Vintage Lens Restoration

Restored to like new condition, ready to make beautiful images.

Given my profession of servicing lenses and the nature of such a precise vocation, I’ve become somewhat compulsive over the past decade. Some might even argue that I’m just downright anal about details. I wouldn’t disagree with that at all. I can’t stand imperfections or flaws. I feel compelled to perfect every minor detail that is within my capacity and even sometimes beyond my capacity, either succeeding or failing, but always learning. This became something of a curse when I started collecting cameras and lenses a while back. I would buy cheap “junk” off of eBay that looked pretty good in the auction photos, but upon arrival, the items were almost always worse than they appeared in the photos, which I came to expect. I couldn’t spend a ton of money on mint condition collectors items as my fianc√© would be rather upset if $1000 was used to purchase a 25 year old film camera or lens. So I did my best to find good deals and restore them. It has become quite a painstaking hobby. I consider these dirty, beat-up old cameras and lenses a challenge. I wish I had taken more photos of the equipment I’ve restored prior to their make-over but I really didn’t think much of it at the time. I just wanted my collection to be clean and tidy. The tools and techniques I use on a daily basis have proven to be most valuable to such restorations, allowing me to cleanse, machine, anodize, and essentially re-engineer parts that were otherwise ugly and useless.

One specific item I recently restored was a beat up old Angenieux 1″ f/0.95 prime lens. Equivalent to a 25.4mm, ¬†developed in the mid-1950′s, the lens was a breakthrough in aperture speed and was adopted by the Bell & Howell camera system. It uses a somewhat outdated C-mount which can still be found on some surveillance cameras, but not much else. The flange depth of C-mount lenses, at 17.52mm is too shallow even for Micro 4/3 applications. The lens can be mounted, but obtaining infinity focus is almost impossible on anything other than a C-mount camera. On top of the flange depth issue, the lens only produces an image large enough to cover 16mm film, also smaller than Micro 4/3. Regardless, this little gem is a testament to the ingenuity and devotion to the craft that Pierre Angenieux dedicated all those years ago. These lenses can be found in like new condition all over eBay since most of them stayed in their original boxes and weren’t used. This particular lens had quite a bit of exterior scoring and grime jammed in the edges of the barrels. The focus appeared to have been impacted at some point, leaving the focus rotation uneven and rough. On top of that, there appeared to be signs of previous moisture contamination in the form of grey spots around the edges of the elements where it should have been dark black. Most of the engravings had lost their paint and were almost illegible. Certainly not the most devastated lens I’ve seen, but far from good. condition.

Dirt and grit lodged in the mechanics of the focus and iris mechanism.

All the parts disassembled, ready for cleaning.

I began by completely disassembling the lens. Every lock-ring, element, barrel, and screw were removed. Each part was de-greased and dipped in the ultra-sonic cleanser to remove all the loose particles. I restored full, smooth travel to the focus helix by lapping the focus threads. One of the lock rings that held in the front optics was corroded so I machined the surface down to new material to give it a nice smooth finish, then oxidized the bare aluminum to give it a non-reflective finish. After all the parts were clean and moved freely, I re-lubricated everything with modern Angenieux grease and re-assembled the components. The glass was all cleaned and calibrated/collimated on an Angenieux vertical collimator. I cleaned up the surface of the exterior barrels and re-painted all of the engravings. The lens was better than it was when it came from Angenieux and performed great on my test projector. Another successful restoration to add to my cabinet.

The contamination in the glass regarded the image quality severely. A few wipes with specialized chemicals made the elements as good as new.



Categories: Lens Guts, Snaps

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

7 replies

  1. Very impressive! I have a question: I found a 610mm Kodak Aero Ektar lens at a flea market but it has a lot of fungus on it. I don’t know much about these lenses but was wondering how much work/difficulty there is to taking them apart and cleaning if possible the fungus. Trying to weigh the sellers asking price and the work needed. Here is one photo on my Flickr stream: http://www.flickr.com/photos/philipgreene/6341587044/in/photostream

    Not sure you see enough from the photo?

    Thanks!

    Philip

  2. hello Philip. I recently got the same exact lens with an horrrible fungus infestation throughout the lens element and the blades as well. I really would love to fix it or find someone able to do that if you can suggest. Plese let me know.
    And thank you for your precious information.

    • Hi Tommaso, Not sure I can be of any real help. There was a little more discussion of that lens here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/philipgreene/6340837783/in/photostream/
      with a link to how to clean lens fungus. In the US I have heard Paul Ebel lens service is good and in Europe I am not sure. I have seen a guy named Hans Kerensky on Flickr do a lot of camera work and he may be of help. I think in some cases if the lens has too much fungus people use a compound paste to clean the lens which may take off any lens coating before polishing it. I think it is worth a try. I did not restore that lens. Someone else bought it and later broke it according to the seller. The asking price was $135.00 and it would have been worth buying. Hope that helps and good luck with your lens!

      Philip

  3. Hi Matt,

    I have a c-mount elgeet cine lens that has a very stiff focus ring. The lens is very inexpensive and not worth getting it professionally cleaned. I never opened a lens before but am thinking of giving it s a try myself. Do you happen to have a few more pictures at intermediate stages, that you could upload?

  4. Ballpark- How much would this cleaning and restoration cost?
    I have the same lens and use it quite a bit on Micro Four Thirds.

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