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  1. #1

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    Alpa Roto restoration/repair

    So I'm trying to figure out if I can repair the Alpa Roto camera I bought in the mid 90s. It worked when I got it (used), but since then, the main rubber o ring in the camera deteriorated badly (to the point of becoming a sticky goo-like substance). This o ring is crucial since it is what provides the drive system friction to turn the camera. The 70s and 80s rubber technology must've really been in the dark ages since I've experienced a similar occurence with some rubber capstans in video equipment from the same era.

    There was a company in NY, Karl Heitz, IIRC that serviced Alpa Rotos, but I believe they are no longer in business. I even tried to contact Alpa, but they no longer serviced the Roto either

    Posting here on the slim (to none) chance that anyone has any info or experience with this camera. Would be very nice to be able to put this very heavy (20 lbs?) but very capable (6xANY LENGTH plus lens shift) camera back into service.

    chris

  2. #2
    AgX
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    That camera was actually built (or at least designed) by the Seitz company in Switzerland. So in case of doubt on any local service you could approach them.


    http://www.roundshot.ch/xml_1/intern.../d583/f585.cfm
    (In case I do not mix up cameras)

  3. #3

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    I'd be surprised if Seitz wasn't willing to repair it for you, and do a great job. Likely not cheap though.
    They've always bee great with repairing my roundshot

  4. #4

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    Unfortunately, no luck with Seitz, either. I was told by Werner Seitz (the son) that they no longer have parts nor the design plans for the camera. His father built the first few and the rest were produced at Pignons SA.

  5. #5

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    I began to clean out the residual remains of the deteriorated rubber and figured out that it was worthwhile to attempt the repair myself. I even ordered a replacement rubber belt from an industrial materials supplier after taking some measurements. I am hoping the rubber is soft enough to provide the necessary grip to the rollers. I'll know the answer in about a week.

  6. #6
    AgX
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    I don't know about the size and material of that rubber ring or belt. But I assume Seitz/Pignon used a standard industrial material, most probably in metrical size.
    Best luck with your repair attempt. (I am quite surprised about the reply from Seitz.)

  7. #7

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    Seitz probably used a similar material in their 65-70 cameras and also the 35/35s cameras and might at least give some help with material choices for home repair. Good luck with it. I've heard the alpa roto had some mechanical issues from use, but when they did work the photos were great.

  8. #8

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    I had one of these for a few years, I was a pile of crap in standard form, banding was shocking, it wasn't sharp and had a very limited speed range. I have a couple of Roundshot cameras and you can see the evolution of the cameras when you compare side by side. I think at that stage Seitz was on a steep learning curve and the Roundshot is an improved version of the Alpa. I contacted Karl Heitz about repairing it, he was next to useless and appeared to know less than I did about the camera and I knew nothing. He had parts though, all extremely expensive so I went elsewhere.

    I found a guy (who is now out of business) who built custom panoramic cameras who was prepared to take it on, he had all the right answers to the questions I posed and had some good ideas of modifications. He made a new motor base and controller so the camera had speeds from 1/250 down to 1s. The viewfinder auto shut off was deleted and converted to manual operation. The film back was converted to o-ring style drive like the Roundshots use, so there were 2 o-rings pressing against the backside of the film keeping constant pressure on them. This was the one modification that made the most difference. The Alpa relies on the film back to push hard against the film to drive it, there's some rubber wheels in there that do the driving. This pressure causes the banding because the motor is constantly fighting against the film back pressure. With o-rings in there doing the driving the film back pressure (spring loaded) was reduced to less than half original.

    The rubber drive rollers, Karl wanted something like $50 each for them, my repairman found replacements in a hardware store for 50 cents each. They turned out to have better grip than the originals so were superior as well as cheaper.

    The adjustable film gate was deleted and a fixed slit put in, it was offset slightly to improve something I can't remember. I think it ran with a 3mm slit but this is from memory, I could be wrong.

    When all done the camera ran flawlessly and had a full speed range. I sold it later because I had too much gear and it wasn't being used, I kept the Roundshots because I had a pair and it's always good to have a back up and shoot identical cameras.

    Good luck on your repairs, all I can say is you should be able to repair it yourself and there is a lot of scope for improvement if you want to go down that track. I can help too much more as I'm relying on memory, I sold it 3 or 4 years ago.

    Clayton

  9. #9

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    Wow, all great information, thank you. I replaced the rubber with some 3M silicone/rubber material it was 1/2" wide x 1/8" thick. I also made up a new power pack and took some test shots today. The rubber seemed to grip well and the 2nd roll wound up fine. The first roll did not fare as well due to some very sticky rollers. I'm dropping of the 120 at a local shop tomorrow.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by clay nz View Post
    I had one of these for a few years, I was a pile of crap in standard form, banding was shocking, it wasn't sharp and had a very limited speed range. I have a couple of Roundshot cameras and you can see the evolution of the cameras when you compare side by side. I think at that stage Seitz was on a steep learning curve and the Roundshot is an improved version of the Alpa. I contacted Karl Heitz about repairing it, he was next to useless and appeared to know less than I did about the camera and I knew nothing. He had parts though, all extremely expensive so I went elsewhere.

    I found a guy (who is now out of business) who built custom panoramic cameras who was prepared to take it on, he had all the right answers to the questions I posed and had some good ideas of modifications. He made a new motor base and controller so the camera had speeds from 1/250 down to 1s. The viewfinder auto shut off was deleted and converted to manual operation. The film back was converted to o-ring style drive like the Roundshots use, so there were 2 o-rings pressing against the backside of the film keeping constant pressure on them. This was the one modification that made the most difference. The Alpa relies on the film back to push hard against the film to drive it, there's some rubber wheels in there that do the driving. This pressure causes the banding because the motor is constantly fighting against the film back pressure. With o-rings in there doing the driving the film back pressure (spring loaded) was reduced to less than half original.

    The rubber drive rollers, Karl wanted something like $50 each for them, my repairman found replacements in a hardware store for 50 cents each. They turned out to have better grip than the originals so were superior as well as cheaper.

    The adjustable film gate was deleted and a fixed slit put in, it was offset slightly to improve something I can't remember. I think it ran with a 3mm slit but this is from memory, I could be wrong.

    When all done the camera ran flawlessly and had a full speed range. I sold it later because I had too much gear and it wasn't being used, I kept the Roundshots because I had a pair and it's always good to have a back up and shoot identical cameras.

    Good luck on your repairs, all I can say is you should be able to repair it yourself and there is a lot of scope for improvement if you want to go down that track. I can help too much more as I'm relying on memory, I sold it 3 or 4 years ago.

    Clayton
    it had an adjustable slit to generate a ND-like underexposure of the sky/upper part.
    clayton, did you also have the closeup-lens. if not i understand why you have sold it. with fixed focus any large but also small(horizon) rotopancam has limitations. i have seen sceneries where foreground was terribly unsharp. and: alpa roto was originally built to run ontop of NATO-tanks. thats why it was built like a tank.
    i have roundshot/panascope(identical) 65/70/220. if treated kindly it will work forever. had to change batteries twice. it was built in 1987, bought by me used in 1991. took it apart to the lens to show how its is working or how to replace parts. now i can replace the o-rings. only the main film-ring-flat-type is unknown yet. but seitz promised to help. for more analogue pancams go to my forum at:
    http://forums.delphiforums.com/pancams/start

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