Working with seals … this ain’t MarineLand, no fish for you!

There is one thing that is common to more modern camera’s is light seal material … something I started encountering when I got into cameras made in the 60’s and 70’s. Older cameras were physically designed to reduce light leaks coming in. Over time as camera design changed they became more susceptible to light entering the film chamber from the film loading door. Manufactures started adding in fabric and foam material to reduce light entry.

Many of the TLR’s I’ve had used simple yarn type material, some wooden cameras use velvet, while the rangefinder cameras added felt and more modern foam material. While the yarn and felt materials survived decades, the foam material they used had a tendency to degrade … becoming brittle or soften with age, and eventually requiring replacement. The Canon QL’s and the Olympus SP that I have written about all required a light seal replacement … ahhhh, I am melting!!!!!

Now, this ain’t a tutorial on how exactly to do this … there are already sooooo many references on the Web about how to do this on many different cameras … I am just going to mention some things to add to what is already out there.

You have a choice of buying material then cutting them to size to fit your camera. This is a more economic way if you have a lot of cameras, but if you just have one camera then you probably can get a pre-cut kit.

There are many types of foam you can source. One thing you will probably see is open and closed cell types. If the cells are open they will allow more air between cells to escape, thus is more flexible … but less durable and may leak light through if it has very large cells. Closed cell is most common if you just look for foam, it is less compressible as it has enclosed air pockets.

I have read many articles from DIY’rs that use things like mouse pads …. as I was a scuba diver and being familiar with Neoprene, I can say that this type of closed cell foam is way too uncompressable for usage in camera seals. Many of the old cameras that I have had used open cell foam. I did find some semi-open cell foam which is kinda in the middle … also there are a number of different materials used to make foam, and that plays a part in its feel.

Milly’s Camera has a nice set of various types of foam for camera seals. Here are a couple links to instructions on replacing seals: Matt’s Classic Cameraspeter_de_waalbikebeerun1960.

If you search the web for pre-cut kits you will probably come across Jon Goodman’s name. Jon started selling kits over a decade ago, and has been the go-to-guy for them. Many people have praised the materials and instructions he provides … though he has disappeared from the Web ( old Classic Camera Repair forum ) and eBay but you can contact him directly via email  or

DIY material:

  • 8 ply black yarn
  • velvet strips or felt
  • open, semi-open, closed cell foam
  • Ronsonol
  • acetone – use with care as it will dissolve plastic
  • bamboo chopsticks – a straw – toothpicks
  • glue – Pliobond
  • and I don’t have to mention Q-tips

Carefully look and feel the original material and try to replicate it.

Draw a map (so you can get back to where you came from), then measure the existing foam before removing.

Removing old foam seal material is a messy thing.

With self adhesive type foam, you can use hand sanitizer or lick the back to delay the adhesive … this is handy if you are putting the thin ones in those slots.

bikebeerrun’s video shows G-S hypo cement … hmm, that precision tip looks very helpful getting glue into tight spots.


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