Not Your Everyday Banana

by Bart Arondson

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I have some very old primes (grandfather's 1950s Exakta Varex lenses, ranging from 28mm to 85mm) that I've been really enjoying on my Sony NEX with an adapter. It's partially sentimental, but I've also gotten some great shots from them.

One of my favorites of the series is the 85mm, but it has quite a bit of dust on the inside, and the focus ring puts up a heck of a fight when it's moved. There are a couple specks of dust that are occasionally noticeable in my pictures, sometimes glaring.

It feels silly to pay for professional cleaning of lenses that are likely worth far less than the cleaning cost. I'm mechanically inclined; what are my chances of success disassembling and cleaning them myself? Is there a generic guide about lens cleaning that you have used with success (what to oil the aperture blades with, what cleaning products to use, etc.)?

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If you try to do it yourself, it will surely be one of those cases when you are done putting it back together you have a few screws left over and you swear that you shouldn't. –  dpollitt May 20 '11 at 18:07
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@dpollitt - at the end of rebuilding every laptop, I always look down and think "well, I hope those weren't important" –  rfusca May 20 '11 at 18:42
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Awesome. The screws in those lenses are so small anyway, I'm sure they don't serve any real purpose. –  Evan May 20 '11 at 18:44
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One thing you will need that may be hard to come by is a very clean workspace. Nowhere in my home or office would do, I can see the occasional dust motes swim by as I type this. You don't want to trap new dust inside while putting the now clean optics back together.... –  RBerteig May 20 '11 at 21:05
    
Very good point, thanks RBerteig. –  Evan May 20 '11 at 21:59
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1 Answer 1

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I would suggest trying it yourself, especially if you are mechanically minded and have had success at other small part disassemble/reassemble jobs. If you do decide to give it a go, I am an electronic engineer by trade and here are some suggestions that I use when I have to repair small electronic devices ...

  • Have a LARGE clean, clear, flat and preferably white area available. Spend time cleaning it and if you have to, cover with a white cotton sheet.

  • Break the disassemble down in to stages so you work towards one small goal at a time. Each time you reach the end of a stage spend the time to ensure everything is ready and set for the next stage.

  • Have a collection of small pots available to put screws or small parts in from different stages of the disassemble. I use a collection of old 35mm film canisters as if I then have to pause during the repair I can put the lids on knowing I will not loose parts.

  • Make notes on what you have done at each stage, what parts were removed, how and how many screws were involved as well as what container they are now in. You could even take photographs of each stage. This is invaluable when you come to reassemble it back and will ensure that you don't have the dreaded left over screws at the end.

  • Take your time, the more you invest in to the task the greater the euphoria at the end when you have a lens that is like brand new :)

I do hope you manage to clean them up successfully as every time you take a great shot with the old lenses you will be happy knowing you have done your grandfather proud! Besides the optics in those old ones are probably pretty good glass compared to a lot of modern mass produced stuff. Good luck Evan!

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+1 for taking pictures. I generally take a lot of pictures when I'm disassembling something... Both for the 'put the teardown on my blog' value, but it can be extremely handy to have reference material to look back on when you're putting it all back together... –  Jay Lance Photography May 23 '11 at 22:42
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