Stuck Zeiss Contarex 135mm Sonnar

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by andyfalsetta, Mar 12, 2019.

  1. There are a lot of Zeiss 135 mm Sonnar lenses used on the Contarex that have a stiff or locked focus ring. A fair amount of information is found on the web about these lenses suffering from threads that lost their surface finish and were mechanically jammed and all manner of discouraging advice for DIY'ers. I have one of these lenses and it was totally stuck. I am by no means a trained nor experienced tech however I was able to repair it. Here is an explanation of what I did to repair my lens.

    First I removed the front knurled ring using a rubber stopper purchased at Ace Hardware. Once this ring is removed, you will find multiple screws that hold the optics assembly in the barrel. Remove the optics in one piece. I then used a significant amount of heat to soften the lubricant that after 40 or so years had solidified. To heat it I put the lens barrel (with optics removed) on the upper shelf of my barbecue grill (yes you read that right). I brought it up to around 250 degrees and left the barrel in there for 5 minutes. I used welder's gloves purchased inexpensively from Harbor Freight to handle the barrel once it was hot and give me the grip I needed against the stuck lens barrel. The first time I tried to move it, it did not budge. I put the barrel into the grill for another three minutes. At this point the barrel freed up. Once it cooled down I disassembled the lens mount and separated the barrell and helicoid. You will encounter screws along the way that the Zeiss engineers decided they wanted thread locked. I found that small drops of lacquer thinner on the screws eventually loosened them. All of this was done by meticulously marking the positions of all components so that they could be reinstalled correctly.

    Once apart I used Ronsonol to clean both halves of the helicoid. I removed all traces of old lubricant from the threads. This is critical because any trace of old lubricant introduces a bind into the mechanism once you reassemble it. Once clean I lubricated the threads (completely) with synthetic grease purchased from Microtools (they call it #10 hobby lube).

    Once reassembled the focus action was incredibly smooth. I saw no traces of worn or gaulled threads as "web wisdom" had warned about. I hope this information helps. I have no doubt most of the 135mm Sonnars in stuck condition can be fixed this way.
  2. LOL.
    Normally I am a huge devotee of BBQ, but in this case I might recommend a hair dryer.
    If you do use the BBQ, I suggest hickory rather than mesquite.:rolleyes:
  3. One would have to have a pretty remarkable hair dryer to reach 250 degrees...:)
  4. Vincent Peri

    Vincent Peri Metairie, LA

    Hmm... no wonder I burned
    the hair off my forehead...
  5. I love patience and perseverance success stories!! It can be done!! GreaT!!
    andyfalsetta likes this.
  6. Like I said in the other thread you branched this off from: your persistence and multifarious self-taught skills make some of us feel like mere tinkerers. After you posted pics of your successful teardown of a Hasselblad 500c (having never owned a Hassy before), we knew you had a gift to be reckoned with.

    This Sonnar for Contarex has got to be high up on the list of abandoned "unrepairable" lenses, but you pulled it off: using Homer Simpson's magical barbecue, yet! :eek: I can't decide if you're braver than most, or just crazier.:D Should send you a couple Sekosha-S shutters I have that seem cursed by the fates: if you can unfreeze a Contarex helicoid, I imagine you could tackle anything.

    Gonna start referring to you as "The Camera Whisperer" if you keep this up.

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