Contaflex I - how to fix a busted shutter...

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by Dominic Richens, Jul 18, 2006.

  1. I picked up a Contaflex I in an "antique" shop for 25$ - I thought the
    shutter worked because I could see throught it when it was wound and then
    the leafs closed as the mirror flipped out of the way.

    What I didn't notice was that it does the exact same thing, even when on
    "B". When set to f22, the iris (you can see it from the back) only closes
    to around f5.6, and slowly at that.

    So, what are the chances of taking apart and fixing the lens shutter on

    Dominic Richens, Jul 18, 2006
    1. Advertisements

  2. Hmmm... YOU doing it? Unless you're an experienced camera repair
    technician, almost none. The Contaflex is about the second-trickest
    camera to repair there is, beaten only by the Retina Reflex. Unless you
    get very lucky and can free up some dried lube or a stuck cocking
    mechanism, you're in for a cornucopia of tiny, precise, and
    incomprehensible little parts... The few people who do these usually
    want somewhere around $200, and they earn it.
    Scott Schuckert, Jul 18, 2006
    1. Advertisements

  3. Dominic Richens

    Jim Guest

    Almost anything can be taken apart. The problem lies in getting it back
    together correctly.
    Jim, Jul 18, 2006
  4. Sometimes a well-placed drop or two of lighter fluid can work miracles.

    I'd forget the "taking apart" bit, unless you really are a masochist.
    But more exact & competent advice can be found on the classic camera
    repair forum:
    Chris Loffredo, Jul 19, 2006
  5. About zero.

    I collect Contaflexes, and the problems that you describe are about
    par for the course, especially for the early ones (anything before the
    Supers). Some of mine worked OK when I first got them, but no longer
    do so, because of disuse.

    The root problem, basically, is congealed lubricant, combined with an
    overly complex design.

    You might try, per Ed Romney's advice, drenching the mechanism with a
    volatile solvent. Try this once, and then if it doesn't work (the most
    likely outcome), forget about it. Doing much disassembly on this
    camera isn't feasible.

    Even if these cameras appear to work, they're unreliable. Why bother
    trying to take pictures with them, when there are so many better
    cameras available? Consign them to the display shelf, as a part of
    photographic history, and as examples of meticulous but misguided
    German engineering.

    (That said, I'm still nostalgic for the Contaflex, because it was my
    first "serious" camera, back in 1963. At the time, my best friend
    opted for a Nikon F, but I believed the Zeiss advertising on the
    advantages of leaf shutters. I should have listened to my friend
    Alexander Arnakis, Jul 21, 2006
  6. I wonder why some enterprising electro-mechanical genius doesn't design a
    shutter-filter combination that you could screw onto the filter end of a
    lens, and use it to open/close your lens and take pictures on old cameras
    that no longer have a working shutter. The old LF portrait cameras had
    shutters like this. Why couldn't a newer design prove functional on smaller
    cameras? Think of all the obsolete cameras such a device would bring out of
    William Graham, Jul 21, 2006
  7. Vignetting and other optical problems: The leaf shutter, during its
    opening and closing phase, acts as a virtual diaphragm.
    The cameras which did use behind the lens leaf shutters kept their
    diameter very small so as to minimize the effect.
    Chris Loffredo, Jul 21, 2006
  8. Dominic Richens

    Colyn Guest

    I have several Contaflex cameras which give me no problems and deliver
    consistant quality so I'm at a loss as to why you say they are fast they are some of the best engineered and built
    cameras around.
    A good CLA and your camera should last for years...
    Colyn, Jul 21, 2006
  9. This doesn't make economic sense. For the price of a professional CLA
    on a Contaflex, you could buy a used Nikkormat that would give you
    better service. And Nikkormats are actually fun cameras for amateur
    repairmen to work on. Everything is modular.

    I stuck with the Contaflex that I bought in 1963 through several
    repairs until 1969, when I finally gave up on it. Too many pictures
    were getting fogged because of incomplete closure of the flap that
    comes down behind the mirror. I gave that camera away, but later
    regretted it because it would have made a nice display.

    For nostalgia's sake, I later acquired examples of just about all the
    Contaflex models. It's rare to find an early one that works as it
    should. Actually, I've yet to find a Contaflex I or II that still
    works. They all have problems with the shutter, diaphragm, or mirror.

    The situation with complex mechanical cameras like the Contaflex is
    similar to the situation with Swiss mechanical watches. I inherited my
    father's fancy Omega self-winding watch. The problem was, it had to be
    professionally cleaned, lubricated, and adjusted every year or so, or
    it would stop telling accurate time (or just stop altogether). At a
    $100 a pop for the CLA, it didn't make sense to keep doing this. I
    bought a cheap Casio digital watch (for about $20) that still tells
    perfect time, without any maintenance, some 20 years later.
    Alexander Arnakis, Jul 22, 2006
  10. Dominic Richens

    Colyn Guest

    There is no such thing as a professional CLA anymore unless you send
    your camera to a vintage camera restoration tech.. I do all of my own
    repairs since I prefer to use vintage cameras which are no longer
    serviced by the maker.
    For that matter you could buy any number of cameras.
    The problem with getting cameras serviced is that most repairmen don't
    do a complete stripdown-clean-relube.. They do a flush clean which
    does not remove all traces of the old lube-dirt.
    The Contaflex and Kodak Retina Reflex as well as a few others use a
    rather complex system of levers etc which if not properly serviced
    will give problems.
    I restored a Contaflex I around 3 or 4 years ago. I later sold it to a
    friend who still uses it on a regular basis. To date he has had no
    The reason it is still working is because during reassembly, I used
    white lithium grease instead of the higher viscoscity moly grease used
    in so many cameras made pre-1970.
    Moly lubes are designed for high stress applications such as cars and
    machines while cameras work better with a lower viscoscity lube.
    I inherited a Rolex submariner watch made in the late 50's in 1977
    from my granddad. I had it CLA'd in 1981 and it still runs fine today
    and keeps good time..are you sure the repairman wasn't just blowing
    out the case with canned air??
    A lot of watch repairmen will do this and dab a bit of oil on a few of
    the spindles and call it a CLA...
    Colyn, Jul 23, 2006
  11. Are you saying that you take Contaflexes apart and put them back
    together? If so, my hat's off to you. I consider myself pretty good at
    things like this, but disassembling a Contaflex beyond a certain point
    is intimidating to me. Remember that the OP asked if he, as someone
    unfamiliar with the camera, could do this.
    Yes, the whole problem in re-lubing is getting the camera apart so
    that the old lube can be removed. Easier said than done.

    I'm not saying that getting a Contaflex apart is impossible. What I'm
    saying is that the "opportunity cost" in terms of time and aggravation
    is too high. For the amount of time it would take to restore one
    Contaflex, you could probably do the same with five Nikkormats. Or,
    you could do any number of rewarding activities outside the camera
    repair field.

    And, after all is said and done and the camera is repaired, what do
    you have? Basically, an obsolete system, even in terms of film cameras
    (and film cameras in general are fast being relegated to dinosaurs
    like us). Remember, a Contaflex was just an advanced-amateur camera
    back in the day. The pros didn't use them then.
    That could have been what happened, but how would I have been in a
    position to know? All you can go on is the general reputation of the
    shop, and the professional attitude of the technicians. They seemed to
    be honest with me, and the watch did work when I got it back from

    After the third repetition of this annual ritual, however, I realized
    the wisest course was simply not to bother with it any more. The
    Casios work fine, and I can replace them every 20 years whether they
    need to be replaced or not.
    Alexander Arnakis, Jul 23, 2006
  12. Dominic Richens

    Colyn Guest

    Been doing it for years.
    Actually I find it fun to tackle difficult repairs..and the reward of
    getting a fine old camera back in working order is worth it
    me at least..
    To the casual user this is very true. However if you want to use these
    cameras it would be a good idea to learn how to maintain them. The
    problem here is most photographers aren't mechanicly inclined and
    therefore can't do the repairs themselvies.
    Nothing is obsolete till it no longer exists..
    You might be surprised at how many film camera users are still around
    and the idea of film going away soon is nothing but a bunch of
    True. but you might be surprised at the following these cameras still
    Colyn, Jul 23, 2006
  13. Colyn,
    Truer words have ne'er been spoken when it comes to my mechanical abilities.
    I am a total waste, which is why I have and use the addresses of several
    qualified camera techs to help me keep my photo hobby gear in top shape.
    How mechanically inept am I?
    Well, I once took apart a broken toaster.
    When I put it back together I had enough parts left to build a radio.
    Ken Rosenbaum, Jul 24, 2006
  14. Dominic Richens

    Colyn Guest

    Did the radio work??
    Colyn, Jul 24, 2006
  15. Ah, the Law of Inanimate Reproduction:
    "Pull something apart and put it back together again often
    enough and you'll have enough parts left over to build a second

    Julian Mattay, email: julian x mattay z csiro x au
    (where x -> dot, z -> at)
    Local IT Bloke
    CSIRO, Forestry and Forest Products Ph: +61 8 8721 8118
    Mt Gambier, South Australia, Australia Fax: +61 8 8723 9058
    Julian Mattay, Jul 24, 2006
  16. Dominic Richens

    Bandicoot Guest

    You could do it with an liquid crystal shutter though, if you really wanted

    Bandicoot, Jul 28, 2006
  17. Dominic Richens

    Bandicoot Guest

    here is most photographers aren't mechanicly


    My dad has a toaster oven that for a while only worked when I was in his
    house: I'd go to visit, whack the toaster and it would work until I went
    home, at which point it would stop working until my next visit.

    This says nothing about my mechanical abilities though, just that some
    toasters seem to like me...

    Bandicoot, Jul 28, 2006
  18. Dominic Richens

    Bandicoot Guest

    Yep. Definitely applies to motorbikes. And if you leave two wire
    coat-hangers together for too long, soon you have a load more.

    Theres more: once (20 years ago) my girlfriend and I both had Barbour waxed
    jackets and she claimed that we shouldn't hang them up together overnight,
    in case we came back in the morning to find a pair of green wellington boots
    by them.

    Bandicoot, Jul 28, 2006
    1. Advertisements

Ask a Question

Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?

You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments (here). After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.