Heresy! Cleaning an SLR mirror with ROR and a QTip (Don't do this! Ha ha!)

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by bradleycloven, May 1, 2018.

  1. So I'm cobbling together two old Nikon FEs (my favorite!), and they've both been living in grunge-ville for decades. Both bodies are essentially parts bodies, and I have already gotten my value from their lenses or other components of a batch buy. So I have nothing to lose!

    I slammed all the best parts into a single body, did a whole lot of repair, and I'm staring through the viewfinder at a really ugly dirty mess. What to do? Of course I removed the focusing screen and cleaned it properly. I used a rocket blower on the mirror and the underside of the prism. Still a huge amount of grime.

    Next, I went after the prism with Residual Oil Remover on a Q-tip, a trick I've used a few times to good effect. Improvement, but still foggy / grungy / dusty / speckled.

    Okay, it's that danged mirror. In spite of all advice to the contrary, I'm going for it. I soak a qtip in ROR, and gently swab, moving fresh product and cotton threads into use for each area of the mirror. Then, I swabbed clean with a different qtip, pretty aggressively!

    Now, everything I've ever read says NEVER DO THIS! Touching the mirror is a death sentence! And, well, I don't recommend it for your high-class SLRs. In fact, I'll tell anyone who will listen that this is not an approved method, and may ruin your equipment for life! So don't come a blaming me later! You've been warned!

    But you know what? Heee heee! Good as new. (Or so close, you'd be very happy anyhow).

    Shhhhhhhh!!!!!!! Don't tell on me.
    Last edited: May 1, 2018
  2. Vincent Peri

    Vincent Peri Metairie, LA

    Hmm... you're going to
    bradleycloven likes this.
  3. m42dave

    m42dave Dave E.

    I've also cleaned a number of hazy SLR mirrors successfully, using the utmost care. The polished metal surface of the mirror is very easily scratched (though some are glass-coated) so I always gently brush off any dust specks first, then apply Windex to a piece of lens cleaning paper wrapped around a cotton swab, cleaning from top to bottom, using no pressure on the mirror. Isopropyl alcohol can also work for removing sticky bits of mirror foam.
  4. SCL


    GENTLE is the keyword...but often worth it.
  5. I've cleaned loads of SLR and TLR mirrors like this. The worst I had was a Nikon FM with the focus a mile out. A previous owner had re-glued the mirror with a thick layer if Araldite! I prised it off and scraped the Araldite off the back of the mirror, and off the metal tray which required a lot of effort. I glued it back with a thin layer of silicone and everything was fine. They are more robust than many people suppose.
  6. I think the big warning about not cleaning SLR mirrors comes from the assumption that a member of the average public probably won't have the "touch" needed to clean without scratching. Front surface mirrors ARE much more vulnerable as you're working directly with the relatively soft silver(or aluminum) as opposed to a much more durable glass surface as in a normal mirror.

    I've cleaned more mirrors than I can count. I don't do it unless I need to, but it can make a big difference on a dirty camera. Also, if the dampening foam has become sticky, you can be left with an ugly patch along the front edge.

    My usual technique is to use a high purity alcohol along with a Kimwipe and no more pressure than is necessary. At least among consumer products, Eclipse fluid(which is mostly marketed for cleaning DSLR sensors), which is pure methanol, is probably the best choice at least among things that are easily available. Pec pads are also probably a better choice than Kimwipes, but I've never had an issue using Kimwipes(and I've used them on front surface mirrors MUCH more valuable and important than camera reflex mirrors).

    The only mirror that I haven't dared clean is actually the one that needs it the most-the mirror in my Canon Pellix. Not only does it cause issues in the viewfinder, but it also affects the image quality. I don't mean this in a hypothetical "it could affect the image quality" sense either-I can see the mirror defects in my negatives. Unfortunately, the mirror is delicate enough that even the service manual advises replacing a dirty mirror rather than attempting to clean it.
    Gus Lazzari likes this.
  7. The aluminized coating is fragile for sure but wouldn't most modern first surface mirrors (i.e. since the 1970's) be overcoated with some hard material such as silicon monoxide?
  8. Bravo. I too do this on all my SLRs with Windex and a new eyeglass cleaning cloth. Gentle is the word of the day.
  9. Steel wool and Comet and a bit of elbow grease does the trick for me.;)
  10. Araldite sounds like a Kazakh version of Vegemite, popular in the Aral Sea region. Including it's adhesive properties. :D
  11. Makes sense. The Pellix is the one with a "half-mirrored" mirror, aka one-way glass, that doesn't move. The meter moves, instead, raising up when needed and dropping down out of the way when not, and you shoot right through the mirror. So, yeah, any dirt or damage on that mirror WILL affect your images.
  12. Unfortunately, too, I understand that the mirror is on a super-thin piece of mylar. I've heard the mirror in the EOS-1RS described as being on "glass as thick as a soap bubble" but I'd think that would be easier to clean than the mylar mirror in the Pellix. I'm not about to dry beyond just puffing air across it.
    Gus Lazzari likes this.
  13. Right! I'd forgotten that. Hmm... given an equal thickness of glass and mylar, I'd rather try to clean the mylar. It has far greater tensile strength than glass. But, I'd rather not clean either.
  14. I will rarely touch TLR/SLR mirrors unless they're very dirty and only then with alcohol and a LOT of clean Q-tips.
    Gentle is the key word as SCL says above.

    Worst things I've had to clean off were degraded foam mirror bumpers...and those tend to dissolve in alcohol thankfully.
    andyfalsetta likes this.
  15. I also have a Pellix with a dirty mirror. As the mirror surface isn't in focus, I am not so sure how much of a problem it is.

    When I got it, it was in the usual case, but no lens or body cap, so it might be case dust.

    I have put one roll through, but not got around to developing it.
  16. Here's mine as viewed through the shutter


    The mirror is such that I see fairly low contrast all over the frame from lenses that otherwise look good on a non-pellical camera. There are some really serious mirror faults(not that easily visible) at the top of the mirror that show up noticeably on the film. Of course, that area is also closest to the film.
  17. I broke out laughing here. I did some hard time with UPI shooting in the early 80s. Israel and Lebanon were my stomping ground as was Lebanon ground zero for all the terrorists. Bombings, sniping and gun battles galore. Ask Nachtway. Here's how I cleaned off the mirrors, prism bases and focus screens of my Nikon F2 bodies. I tore off the pocket of my t-shirt and wiped the damn things clean! I still have and use those cameras today! Tough gear, not the pussified garbage offered today. No batteries, no computer, no flash cards, and I have an actual image in my hands, not on a computer! Soup, print and see forever. Yes, I do have a threesome of Pentax k10ds that allow me to shoot when I want to and not when the weather dictates. Pouring rain, under and sometimes in a waterfall too. Tough bastards! One of them spent two hours 30 feet deep in the lake. That's how long it took me to find it after my sister dropped it! She washed off the silt in the fish-cleaning table. Not the slightest problem. Even the flash works!
    paul ron and bradleycloven like this.
  18. Oscar that's why I love the F2. Spent many years covering mischief, murder and mayhem in the states. Sports too but that's sort of the same thing. F2 ran and ran, still does. I keep them out of the rain though.

    Rick H.
  19. paul ron

    paul ron NYC

    hahahaha and it worked so well, took off all that silver crap!

    first surface mirrors come in many quality levels. the cheap kalidascope mirrors are not coated and scratch very easy. otoh a good quality mirror, intalled in most cameras, has a coating and is much more rugged than you may think. but GENTILE in cleaning regardless of which you work on is key to success.

    be aware though... there are mirrors, mostly in old cameras, that will turn a bluish tint if it comes in contact with alcohol. the best cleaner after blowing off the course dust is a good moist breath and a new micro fiber wipe.

    btw plastic view screens can become milky if cleaned with alcohol. depends on the plastic used.
  20. Breath? Depends upon what is in ones breath.......

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