- 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
- 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
- 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.
WHERE TO GET YOUR CLASSIC CAMERA
- 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.
- photo.net has an extremely
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.
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
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.