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Old film cameras and light leaks - article

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Hawk Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Old film cameras and light leaks - article
    Posted: 25 October 2013 at 14:58
Inspired by this thread I wrote a short article about light leaks on film cameras. This is my second article and I hope at least some of you will find it usefull

Old film cameras and light leaks

Film is recently getting more attention from photographers. For those who were starting their photo journey with old 35mm SLRs or rangefinders (like me) it is nostalgic experience. For younger generations raised in digital era it is something different, perhaps even something “new” to try. Whatever the reasons are one must get some used film camera and this usually means getting some ten to forty years old piece of hardware. Most of them still work pretty well, but there is one common issue that you should be aware of – light leaks.

As you know film is light sensitive material thus film chamber must be light-tight or your precious photos will be damaged by unwanted light. There are two elements usually causing light leaks – shutter and film chamber doors. Many old cameras are using cloth material for shutters and after many years this cloth may no longer be opaque. Perforation of shutter will be strongly visible on your images. Here is an example from FED-4 rangefinder:



The longer your camera is exposed to light, the stronger burnouts you will get. Unfortunately replacing whole shutter isn’t something you may do yourself and it is usually cheaper to get other camera than to send damaged one for repair. You may try to make your shutter opaque again using high quality fabric paint. Just keep in mind that it must remain flexible after this operation.

Film chamber doors and/or camera backs are other common sources of light leaks. They are usually sealed with foam or rubber and these materials degrade slowly as time passes. After twenty or thirty years you may not have foam seals at all or you’ll find some sticky rubber-like thing instead. Depending on what parts of seals are degraded or missing you may get various effects on your images, from strong bright burnouts…



… to red casts.



You may as well get both of these on one image:



And here is an example from camera with missing film door hinge seal (usually largest one):



On black & white images light leaks looks like ghosts…



or birght streaks:



From my experience you may shoot few rolls of film without any signs of light leaks before they’ll appear as well as get them right on your first roll. Sometimes only two or three images from whole roll will be affected and sometimes most of roll will be wasted. They may also appear on various parts of your images. It may look random but it just depends on what parts of seals are damaged, what are light conditions you shoot at, what shutter speeds you are using, if and how you expose your camera to strong light (ie. direct sun light), how long you keep your roll in camera or even how much pressure you apply to rear of your camera when shooting.

Fortunately replacing light seals isn’t hard so don’t get scared if your “new” old camera produces photos with artifacts like on examples above. You just need to get new seals either by cutting them yourself or buying pre-cut kits from Ebay (I strongly recommend the latter). If you have your seals ready just remove old ones, carefully clean your camera back and/or film door and put new ones in place. Thats all.

It is also good idea to try asking Google about light seals for your camera model. There are tutorials or forum threads for some cameras available online with specific instructions what and how should be replaced (for some cameras it may be requried to take them partially apart to replace all seals) and what materials are good for light seals if you don’t want or can’t find pre-cut ones.

Edited by Hawk - 12 July 2020 at 13:51
 



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thornburg View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote thornburg Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 October 2013 at 20:16

Thanks.

I already knew most of this, but it's nice to have a source to point other people to, especially with such nice example pictures.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote carusoswi Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 January 2014 at 03:49
Does my Maxxum 9 have light seals, and would it be prone to such symptoms as the examples you show in your post?

I have shot numerous rolls through my camera (purchased used a coupe of years ago) without problems. Last roll I shot had two non-consecutive frames width a reddish discoloration along the short side of the frame (right side on one frame, left side on the other . . . but these frames were non consecutive).

Camera was held in landscape position for both photos.

I opened the back of my camera looking for seals to inspect.

I do not see much in the way of seals. There is one around the little window that allows you to view the film canister when the camera is loaded, but I didn't see any seals along the outer edge of the camera.

Just curious if any 9 owners can offer advice.

Thanks.

Caruso
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Post Options Post Options   Quote PeterB Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 January 2014 at 08:59
I had my share of light leaks but never a shutter. Or let's say they died instantly and completely. #1 looks like straight out of Startrek - beam me up

In regard of the Maxxum 9, I have a Maxxum 7 (currently with film in it) but it does not have light seals like an old 101 or XD I believe the plastic forming allowed to create better light barrier compared to metal. If there would be any foam seal besides the film window it probably would be by the door hinge and you would see at least some sticky residue.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote carusoswi Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 January 2014 at 10:42
No sticky residue that I can see in my Maxxum 9. This has only occurred on two frames, one roll of film, since I acquired the camera some two years ago. I guess I will shoot a few more rolls and keep an eye out for more symptoms before worrying further.

Caruso
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Post Options Post Options   Quote addy landzaat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 January 2014 at 11:49
Just looked at my Dynax 7 and Dynax 9 cameras and both do have light seals.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote PeterB Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 January 2014 at 19:28
Are you talking about the replaceable foam seals like the one for the film id window but all around the door like in the 101 and XE days? I don't see that on any of the plastic based Minolta single digit AF cameras. But then I can't look at the 7 until the film is exposed.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote carusoswi Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 January 2014 at 19:47
Can you be more specific?
My 9 is currently loaded with film, so I cannot double check now, but I did check more than once and did not find them.

Not trying to be contrary, just trying to gain info as to whether or not I have this problem.

Thanks.

Caruso
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Post Options Post Options   Quote addy landzaat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 January 2014 at 19:47
I'm talking 'bout the sealing around the filmdoor frame of the camera. Just checked, both my Dynax 4 and Dynax 5 and those have it also. Just look under the viewfinder.

If your asking whether the door has seals, well, not really, just like my X-series cameras. And my SRT Super has no sealing whatsoever on the door itself.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote carusoswi Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 January 2014 at 19:52
I also have a Maxxum 9000 (bless it's "heart"). I checked it and did find seals, although they seem to be used sparingly. Should load that trust weapon up and shoot it some, also. Has never let me down.

Caruso
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Post Options Post Options   Quote PeterB Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 January 2014 at 05:14
I see it now on the 5 body under the viewfinder but not on the door. Also I only see it under the finder but not on the bottom rail. But I did find half of one on the right side that I overlooked.   

On the other hand looking at the an XD and an X-370 they both have light seals on the door at minimum by the hinge.

Strange, but I definitely will take a closer look next time I replace a light seal. Thanks Addy

So back to Caruso's problem. Since there where only 2 frames with the problem something could have happened at the film processor. That would be the cheapest solution at least for Caruso.



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Post Options Post Options   Quote carusoswi Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 February 2014 at 15:08
So, please observe the photo linked in this message. Does this appear to be a light leak or no? I was shooting Porta 400 and six of thirty-six frames were identically affected.

If I browse/search for light leak examples, none really look like this.

I have inspected the camera more carefully, and do, indeed, find foam on the door, but it appears to be in pristine condition.

Advice most appreciated.

Link: https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/6qgQLORDRCJBjUwZuab_K2pq0zA_mS-iV4WXtbtjKyQ?feat=directlink

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Post Options Post Options   Quote IanL Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 February 2014 at 16:01
Just a guess, but check the negative strips to see if there is any light on the spaces between the exposures. If there is, I would hazard a guess that light from the adjacent exposure is the cause, i.e. the film is not being pressed flat against the frame.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote thornburg Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 February 2014 at 19:03
Originally posted by carusoswi carusoswi wrote:

So, please observe the photo linked in this message. Does this appear to be a light leak or no? I was shooting Porta 400 and six of thirty-six frames were identically affected.

If I browse/search for light leak examples, none really look like this.

I have inspected the camera more carefully, and do, indeed, find foam on the door, but it appears to be in pristine condition.

Advice most appreciated.

Link: https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/6qgQLORDRCJBjUwZuab_K2pq0zA_mS-iV4WXtbtjKyQ?feat=directlink

Caruso


I concur with the previous post -- it does look like some sort of a light leak to me.

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