Vintage Lens Restoration

Restored to like new condition, ready to make beautiful images.

Given my profession of servicing lenses and the nature of such a precise vocation, I’ve become somewhat compulsive over the past decade. Some might even argue that I’m just downright anal about details. I wouldn’t disagree with that at all. I can’t stand imperfections or flaws. I feel compelled to perfect every minor detail that is within my capacity and even sometimes beyond my capacity, either succeeding or failing, but always learning. This became something of a curse when I started collecting cameras and lenses a while back. I would buy cheap “junk” off of eBay that looked pretty good in the auction photos, but upon arrival, the items were almost always worse than they appeared in the photos, which I came to expect. I couldn’t spend a ton of money on mint condition collectors items as my fiancé would be rather upset if $1000 was used to purchase a 25 year old film camera or lens. So I did my best to find good deals and restore them. It has become quite a painstaking hobby. I consider these dirty, beat-up old cameras and lenses a challenge. I wish I had taken more photos of the equipment I’ve restored prior to their make-over but I really didn’t think much of it at the time. I just wanted my collection to be clean and tidy. The tools and techniques I use on a daily basis have proven to be most valuable to such restorations, allowing me to cleanse, machine, anodize, and essentially re-engineer parts that were otherwise ugly and useless. Continue reading Vintage Lens Restoration

Keeping Your Lenses Clean

Yes, that is a spider inside a lens. This was a 600mm Nikkor that came back from “Survivor”, shooting in Africa. The customer was noting a “soft image”…

A lot of people have asked about cleaning lenses and dust in the optics. I’ve considered doing a few short videos on glass cleaning techniques and tips but never really went through with it. It’s difficult to explain, it’s a skill that comes with years of practice. It’s like asking a surgeon how to perform surgery… He can explain and even demonstrate, but that doesn’t mean you should attempt it yourself. Thus, I always say the best way to clean your lenses is to not let them get dirty. I do a lot of work with still photo lenses these days with the whole DSLR revolution and all and every now and then I get a request to clean some dust, dirt, or debris from inside an otherwise pristine Canon or Nikon lens or similar. I almost always have to turn people down simply because the cost of labor compared to the cost of the lens is prohibitive. Your average Canon Eos lens costs a few hundred bucks. The average time to disassemble a lens enough to access debris inside the optics, clean in out (properly), re-lubricate, reassemble, align and collimate optics, is about 4-6 hours if not more. This amount of time in service can equal or exceed the value of the lens, in which case it’s usually better just to buy a new lens. Some people like to think that the “Pro” lenses with their weather sealing are immune to dust and contamination but that’s simply not true. They are better at keeping contamination out, but not perfect. Some of the higher end L glass would be worth a good cleaning if it’s a specific lens you are partial to. The cost:value ratio prohibition doesn’t usually apply with cinema lenses. Even professional cinema lenses get dust in them on a regular basis, but these lenses are designed to be serviced and cleaned. If you shoot in a clean studio environment and keep your lenses in well sealed cases when they aren’t in use, you probably won’t see much dust in them over their life. If you’re a run-and-gun shooter, swapping lenses constantly in the desert, you’re going to have problems with dust and debris sooner or later. I have a client that shoots motocross events for a living with his Epic camera and a couple of Angenieux zooms. His lenses get destroyed on a regular basis, coming back from jobs covered in dust, dirt, mud, everything that doesn’t belong in a lens. The lenses are worth quite a bit which makes cleaning them worthwhile for him. We clean them up, calibrate them, and send them back into the field to shoot again. Continue reading Keeping Your Lenses Clean