Our Cameras and the Future.. Repair-wise

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by brian steinberger, Feb 27, 2012.

  1. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Member

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    I sent my beloved Bronica RF645 to KEH for a CLA and received it back today with a note saying that some gear assemblies need to be replaced inside and that the parts are no longer available, sorry. Well the gear assembly for resetting the window counter after a roll is finished is what needs replaced. But a few flicks on the winding lever will reset the window. SO, the camera still functions, but this has me extremely scared. How much longer will this camera last until it will not function anymore? When will Tamron stop supporting it? I'm assuming Tamron will have the parts to fix it? What happens when they don't service Bronica stuff anymore? What about all our cameras? Film cameras were built to last because the film got better, the camera didn't have to. In these digital days cameras only need to last a few years then are replaced because technology moves so fast. But it seems parts and good technicians are dissapearing. I'd like my Bronica and my Mamiya 6's to last the rest of my life (I'm 30). But I highly doubt this will happen. Electronics fail, and these cameras weren't built super tough. I feel as if to keep shooting film I will need to invest in a Hasselblad or Mamiya RB67, something mecahnical that will always be able to be fixed. But SLR is not my style of shooting. I enjoy rangefinder shooting. My Mamiya 6's have had minor problems so far and were easily fixed. Plus Mamiya is still around and will still service their film cameras, but for how long??

    This whole situation just has me scared. I'm thinking I should buy another RF645 to take some of the burden off the one I have. But if so, it will just be a paper weight a few years down the road when Tamron stops service and or parts aren't available. I guess it's all just a huge gamble then as to how long the camera will last.

    Thoughts? Suggestions?
     
  2. R.Gould

    R.Gould Member

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    All the cameras I use are completely mecahnical, all of them are well over 50 years old, and all are working well, and if any of them need service then I can get them repaired without problem, indeed, the oldest camera, I currently have, a 1938 Voightlander, recently needed a shutter repair and I had it done without a problem, If you like using Rangefinder's as I do, then perhaps invest in some older equipment, which has stood the test of time, and leave the ''modern'' cameras, with their electronics and batterys alone'
    Richard
     
  3. Moopheus

    Moopheus Subscriber

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    Having mechanical cameras is no guarantee. They tend to be easier to maintain and longer lasting than electronics, but parts wear out and are in finite supply. Look at the web sites of some repair techs, and you will see notes about parts they can't get any more. At some point even salvage options from parts cameras will be limited. But look on the bright side: commercial film production will probably end before we no longer have any working cameras.
     
  4. vedmak

    vedmak Subscriber

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    parts for mechanical cameras are easy to manufacture with a lathe and a few rods of steel/brass. I am using Leica IIIF that is 60 years old for about 10 years now, just take it easy, shoot film and let the digital world worry about the cost of equipment.
     
  5. pbromaghin

    pbromaghin Subscriber

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    As the stock of film cameras wear out, somebody will start making new film cameras.
     
  6. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Member

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    And who is that gonna be?
     
  7. BrianL

    BrianL Member

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    Was the camera used by a professional? Many Bronicas were and have thousands of film advances on them. Repalcement bodies are currently cheap so I'd suggest picking one up and holding it. I have the ETRS and at some point I'll likely pick up a ETR-Si body though my body is in excellent. At current prices it is not much more for a good body than a cheap p&s. I suspect as time goes on, the Bronicas will start rising in value again. I do not believe that Tamron supports them any longer but, this is not surprising as under US law they needed to support them model only for 7 years after being discontinued. I think the ETR-Si, the last of the Bronicas was discontinued in 2002 or so. There are a numner of Bronica repair techs so parts should be available for some time.
     
  8. fotch

    fotch Member

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    Interestingly, clocks and watches that are hundreds of years old, can be restored. Yes, they have to make parts sometimes. I think the cameras likely to be around the longest will be like the view camera, perhaps, Leica's. Electronics will shorten the useful life by leaps and bounds.

    JMHO
     
  9. CGW

    CGW Member

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    No need to wring your hands. Get back-ups whenever possible and buy the newest and "bestest," condition-wise, you can find/afford. It's about all you can do. With film demand still falling, it's highly implausible that anyone will be cranking out affordable new cameras comparable to today's to serve a shrinking market. Right now, I think a huge worry is capable repair staff and/or parts from sources other than donor stock, as your case suggests. Forget kindly Geppetto-like machinists eager to custom-make parts. Electronics are a wild card with no way to predict durability aside from what's still ticking today that's not required fixing.

    Buy what sold strongly over time, if only to be sure that back-ups are available now and parts in the future. Sadly, your Bronica RF didn't meet either criteria relative SQ and ETRS models.
     
  10. Moopheus

    Moopheus Subscriber

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    It's true--I had this done for an old pocket watch. Cost more than the watch was technically worth to have a tiny spindle made. It's not something you have done by just some guy with a lathe. But like I said, when it gets to the point where all of our cameras are being held together with spit and glue, no one will be making film for them.
     
  11. John Austin

    John Austin Member

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    Keep to a system you like and buy spare bodies and backs so as they wear out roll onto the next one - Pity I can't do that with my body and back
     
  12. Argenticien

    Argenticien Member

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    The technicians are the aspect that I worry about. In theory, one could always machine spare parts as one-offs. It's expensive, yes, but if you love the camera that much, some wizard CNC machinist can do it. (And I've read posts about people having done just that.) However, once the repair knowledge is gone, we're in trouble. I've often thought that in forums like this -- photo.net, rangefinderforum.com, and here -- the camera users ought to pool funds to endow a few apprenticeships for young people -- which I loosely use to mean 40ish or under! -- who are very interested in learning the trade. Apologies if this has been proposed already elsewhere; I'm not that widely read.

    This approach would obviously require the cooperation of the well-known repair wizards -- Mark Hama, Ken Ruth, Eric Hendrickson, Krikor Maralian, etc. -- to be willing to train their successors. And fairly soon before they're off to the golf courses. I don't know how old they all are, but at least some must be getting on in years, given that their experience includes things like "been servicing these since 1969" or "bring 43 years experience" etc. As I think about it, funding this is probably less problematic -- frankly if some people here can afford $10,000 Noctiluxes, we should be able to crowdsource enough funds; and mostly we're talking about covering apprentices' travel costs and maybe remunerating the technicians a bit for the opportunity cost of time they spend training the apprentices and maybe therefore having slightly lower CLA throughput. It's finding those apprentices, and maybe convincing the old guard technicians to go along with it, that could be harder. Thoughts?

    --Dave
     
  13. IloveTLRs

    IloveTLRs Member

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    You are not the only person scared about this. Honestly though, Bronicas seem to be particularly difficult cameras to repair. The older models like the S and S2 are a complex maze of gears, and the newer ones are electronic.

    I wonder if anyone in the US specializes in Bronica, and whether KEH shops around for repair people or not. Case in point: I had a Contax T break down on me, and all my local dealers told me to trash it. I ended up calling my favorite dealer in another city, who called around the country and found someone. Two and half months later my T was back in better condition than before - much to the surprise of everyone. My favorite repairman can replace half-mirrors in LTM cameras and copies bringing them back to life, which most people say is impossible, but original or not it can be done, which is why I keep going to him.

    In my experience, some repair places care more than others, which is sad. When you find a good one, make them your best friend and send them lots of business :smile:
     
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  15. jscott

    jscott Member

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    Good mechanical cameras will last a lifetime. Chances are that your cameras will outlast you, if they are given a good CLA and treated gently.
    Personally I look for cheap "parts" cameras for my favorite models (all 1950's or older), and these are easily available.
     
  16. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    How far are we from being able to make a 3D scan of part that we can produce with CNC machining equipment economically? A brand new Contax IIIA made to order? Why not? Now *that* would be a digital camera.
     
  17. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Buying a working Speed Graphic or Graflex kinda requires that one learn to repair or rebuild a shutter from scratch because none are available.
     
  18. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    On the other hand, the technology is only slightly more advanced than a window shade.
     
  19. paul ron

    paul ron Member

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    As long as I can get your old junker RBs for parts, I'll be around for a long long time to repair almost any RB67 problem you may have. Many of the parts can be hand made by any skilled mechanic. So don't toss that old junker in the trash, donate em for parts to be recycled?.. this is for your future benifit.

    I love mechanical cameras for their simplicity, quality of build n longevity minded designers who had foresight.

    BTW The old Bronica ETRS has such primative electronics it can be repaired but I doubt that will be the major probem with em... the shutters are the achilies heel.

    The thing with these old pro cameras is maintenance; amatures just simply hate to pay for it since a replacement is much cheaper these days.

    BUT... It's like going to the dentist, neglect em, you'll lose em sooner than later. The lack of miantenance kills cameras of this grade when not properly lubed n pampered or just left to sit in a closet for years on end. The pros did regular pit stops, they were making a living off their equipment.

    .
     
  20. BobD

    BobD Member

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    Embrace pinhole photography.
     
  21. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    There are a lot of Leicae out there, and a lot of people very attached to using them, so it seems fairly safe to assume that there will be enough interest to keep someone making the needed parts for a good long time. But for something like the OP's Bronica, is it clear that the specs to make the needed precision parts will even be known, or are people going to have to reverse-engineer the parts and then fabricate them?

    The really old stuff has the virtue of simplicity---I've seen the innards of a Vario shutter and it doesn't look like rocket surgery in there. Large format lends itself to Frankenstein solutions; if you can't get parts for shutter X, find shutter Y, or get a Packard, or fabricate a guillotine shutter, or take up wearing a hat. Newer equipment, particularly if it has a large user base, should find ready support for a long time. But there's an in-between range where long-term maintenance seems like a real concern.

    -NT
     
  22. clayne

    clayne Member

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    This is exactly where the manufacturers eventually wanted us to be post 80-90s: completely dependent on replacing things which wear out, while at the same time pumping out crud (unless you buy the top of the line stuff - and then sometimes not even then).

    I really resent what manufacturing has become. Once again, money, money, moneeeeeyyyyyy.
     
  23. John Austin

    John Austin Member

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    That is why I still like my Nikon Fs, they only get serviced when I have enough spare money, which is never, but they seem to keep on working despite me - Which is why I started the "Back to the basic F" thread after I had taken a couple out of the bottom of my safe and they worked like new

    However, I seriously take your point - My nearest reliable repair man is 3000Km away and he does not seem to understand the word "urgent", but I put quality of work first and when a camera goes to him I use something else and try to forget the camera he has to work on "Ooooh, I will try to look at that next week" - Repair men are to be treasured and cared for, for totally selfish reasons
     
  24. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    That's what I was going to suggest. Clock and watch makers/repairers make replacement parts all the time.

    I think it's time we stopped thinking we need specialist camera repairers and started thinking about getting clock repairers to look at our cameras.

    You don't need CNC. Many fine clocks and watches have been made using simple hand guided (and powered) tools.


    Steve.
     
  25. clayne

    clayne Member

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    Clock repairers is quite a good idea. Many of the internals related to the motion of the shutter and other mechanics are extremely similar.
     
  26. MarkF48

    MarkF48 Member

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    To the OP regarding Bronica repair.... try giving this place a call http://kohscamera.com/repair.htm . They specialize in Bronica repair and quite possibly may have the parts needed to fix yours.