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Cleaning an old Argus rangefinder (or other old camera)

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  • #2354
    ravnostic
    Participant

    One of the upcoming themes is “Purely Film”, photos taken with emulsion-based, rather than digital based, cameras.

    I have a couple. I didn’t spend much on them. I don’t want to spend much on them (at this point.) But I do want them to perform as well as they can for the contest, so I’m wondering how to go about cleaning them at least semi-adequately. All seals and such are plenty intact. I think it’s lens cleaning that’s needed. Beyond that, I guess there’s intrinsic characteristics to the camera design that I’ll accept.

    Any thoughts? Pictures of the two Argus Range Finders and the Kodak Flash Bantam can be found in the linked thread below. Thoughts on how to modify 35mm film for the Kodak? I’d like to see what it could do.

    I’m willing to experiment, and am not married to these cameras; they’re easy enough to come by so if I screw up or ruin them, no great loss. All in the name of learning, and that.

    Please and thank you.

    http://farktography.net/index.php?name=PNphpBB2&file=viewtopic&t=2209

    And, FWIW, a gallery where I posted pictures from the Argus cameras.

    http://farktography.net/index.php?name=PNphpBB2&file=viewtopic&t=2237

    //idit–oops forgot to add that last.

    #40287
    orionid
    Participant

    Re: the Argus, I can’t go into hard details as I sold mine without reconditioning it, though the glass looked good to begin with.

    But, I can speak in general for film cameras as a whole. Look for screws around the base of the barrel. Often times the actual mounting screws are below a decorative (or functional if it has f/stop or lens speed markings on it) band of thin black metal. There should be two or three around the barrel. Sometimes, they’re mounted through the insides and removing the lenses requires ripping the whole damn thing apart. An other, easier, though more antiquated possibility is that the elements are ring mounted and screw into the barrel directly. You’ll need either a good set of needlenose pliers and a steady hand or, depending on the diameter, a pin wrench or an optical spanner wrench may be necessary.

    You may also luck out and only have uglies on the outer surfaces, such that disassembly isn’t required to clean.

    For most things, light fungus, dirt, etc., 90% or better isopropanol (rubbing alcohol) or ethanol and a q-tip works perfectly. Remember, though, that technical grade is cleaner than food grade so don’t go wasting your everclear. And don’t drink the tech grade ethanol. They spike it with poisons to avoid liquor tax.

    For harder fungi, glues, or hardened lubricants, acetone works a little bit better, although sometimes you’ll have to let it soak. Nail Polish Remover is okay, tech grade acetone is better. For really PITA stuff, if you can find toluene based nail polish remover or tech grade toluene, that’s the way to go. Agfa/Ansco used cyano acrylite gel as a lube for years. You probably know it’s brother, cyano acrylate (superglue). As it turns out, the “ite” variety works just as well as a glue, it just has a cure time of 50 years-ish. That takes a repeated cycle of heating to 350 in the oven, soaking in acetone, scraping with a hardened steel scribe, and returning to the oven. Don’t bake your toluene.

    If you use a blended solvent like nail polish remover, go back after the fact and wash with isopropanol or ethanol to remove residues.

    For the moving parts, try just just cleaning them with alcohol. If they’re sticking from a loss of finished surface or corrosion buildup and regular cleaning won’t keep them in swift moving order, you’ll want to lean towards a vaporous solvent based lube. The easiest way to go is to spray WD-40 or JB-80 (same shit, off brand) into the cap, dab it in place with a q-tip. and let it sit overnight before reassembling – that way all the vapors can evaporate. Using oil-based lubes will only cause the oil to migrate somewhere else over time. Like the outside of the camera, or worse, across the glass. If you have the space, cleanup ability, and assurance that you can keep it off the glass, neolube is neat stuff, too. It’s graphite dissolved in isopropanol, so the alcohol carries the graphite into the tiniest of moving spaces, evaporates out overnight (might want to sit a couple days to be safe) leaving the dry graphite behind. Then, once dry, go back with a dry q-tip to swab up any graphite residue that’s outside the moving parts (on on a rapid moving part that could sling it away, like a shutter)

    For putting 35mm in the bantam, you’ll want one of these: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/70983-REG/Kalt_NP10102_Large_Changing_Bag_Double.html and a couple of these: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/86474-REG/General_Brand_NP21100_1_35mm_Cassette_for_Bulk.html And if you don’t have any, from the camera, a pair of 828 spools.

    First, setup the camera: Tape over the rear view window. If you had actual 828 film and a way to develop it, you’d want this window, but for 35mm and some pimply faced kid at CVS, it needs to go. I recommend a layer of aluminum duct or flashing tape to seal it light tight, and a layer of gaffers tape or electrical tape to block the aluminum from reflecting.

    Then, put your camera, a new roll of 35mm film, both 828 spools, a pair of scissors, and a roll of masking tape inside your changing bag.

    Working inside the bag, cut the lead edge of the film square. Tape it to one 828 spool. Roll the entirety of the film onto the 828 spool. Cut off the end of the film from the 35mm cartridge and tape that end to the other 828 spool. Install both spools into the camera with the empty one on the take up side and the emulsion facing the lens, close up the camera, and exit the bag.

    I’d recommend sacrificing a roll to practice this once or twice outside the bag to get a feel for it. This also helps to figure out the amount of turning on the advance wheel to go one frame. Or you could fashion a plastic clicker to count sprocket holes as you wind.

    Go forth and shoot, using the sunny-16 rule to figure out required shutter speeds.

    When the roll is done (the winder won’t turn anymore, due to the film being taped to the supply spool), put it back in your changing bag along with an empty reload cartridge. Open the reload, take the film and tape off the 828 spool and attach it to the 35mm spool. Wind the entire length of film onto the 35mm spool, then remove the tape and spool from the other 828 roll. Put the 35mm spool inside the cartridge and cap it. It helps the snot-nosed teenagers at the local film counter if everything faces the same way a standard 35mm cartridge works. A seasoned developer at a pro-shop will figure it out if something’s backwards without any issue. Put some masking tape on the outside of the cartridge and write C-41 on it in big letters. I’ve had *cough*walmart*cough* people tell me “I can’t develop this because it doesn’t say C-41.”

    Tell them:
    a) It was shot in a non-standard camera, so spacing will be off. No, they did not screw something up.
    b) Please don’t cut the negatives. You’ll be less likely to cut uncle Fred in half than they will if the cut the first frame and expect standard spacing from there out.
    c) Please return your cartridge.

    Then, go home and scan. Yay.

    #40286
    ravnostic
    Participant

    Wow, I figured you’d have some good advise, but I think you could write a book on the subject now. What’s the sunny 16 rule (f/16?)

    I’m fortunate to have a real camera shop in town, I can ezplane, dey will git it.

    Thanks! 😀

    #40285
    orionid
    Participant

    Sunny 16 as follows:

    If ISO/ASA = 1/(Shutter Speed) then:
    Full Sun – f/16
    High haze overcast – f/11
    Normal Overcast – f/8
    Heavy Overcast – f/5.6

    Adjust variables stop for stop,

    Example, if your film is 100 ASA, and you’re shooting in full sun, then go to f/16 and 1/100 shutter speed. If you want a shallower DoF, and you open to f/4, that’s 4 stops, so you’ll need to speed the shutter up to 1/1600 (which isn’t going to be likely on an old camera). You could use 25 ASA and 1/200, though.

    #40284
    orionid
    Participant

    Beyond the quick thumbrule, you’ll want a lightmeter.

    #40283
    ravnostic
    Participant

    I do have a light meter–an old one, one of the estate sale finds. I noticed when using it last time that it gave me readings that came out too dark–but then, if the lenses are dirty, or the shutter is sticky…there’s some learning curves I’ll need to toy with.

    #40288
    ravnostic
    Participant

    Update: The lens-cleaning portion went remarkably well (considering it was my first time doing so.) It’s obvious from the amount of yellowing on the now-white focus and shutter rings that this came from the home of a serious smoker, when smoking was cool and glamorous.

    On the old Argus Rangefinder (the one with 10 shutter speeds and f/3.5-18; I think 1939-41 IIRC?), the front lens piece just rotates off from it’s mount. There’s an center one as well, which unscrews with some special wide-arse screwdriver which I don’t have, but I made do (carefully) with a letter opener. The main housing which holds them also unscrews, exposing the backside of the third lens piece. It was clear (so to speak) that there was some serious gunk between the outer and center lens, but I took them all apart to clean both sides of all three.

    I have isoprop at 91%, but that left residue, so I used a cleaner that came with my digital cleaning kit. Several Q-tips later (6 or 7), I deemed them ready for reassembly, however I kept finding as I assembled and viewed, I could see this smudge or that, this cotton hair or that. But I persisted, excepting one single spot flaw that appears to be within the center glass piece itself. The cotton I removed with tweezers–no mean feat; hard to see up close though easy to see once the lenses started going back together. There’s gunk on the inside of the focus view-piece, but I’m not going to worry about that; the outsides are plenty clean enough to see through.

    Having refreshed on my instructions for operation, I’m loaded with film and ready to shoot. Finding a subject to shoot–another matter. And I did not do any work on the shutter function, but I let that go for now, as well (I think I’ll tackle that on the ‘newer’ circa 1945ish one, for the learn curve experience, before doing so on this one.)

    As it happens I have two rolls of ASA 200 film, I’ll try for shots in shadowy areas; it’s a full sunny day and the shutter *theoretically* only goes to 1/300th second.

    I can buy rolls of ASA 100 later. I’m also thinking a couple of 400 or 800, as I do still have my bulb-release do-hickey from my old minolta, and it would be interesting to take some night-time photos, maybe some astro-photos (some of my first pictures with my first camera were astroshots–crappy ones, but they were pretty okay for a kid of 16 with his first camera and no idea how to use it.

    Thanks again for the advice!!

    #40282
    sleeping
    Participant

    As it happens I have two rolls of ASA 200 film, I’ll try for shots in shadowy areas; it’s a full sunny day and the shutter *theoretically* only goes to 1/300th second.

    Even if 1/300 is closer to 1/125 you should be fine with 200 speed film in full daylight @F16, as long as you’re using negative film. It’s generally pretty tolerant of overexposure – the rated speed is generally the fastest speed that will give good results, but many negative films actually look a little bit better shot somewhat under their rated speed anyway.

    #40281
    ravnostic
    Participant

    Good to know, sleeping. Just shot the first roll and took it to CVS for processing (I’m not paying camera shop prices for a completely experimental roll.) Different settings, lighting, etc. Wrote everything down so I’ll have some sort of reference. Should have them back in about an hour.

    While I’ll probably never do film photography in earnest, it is something I’d like to get to know a bit better; if nothing else, it’s my only full frame ‘sensor’ camera. 🙂

    #40289
    bandy
    Participant

    I do have a light meter–an old one, one of the estate sale finds. I noticed when using it last time that it gave me readings that came out too dark–but then, if the lenses are dirty, or the shutter is sticky…there’s some learning curves I’ll need to toy with.

    Unless the meter was kept in the dark (does it have a large-ish front surface with raised dots/bubbles on it? If so, it’s a Selenium meter and ? is no longer to be trusted) inside of a closet or cabinet, it probably does not work reliably.

    Film has a wider range of exposure latitude than does a digital sensor, so you can eyeball most of the time and come out looking good. Don’t forget that you can scan your negs and fix them up in post, of course.

    The shutter is likely a little sticky. Don’t bother loading film in and just cock and fire it over and over, say at 1/100th of a second. You should be able to hear the difference as the old lubrication gets un-gummed and it starts working well enough. The slow speeds are likely to be useless, but down to 1/30th, you should be able to hear/time that yourself. Once you have the shutter rolling well, then it’s time to go out and shoot.

    #40290
    ennuipoet
    Participant

    When the roll is done (the winder won’t turn anymore, due to the film being taped to the supply spool), put it back in your changing bag along with an empty reload cartridge. Open the reload, take the film and tape off the 828 spool and attach it to the 35mm spool. Wind the entire length of film onto the 35mm spool, then remove the tape and spool from the other 828 roll. Put the 35mm spool inside the cartridge and cap it. It helps the snot-nosed teenagers at the local film counter if everything faces the same way a standard 35mm cartridge works. A seasoned developer at a pro-shop will figure it out if something’s backwards without any issue. Put some masking tape on the outside of the cartridge and write C-41 on it in big letters. I’ve had *cough*walmart*cough* people tell me “I can’t develop this because it doesn’t say C-41.”

    Tell them:
    a) It was shot in a non-standard camera, so spacing will be off. No, they did not screw something up.
    b) Please don’t cut the negatives. You’ll be less likely to cut uncle Fred in half than they will if the cut the first frame and expect standard spacing from there out.
    c) Please return your cartridge.

    Then, go home and scan. Yay.


    😀

    #40291
    Kestrana
    Participant

    +1

    #40292
    orionid
    Participant

    Bra-vo.

    #40293
    nobigdeal
    Participant

    Stealing that!

Viewing 14 posts - 1 through 14 (of 14 total)
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