Pretty sure these are two separate problems, with a shared cause: bright light. The first problem is a light leak. The second problem is... Well, a little more complicated. I occasionally fix LC-As, and I remember one time I had one that worked absolutely fine when I was testing it at my desk, but then when I went out in the daylight to shoot a test roll, it would look like your film: blank, with the occasional ghost of an image, and a few normal images. It turns out that the camera was fine in low light, or rather below a certain threshold. Above a certain brightness, the shutter would fire but the aperture blades would not fully open, and would just "twitch", leaving a blank frame (they would sometimes just about manage to twitch enough to let a tiny bit of light through, hence the very faint images). I never did manage to fix the problem, sold the camera as spares.
It looks like this is happening with your camera. You mention the film was 400 and shot in bright light, which makes sense if it is the problem I described. If it was for example 100 shot indoors, I think you would have seen many more good frames on the roll. You can test this yourself: set the ISO to 100, indoors, fairly dim room, open the back, wind and fire. You should see the aperture blades open up fully to 2.8, and stay open for a second or two. Then wind on, set the aperture to 400 and point the camera at a lamp, wind and fire. You should see the blades twitch, but never open.
Oh and the reason the two problems coincide is probably the light: if the camera is used in bright sunlight, the shutter problem will manifest and the light leak will let more light in, making visible leaks in the film. In darker conditions, the shutter problem will not manifest, you will get a normal photo, and there will not be enough light to leak through and show up on the film.
Hope this helps, please try the above and let us know if that was the problem.
Thanks for the comprehensive reply.
That sounded really promising - an issue with the shutter not opening properly at high light levels would certainly explain things. However, I've tried what you suggest - pointing the camera directly into a halogen lamp at a distance of a couple of inches, with the ISO set to 400.
The shutter is certainly opening under these test circumstances. I'm getting a flash of light through it every time - I even tried holding the camera various ways up to see if gravity had any effect (had an old SLR once where the mirror spring was weak and it worked much more successfully in "portrait" orientation, when it wasn't working against gravity to lift the mirror...)
Now, the only difference I can think of between shooting outdoors in bright light in summer and doing the test you just suggested with a bright light indoors is temperature. Perhaps the shutter is on the verge of sticking and on a warm day the blades expand ever so slightly and that's enough for it not to work reliably - whereas at my desk it's nice and cool and they move freely ???
Am I right in thinking the LCA doesn't have an aperture iris, rather the shutter can open at different apertures depending on the level of light?
I've just noticed something else strange too - when not in auto mode, ie using the aperture selector, apertures 16, 11 and 8 fire the shutter at quite a rapid speed, but apertures 5.6, 4 and 2.8 behave as if the camera is in a bulb mode - the shutter hanging open as long as the release button is held.... This can't be how it is supposed to work?! Electrical contacts need cleaning on the selector switch maybe?
You're right, it isn't. When an aperture is selected, the camera should default to 1/60th. The aperture selections are on one circuit, and when you move the lever to A, it moves the camera onto another circuit which brings the meter (and variable shutter speeds) into play. It's hard to describe in words, but once you see it, it's very clear. I can only imagine that with your camera, this switch is not happening for some reason, maybe the lever is out of alignment, and is reaching the metered circuit too early? The only way to tell would be to have a look.
Originally Posted by owenphillips
Sort of. There is not a separate shutter curtain and iris diaphragm; rather, the iris diaphragm is by default closed, and opens out to a pre-determined aperture (depending on the level of light) before closing again. I assume the shutter speed is either very similar or the same for all apertures, other than 2.8. If the meter decides 2.8 is necessary, then the shutter speed varies to however long is necessary, which is one of the more interesting features of the camera.
Originally Posted by owenphillips
Sorry my suggestion wasn't the problem, from your description it all sounded so familiar, I was so sure I had seen it before. In my case, I was sure it was an electrical problem rather than a mechanical one, therefore something I really had little chance of fixing. In your case, I'm really not sure.
Probably best to cut your losses and sell it, you'll get back half what you paid if you go the eBay route (if you're honest about the problems). Or maybe keep an eye out for a working beater going for cheap, and maybe do a bit of chopping/changing, or just a bit of TLC. So long as you don't go over the £80 mark in total, which is the "I could have just gotten a working one off eBay in the first place, for less than what I've already spent" line. It's a shame because it can be a perfectly capable and really fun camera, with a unique feature set.