Barnack IIIf (almost) sorted

Back together again

A couple of days ago I posted a shot of a Leica IIIf red dial, with a bit of commentary about what it needed to get it properly sorted. The last thing needed was to fix the shutter timing. Well, I bit the bullet and tore it down. Here is a picture of it in bits on my desk:

Pretty straightforwards, following many of the excellent directions available on the net. I got into a bit of difficultly reassembling the slow speed governor, but thanks to the wonderful Rick Oleson (google him), a brilliant and helpful camera fix-it whiz, I had foolproof instructions on getting it back together. The ripped film (above the knife) was hidden inside, all ready to jam things up as soon as I loaded it if I hadn’t found it by then.

The two images following are sound recordings I made to try and assess the before and after shutter speed situation. They were recorded using a freeware program called “Audacity”, using a microphone poking into the body cavity. Both recordings are of 1/2 second:

The first image shows that the first curtain traveled OK, and the second curtain started to try and close at 0.75 secs. but took another 0.25 seconds to actually close. It was also pretty noisy.

Adjusting the first and second curtain settings has altered this poor situation – the second image reveal a few things after my tear-down, clean and lube – it is much quieter; the timing is just a bit off at 0.55 secs (only a +10% variation); and the second curtain now properly closes the shutter and caps the film. The situation seems to me to be similar across all of the speeds.

It seems to work pretty well now. I will soon get around to properly timing the shutter speeds – they have gone from abysmally slooow to just a tiny a bit fast now, I feel. To get closer, I need access to an old fashioned TV with a CRT to act as a timing device.

Hopefully I will soon have that sorted, and then in with a film. Now all I have to do is find my collection of antique Weston meters. Or should I just guess through the “Sunny 16” rule?

Whatever, I can’t wait.



  1. That’s fantastic Norm. How did you learn to do all this?

    I have a couple of cameras in non-functioning condition (one a folding camera, one a Spotmatic II) that I think only need relatively simple repairs but I don’t really know where to start. I think in the end I’m just going to send both of them, or at least the Spotmatic, off for repairs rather than risk ruining them myself.

    1. Tim – Thanks for your kind comments.
      How did I learn? Easy – I was given a “broken” Canon Canonet GL19 rangefinder with a non-functional shutter. It was so pretty that I decided to have a go at repairing it. Google helped out in finding a wealth of repair information, and I just took my time doing the job. The Canonet turned out to be a real pain – to get the lens off to get at the shutter mechanism I had to destroy the rubber covering; when the shutter clockwork was sorted, the lens aperture blades turned out to be gummy; the battery had leaked and eaten the contacts; this led to me finding that the wiring was shot with “black wire syndrome” (battery fluids got inside the insulation and ate the wires); the viewfinder was very dim. After spending 30 minutes at my lunch each day for a few weeks I had it sorted out, re-covered it in red leather (very cool) and it works perfectly still after 4 years.

      As for your folding camera – I guess its the bellows. You can Google how to make new ones. If its the shutter, they are pretty simple devices but be very very careful if you decide to dismantle it as the blade mechanisms (shutter and aperture) are delicate and difficult to get back together – you could try flushing it out with lighter fluid instead.

      The Spotmatic will probably have a mirror stuck or sticking in the up position, or the battery might have leaked and dissolved the wiring (the dreaded black wire syndrome perhaps). If it has, you need to be very careful with your soldering technique or you will progressively bugger things up. There is plenty of information about this repair on the web – Google is (or sometimes can be) your friend.
      Cheers, Norm

  2. Hi Norm

    Well you picked the issues perfectly: in the folder it’s the shutter that is stuck – otherwise it looks in beautiful condition. For the Spotmatic, the mirror gets stuck in the up position – not every time, but 2 out of every 3 times it is fired.

    I think I just need to bite the bullet, get a lens spanner and make a start on the folding camera and see how it goes.

    Thanks for the tips!

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