Camera and Lens Repair Hack Chat

Anthony Kouttron

Wednesday, May 29, 2024 12:00 pm PDT Local time zone:
Hack Chat
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Anthony Kouttron will host the Hack Chat on Wednesday, May 29 at noon Pacific.

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JoinUnlike the normies, most of us are pretty comfortable looking under the hood of just about anything electronic or mechanical. Whether it's to effect a repair, make a modification, or just to take a look around, voiding warranties is what we do. A lot of us have hard limits, though, and will shy away from certain types of equipment. High voltages and radiation come to mind, as well as machines with lots of spinny bits that can devour your hands in a trice. One mustn't be foolhardy, after all.

But one place that we've always feared to tread for some reason is camera equipment. Perhaps it has to do with all those impossibly tiny screws with subtly different lengths and the knowledge that putting the wrong screw in the wrong hole could have disastrous results. Or maybe it's just the general fear that messing around with the insides of lenses could knock something slightly off-kilter and ruin the optics.

We're certainly glad that Anthony Kouttron doesn't share this trepidation. We recently featured a lens repair that he accomplished that was packed with tips and tricks for optical repairs. It turns out that Anthony has been repairing cameras for leisure since 2010 and has serviced both consumer and high-end cinema equipment, so he's seen his fair share of broken camera bits. We've asked him to drop by the Hack Chat, so if you've been hesitant to dive into optical fixes, now might be your chance to learn about the dos and don'ts of camera and lens repair.

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Page 1

    Tom Nardi05/30/2024 at 03:06 0 comments

    Anthony Kouttron 2:49 PM
    Hey everybody! I'm Anthony Kouttron, I'm an electrical engineer and big camera nerd. I have been repairing cameras as a hobby since ~2010 ever since mirrorless cameras began supplanting the 3CCD potato cams of the early 2000s. I've repaired full frame consumer cameras, cinema cameras, cinema accessories, and both zoom / prime photo lenses. Shoot me any questions you have involving camera repair, design troubleshooting etc...
    Dan Maloney 2:51 PM
    Hey Anthony, welcome aboard!
    Anthony Kouttron 2:52 PM
    Dan Maloney 2:53 PM
    We'll give it a few more minutes to let people filter in then we'll kick it off
    Dan Maloney 3:00 PM
    OK, hello everyone and welcome to the Hack Chat! I'm Dan, I'll be moderating today along with Dusan as we welcome Anthony Kouttron to the Hack Chat to talk about busted cameras and lenses and how to make them un-busted
    Dusan Petrovic 3:00 PM
    Hi Dan
    Dusan Petrovic 3:00 PM
    welcome everyone!
    Dan Maloney 3:01 PM
    Thanks for joining us today, Anthony. THe reason I asked you on with us today was that cool repair of the Sigma lens that you pulled off. I thought it had a lot of neat tips and tricks:
    Anthony Kouttron 3:01 PM
    Glad to be here!
    Dan Maloney 3:01 PM!
    Dusan Petrovic 3:01 PM
    Welcome Anthony!
    Dan Maloney 3:02 PM
    And I harped a bit about how much camera repairs scare me, but it's true -- I always shied away from trying to fix any of my SLR gear, even though I'll try fixing most anything else. Is that a rational fear?
    Anthony Kouttron 3:03 PM
    The biggest risk when tearing apart a camera is the flash trigger circuit and the sensor block.
    Anthony Kouttron 3:03 PM
    When disassembling a camera with a flash, the integrated capacitor will hold charge for a long time. There is not usually a bleed resistor
    Anthony Kouttron 3:04 PM
    so you have to properly discharge the capacitor before continuing with the teardown. The camera manufacturers actually talk about this on the first page of the service manual. Taking a 5w resistor and a few jumper leads takes care of it no problem
    Evan None
    but it is an essential step. I forgot to discharge the flash capacitor one time and my right angle tweezers touched the wrong place. my poor knipex tweezer tips were no more
    Anthony Kouttron 3:06 PM
    In regards to the sensor, if the camera does not have 5-axis stabilization, there are usually 4-6 spring loaded screws that are adjusted to make the sensor planar to the lens bayonet
    ump 3:06 PM
    What is the proper way to discharge the capacitor once identified?
    these screws are calibrated at the factory before the camera is shipped. you do not want to unscrew these are you will not be able to verify sensor flatness without speciality tools. I'm sure it can be done, but you will likely need a light projector and some kind of light measuring device
    Andrew Smith 3:07 PM
    Hi Dan Hi Anthony, I've been collecting film cameras with a bit of repair for a while. I learned a lot from the books of Thomas Tomosy. Saddened to learn he passed in 2023
    Anthony Kouttron 3:07 PM
    I use a 10ohm 5w resistor with insulated leads. I simply put the resistor across the capacitor and it safely discharges the cap
    transistor--man 3:08 PM
    Thanks for hosting a hack chat, whats the best series of cameras in terms of repairability?
    Anthony Kouttron 3:08 PM
    obviously do not touch any bare metal wire leads, make sure the leads are indulated
    Dan Maloney 3:09 PM
    I've got a Canon A1 that I left the battery in for too long and...
    Read more »

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Page 2

    Tom Nardi05/30/2024 at 03:05 0 comments

    Dan Maloney 3:49 PM
    Good point -- what's the basic toolkit look like to get started in lens and camera repair?
    Anthony Kouttron 3:50 PM
    Anthony Kouttron 3:50 PM
    @evan. Good luck with it! Make sure you have an empty table, some tape and a bunch of patience before your lens dissection
    chuisco None
    has anyone had success fixing a gear in a dslr lens? i have one with chipped teeth and those things are tiny. not sure if i could 3d print them accurately.
    Anthony Kouttron 3:51 PM
    Anthony Kouttron 3:52 PM
    @Dan Maloney I'd definitely recommend pointed and lens spanners, a silicone rubber cylindrical lens set and a cheap lens thread reshaping tool. These are invaluable. Nice lens spanners can be found on ebay from time to time. I think edmund optics used to make some
    Ferdinand Sanchez 3:52 PM
    Any rubber grips that are distorted from hard use can be restored to original shape by using naphtha. But you need to experiment with different types of rubber how long to expose them to naphtha in order to return them in original shape; Too long exposure can shrink them too much, and this can not be undone.
    Evan 3:52 PM
    @Ferdinand Sanchez do you do that in situ or remove them from the lens?
    Anthony Kouttron 3:53 PM
    @transistor--man I have not yet looked into camera lens signaling, but it is definitely an interesting attack vector for 3rd party adapter making. I have a feeling all the camera manufacturers use similar lens communication protocols considering the lenses use similar microcontrollers across the board.
    Ferdinand Sanchez 3:54 PM
    @Evan remove them, of course
    Ferdinand Sanchez 3:54 PM
    @Evan you need to completely submerge desired rubber part in naphtha
    Evan 3:55 PM
    was just gonna ask that, thanks
    Dan Maloney 3:55 PM
    Quickly read that as "napalm"
    Anthony Kouttron 3:56 PM
    @mark That sounds like a job for an SLA 3d printer. The added resolution should work great for your application. If it's small, the up front cost should not be too bad. Go for it!
    Anthony Kouttron 3:56 PM
    @Ferdinand Sanchez I have not tried naphtha, but I'll give it a shot. Thanks for the suggestion.
    Anthony Kouttron 3:57 PM
    Anthony Kouttron 3:57 PM
    @mark I was luckily able to reshape the focus gear in a 20mm f1.7 lens I had
    Dan Maloney 3:58 PM
    Seems like you have to have the correct greases and oils too. I can see the wrong products doing some very bad things
    Ferdinand Sanchez 3:58 PM
    @Anthony Kouttron it is used in camping lanterns, so it is easy to get your hands on it
    Anthony Kouttron 3:58 PM
    A pair of needle files cleaned it up enough that it reliably kept working. No teeth were broken off, just two were slightly deformed. Possible from dirt / debris. The repair worked
    Evan 3:59 PM
    @transistor--man Here's a description of the nikon F-mount signaling: -- unfortunately this nikonhacker website returns 404s for all its content now, so you have to use the wayback machine :(
    transistor--man 4:00 PM
    @Evan thanks!
    Anthony Kouttron 4:01 PM
    camera lens flex repairs are super common in today's AF lenses, but unfortunately, solder bridges and tiny-wire bridges are intermittent fixes
    Anthony Kouttron 4:01 PM
    Anthony Kouttron 4:02 PM
    If you can solder it up to the point where the mylar doesn't fail, tiny wires act as a great solution, but often do not work because that failure point is a necessary bend radius. The added rigidity of the wire prevents the cable from bending and the lens will not reassemble properly
    Evan 4:02 PM
    now that the various cheap PCB manufacturers can do flex PCBs, I wonder at what...
    Read more »

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Andrey Roy wrote 05/26/2024 at 05:09 point

It's fascinating how some people are fearless when it comes to tinkering with electronics and machinery, even if it means voiding warranties. However, many of us draw the line at certain equipment, like high voltages or machines with intricate moving parts that could be dangerous. Surprisingly, one area that often intimidates even the most daring DIY enthusiasts is camera equipment.

I think part of the hesitation stems from the complexity of camera internals, with their delicate optics and tiny screws that seem daunting to manipulate. It's reassuring to know that there are experts like Anthony Kouttron who excel in camera and lens repairs. His experience since 2010, handling everything from consumer to high-end cinema gear, makes him a valuable resource for anyone interested in learning the ins and outs of optical repairs.

If you've ever been curious about delving into camera maintenance but felt intimidated, now's the perfect opportunity to glean insights from someone like Anthony who has mastered the dos and don'ts of camera repair. It's a chance to demystify this fascinating aspect of technology and gain valuable skills in the process.

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