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  1. #1

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    Is there a mycologist in the house? Can I tell if fungus is dead?

    Recently I bought a "spares" Kiev 3a body on that auction site. I've seen a lot of fungus in my time, but this camera is the most disgusting I have ever seen by far! I could see straight away that fungus was all over the viewfinder optics and the prism (which is also broken or separating), but after I took the back off I could hardly put it back quickly enough - growths of mould all over the interior. The camera is currently banished from the house and in a utility room (in the sort of damp conditions that probably started the problem). As it stands I'd be afraid to strip the thing because of all the spores I'd be spreading, so the plan is to try and kill the fungus first.

    I recently started a thread on this forum asking how I could kill possible fungus in a lens case, and fumigation with thymol crystals looked like a good prospect. I've made up a sort of fumigation chamber using an airtight plastic cake-box, with a car side-light bulb and UPS-type battery to provide a heat source to sublimate the thymol. I am aiming to give this a trial on the Kiev.

    From web searches on thymol it seems that although it used to be considered THE thing for dealing with mould on books and documents, there now seems to be a lot of doubt among archivists as to its effectiveness. So the problem is how to determine after the thymol treatment whether the fungus is alive or defunct. I'm thinking in terms of scraping a bit of fungus on to a microscope slide and adding some sort of nutrient to see if the fungus grows. Obviously I would try this both before and after so I could contrast the result.

    Does anyone know whether this could work, and what I could use to feed the fungus? Would any growth, even with nutrient, be so slow as to be undetectable within a realistic time-scale? Is there an easier, or quicker, way of testing for signs of life?

    Thanks,

    Steve.

  2. #2
    vyshemirsky's Avatar
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    Most species of mould grow very fast in favourable conditions. I am not a professional, but I had experience of working with several species of mushrooms and moulds.
    Usual technique is to place a sample of fungus on agar in a petri dish, hold it at about 25º-35º Celsius for up to a couple of weeks observing whether any growth occurs.
    There is a problem though - it is very difficult to inoculate the dish without contamination. I would do it in a clean box (not just a clean box, but a box with a pair of gloves attached to it that
    is chemically sanitised before handling any samples inside. I would flame sterilise all the instruments (e.g. the inoculation loop or a scalpel). I would also inoculate at least three plates to
    split my chances.

    My recommendation is to scrap that camera - it is not worth the hassle.
    There are very few ways to kill mould spores, and I am pretty certain thymol is not one of them. Think autoclaving or gamma-ray sterilisation.
    Last edited by vyshemirsky; 03-26-2012 at 06:43 AM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: spelling

  3. #3

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    Hi Grytpype,

    I am indebted to you for one Agimatic top plate, I believe? I haven't forgotten

    There seems to be two separate schools of thought about fungus, even inside the optical industry.

    Some believe it should be treated like a highly infectious disease - fungus must be quarantined and kept away from other optics in case it spreads like an epidemic.

    Others believe that the spores are all around us, everywhere and that fungal growth in a lens or camera is the inevitable consequence of storing the things in the wrong conditions. If the conditions are not favourable to fungal growth, it doesn't matter whether spores are present or not, they won't grow.

    I must admit I'm of the latter tendency. I work with optics full time in my day job. I've never, ever seen a problem with fungus or mould growth in any optic that was kept in 'normal' conditions. I've seen plenty of fungus in things I've bought off eBay that have been pulled out of someone's garden shed.

    In this case, though, you say the growth is inside the camera? On the chassis and metalwork presumably?

    I believe the fungi that grow on lenses are very specific species. Some like optical glass and some specialize in the balsam between cemented lenses. They are completely different to the stuff that would grow inside a camera body... which might be a mould growing in the damp dust inside the camera rather than a very specific lens etching nasty.

    Killing fungal spores may be difficult, I'm not a mycologist either so I wouldn't know, but I think killing growing fungus and moulds themselves isn't so hard?
    Bleach, ammonia, acetic acid, hydrogen peroxide and heat should all kill it off. I think it is a matter of choosing something that won't damage whatever it is growing on.

    I recently bought an ex RAF whole plate camera on eBay. When I went to collect, the seller whipped it out of their deep freeze!
    Apparently it was riddled with mould. Actually, the mould was mostly attacking the case the camera was in - but the bellows were pretty mildewed, too. This was their usual, if unorthodox, treatment. It seems to do the trick, after I cleaned the dead mould off it has shown no sign of regrowth!
    Steve

  4. #4

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    Thanks, both.

    From what you say, vyshemirsky, I think it is unlikely I would be able to do a valid test in the way I suggested. I must admit I did think of binning the camera, but it would be very useful for parts, and in fact I'm even thinking it could be repairable. Amazingly the shutter seems quite clean and almost works! It cocks and releases, though the second curtain needs a little help to run. I'm a sucker for a lost cause, and in fact the previous Kiev I rebuilt was severely fungusy - but nothing like as bad as this one.

    It is alleged that thymol kills spores, but as I said, there are many now who doubt its effectiveness, or even suggest it can encourage some types of mould. I always use vinegar for killing fungus on lenses, and on any other parts where I can wash it off easily, but of course problems arise when dealing with a complete camera, because you can't treat it until it is completely stripped.

    Like you, Steve, I generally tend to the school of thought that says fungus spores are everywhere, and it is how you keep the gear that counts. I live in rather damp premises, so most of my kit is kept dehumidified at about RH 30 to 40%. Anything I buy with fungus I normally put in an airtight box dehumidified below 10% RH until I have time to deal with it, but Kievs and Contax are tricky because of that leather strip holding the curtains together, which would be irreversably weakened by excessive dryness - really anything below 50%.

    It's an interesting thought that the fungus in the body is likely to be a different breed to the optical fungus in the viewfinder. I've often wondered if the fungus that attacks lenses is a specific type or types. Mainly thanks to eBay, I deal with fungus on a fairly regular basis - it's just the shear quantity that bothers me here, but if the body fungus is actually not a threat to optics, then the dismantling process would be no more dangerous than many others I've done.

    Fixed that Agimatic yet, Steve?

    Steve.
    Last edited by Grytpype; 03-26-2012 at 11:18 AM. Click to view previous post history.

  5. #5
    EASmithV's Avatar
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    Ugh... If I had a camera that bad, i wouldn't let it near any of my other photographic equipment, ever.

    +1 for boiling it and using what's left for parts
    www.EASmithV.com

    "The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera."— Dorothea Lange
    http://www.flickr.com/easmithv/
    RIP Kodachrome

  6. #6
    ic-racer's Avatar
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    New spores are everywhere and difficult to destroy. Just wipe it off and keep it out of moisture in the future.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by EASmithV View Post
    Ugh... If I had a camera that bad, i wouldn't let it near any of my other photographic equipment, ever.

    +1 for boiling it and using what's left for parts
    Quote Originally Posted by ic-racer View Post
    New spores are everywhere and difficult to destroy. Just wipe it off and keep it out of moisture in the future.
    A perfect illustration of the two schools of thought re. fungus!!

    Does this sound like a plan? It's unusually sunny here in the UK at present. I'll open the back and leave the camera in the sun in the hope that the UV will at least kill the visible mould. Then I will try the thymol fumigation trick in case that does some damage to the inaccessible fungus, and then put the thing in a sealed plastic bag in the ice-box while I decide what to do next.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grytpype View Post
    A perfect illustration of the two schools of thought re. fungus!!

    Does this sound like a plan? It's unusually sunny here in the UK at present. I'll open the back and leave the camera in the sun in the hope that the UV will at least kill the visible mould. Then I will try the thymol fumigation trick in case that does some damage to the inaccessible fungus, and then put the thing in a sealed plastic bag in the ice-box while I decide what to do next.

    ROFL!

    I like it - a three pronged approach - if the fungus survives that, I think it is entitled to devour the camera!

    Alas, no, I haven't done the Agimatic, yet. I definitely will - but I had a bit of a photographic crises when I realised how little time I'm spending on photography these days, and just how many unfinished projects I've got on the go. Unfortunately I'm a serial project starter. I had to sit myself down and give myself a good talking to and come up with a plan. I now have a list of priorities - and top priority is to use up all the film, paper and chemicals I have stocked up on that are just going stale. I need to use them before they are useless... Repairing my camera collection is a bit further down the list - but fear not, I will get there.
    Steve

  9. #9

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    Thought it might be of interest if I uploaded a picture of the interior of this specimen.

    WARNING: This image is not suitable for children, or those of a nervous disposition!!
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails kiev_3a_interior.jpg  

  10. #10
    jjphoto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grytpype View Post
    Thought it might be of interest if I uploaded a picture of the interior of this specimen.

    WARNING: This image is not suitable for children, or those of a nervous disposition!!
    Hmmm...fBay (fungusBay)!

    JJ

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