Light seal replacement

advice for various cameras

Vintage camera light seal replacement

A.B. Donald Ltd – camera light seal replacement.

Many vintage cameras need this repair due to light seal deterioration over time.  We are experienced and have the necessary tools for this work, however all these cameras are vintage – maybe 30 to more than 50 years old. Existing, inherent mechanical problems may be present and whilst we take all care we can accept no responsibility for any existing defects. Light seal replacement work is undertaken on this basis.  We do this work ourselves and do not out source. The cost of light seal replacement depends on the difficulty encountered removing deteriorated seal material. We can give an estimate but the final cost will reflect our experience with your particular camera.

We work with these brands: Canon, Minolta, Olympus, Yashica, Pentax, Voigtlander.  If you have a different camera needing light seal replacement please contact us.

Vintage camera light seals are not hard to replace but it is a finicky and time consuming job. If seals have deteriorated to a crumbly, powdery state then replacement is necessary. If they are not replaced then any film shot with the camera may be light fogged. If you are comfortable with precise, close quarters work using small tools then the job of light seal replacement should be added to your ‘to do’ list. If not so proficient with this type of work then we can help, especially with these cameras.  Olympus 35SP, 35RC, 35LC, XA, Minolta Hi-matic 7SII, 7S, Canon QL17-GIII, Pentax K1000. If you own any of these cameras and it needs seal renewal we can help.

Generally, older (1960s - 1980) rangefinders and slrs require this refurbishment. We work with 35mm cameras , however some medium format - older bellows types and twin lens models - will be light seal compromised.

 

Most importantly don’t start the work before organising everything needed to complete the job. Don’t rush  and don’t get called away halfway through. You can take a break once the old seals are removed and channels cleaned, before the refitting process is commenced.

Have a clean, uncluttered work surface  covered with a jeweller’s or electronic technician’s work mat, at a height that is comfortable to use for an extended time. Good light is vital – natural is fine provided it is stable, however an artificial source is better and more reliable. LED illumination provides strong light without heat. A desk top magnifier LED lamp provides this light plus a magnified view of the work underway.

Reasonable ventilation is also important as you will be working with a powerful solvent with potentially harmful fumes. In reality, unless this is your regular daily job, or you are especially sensitive to these products,  the exposure to isopropyl alcohol fumes is undesirable but not greatly harmful for the short period usually involved,  however a good idea to wear a face mask graded for the desired protection level. Resistant surgical type gloves could also be worn but I find these inhibit the work too much. When finished with the cleaning of the old seals simply wash hands prolifically with soap and water. Very definitely keep anything to do with this job out of reach of children. Sharp tools, small parts and a dangerous chemical.

 

Assemble these items before starting –

  • isopropyl alcohol (surgical spirit). Used for softening old seal material and cleaning out channels. This will clean accumulated dirt, hand grease and most other surface contaminants from metals and some plastics. Be careful with plastic, especially the leatherette coverings on camera bodies. Usually works well but try a less noticeable area first before vigorously cleaning the main camera body.

  • Unbleached paper towels.

  • Technical quality pointed tweezers – use for manipulating the new foam seals into position.

  • Craft knife (X-acto) is a good quality USA made brand – use for trimming seals.

  • A super fine nozzle hypodermic oiler is ideal for precisely delivering solvent to old seal to be removed.

  • Kincrome mini pick set – a dental pick will also do – use for gently picking out old seal from corners and channel ends.

  • A small stiff brush – use for final brush out of seal channels before new seals are fitted.

  • Bamboo skewer sticks, wooden toothpicks, bamboo ice block sticks – use for cleaning out seal channels once old seal material has softened after application of solvent. These being wooden, the channels won’t be damaged by scraping.

  • Cotton buds (Q-tips) – use for a final solvent clean of seal channels.

  • A fine tipped burnisher – use for pressing new seals into their final positions.

  • Low tack, wide masking tape – use to cover shutter curtain on slrs and the lens housing on rangefinders. Preventing old seal material falling into the camera interior is important.

 

When fitting the new seals, because they are self adhesive and you may need to readjust their position after fitting, some means of delaying the adhesive is desirable. Water is the best, isopropyl alcohol also works but has a very fast evaporation time, with the longest delay being gained from a plain hand sanitising gel like Kemsol Microban. If Kemsol is used seals need to be left overnight to fully adhere. Dip fingers in whatever agent you use and moisten the adhesive strip on the seal, first removing the backing then manoeuvre seal into it’s place, adjusting as necessary. Licking is also an option mentioned on several websites but for me this would be rather unhygienic. Not recommended.

 

The key to success with light seal replacement is the total removal of the old seals along with absolute cleaning of the light seal channels. New seals will not adhere into channels still contaminated with old seal material. The second key is – take the time to do a good job. Any rush will inevitably result in failure and wasting of the new seal kit you have just attempted to fit. The third key is to purchase precut seals, prepared specifically for the camera you intend working with. It is possible to purchase suitable adhesive foam in bulk but it is impossible to accurately cut thin seal strips from this with even the very best craft knife. It is a false economy. The result if incorrectly sized seals are fitted is the potential for the film door to be jammed shut. I know this – it has happened to me.

 

The very best laser cut seals can be obtained from uscamera.com. They stock for a lot of vintage rangefinders and slrs. They also provide notes on installation. Very much worth consulting. One important and interesting comment which I have come across, is dealing with a damaged seal channel. These can become damaged if the camera has suffered a knock or, hopefully not, a drop. The close fitting outer cover is dinged with the ding passed through to the door seal channel. Rather similar to a head trauma. Do not attempt to straighten the door channel as it may simply snap off. If the channel is too badly misshapen the seal replacement may not be possible and the camera becomes an ornament.

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