Wednesday, August 5, 2009

How to fix a Nikon D70s (or a D70?) Shutter

UPDATE: Lots of people find this article when trying to fix a stuck mirror on a D70. Chris Inch reports that his D70 mirror would stay up after making an exposure normally. Another shutter button press was needed to return the mirror to the down position. He fixed this problem by using a different battery. If this is the problem you're having, give that a try.

Important: I recommend against taking your camera apart. Though I was able to fix the shutter problem, it wasn't by taking the camera apart. (Read on for my fix, which I also don't recommend you do unless you're prepared to risk ruining your camera. I did it as a last resort.) Taking a camera apart will expose you to a risk of electric shock from the capacitor (the thing that looks like a battery) inside. I'm including pictures in case anyone's wondering what the inside of their camera looks like, not because I think you should do this.

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from my friend Tim who asked me "Do you have any use for a dead Nikon D70s?" He had found it in a recycle bin and told me that if nothing else I'd be getting a spare battery. I have a problem saying no, and a misplaced confidence that I can fix anything, so I told him I'd take it. When I got it, it didn't work - as promised. The battery was charged, but when I pressed the shutter button the mirror would go up but the shutter wouldn't open. "Err" blinked on the top LCD, then after pushing the shutter button again the mirror came back down. No photo. A little googling shows this to be a fairly common occurrence with the D70 and D70s, but there aren't a whole lot of suggestions apart from trying a fresh battery, a reset, and sending it off to Nikon and paying $250 for a repair. I tried the first two with no success, but wasn't interested in the third option. It didn't make sense to spend money on a body that came out of dumpster, especially not when a new D40 body is only $400.

Don't do this. I mean it. If you do it, I'm not responsible for what happens.

I figured I didn't have much to lose by taking it apart. I'm fairly handy and I have a set of small screwdrivers that I rarely use. That makes me qualified in my books. :-) Well it was fun, but I didn't learn much apart from what the inside of a D70s looks like. Interesting, but I didn't see anything to suggest what I might do to solve the problem with the shutter. I put it back together and decided to make it a paperweight while I gave it some more thought.

Really don't do this. I'm still not responsible.

A couple of days later it occurred to me that the shutter might just be stuck. I had been thinking that some little actuator was burnt out or some spring had come off its guide, but maybe it was something simpler. If the shutter was stuck, then what it might need was a nudge. So I nudged it: I lifted up the mirror, took a pair of small, pointy sewing scissors and pushed down slightly with a very small force on one of the little rivets in the shutter. (The topmost one in the photo)
The shutter moved a bit.

Encouraged, I removed the scissors, released the mirror and hit the shutter release. The shutter opened and closed. I went and got a memory card and a lens and hit the shutter release again. A photo appeared on the LCD. I had fixed it!

After a week of happy shooting with the D70s it continues to work perfectly. Realistically, I don't expect a lot out of the camera after what it's been through. Getting chucked in a recycle bin followed by disassembly by a fat-fingered, unqualified dumb dumb on his coffee table, then a highly imprecise shutter-shoving with a pair of scissors is probably not a recipe for a reliable camera. But I hope it is, because in a world that has so few user-serviceable parts I feel great about bringing this discarded camera back to life, and keeping at least one piece of electronic gear out of the landfill for just a bit longer. (Oh, and for free. Did I mention that?)

Some notes: I really don't think you should do this. I did it because I had nothing to lose. When I did it, however, I was careful about dust and what length screws came out of which holes. Note that my shutter was stuck in the "UP" position. I suppose it might just as easily have been stuck the other way. The shutter is also EXTREMELY FLIMSY.

Also, who throws a camera in a recycle bin? Maybe one day that'll work, but until then take it to these guys for environmentally friendly recycling. (If you're in Ottawa. If not, your town probably has an option like this too.)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Covering the Y

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was lucky enough to be asked to help out with photos for the National Capital YMCA/YWCA 2008 annual report. Well now that report is out and thanks to the talents of Emily Chen, who laid it all out, it looks great. Here are a few shots of the report, as well as the award-winning 2007 report, the cover of which I shot last year. Thanks to all the great people at the Y - the staff and the kids - who made my work so easy and fun.

Both reports can be found here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Little Maintenance

I like to keep things for a long time. Some things I shouldn't hold on to any more, but that's another post for another blog. This post is about a couple of cameras that have been around for a while, and fixing the problems that come up as cameras age.

As anyone who's owned a Yashica FX-D knows, the original leatherette covering didn't last very long. Mine has been without most of its covering for a very long time. This doesn't affect its operation of course, but it sure looks like hell. If you have this problem with an FX-D or just about any other camera, there are people out there who provide kits to replace your covering with a new one.

Another problem that crops up with old cameras is the light seals disintegrate. The Contax RTS I got from my Dad was suffering from this problem. Here's what the cameras looked like before the work began:

Fortunately everything's available on the internet, including light seal kits. In fact, I got both my Yashica leather covering and my RTS light seals from the same place: Aki Asahi

The package arrived from Japan only a few days after ordering, and here's what it contained:

I ordered the black leather covering, but I guess Aki Asahi think if they're going to stick one of these sets in the mail it's just as easy to throw a second set in the envelope. My second set is blue, with a lizard-embossed pattern. I decided to stick to the plan and use the black. The quality of the leather is much better than the original, but if the black I put on ever does come off then I'll try the blue lizard skin. Both the light seals and the camera coverings are self adhesive and do not require any glue.

Full instructions on how to apply the covering are here:
so I don't need to repeat that, but here are a few shots of the process:

The light seals on the RTS were more time consuming than the leather covering on the FX-D, since the little buggers are so sticky and have to be shoved into tiny grooves. (That's probably why you get three sets.) It took a lot of patience, but I think it went well. Of course if the first roll of film shows my RTS to be more of a Holga and leaking light like a sieve, then I still have two more sets of light seals. :-)

Altogether it cost me $US 23.75 ($CA 30.11) for three sets of light seals and two complete leather covering sets for the Yashica. It took about three hours to complete both projects.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

(Not Just) Another Concert - BC Scene

If you find yourself heading to see a show with Vancouver-based Black Mountain, my advice is this: Be prepared. They're going to knock your socks off.

I didn't know what to expect when I got invited by CBC Radio 3 to photograph a BC Scene show here in Ottawa on Friday night which featured three bands: The Pack A.D., Ladyhawk and Black Mountain. I had heard Ladyhawk before, but only had time to check the Myspace pages for the other two bands briefly before heading to the gig. I wasn't prepared. They were fantastic.

They were, however, tough to shoot. As anyone who photographs concerts knows, you've got a few things working against you. You're in the midst of a crowd(hopefully, for the band's sake), you're shooting band members who are moving all over the place (at rock shows anyway) and most importantly... IT'S DARK. It's a bad combo for good pics, and that means you need a little luck and you need to shoot a lot. I like to go into a concert with my metering set to "spot" and exposure compensation set around -2/3 to -1. That does a good job most times, and with auto-ISO keeping a minimum shutter speed of 1/60th or so, I get a decent number of sharp pictures. Of course faster shutter speeds are better, but if the venue is dark that might not be possible. This show was dark, and I also had to make adjustments because of the following: These bands are hairy. There are a lot of beards and a lot of long hair. With only small areas of skin showing, my spot meter method wouldn't cut it. Centre-weighted metering, and -2/3 to -1 2/3 stops compensation works a lot better in this situation. You still have to take a lot of pictures, but it ups the odds substantially.

You can see more pics and listen to the concert online at the Radio3 website.

The full gallery is on Flickr.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

My New Full Frame Camera

Sort of. The camera's not new, but it is full-frame. Following up on an earlier post, I got the film back that I shot with my old SLR. From the photos and the fact that some have snow in them and some don't, you'll see that one of the problems I always had with film still persists: It takes me forever to shoot a roll and get it into the lab. Well this article is supposed to be about how fun it was to shoot the film(and it was), so I'll talk about that for now and get back to complaining a little later. :-)

First, here's a bit more background. In 1982 I got my second 35mm SLR for Christmas: a Yashica FX-D Quartz. (My first SLR was a Miranda Sensorex, which was made in roughly the same year I was, I'll write about that some other time.) I loved that Yashica, but as time went on it spent more and more time in a bag and less and less time around my neck. When I started buying digital cameras it looked like all hope was lost for the Yashica, but not so.

Click images for larger size.

One of the problems with digital cameras is that once you start buying them, you don't stop. They're like every other electronic gizmo out there in that they get twice as good for half as much money every few months. (Really the price seems to stay about the same, so let's say they get four times as good and the price is a constant.) In any case it's a treadmill. In 2009 the thing most of us who aren't made of money are dreaming of is a full-frame digital camera. Be it a D700, a 5D Mark II, a D3 or whatever your preference, this is what a lot of people are longing for. If you pay the rent with photography you probably already have one. If you pay the rent with something else, you probably don't have one. Exceptions apply, of course. You know who you are.

There are a number of reasons why a person would want a full-frame camera. A beautiful big viewfinder, decreased depth of field with similar lenses, the ability to shoot wide angles without spending the rent(again) on a lens. Well if you have a bag of film gear in your closet, guess what? You already have those things. What don't you have? You likely don't have complex 3D metering or a remote control. There might not be autofocus or a built in flash. ISO 25600? ADR? RAW? Nope. But here are some other things you don't have: chargers, USB Cables, installation disks and 300 page manuals. If you already have film gear, some of the features you're looking for won't cost you a cent. If you don't have the gear, you can pick it up for cheap. You will have to buy and process film though, and that's one obvious difference between shooting film and digital - the cost per frame. Nobody thinks twice anymore about shooting digital frames - they're free! Not that film frames are expensive, especially if you are starting out and paying bargain basement prices for a used 35mm SLR. The price comparison between that 35mm and a full-frame digital SLR is in the ballpark of a factor of 10 at least. Cameras that I drooled over in the 80s and 90s are now available for dirt, and film is next to free. The only problem is the wait - and versus digital that wait is the difference between eternity and instant gratification. So it seems today anyway.

In the spirit of waiting, and of not fiddling with buttons and menus, and of thinking more about what I was doing than what I was using, I took a 27 year old film camera for a walk. It made me think about taking my time and making shots count. It was therapy, and it was fun. I think I'll do it again.

Who needs a D700?

These are small scans, reduced even more for web, but I have to say I think the grain is super cool. All shots made with a Yashica FX-D Quartz, 25mm Carl Zeiss f2.8 or 50mm f1.4, PC(Fuji) 100 film. Slight curves adjustment in Photoshop.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

New Photo Exhibit: The Manx Pub, Ottawa

Good things are worth waiting for, even Yahoo Answers agrees with this (for the most part anyway). I say this today because something I've been looking forward to for a long time has just begun:

I have a photo show at the Manx Pub from Feb.4th until March 4th. (2009)

Vernissage: Sunday February 8th, 2009, 4pm - 6pm

The exhibit consists of thirteen never before displayed photos of diverse locations and subjects exploring colour and pattern. All are 11.5"x15.5" prints in 16"x20" frames and all are for sale.

While this isn't the first show I've done - it's my second, I'm so experienced! - it was the first one I booked. The Manx pub and more specifically Andy the manager there, was the first to say yes to putting my photos up on their walls. It was a real turning point for me, since up until then I hadn't really put my work before anyone unless they happened to come into my apartment. However, The Manx, as a great little pub with fantastic food, great atmosphere and an eclectic, creative clientele and staff, has a long waiting list for artists who want to display their work. For me that meant I had 11 months to prepare.

As luck would have it I couldn't spend all 11 months preparing for the Manx show, since in the meantime the Wild Oat Bakery Cafe also said yes to displaying my photos. That show was originally scheduled for July only but got held over until September. As my first show ever, this was an amazing experience for me. I was overwhelmed at how many people showed up and how supportive they all were. Thanks to everyone who came, and thanks especially to all the staff at the Wild Oat. If you haven't been there, you're missing out on great veggie/organic food and delicious fair trade coffee. (roasted in Nova Scotia!!)

The Manx show goes until March 4th. If you're in the neighbourhood this Sunday, February 8th from 2-4pm, drop in. I'll be there.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Shooting Film...well not just yet.

Nearly every day, Adrian gives me an update on the price of the Nikon D700. Obviously he's trying to talk me into getting one, but I'm not sure why. Is it because it's a great full-frame digital SLR and the logical next step addition to my camera bag? Is it because it would make him feel better about buying one himself, and help him explain the purchase to his wife?

Is he trying to ruin me financially?

It doesn't really matter why he's doing it or how often, I simply can't afford one. However the idea does tend to stick in my head a bit and that got me thinking about Ken Rockwell, who's a big fan of full-frame and a big fan of film. While digital cameras have certainly rekindled my interest in photography and have allowed me to learn a great deal, I can't afford to get on the treadmill of buying the next greatest thing. Well maybe I could, but I'd be living in my car. I decided to follow Ken's advice and stick some film in my old camera. I've got a bag full of good equipment that hasn't seen much use in the past few years because I've been concentrating on the instant gratification of the digital photo world. I haven't finished the first roll yet, but for now here are some examples of the fun you can have merging the old world with the new.

I stuck the lens of my point-and-shoot digital up against the viewfinder of my old SLR to show what we used to see in the old days before we had screens on the back of our cameras. (This was harder than you might think. It takes a steady hand and lots of fiddling to get the positioning right.)

This is the kind of thing we used to see when taking pictures: (Contax RTS)

Self portrait through the viewfinder:

Self portrait attracts Emily's attention:

Emily always adds that certain something to photos:

I'll post some film shots when they're ready!