• If you have read the article and have decided you have a camera repair that is beyond your capabilities, here are some suggestions for evaluating your situation.


  • While computer design and modern manufacturing have found ways to put into our hands cameras with outstanding optics, in general the quality of camera mechanicals have dropped precipitously. To make modern cameras lighter and cheaper, many parts are now made of plastics. 'Plastics' is a very large category. They can be very strong and resist abrasive wear, but they may also be weak and easily broken. Older camera were made from brass, steel and aluminum. They were heavy, but in many cases very durable. They were made to maintain, rather than discard. This makes them good candidates for cleaning and rebuilding.
  • Many of the Ektar lenses compare favorably in performance with modern lenses, particularly if you are careful to shade them from glare. If you enjoy using old equipment, these make excellent shooters that will produce fine prints and slides.



An optical bench at Focal Point

  • Good repair services are not inexpensive, particularly on precision equipment. Some repairs are like watchmaking and require disassembly, cleaning and reassembly. Broken or missing parts require either an inventory or a source of parts that haven't been manufactured in decades, or the machining of replacement parts.
  • Optical repairs involving the recementing and recoating of lenses require advanced electronic equipment and cleanroom conditions and a broad knowledge of the technologies and design strategies used by different lens makers.
  • While both production and design have benefited immensely from computer technology, reducing the cost of modern cameras, many old precision cameras still have a high replacement value. The original price of precision older camera equipment, when adjusted for inflation, is likely to cause sticker shock. The 1940 price of an Ektra outfit--body, case, three lenses, and an extra back would have been about $700. Assuming a 10-fold increase in general price indexes, that makes a $400 Ektra shutter repair seem like a decent investment. Because of the vast improvement and high production volume in 35mm equipment, you probably won't get the Ektra shutter rebuilt because you want it as a shooter, but because it will increase its market value.
  • In the medium format area, however, you can buy a Medalist II for $150 on eBay. Cleaning the shutter and focusing mechanism might cost another $150. You will then have an outstanding 6 x 9 camera with a lens that does not have to apologize to current $2500 Japanese rangefinder models.
  • Still, unless you will actively use your Ektra or Medalist, you may just choose to save those hundreds of dollars and enjoy your classics in their glass case.
  • Finally, if you are collecting old cameras, you probably have an irrational attraction and respect for them. Not all costs can be rationalized. Restoring an old camera has rewards in personal satisfaction and arguably, even social responsibility to preserve some of the finer examples of photographic equipment that have been developed.


  • Older precision cameras may use mechanisms that are not understood by local repair technicians. If you have a valuable old camera, be sure to find a technician who understands its design and can bring experience to its servicing. The more common your camera is, the more likely you can find local maintenance, particularly if owned or staffed by older people who may have had service experience when the equipment was in active use.
  • has an extremely valuable community service that allows users to report their experience with camera manufacturers, retailers and maintenance organizations. You can browse through these listings, check out individual businesses, and often form a reliable idea of the kinds of people that run a business.
  • There are specialist technicians who are known to Kodak collectors.
    • Steven K Grimes is a group of precision machinists and photo-optical technicians who do custom modifications as well as standard replacement work. They specialize in high quality machining, original designs in precision accessories and lens mounts and are equipped to do basic optical work.
    • Ken Ruth at Photography on Bald Mountain specializes in repair and modification of antique, obsolete, and unusual photographic equipment. His conversions of Medalists to 120 format are well known. He has experience with Ektra repairs and reports good success with rebuilt Ektra focal plane shutters.
    • Focal Point is a specialist in lens repairs. They can recoat lenses, separate and recement lenses with separation, and repair lenses that have been damaged by fungus. They also do general repairs on Leica, Rolliflex and Hasselblad.




08/29/2005 18:55