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Archive 2009 · Disassemble & Clean My Own Lenses?
  
 
Cableaddict
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p.1 #1 · Disassemble & Clean My Own Lenses?


OMG!

I was away for the week on business. I just got home, and found that my dehumidifier circuit had tripped the breaker. (I live below ground) There was massive humidity, and virtually all of my lenses got coated internally with moisture. On some you could actually see large droplets coating the glass. On three lenses, I see tiny white specks on the internal dust, probably fungal spores just starting t grow.

I'm just freaking out. This is my entire collection, except for the camera & lens I had with me. I put them all in the oven, at super low temps, to dry them out. That worked, so at least I won't get massive fungus. I'll put them all out in the sun tomorrow.

-But now they all have watermarks inside. Many of them had a good bit of dust as well, so could have used a cleaning, but now they are basically useless without one.

There are maybe 20 lenses, ranging in value from $100 to $1500. Zeiss, Minolta, Canon...) I know I can send them to a shop, for around $100 each, maybe more for the zooms, but I'm REALLY strapped for cash right now. I was even about to sell a few of these to help pay my bills.

I'm trying to decide whether to buy tools & learn to do this myself. (I've always wabted to learn) Looking for opinions:
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The biggest question I have is: To clean dust and haze, water marks, etc, how much of a disassembly is required? Is it something a guy like me can really do, or must I go so far "into" the lens that I will need special tools & calibration to get it back together right?

Any danger of misaligning the elements? (optical centering?)

On the other hand, if paying for a pro CLA, is it common to find vintage lenses (primes) that were slightly out of alignment? In other words, is it common for a vintage prime to come back from CLA sharper than when you sent it?

Can I shlub like me also build a collumnator and do my own alignment? (or is that just for infinity focus?) I've read of this online, but have no idea what's involved.

Can I also learn to re-grease the helical gear, and maybe clean the aperture blades on a few? Again, is this reasonably do-able, or major surgery?

If I do decide to do this, WHERE DO I START as far as gaining the procedural knowledge, and how to I figure out exactly which tools to buy? It's quite a daunting proposition. Are there websites that show this for various lenses? Books?

Any and all advice / opinions welcome. Thanks




Edited on Aug 23, 2009 at 09:21 PM · View previous versions



Aug 23, 2009 at 09:06 PM
ewadler
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p.1 #2 · Disassemble & Clean My Own Lenses?


I am curious to see answers to this as well.


Aug 23, 2009 at 09:17 PM
Tom Harpstead
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p.1 #3 · Disassemble & Clean My Own Lenses?


Cableaddict & ewadler

You can buy several rubber stoppers that you will use to unscrew the front retaining (trim) ring, You will need to hollow out the center so that the stopper does not touch the front element. You can refer to this page (rokkor 58mm lens) for guidance.
http://www.pbase.com/pganzel/58mm_rokkor_disassembly

To access the elements behind the aperture you may have to disassemble the rear mount. For this you need a good set of jeweler screw drivers. Or those elements just unscrew.

You may also be able to find parts diagrams online for you lenses that will guide you too.

From personal experience you will want to work on a tray that will contain any little parts that get away. I also found that if I magnetized my screwdriver, it helped keep the screws and other small parts from going a stray.

Thomas Tomosy Product Image Camera Maintenance & Rep​air, Book 1, would be a great resource to have on hand. @ amazon for ~$20.00 used

You may want to look at these pages about fungus removal,
http://www.chem.helsinki.fi/~toomas/photo/fungus/
http://www.mypentax.com/Fungus.html

There are simple solutions that you can make to "sterilize" the lenses before reassembly.

You will want to dry the aperture before assembly. I have use a high quality brake cleaner to dry the aperture blades, also it will clean off any grease.

Here is Jim Buchanan guide to Infinity adjustment for the rokkor 58, should be similar for other lenses.
http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/726266/0#6577191

I hope this helps you.

Thomas



Aug 23, 2009 at 09:51 PM
PhotoMaximum
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p.1 #4 · Disassemble & Clean My Own Lenses?


Wow, that totally sucks...

My advice is not rush in do anything rash. You have made the correct first step: getting information and opinions.

I have not done mush of this. The issue is that lenses are different: different makers and what not. You will need a good variety of quality screw drivers and lens wrenches. I would also get a section of soft material and place it on a large table to do the work. Never do this near carpeting as you will spend tons of time searching for tiny screws that jump on the floor. You will need good light. I would also use a plastic ice cube tray to hold all the screws and parts. I find ice cube trays also help keep track of the order of parts taken off the lens as well.

Before you dive in on that nice Zeiss lens I would buy a couple of really cheap lenses and practice dismantling those first. Get some from a flea market. I know its more expense now but do you want to screw up on your best lenses?

I would get some advice from camera repair shops as well. They might give you insight into the issues involved with a particular lens. Each lens is different. Check online for diagrams and possible disassembly images for each lens.

The risks are obvious: damage to the lenses, springs, and misalignment of parts when putting it all back together. You might also find that some the damage, watermarks etc cannot be accessed as well. You probably don't want to be pulling cemented lens groups apart either.

Take your time and good luck!



Aug 23, 2009 at 10:02 PM
hardlyboring
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p.1 #5 · Disassemble & Clean My Own Lenses?


good luck.
why not invest in an airtight storage system?
doug



Aug 23, 2009 at 10:07 PM
AhamB
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p.1 #6 · Disassemble & Clean My Own Lenses?


@doug: It's a bit too late for that now, isn't it?

Anyway, good luck with it!



Aug 23, 2009 at 10:15 PM
Cableaddict
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p.1 #7 · Disassemble & Clean My Own Lenses?


hardlyboring wrote:

why not invest in an airtight storage system?
doug


Because I'm an idiot.

Yes, I'm going to buy some dessicant canisters & build some airtight boxes.
But the damage is done.

This could be a blessing in disguise, as I really wanted to learn how to do this, anyway, but it's a fairly scary proposition, when you've never done it before.



Aug 23, 2009 at 10:34 PM
m-a-x
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p.1 #8 · Disassemble & Clean My Own Lenses?


Oh my, it's a pain to read what had happened. I'm sorry.

Some may have to be disassembled quite a lot in order to clean each element.
Some may be accessible from the front (take out an entire lens group and leave the helix etc. untouched).

I think de-centering is not such a big a problem like possible axial misalignment.
I am not sure how to calibrate misaligned lenses.

Apart from what others have said: get yourself high quality screwdrivers. And don't be stingy about different sizes. I also often need a pair of tweezers.

There will be rings with two opposite notches, to unscrew. Professional tools are available in online shops but you can also unscrew rings with the thin ends of a metal caliper gauge. It's just a bad feeling to do that close to glass surfaces.

A general thing to pay attention to is the initial position of the different metal rings and parts. A disassembled helix, for instance, usually can be screwed together at three or four different starting points. All but one of them will either lead to wrong (circumferential) positions of little knobs and screws, or to wrong (axial) distances.
It's a good idea to always mark the rings and parts with an Edding marker before you take them apart. Use always a distinct position before marking - I usually use "infinity".
You can make a picture of things before dismantling, e.g. of the direction and overlapping of the blades.

All in all, the decision to do it yourself or to have it done is a matter of the complexity and the value of the lens.
Good luck!



Aug 23, 2009 at 10:37 PM
Cableaddict
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p.1 #9 · Disassemble & Clean My Own Lenses?


PhotoMaximum wrote:
You might also find that some the damage, watermarks etc cannot be accessed as well. You probably don't want to be pulling cemented lens groups apart either.


Yes, this is one of my main questions, above. From what I can glean from online articles, the elements that are cemented together are typically airtight, and so should not have to be disassembled for cleaning. So, I'm concerned with how hard it is to get to all the OTHER surfaces.

-Biggest concern, besides destroying screws & threads, is if there's any chance of messing up the alignment. Again, several online surces suggest that this is NOT typically a problem, and MAX says above not to worry about de-centering, but I'd sure like to hear more opinions.

On a related note: When a repair shop does a full CLA, besides cleaning and infinity-adjust, just exactly WHAT do they do? I've read that they can adjust alignment, sometimes improving things over how it came from the factory. - but HOW? Can this be done at home?


Edited on Aug 23, 2009 at 10:57 PM · View previous versions



Aug 23, 2009 at 10:39 PM
Cableaddict
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p.1 #10 · Disassemble & Clean My Own Lenses?


Tom Harpstead wrote:
You can buy several rubber stoppers that you will use to unscrew the front retaining (trim) ring, You will need to hollow out the center so that the stopper does not touch the front element. You can refer to this page (rokkor 58mm lens) for guidance.
http://www.pbase.com/pganzel/58mm_rokkor_disassembly

To access the elements behind the aperture you may have to disassemble the rear mount. For this you need a good set of jeweler screw drivers. Or those elements just unscrew....

Thomas Tomosy Product Image Camera Maintenance & Rep​air, Book 1, would be a great resource to have on hand. @ amazon for ~$20.00 used
...Show more


Thanks, Tom, this is a great start. I already know how to TREAT fungus & haze (been collecting data for a long time) it's just the "getting to it" that worries me. I have read about the Tomosy book elsewhere as well, so this now sounds like a no-brainer. I'll order it tonight.

As for tools, that a really tough one: As I wrote above, how do I know WHICH tools I need. For instance, that rubber stopper may work on the Rokkor, but don't I need a spanner for most lenses? - And then, do I need all three tips, or just the basic spanner? For jewlers screwdrivers, I already have a small but quality set. Yet, none of them work on my Minolta lenses, nor on my Mamiyas. so, must I buy the $240 complete set, or can I get by with a $40 smaller set? How the heck does one figure this out?

Ughh ....




Edited on Aug 23, 2009 at 10:56 PM · View previous versions



Aug 23, 2009 at 10:44 PM
 

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PhotoMaximum
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p.1 #11 · Disassemble & Clean My Own Lenses?


Well, some Canon lenses barrels are prone to become loose over time. I good CLA might include some judicious use of thread locker to keep the system tight. This is not always done at the factory. A CLA might also include proper calibration for infinity etc.


Aug 23, 2009 at 10:48 PM
Daniel Moore
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p.1 #12 · Disassemble & Clean My Own Lenses?


I've used Tomosy's books in the past, a set of tool recommendations are included, as well as suggestions for making special purpose tools yourself from found objects. You'll know mostly what needs buying once you receive it. You might also want to take before shots with them before dismantling to guage your success using a static setup. Best of luck with them.


Aug 23, 2009 at 10:55 PM
crteach
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p.1 #13 · Disassemble & Clean My Own Lenses?


Would it help to take pictures of the lens as you disassemble to help you remember how it goes back together and to sequence the steps taken as you work on them?


Aug 23, 2009 at 11:06 PM
telyt
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p.1 #14 · Disassemble & Clean My Own Lenses?


Tom Harpstead wrote:
Thomas Tomosy Product Image Camera Maintenance & Rep​air, Book 1, would be a great resource to have on hand. @ amazon for ~$20.00 used


Be careful using Tomosy's book as a resource, his Leica repair guide contains several obvious mistakes which makes me wonder about not-so-obvious mistakes.



Aug 23, 2009 at 11:25 PM
JimBuchanan
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p.1 #15 · Disassemble & Clean My Own Lenses?


Allan,

A Martini is a good way to start this kind of a job...

I have this to offer:

Most lenses will have a lens assembly in front and in back of the aperture. These 2 assemblies are constructed and sealed at the factory, and I would suggest NOT taking them apart. Most dust and dirt will be on the inside surfaces that face the aperture blades. A common construction is to have the aperture mechanism at the bottom of a "cup", with the lens assemblies screwed to the top and bottom of this cup.

Wash aperture blades with soap and water, then dry.

MicroTools is the place to go for the tools. I have 3 rubber discs @ $2 each, 2 screwdrivers, and a $30 spanner wrench, amoung other things.

Start on the less expensive lenses first, or buy a Rokkor 58/1.4 for $35 and take it completely apart. If you put it back together, your ready.

Good Luck.



Aug 24, 2009 at 01:08 AM
Erie Patsellis
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p.1 #16 · Disassemble & Clean My Own Lenses?


out of curiosity, do you have insurance? most good policies would cover just this sort of thing.


erie



Aug 24, 2009 at 01:59 AM
Empire
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p.1 #17 · Disassemble & Clean My Own Lenses?


Ouch !

How about you list the lenses for us since a few people here including myself have dismantled quite a few, and I for one always take photos of the process. Who knows, you may get a walk-through!

Jim is right on the money about the way most lenses are put together - and once you have done one or two you will have a good Idea what you are likely to encounter. Just start with the cheapest!

If you can manage the cash I would recommend sending any zooms to a good repairer - even the simplest are an order of magnitude harder than primes.

I personally find most lenses relatively easy to almost totally strip down (FL 55 is amazingly simple), however some Nikkors (with floating elements) have been a real nuisance - the 28/2 AI for example is held together by a 1mm screw which happens to break all too easily..

Check out the MFlenses forums, they have a gear repair section with a lot of shared experiences and decent info. Just to state the obvious, dont forget a google search with "minolta (or whatever) Lens repair" can net some results.


As jim B said above, Microtools is the place to go for camera tools. For most lenses with phillips-type screws you need a JIS S-type screw driver of #00 size (I recommend getting #0 and #000 as well), some very VERY small straight-edge screwdrivers (1.5mm, 0.8mm and 2.5mm), I also HIGHLY recommend you get a proper lens-wrench (those things with adjustable width prongs), those rubber lens ring tools are a must - just try and buy the ones with hollowed centres - doing it yourself is a loooong process. Also, a rubber strap wrench is useful for un-doing lens barrels.
Microtools also sell helical grease, ball bearings (I advise getting a few of the 3 smallest sizes just in case), and almost anything else you can imagine.

Some tips I have learnt:
* Lens elements can be cleaned effectively with warm soapy water.
* A soft 100% cotton shirt is less abrasive than any cheap lens cloth or that lens cleaning paper.
* ALWAYS take photos of the process
* When you have to remove the rear mount or anything that feels spring-loaded, do it inside a large plastic zip-loc bag
* No matter how dust-free you think a room might be, there is always dust in the air.
* For the above two reasons try and work in a room without carpet floors and wear a hat or beanie if you have dandruff
* You are almost guaranteed to need to have a few goes at re-assembling the aperture linkage - dont know about the blades, havent done any yet.


Thats all I can think of for now, I will add anything I think of.

Cheers



Aug 24, 2009 at 02:49 AM
Ed Sawyer
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p.1 #18 · Disassemble & Clean My Own Lenses?


Good advice here so far.

I'd not use cotton anything to clean lens elements. A microfiber cloth or tissue with lens cleaner is best. Always start with the least-aggressive method of cleaning glass first.

Most zuikos are easiest to get into from the rear, and can usually be undone up to the apeture fairly quickly, even w/o spanners sometimes.

Agreed on Microtools for the tools needed. Expect to spend $200ish on tools and supplies I'd say.

Go slow and be careful putting too much force into something, esp. when using a screwdriver or spanners. Spanners are particularly twitchy, one slip and it's easy to scratch a front element.

Agreed that the apeture area is where most dust accumulates, but not all lenses have sealed cells front and rear. Most of the zuiko wides *don't*, for example. Many 50s however do, since they are usually gauss type designs.

I've fully or partially disassembled many lenses, incl. most wide zuikos, many 50-ish lenses, a biotar, Leica, canon EF, and others. If you're handy and have the skills and patience it's not too bad. You just have to know your limitations and try not to make things worse. If in doubt, send it out for professional work.

-Ed




Aug 24, 2009 at 02:58 PM
Cableaddict
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p.1 #19 · Disassemble & Clean My Own Lenses?


Great info, guys. I am most grateful. I get the sense that I'll be able to pull this off. -Though I think I'll send the Canon 85L and 24-105 to a shop. Good sense of how to proceed now, as well.

The craziest thing I could ever do has already been done: Putting all my lenses in the oven. ( ! )
That part worked out, so maybe the rest will go smoothly. I managed to dry up all the moisture without damaging anything (I hope, unless some glue came loose and caused elements to move, in which case, just shoot me) BTW I had no choice- I was pouring rain all day, and more expected the next day. I didn;t want to wait for sunshine, in case fungus got going.

I'll definitely tackle some cheapo lenses first (I knew there was a reason I kept that Bushnell 24mm around.)

I have six Rokkor 58/1.2's to clean. (don't ask how I came to own six) plus two of them have stuck blades, so that might be my next step. Then a Zeiss 85/1.4, Canon fisheye....



Aug 24, 2009 at 11:53 PM
PhotoMaximum
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p.1 #20 · Disassemble & Clean My Own Lenses?


Enjoy a nice gin martini first...


Aug 24, 2009 at 11:57 PM
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