Film Photography

Time to send my Pentax ME out for CLA

My much-loved Pentax ME has developed a light leak. Much sadness.

Cincinnati Zoo

Bodies go for so cheap on eBay that I considered for a minute just buying another one. But I’m on my third body already — all three wound up with some minor problem. (Should that be telling me something?) Rather than try the camera lottery again, I’m just going to send this one to Eric Hendrickson for CLA (clean, lube, and adjustment) and new seals.

Cincinnati Zoo

I first saw the leak earlier this year when I had some black-and-white film in it. I immediately went into denial. The roll I shot at the zoo came back from the processor’s with so many affected images that I couldn’t avoid reality any longer.


This also solves a mystery. You might remember a couple shots I shared several weeks ago where I couldn’t remember which camera I used to shoot them. Well, the light leak in the corner of this shot from that roll tells the story. And I had to be shooting my 80-200mm f/4.5 SMC Pentax-M Zoom lens on it to get shots like this one.

Eastern Star

While my ME is out of commission, I’ll just have to fall back on my delightful and pristine Pentax KM when I want to shoot from my collection of Pentax lenses. Life is good.

Film Photography

Seeking expert repair and restoration of classic film cameras

I think it happens to most camera collectors: the time when you decide to pare the collection down to just the ones you’re likely to keep using. I’ve been slowly giving away and selling all of my other cameras.

I want to slowly invest in having my remaining cameras restored and, as needed, repaired. I realized early on that I don’t enjoy camera repair. I’m willing to do some work myself, but only if it’s straightforward and doesn’t involve major disassembly. For example, my 1930s Certo Super Sport Dolly has broken part in the focusing mechanism. A replacement part is on the way, and as part of the repair I’ll have to recalibrate its focus. I have good instructions and the process seems relatively straightforward, so I’ll give it a go. Still, I tend to procrastinate this kind of work. Fresh light seals have been sitting here waiting to go into my Canon Canonet QL17 G-III for four years now.

Nikon F2

My Nikon F2A works well mechanically, but the meter inside its DP-11 head reacts erratically. I’d like to have it cleaned, lubed, and adjusted (CLA’d), and have that meter repaired. And I know just who I’ll have do it: Sover Wong, the world’s foremost F2 expert. My other F2 has been “Soverized.” It works like brand new, and should for decades to come.

Pentax ES II

I enjoy my Pentax ES II, but it blows through batteries like our government blows through tax revenue. Reader J.R. Smith recently sent his to Eric Hendrickson for a CLA. Eric has repaired Pentax cameras almost as long as I’ve been alive. Perhaps he can fix the battery problem. I might also send him my Spotmatic SP as it is mighty stiff.

Yashica Lynx 14e

In exchange for some cameras he wanted from my collection, reader Derek Wong made one working Yashica Lynx 14e out of two broken ones I owned. It works pretty well, though its meter is a full stop off. Fixing that probably requires parts Derek didn’t have on hand. So I’ll send it to Mark Hama, who worked in the Yashica factory years ago and repairs Yashicas today. When I bought my Yashica-12 last year, it was fresh from a Mark Hama CLA. It works like new.

I’ll take my time getting these cameras repaired and restored, as I’m hyperfocused on making sure money is there to pay for my two sons’ college educations (one’s at Purdue now; the other will head to college next fall). But send them off I will, sooner or later.

Do you know of other people who do good work repairing cameras? I wouldn’t mind having several other of my cameras CLA’d, such as my Minolta SR-T 101, my Kodak Retina IIa, and my Konica Autoreflex T3Share your recommendations in the comments for anyone and everyone you have used and can vouch for.

Collecting Cameras

Trying to repair a sticky shutter on a Canon EOS Rebel S

When I reviewed this Canon EOS Rebel S not long ago, two thirds of my test roll’s photos were mostly or entirely black. The shutter was clearly not firing properly. I said I thought it was failing.

Canon EOS Rebel S

Fellow film photographer Mark O’Brien left an incredibly helpful comment: “…the problem with the shutters is that the foam used as a light baffle in the shutter mechanism turns to a gooey mess and infiltrates the curtains. … So, it’s not so much that the shutters fail, they fail because they get gummed up by something else.”

I opened the camera to check, and there it was: a gooey mess on the shutter curtains.

I dipped a Q-Tip in rubbing alcohol and gently wiped the goo away. After the curtains dried I mounted my 50mm f/1.8 Canon EF II lens and loaded a roll of expired Kodak Max 400. What a perfect use for expired film! I shot la-de-da stuff around the house. The subjects didn’t matter — I just wanted to know whether my hacky fix restored the shutter.

The processed negatives arrived presently. I figured they’d tell me everything I needed to know, so I didn’t order scans.

Wolverine Super F2D

My fix seemed to help, but didn’t solve the problem entirely. One shot was partially exposed and the last six were entirely blank. And several shots looked to be severely underexposed. Could I rescue them in Photoshop?

I decided I wanted scans after all. I’ve loaned out my flatbed scanner, so I dug out my Wolverine Super F2D, a cheap film digitizer. It’s essentially a light table with a built-in digital camera. It yields noisy, soft images, but it works fast and is easy to use. I figured it’d be good enough to see how the images turned out.

It was. And I had my scans in about ten minutes. It reminded me of making a quick contact sheet in the darkroom. Here’s a lonely little purple petunia, with my gas grill in the background.

Petunia with my grill in the background

The Rebel S really wants the photographer not to be bothered with matters of aperture and shutter speed. It’s an entry-level SLR, after all. But it does let you scroll through all the aperture/shutter combinations that yield a good exposure in the available light. I scrolled it for the widest aperture I could get so I could shoot this coffee-table scene handheld.

On the coffee table

The Rebel S’s shutter never sounded very good to me, making a hollow clacking sound with each exposure. I wasn’t sure it was working at all. So I peered into the lens and fired the shutter to see if I could detect any shutter movement. I couldn’t, of course; how silly of me. But the Rebel S’s autofocus did its job even at close range. The puzzled/angry look on my face cracks me up.


While these images are usable, they reveal flaws in the scanner itself. The Wolverine isn’t exactly a refined instrument. First and foremost is the light area in the upper left of each image. I can’t tell what causes it but my guess is a light leak in the film transport. Also, the Wolverine did nothing to correct a fairly stout lateral curl in the negatives, which distorts the resulting images. And when you view these at full size, the noise makes the images look like mosaics.


But at the sizes I’m showing them here, these images work okay. I bet they’d make acceptable 4×6 prints. The detail is good, though the colors are a little off. I can’t tell whether that’s the scanner or the expired film, though.


I couldn’t save any of the underexposed shots, by the way. But it was fun to see the images that did turn out.

I really want this dumb camera to work! Because, and it almost feels like telling a dirty secret to say so, I like using it. So small, so light, so easy. Such an about face from the big, metal, manual SLRs I normally love to shoot.

But I’m two for two on busted Rebels. Despite my irrational attraction to these cameras, I’m not sure I want to go three for three. I was browsing Used Photo Pro the other day and found a Canon EOS A2e body for $27. This is a big, solid, semi-pro SLR that retailed new for about $1,200. It arrived the other day. So my EOS journey continues, just in a different direction.

Get more of my photography in your inbox or reader! Click here to subscribe.

Stories Told

On taking life as it comes

This is the street in front of my house after it rains a lot in a very short time.


The storm sewers can’t keep up. I think they’re partially collapsed. I’ve complained to the city, but have gotten nowhere.

This is one of my two cars. It will become my son’s if he ever gets his license.


It’s beat up, leaks a little oil, and has a ton of miles on it. It breaks down sometimes as twelve-year-old cars do.

Recently, this car was having trouble starting. Symptoms pointed to a failing starter. My other car was running fine, so I figured I’d deal with the problem later. I moved it from its usual driveway spot (pictured above) out onto the street in case it wouldn’t start at all the next time and I’d have to have it towed.

Can you guess what happened next? Of course you can. Two nights later we got three inches of rain in an hour. I ran out to my car to move it out of the flood zone as the waters continued to rise. But of course it wouldn’t start. So I called my son out and, in driving rain and foot-deep water, we pushed it a half block to where the storm sewers were working and the street was clear.

I decided I might as well just have it towed to my mechanic right away. AAA told me there would be a modest charge, so I got out my debit card to pay the difference.

I didn’t realize that my debit card didn’t make it into my pocket until after I had been back inside my home for a few minutes. I quickly sloshed back out to catch the tow driver before he got away. He and I spent 15 minutes in the dark and rain with a flashlight looking for the card to no avail. At the point my clothes were so wet they were plastered onto me, I decided that enough was enough. I told the tow-truck driver that we were giving up and that I’d just call my bank to cancel the card and issue me a new one.

Which I did that night, at about 11 pm. It was one of the rare times I was thankful for an automated telephone system, which works when humans don’t. But the next morning when I tried to log on to my bank’s Web site to make sure I had funds to cover my obligations, my password wouldn’t work. I called the bank again, but this time talked to a live human being who explained that when you cancel a debit card, it locks you out of all banking until the new card arrives and is validated. Thank goodness I have a credit card with a different bank, so I can buy groceries and put gas in my running car.

Sometimes you find yourself on a roller coaster. All you can do is strap in and enjoy the ride until it ends.

I’m a veteran rider of roller coasters like these. Here’s another such story.

Film Photography

Broken cameras

You can’t buy as many old cameras as I do and not get a few duds.


Sometimes I buy a camera because it looks to be a bargain. Such was the case with this Agfa Super Silette from 1955. I picked it up for five bucks plus shipping several years ago, and when it arrived nothing on it worked – not the rangefinder, not the focusing mechanism, not the shutter, not anything. You can’t even turn the aperture ring. I’m not sure why I haven’t just thrown this camera away!


This Canon AF35M came in a box of old cameras I got for five dollars a couple years ago. (My related Canon AF35ML was in that box, too.) Produced from 1979 to 1983, it is an early autofocus and autoexposure point-and-shoot camera. I was looking forward to experiencing its f/2.8 lens. But its motorized film winder is busted, rendering the camera useless. I’m not sure why I keep this one, either.


I know why I keep this one, a Kodak Automatic 35F from 1962-1966. I had one in my first camera collection, and I enjoyed it immensely when I took it on a solo trip to explore the hills of Tennessee. I liked it so much that when I started collecting again in 2006, I bought this camera first. When I got around to shooting with it, I discovered that the film pressure plate had come off. Kodak had attached it with a piece of sticky foam, which had disintegrated. One of these days I’ll scrape off all the residue and reattach the pressure plate with new foam.


The remaining broken cameras are all 2012 purchases. I got this 1972 Yashica TL-Electro for ten bucks. The seller advertised it as working perfectly, but when I fired the shutter the mirror stuck in the up position and I can’t get it to come back down. The seller cheerfully refunded my money and told me not to bother returning the camera. I researched the problem online and found someone else who experienced this problem. His repair involved taking off the bottom plate and carefully squirting a few drops of solvent into just the right places. Bleagh. And then a couple days later I stumbled across another TL-Electro body on eBay for just five dollars. You can probably guess the rest: I now have two TL-Electros with the same problem. Knowing me, I’ll never get around to fixing either camera. At least I got a nice 50 mm f/2 Yashinon screw-mount lens for my trouble.


I have wanted a 1968 Yashica Lynx 14E for years because of its lens. With seven elements in five groups, its maximum aperture is a whopping f/1.4! Very, very few rangefinder cameras boast a lens that lets in so much light. Yet this one arrived with a stuck shutter. I’m sure a couple drops of lighter fluid, carefully applied, will loosen this shutter right up. Thing is, I have so many working cameras I haven’t shot yet, and the allure of just dropping some film into them keeps pushing this camera’s repair to the back of my to-do list.


Sometimes I stumble upon an interesting eBay listing in its final seconds and make an impulse bid without closely reading the listing. Such was the case with this 1966-1969 Kodak Retina S1, which represents the end of Kodak’s made-in-Germany Retina line. It was filthy upon arrival; I cleaned it up before photographing it. Its winder works very roughly, and I’m unsure whether it will function  at all with film inside. After the camera arrived in this condition, I went back and read the listing – which described the camera’s condition accurately. So I got what I paid for!

I figure I have about 75 cameras now. That only six of them don’t work means my success rate is 92%!

Do you want to see my old cameras that actually work? Then click here!

Get more of my photography in your inbox or reader! Click here to subscribe.