I had some success refurbing an Isolette a few months ago.
My dad had used it last in the early 70's. By the time he gave it to me around Christmas, it was completely frozen. I didn't want to spend a $100 either, and had much fun learning how to disassemble and clean this camera.
The frozen focus ring was solved in much the manner described above. It wasn't too tough. I removed the whole lenses assembly from the camera, then gave it an overnight soak, then wrapped the front and back of the lens assembly in hockey tape. Very gentle application of twisting from opposing locking pliers, and it unscrewed. Once apart, the whole thing can be soaked again. Every glass element was fogged (probably by the decaying AGFA grease) and had to be cleaned front and back, and every thread had to be scrupulously soaked and cleaned. Before reassembly, I gave the threads a wipe with silicone lubricant. It is now silky smooth.
The shutter and self timer on it was also frozen. Further disassembly and soaking got much of the gunk out. It's amazing how much solid flotsam will come out of such a little device.
The trick on reassembly is to VERY lightly oil the few spots which might need it. I found that the bare unit with no lube would freeze, so I experimented with adding fine camera/machine oil from the head of a pin. Too much, and it would stick again. So, I would soak it out in naptha, dry it, and try again with even less!
The fast speeds >1/10 run smooth and in perfect time. The self timer works like a charm. Slow speeds are wonky -- occasionally perfect, but usually slow and sometimes stuck.
In reading through Certo6's site (where he kindly provides a lot of details) the biggest thing I lacked was the ultrasonic cleaner. I think that would have done the trick to remove whatever is junking up my slow speeds. As cheap as the ultrasonic cleaner seems to be (at Harbor Freight) I couldn't justify having yet more crap hanging around the house after a single use.
I got lucky on the bellows for my Jsolette - they seem to be the leather kind, and certainly don't have any light leaks.
The exterior of the camera came up really nicely with Silvo taking the tarnish off the aluminum top and bottom. A little bit of Armor All wiped on the leatherette made it look like a 20 year old camera instead of a 63 year old camera!
The lens is easily collimated, simply tape a piece of hampshire frost or wax paper in the film chamber. Then you can collimate the lens while looking right at the film plane.
It's a great user camera. Handheld, I never want to go under 1/10 second anyway. I have an accessory rangefinder (unfortunately my Jsolette doesn't have a shoe mount, so I have to just hold the finder.) Using the rangefinder is much recommended -- I am spoiled by the deep DOF of 35mm and digital and have been off on my "estimated" distances.
Does anyone know a good solution for filters? I read somewhere that they take a Series V push-on filter. I tried a surplus "Series #5" that I ordered from Camera Depot, but it won't slip onto the lens. I would love to have a yellow and red filter handy for this little marvel.
My other camera is a Pentax
I used the heat method a few times on some of the old folder cameras I own. Instead of lighter fluid, I used 100% alcohol. Then I used a heat gun with that. To get leverage without damaging anything, I used a Sorbothane pad and white artist eraser for grip. It takes time and effort, but the result is no damage. When I re-assemble the lens, I use extra hard helical grease, and a very thin application of this is all that is needed.
My feeling is that these are too cheap to pay much for someone to repair them. Unless you end up with one of the more unusual folder cameras, I think it can be better to try working on it yourself. I also suggest buying one or two more folder cameras that are similar, because at some point you might want spare parts.
Gordon Moat Photography
There are varying degrees of stuck when it comes to the Agfa lenses. I just worked on a little Karat, and that lens was unbelievably stuck. Took lots of soaking and much effort to unfreeze it.
Often, some lighter fluid will work. Other times, it's a real struggle. And when you do get the lens freed, you must clean the helicals of all of the old grease before regreasing and reassembling.;
I agree that spending $100 on a $20 camera probably isn't worth it, unless that $20 camera has some sentimental value or is an Isolette III or a Super Isolette.
I have an Agfa Prontori 11 that has always been stuck on 3 ft. It's amazing what you can do with it though. Having said that, I haven't used it for years but would quite like to try it out again - I'm a wary of fixing it myself, though these methods sound good (not sure of any good places to take it any more either). It's certainly worth trying it as it is before doing anything.
OK, so how do I get the lens off the shutter? Do I unscrew the 3 very small screws in the side of the outer ring? Here are pics of it. I figure I'm better off asking first.
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If you unscrew the 3 very small screws in the side of the outer ring and remove that ring, you'll find a post screwed into the side of the front cell that limits travel while focusing. removing that allows the front cell to be screwed off - assuming, of course that anything is movable given the frozen focus. Don't lose those set screws! They're little buggers and easy to drop. With the cowl off it's easier to apply some torque to the front cell as well.
Thanks, Whitey! I thought that was likely, but wanted to ask first. Yeah, those little screws are going to be fun to keep from losing.
Don't unscrew them compleatly. Just loosen them.
A bit of heat, now that's a good idea. I have fixed a half dozen cases of green-gunk and keep the lens in a warm place between taps and drops of WD-40 (Liquid Wrench, as mentioned, may be a better choice), but getting it hot should work well. IIRC, you have to heat a lens in a frying pan to melt the balsam holding cemented elements together, and in any case the Agfa Apotars and Agnars are triplets without any cemented elements.
Originally Posted by vdonovan
As a replacement lube may I recommend stop-cock grease. It doesn't separate and it doesn't harden. The high-temperature/high-vacuum type is best if you can find it. The other good grease is disc-brake caliper grease. Every grease that I know of sold for optical applications dries out or throws oil - often both.
Last edited by Nicholas Lindan; 06-18-2008 at 09:33 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Work on a white terry-cloth towel. It will trap dropped and sproinged parts (most of them) and saves both the dining room table and the camera from scratching. A good magnet is useful for finding small things that drop to the floor.
Originally Posted by winger
If you have a digital camera take pictures before/as you take things apart. Especially those wire springs that get wound around posts in odd ways.