Huston, we have a problem. I had a blog post all written to document my trip through northern New England shooting the gorgeous autumn foliage. I sent off my 5 rolls to Richard Photo Lab and eagerly awaited them to insert into my post. My heart sunk when the above images arrived. All of em, ruined. And I am the only one to blame.
To the right is an example of what I was dealing with (click to embiggen). This appeared on 178 of 180 images from 5 rolls of film - and I had no idea the cause. I posted the question to Twitter and the responses came flooding in - pinhole burn. The Twitter film community was also kind enough to point me to a ton of forum discussions about causes and repair of the issue. There was a lot of reading to get to the gist, so I just plan to cut to the chase here.
I don't know why it never occurred to me, but the cause is simply the same as a kid, a magnifying glass, and a piece of paper. Sun is directed to a tiny spot on the paper, and he burns a hole in it. For rangefinders, because they are lacking a mirror, the lens acts like a magnifying glass right onto the shutter curtain. If you leave it on your front seat with the lens cap off, the sun can potentially burn a hole into your curtain.
Identifying this issue is not really rocket science. But it's costly if you don't catch it early (wasted film and development costs). What tips you off is your photos will suddenly have ghosts in them - all in the exact same spot, as seen below.
You can identify the spot quite easily by shining a flashlight into your curtain and looking in from the other side.
As you can see from the nastiness of my curtain, this isn't the first time it happened in the shutters nearly 60 year life.
Easy, stick a lens cap on when you're not shooting - or don't let the sun shine directly onto your glass / shutter for a prolonged time.
Google will tell you there are many options to fix this. From cheap DYI too expensive "send to Leica" options. I'll go through them quickly, then tell you about my DYI results.
1. Send to Leica - this is the king of price tags. You'll be looking pretty much at the cost of an entire M3 on eBay to go this route and could be without the camera for months.
2. Send to a Guy - this is an option I'll do this winter when my M-A comes. For me, It's Mr. Youxin Ye out of Boston. This will run you $200-$250 in labor plus materials ($100 long curtain, $80 short). And turn-around time is days, not months.
3. CLA - if you're getting CLA'd anyhow, then it's just the price of the materials since it'll already be torn down. Food for thought.
4. Create a Patch - get a hold of some shutter material and make a patch. I will do this if the next option doesn't hold. The patch goes on the back side (where you load the film) and is applied with flexible glue - like the Liquid Electrical Tape. It remains pliable and shouldn't affect the speed of your shutter.
5. Fill the Hole - this is the cheapest, fastest and most common way of repairing the shutter. And I'll detail that now.
Repairing with Liquid Tape
This is the route I decided to take. It has a fast turn around time and is cheap. Talking $5 here.
- Toothpick / Q-Tip
- Liquid Tape
Yeah, that's about it. Get a good clean surface and blow-clean the curtain on the back side (where you load film). I used my Rocket to gently blow away any dust. Next, get the smallest dab of Liquid Tape and apply on the hole, being sure it fills it in. Oh, and make sure you get the black Liquid Tape.
Liquid Tape (or similar products) are used because they stay pliable when dry.
That's it, let it dry for 24 hours. After that, run a test roll through and see how you made out. Luckily, RPL is hooking me up with this step - so a big shout out to them!
Not All is Lost
I was still able to salvage a handful of images from the trip by using the "burn" as the standing for the sun. Here are the ones that I think work OK:
Here's a result of the camera now that it's been repaired. RPL offered to develop for me to test it out and all looks great!