cameras. Never bettered in my opinion.

So I'm now facing some expensive repair bills if I want to keep what I have in a fully functioning condition. I've already had my Leica M2 serviced along with the 35mm Summaron and the 50mm Summicron. Just a couple of weeks ago I sent off my Rolleiflex 2.8F, a zoom lens and my old black Pentax SV for some TLC as well. The Rollei was working fine but I noticed what looked like a small bit of fungus starting to appear in the viewing lens.

Up with that I will not put so I thought "it's only the viewing lens, how hard can it be" and proceeded to clean it and upset the focusing in the process. I tackled it with my best DIY collimation approach but wasn't happy. Since I'll be getting buried with the Rollei (sitting in my Saab with my hands zip-tied to the steering wheel and a rictus grin in place, if you must know) I wanted to have it sorted properly, so off it went.

The SV has never worked properly in the time I've had it but it's a beautiful camera and I've some equally beautiful Takumars that I want to use with it so it's worth the expense. It has a lazy second shutter curtain that does an impression of a bad salesman: it either fails to close or finishes too slowly to get the job done. I tinkered with it (I occasionally break cameras as a hobby) and got it going reasonably well but it's almost as old as I am so I felt it would benefit from a proper service and a shutter overhaul.

The zoom is the legendary 35-80mm f2.8 Zuiko, rated as one of the best lenses made by Olympus if not, in technological achievement terms, the best. Performance at all focal lengths is said to be on a par, genuinely, with the equivalent fixed focal lengths and it has a constant and fast-for-a-zoom maximum aperture as well.

The latter feature means it's on the big and heavy side - possibly too much so for my taste - but I'd like to give it a whirl to see what it's like anyway. This zoom goes for upwards of £500 on Ebay although I've a feeling it might be a bit on the expensive side to put right. I'm awaiting an estimate for the removal of the fungus that's deep within the lens barrel, assuming it can be removed and hasn't done too much damage.

If those were my only camera worries I'd be fine but it seems the God of cameras - let's call him Opticus - has got it in for me. Old Opticus has also seen fit to make the film winding mechanism on my favourite OM2n start slipping, the meter of my OM1 become very erratic and the winding mechanism on my Contax RTS II start slipping at the end of a roll so that it seems to have a film of infinite length in the back.

Opticus decreed a while back that the Nikon F100 should only be able to work in multi-exposure mode. It operates apparently without fault until you develop the film and find that you've taken 36 exposures on the one frame. And, most recently, Big O took to messing with my Pentax MX. The shutter has started squeaking and the slow speeds are stalling, both most likely from a lack of lubrication.

OK, it's been sitting unused in a case for a few years but I had it serviced about five years ago and have only run a few films through it in all that time. Confirmation that the worst thing for cameras, as with humans, is an idle life.

It's good that film camera prices have been rising for a couple of years as the cost of servicing and repairs doesn't seem so bad when it's quite a bit less than the value of the camera. That definitely wasn't the case for most of my 35mm SLRs just five years ago.

If I want to keep on using film then I've got to have a camera or three to hand and often enough you're better off with the devil you know. It's taken me a while to appreciate it but it makes more sense to spend the money on servicing than on a "new" second-hand camera that might just develop the same problems.


Folker said...

Oh dear, what will happen then to my Nikons, Leicas, Hassis and SL66s??

Bruce Robbins said...

They don’t have to live forever: they just have to outlast you.

Kodachromeguy said...

Oh, oh, Bruce, sorry to hear about the ailments in your "family." But you are right about having them fixed rather then trying to find replacements, which will invariably have similar or other issues. Think about it, why would someone overhaul a camera and then promptly sell it?

You mentioned fungus twice. Here in Mississippi, which is humid all summer (as you are?), we use central air conditioning, so the interior of the house is reasonably dry and cameras do not grow the dreaded fungus. I have noticed that many of the cameras sold by eBay vendors in Japan admit to having fungus. As usual, buyer beware. Definitely have your Rolleiflex repaired!!!

Herman Sheephouse said...

Yeah - self tinkering with big cameras is definitely for the wary . . .semi-mucked up the top lens on my Minolta . . .fortunately the screen was too dim anyway, so our good old friend hyperfocal focusing comes into play - I think I use that methiod more than I realise.