Repairing and Maintaining Classic Cameras

Every camera has its day (in the shop)

If you collect cameras from the 1950s to 1970s like me, you'll come across many fine units that are great, but need just a bit of tuning up or repairing. If it's a broken shutter or anything serious on a camera that's worth only $150 in good condition, then toss it and go look at the next. But if you find a nice camera that's worth $400 and needs $100 in repairs and you can buy it for $200, then go for it. Before reading this page, checking out a used classic camera fully before buying it is a better preventative solution.

There are three type of simple repair jobs that I do myself: 1) cleaning the lens; 2) replacing the foam; 3) calibrating the rangefinder; and, 4) regular exercise. The more complicated things I send out. I have a list of recommended repair shops at the end of this page.


Lens cleaning

Cleaning is the main way lenses are damaged. I've seen many, many lenses with "cleaning marks" and comparatively few with actual impact or abrasion damage. Cleaning damages lenses. Most people would be better off if they never cleaned their lenses - hence the popularity of "protective" UV filters that never come off.

My own technique is to always use a lens hood and to only clean the lens when it is absolutely filthy. I clean the front and rear elements of my cameras on an "as-needed" basis. I usually use just a microfiber cloth, some ROR fluid if needed, and Kodak lens tissues. I knock the big dirt particles off with a camel hair brush, blow off as much as I can, then use the ROR+tissues+microfiber to get the fingerprints off. I try not to scrub or rub. I use a new segment of the tissue/microfiber with every wipe if possible.

Not recommended for beginners: I also have a spanner wrench (which you can buy from MicroTools) to take off the back and front elements to get access to the aperture blades and inner elements for simple cleaning. I only do this with rangefinder lenses as they do not have automatic diaphragms and are considerably simpler in design and construction than SLR lenses.


Replacing the foam

Replacing the light seal foams on my camera backs and bodies is fairly simple. You can get replacement foam from any of the supply shops listed at the end of this page (I recommend Micro-Tools). Most of the stuff that was originally in your camera degenerates after about 2 decades into a sticky gooey mess. Take it off with denatured alcohol, Goo-Gone, or acetone (nail polish remover), Q-tips, and toothpicks. Be very careful not to get the acetone/alcohol anyplace other than the gooey mess, it may strip the black paint off your camera. Cut the foam to size. Use Pliobond or contact cement to coat very sparingly both the foam and the back (foam with peel-off adhesive is much easier to use). Wait 5 minutes until they are tacky dry, and then stick them together carefully using toothpicks as miniature tweezers. I do not recommend trying to replace the mirror box foam in your SLR until you have considerable experience, it's much harder to get right and much easier to get goo on your mirror, which would be a very Bad Thing™.



Rangefinder Adjustment

On most rangefinders, adjusting the vertical or horizontal rangefinder patch is as hard or easy as finding the adjustment screws. Most Leica M cameras, you can get at the horizontal adjustment easily. Other cameras you have to take off the top cover. Not for the faint of heart. I have instructions on each camera page on how to RF align the Canon P rangefinder, FED 3, Kiev 4, Zorki 4K, Leica M7, and just got tips on how to align my Kodak Retina IIa.

In order to calibrate the horizontal infinity setting of the rangefinder, you need to focus on a distant object (as close to infinity as possible, the moon is good) and adjust the RF so that the images coincide. It's more difficult with closer objects, or if you don't know whether the lens is focusing correctly or not (i.e., some Russian lenses were calibrated with vodka). To do this, you need a good ground glass focusing aid on the focal plane of the camera. Dave Passmore (DavePDawg) has sent me some photos of a focusing aid that uses the focusing screen off an old Nikon camera mounted on a cheap 20x magnifying loupe (linen checker). Simple and effective.

As a focusing aid, Dave also suggests pointing a laser pointer onto a wall and focusing against it. You'll need to know the exact distance to the focal plane (Leica techs focus at 1m, 10m, and infinity), but it sounds like a great idea since the dot is small and coherent. It won't work as well with infinity focusing unless you have a big laser and a very distant target (in which case, the local police or FBI might become interested in you as well).

Click images to expand to full size in a separate window.



Broken from Inactivity

Many classic cameras haven't been used in over two decades. So it should come to no surprise that if you find a bargain in a flea market, that it may not work. But often this is just because the internal contacts have oxidized from inactivity. Accumulated dust and evaporated oil can prevent good connectivity. A little exercise can often fix them.

Even mechanical cameras benefit from exercise. A slow shutter will often fix itself if you exercise it a couple of dozen times. Hasselblad and Leica recommend that you run a roll of film through cameras in storage every year or so. Dry firing them whenever possible will make sure that the internal springs and gears don't freeze up. In general, you should store cameras with the shutters uncocked (released) since that is the position with the least tension on the shutter springs.

With something like a Yashica GSN, put the batteries in, then turn the aperture ring back and forth, back and forth multiple times. Also many GSNs have a very strange shutter trigger where the meter only turns on sporadically when you're pushing the shutter down. Try pushing the shutter button down veeeeerrrrrryyy slowly and see if the meter turns on at any point (you'll hear it more than see it). Do this multiple times until the contacts have self-cleaned and the camera should be fine afterwards as long as you regularly use it.


Recommended Repairs Shops

Here are some repair shops that I've heard good things about. A simple repair and CLA (clean-lube-adjust) should run you about $80-150 depending on the make/model/problem. Leicas are more expensive, repair/tune-ups of $300-500 are not unheard of.

I used to have my cameras done by Mark Hama. He repaired both my Canon P which had a slow shutter and my Spotmatic SPII which was hopeless jammed in 2003.02. He did a truly fantastic job on both. He clean-lubed-adjusted (CLAed) both after repairing them and they both work and look like new. He even polished the lens. His total turnaround time including ground shipping, was 14 days (although I understand this is not typical, most of the time he takes longer) and his prices were very reasonable. I've unfortunately recently received a few reports that his backlog is unacceptably long and that people were unhappy with the quality of his work. I would ask him ahead of time how long he plans to keep your camera for repair. In any case, I haven't used him in several years.


I also used to entrust Oleg Khalyavin in Russia with my FED/Kiev and other manual cameras. He specialized in Former Soviet Union (FSU) cameras. The big appeal is that he was very good and inexpensive - about $10-30 a camera. But... postage to Russia is $30 and postage back is $30 for a single camera, so that worked out to about $70-90 a camera. A few years ago year, I sent him 6 cameras, express mail postage was $65. The total repair bill was $185 with return postage ($65+ $185= $250), which works out to about $40 a camera. Not bad! But the savings only came because I sent him so many at once. I've also heard that he's gone into retirement (actually, a new day job), so you may want to make sure he's still repairing cameras.


WARNING: Before sending your camera to any repair person, make sure you've contacted them beforehand and have a clear sense of 1) what the turn-around time is and 2) a rough estimate of the price.



Name Types of Cameras Comments

Camera Clinic
295 Gentry Way # 6
Reno, NV Ê89502
Tel. 775-829-2244

Canon EOS, some FD Specializes in Canon FD/FL mount and EOS mount. Reader Steve Myers recommends him as "very reasonable in his pricing and his work was 'top shelf.'"
Canon Factory Service
100 Jamesburg Road
Jamesburg, NJ 08831
Tel. 732-521-7007
Canon EOS, some FD "Repair down to New F1 only. Cannot repair older manual Canons. Can repair newer EOS. Expensive !" - moss100

David Odess
Factory Trained Hasselblad Technician

28 South Main Street #104 Randolph, MA 02368

Tel: 781-963-1166

Hasselblad 500 and SWC series

One of the most respected Hasselblad repairpersons in the U.S. and all round nice guy. First person to contact if your 'blad has problems.

DAG Camera

2128 Vintage Parts Drive
Oregon WI 53575

Tel: 608-835-3342
FAX: 608-835-3342

Leica screw, M and R- cameras, Minox Don Goldberg (DAG) is one of the best Leica repair persons in the United States. Highly rated by many on the Leica list. Many rank DAG as the equal or better to Sherry Kraueter.

Essex Camera

100 Amor Avenue Carlstadt
New Jersey 07072
Phone: (201)-933-7272
Fax: (201)-933-7647

All makes Highly rated by many people and organizations.

Focal Point Lens

1017 South Boulder Road Suite E-2
Louisville, CO 80027
Phone: 303-665-6640

Specializes in cleaning, polishing, recementing, realigning, and recoating lenses. John Van Stelten is highly recommend on the Leica list for lens repolishing and recalibrating. He also does Hasselblad and other high-end lens repairs.

Hilton Command Exposures

Nashua, NH
Phone: 603-888-3684

Specializes in Hasselblad repairs. Can sell replacement for ELM battery. Very highly rated. Only does Hassie.
Karl Aimo
1104 Lewis O. Gray Drive
Saugus, MA 01906

Canon classic SLR

"Karl is a retired Canon A-series repairman and is a nice person to deal with." - moss100

Mars100 wrote to tell me that Karl passed away on October 5, 2005. He was one of the best and he will be greatly missed.

Kelly Camera Repair Inc.
2711 South Alma School Road # 7
MESA, AZ 85210
Tel: 480-777-2266
Fax: 480-456-1343

All makes "Kelly Chong also sells/ makes replacement camera parts." - moss100
Ken Oikawa
28288 West Worcester Rd
Sun City, CA 92586
Tel: (909) 246-9136
Canon classic SLR His english is a bit halting because he is Japanese. "Nice guy. Independent contractor for Canon FD repair." - moss100

Mark Hama

2675 Earl Dr.
Marietta, GA 30062
P: 770.565.1498
F: 770.977.5078

Specialty: Yashica

Also services other models (Canon, Pentax, etc.)

Worked at the Yashica factory making Yashicas. I had a very good experience with him, although I've recently received reports that his repairs are taking inordinately long and quality may be uneven. I would make sure to verify with him how long he plans to have your camera.

Oleg Khalyavin


Speciality: FED, Kiev, Zorki and other former Soviet Cameras. Can also repair other types of manual 35mm cameras. Charges about $40-70 for simple CLA and repairs; but $30 postage is required to/from Russia. I (Karen) have had very good experiences with him.

Panorama Camera Repair

West 30th Street Manhattan
Tel: +1 212 563 1651

Leica, Minolta CLE, EOS, etc. "Run by a chap named Fema. Very reasonable- does excellent work. He has serviced and modified an M3 for me- amongst others including EOS." - Vroger

Premier Camera Repair
aka Pentax-Repair

272 Schoffner Road
Sharps Chapel, TN 37866

Pentax, Contax, and other Japanese cameras Eric Hendrickson is a former Pentax repairman. Very good prices and service.
Richard Harteinstein
Silverton, OR
Tel: 503-873-5278, M-F 9-4 PST
Canon SLRs + ? "RH has done Canons for 25 years, is quite good and not expensive (as of Dec-02)." - moss100

Sherry Krauter

Factory Trained Leica Specialist
Golden Touch Quality Camera Repair
118 Purgatory Road
Campbell Hall, NY 10916
(845) 496-8834

Speciality: Leica Sherry been called on the Leica list "the best repair person in the world" for Leicas. Many professionals send their babies to Sherry for CLAs or repair. She is very opinionated and some say abrasive. Some have reported less than quality work from her, so perhaps to be approached with caution.

Steve Gandy

336 Moorpark Rd, Box 184
Thousand Oaks, CA,  91360-5224


Rangefinders, mechanical SLRs Highly rated on the Rangefinder Users Group

S.K. Grimes Camera Repair

153 Hamlet Ave
Woonsocket RI 02895
Fax: 401-762-0847


Specializes in large format camera repairs and leaf shutter repairs. Also services Hasselblad, Nikon, Leica and other small format cameras. Great machinist, can attach any lens to any camera or machine any missing part. Mr. Grimes passed away in 2003, but his team continues his company under the same name.
Peter Rosenthal
PR Camera Repair
111 E. Aspen #1
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
928 779-5263
Hasselblad Highly rated on the Hasselblad Users Group. Apparently now out of business for several years.

W.W. Umbach

Z-V Service
P.O. Box 754 / 1410 Seafarer Drive
Oriental, North Carolina 28571
Telephone: 252-249-2576

Rangefinders? Highly rated on the Rangefinder Users Group

Warren Winter

Winter Repair, Ltd.
3 High Street
Mount Kisco, 10549-2909
Telephone: 914-241-1653

Rangefinders? Highly rated on the Rangefinder Users Group

Youxin Ye

16 Fairview Rd
Canton, MA 02021-1720, USA Telephone: (781) 830-9141

Expert Leica technician & repairer Highly rated on the Leica forum
Fine print: If you have any good or bad words to say about any of the vendors above, please post a comment at the bottom of the page here. Thanks to "moss100" (Hank) for the list of Canon FD repair stores.


Repair Parts Supply Stores

  • Micro-Tools has everything you need for general repairs including replacement foam and specialized tools
  • Mamiya USA will sell you replacement light foam and diagrams for its current cameras at cost (I got several sets for my RB67 for less than $20)
  • specializes in camera seals. I haven't used them but they have gotten good marks on other web pages.
  • Ed Romney used to sell a Camera Repair Secrets Book and Kit, but he recently passed away until it's clear who is taking over his book orders for him
  • Harbor Freight is a good source of inexpensive Chinese pliers, screwdrivers and other tools. None are high-quality but they suffice for the home handyperson just fine.

On the Net


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