Archive for the ‘Restoration’ Category

A Comparison Of Replacement Camera Covers

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

I have recently had the opportunity to use a new camera cover manufacturing service: Aki-Asahi Camera Coverings. Based in Nagoya, Japan and operating for the last 12 months I was lured in by their cheap prices and decided to give their Spotmatic kit a go. I originally ordered a Spotmatic kit from cameraleather.com, but after 2 months of waiting it hadn’t arrived. I e-mailed them several times and recieved no response and eventually got a refund through Paypal as I thought they had done a runner. As I found out just recently there was flooding in the area at the time that apparently caused the breakdown in communication, and eventually did recieve the Cameraleather kit. This gave me a good excuse to compare the two services.

One of the major issues I had with my Pentax Spotmatic after cleaning and repairing it was the condition of the leatherette. Rather than being the clean, rich and textured black it was supposed to be, it was dull and worn with corners lifting from degraded adhesive and it was incredibly stiff and wouldn’t stick back down onto the body. I am the first to admit that as a restoration of my Spotmatic effort isn’t a perfect effort. The aluminium housing was in poor condition to start with, the curtain tension isn’t right, and the light meter is in desperate need of calibration. My aim with this camera wasn’t to restore it to perfect condition, but rather to bring it back to life to use alongside my digital slr. And for that, I want something eye-catching to give it a bit of character. If I’m going to the trouble of recovering it then I may as well go the rest of the way and recover it with something exciting and relatively unique.

I decided on a nice crimson colour for my camera as it will also make the camera stand out quite a bit compared to the blacks and greys that people are accustomed to seeing on a camera. It should also mean that this cover will last longer than the original leatherette and will be less susceptible to degradation from sunlight and the elements. The adhesive is an important factor, in particular the longevity and whether or not it will hold up to any potential removals and reapplications of the cover for maintainence, adjustment or cleaning of the internal mechanisms and how well it will last over time with normal use.

I chose a goat kid leather kit from cameraleather.com as it’s soft to the touch and will really make the camera unique. Aki Asahi do not offer a Spotmatic SP kit in red kid leather, so I had to settle for cowhide which is harder wearing but not as pleasant to the touch and does not feel as grippy. I would have liked to see more kid leather colour choices from Aki Asahi. They also offer synthetic leathers for people aiming for a more original cover or who don’t want to use animal leather on their camera.

Both kits are well made, come attached to a backing sheet and are self-adhesive which saves a lot of time and mess when compared to gluing them yourself. The cameraleather.com kit has a natural texture that is very nice to the touch, as well as being very soft and a rich, deep red with a matte finish. The Aki Asahi kit is much glossier red, like polished leather and when I ordered it (and as of writing this post) is only available in lizard or crocodile embossing. Neither of these textures really appeal to me, I would have liked a more classic pebbled texture in the red leather. One really cool thing that Aki-Asahi included was an identical leather kit with a little stamp identifying it as a “Free Practice Kit”. A cursory inspection shows some minor imperfections in one corner of this extra kit, so it may simply be a way to offload a reject that they don’t want to sell as it is not up to their standards. I am not sure if they do this for all of their kits, but if they do then it is definitely a cheap way to cover multiple cameras. I can even see some enthusiasts swapping or selling their practice kits to other members of the restoration community, very cool.

Thickness is an important attribute that is mentioned only in passing on both cameraleather.com and Aki-Asahi on one or two pages. Depending on personal preference one might want a thicker leather to give a slightly more substantial grip or a thinner leather to fit under low controls or for another reason. I found that the Aki-Asahi kit gives you a nice and meaty 0.7mm thick kit, while the cameraleather.com kit was around 0.5mm. Now these don’t sound terribly far apart but combined with the differences in hardness of the kits you can certainly feel a difference.

Then there is the price. This was where the two kits diverge the most. When I ordered my kit from cameraleather.com, I paid $US44.00 with an additional $US3.60 postage for a total cost of $US47.60. The Aki-Asahi kit? A mere $US13.00, plus $US4.00 shipping. Sure, the Aki-Asahi kit was only cowhide leather, but they charge the same price for a Pentax Spotmatic SP/SPII kit regardless of whether you order cowhide, kid leather, lizard embossing, snake embossing, leica embossing or whatever. That is a huge price difference for a kit that is of comparable quality to one that costs almost thrice the price.

Living in Australia it takes forever for anything to get here from outside Asia, particularly from the US and Europe, while those places in Asia tend to be fairly quick, so it wouldn’t be fair of me to compare just how fast my kits took to arrive. Aki-Asahi had my kit out the door within two days, and for $US4.00 they register it as well which is excellent. A large portion of people ordering these kits will be based out of the US, so naturally cameraleather.com will be the much faster option. My first kit from cameraleather.com was posted within a week, still a very reasonable time frame.

Ultimately it all boils down to personal choice. Aki-Asahi are faster, much cheaper and their instructions are well documented with lots of pictures walking you through your first recovering. Cameraleather.com have a much wider range of choices in terms of colours and leather kits and will be significantly faster getting their kits to people living in or near the United States. In the end they both make excellent kits, and I would be happy having either on my camera. Larger images of all three kits are available by following the links below to the gallery. I will post again later with some photos of my camera with its new cover.

CameraLeather.com – Fine Leathers For Classic Cameras
Aki-Asahi Custom Camera Coverings

Cameraleather.com Pentax Spotmatic SP Kit

Aki-Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SP/SPII Kit

Aki-Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SP/SPII Free Practice Kit

Phases, or Why I Can’t Seem To Get Anything Done

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

People thrive on different things. Some people love to work, others love to relax, to spend time with their families, engage in sport or simply socialise. And then there are those who have hobbies. I am most definitely one of the latter, having too many interests for my own good. My dad collects stamps. Well, he at least collected stamps while I was impressionable. Like me, he divides himself between many interests, though he is able to spend more time with each one before feeling the urge to move on.I suppose that’s where I get it from. But as I’ve grown up and older I’ve taken an interest in other things.

Disassembled Pentax Spotmatic F
Credit: http://www.toddmclellan.com

My most recent interest is in film camera restoration, particularly those from 1960-1989. It really deserves its own post but to give a summary I was given my grandfathers Praktica LTL SLR and his “Agfa Super Silette rangefinder by my grandmother. Both were not working and needed repairs. Not wanting to break them trying to fix them myself I had them repaired by a professional service technician and everything was swell. This piqued my interest in film photography, which led to a friend of mine giving me all of his old camera gear, including a Pentax Spotmatic. This was fortunate as these are a very well built, easy to repair camera with mountains of information on the web covering just about every possible problem they suffer from. Naturally, when I disassembled it I got slightly too enthusiastic and ended up causing more problems than originally existed, but after a month or so of tinkering and researching I have gotten it back into almost perfect working order. In the same way I went overboard disassembling my Spotmatic, I also went overboard looking for my next project and bought a pile of vintage cameras in various states of repair. I will post a list some time soon. Of course, this whole interest stemmed from an interest in photography. I have a Canon EOS 500D, certainly not the best camera on the market but it serves me well and doesn’t miss a beat. If anything, I don’t think I’m doing justice to its capabilities. Yet despite this it, like all the digital SLRs I’ve tried, is a very clinical camera. The digital SLRs just don’t seem to have the charm, the magic that the vintage cameras are steeped in. When I do travel, I take the 500D, but I just don’t feel as much attachment to it as I do to my old cameras.

Nixie Clock

Chronotonix V400 Nixie Clock by nixieclock.net

I have also gone through an electronics phase, firstly because I needed a power regulator to smooth out the power coming out of my motorcycle so I won’t have to be as paranoid charging my iPod or iPhone with the engine running. This didn’t take long, so I went on to make several solid state headphone amplifiers and am in the process of making an arduino-based shutter speed tester. Not to mention I keep coming back to Nixie Clocks despite hating working with high voltages. That said, I’ve always been partial to electronics since I was very young and it’s a hobby I always come back to sooner or later.

These are only my most recent obsessions. Before camera restoration or DIY electronics I have always been extremely focused on computers, originally simply for gaming but then for overclocking and now for gaming once again. Even after finishing school and going to university I was still The Computer Guy amongst my friends and housemates, and now where I work I hold the same reputation. Apparently I have some sort of silicon pheromone that lets those in my immediate area know that if their computer breaks they should harass me about it. But it’s the only hobby I have that I have obsessed over constantly for almost 20 years. Putting it like that I actually feel quite old now. But, back on topic: I have been building, breaking, and repairing computers since my dad brought home our first PC, an Intel 386 desktop running DOS. Not as old school as some, but everyone has to start somewhere.

Because I have too many hobbies, and all men must Make things to be manly I decided I needed to make a work bench using some old tables I was given and some cheap timber from the hardware shop. Initial results weren’t promising. The bench is a little wobbly for my liking and not really stable enough to lean on with all of my weight. But it was a learning experience, and I felt extra manly at the end. All that needs to be done is a bit of extra reinforcement and a change to the base and everything will be swell. The problem is I have started eyeing quite a few power tools every time I go to the hardware shop and thinking to myself “I will possibly need that in the future”. It’s a battle of self control every time I go in there these days, particularly on paydays. I do need a new entertainment unit to replace the one I currently have, which only have enough room for the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3. What I want it one that has enought room to fit the media centre, the blu-ray player, the reciever, the PS3 and the XB360. One more project to add to the pile.

After all of these though, I think the most expensive thing I love doing is alf and half between riding my motorcycle and touring on my motorcycle. Early 2010 a friend and I rode 7300 kilometres down along the Great Ocean Road and on to Adelaide, then back home through Broken Hill. This was in the middle of summer which meant that we were hot for most of the trip. It was amazing. The main difference between riding a motorcycle somewhere and driving somewhere is this: When you drive, you are in your car which is going through a place. There’s a disconnection from the places you’re going through. On a motorcycle this disconnection is gone, and even when you don’t stop you still experience great things while you travel. It’s a great experience. So great, in fact, that we’re planning a much longer and more difficult trip for the near future. While this means more great experiences, it also means I have to spend a lot of dosh buying gear, getting the bike check out and set up and generally doing a lot of running around before we set out.

So these are the main ways I’m spending my time and money these days. By no means am I exceptional at any of them, but they’re interesting or fun and that’s all that really matters in the end, isn’t it?