Jump to content
Alan7140

I'm not quite sure how this came to pass...

Recommended Posts

...but two years ago I was fully digital with an extensive Fuji-X outfit and a Sigma sd Quattro-H and some classic lenses as my main working tools, and the only vestige I had of my initial 35 years in film photography was an all-but abandoned Mamiya RB/RZ outfit. However with retirement looming, I dipped back into film with some pretty cheap 35mm Soviet-bloc cameras and lenses with the intent of teaching younger people with no experience in B&W film the ins-and-outs of its use and processing (which has garnered some interested participants), but unexpectedly I also took a slight detour into 120/6x6cm film gear with some eBay-bought equipment, namely Soviet Kiev-60 and DDR Pentacon Six cameras with both Zeiss and some Soviet lenses which I steadily accumulated over the interim period to the present.

 

While the Kiev-60 cameras and Soviet lenses were rough and lacking in finesse to use, the Pentacon Six cameras proved the opposite - once a few basic rules in loading and advancing the film were mastered (and four bodies bought to end up with two working properly),  I found the gear a delight to use, the Carl Zeiss Jena lenses are superb in both use and results (although their age has meant a further side-track in learning how to dismantle, clean, re-lubricate and reassemble these lenses), and I am now shooting film of one sort or another all the time, my digital cameras being assigned as a method to 'scan' the negatives, and take photographs of the film gear :D . I also have bought an outfit of OM-1 camera and four lenses, and a Minolta SRT 101 with two lenses (so far) which, when I find a decent 135mm f/2.8 Rokkor PF lens will duplicate the outfit I started the tertiary photography course with in February 1971 that in turn ended up in over 45 years of a full-time career in photography.

 

Back to the title of this post - on Friday I received a sturdy case for the Pentacon Six cameras with each of the system's Zeiss lenses: 4/50, 2,8/80, 2,8/120, 2,8/180 and 4/300. I also included the Soviet Zodiak 3,5/30 fisheye in the case, but it wasn't until I had fitted everything into the foam padding that it dawned on me that not only had I gone in completely the opposite direction to the smaller/lighter quest I had travelled on with digital, but that perhaps I had gone a bit overboard.

 

My 'go-to' outfit now looks like this (and yes, I do keep lens caps on the lenses at all times, but for purposes of appearance in the photo I removed those), and weighs a mere 13.6 kilos (~30lbs) including the case 🙄:

 

nMtHE5K.jpg

 

As I also mentioned, servicing the lenses has been another unintended skill I have been picking up.

 

Most recently the 2,8/180 suffered the common (for that lens) 'stuck-open-aperture' fault which no amount of slapping or jolting the lens would cure, so this became the first lens that I completely dismantled - right down to separating the elements to clean 40-odd years of accumulated dust and grime from within. The trickiest thing, however, was to re-insert the aperture blade assembly back to its spot in its position deep in the lens body.

 

The blades would pop out at the slightest bump or judder as they rely on a fixed ring inside the lens to hold them in place when pushed home against it, and after a nearly day of trying I finally lost patience and used a blob of Blu-Tack to hold the lower support rings together while sliding the assembly into the near friction-fit of the lens barrel, and removing the blob afterwards with tweezers. It worked like a charm first go, and the following photos are of the aperture blades being reassembled after cleaning, and of the completed lens assembly, aperture in place and working like new.

 

Removing the old grease in the h focusing helicoid and replacing it with modern white lithium grease made a world of difference to the smoothness and ease of focusing, and for the price of some hours of working through problems and a couple of squirts of lithium grease I have a lens that is almost as good as new. For the sense of achievement alone it was worth it :) I would hate to even begin to try anything like this on a modern plastic, electronic and glued lens with any chance of success, maybe that's another reason I'm being taken back by film.

 

j0yJpBK.jpg

 

AoD1Em8.jpg

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My word Alan, your lenses look pristine.  Worth removing the caps for this image.

 

Where do you source the white lithium grease you use and did you need different grades for different lengths of helicoids (as I understand to be the case)?

 

(BTW, have you any film still left in your deep freeze? :))

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hugh, I'm very careful with my selection of lenses before hitting the 'buy now' button, which is why it's taken so long to get the set. The condition of the glass is always at the top of my pass/fail list.

 

I'm also being frugal with my film consumption - in other words I'm getting back to the shooting discipline of thinking, evaluating and either dismissing or accepting before pressing the shutter button, so I'm still getting through frozen stocks on hand. I'll be having to buy 400 ISO from now on, but with winter over and the equinox fast approaching, I'll be using more and more of the 100, 50 and even some Agfa 25 ISO film, of which I have numerous rolls. I even have five rolls of Tech Pan, which these days is worth its weight in gold to die-hards and collectors, I believe.

 

As for the lithium grease - I'm just using what I can easily get (WD40 White Lithium), but applying it very sparingly, dispensing it first into a small container and then wiping it on by following the threads with a cotton bud, then wiping any excess off with a lint-free cloth after first thoroughly cleaning the threads with a toothbrush and isopropyl. I now also have the confidence to unscrew and reseat helicoids so that I get the indexing right and don't have to spend hours assembling, disassembling and trying again to find the correct entrance thread alignment as I did with my first effort, so replacing the grease (should that ever be necessary) will not be a problem.

 

Like many things, I think internet advice might be a bit overly pedantic on grease - the thickness with which the original grease was caked on defies belief and in hardening with age it literally gummed up the threads. It was also prone to migrating due to the excess which is what causes the aperture blades to bind. I don't apply anywhere near that thickness of lithium grease as they applied the original grease, so there's not enough to migrate even if it were prone to that, and it is formulated not to dry out so that, too, shouldn't be a problem.

 

The difference doing this to the lenses has to be felt to be believed - my oldest lens, a late 1950's CZJ 2,8/80 was so stiff it was nearly impossible to focus properly while hand-holding the camera; it is now as smooth as silk, very light to turn with no backlash or creep, and I reckon it's better than it was when new. As well there was haze under the front element which was removed easily with isopropyl alcohol. The lens only cost me around US$75 because of all this as well as a stuck-open aperture - this I managed to fix without having to remove the aperture blades simply by removing the element groups and flushing the aperture assembly repeatedly with  lighter fluid, then alcohol while the lens was apart to re-grease the helicoid. Six months later it is still working fine, so until it gets stuck again, I'll consider it fixed.

 

I've also learned to use only original rear caps (not cheap aftermarket slip-ons) as they provide enough clearance for the stop-down pin which allows the aperture to be fully closed when capped - so I always fully close the aperture when removing the lens, and likewise if I'm storing the camera with a lens attached I always leave it uncocked so the aperture is in its closed state - that stops things getting stuck wide-open (the P6 works backwards to many auto-stop-down cameras in that it holds the aperture wide open with pressure for focusing which is released at moment of exposure to stop down the lens rather than the other way around).

 

As I noted, the Pentacon Six does have its idiosyncratic operating rules, and I'll admit to having learned most through trial and error (mostly error), but once it knocks you into shape in fine Teutonic tradition, it is an absolute delight to use - it's one of the best handling medium format cameras I've ever used, and it leaves abominations like the RB/RZ Mamiyas in the dust in that regard. It's even nicer to use than my Hasselblads were, which isn't surprising as its design post dates the 'blad concept by nearly a decade. Pentacon obviously decided that an enlarged Pentacon F 35mm camera was a safer bet than the awkward-to-hold box shape of the 'blad, and I think they may well have been right. However, as there were only serial numbers into the mid-200,000's used, the supply of these things will become increasingly rare, particularly as broken ones are by necessity fixed with parts from other badly-broken ones. Fingers crossed that my pair will last a long time, but I will probably buy one more for insurance if a good one comes up at the right price, but the prices have doubled in two years, so that might be a forlorn hope.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Alan, thank you for the information on the lithium grease.

In pricing grease for lens helicoids from the US, Micro-Tools want a huge $US32.52 for 8ml of their helicoid greases (available in three grades), whilst over on Amazon,  MicroLubrol Helimax-XP Camera Telescope Optical Instrument Focusing Helicoid Grease w/ PTFE 1oz 28g is selling for $US12.95 for 28ml.  Add postage on top of either of these two sources and suddenly one is paying a whopingly huge lot of dough!

 

 

I have a Nikon 55mm f/2.8 AiS Micro Nikkor whose helicoid grease has like many of these lenses transmuted itself into an oily goo and I am facing up to the task of pulling it down and thoroughly cleaning the diaphragm mechanism and completely replacing the helicoid grease, so your input has been valuable to me. 

Many thanks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No worries, Hugh - my info is colloquial at best, though, just me improvising on the side of logic and a bit of thrift over some idealistic and expensive standard.

 

I've already been stung something like $30 earlier for a tiny 1ml of "Swiss watch oil" when I tried (but failed) to clean the clockwork mechanism of the first Pentacon Six I bought, and I really thought "WTF" when it arrived in its tiny glass vial - it looked and smelled like any light mineral machine oil. Maybe it has magical properties when used with the tiny, high precision gears in a watch, but seriously, the clockwork gears of the Pentacon Six are large, relatively coarse and any light machine oil with adhering properties would likely have done the job for almost zero cost for the one or two drops required.

 

Likewise, helicoid channels are relatively wide, and while they are a precision fit, they will turn without binding when assembled cleaned but totally dry, so any lubrication is a bonus rather than an essential necessity I would have thought. Sure it will reduce wear over a long period, but realistically the focus ring is mostly turned very slowly and not all that often through its full travel either, so for an individual user to wear the helicoid out in shooting film in a non-commercial environment is highly unlikely.

 

Besides, I figured if I had pulled the lens down myself and reassembled it OK, repeating the exercise shouldn't be all that difficult should it start to feel as though it is dry or it starts squeaking.

 

So far I have used this WD40 white lithium and before that Inox-mx6 Premium Machinery Grease (fully synthetic/food grade), and none of the lenses so treated have shown any adverse signs at all. I found the white lithium easier to spread and easier to get coverage into sharp corners, whereas the Inox was harder to apply smoothly and seemed a bit resistant to sticking to the surface of the metal, leaving dry patches here and there.
 

I haven't counted up the cost of the 120 kit I've assembled, but all up, including the dud cameras and the hefty postage charges , I doubt it would have been much more than US $1,500 (AUD ~$2,200), if indeed even that much. To me that is a whopping bargain when I consider that would have been about the cost of my Fujinon 50-140mm f2.8  LM OIS WR lens on its own.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It turns out that I already have some of the INOX-MR6 grease left over from a food mixer repair, but the WD40 White Lithium grease that I see at Repco is only available in a spray can. 

 

Did you just spray some onto say a piece of plastic or glass sheet and then get a little of the grease from there once the propellant dispersed or is it available in a non-spray version?

 

TIA.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, I sprayed it into the glass part lid of a large Moccona freeze dried coffee jar.

 

These things are the best small hold-alls ever invented - invert the lid and detach the cupped plastic seal, and you have a glass bowl and a smaller plastic bowl, or you can press the plastic inner lid back and it becomes a small jar. I have many of them (and an indictment on my caffeine addiction). The glass part with its turned-in lip is also great for holding small screws, springs and the like when repairing lenses - they can't accidentally roll of the bench, yet they're easily picked up out of the bowl with a magnetic jewellers screwdriver when needed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By visiting this website you are agreeing to our Terms of Use, Privacy Policy & Guidelines.