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  1. #1

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    Reviving an old Rolleiflex Automat

    Greetings,

    A few years ago I got my hands on an old Rolleiflex Automat. The camera is not in perfect shape, but mechanically everything works fine. The slow shutter speeds may be off a bit, but considering the age and condition of the camera I can live with this.

    My problem is that the taking lens has a swirl of small scratches on it. When you look from the front of the taking lens, the aperture blades are seen clearly, and there appears to be no significant scratches or haze. But, when you open up the camera and look through the lens at a light from the inside you can clearly see the small swirl of scratches. These are basically cleaning scratches.

    Is there an easy way of removing these scratches by polishing the front of the taking lens? I know a CLA by a pro is probably in order, but the CLA will cost more then the camera is worth. I'm looking for a Do-it-yourself fix, if one is available.

    I did shoot two test rolls of film through the camera, and I compared a few shots with my Canon FD 50mm f1.8 lens. In every shot the Canon FD photos were absolutely superior to the ones taken with the Rolleiflex. In fact, the photos from the Rolleiflex appeared to look "Old Fashion" or aged and faded compared to the Canon. The Canon FD 50mm f1.8 isn't Canons best lens either, so is there a chance that I may have other issues to deal with?

    My goal here is just to revive this old camera an have some fun with it. I would love to be able to produce a few nice portraits with the camera, but right now the result don't cut it. I just hate to see it sitting on the shelf without getting any use. I was able to revive my Grandfathers old Voigtlander Vito II, and it now produces decent photos. I was hoping to do the same with the Rolleiflex as well, and have the large negatives work in my favor.

    Thanks,

    Jeff

  2. #2
    Sparky's Avatar
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    If you're feeling up to it - I'd try using a dremel moto-tool and either jeweler's rouge, tripoli or (as a last resort) toothpaste. I fixed up an older LF lens that way once. The results were great.

  3. #3
    David H. Bebbington's Avatar
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    I had this model of camera when I was a student in the 60s, and its uncoated Tessar lens produced negatives of reasonable contrast, although you did have to be careful with flare under certain conditions. If yours doesn't do this, there is something wrong with it. Literally repolishing the lens surfaces is not something you should attempt, but under the circumstances it can do no harm to unscrew the front lens group and clean the inside surfaces of the front and back lens groups (gently, using a lens cleaning cloth wrapped around a cotton bud and carefully reaching through the open shutter to clean the back group). If this does not result in an improvement, any further professional repair work would, as you say, probably be uneconomic.

    Regards,

    David

  4. #4

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    If you are going to try and polish the lens, you need Cerium Oxide. I bought some from http://www.caswellplating.com in their windshield repair kit. Haven't used it yet, so I can't comment on how well it works. From what I've read you need to keep it very wet while using the Cerium Oxide. Hand polishing with a cotton tex-wipe (kimberly-clark) should be good enough with this polishing agent. Might be slow, but better slow than damaged.

    A normal CLA will not remove scratches, but it should get the shutter speeds back where they should be. Servicing the shutter is not that hard.

  5. #5
    Jim Jones's Avatar
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    Repolishing camera lenses is for experts. If you have to ask about it, don't try it. Repolishing light abrasions on windshields is much more practical.

  6. #6
    Sparky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Jones
    Repolishing camera lenses is for experts. If you have to ask about it, don't try it. Repolishing light abrasions on windshields is much more practical.
    That's just a big load of... well, I won't get into it. There's no way you're even going to get down (with the right abrasive) beyond 1-2 wavelengths of green light. The lenses aren't even formed to that sort of tolerance to begin with. Don't buy into all the 'labcoat mystique'.

    If it can give the guy a workable camera, and he's really got nothing to lose anyway - then why not?

  7. #7

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    Pre War?

    What Model Automat is it? If it predates WWII it's likely an uncoated lens. I know because I have a Rollei from this era.

    As with any uncoated lense you can expect a lack of contrast. Knowing how to use an uncoated lens can produce fine images though. (In B&W at least.) Shoot and develop your images as if you had pre-exposed the film to a small degree.

    You can get a fair idea of how old your camera is here:

    http://home.worldonline.dk/rongsted/Rolleisn.htm

    or here:

    http://www.siufai.dds.nl/Rolleiflex35_TLR.htm

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by afsmithphoto
    What Model Automat is it? If it predates WWII it's likely an uncoated lens. I know because I have a Rollei from this era.

    As with any uncoated lense you can expect a lack of contrast. Knowing how to use an uncoated lens can produce fine images though. (In B&W at least.) Shoot and develop your images as if you had pre-exposed the film to a small degree.

    You can get a fair idea of how old your camera is here:

    http://home.worldonline.dk/rongsted/Rolleisn.htm

    or here:

    http://www.siufai.dds.nl/Rolleiflex35_TLR.htm
    The Rolleiflex in question has a model # of 1420261. From what I recall from looking up information on this camera, it was produced around 1950. The lens in question is a Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 1:3.5/75.

    I have a dremmel tool, and I'm considering giving this a try. I think I would like to try to polish the front of the lens by hand at first to prevent over doing it. I'll have to go slowly an check out the results as I go.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparky
    If you're feeling up to it - I'd try using a dremel moto-tool and either jeweler's rouge, tripoli or (as a last resort) toothpaste. I fixed up an older LF lens that way once. The results were great.
    I'm considering using the dremmel tool. But, I think I'll first give it a try polishing by hand. The lens in question is a Xenar 1:3.5/75, and I believe it was produced around 1950.

  10. #10
    Sparky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeffrey S. Winn
    The Rolleiflex in question has a model # of 1420261. From what I recall from looking up information on this camera, it was produced around 1950. The lens in question is a Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 1:3.5/75.

    I have a dremmel tool, and I'm considering giving this a try. I think I would like to try to polish the front of the lens by hand at first to prevent over doing it. I'll have to go slowly an check out the results as I go.
    Give it a try - try it by hand at first - even with something nonabrasive. You'll probably only be able to get rid of even the most superficial of scratches even with quite a lot of elbow grease and an hour or two with the dremel. And, of course, make darn sure it's a buffing wheel you're using, and not something like a cutting disc! Just keep your method smart - and you can't really go wrong - i.e. trying to rotate the camera on some sort of turntable with the lens as central axis (so as to keep your action even across the lens). so - it just depends how deep the scratches are. if you can actually FEEL them with your fingers - well, I'd say the lens is pretty much gone - unless you want to try your hand at radically resurfacing the lens (in which case you'd have nothing to lose and it might be a fun experiment) - but otherwise for light surface scratching, that should do the trick. Look up some different optical polishing (not cutting) compounds online.

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