A few years ago I got hold of an Optikotechna Flexaret I. These are extremely uncommon outside of Czech Republic or Slovakia, so much so that I even broke my own rules and bought a non-functioning camera, just because it was a hole in my Flexaret collection. The main issues were a shutter which did not fire below 1/50th and some filthy glass (actually the whole thing was filthy).
Today, for no good reason, I decided to get the shutter working. This should be a simple matter of dropping off the rear element and applying some judicious cleaning agent. My lens wrench turned out to be too short to reach the rear element though so I had to go in through the front. This turned out to be serendipitous since the rigmarole of pulling off the front two elements of the taking lens exposes the entire shutter, the viewing lens and the focus ‘string’ so I ended up doing a complete clean.
There are two kinds of patina: the marks of long proper usage and the marks of general filth and neglect. Only one of these is a good thing and the poor Flexaret had both. As we know everyone smoked in the past and I cleaned a small tobacco farm’s worth of yellowish gunk from the glass and focussing screen. The front surface of the rear element of the Mirar was practically opaque and the middle element was starting to develop light fungus. Now it is all sparkly clean (uncoated triplets are the easiest thing to clean, especially front focusing in shutter triplets). I also fixed the infinity focus on both focusing and taking lenses. There is still some work to do: I should consider improving the clarity of the aperture markings but I do not want to do a repaint, I like the aged look.
One note for the unwary: the crackle-effect paint used on the focusing hood is soluble in isopropyl alcohol. Fortunately it is not soluble in soap and water.
Oh, and the original point: yes the shutter now fires on all speeds and they seem more or less right, as accurate as I can be bothered with anyway, so tomorrow I am going to take it out and put a roll of HP5 through it. Quite possibly the first time it will have been used in decades. Now she needs a name.
This disgustingly beaten up Mamiyaflex C2 has been my friend and partner in crime since 1992: and it shows. I have an alarming tendency to be pretty rough on my gear. I am, however, kind to glass since that is really all that matters.
The great thing about the C series Mamiyas is that they are just a box and as long as you keep the bellows in good condition the rest can just take whatever you throw at them. In this case the hood is bent and the body is peeling but it still just works.
I am down to two Mamiyas and two lenses. I got rid of a C330f, a C330s and a set of lenses (55, 65, 2x80, 105, 135 and 180) in the early 2000s and have kinda regretted it ever since.
The old style 180 is pretty soft but that makes it an excellent portrait lens. I generally prefer the 180 to the 135 for portraits even though it needs an extra few feet. I used to have a couple of sharpie marks on my tripod center column for parallax adjustment when shooting macros with this thing: cheaper than a paramender!
I suppose I ought clean up the body a bit. The argument of ‘at least looking like that no one is going to steal it’ doesn’t really apply to a C2 because no-one would steal it anyway (or if they tried they would just bring it back in disgust as they are a mind-bogglingly stupid camera to use).
I gave this Rolleicord 1a (after giving it a clean) to a young photographer who had never used film before. That may have been a little wantonly cruel of me, the 1a is not the easiest TLR to use.
As mitigation however I did provide her with a PDF of the manual, a take up spool and a roll of film. I wonder if she ever managed to work it out, must find out and get a print…
Not all my TLRs are Czech. This rather battered old thing is on semi-permanent loan. However, there was a condition, and that was that she gets used, and my friend has now had her for over a year and has not put a single roll of film through her: not even the roll I gave her. So she may be coming back to the fold, even though she is the one which caused the death leap of my Flexaret VI.
Rolleiflex Standard 621. Very beaten up but optically and mechanically sound.