Tag Archives: Leica

Cleaning E. Leitz Wetzlar Summar Haze

Exterior mystery crust

The Leica lens, E. Leitz Wetzlar “Summar” 50mm (5cm) f/2 is notorious for having internal haze, clouding images sometimes giving a desired warmth called “Leica Glow”. Some desire it for using as a portrait lens or other such use as the effect is warranted.

Before I show you how I got my 1939 Leica Summar lens apart to clean the haze, I first cleaned some kind of dried gunk on the front element that resembled very bad cleaning marks.

I had seen it before on my former 1936 Summar and other people complaining about their’s calling it cleaning marks, so it must be a somewhat common thing. This time it was more crusty, uneven looking that led me to believe it wasn’t just the glass itself.

my former 1936 Summar with mystery crust around front element
my former 1936 Summar with mystery crust around front element

 

I looked at it with a loupe and could see it was raised, some kind of crust or crystallization. I scratched at it with my fingernail and sure enough it flaked slightly. Perhaps a buildup of years of cleaning fluid?

summar_gunk-01
here is my 1939 Summar with back light showing the mystery crust

 

I knew conventional cleaning wouldn’t work so I tried the method for removing Fungus on a lens. A 50/50 mix of household Ammonia and Hydrogen Peroxide then rinse with tap water. It immediately started working, almost foaming around the edge where it was thickest.

after cleaning the mystery crust
after cleaning the mystery crust

I had to repeat twice, as is usual, but a nice clean outer lens now with just a few true cleaning marks.

Clean the interior haze

Now I must say, while searching for tutorials and methods of cleaning the haze, it was kind of confusing because it was rarely stated that, in fact, the front name plate is attached to the front ring and the element itself.

It was also stated several times to unscrew the front element right from the lens base and people were having trouble because it would just unscrew the front group. I came up with a way to easily remove the front element.

 

First unscrew the front lens group from the base, just above the aperture ring. Extent the lens tube fully so it won’t spin in the base and grasp the outer knurled ring and turn it counter-clockwise ‘ccw’ it should unscrew fairly easy.

hold the outer knurled ring in one hand and the base in the other (with lens tube fully extended) and turn ccw (counter-clockwise)
hold the outer knurled ring in one hand and the base in the other (with lens tube fully extended) and turn ccw (counter-clockwise)

 

Unscrew fully and remove from lens base.

after removing the front lens group. Mine could use some new black paint around the edge of the element (red arrow)
after removing the front lens group. Mine could use some new black paint around the edge of the element (red arrow)

 

NOW is the time to unscrew the set screw ‘ccw’ in the nameplate (red arrow) so it will separate from the front lens group. It’s tiny don’t loose it.

remove the set screw (red arrow)
remove the set screw (red arrow)

 

Now you need some kind of grip tool to aid in holding the front group housing while removing the front element. I used an electrical cable, about the same diameter as a pencil or slightly smaller but not too small.

‘Fire Wire’ cable I used as by grip tool. any cable with a rubbery shell will work.

 

not clear here but, the front lens group housing extends backwards with a nice metal tube to grab onto with your tool just behind the front element ring. Firmly grip your tool around the group housing and firmly grip the front ring and unscrew ‘ccw’.

make a loop and wrap it around the rear of the front lens group, behind the front element ring
make a loop and wrap it around the rear of the front lens group behind the front element ring

 

The entire front knurled ring, nameplate and front element are attached together. Mine came right off, I’ve read it could be difficult and a good soaking of the front element in isopropyl alcohol might help.

front element removed. now clean backside of front element and both sides of rest of the group front group
front element removed. now clean backside of front element and both sides of rest of the group.

 

Again, I used the 50/50 mix ammonia / hydrogen peroxide to clean the haze from all inner elements except the lens behind the aperture blades as I didn’t want to risk damaging the aperture unit/blades.

here is the aperture blade unit ij the lens tube. I cleaned this lens behind it with isop. alcohol
here is the aperture blade unit in the lens tube. I cleaned this lens behind it with isop. alcohol

 

Blow out any dust and fuzzies from cleaning before reassembly. I found what looked like dust in mine that turned out to be bubbles in the lens glass. I’ve read this is normal.  Here’s a before and after the cleaning shot.

before and after. big difference
before and after. big difference.

 

It looks great mounted on my 1953 Leica IIIf. It does have a few cleaning marks and some mishandled scratches in the middle but it was cheap and it’s mine.

Summar mounted on my Leica IIIf
Summar mounted on my Leica IIIf

Images from my 1936 Leica IIIa

After completing the service, cleaning, repair, adjustment on the 1936 Leica IIIa, I shot a test roll to see if everything was working as it should. There are a lot of things that can be wrong on an 80 year old camera. A test roll can show if the film is advancing correctly, getting the proper space between images on the negative, shutter speeds are correct, the rangefinder and lens are in good sync so the images come out good and clear. etc…

The first test roll showed that the shutter  was at the right speed but on the faster speeds, it was not adjusted correctly. The second or “closing” curtain was catching up with the first curtain part way across the film area.

The dark area on the right means the closing curtain caught up with the opening curtain, and is called 'capping' Here at 1/500 speed it is about 75 % at 1/1000 it was almost 100%
The dark area on the right means the closing curtain caught up with the opening curtain, and is called ‘capping’ Here at 1/500 speed it is about 75 % at 1/1000 it was almost 100%

 

at 1/200 speed there is slight capping
at 1/200 speed there is slight capping

On this type of camera, there are two curtains that act as the shutter. First the opening curtain starts it’s travel then, depending on the shutter speed you choose, the closing curtain starts it’s travel. On this model, at 1/20 of a second  the opening curtain has exposed the entire film area before the closing curtain starts it’s travel. At 1/500, it only gets about 1/8th of an inch before the closing curtain starts it’s travel. They travel together at 1/8″ across the entire film area. No matter what speed you set it, the curtains physically travel at the same speed, (about 1/20th sec.) it’s the size of the opening that determines the shutter speed. At 1/1000 shutter speed, the opening is about 1/16th of an inch, 1/200 about 3/16ths and so on.

So you can see, the curtains have to be adjusted so they travel at the same speed. After the first test roll, I had to take the camera apart again so I could see the shutter at work. (this camera and many others like it doesn’t have the back open to put in the film, you load it from the bottom so you can’t see the shutter working unless you take the outer shell off) I was able to tension the curtains so that the closing curtain wasn’t catching up with the opening curtain.

Old building in Jacksonville, Oregon Shady side of the street

McCully House Inn 1860  Beekman Bank

Lithia Creek  Pioneer cemetary  quiet streets

Shakespeare Elizabethan Theatre  Old and new

It’s very rewarding to take an instrument almost 80 years old and repair it and know it’s good for at least another 10-20 years before it will need to be cleaned and adjusted again.

 

Leica IIIa CLA, Clean the Slow Speed Escapement

Before giving my Leica IIIa a semi-complete CLA, I want to tackle the slow speeds being sluggish problem. Thanks to the Internet, I found a few sites that explained how truly easy it is. I mean, anybody can do this task and perhaps bring their 75-80 year old camera back to it’s former glory.

Two screws to get started is all it takes. The hardest part is putting it back in and that just takes some dexterity. This method is possible without a complete removal of the body shell as is needed for the newer IIIb. IIIc, IIIf, IIIg, but if you are planing a shell removal for whatever reason, CLA, investigation of a problem or the like, then by all means, wait until then, it would just be easier to put it back in but taking it out makes no difference.

On the model III and IIIa, the slow speed escapement is easy to remove by just taking the lens off
On the model III and IIIa, the slow speed escapement is easy to remove by just taking the lens off

remove the bottom film plate and remove these two screws. Be careful, they are one flat head and one roundish head remember where they go
remove the bottom film plate and remove these two screws. Be careful, they are one flat head and one roundish head remember where they go. The escapement will practically fall out of the lens opening area.

remove these two screws to take the escapement cover off
remove these two screws to take the escapement cover off

slow speed escapement with cover ermoved. I cleaned it in a bath of Isopropyl alcohol, letting it soak and working the gears then letting it dry
slow speed escapement with cover ermoved. I cleaned it in a bath of Isopropyl alcohol, letting it soak and working the gears then letting it dry

This fork goes onto the post on the escapement. It's a little tricky getting it back on but not too bad.
This fork goes onto the post on the escapement. It’s a little tricky getting it back on but not too bad.

after drying, give these bearings (red arrows) a touch of oil. Sewing machine, watch oil or equivalent. I just put a drop on a piece of paper and touch it with my smallest screwdriver and then touch the bearing and let it wick in. never over oil.
after drying, give these bearings (red arrows) a touch of oil. Sewing machine, watch oil or equivalent. I just put a drop on a piece of paper and touch it with my smallest screwdriver and then touch the bearing and let it wick in. never over oil. the (red circle) shows the post that goes on the fork in the previous photo

same procedure for oiling these bearings
same procedure for oiling these bearings

 

1936 Leica IIIa CLA and Repair

Giving my 1936 Leica IIIa a CLA. It basically works fine, the shutter fires on all speeds but the slow speeds are sluggish. The curtains have previously been changed, maybe even twice in it’s 78 year history and look good. Overall there is brassing on the top and bottom plates but from normal heavy usage telling me it was well loved. From what I can see, the inside looks clean-ish, no major rust or anything like that.

leica_IIIa-cla-01
overall ‘before’ shot

leica_IIIa-cla-05
dirty vulcanite

leica_IIIa-cla-06
filthy around hard-to-clean places

Above, showing the external condition, dirt and a reddish oxidation to the Vulcanite (red circle) and dirty internal glass.

remove these 4 screws (red circles), carefully remove the lens flange as there may be shims between it and the camera body. Mine had none but there were several on my Nicca when I worked on it.
remove these 4 screws (red circles), carefully remove the lens flange as there may be shims between it and the camera body. Mine had none but there were several on my Nicca when I worked on it.

when you remove the 4 screws, these brackets come loose. The upper one is held by the RF coupling arm, that comes in handy when putting it back on.
when you remove the 4 screws, these brackets come loose. The upper one is held by the RF coupling arm, that comes in handy when putting it back on.

remove the slow speed dial by removing the screw (red circle) but ignore the small set screw (red arrow), it is not necessary to loosen this, it will come off with the speed scale disc, making adjustment later unnecessary, but before lifting the dial off, make some kind of mark on the square shaft to indicate which edge is up for reassembly.
remove the slow speed dial by removing the screw (red circle) but ignore the small set screw (red arrow), it is not necessary to loosen this, it will come off with the speed scale disc, making adjustment later unnecessary, but before lifting the dial off, make some kind of mark on the square shaft to indicate which edge is up for reassembly.

I found it helpful to just loosen this screw rather than remove it. It's got a very short shaft so only 1/2 to 3/4 turn and the clicker disc will be loose enough to remove
I found it helpful to just loosen this screw rather than remove it. It’s got a very short shaft so only 1/2 to 3/4 turn and the clicker disc will be loose enough to remove

remove these 3 screws (circles) then lift off all the discs, remember their order they came off and the post.
remove these 3 screws (circles) then lift off all the discs, remember their order they came off and the post.

remove all these screws (red circles). the two dark body screws on the right (rewind side) come out and a bracket will fall out the bottom. It's easy to figure out how it goes back in
remove all these screws (red circles). the two dark body screws on the right (rewind side) come out and a bracket will fall out the bottom. It’s easy to figure out how it goes back in

remove these screws (circled)
remove these screws (circled)

hold down on the RF coupling arm so it clears when you remove the shell
hold down on the RF coupling arm so it clears when you remove the shell

remove the shell simply pull it down, it shouldn't be hard to remove
remove the shell simply pull it down, it shouldn’t be hard to remove

shell removed, the film pressure plate will fall out with it's leaf springs (arrows)
shell removed, the film pressure plate will fall out with it’s leaf springs (arrows)

 

After getting the shell off, that’s a good time to observe the shutter action. Look through it against a florescent light. When I did mine I discovered the 1/500 speed had just a blip of light and the 1/1000 speed showed no light at all so now it’s a CLA and repair as well.

Lets remove the top plate to see the Timing Mechanism and RF glass. (on the III and IIIa, only the smaller plate over the RF comes off, on the later IIIc, IIIf and IIIg, the entire chrome top plate comes off.

remove the two round front RF windows. The right one (red arrow) may or may not come off in two pieces. mine came off in one piece. The left window (yellow arrows) should come off in two pieces, the outer ring and the inner window that also adjusts the vertical RF view. Use a spanner to remove it's outer ring, the inner spanner slots adjust the RF. If your RF vertical view is already correct there should be no need to adjust it later
remove the screw between the RF round windows and remove the two round front RF windows. The right one (red arrow) may or may not come off in two pieces. mine came off in one piece. The left window (yellow arrows) should come off in two pieces, the outer ring and the inner window that also adjusts the vertical RF view. Use a spanner to remove it’s outer ring, the inner spanner slots adjust the RF. If your RF vertical view is already correct there should be no need to adjust it later

remove this rear viewfinder window
remove this rear viewfinder window

remove the rear screw (oblong circle) and the Diopter adjust post (circle)
remove the rear screw (oblong circle) and the Diopter adjust post (circle)

pull out the Diopter / RF window. It will need cleaning and greasing
pull out the Diopter / RF window. It will need cleaning and greasing

remove the 3 screws on the cold shoe (circles)
remove the 3 screws on the cold shoe (circles)

set the shutter dial to whatever speed, it won't matter, on the IIIa, it screws off and can only go back on one way. Loosen the set screw (circled), turn the shutter dial lefty loosey. it may be helpful to wind the the film advance first (also when reassembling)
set the shutter dial to whatever speed, it won’t matter, on the IIIa, it screws off and can only go back on one way. Loosen the set screw (circled), turn the shutter dial lefty loosey. it may be helpful to wind the the film advance first (also when reassembling)

view of the top plate area
view of the top plate area

While I was cleaning the old grease I noticed a stop-post on the second shutter release arm was leaning. I poked it and it wiggled. I tightened it and all speeds work now!

red arrow shows the post that was loose, causing the 1/500 and 1/1000 speeds to not work. That's the second shutter release lever that rests on it. Note the old dried grease (yellow arrows)
red arrow shows the post that was loose, causing the 1/500 and 1/1000 speeds to not work. That’s the closing curtain release lever that rests on it. Note the old dried grease (yellow arrows)

I cleaned old grease and re-greased the Timing Mechanism, winding knob, rewind knob shaft and Diopter adjust. I cleaned the gears at the bottom of the shutter drum.

cleaned top plate and fresh grease on the Timing Mechanism
cleaned top plate and fresh grease on the Timing Mechanism

12/23/14: cleaned the Vulcanite. a 3 step process and it looks great now. Reassembled the camera shell and slow speed dial.

Vulcanite all cleaned. It was a 3 step process, well, a 5 step actually because I had to do step 1 and 2 twice. First I cleaned it with Isopropyl alcohol. That left a whitish dry looking coating, I cleaned that with Windex. It may not take 2 or 3 tries with your vulcanite, mine was pretty bad. I did the first 2 steps at least wice then I finished step 3 with Mothers Back to Black
Vulcanite all cleaned. It was a 3 step process, well, a 5 step actually because I had to do step 1 and 2 twice. First I cleaned it with Isopropyl alcohol. That left a whitish dry looking coating, I cleaned that with Windex. It may not take 2 or 3 tries with your vulcanite, mine was pretty bad. I did the first 2 steps at least twice then I finished step 3 with ‘Mothers Back to Black’

Lets put it back together. The film pressure plate rides in it’s own groove milled into the back of the body shell. The two leaf springs have their own slots as well.

the flat leaf springs in their slots (red circles) note the round groove milled into the back around the springs. this is the pressure plate groove.
the flat leaf springs in their slots (red circles) note the round groove milled into the back around the springs. this is the pressure plate groove.

put the pressure plate back into its groove, I held mine with pressure down with a Kemwipe so I didn't leave a thumb print. hold it down as you slide the shell back onto the body. Once it clears the framework, you can let it go, it will stay.
put the pressure plate back into its groove, I held mine with pressure down with a Kemwipe so I didn’t leave a thumb print. hold it down as you slide the shell back onto the body. Once it clears the framework, you can let it go, it will stay.

be sure to hold down on the RF coupling arm as the shell passes over so it clears.
be sure to hold down on the RF coupling arm as the shell passes over so it clears.

shell back on. when you put the screws back in leave the center silver screw out until after you get the lens ring back on, that way it won't interfere with the bracket that goes under the RF coupling arm
shell back on. when you put the screws back in leave the center silver screw out until after you get the lens ring back on, that way it won’t interfere with the bracket that goes under the RF coupling arm.

Now put the lens ring and slow speed dials back on. If you had shims under your lens ring, remember where and how they went.

this mark goes to the left side
this mark goes to the left side

the slow speed dial parts in order of replacement. First the brass washer, the chrome spacer, the post with it's mark where ever/however you marked it, the plate with the clicker disc attached (mine shows them still separated), put some fresh grease in the groove on the back of the speed dial and replace it. If you separated the knurled knob from the speed dial, you should notice there is an indentation where the factory set the set screw. if your slow speeds were adjusted before, just put this back as it was and replace the speed dial with the post as marked.
the slow speed dial parts in order of replacement. First the brass washer, the chrome spacer, the post with it’s mark where ever/however you marked it, the plate with the clicker disc attached (mine shows them still separated), put some fresh grease in the groove on the back of the speed dial and replace it. If you separated the knurled knob from the speed dial, you should notice there is an indentation where the factory set the set screw. if your slow speeds were adjusted before, just put this back as it was and replace the speed dial with the post as marked.

finished
finished

Here it is with my Nikkor-HC 1:2 5cm lens from 1953
Here it is with my Nikkor-HC 1:2 5cm lens from 1953

This camera was fun to work on. It may seem intimidating but is actually easier to work on than the later Japanese rangefinders where you, a lot of times, must remove  the leatherette to get to the lens plate to get to the shutter to get to the …blah blah.