Thursday, May 9, 2013

My First Lens Repair

It was a sunny day in May of 1993.  I was heavily into photography as the photo editor to the school yearbook and a staff photographer on the paper.  Not to mention my senior photography class and independent study photography project. I tended to always have a camera or two with me when I went to high school.

Back then we shot film.  I remember reading about the first digital cameras in magazines, but for mere mortals, we were still using the analog stuff.  My photo equipment at the time would be considered meager in the 21st century, but it was all that I had and I really didn't know any better.  I had a Nikon F with a broken meter head.  This was my flash camera which was typically mounted next to a Sunpak 544 "potato masher" flash.  My other camera was a Nikkormat FTN which was similar to the F but with a working meter.  For lenses, I had a 28mm f2.8 Vivitar lens, a 50mm f1.4 S Nikkor, a 43-86 f3.5 zoom, and a 135mm f3.5 Q lens.  All but the Vivitar were from the 1960's.  This kit had served me fairly well in those days, but I often wished that I had a slightly faster lens in the telephoto department.  I really didn't wish for anything longer most of the time, which is strange thinking to me these days.

That fateful day in May,  I was sitting in the passenger seat of the 1978 Buick LaSabre that served as the main mode of transportation for my brother and myself, and the Nikkormat with the 50mm f1.4 S was mounted on it was on the floorboard along with my book bag.  Well as fate would have it, I grabbed the book bag and it somehow caught the camera in one of the straps and it fell, lens first, onto the pavement.  The drop was perhaps six inches, but that was all it took.  Despite the Nikon legend of durability, this little drop did both camera and lens in.  The glass was okay, but the iris in the lens would no longer respond, and the focus ring did not move.  On the camera side, the shutter speed dial (located near the aperture ring on that model) would not turn and the camera shutter was not doing well either. 

It is now twenty-years later, and this lens has been sitting on my shelf for many years now;  mounted on it's original body, the Nikon F that my father has since given to me.  The F is in little better shape than the lens at this point, as the shutter has holes in the curtain.  Recently I was looking on YouTube and decided that there might be a video that could guide me into the lens repair.

Unfortunately for me, the videos on YouTube don't include this particular model of Nikkor, but a quick email to a Flickr friend gave me a clue on how to get started.  The focus ring is actually two rings threaded together.  The forward, beveled ring can be twisted off which reveals three screws that can then be removed so that the focus ring can be pulled off.  My focus issue was that the ring had landed on a rock and had dented the focus collar so that it was impinging on the underlying ring, causing the ring to not allow the helicoid to turn.

Digging deeper into the lens, I found that there is a copper retaining spring/ring deep in the lens that keeps an internal ring locked into the aperture ring screw.  This retaining spring had come loose so that the internal ring was not mating with the pin.  A bit of fiddling with a screw driver, and then careful re-assembly had the iris working correctly again. 

Fixing the focusing ring is not easy.  I do not have the correct tools, but I was able to bend the focus ring enough so that it will turn once more, but not as smoothly as any would like.

I would love to mount this on one of my digital cameras, but it is a Non-AI lens so can only be used on certain bodies, and even then only with stop down metering.  So I will probably never again use this lens in the field, but it was a nice feeling to be able to get this lens back into working condition.