Olympus Six…Awaiting Bellows!

Olympus Six in bits

Here we have a 1953 Olympus Six awaiting re-assembly!

A bit of a folly this one, bought for £49 and allegedly in good condition…needless to say the only working part was the film winder.

The bellows had stiff blue electrical tape stuck to them covering a 2cm gash which forced the front standard out of alignment. The Zuiko 7.5cm f2.8 (yes f2.8) lens was completely fogged, lucky enough it only had superficial fungus on the rear element. The vinyl covering was hanging off and the shutter was completely seized.

So a full restoration was in order.

The shutter was rebuilt and the lens cleaned. I decided to peel off all the old vinyl remains, thoroughly clean the camera and set about recovering it in aged 0.8mm Nappa leather.

I measured up and ordered a set of bellows from Sandeha Lynch and now await their arrival before final assembly.


S Copal Shutter

Seikosha Rapid
S Copal shutter component parts

This early  S Copal shutter looks like a close copy of the British Epsilon. This one from a 1953 Olympus Six was completely corroded and seized. With no choice but to strip it and clean it, although after re-assembly the shutter was slow, so further investigation was required.

I found that the shutter drive ring was bent, pitted and wasn’t running smoothly on the housing (a sure sign of being forced). This caused binding and slowed all speeds above 1/25s.

Shutter Drive Ring
Shutter Drive Ring

I used 1200 and 2000 grit wet / dry paper and Solvo to polish the internal ring to remove the pitting and straightened the pins. Upon reassembly, the shutter matched selected speeds of 1/25s up to 1/100s but was still 1/2 stop slow at 1/200s – a tell tale sign of a tired booster spring.

The slow speed escapement spring was also tired which required it to be closer to the housing centre to gain accurate speeds up to 1/5s. Unfortunately 1/10s was now failing, so after much trial and error I decided to live with the closer escapement placing and re-profile the 1/10s speed ring step.

The result was a shutter that was within 10% of all speeds up to 1/100s and 30% slow at 1/200s…….good enough for B&W!


Epsilon Shutter…..Component Parts!

Epsilon Shutter

The British made Epsilon shutter of the 1940-50s has a reputation for being unreliable. All of the variants I have worked on prove this to be the case.

90% of shutter failures normally fall under the dirt and congealed lube category which is easily resolved with a strip down, clean and re-assemble, however the Achilles heel of the Epsilon is the slow escapement mechanism. The cocking lever’s return puts pressure on the escapement and over time bends the mechanism’s housing which makes all speeds below 1/10s sticky.

This particular shutter had also dislodged two aperture blades so a full strip down was necessary.


A quartet of pocket sized 120 folders from the 1950s


Four of the smallest 120 folders ever produced – restored to their former glory over the last year.

Left to right, Zeiss Super Ikonta 531a, Voigtlander Perko 1, Ensign Selfix 16-20 and Konishiroku Pearl III.

All have the infamous Tessar (or derivative) lens – a sharp and contrasty mainstay of most cameras from this era.

The German made 645 Ikonta 531a is an engineering work of art. A satin chrome, black and leather clad (rigid) body with a Synchro Compur MX shutter, Zeiss Tessar 7.5cm f/3.5 lens, separate tiny rangefinder and Albada viewfinder. Purchased for £119 (early 2016) it needed a full CLA and rangefinder alignment.

The German made 6×6 Perkeo 1 is almost as well made as the Ikonta but with no rangefinder (distance focus scale only), small viewfinder, Prontor SVS shutter and Skopar 80mm f/3.5 lens. Its satin chrome, black and leather clad (less rigid) body is noticeably lighter than all the others. Purchased for £95 (early 2016) it needed a full CLA, shutter repair and (wobbly) front standard repair.

The British made 645 Ensign 16-20 is built like a tank and sturdier than all other models, although the front standard is not as rigid as the Ikonta. No rangefinder (distance focus scale only), just a simple but large Albada viewfinder. The body is satin chrome, black and leather clad which houses a notoriously unreliable (but serviceable) Epsilon shutter and Ross Xpres 75mm f/3.5 lens. Purchased for £75 (fall 2016) it needed a full CLA, shutter repair and a missing DOF scale knob.

The Japanese made 645 Konishiroku Pearl III is an evolutionary marvel with its unit focus helical, Seikosha MXL shutter, Hexar 75mm f/3.5 lens, combined view/rangefinder and auto film stop (no red window). Although slightly heavier than the others, it has a satin chrome, black and vinyl clad body with a front standard as rigid as the Ikonta’s. Purchased for £183 (fall 2016) it needed a full CLA, unit focus repair, bellow’s pinhole repair, vinyl repair and rangefinder alignment.

If I were to choose a favourite, it would have to be the Konishiroku Pearl III – plentiful in Japan but rare (read pricier) in the west. Its unit focus design takes the Hexar (Tessar derivative) lens to its optical limit, while the auto film stop and combined view/rangefinder makes it a breeze to use….get one, if you can find one!

Quartet of Folders


Ensign Commando Mk IV

Ensign Commando MkIVThe English were making these incredibly over engineered 6×6 folders back in 1945.

Originally made for the military by Houghton-Butcher Manufacturing Company and later by Barnett-Ensign Ltd. This film plane focussing 120 roll film camera allowed both 6×6 and 6×4.5 formats.

Weighing in 880g with a 75mm f/3.5 Ensar lens costing an eye watering £50 8s 6d (£1800 in today’s money), it was hailed as a “Britain Can Make it” German beater.

Unfortunately, it’s demise (like so many British products) was due to over demand, material shortages and plagued production problems, which was exacerbated by UK retailers preferring to sell higher margin German cameras.

Needless to say, one can look at these as the Norton/Triumph of the camera world….without the oil leaks!

This one is fully functional and only needs some TLC…not bad for £30.