What's going on here and how to fix?

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by by randall, May 23, 2018.

  1. My father gave me my grandfather's cameras. An Ihagee Exakta Varex IIa, an older version Ihagee EXA, and a 1929 Voighlander 9X13. I cleaned up, exercised the shutter, and shot a test oll of Ultrafine Extreme 100 through the Varex and came up with this. What is causing the white spots. The seem to be in the same pattern on all shots. I'm guessing light leaks through the curtain? I don't think the lens had anything to do with this.

    img008.jpg img009.jpg
  2. That looks classically symptomatic of shutter curtain pinholes.

    They can usually be replaced, but it takes some know-how and finesse or spending a bit of money. I know it's fairly routine on things like LTM Leicas and some of the old Canons I've and also not super expensive(maybe around $250 including a CLA).
  3. Pattern is identical.......
  4. Identical on all 36 frames. Now I need to decide if I want to invest in repairs or stick with my Leicas and Hasselblad.
  5. Open the back and aim a bright flashlight into the lens. Be careful not to aim the beam into your eye(s) because this will diminish your ability to see the light leaks. They will be very easily visible as points of bright light showing through the curtain. Once you have confirmed the light leaks, you might be able to use rubberized fabric paint (black) to cover the leaks. This is sold in the major hobby shops here in the USA (Michaels, Joanne's, Hobby Lobby) Dab a very small amount on each leak you see on the curtain. This is far from a permanent fix but it just might make your Granddad's camera usable without having to go for new curtain(s) or worse, never using it again.
    orsetto likes this.
  6. The old Exakta shutters are very prone to leaks. Having them repaired isn't usually worth the expense, as the value of even the nicest Exakta camera body is a fraction of what repair costs (I just sold a flawless problem-free Exakta VXIIa body for $38, and felt lucky to get even that much).

    Try what andyfalsetta suggested with the black rubberized paint: it might make the camera more usable for awhile. Don't expect miracles, because your particular Exakta shutter is pretty far gone: that looks like Bonnie & Clyde used it for target practice. But the paint might at least reduce the leak marks to a more manageable issue that you could touch up in Photoshop, etc.

    If you really like the lenses, it may be more practical to use them on your better-functioning Exa body, buy a more functional VXIIa to use them on, or if you own a mirrorless digital camera consider getting an iniexpensive Exakta adapter for it. Keep your grandfather's VXIIa as a display piece for sentimental value.
    Last edited: May 29, 2018
  7. Something else to consider is inspecting both halves of the shutter curtain. Usually one half is more shot than the other. This involves the flashlight process I described above but to do it two ways. First with the shutter cocked and ready to shoot, and second, after the shutter has fired. The shutter curtain halves are in different positions when cocked or not cocked so you could very well find one half pristine and the other blasted with pin holes. Consider adapting how you use the camera so that the best half of the curtain is covering the film. In other words, if you find no or fewer pinholes when the shutter is cocked, get in the habit of leaving the shutter cocked between shots. Also, put a lens cap on whenever you are not using the camera. The spots on your photos are the result of light coming into the camera as it normally does, but not being stopped by the curtain. So the less light you let come into the camera when its not being used, the less will get to the film through a porous shutter curtain.
  8. Last edited: May 30, 2018
  9. Hello By Randall
    I had the same on a Leica IIIf looked pretty much the same with a bunch of pin holes, I sent it to Ye and had it serviced and the curtain replaced fine now.
    I also had a Fed2 with a few holes in the curtain so I took some fabric paint and painted the curtain both sides two coats, let dry between, and problem solved.
    As Andyfalsetta said check both curtains I did not see anything on the curtain when the shutter was cocked but the holes showed up after the shutter was released
    this stuff worked great
    bertliang and andyfalsetta like this.
  10. ^ This is the stuff I used. The only caveat is to remember that the curtains need to be flexible because they wrap just like a window shade when they are working. So a light coat is best, and only in the areas where you have a problem. If the curtains get too thick they will not wrap well (they will be stiff).
  11. Curious, is there a best practice to head off this kind of thing or is it an inevitable function of time.....
  12. I like to tinker with things. With that, I plan to attempt to change the curtains myself. The lenses are not really great. I have an adapter for my Sony and have used these lenses a time or two. I guess it's just the nostalgic sentimental value I would get from using my Grandfather's cameras.
    andyfalsetta and Moving On like this.
  13. Its just one of those things that afflict certain brands/models of camera more notably than others. The specific materials Exakta employed to make their shutter curtains has a higher-than-normal tendency to deteriorate, causing pinholes. Leica had similar issues on and off with their older rangefinders, but never to the degree of Exakta (the Varex lineup is rather notorious for developing these pinholes).

    Interesting cameras, rightly cited as pioneers in establishing a beach head for the SLR concept. But an acquired taste for sure: the most inscrutable, convoluted controls of any camera I've ever used (the VXII makes an Alpa SLR seem rational), and the iconic triangular body shape is an ergonomic nightmare. Huge selection of lenses, tho: since they were in wide distribution long before Pentax made M42 ubiquitous or Nikon debuted the F, Exakta was a major platform for many lens mfrs like Zeiss Jena, Meyer Gorlitz, Steinheil, etc. The lens mount specification was difficult to adapt to more modern, more popular camera brands, which helped keep the old Varex bodies relevant longer than you would expect from their awkward clumsy operation. Today, the Sony A7 type of mirrorless digital cameras can give this glass a second wind, although much of it isn't that good and you can run into issues with the ugly, clunky later lenses with built-in shutter button linked to crude auto-diaphragm workaround (the Exakta bodies have no stopdown linkage). Some very desirable German lenses that sell for a fortune in M42 mount are much more affordable in the moribund Exakta mount, esp if you buy the lens attached to a camera. I kept the beautiful silver pre-set 58mm f/2 Zeiss Jena Biotar when I sold my VXIIa (great soft colors and wild bokeh depending on aperture).
    Last edited: May 31, 2018
    davecaz and Moving On like this.
  14. Thanks for the interesting reply.
  15. Couldn't resist posting this before the thread fades away. The Exakta under discussion here was used a a significant prop in Hitchcock's "Rear Window", which the mfr crowed about in this 1954 ad (note the interesting variety of ancillary lens brands):

    Exakta VX RW Ad 1954sm.jpg
    Moving On likes this.
  16. I own 15 Exaktas and 1 Exa. I have every major model of the Exakta from the Kine I to the VX500. I have done a CLA on 8 of the Exaktas using Miles Upton's excellent book "Ultimate Exakta Repair" as a guide. I have a good shutter tester and I always test the cameras prior to the CLA. Exaktas that have never been through a CLA will have shutters that run at least 1 full f-stop slow. At least. Lubricating the camera only improves the shutter speeds a bit. Adjusting the shutter mechanism to get accurate speeds is not an easy task even with Upton's book. So much so that I only do it if the camera is not working.

    I have used Starbrite's Liquid Electrical Tape to seal pinholes in the shutter curtains. Although this does fix the pinholes it also slows down the shutter speeds another 2-4%. So you want to apply as llittle of the Liquid Electrical Tape as you can. However, the LET contracts as it dries and if you applied too little some of the pinholes will return.
  17. I thoroughly disagree with orsetto's post that the Exakta has "the most inscrutable, convoluted controls of any camera" he has every used. Really? I own multiple cameras that are more of hassle to operate. The Exakta, for a completely mechanical camera, is very simple to use with the fast speeds. It only gets a bit complicated when you need to use the timer or the slow speeds.
  18. Yes, well: thats where the design is an epic fail for many of us. Trying to set a slow speed on a Varex will drive most photographers mad. It is fine to like and enjoy using a vintage camera system despite its flaws, but we must factor the flaws when considering how we'd use that system. For me, Exakta was a "high-noon bright sunlight on snow" camera: i.e., useless because I shoot mostly low available light. The Rube Goldberg slow shutter settings drove me to sell it off and forget using the lenses with film: Exakta-mount glass is strictly for Sony A7 digital shooting as far as I'm concerned.

    None of that detracts from its deserved status as a pioneering, remarkably long-lived SLR. Without Exakta to forge a path, there would have been no Nikon F twenty years later. To be fair, when Varex was designed, ALL slow speed escapements for hand-held focal plane shutter cameras were non-intuitive horrors (one reason screw-mount Leicas died the second the modern M3 debuted). Exaktas are beautifully machined, the unusually contrasty reflex viewfinder is easy to focus, but the slow shutter speeds are a giant PITA to set. If you're a morning person, no problem: for evening streetscapes its poison. To each his own.
  19. Later mechanical cameras have more or less standardized controls. Today, we cannot even understand the lack of ergonomics of older cameras, such as the Exakta.

    Back in Exakta days, every camera had controls in a different place, not only Exaktas. An amateur was expected to use only one camera, and for a long, long time. There was plenty of time to learn the quirks of one's instrument. Many old photo books recommended shooting your camera without film until you learned all the controls and could work them in the dark, out of memory. In this context, the Exakta was not that terrible.

    However, it is hard for the industry to learn. Today, we are reliving the experience of different interfaces for each manufacturer or camera with modern digital cameras!.

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