Repair and Renovation Services

My repair and renovation “business” grew out of my desire to use the wonderful old folders I’d pick up at flea markets… and especially on eBay. I quickly found out that the Agfa Isolettes that were offered and won at such low prices were low because they didn’t work right… a no-brainer, DUH! You don’t get anything for nothing… most of the time. So I started to fix these lovely little pocket folders and one thing led to another as they say. I also have to admit that the learning curve was paved by a number of cameras that were sacrificed to that learning curve… they now serve as parts cameras!!!!

When shipping cameras for repair, please ship via USPS Priority Mail with Delivery Confirmation. I personally pick up all delivery at the post office. NO packages get left at my doorstep .. unless you ship via UPS or FedEx … and guess what, USPS is just as fast and just as reliable, and less expensive than the other two.

When I receive your package, I do not open it until I actually bring it to the worktable. I simply mark it with date of arrival and that date determines when it gets worked on. Two reasons I do not open packages before I work on them is:
a) NOTHING, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING can get lost !!!!
b) If my wife ever has to deal with my stuff, all she would have to do is take all the packages to the Post Office and do the “RETURN TO SENDER” thingy.

Thanks for understanding.

Most of the cameras that I work with are the Agfa Isolettes, though Zeiss cameras are catching up in volume. The most common problems with folders are:

  • Frozen, or at least stiff, focus lens helical
  • Dirty, Sticky shutter
  • Leaky bellows

Almost every Isolette has a bad bellows, the ration of good to bad bellows is something like 1:50, and that’s no exaggeration, no matter what the eBay seller description tells you!!!! Most other maker’s folders only occasionally need a new bellows. As to shutters…no matter which model shutter, be it a Pronto or a Synchro-Compur, after 50 years, they need to be cleaned and sometimes adjusted. A shutter is an open mechanism that “allows” dust and microscopic dirt to enter… plus the constant abrasion of metal upon metal operation of the shutter and you will have a build up of dirt that will eventually retard the speeds of the shutter. Look at the comparison of before and after cleaning solution photos… pretty telling!

Shooting lighter fluid or powered graphite into the shutter is a momentary solution… for a few days! The shutter must be partially disassembled and the parts flushed. I do it electronically with a rather powerful medium that, unlike lighter fluid, does not leave any residue… but the fumes sure get my wife a tad upset!!

Lens elements usually must also be cleaned, reassembled, and them collimated for proper focusing. When cleaning these 50 year old lenses I have discovered a rather disconcerting problem… in some cases, and it matters not the maker or lens type, the lens coating either is or has become so soft, that even a “light” attempt at cleaning the lens will remove some of the coating… and this usually only happens on the inner element. Don’t know why!

Another “item of interest”, people often ask me “does the lens have dust?” As a famous American once said…“let me make this perfectly clear….”, every lens has dust in it, especially folders. The lenses are set into a shutter, which has open crevices to the outside world and shutter blades whirling about inside … of course it has dust.

One particular morning I awoke and brilliant rays of sunshine were pouring in through the window, cool I said! As I stepped out of bed and was at a right angle to the rays I gasped in horror and those rays were loaded with trillions of miniscule dust particles…Golly, I said to myself in my best colloquialism, we breathe those in. You think your lens in immune! For the same reasons, you can usually see these dust particles when shining a flashlight into the lens. That’s why the “Photo show” buyer has a flashlight, so he can “devalue” your lens and steal it from you at a lower price!! I got a Rolleiflex f1.4/50mm Planar once that had a loose spiral spring, some odd hardened liquid bubbles, dust, and a unidentified German insect in the lens … more nasty stuff that the average lens you would agree. I took the lens to Dresden (Germany) and used it, just to see how it would perform. The results are here to see (there’s also the same picture taken with a Super Baldax w/ Ennagon lens just for comparison)! Same result with an Agfa Isolette III whose f3,5 /75mm Solinar lens than I had “ruined” (as in not saleable) with the skipping Dremel tool across the lens. That Solinar performed flawlessly with no hint whatsoever that it was badly gouged by the dremel bit. Would I buy that lens on a camera – no, but my point is don’t spazz out because the lens has dust or mottled coating spots on it… it WILL MAKE NO DIFFERENCE IN YOUR PICTURES ! Only your ego will notice!

Service Costs:

Please note – all prices listed here are approximate! Email me for an exact quote.

Agfa:

Isolette I & II ( 6×6 ), Record I & II ( 6×9 )
Basic CLA of shutter & lenses, with new bellows – $105

Isolette III, Record III

Basic CLA of shutter & lenses, with new bellows – $130

Super Isolette

Basic CLA of shutter, lenses, rangefinder, focusing helical – $100
also with new bellows – $150

Zeiss:

Super Ikonta B (530, 532, & 533 series)
Basic CLA of shutter, lens, rangefinder, film wind/advance – $150+
also with new bellows – $210

Super Ikonta III & IV

Basic CLA of shutter, lens, rangefinder, film wind/advance – $125
also with new bellows – $185

Super Ikonta 6×9

Basic CLA of Shutter, lens, rangefinder, body – $125
also with new bellows – $185

Non rangefinder models 6×6 or 6×9
Basic CLA of shutter, lens & body – $85
also with new bellows – $145

Certo Six:

Basic CLA of shutter, lens, body & replace/calibrate rangefinder mirror/prism – $125
also with new bellows – $190

Other folders:

Prices are similar to above.

The above prices are a guide and not absolutes, depends on individual cameras as well. I am a one man operation. As I’ve stated, I’ve retired from my 12hr a day job to my hobby as a ¾ time job… and sometimes when the wife says “honey-do”, work slows for a day or two . It is my passion to do this work, but I do it for fun. You are not dealing with a corporation here… I’m not B&H! I do stand behind my work and if something is not right, don’t get all bent out of shape… just send it back and I will make all efforts to get it right for you or replace the item. Nobody wants to be taken advantage of or felt like they’ve been ripped off. Also, please remember we’re dealing with a half-century-old objects here that have been through many different hands, some of which have not been too kind. If you are looking for mint specimens to put in your display case, you might look elsewhere. My objective is to have excellent working cameras that look as good as possible… I make no pretense at “mint“…. Though I come close at times.

I also take some of the various models of Isolettes and Hapo 66e’s and totally refurbish them with new bellows, naturally, but also with new exterior coverings. These are a fun experience and give you something different, and I think something “cool” to set you apart from the next guy. Some just with new body covering and some will also be stripped of their chrome and polished to a bright brass finish.

In all cases, please feel free to contact me for your needs and or desires, Remember, a medium format camera in your pocket is better than the one you left at home because it is too heavy/bulky to lug around!!

Russian ISKRA: REPAIRS

What follows is an email I sent to a customer recently and needs to be shared with interested folder aficionados with a craving for an Agfa Super Isolette… and settling for the enticingly low-priced eBay Iskra, the Russian “knock off” of the Super Isolette. (Pssssssssst….. It’s cheaper for a reason … read on…)

“The Iskra however is another story. Just recently I decided that I will no longer repair Iskras … and your example simply verified that decision. Unfortunately, Iskras in near perfect condition can be awesome picture takers. Alas, such an Iskra is more rare than orchids in Iceland! The vast majority of Iskras that I have seen in the last year were sorry excuses for cameras, cameras that were in fact far beyond the point of economical and logical repairs. It is not just readjustment or the replacing of a spring to make these cameras worthy again… all too often, the cameras are just simply ‘worn out’… and the somewhat sloppy Russian Cold War manufacturing tolerances and choice and quality of materials bear much of the blame. Add to that the numnerous repairs that previous owners have tried to make their Iskras usable… and its just a headache and frustration that I no longer can endure. I have at least 8 Iskras sitting here that people have sent me and are actually totally useless. Shame too, as the Russian optics are really first rate, shame its in such a ( now ) worthless camera. Too bad !!!”