Same camera different stuff ?

Hmm, I thought I would bring this up … thanks to Simon.

Simon was working on restoring his Minolta Autocord and he found my blog post. He got into a jam because the shutter on my post was not the same as his model.

Many older cameras were produced in different variants as time went on. Most often the model name printed on the camera remains the same, but they change physical components and they then become a group of many sub-models under one primary model name.

The Minolta Autocord had many variants all noted under the same name … the main variance in the model was the shutter. Here is a list: Optiper MXS, Optiper MXV, Sheikosha MX, Sheikosha Rapid, Optiper M, Optiper MVL, and finally the Citizen MVL.

So keep aware that when servicing a camera shutter, you need info on that specific model of shutter and not the camera model. This is one reason why I specifically note the shutter model when it is applicable. The Seikosha MX shutter I described was not like the Citizen MVL that Simon had. Luckily most older cameras had shutters that were clearly labelled on them.

Also note the variants of a camera type like the Canon rangefinders … the II, III, and IV series are similar but may differ in some components so disassembly instructions for my IIF may not be correct for a IV … another example is the Leica IIF, which is different than a IIC in some components (which I found out the hard way).

Sometimes you can use the service instructions from one model to help you guess with a different model … but sometimes life is like a box of chocolates.


Canon IIF rangefinder – cleaning the viewfinder

I got this Barnack style rangefinder for the lens that was included with it. The camera turned out to be in very good condition. All it needed was some cleaning of the view/rangefinder.

Tools: slotted screw drivers, flexi-clamps, tweezers, spannerwrench, q-tips, cleaning solutions.

The first thing to remove is the cover for the rangefinder window. If you do not have flexi-clamps then you can use pliers and a thick rubber band (to keep it from scratching the metal) … or even try removing it by hand if it is loose enough.

Pull out the window cover.

Unscrew the adapter ring.

Unscrew the collar for the shutter button.

The shutter speed dial is held on by three tension screws. Loosen them and pull off the dial.

The film rewind knob is unscrewed … you will have to hold onto the column to keep it from turning.

Completely unscrew and remove the collar lock. The rewind column will fall into the body.

The magnifier is held on by the ring screw, unscrew it with the spanner wrench or even your tweezers.

Pull off the magnifier lever.

Remove the two screws.

Remove the single screw just behind the hot shoe.

Unscrew the four screws to remove the hot shoe

Pull off the top plate.

This is a front view.

The rangefinder prism is on the left and the viewfinder mirror/prism is on the right.

Behind that is the rotating magnifier.

Clean the surfaces.

Watch out not to get any fluid behind the rangefinder prism.

If the secondary viewfinder image looks weak, it could be either dirt/liquid behind the rangefinder prism or the main viewfinder mirror has de-silvered. You can’t do much about de-silvering, but you can remove the rangefinder prism and clean the back. On the Canon IIF the rangefinder prism is held in place by two small screws and lacquer. Acetone or nail polish remover can soften the lacquer … do that or you may strip the screws. Once you clean it and put it back in you should check the image alignment through the viewfinder.

Attach a lens to the camera. Set it on infinity. Look though the viewfinder and then make slight adjustments to the rangefinder prism until it matches up or at least gets very close. Then you can tighten the prism.

Put the cover back on. Put the three screws and hot shoe back in to secure it. Attach the rangefinder adapter ring and cover window.

Turn the cover window to change the vertical alignment.

The vertical alignment screw is covered by a screw by the viewfinder window. Remove it, and then you can use a thin slotted screw driver to change the horizontal alignment. It the horizontal alignment is way off, it means the prism is not positioned correctly.

Once that looks ok, but the rest back on … make sure you put the shutter speed dial back in the right position by first pulling/turning the column until you find Bulb, then wind the shutter and attach the dial.

Canon IIF – some camera history

The Canon IIF rangefinder came out in 1953, made by Seikikōgaku Kenkyūsho … which changed to Canon in 1947. It is a copy of the Barnack designed camera, the classic Leica rangefinders. The first of the Canon rangefinders was the Kwanon, and they started rolling out models after that first prototype.

Kwanon … the name ‘Kwanon’ refers to Canon, the Buddhistic Goddess of Mercy.

Many series II cameras were made, each with slight variations in design.

The Canon IIF model was specifically marketed for export (not available for purchase in Japan), which is why you will typically see them with the E.P. (Post Exchange) stamp on the top … you will find may auctions calling this a Canon EP camera model name in the USA as many military personnel had purchased these cameras.

One unique feature of the Canon II rangefinders is the three position viewfinder magnifier … makes focusing easier and can also be used to reflect the field of view for an image of 50mm, 100mm and 135mm.

I find that the “feel” of this camera is more solid than the Leica IIF that I had … I think it has more metal, and the single view/range finder window is handy. I have only had to service one of them, and there was not much to do as it was in great condition.

Since I am getting into the habit of introductions … my next post will be about the servicing of this camera. This one, as I mentioned, did not require much so it is going to be a short one.

Lens elements

All lenses are made up of at least one lens element. Most modern lenses have multiple lens elements, in groups, with a specific orientation.

For those that want to take apart lenses for cleaning purposes you will, at some time, encounter an opps.

You’ve taken apart a lens and the elements are removed. You clean them nicely and then put it back together. Then later on you realize that your images come out soft, or edges are out of focus, or you cannot focus at all. Opps.

What happened is that one or more of the elements are in the wrong orientation. What do you do ?

You hop onto the web and search for images that show diagrams of the element/group arrangement. There are many resources for these on the web and a lot of them can be found in older user guides or handbooks.

Search for “xxxx lens diagram” or “xxxx lens elements” … and hopefully you get something.

Another resource is through Forums. Many Forums that specialize in specific camera types will often have members who have collected this type of information and will gladly provide this to others.


Having a mirrorless camera like my NEX-3 (tool) helps in quickly checking a lens after you have serviced it.

Sony NEX tool

Tool of the day. Well not that kind of “tool”, I mean a real tool.

A digital camera that can accept different types of lens mounts is a handy tool check a lens. All cameras are designed with a specific mount type with matching lenses.

Some cameras can use an adapter to permit mounting of a different type. Today, these typically these are mirrorless cameras, because of the short flange focal distance. Most of these will have a FFD of less than 20mm which means they can accept lens types that have a longer distance with an adapter. Most SLR mounts use 40mm or longer, and even the Leica thread mount is about 29mm.

So here is my cool red Sony NEX-3, Fotga M39-NEX adapter, and Canon 35mm f/2.8 rangefinder lens.

I can easily check minimum and infinity focusing.

See how much affect haze and fungus have on the lens elements.


I can also take digital images with this … hmm, I wonder if they thought of that when they made this thing ?