Sunday, 7 January 2018

Vintage Camera Repair Part 1 - Minolta Himatic 9 Easy Flash

I was given this camera by a friend who had seen it, along with other 'older' camera gear for free!  My friends know that I am partial to vintage film cameras and I love it that they look out for me!

A nice looking Minolta Hi-Matic 9 'Easy Flash'.  Not a scratch on it, nice and clean; ........or is it?

There are some problems with it.  The shutter blades are stuck open and,  I can't move the film advance lever; it's stuck too.  Now this sounds like 2 separate problems but it may not be.  Many older film cameras have a failsafe mechanism to avoid film wastage.  That is, if the shutter is not working then the camera will not allow you to wind onto the next exposure and waste the whole roll of film.  The Minolta X-700, for example, has a shutter that is operated electrically.  If the two small batteries for this camera have gone flat, the shutter will not operate and this stops the film winder from winding onto the next exposure.

So, I could have sent the camera to someone who can fix the problem where I would pay them for their time and for any parts they may need.  Or, I could join a Facebook page dedicated to restoring vintage cameras and pick their brains and also Google everything there is online about restoring old cameras.  I've decided to try and fix it myself.  If I can't get it fixed myself, I haven't lost anything (it was a freeby) but, if I succeed in fixing it then I have another working vintage camera and have learned something along the way.

With this camera, there is a retaining ring on the outside of the lens.  There is a special tool called a Lens Wrench that is usually required to fit into two groves on this retaining ring and slowly turn it anti-clockwise until it comes all the way out.  You can see the grooves at the 1 o'clock and 7 o'clock position on the photo to the right.  I don't have one of those but I was able to use a very small screwdriver fitted into one of the grooves and very gently apply pressure to turn the retaining ring (which was surprisingly fairly easy to turn; I had expected it to be screwed down hard). This then allowed me to remove the front lens group, and the shutter and aperture control rings.  I can't remove these off to the side somewhere.  As you can see from the photo below, there are some wires that operate the exposure meter that run back into the top plate.  I could disconnect these and then re-solder them back on but it is actually easier to leave them there.

Once I removed the front lens group, the shutter and aperture blades were exposed and ready for me to start cleaning.  In the photo, the blades you can see are the aperture blades; the shutter blades are stuck open and have withdrawn back under the circumference of the opening.  There are a couple of things I can use to clean the blades; Lighter Fluid  or  Isopropyl Alcohol.  Some people online recommend the lighter fluid and some the isopropyl alcohol.  Personally I think the isopropyl alcohol may be the better.  It is recommended to use a high alcohol content product (from 70-90% alcohol)  This is because the alcohol will cut through any oily dirt buildup.  Once cleaned the alcohol simply evaporates without leaving a residue.

In examining the camera once I had this front end removed, I realised that the self timer was also stuck in the 'on' position.  This is interesting because it means that perhaps it is not the shutter blades that are stuck.  Rather, if the self timer is stuck on the on position and hasn't wound back then whatever position the shutter blades were in, they will be stuck on that until the self timer has been reset!  So, the idea will be to clean the shutter blades and then flood the self timer spring with the alcohol so that it will clean the spring and, hopefully, it will reset itself.  Once the self timer is back in the off position it well may allow the shutter blades to return to their normal position.

I also took off the bottom plate of the camera to check the gears and see if there was any discernable damage.  I do not pretend to know how the film wind on feature works on a camera but it should be easy enough to spot any damage e.g. something stuck in the gearing or a damaged cog.  But that seemed fine (apart from a little cleaning that may be required).

I still need a few things to get the cleaning done and, once I have started, will put up another post detailing how it all went.

Stay tuned!

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