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12-10-2019, 03:04 PM   #1
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Pentax LX focusing woes

Hi everyone, I'm just writing this down to share. I hope some forum members find it interesting hearing about my experiences, buying a Pentax LX off eBay.


Somewhere in February of this year, I spotted a Pentax LX on eBay that looked great cosmetically. It even still had the protective film on the bottom of the camera. The seller claimed it had been looked at by Asahi Photo in the UK, but couldn't provide any proof. He accepted returns though, and I was protected by paying through PayPal so I took the plunge for £199.


Once I received the camera, it turned out I couldn't get it to focus at infinity. I figured this had to do with the infamous sticky mirror syndrome, so I contacted the seller and told him about the problem. He offered to take it back, but I mentioned I had found a man who was willing to service the camera in the Netherlands. The quote was about Ä40. I had trouble finding an LX that looked comparable for the same price, so I preferred hanging on to it and having it repaired. He seemed glad not to have to put the camera back up on eBay with a mention of a defect, and agreed to a partial refund of £25 to have it serviced.

I had the aforementioned repairman do a CLA on my Spotmatic II about a year before that turned out great, and he came recommended by my local camera shop so I had faith the £25 would go a long way to fixing my troubles. The man in the Netherlands calibrated the LX and sent it back after checking other functions as well. He told me my LX was in excellent shape and should focus fine now. After testing however, it still had issues. I tried to contact the repairman again, but he didn't respond immediately, so I searched on for another solution.


This is when I found Zhe Cai on eBay, whom I briefed on the history of the camera. He agreed to take a look, and told me a repair would be no more than £35 if he was able to determine the problem. At first glance he had trouble reproducing the issue and found no problem by using his normal methods checking at infinity through the viewfinder. After checking both focus in the viewfinder and on the film plane throughout the range however, the discrepancies did arise. In the meantime, the Dutch repairman finally answered my mails and did not understand how focusing could still be off. He insisted that he used factory standardized machinery to do the calibration, and asked me to send over some examples. This time I'm the one who has yet to write back, I'm afraid.


Just yesterday, Zhe Cai sent me back the re-calibrated LX, with the SG-20 screen that I had just acquired and did some focusing tests with before sending it off. I popped my original SC-21 back in, and found I couldn't focus to infinity once more. I was feeling quite defeated after again stumbling upon the infinity focusing issue. I tried an SC-1 screen that I had as well just to be sure, and what do you know, it allowed me to focus to infinity. The working theory now, is that the original SC-21 screen I have, might contain the issue. Zhe used two other SC-21 screens to adjust and these allowed for infinity focus without any problems. The first time I sent over my LX to be repaired in the Netherlands, this original SC-21 screen was in there. So it might very well be that the repairman adjusted correctly for this screen, throwing off focusing on the film plane.


I'm putting through my first test roll on the LX as we speak, and will update this thread as I have results! I hope I can just start just enjoying my LX after all this.
One curious thing Zhe noticed about my LX is that the top plate is standard glossy black, whereas the bottom plate is matte black. He had not seen this before and believes it was switched out at one point.

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Thanks for reading,

J.S.

12-10-2019, 03:42 PM - 1 Like   #2
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Very interesting post, thank you.
12-10-2019, 05:35 PM   #3
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Interesting story, well worth thinking about, good luck
12-11-2019, 03:14 PM   #4
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I've dealt with Zhe a few times and he bought a non-infinity focussing body from me a while ago. If the mirror is sitting on the light-meter hump then it won't focus to infinity as it should be a couple of mm higher. This is an issue with the mirror stops. I presume if the focussing screen is slightly out then the position of the mirror could still be out but you wouldn't necessarily be able to see that it wasn't correct.

12-26-2019, 10:08 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by limestonecowboy Quote
I've dealt with Zhe a few times and he bought a non-infinity focussing body from me a while ago. If the mirror is sitting on the light-meter hump then it won't focus to infinity as it should be a couple of mm higher. This is an issue with the mirror stops. I presume if the focussing screen is slightly out then the position of the mirror could still be out but you wouldn't necessarily be able to see that it wasn't correct.
The exact problem Pentax diagnosed and fixed in the LX I owned in the 1990ís. Mine was slightly off-focus at all distances. Photos taken with short lenses or with longer lenses stopped down were fine however any shots with a telephoto wide open always missed the mark. This particular camera also had an issue with inconsistencies in frame spacing sometimes overlapping frames by several millimeters. Pentax said they fixed the issue; they didnít.
12-27-2019, 02:54 AM   #6
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Happy to report that my LX is focusing fine again 😁.

I too can get the frame spacing closer together when using the film rewind without pressing down on the button on the bottom plate, so there is some unusual play there. This is not an issue in normal use however, and even with me playing with this no frames were ever overlapping. Did you eventually get yours fixed?
12-27-2019, 07:25 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by jschoonj Quote

Happy to report that my LX is focusing fine again ��.

I too can get the frame spacing closer together when using the film rewind without pressing down on the button on the bottom plate, so there is some unusual play there. This is not an issue in normal use however, and even with me playing with this no frames were ever overlapping. Did you eventually get yours fixed?
A second trip to Pentax in Colorado and another $$$, still had the problem the day I sold it at a huge loss on eBay. I’m not sure the technicians at Pentax ever tried to fix the frame spacing issue. I quit using it, the LX sat for ten years finally being sold for a pittance. My LX, its beauty truly was only skin deep.
12-27-2019, 09:09 AM   #8
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Pentax LX focusing woes

Thatís sad to hear. Pentax billed you for repairs even after problems persisted? Thatís quite a shame to hear honestly. I bet even your broken LX would fetch a high price again these days.

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