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05-18-2017, 04:38 PM   #1
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Pentax 6x7 Shutter problem: Is My Camera Trash?

I bought a used 6x7 a couple of years ago, and never ran a roll of film through it until recently. The shutter seemed to be working: the mirror lifted up and the shutter sounded like it was firing at the proper speeds. But I got the film back from processing today, and every frame was black, as though I took the photos with the lens caps on (I didn't). The film was processed correctly, since the numbers and lettering were on the edges of the film.

Tonight, I set the film counter to '1' so I could fire the shutter without film, and with the back open, following the instructions in the manual for doing so. (It says you can simply turn the little knob in the center of the counter with your fingertip, but I could not get that to move at all. [Is this part of the problem?] So I used the second method mentioned: inserting the 'key' [I used a thin strip of metal] into the slot where the metal bit is, which is usually pushed in by a part of the door once it is closed. I then turned the rod that is usually turned by advancing the film, until the counter read '1'. Then I cocked the shutter. While doing so, I saw an edge of the shutter slowly pass by. I then tripped the shutter. Again, the mirror popped up properly, and the shutter sounded like it fired for the right amount of time, but it never opened. I tried it several times, at various speeds, including 1 second, just in case it was firing too fast for me to see. Nope.

I don't get this at all. I bought it from a reputable used camera company, and I remember testing it when I first got it. But I don't remember looking closely to see if it actually fired; I just assumed it did by the sound. Then I set it aside for more than two years (I had hoped to use it for astrophotography, and then started having major trouble with my back, and never got around to it). I feel like quite an idiot. It's obviously too late to return it now, and I won't get much for it if I simply try to sell it as is. It looks to be in great shape, and it came with four lenses. The meter also works fine. But it's a paper weight in its current condition.

Is this a known issue? Am I just doing something incorrectly? (Please say yes!) If there is something wrong, is there a way to fix this without spending a ton of cash? I know how to repair older cameras, like a Speed Graphic, but this is beyond my skills.

I'd be really grateful for some help, and will pretty bummed until I at least find out what's going on.

05-19-2017, 06:52 AM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by PaulEKinzer Quote
I bought a used 6x7 a couple of years ago, and never ran a roll of film through it until recently. The shutter seemed to be working: the mirror lifted up and the shutter sounded like it was firing at the proper speeds. But I got the film back from processing today, and every frame was black, as though I took the photos with the lens caps on (I didn't). The film was processed correctly, since the numbers and lettering were on the edges of the film.

Tonight, I set the film counter to '1' so I could fire the shutter without film, and with the back open, following the instructions in the manual for doing so. (It says you can simply turn the little knob in the center of the counter with your fingertip, but I could not get that to move at all. [Is this part of the problem?] So I used the second method mentioned: inserting the 'key' [I used a thin strip of metal] into the slot where the metal bit is, which is usually pushed in by a part of the door once it is closed. I then turned the rod that is usually turned by advancing the film, until the counter read '1'. Then I cocked the shutter. While doing so, I saw an edge of the shutter slowly pass by. I then tripped the shutter. Again, the mirror popped up properly, and the shutter sounded like it fired for the right amount of time, but it never opened. I tried it several times, at various speeds, including 1 second, just in case it was firing too fast for me to see. Nope.

I don't get this at all. I bought it from a reputable used camera company, and I remember testing it when I first got it. But I don't remember looking closely to see if it actually fired; I just assumed it did by the sound. Then I set it aside for more than two years (I had hoped to use it for astrophotography, and then started having major trouble with my back, and never got around to it). I feel like quite an idiot. It's obviously too late to return it now, and I won't get much for it if I simply try to sell it as is. It looks to be in great shape, and it came with four lenses. The meter also works fine. But it's a paper weight in its current condition.

Is this a known issue? Am I just doing something incorrectly? (Please say yes!) If there is something wrong, is there a way to fix this without spending a ton of cash? I know how to repair older cameras, like a Speed Graphic, but this is beyond my skills.

I'd be really grateful for some help, and will pretty bummed until I at least find out what's going on.
Sounds to me like the 2nd shutter curtain is broken. You can test by using "Bulb" or "B" shutter speed: When you press the shutter button the mirror flips up and the first curtain opens; pause a second or so and lift your finger; you should hear a second slap when the 2nd curtain closes.

Either way, I would say your choices are to send it out for repair, or sell it "for parts or repair" on, e.g. eBay. You would probably want to sell the lenses separately in that case, rather than as a kit with a broken camera. If it were my decision, I'd at least get a quote for the repair; this is quite a unique camera and since you got it with four lenses (!) you should really give yourself the pleasure and challenge of putting a few rolls through before making your final decision. But everyone's economics are different, and if the cost of repair is not good for you, then best to sell everything separately to reduce your losses.

Best wishes,
Sterling
05-19-2017, 08:59 AM   #3
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Thanks, Sterling.

I did get a quote. The repair will cost more than half what I paid for the camera. I feel like I need to do it, but the issue is a simple one of lack of funds.

I'm very disappointed in myself: I think the camera may well have had this problem when I bought it, and I should have returned it. It is actually the second body I got from this seller: the first one had an obvious problem that I saw right away. The biggest disappointment is that this seller used to always provide items in better shape than advertised. I actually got another camera in the mail from them this week that also had an issue that was not mentioned in the ad. When I wrote to them about it, they said, basically, 'Oh, well, just return it.' It was a parts camera, but I sell those, too, sometimes, and I am always very up front about just why it's a parts camera. It would cost more to return it than it's worth to do so. This was the first time I'd bought from this store in well over a year because of other bad experiences: the last thing they sold me was a 3x4 Speed Graphic that was advertised as a 4x5. That's just not acceptable from a store that specializes in used photo gear. They took it back, of course, but I missed out on a different camera from somewhere else that would have worked for me, because I bought this 'better deal'.

I make a significant, though not very large, part of my income from repairing old cameras and reselling them. This 6x7 was something I wanted for myself, and I worked for quite a while to build up some extra income in order to justify buying it. I do not have a lot of spare cash beyond living expenses. A part of me thinks, well, this is just one of those times when things went down instead of up. Stuff happens. But the down has been more common than the up lately, and this is just another down on the scorecard. The store I've been writing about used to supply a lot of ups, and has not for the last several purchases. I don't even know for sure if this shutter issue was there when I bought the camera from them, but in the past, I would have been confident that it was not.

The quote for repairs is not outrageous. If I had the skills and knowledge, I'd want to be paid a decent wage for similar work. But when I add shipping costs -- both ways -- it's just about beyond what I can justify at this point. And I see bodies for sale on eBay -- in excellent and supposedly working condition -- that cost almost exactly the same as the repair cost for mine. But once bitten... If I was actually bitten!

I'll have to think it through. I am blaming myself mostly. I should have done better checking, and because I wasn't I can never really know just when the problem arose. Like most people I guess, I don't like being disappointed in myself!

I had planned to sell my 6x7 kit in order to help pay for a trip out west this summer to view the total solar eclipse. I've been looking forward to this since the 1960s! So this is a blow to my plans that I'll have to find a way past. I'll find a way, but I'm grinding my teeth a bit over it right now.

'Let the Buyer Beware' is old but good advice!
05-19-2017, 09:32 AM   #4
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Paul, as an incurable cheapskate who has limited photo hobby money, I get the idea coming up against the "lack of funds" stop sign. But it sounds like this camera, and the experience of using it with those lenses, is going to be well worth the time to gradually put money aside until you've got the price of that repair.

And don't beat yourself up over not discovering the problem right away and returning the camera to the seller. That's all water under the bridge. We all make those kinds of mistakes, and I bet most of us won't admit half of the ones we've made not as bad or even way worse than that one!

Whether its weeks, months, or a year of so from now, we'd all like to see you post some pictures from that camera.




QuoteOriginally posted by PaulEKinzer Quote
Thanks, Sterling.

I did get a quote. The repair will cost more than half what I paid for the camera. I feel like I need to do it, but the issue is a simple one of lack of funds.

I'm very disappointed in myself: I think the camera may well have had this problem when I bought it, and I should have returned it. It is actually the second body I got from this seller: the first one had an obvious problem that I saw right away. The biggest disappointment is that this seller used to always provide items in better shape than advertised. I actually got another camera in the mail from them this week that also had an issue that was not mentioned in the ad. When I wrote to them about it, they said, basically, 'Oh, well, just return it.' It was a parts camera, but I sell those, too, sometimes, and I am always very up front about just why it's a parts camera. It would cost more to return it than it's worth to do so. This was the first time I'd bought from this store in well over a year because of other bad experiences: the last thing they sold me was a 3x4 Speed Graphic that was advertised as a 4x5. That's just not acceptable from a store that specializes in used photo gear. They took it back, of course, but I missed out on a different camera from somewhere else that would have worked for me, because I bought this 'better deal'.

I make a significant, though not very large, part of my income from repairing old cameras and reselling them. This 6x7 was something I wanted for myself, and I worked for quite a while to build up some extra income in order to justify buying it. I do not have a lot of spare cash beyond living expenses. A part of me thinks, well, this is just one of those times when things went down instead of up. Stuff happens. But the down has been more common than the up lately, and this is just another down on the scorecard. The store I've been writing about used to supply a lot of ups, and has not for the last several purchases. I don't even know for sure if this shutter issue was there when I bought the camera from them, but in the past, I would have been confident that it was not.

The quote for repairs is not outrageous. If I had the skills and knowledge, I'd want to be paid a decent wage for similar work. But when I add shipping costs -- both ways -- it's just about beyond what I can justify at this point. And I see bodies for sale on eBay -- in excellent and supposedly working condition -- that cost almost exactly the same as the repair cost for mine. But once bitten... If I was actually bitten!

I'll have to think it through. I am blaming myself mostly. I should have done better checking, and because I wasn't I can never really know just when the problem arose. Like most people I guess, I don't like being disappointed in myself!

I had planned to sell my 6x7 kit in order to help pay for a trip out west this summer to view the total solar eclipse. I've been looking forward to this since the 1960s! So this is a blow to my plans that I'll have to find a way past. I'll find a way, but I'm grinding my teeth a bit over it right now.

'Let the Buyer Beware' is old but good advice!


05-19-2017, 04:32 PM   #5
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Thanks goatsNdonkey. I actually already sent it off to Eric at pentaxs.com. He's got a very good reputation and a lot of experience with repairing these and other Pentax cameras. I agree that it would be a shame if this camera was not made to take photos again, and that was a big factor in deciding to get it repaired.

Personally, the cameras I am passionate about (I cannot think of a better word) are the Graflex Speed and Crown Graphics. I may not be able to justify my feelings objectively; I just stumbled onto one about 20 years ago (wow, it's been that long!) and came to really admire the elegance (in the engineering/math sense of the simplest design that gets the job done). I don't know now how many have passed through my hands. Well over 100. I fix the ones I can and get them out into the world again. I'm self-taught, but have come to know how to get at most of the issues they typically have. I bring this up because I think I've read about that kind of dedication to the Pentax 6x7. It is truly a unique camera, and fits a niche that should not go away if there is a way to keep it alive. That sounds a bit highfalutin, but I think it's true.

To be honest, I may not use this camera again. I have too many cameras, and cannot justify keeping this one and its lenses. I bought it to try medium format film astrophotography. I still think it would be a great camera to use for that purpose, as well as just a fine MF camera in general. But once I get it back, I'll put it up for sale so someone else will actually get it out taking photos again. I could not just toss it out as a loss, or sell it as a parts camera, because it is in very fine shape, other than this one issue. Eric says he'll go over the whole camera, and replace seals, calibrate shutter speeds, and do whatever else it takes to get the camera working just as it should. I hope I can get back a bit of what I spend on the repair by mentioning that in the ad, wherever I post it, when it comes back to me.
05-19-2017, 05:03 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by PaulEKinzer Quote
. . . . To be honest, I may not use this camera again. I have too many cameras, and cannot justify keeping this one . . . . .
You can have too many cameras? Better not spread that idea around the forum. It might severely alarm and confuse too many people.



05-19-2017, 05:35 PM   #7
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I can see that the repair cost could very well exceed the net worth of such an old camera; anything over $250 is simply not worth doing — ditch the camera and angle (very carefully and astutely!) for the later Pentax 67 cameras. The trouble with the 1969-vintage Pentax 6x7 is the amount of heavy professional use these cameras saw long before digital came along; they were literally thrashed and hammered, and shutters, winding mechanisms (pawls, especially) all suffered. Repair entails taking parts from like-models, thus introducing circular redundancy and unreliability.

Shutter speeds must be tested electronically for accuracy, not visually or audibly and report that "they sound right"; they are likely way, way off. They do become deranged over time, as do mirror and shutter components.
05-19-2017, 10:00 PM   #8
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I apologize: you cannot own too many cameras. If I admit that possibility, it might be argued that one can own too many telescopes, and that would not do.

As far as repairing the camera, that ship has sailed, er... that box has been mailed. And Eric gave me a reasonable quote that included going over the whole camera to check that all is well with it. If he finds that his quote was too low because of unforeseen issues, I can always re-think it.

Still, I've fixed over 100 old Pacemaker Speed and Crown Graphic cameras, and all of them are older than the oldest 6x7, most by decades. And these cameras were used by photojournalists, usually at newspapers, who did unspeakable things to them. And I've found new-old-stock parts for them, and some old cameras that were in nearly new condition. The focal plane shutters in the Speeds were never really accurate. Heck, brand new Copal shutters are only warranted to be within 30% of accurate! I currently own cameras and lenses that are over 80 years old, and they still work fine. Are they accurate? Nope. Do they need to be in order to take produce decent images. Not really. Copal doesn't think so.

People buying these older cameras know that they are old, and that's why they don't bring what a newer camera would. I imagine a buyer for one of these now would be like me: a hobbyist who wants to use it sparingly, at least compared to a pro who needs it for income.

This one is not a 67, but does have MLU and is not in any way beat up. I plan to sell the camera with the four lenses I have for it. I got two of the lenses for very low prices from someone I helped out. And, as someone who's owned many hundreds of cameras of all types, sizes, and ages (from DSLRs to 19th-century view cameras), I really think this was not a camera that saw heavy use. There's no brassing, dings, dents, worn spots on the covering, paint chips, or even much in the way of light scratching on the body. So I still hope to get much of my investment back when I sell the kit.

I hope this post doesn't seem snarky; I don't mean it to!

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