shutter disassembly on any of the cameras described here should only
be attempted by those with specific training in shutter mechanics. The
cleaning procedures described below require only that you remove the
lens elements and the cover plates for the shutter assembly. You then
flush or 'flood' clean either just the shutter blades or the shutter
assembly with naphtha. These are different operations and the caveats
that apply are different.
flood cleaning of shutter blades should not affect the main shutter
mechanism, a good thing if the only problem with your shutter is grunge
in the blade pivot points and/or on the blades. If the main shutter
mechanism is dirty, you will have to either flood clean it or have it
- Flood cleaning
is not equivalent to having your shutter disassembled and cleaned
by a technician. If you do not use your cameras heavily and are not
depending on them to complete UP assignments, this may be sufficient.
Obviously, if you plan to use a camera regularly and want the best performance
from it, cleaning by a qualified technician provides the greatest assurance.
- User, collector,
and technician opinion about the efficacy of flood cleaning vary. Naphtha
will soften and remove lubricants that may have congealed over time.
Flushing with naphtha is sometimes enough to soften the lubricant and
free up parts. Conversely, you may wash away lubricant that is still
functioning or wash lubricant/dirt residue to some area that doesn't
need lubricant and is otherwise clean. Many writers have offered opinions
on these issues, ranging from almost-anyone-can-clean-shutters to give-it-to-an-expert.
Here are links to a sampling:
- Ed Romney
has written and published many books, encouraging others to follow
his DIY strategy of camera maintenance.
- Thomas Tomosy,
a technician, has written four books on camera maintenance and restoration.
- Richard Knoppow
is a camera and lens technician with many years of experience.
- Steve Grimes
describes himself as a 'Feinmechanik' which can be translated as
precision mechanic. Beyond traditional camera maintenance, he specializes
in custom designed photo apparatus, both optical and mechanical.
on most premium Kodak cameras were either Compurs or Supermatics, both
of which were fairly reliable. Two highend Kodaks had very problematic
shutters. Most Ektra shutters are nonfunctional at this point. Unless
I've missed something in my review of Brian Coe's book, this was the
only focal plane shutter that Kodak ever built and it proved unreliable
in longterm use. If you have an Ektra with a broken shutter, you can
probably locate a specialist technician that can repair it. Rebuilding
an Ektra shutter is a job for a qualified technician. Copies
of the original Ektra service manual are available to technicians. Kodak's
attempt at designing a shutter that broke the 1/400
- 1 /500 barrier - the Synchro-Rapid
800-- was also not very successful. SR 800s appeared on the Chevron,
Tourist II and on press cameras like the Crown and Speed 23 Graphics.
You may find it impractical to repair a broken SR 800.
- If, after
reading this page, you decide that required service is beyond your interest
or capabilities, you can review the section on professional
is the solvent of choice, in being safe, relatively benign, and residue
free. Naphtha is cigarette lighter fluid--the kind that is used in Zippo's
that the Marlboro man lit up with. It is very volatile and flammable.
Use it in a well-ventilated room and away from all ignition sources.
- You may see suggestions
to use trichloroethylene - it is a carcinogen and an environmental hazard.
- Carbon tetrachloride is
a carcinogen and an environmental hazard.
- WD-40 is basically kerosene
and will act as a solvent but also leave a residue that is destructive
to shutter parts in the long term.
- The solvent MEK dissolves
- Acetone dissolves paint,
plastics and ???, so it isn't recommended for shutter cleaning.
- If you
know that a camera hasn't been used for years, you may find that a little
exercise will restore its operation. If you can cock and release the
shutter, doing this repeatedly at different shutter speeds may restore
reliable operation, or it my just confirm unreliable operation. If the
shutter is jammed, don't force it, which may do additional damage. If
after an exercise period, the shutter speeds sound about right, you
can test shutter accuracy by shooting a roll of film. Find a subject
that has a good representation of tonal values, meter a middle tone
area, then begin shooting at the smallest possible aperture and continue
with other aperture, adjusting shutter speeds so you are making the
same theoretical effective exposure. Inaccurate shutter speeds will
show up as over- or underexposed frames.
- You can
flood clean a shutter at two levels--just the blades or the entire mechanism.
oil will get onto shutter blades, where it shouldn't be. Squirting naphtha
on the shutter blades and working the shutter will dissolve the oil,
which you must remove by absorbing the solution. I use a facial tissue
to gently swab up the naphtha from both sides of the blades. Repeat
this until you see no more oil. Consider that if there is oil on the
blades, it had to come from somewhere and that it may reappear on the
- To flood
clean the shutter mechanism, you must remove the front facia rings.
The amount of naphtha and the repetition of this operate is a calculated
risk. Determining factors are how much grunge you see inside the shutter,
whether it is operating at all or just in an irregular manner. It is
probably best to use as little naphtha as possible to get the shutter
to work reliably.