Here’s a couple of harsh realities for you;
Film cameras are old…
Old things don’t always work as well as new things…
Therefore at some point or another, if you shoot film for long enough, you’re likely to come across a minor problem with your camera. Fear not though; most issues are fixed quite easily, provided you’ve got a bit of basic knowledge.
This guide is to try and help you through a couple of the common problems you might face.
Before though you can think about fixing your camera you need to understand a bit more about it.
One of the most basic things you’ll need to know is whether your camera has a mechanical shutter, or an electrical shutter. Now, just because your camera takes batteries does not mean it has an electrical shutter. The batteries will often just be working the metering system.
If though you have a mechanical shutter the camera will fire without batteries. So that’s a fairly quick way to work out if your camera has a mechanical or electric shutter – if you take the batteries out and it still fires and winds, it’s mechanical!
If it doesn’t fire, it’s probably electrical, although it’s best to check the manual or have a look online, just in case it is mechanical but is broken for some other reason.
We tend to find electrical shutters fail/break more often than mechanical ones. That isn’t to say electrical ones are unreliable – far from it – but that’s just our experience. Also, if you have a camera with an electrical shutter and the shutter breaks due to a problem with the circuits, then nine times out of ten a repair is going to cost you more than the camera is worth, and you stand no chance of repairing it yourself.
If though you have a mechanical shutter you’ve got a chance of trying to identify the problem yourself. Try these things (probably in this order):-
1. Open up the back. Are the shutter curtains perfectly closed and free from any deformation? If not, that’s probably the cause.
See if they can be gently moved with your hand or a screwdriver – you might just be able to get them back into place.
Sometimes you might see a piece of string out of place. This string often works the shutter. Again, with a screwdriver and some partial disassembly you might be able to get things fixed.
Have a look online for a video showing you how to fix shutter curtains if needs be – even if you can’t find one for your camera, a lot of the ideas will be the same.
You can probably also find the service manual online for your camera, which will often include exploding diagrams to show you all the working parts.
2. Take off the lens. Has the mirror returned all the way down? If not, then the shutter won’t fire.
Mirrors can jam for various reasons. If you can move it to the down position with your finger and it stays there, it’s possible there is just some sticky residue on the bump strip keeping the mirror in the up position. Try giving that a clean, and if necessary replace the bump strip with a new one. That should do the job.
If the mirror wont stay in place even if you move it there, then you’ve got a different problem to try and fix….
3. Take off the bottom plate. Hold the camera upside down and press the shutter button. Try to see which parts move – they will always be on the same side of the camera as the shutter button.
You might see that one of the parts is bent, or out of place. You can usually work this sort of thing gently with your hands or some basic tools, like pliers or a screwdriver. Again, you might want to look online for some videos or the service manual to help you find the right parts; they’ll be quite different from camera to camera.
Firstly, check you’re using the right ones. Don’t rely on the fact the camera you have purchased has the right batteries in – unless of course you’ve purchased from us, in which case they will be right!
Once you’ve worked that out, try turning them the other way up, or the other way round. Even cameras that use the same batteries, and even cameras from the same manufacturer that use the same batteries, will sometimes need the batteries put in the “other” way round.
It will take you 2 seconds and save a lot of stress!
If that’s still not working, replace the batteries. Even if you think they’re quite new, you might have left the camera on accidentally, or the shutter button might have got stuck down, which will drain the batteries on most cameras.
Old batteries can leak too, so even if you think you’ve put new ones in (but in fact they’ve been sitting around a while) or that they worked perfectly yesterday, you should still replace them to be sure.
If you do all of that, and you’ve still got no electrics, then there’s a high chance there is an electrical fault somewhere in the camera. Unless you have purchased something rare or expensive – or you’ve got an electrician in the family who also happens to know a lot about film cameras! - it’s probably time for a new camera, because the repairs won’t be cheap, and a new camera will almost certainly cost less.