Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Win and a Loss (Kind of)

If (and when) you catch the bug and start collecting old film cameras, it's inevitable that along the way you'll have some wins and some losses. Just pray that the wins outweigh the losses and you should find this a very rewarding hobby :-)

Over the last few weeks, I've had a win and a loss that I want to share - just as a snapshot of the journey I'm on collecting film cameras. So, do you want the good news or the bad news first?

Okay, let's start on a positive note - with the good news.

My very first camera when I started out all those years ago was a Canon T70 - a great camera that I enjoyed using until it died on me and I replaced it with the might Canon T90 (an even better camera).

Anyway, since it was my first camera, I will always have a soft spot for it. In fact, it was one of the first cameras I purchased when I started collecting (along with a T50 and T80). I shoot with it occasionally, but have only had a standard 50mm f1.8 (with fungus issues) and beaten old Sigma 28mm as lenses.

I use the wide more than that standard, so have been waiting for a Canon wide angle FD lens to come up for auction on Trademe - and last week one finally did.

A pristine 24mm f2.8 was being sold with a 70-210mm f4 with some fungus issues. For this reason, the reserve was low and I managed to win both very cheaply. So now I have a beautiful Canon 24mm that will probably sit on the T70 most of the time - and a 70-210 that needs some work.

When the lenses arrived I checked them over (as I always do), and was very pleased with them both. They were definitely as described by the seller (which unfortunately is not always the case). The 70-210 f4 did indeed have some fungus showing, but it seemed to be only in the top elements. So I decided to attempt something that I had never considered before - I would clean the lens myself!
It had only cost me a few dollars anyway, so if I botched the process ( I had no idea what I was going to do to clean it), then no big deal.

I started by removing two tiny screws from around the rim of the lens (the yellow circle shown left). Then, carefully using two small screwdrivers, I placed them within the joints of the lens element 'cap' and carefully forced them to turn (unscrew) the cap (slots shown in the red circle). It began to unscrew almost immediately, but do be careful if you decide to attempt this yourself. I did slip a couple of times - fortunately only scratching the cap itself and not the top lens element!

I probably wasn't being as careful as I could have (should have), since I'd already decided that this was a bit of an experiment. Even so, it's still a lens. And as a photographer I've always treated my lenses with extra special care. I'm not one of these photographers who throws gear around and bangs it up just because they're 'only' tools. As a family man, I'm fully aware of how much it all costs - even the cheap stuff. It all adds up. So I look after my gear - no matter how much it cost.

Anyway, back to the cleaning.

With the cap removed, the lens was exposed - but not moving anywhere. So I 'carefully' took a small screwdriver and used it to lever the front element up and out of the lens barrel. It's quite a thick front element  - I'd say about half an inch thick, maybe more? And it took a while of levering all around the lens (there is a bit of a gap to aid with this) before it finally popped out. But pop out it did. Unfortunately, the fungus wasn't on this element, but on the underside of the next one!

A quick inspection, however, indicated that this lens was going to be much easier to move - it's only held in place by a thin metal 'O' ring, that slips out very easily with the use of my handy dandy screwdriver! Once removed, I tipped the lens upside down, gave it a little shake, and out came the glass element with the fungus on it (into my waiting hand). This is a convex lens, so remember which way it came out - that's the way it needs to go back in! :-)

I cleaned the element with Isopropyl Alcohol and left it out in the sun all afternoon (I've heard that UV will kill fungus growth as well). Then it was simply a matter of making sure everything was super clean and dust free (with a blower) and re-assembling in reverse order. In the end I was actually amazed at how simple it was - although I suspect it has become a little more complex with todays modern lenses. I wouldn't even contemplate pulling my EF 70-200mm f4 'L' lens apart!

Having said that, I was very pleased with the outcome of my cleaning on the FD 70-210 f4. It probably isn't perfect, but it's 100% better than it was. And to my eye at least, the fungus is all gone!

So that was my 'win' (that and the 24mm f2.8) - what was the 'loss'?

Well, briefly... about now I would have been posting my first images taken with the Yashica Mat 124 TLR - but I can't! Because they didn't turn out! All blank. Nothing, nada, zip, zero! I've gone back over the camera, and I'm positive that the shutter is opening and closing - I can actually watch it happen! And I also know I loaded the 120 spool correctly. So I've narrowed it down to the winding crank not working, and a 'play' with a 120 film I sacrificed for the experiment seems to confirm this.

Which is a bummer! Because it's probably not something I can fix myself. Yet in all other aspects, the camera is in great condition. Especially the taking lens. So I've purchased another one (with a fuzzy taking lens but a perfect cranking arm) and plan to take the best bits from one, and merge them with the other to get one good camera!

Yes, I could have complained and sent the Yashica back to the lady I purchased it from - but I don't believe she sold the camera under any false pretenses. In fact, I'm pretty sure she doesn't even know which way is up on the thing! So I'm looking at this as a 'project' and I'll have fun putting the two cameras 'together' to make one. Sometimes that's what this old camera collecting hobby is all about.

As they say... "You win some, you loose some".  I hope in your collecting you win more often than you loose!

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Wayne