Film Photography

My Spotmatic F is back from repair

Old cameras fail. Fortunately, some skilled repairers remain. The meter in my Pentax Spotmatic F failed, so I sent the body to Eric Hendrickson for a new meter. It came back recently so I ran some Ultrafine Extreme 400 through it as a test.

Our granddaughter was over on a recent Sunday morning and was a good sport as I photographed her eating her breakfast.

Granddaughter
Granddaughter

Here she is with her grandma, my wife, Margaret.

Grandma and granddaughter

I shot the rest of the roll on la-de-da subjects around the house.

Pot on the stove
Blinds
Succulent

I shot these through my 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar lens, and developed the film in HC-110, Dilution B.

My Olympus OM-1’s meter wasn’t reading right anymore, either, so I sent it to John Hermanson for an overhaul and repair. I’ll test it and share photos when I get it back.

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32 thoughts on “My Spotmatic F is back from repair

  1. I am reaching the unhappy conclusion that I am likely to outlive many of the people who provide specialized repair services for old objects.

  2. Andy Umbo says:

    J.P., sorry to say, I’ve already seen it. There’s almost zero places to send large format equipment for repair. So many of those people retired or died in the 20-aughts. As for 35mm tho, Plus one for Eric Hendrickson, he’s done a great job on my Pentaxes. If you have a good person, buy used and get it repaired now! Most items will last 20 years with care (they usually lasted the first 20 no problem), and probably haven’t got 20 left in me.

    It seems like the usage “arc” for the Gen X,Y,Z generation, with film cameras, is to buy cheap, hope it works, and when it breaks, buy another or try and fix yourself. This results in tons of erroneous information on the net about cameras. It also means much of what they’re using has inaccurate or non-operating meters, or shutter speeds that are off. Being able to trust that a mechanical camera is operating within specs is the first step to accurate film results!

    Love any of the Spotmatics!

    • I used to be one of those people who would discard a camera when it broke, and often just buy another one like it on eBay. But now that I have the collection whittled down to the set I will keep using, and have stopped buying beater cameras, I am investing in CLAs and repairs so I can keep using the cameras for the long haul.

      The SPF was CLA’d in 2017, however — a CLA isn’t a longevity guarantee.

      • tbm3fan says:

        CLA in 2017 for the body but were the Cds cells replaced, as a standard course of action, as I’m sure the shutter itself is doing fine.

    • I got an old IBM Selectric typewriter cleaned and serviced when there was a little typewriter repair shop downtown, and an old 1940s radio console repaired by an old radio repairman. They are both long gone now.

      • In the early 1990s I came into a Bendix radio/phono console. It was a terrific thing, but its capacitors had gone bad and it had a 60 hz hum. Even in the 1990s, I couldn’t find anyone who could deal with it.

        • Mine is an old Bendix too. It is one of the many things I once thought I needed but turned out to be wrong. But it’s in good shape for the next guy. If you are that guy, it didn’t hum (last time I fired it up, at least). :)

        • Andy Umbo says:

          Have a pal who was a DJ for years and then got into radio time sales. He had a beautiful Teac 4 track reel-to-reel that went bad, but luckily the radio stations engineers fixed it for him by replacing some capacitors on a circuit board. The engineers were saying: “…some of these super high-quality Japanese electronics are now starting to fail, and unless you can test, plus solder and unsolder stuff from a circuit board, you’re screwed. BUT, if you think 60 and 70 year old Japanese electronics are going bad, wait til you see how long the Chinese stuff lasts! Their stuff is basically disposable!”

    • You are right, if you like an older mechanical camera, get it cleaned and overhauled now. This gives you two advantages. First, you are preserving a piece of mechanical engineering history. Second, you have a reliable camera that you can trust.

      I do not know if the plastic fantastic SLR cameras from the ’80s and ’90s will get that much respect in the future. If they work, fine. But despite a lot of internet “expertise” about capacitors, etc., I’m not sure how repairable they are. So those are the ones that will probably be used and then discarded when they break.

  3. The Pentax Takumar lenses are amazingly good optically and are mechanically reliable. People on the internet love to wax poetic about classic Summicron, Xenon, or Planar lenses. And indeed, they are superb. But for the typical small optical print or online image, you won’t see any difference compared to one of these 1970s or 1980s Takumar lenses. Web display is the great equalizer of camera lenses.

  4. You’ve used two of my favorite repair guys here; Hermanson and Hendrickson. I am in the same camp you are of servicing the cameras you intend to keep while there are still techs to work on them.

    • Hendrickson is a bargain.

      Looking forward to seeing what kind of work Hermanson does. As a matter of course he converts every camera on his bench to meter properly with silver-oxide batteries, which will be very nice.

  5. tbm3fan says:

    I just spent a pretty penny, or should I say shilling, on getting my black F2 and it’s finder serviced by Sover. In fact I picked it up at the post office yesterday. Another camera that I need looked at is my Minolta XK which I won’t go into. The aperture actuate arm won’t return to the rest position so when mounting a lens it goes into stop down immediately. Then there is the black OM-2n where all speeds look to be 1/125 above the 1/60 mark. The XK is complicated and the Olympus is an only child so I won’t spend time trying to learn how to deal with them internally right now.

  6. I’m lucky to live in a city with at least three shops that still do film camera repair. (There may also be a fourth.) There’s definitely some older techs there, but also some younger ones, so hopefully the skills are being passed along.

    I’ve gotten several cameras repaired and/or CLA’d and want to keep those cameras I like going. Ten years ago when old film cameras were more plentiful and cheaper it probably made more economic sense to move on when one stopped working, but now I’d rather make sure that these cameras last as long as possible.

      • Kodachromeguy says:

        I used a Nikon F3 for many years. I took it on a birding trip to Costa Rica in 2000, and everything got so wet in the jungle there, I sent the body in three lenses to Nikon for overhaul. Back in those days, Nikon USA still serviced their F3. Then, around 2010, I stupidly sold it. So whoever bought it ended up with an almost perfect condition F3 along with a motor and several extra viewing screens. Another one of my dumb moves (back when I thought digital would take over).

        I recently sent my Hasselblad 501CM to Hasselblad in New Jersey for cleaning and checking. They still have spare parts, so you better take advantage of their service soon if you have a ‘blad

        Rolleiflex repairs may prove to be a problem. The fellow in California is very busy, and Mark Hama is an elderly gent.

    • Andy Umbo says:

      PDX, I’ve been to Portland a bunch of times, and I’ve been thinking about moving there now that I’m retired, just because it seems like it is “film central” for the U.S. now, with the shops and the labs. It’s tough living someplace where you have to send everything everywhere all the time. I’m close to Chicago, but even that doesn’t seem to have the amount of film related businesses that Portland does…

    • Those old all-manual Pentaxes are great. I had an H3 for a while and enjoyed it very much. I wonder if Eric Hendrickson works on the older Pentax SLRs.

  7. I think the H3 was almost the same as the SV? I’m quite looking forward to this as I haven’t owned an SLR for some time. I’ve read of some issues in dealing with Eric Henderson recently, which has me a bit cautious on that.

    • Eric has repaired and CLAd something like five cameras for me. I’ve always had good experiences with him. The only hiccup I’ve ever had was with my Pentax KM, I sent it in for CLA and the meter still wasn’t right after he calibrated it. I sent it back and he replaced the meter, no charge.

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