Old Smart – New Smart

Old Smart – New Smart

And future smart. It’s all good…

Coming, as I do, from the dim past of the twentieth century and the legendary mists of film photography, ( Cue sound of  beasts bellowing in a forest ), I remember a lot of the lessons learned with that ancient technology. Like how to make fire by rubbing two Minoltas together. It is a skill that all Boy Photography Scouts had to know.

No more. Digital firelighters have put paid to the technique and people can reserve their Minolta SrT 101’s for display on the mantelpiece. And they can take the time to exercise the camera and operate the special features. The cameras may still be perfectly good – Minolta used heavy bearings in the mechanism and the lubricants may not have dried out – and the proud collector may want to go out and shoot some nostalgic images on a nostalgic machine. Well and good, but here’s a few things that are needed first:

a. Remember I wrote that the design and construction was good, but the lube might be dry? So it might. There are other parts of a dear old SLR that may have deteriorated as well:

a. The foam rubber or plastic seal that sits within the door channel may have broken down in part. This would put foam fragments into the interior of the camera – they could float around and contaminate the film surface as you shoot. Worse, the missing bits might just let a light leak into the film compartment and spoil every shot.

b. The light-measuring cell that allows the TTL SLR to produce the correct exposure may have ceased working. If it was a selenium cell on the outer casing of the camera ( say a Contarex ) it has almost certainly lost the chemical ability to make electricity and cannot help. Even inside, a CdS cell can die after several decades and not produce a deflection to the meter needle.

c. The shutter curtain may have split, or the tapes that draw it through the spring rollers broken. Jammed shutter. Not as likely with titanium foil shutters, but possible.

d. The pentaprism, focusing screen, and other optical parts may have dimmed with dirt or fungus.

e. The outer leatherette covering may have started to peel. This is cosmetic, but annoying.

Okay. That’s the possible diagnosis. The possible cure is a trip to the Repair Department at Camera Electronic. In my time at the store I saw every one of these ills in beloved old cameras and watched the repair guys rout them – and return a working camera to the enthusiast.

Beware that parts that have died  – like the CdS cells – may be impossible to replace. The makers of them have long since ceased to have them in their inventory, and even substitutes that might be drawn form other dead cameras are of the same age and likely to be just as defunct. If your beloved SLR is in this pickle, you may have to set the exposure using a hand-held meter. Talk to the guys downstairs and look at a new Sekonic one.

The foam plastic seal problem is an easy cure, and they do it all the time. Shutters are a harder fix, but I’ve seen them done. Cleaning of optics and glass is also easy, and the department does that all the time, too. Ditto re-gluing the covers.

So…you’ve got Old Faithful up and running. Read on in future episodes to see what to do next.

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