Welcome to the vintage camera repair directory!
Many cameras from past decades, even past centuries, are still capable of producing high-quality images that rival the best digital marvels of today. But even the best designed machines require periodic service. Unfortunately there are few people left with the skills and equipment needed to perform repairs and services. They are spread out around the world and it can be hard to find their contact information. This list is an attempt to consolidate information and help keep these special people in business as long as possible.
The good news is that a properly serviced camera will continue operating for decades to come.
- Almost all cameras require foam seals to be removed and replaced. This is a messy process and can be time consuming. Each crevice can require a different type and thickness of foam and must be cut to exact specifications. But overall it is a simple procedure.
- Many vintage cameras required the use of a mercury battery that is no longer available. A service that is sometimes offered is to convert the camera to use modern 1.5 volt batteries by adding a diode that reduces the voltage to the correct level.
- Shutter speeds are notoriously out of time. The most common problem are the slowest speeds which can even stall when gummed up enough. The fastest speed is usually incorrect as well. But often times the fast speed was never correct straight from the factory! A proper CLA (Clean, Lube and Adjust) removes the old oil and replaces it with modern lubrication. Then an electronic shutter speed tester is used in the process of adjusting the speeds to match their labeled speeds (within specified percentage). You may be provided with a chart showing the actual times of each speed as measured.
- Many cameras use cloth shutter curtains. Over time these curtains can fray or wear and leak light. Replacements must be exactly the right thickness or else the timing will be off. This is often the most expensive repair.
- Even the most robust cameras have parts that just wear out. Gears and pivots can wear, springs loose their tension, metal parts rust out. Some repair-persons have original parts and some may be better than the original. But often, parts are sourced from other cameras.
- Oil can also break down and travel to places it is not supposed to be. This is bad when it gets into the shutter blades or apertures of lenses. The only way to really fix this is to completely disassemble the mechanism and clean with a solvent. This is a common problem on lenses and fixed-lens cameras. It is especially bad for inexpensive camera, where the labor cost may be much greater than the value of the camera.
- Lenses have their share of problems as well. Fine scratches from cleaning or use are rarely a problem. But fungus and haze can really impact the contrast and resolving power of a lens. Some repairs are simple like a dented filter ring, but others may require a complete disassembly.
These are the most common services available.
- CLA: Clean, lube, and adjust the mechanisms of a camera to put it back to factory specifications. This is usually the minimum require to get the camera working again. It may only require the camera to be partially disassembled to reach the shutter.
- Repairs: Replace defective parts with new or used parts. There is usually an extra charge for the parts. Sometimes it is not known if a repair will be required. But often times a repair-person is familiar with parts that commonly go bad, and will cite that in their estimate.
- Complete overhaul: Unless you know your camera is working correctly or has been recently serviced, I recommend this service over a minimal approach. This involves completely disassembling a camera, cleaning the components. And probably replacing some of the components. But this ensures there are no hidden problems that may cause lost frames down the road.
- Leather and vinyl replacement: Leather wears down, and rubber, vinyl, vulcanoid, or whatever other ‘leatherette’ manufactures used to cover their camera with just disintegrates over time. New coverings or bellows can really restore life into a classic camera.
- Lens collimation: Specialized instruments are used to center and position each lens element to ensure the best resolution. Without these tools, a lens will rarely be as good as it was when it left the factory.
There is a huge difference between a professional repair shop and an amateur tinkerer. And once you send your prized camera out, you can be on the hook for whatever someone feels like charging. These tips can help protect you.
- Think before you act! Repairs and shipping costs can add up quickly. That 10$ yard sale camera may end up costing you hundreds in repair bills. And it may still be a 10$ camera afterwards. So make sure that is the camera you intend to commit to use for years. You are much better off investing money in a high-quality camera (not necessarily expensive!) than a cheap consumer-grade toy.
- Know the costs upfront! Make sure you are given an estimate upfront for the service, and any additional costs for repairs or parts are communicated to you before they are performed. Also make sure you are told what will be included in the service. Send a message checking on the current backlog and estimated turnaround time. Find out what warranty is included on the work.
- Pack well! Wrap you camera in bubble wrap, then place in the center of an oversized box filled with packing peanuts. You can get biodegradable peanuts from office depot. Do not use the plastic ‘air pillows’ or newspaper.
- Keep the receipt! If you need to utilize the warranty service, you may need the receipt. But also if you end up reselling the camera, being able to prove the camera was serviced may add to the resale value. -Do not expect to get it all back though.
- Try it out! Use a roll of film the first week you receive the camera. Try the slowest and fastest speeds. Check the exposure on the negatives. Check the frame spacing and for and light leaks.
Notes when buying a camera:
- If someone claims they are serviced, make sure they can produce a receipt. Otherwise, assume it was done by an amateur. That is not necessarily bad. An amateur like me can replace the foam seals, clean the shutter, or perform minor repairs. But don’t pay more than $50 over another camera in similar condition.
- Look for ‘tool marks’ on the screw heads or around retaining rings. Tinkerers who dont have proper tools will strip screws and leave scratches in the finish. An improperly-repaired camera is often worse than a broken camera, and some repairers will refuse to work on them.
An now, the List:
Consider that many of these services are one person shops! They do not have a ‘customer service department’ or any help at all.
So please, be patient, be quick, be respectful.
Flutots Camera Repair
Repair for most leaf shutters used in large and medium format lenses.
“We Service the Following Shutters—Acme, AGC, Alphax, Betax, Compound, Copal, Compur, Crones, Fuji, Graflex, Ilex, Kodak, Melles Griot, Packard, Polaroid, Prontor, Rapax, Seiko, Synchro-Compur, Universal, Vario, Wollensak. And even if yours isn’t listed here, if it can be repaired, we can repair it. And the impossible? Well… usually that just takes a little longer! ”
Vintage folding camera repair. Includes Zeiss Ikontas, Agfa Isoletes, Certo 6’s (of course) and many more.
Camtech Photo Services
“We service OLYMPUS OM SYSTEM, Pen F / FV / FT bodies and lenses and original XA. No other models! OLYMPUS SERVICE and PARTS SINCE 1977. On the web since 1997. 37+ Years of continuous Olympus OM Service and OM Restoration. I’m an ex-Olympus Technician & Service Manager, factory trained. Extensive repair part inventory for OM bodies and lenses.”
Kurts Camera Repair
“Kurt’s can provide expert repair service on most all digital, video and film cameras.”
Sanford Camera Repair
“Factory authorized repairs for Canon, Nikon, and Hasselblad.” Out of warranty repairs on many other brands. Also lens repairs and testing.
“Antique camera and optical instrument repair.
Specializing in antique, obsolete, and very unusual photographic equipment with the primary goal of making every camera shutter and lens function at its unique best for creating your fine images. ”
“We are able to repair virtually any and all photographic equipment, professional and amateur cameras, lenses, shutters for large format cameras, slide projectors, light meters, etc…”
(Germany) “Your competent partner, when it comes to precise Olympus OM camera repairs !
Complete OM and Pen FT system repairs.”
Zeiss Ikon Contax Camera Repair
“Whatever service you need for your ZEISS IKON Contax I, II, III, IIa, IIIa Black Dial or Color Dial Model, Contarex, Contaflex TLR, Nettax, Contessa, Contina, Colora, Ikonta, Super Ikonta, Nettel, Super Nettel, Bessamatic or Ultramatic and Contaflex SLR- you will find it here. ”
“Luton Camera Repair Services Ltd. was established in 1967, so we have a vast experience of repairing all manner of photographic equipment including: 35mm Cameras (SLR and Compact), Medium Format, Large Format, Digital cameras (DLSR, Bridge and Compact), Lenses, Monocular and Binoculars. We are specialists in the OLYMPUS OM SYSTEM and DIGITAL repairs.”
“We primarily restore Zeiss cameras, especially the Contarex types, Contaflex TLR, all Contax rangefinder, Super Ikonta, the Ikoflex, Super Nettel, Tenax II and other high-quality Zeiss devices. With the Rolleiflex, we mainly work on 3.5/2.8 F.”
“Chris Sherlock’s repair service for Kodak Retina, Retinette, and other ‘classic’ cameras”
I will be adding more links as i find them. if you know of any repair facilities, please let me know.