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01-30-2022, 10:50 AM - 6 Likes   #1
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AGAT-18K - viewfinder disassembly

A couple of weeks back I took my recently-acquired Belarussian BeLOMO AGAT-18K half-frame camera out for its first session...



The joy of getting out and about for some photography was quickly tempered by my realisation that - despite its "new / old stock" condition - the viewfinder was dusty and very hazy internally, making it difficult and not at all pleasurable to use. Quite how the internal glass surfaces got so bad, I have no idea, as the camera's lens is immaculate.

Today, I decided to see if I could do something about it. After separating the two case halves, I looked at the viewfinder area and found a kind of "trap-door", secured by a couple of small screws:



After removing these screws and gently prying up the door, the viewfinder assembly lifted out - almost in one piece:



I say "almost" in one piece, as the thick front lens group remained loose in the camera, but this slid out easily enough.

I used a rocket blower to get rid of any dust and debris, wrapped a small length of a Zeiss optical wet wipe around a wooden cocktail stick, then used this to gently clean the surfaces, borders and corners of the viewfinder elements. Just a few minutes work, and everything looked spotlessly clean. Fitting the viewfinder assembly and front element back into the camera was easy enough. Getting the small screws back in was trickier than removing them. The screws are self tapping and secure directly into the plastic casing (the camera is almost entirely plastic, save for the glass lens and viewfinder, and metal film guide / pressure plate). Added to that, the lip of the case means that the screwdriver is at an angle to the screw heads. Trying to get the screws back into the original threads without "biting" and creating new ones was frustrating to say the least, not helped by less-than-rock-steady hands. It must have taken me 8 - 10 attempts for each screw... but I got there in the end.

Now, looking through the viewfinder into a bright room light, there's no sign of any dust, debris or haze. She's crystal clear and ready for a day's shooting - and this time it should be FUN


Last edited by BigMackCam; 01-30-2022 at 11:55 AM.
01-30-2022, 02:02 PM - 1 Like   #2
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Great job. You sure made it look easy. Now go have fun!
01-30-2022, 02:17 PM - 1 Like   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Sam_I_am Quote
Great job. You sure made it look easy. Now go have fun!
Thank you Truth be told, it was pretty easy... access to the viewfinder assembly was much simpler than I'd expected, and none of the optical elements had external coatings that could be easily damaged with cleaning. The only tricky part was getting those two retaining screws back in - but compared to many servicing jobs I've attempted, frankly it was a gift Anyway, I have a roll of Fomapan 400 ready to load and I'm hoping to get out some time this week. The thing is, with 72 shots per roll, it'll be two or three sessions before I'm done and ready to process the film [Note to self: Get some 24 exp B&W film ]

Last edited by BigMackCam; 01-30-2022 at 02:26 PM.
01-31-2022, 07:40 AM - 1 Like   #4
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Hi Mike,

Nice job and interesting camera.
I've been preaching for ages that the viewfinder is critical to the photography experience.
Is the taking lens glass? I wouldn't be surprised if it's plastic as well.

Thanks,
Ismael

01-31-2022, 09:50 AM - 1 Like   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by ismaelg Quote
Nice job and interesting camera.
I've been preaching for ages that the viewfinder is critical to the photography experience.
Is the taking lens glass? I wouldn't be surprised if it's plastic as well.
Thanks, Ismael

The four-element Industar-104 28mm f/2.8 taking lens is in fact glass - and coated, allegedly - while the short lens barrel is metal. The combined lens and two-leaf shutter unit is actually pretty nice quality for an otherwise plastic camera...

Last edited by BigMackCam; 01-31-2022 at 09:56 AM.
03-12-2022, 06:38 PM - 1 Like   #6
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I keep thinking I want one of those old Soviet half-frame Chaika cameras, but it looks like most of them have had their lenses taken off to sell for mirrorless folks.

And I have a Canon half-frame I hardly use, so I'm not sure it's worth the trouble.

Still, they look fun... your AGAT in particular is spectacularly of its era.

-Eric
05-15-2022, 10:05 AM - 1 Like   #7
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Good stuff Mike! Nicely done. I've had one of these for 7 or so years - every time I've used it I've been impressed by. They're great great fun!
Got mine as an extra/gift from an Ukrainian seller I bought a nice Zorki from back when I was in my Soviet RF phase.
You're right - that tiny Industar punches far above its (feather) weight!

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