Maintaining your film camera

How to maintain your 35mm film camera

Embarking on the journey of analog photography with your beloved 35mm film camera is a delightful adventure filled with nostalgia, creativity, and timeless artistry. As you navigate through the world capturing moments on film, it becomes imperative to ensure that your trusty companion remains in optimal condition. This article aims to guide you through the essential steps of maintaining your cherished 35mm film camera, preserving its functionality and longevity for years to come. This is especially important for vintage film cameras that you may have purchased.

The Necessity of Maintenance

Just like any mechanical device, a 35mm film camera requires attention and care to function at its best. Neglecting maintenance can lead to malfunctions, decreased image quality, or even irreparable damage over time.

Maintaining your 35mm film camera goes beyond just keeping it functional - it opens up a realm of benefits that enhance your photography experience. A well-maintained camera operates smoothly, ensuring seamless operation when capturing fleeting moments or framing artistic compositions. Additionally, by taking care of your equipment proactively, you save on repair costs in the long run and can continue honing your craft without interruptions due to avoidable technical issues.

Cleaning Your Camera

Cleaning the Exterior

Keeping the exterior of your beloved 35mm film camera clean is not just about aesthetics—it’s crucial for maintaining its longevity and performance. Start by using a soft, dry brush or a microfiber cloth to gently remove any dust and dirt from the surface of the camera body. Pay special attention to crevices and seams where dust tends to accumulate.

Avoid using harsh cleaning agents or abrasive materials that could scratch or damage the camera's finish. For stubborn dirt or grime, you can lightly dampen a cloth with water and carefully wipe down the exterior, making sure not to let any moisture seep into the camera's inner mechanisms.

Cleaning the Lens and Viewfinder

The lens and viewfinder are two of the most critical components of your 35mm film camera, as they directly impact the quality of your photographs. To clean the lens, use a specialized lens cleaning solution and a microfiber cloth designed for optics.

Gently wipe in a circular motion from the center outward to remove fingerprints, smudges, or dust particles. Be extra cautious around the delicate glass elements to avoid scratching or causing damage.

For the viewfinder, use a small blower brush to dislodge any loose debris, followed by a soft cloth moistened with lens cleaning solution for a thorough clean. A clear viewfinder ensures accurate framing and focus when composing your shots.

Removing Dirt from the Film Compartment

The film compartment is where all the magic happens in your 35mm film camera, so keeping it free from dirt and debris is essential for smooth operation. Begin by opening up the back of your camera (make sure you dont have a roll of film in) and inspecting the interior for any visible dirt or dust particles. Use a blower brush or compressed air to gently blow away loose particles that may have accumulated inside.

Be cautious not to touch any sensitive components such as the shutter curtain/blades with your fingers as oils from skin contact can degrade performance over time. Once you’ve removed visible debris, carefully close up the film compartment ensuring that it seals properly to protect your precious rolls of film from light leaks and contaminants.

Buy a 5in1 camera cleaning kit with a blower and cloths here 

Checking and Replacing Batteries

Importance of Fresh Batteries for Proper Functioning

Having fresh batteries in your 35mm film camera is crucial for ensuring smooth and accurate operation. A weak or dead battery can lead to issues like inconsistent meter readings, failure to advance film properly, or even complete shutdown of the camera.

To prevent missed photo opportunities or malfunctioning equipment, it's essential to keep a close eye on the battery levels and replace them as needed. Fresh batteries not only power the electronics but also play a significant role in maintaining the overall performance and reliability of your camera.

Removing batteries when the camera isn't in use

When a camera isn’t in use, the batteries may leak, if this corrosive liquid gets on your cameras circuit board it can destroy it. You can recognise if your battery has leaked by the crusty white or blue residue. This can be cleaned with vinegar and earbuds, but it may have already damaged your camera

Leaked batteries in a camera

Changing your light seals

Changing your light seals is a important part of camera maintenance. Without doing this you can potentially get light leaks on your film, ruining your photos.

Another risk is old light-seals disintegrating and debris getting into the shutter mechanism 

Check out our guide on replacing light seals here


Lubricating Moving Parts 

**Only do this if you are experienced. Otherwise send your camera away for a CLA (Clean, lubrication, adjustment) **

Why Lubrication is Essential for Smooth Operation

Lubricating the moving parts of your 35mm film camera is crucial to ensure its smooth operation and longevity. Over time, friction can cause wear and tear on various components, leading to sluggish performance or even malfunctions. Old lubricants can also change viscosity over time causing mechanisms to gum up.

By applying the right lubricant to these parts, you reduce friction, allowing them to move freely and smoothly. This not only improves the overall performance of your camera but also helps prevent unnecessary stress on delicate mechanisms.

Identifying Parts that Require Lubrication

When it comes to lubricating your 35mm film camera, it's important to identify the specific parts that require lubrication. Some common areas that may benefit from lubrication include the shutter mechanism, film advance gears, focusing rings, and any other moving components.

These parts are typically exposed to friction during regular use and can greatly benefit from proper lubrication. By pinpointing these key areas in your camera, you can ensure that they receive the necessary maintenance for optimal performance.

Choosing the Right Lubricant

Selecting the correct lubricant for your 35mm film camera is essential to avoid damaging sensitive components. It's crucial to use a high-quality camera-specific lubricant that is designed for precision instruments like yours. Avoid using generic oils or greases as they may not be compatible with the materials in your camera and could cause more harm than good.

Look for synthetic oils or silicone-based greases that are recommended by reputable manufacturers or professional repair technicians. When choosing a lubricant, consider factors such as viscosity, temperature resistance, and compatibility with different materials in your camera for optimal results. NEVER USE WD-40 OR 3-IN-1 OIL!


Storage Tips for Your Camera

A. Remove your batteries

One essential tip is to remove the batteries when not in use, as leaving them inside can lead to corrosion and damage. 

B. Avoiding Extreme Temperatures and Humidity

Extreme temperatures and high humidity can wreak havoc on your camera's delicate mechanisms and lenses. Avoid storing your camera in places like attics or basements where temperature fluctuations are common. Instead, opt for a cool, dry environment with stable conditions to keep your gear in top shape. Moisture can be particularly damaging, leading to fungus growth on lenses or corrosion of metal parts. Consider using silica gel packets or dehumidifiers in your storage area to maintain optimal humidity levels.

C. Using a Protective Case or Bag

To add an extra layer of protection for your 35mm film camera, invest in a quality protective case or bag. Look for options that offer padding to cushion against accidental bumps or drops. A dedicated camera bag with compartments for accessories like lenses and films can help keep everything organized and safe during transport or storage. Make sure the case is dust-proof to prevent particles from settling on sensitive parts of your camera. By investing in a protective case, you'll not only safeguard your gear but also prolong its lifespan for many more photographic moments ahead.

Check out our collection of bags and cases here

D. Advance the camera

It's a good idea to release the tension on the film advance mechanism by slightly advancing the film lever before storing it. This helps prevent any strain on the internal components over time.


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