The Only Lens I’ve Ever Fixed

A few weeks back I added to my Pentax K mount CCD DSLRs with a Samsung GX-1S, picked up on that website which shall not be named, for £35.

I wanted the camera mainly, but of some interest also was the lens attached to it, a Hoya HMC Wide-Auto 24mm f/2.8.

24mm on an APS-C sensor DSLR equates to a 36mm field of view (24 x 1.5 crop factor), wider than anything else I have.

When the package arrived though, a quick test revealed the camera to be in working order, but I couldn’t get the aperture blades to move on the lens. Also, the rear element appeared to be loose.

A shame, since the lens was otherwise in very good condition, with a pleasing metal build, smooth focusing and aperture rings, compact size and minimum focus of just beyond 0.27m.

I contacted the seller, who promptly did the decent thing and gave me a partial refund of £10.

Considering the Samsung body a bargain at £25, and the lens a freebie, I thought I might attempt to remove a few screws and see if I could get to the stuck aperture blades.

Now, in the past I’ve attempted to fix a few lenses, most often the wonderful when working but usually broken Pentacon 50/1.8s in M42 mount.

I never had much luck, and wrote a few off, unable to put them back together, though their pocket money price, stiff focus and stuck aperture blades meant I didn’t lose any sleep over the loss.

I think I may have attempted to overhaul a Helios 44 at one point too, again because the focus ring was too stiff to use. Again I failed!

So I didn’t have high hopes for the Hoya, and was prepared for it to end up in the bin, a mass of springs and screws, irrevocably parted.

First I removed the loose rear element – it just unscrewed with my fingers – followed by a couple of washers. This gave me much better access to the lens’s innards and I could now see the blades, wide open.

Moving the aperture ring through its range to and fro I could see the mechanism working, but not the blades. 

So I gently dabbed a cotton bud soaked in lighter fluid around the aperture blades, and gave it a chance to soak in a little.

I managed to remove the aperture ring, and not for the first time in my life heard that sound of a tiny metal ball invisible to the naked eye of anyone over 16, rolling away never to be seen again.

I’m explaining this part away as my entirely intentional act of making the lens a clickless aperture, like a preset lens. 

I then found the lever that moves the aperture blades open and shut, deeper in the bowels of the lens, and eased it tentatively with a screwdriver.

It moved, but the blades didn’t.

So I was ready to right the Hoya off as usable only at maximum aperture (which it performs surprisingly well at), and put it down to make a drink. 

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When I came back and gave that golden lever another poke with the screwdriver, suddenly the aperture blades closed down, like nothing had ever been amiss.

After a few further actuations, I managed to reassemble the lens (minus the microscopic ball bearing probably now claimed by an ant as an exotic metal marble to show off to his family) and mounted it on the Samsung.

And since then, it seems to have worked just fine. 

Using the auto pin, the blades are slightly sluggish to close, but since I’ve discovered I can use semi auto aperture lenses from this era (like all the Pentax-M lenses) on Av mode by fractionally unmounting the lens until the blades close so they then work like a fully manual aperture lens (more on this revelation in an upcoming post), this is a non-issue.

So I feel a minor victory here, not only by being able to fix a lens that had very limited use and seemed (and was!) faulty when I bought it, but also because it gives me a glimmer more confidence should I come across a lens with a similar fault in the future (knowingly or otherwise). 

eBay is littered with lenses with stuck open aperture blades, so it could open up a kind of cheap lens side project.

Or I might just focus on using and enjoying what I have, including this resurrected Hoya 24/2.8!

How about you? Do you ever repair lenses?

Do you specifically seek them out to fix, as a way of making lenses more affordable (or just for fun!)? Or do you, like I did, avoid anything in remote need of maintenance, and leave it to the professionals?

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking.

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12 thoughts on “The Only Lens I’ve Ever Fixed”

  1. This is becoming a problem here as more technicians retire. I have done simple cleaning and repair on Minolta lenses which are pretty easy, and a very few Pentax primes. My favorite tech is cutting back and getting ready to retire so I might have to be more adventurous.

    1. Yes there will come a time when it will be near impossible to find someone who’ll be able to fix and service a classic camera or lens, as I doubt it’s very likely many from younger generations are coming through. Maybe buy a few cheap old lenses listed as spares or repair anyway, just to experiment with?

  2. Congratulations for the victory, Dan. I genuinely appreciate as somebody that tried to repair cameras and not always got success, which was something that made me to enjoy film cameras in daylight, if they don’t work their cheap cost made it not a big loss.

    1. Thanks Francis, I think I was pretty lucky that the lens seems fairly simple in build, and the blades came back to life quick easily. But it does make you wonder how many of those lenses listed with stuck aperture blades might be as straightforward to resurrect… At least we have a fighting chance with old metal mechanical lenses. I dropped a modern Micro Four Thirds lens a while back and it just stopped working – nothing visibly broken, just a camera won’t recognise it’s mounted anymore. I just binned it, I’d have no idea if it was even repairable, let alone how to get into it and understand the electronics…

  3. I have a few lenses with fungus that I’m afraid to open. I bought some JIS screwdrivers but have not had the courage…
    I mangled an SMC-M 50mm f2 once doing exactly what you did. Cheap lens, full of fungus… no loss.
    I have a Tokina 24mm f/2.8 that I did the same thing you did… lost a couple of super small balls (I think these were plastic) and now my lens has a clickless aperture, and doesn’t lock in the A position 🙂 if you keep it there though, the A position works as does the aperture ring in general.
    I would not buy lenses to fix them unless I decided to make some money on the side… and had the time to invest in learning to do it properly. And had a proper work bench to do it…

    1. Yes I think it depends how expensive and rare the lens is. If it’s cheap and plentiful, then no great loss if you don’t get anywhere with it (or destroy it!)
      .
      If a lens has a bit of fungus but it’s not obviously having any impact on the final image then it’s probably not worth trying to open it up.

      With your Tokina, I’d probably just put some tape across the aperture ring so it couldn’t move from A and just control it in camera.

      Like you I’ve had thoughts of buying broken lenses and fixing them for profit, and I’ve done it a little – not necessarily broken ones, just ones in lots or where the seller hasn’t known the worth etc – but yes it needs a certain set up and commitment. Not just the tools and space, but stuff like packaging and boxes and regular trips to the post office and so on. Not worth it unless you’re doing it considerable volume and making a worthwhile amount per lens. Then you have to allow for lenses you buy not being in the condition you hoped, eBay fees etc, it becomes a chore for little end gain. I’d rather be out using the cameras and lenses!

  4. I’ve never worked up the courage to disassemble any of my lenses. I had an opportunity to apprentice with Wollensack in Rochester NY but when they saw my congenital hand tremor they made it clear that I would not be doing any fine work. I opted for RCA Institutes instead.

    1. Yes, I find much fine detail work quite frustrating, and don’t really have the patience and eyesight for it, as much as the dexterity. This job which involved removing only three screws and unscrewing a couple of further pieces would probably be about my limit Doug!

  5. I bought a Fujica ST901 at a charity shop with an EBC 50mm f1.4 and EBC 28mm f2.8 for $25. Both lenses suffered from a light amount of haze which was easily cleaned, and stuck aperture blades.

    I tore down the 50mm further than I should have, reducing it to a pile of parts as I couldn’t get the helical realigned. Armed with the knowledge gained from that lens, the cleaning of the 28mm went flawlessly.

    Losing the 50mm hurts only because I saw what folks on that one website are asking for it, so replacing it was out of the question.

    I’ve tried cleaning up a couple of zooms, knowing that my chances of success were small and as I expected, I was not successful.

    Fortunately, none of them cost me anything substantial.

    1. Ah did you wish afterwards you’d stripped down the 28mm first? I had a lovely Fuji 55/1.8 in M42 mount, very compact and fantastic results. I mentioned it in my Fabulous 55s post. I wasn’t aware of a 50/1.4, is that M42 or the later Fuji mount? I’m thinking it’s still M42 mount?

      1. There are two Fuji 50mm f1.4 versions. The original is in standard M42 mount for the earlier Fuji ST cameras (ST601, ST605, ST701) I have one of these that I got from a charity auction paired with a ST701, both in excellent condition except for some haze, dust and one small spot of fungus in the lens. They both cleaned up beautifully. It also has thoriated glass, so it has that yellowed front element similar to the Takumar and Yashica 1.4/50’s

        The newer EBC coated version is the Fuji-modified M42 mount for the later ST801, ST901 and ST705 cameras with AV exposure. This is the one I wrecked.

        I think it would hurt equally if I had lost either one of them. Fuji didn’t make a lot of the later EBC coated M42’s so the prices on the Site That Shall Not Be Named are absolutely ludicrous. I’ve seen sellers asking over $100 for fungus infested copies.

        In a bit of clever engineering, Fuji built the aperture blades into a round capsule that could be removed from the lens as a unit. On the 50mm, this was stuck in the barrel by lubricant, so I mistakenly tore the lens down further to extract it. This is when I discovered that I could have broken it loose earlier in the process with a small amount of naptha around the sides. I spent hours working on it, but I could never get the thing back together properly after that.

        The 28mm went much better with the hard won knowledge I gained with the 50. The aperture capsule came out much easier on that one also. I cleaned the capsule, blades and barrel in naptha, cleaned up the glass elements and reassembled it and now it “works a treat” as you would say.

      2. Arggh, lenses are so fiddly, I don’t know anyone has the patience ha ha! I can’t believe I had the patience and luck to fix this Hoya 24mm.

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