I clean a Nikon F2

My friend Ben Freiberger is a photographer too.  Some time ago I repaired his Canon FTB which had a frozen frame counter assembly.  I bought an "as-is" junker FTB from KEH and pulled out the parts that Ben's needed and brought it back to life.  That was one of my first camera rescues for somebody other than me!

Ben's wife Leslie is also a photographer and just the other day Ben brought in Leslie's Nikon F2 which looked like it had been in the garage for 20 years, mostly because it has.  I brought it home tonight in its Halliburton aluminum case together with a 35mm f1.4 with a gummed up aperture, a 105mm f2.5, also gummed up, a 20mm f3.5 (!) in need of a good cleaning and a Vivitar 55mm f2.8 macro which is just a little dirty.  My goal, clean it all up while not breaking anything.

The good news is that while there were batteries in the body they did not burst and spew corrosive acid all over the place.  This happens frequently and causes all sorts of problems over and above a messy battery compartment.  On the other hand, the camera is dirty.  

Really dirty.  All the foam will have to replaced.  Just inside the lens mount is the mirror bumper.  That foam has turned into a crusty, sticky mess.

Also, look at that lens mount.  I don't know what that stuff is, but it needs to come off.  Lighter fluid and a bamboo stick with some judicious scrubbing will get that off of there.

The metering prism has 20 years of dust in every crevice.  White Vinegar and a toothbrush gets it out, one little crack at a time.

Prism and focus screen removed and cleaned, body cleaned, leatherette scrubbed with vinegar and a toothbrush then wiped with paper towel strips, the body looks 100% better already.

There was what looked like 20 years of sawdust around that wind lever and speed knob.  Toothbrush and vinegar again shines it up like new (ish).

This little piece of foam was crusty.  This is the pad where the prism mounts.  It hides those two screws which hold the top of the mirror box in place.  The first time I stripped one of these down I'd pulled out every other screw holding it  and didn't know those were there.  Needless to say it wasn't budging while those were there.  This foam has been scraped off, I'll clean it up with lighter fluid, bamboo sticks and paper towel strips.

With the back off you can see the shutter which is nice and clean and un-wrinkled.  The titanium shutter curtains sometimes get loose and wrinkly which doesn't affect their function but looks scary.  These are nice and tight.  Sadly, the 2000th speed doesn't work correctly and fixing that requires a complete tear down.  I'm not going to do that on this camera so that speed is going to remain off.

This is the film door foam light seal slot.  As you can see the foam has deteriorated.  It should be supple and fill that entire slot.  Instead it is dry and most of it is missing.  This would cause light leaks unless they are replaced.  Cleaning them out in this case was pretty easy because they were dry instead of gooey.  I scraped the slots with bamboo sticks.

After scraping I ran a lighter-fluid saturated paper towel strip through each slot, just like cleaning a gun barrel.  A few scrubbing passes with a couple of paper towel strips and...

Clean as a whistle.  Ready for new foam on the bottom slot...

and the top slot.

A new prism bumper pad covers the secret screws.

A new mirror bumper replaces the old crusty foam.  I also delicately scrubbed the mirror with a cotton swab and vinegar to remove the gunk.  Not pictured is the focus screen, the top of which (which is glass) got a good scrubbing.  The bottom of the screen in the F2 is very fragile plastic with a fine Fresnel pattern of tiny grooves in it.  These often are very dirty but on this camera it was clean.  Go figure.  I just blew off the visible dirt with my rocket blower.

The back also needed a good clean inside and out.  The outside was just dirty leatherette which cleaned with vinegar and a toothbrush (are you seeing a pattern here?).  The inside is tricky.  The edges of the door fit in the light seal slots and when the seals go they get lots of crusty lumps on them.  These clean off with lighter fluid and a swab.  

The latch end of the door has a light seal.  This was also pretty crusty and had to come out.  Bamboo and lighter fluid again.

The new foam strip before being installed in the freshly cleaned back door.

The camera is clean.  I haven't yet tried the meter.  If it works, the camera is done and I'll move on to the lenses.  If it doesn't work I'll trouble-shoot that and figure out what needs to be done to bring it back to life.

Next blog entry: Lens Cleaning!!


  1. This is amazing. Thanks John.

  2. Nicely done, but I gotta tell you vinegar is probably one of the last things I would use to clean a camera. It's an acid, you know. In my experience, lighter fluid works great, as does rubbing alcohol / vodka. Simple Green, too for that matter very highly diluted with alcohol. You really want to stay away from things that leave a destructive residue after they evaporate.


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