Lomo LC-A Sticky Shutter Fix

I was fixing up this Zenit LC-A with a sticky shutter, and I thought I would do a step-by-step photo walkthrough of how to take it completely apart and clean out the shutter blades.

The Lovely Lomo LC-A

This little beast came to me looking fine, in good external condition, no rust, clean battery compartment, no knocks, all the lights worked and it made a fine clicking sound when you pressed the shutter button, but the shutter just didn’t want to open.  And that’s not so good for your photographs…

With this problem, it is often a gummed up shutter mechanism.  Usually the light seal between the shutter and the body, right in the centre of the camera, starts falling apart and gunk gets into those delicate little blades.  Gunk that stops them moving.

It’s not too hard to fix – you need a few tools and nimble fingers as some bits are fiddly and there are some tiny wires I would not want to have to solder back on – but it is straightforward.

Before we start I’ll just show you where we are headed and say that I always lay out the pieces in the order I took them off, which makes putting it back together a breeze.  And I take photos whenever I get that feeling that the complexity I’m looking at needs a record – something I can look at later to check exactly where all the bits came from!

This is where we are going! Actually it looks quite simple all laid out like this...


Step 1: Tools

There are only really a few tools needed to strip down a Lomo LC-A and you probably have most of them already.

For this I used a cross-head jewelers screwdriver, size 00, a couple of flat headed ones, size 4 and 5, some handy tweezers for positioning screws, a couple of cotton buds, a bamboo skewer with one end cut into a screwdriver blade shape and some iso propyl alcohol.  If you don’t have the alcohol you could try some lighter fluid instead.

All you need is a few simple tools


Step 2: Removing the top and bottom plate

The LC-A top and bottom plate are pretty easy pickings.  First, we need to get the front cover off, which just involves undoing the four screws on the sides of it.

Take out these screws on either side of the front cover (4 total)

When the screws are out the front cover will just fall or lift off.  When you are putting it back together, make sure you line up these slots with the rods in the cover – I usually set it to full open or full closed and then carefully drop the cover back into position.

Make sure these slots line up with the cover rods when you put it back on.

Now lets look at the top plate.  This is the trickiest of the three as it has the rewind lever and five screws, one of which is under the front leatherette.  Let’s do the worst bit first and find the front screw.

You will need your bamboo stick cut to a ‘blade’ or screwdriver head.  I use this rather than a screwdriver because whenever you can you should use tools that have little or no chance of damaging the cameras.

Insert it under the edge of the leatherette and ease it away from the body.  Unless someone has used the wrong glue to hold it down, it should tease away from the body revealing a screw.

Use the wooden tool to ease off the leatherette

The front screw

Right, now we need to go round the back.  We will do the rewind lever first. Open the back and insert a screwdriver between the two tines that usually engage with the film cannister.  This will hold the rewind shaft still.  Then simply unscrew the whole of the rewind lever top – the black plastic disc.  It comes off anti-clockwise as you would expect.  Take out the shaft and top and set them aside.  Underneath you will find two shiny silver screws.  Undo all the four screws at the back and the top cover will lift off.

These are the four screws at the back.

One thing to look out for here is the shutter button.  It will likely fall out of the top.  There is a black plastic sleeve and an internal metal-block-and-brass-screw – both loose.  The simplest thing is to turn the camera upside down before you take off the top and then they just stay sitting in the top cover.  Remember when you come to reassemble the LC-A that it is easier to put the top on with the camera upside down too!

The shutter button will fall out unless you remove the top upside down

Another thing to look out for when re-assembling is the frame counter arm which pops out when the top comes off and must be tucked back into the top cover as you slide it back on.  As ever, do not force anything.  If you force it, you will bust it.

Gently push this inside the top cover as you reassemble it

All down hill now, just three screws to remove the bottom plate.  The longer one goes in the middle when you are putting it back together.  Also note the back needs to be open for the bottom plate to come free.  And look out for the little back foam pad which is what puts pressure on the sliding battery cover door.

Three screws for the bottom plate

The black foam pad 'segment' goes back here

Note that when you are reassembling, place the black foam pad in the camera against the edge there, then put the bottom plate on with the battery door in the open position.  It all goes together very easily then.

So that’s the outer plates.  Time to dig into the innards of the LC-A…


Step 3: Separating the lens/shutter from the body

First remove the top rings from the front of the LC-A lens assembly.  There are two screws to undo and then you can take off the first black plastic ring.

These two screws hold on the plastic ring

Underneath are three more screws that release the two metal rings.

Now these three and the two rings underneath

Then it should look like this:

All front rings removed

Now we need to remove the viewfinder.  This is held on by three screws, but there is a circuit also attached to the top, so that needs to come off first.  Undo the two screws holding down the circuit board.

Remove these screws to allow the circuit board to come free

The circuit board will now be mobile enough for you to be able to ease it carefully out of the way and get to those screws holding the viewfinder in.  Be gentle and cautious when moving the circuitboard so that you do not to pull off any wires.  If you do, they will need to be very carefully soldered back.

These release the viewfinder

Once the three screws are out, the viewfinder can be removed by bringing it forward and out.  There is a lever underneath that connects from the lens to the needle in the viewfinder telling you which zone the lens is focused at.  Be careful to ease the viewfinder and its lever out.  Removing the viewfinder also releases a smooth connecting rod which lives in a brass sleeve.  If you hear a little clattering sound then it may have fallen out into the mechanism.  Just shake it out.  Otherwise remove it and place with the viewfinder.

This is the loose, sliding rod that connects the needle arm to the lens movement

Now we are able to take apart the main shutter and lens assembly.  This is held to the body by some more screws under the leatherette, so we need to peel back much more material to get to them.  Again, use the bamboo stick and wiggle it in between the body and the leatherette until it is loose.  You can use it to pull the leatherette out from under the flash and focus levers.

Use the bamboo to separate the leatherette from the body

Once this is peeled back on either side, you can get to the four retaining screws on the assembly and the four on the front part of the assesmbly.  Undo them all and we are nearly ready to take the LC-A apart.  Don’t pull it off yet though, there are a couple more operations before it comes off.

These 4 screws hold the assembly on to the body

These 4 hold the front part on

The assembly is loose, but there are two small bits at the bottom of the camera that we need to look at in order to take it apart.  The negative battery connector must be unscrewed so it is loose and the cocking arm must be moved off the little peg that it pulls back.  After that, the whole assembly can be lifted up and over the top of the body where it is still connected.

Unscrew the negative battery terminal on the bottom of the camera

Lift the cocking arm off the peg indicated and swing it away

So it looks like this

Again, be gentle with moving the parts around.  There are a lot of lightweight wires so don’t pull at anything, just ease it up so it is over the camera body.


Step 4: Extracting the shutter

Now we have the lens and shutter assembly off the camera, there are two more steps to getting to the shutter.  First we remove the lens part, then the circuitry.

The lens part is attached by a set of screws and by a curved contact.  First undo the screws.

Undo these screws to loosen the lens from the shutter

With these screws undone, you can carefully separate the two parts.  You will find there is still a connection where wires connect to a curved contact.  Gently swing the lens part around until the contact and its two screws are revealed.  Then you can undo them and take the lens piece away completely.

Separating the lens and the shutter completely

Note that I have turned the camera body upside down to bring the assembly close to me and so that it is up the right way.

With the lens part out of the way, we can take off the circuitry.  Again this is a two step process of loosening the board and then releasing two smaller connections.  We start by taking out the screws holding the circuit board on.

These screws release the circuit board

You will see that there is still a connection to the electromagnet at the top and the metal switching strips at the bottom.  Once the main screws are undone you can move the circuit enough to gain access to the two screws holding these parts on.

Note particularly the position of the metal switching strips (above) so that you are able to put these back properly.  Also it is much easier to remove these if the shutter is cocked, or at least moved towards the cocked position (as shown above) as otherwise they are covered and trapped by the large metal plate at the bottom.

Undo these side screws to release the last connections for the circuits

Once the switching strips and electromagnet are free the shutter part can be removed all by itself so we can get to the blades to clean them.  Here we can see the shutter free at last!

The shutter is now free


Step 5: Checking and cleaning the shutter

Check the shutter to see if it is moving freely.  When the part shown moves in the direction of the arrow, the shutter blades should move apart.

When this part moves the shutter blades should open

You should not have to push this, it should open on its own as it is sprung.  But often the blades and sometimes the arm get dirty and stop moving so easily.  To test the movement, make sure the shutter is not cocked by releasing the catch at the bottom if necessary, then move the part shown on the left to allow the shutter to open.  Any stiffness means this needs cleaning out.

Push the left hand end up and the right hand should move to allow the shutter to open

To clean out the shutter flip the shutter over and undo the three screws.  This will give you access to the shutter blades. Be careful when lifting off these pieces as they are quite delicate.

Undo these to get to the shutter blades

These pieces have to be completely clean to move smoothly.  Do not oil them, this will not work. I take the pieces out  and then use cotton buds soaked in iso propyl alcohol to clean the plate, then each piece as I put it back, both sides.  I don’t touch them with my fingers as this could leave some oil on the blades – I use the tweezers to put them back in place.  make sure there are no little bits of fluff from the cotton buds either.

The shutter pieces

First piece back in. You can see where I've cleaned the plate too!

Second piece back in place

Third piece of the shutter back in place

Put back the plate with the three screws and check the shutter works smoothly as above.

Then reassemble the whole camera working in reverse.

Be careful with the metal switching strips – they are fiddly and you don’t want to bend them.

Also do not force the whole lens/shutter assembly back onto the body.  Firstly there are lots of wires in there and you should gently ensure that they are all out of the way.  Secondly check that the shutter release is underneath the two metal strips next to the frame counter and not bumping into them.  Also check it is not fouling on the cocking arm bit on the bottom.  Sometimes it takes a while before it sits happily and you can screw it back on but again it is not worth rushing or forcing it.

Full layout

This is the layout I ended up with.  It is made from a couple of images so forgive the joins and slight changes in size.  I thought it might be useful if your cat jumps on your pieces or you have a sneezing fit or something!

Full exploded layout of this Zenit LC-A

Let me know how you get on!

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Camera Buying Guide

Andrew White has more cameras than anyone in Brighton, probably… Check out this video for his insight into buying old film cameras.


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No. 1 Panoram-Kodak

Well, this one has been a long time in the fixing.

The Kodak Panoram No.1 is an amazing and very unique camera dating from the turn of the century.  The lens swings through a 112 degree arc to take a huge panoramic image.  Only four images fit on a roll of 120 film.  Usefully, it has a built-in spirit level.

Simon Tomlinson asked me to take a look at this in the middle of last year as the fine leather ‘bellows’ had rotted away.  It took a while to find the right leather and make some modifications to the internal light baffles – the lens never closes, it just sort of ends up in a little baffle at the side, then when you take the next shot it swings over to the other side.

I also discovered some screws fouling the reels of film and that stumped me for ages, mainly because I didn’t want to cut the original screws.  If anyone knows where you can get truly tiny brass wood screws then please let me know!  CaptainBonobo helped me out and I finally got it all back working around Christmas.

Although the Panoram usually has a black leather covering, Simon took this off and I agree it looks rather fetching in natural wood.  It is certainly a camera that intrigues and starts conversations with people – one of the big upsides to funny old film cameras I find.

It’s simple in use.  Just wind on, cock the mechanism, compose, and release the shutter.  The viewfinder only shows the middle of the image, and the lens cover also covers the viewfinder, so you can’t really leave the lenscap on – a lovely piece of simple engineering.  Double exposures would be trival – just recock and take another shot.  I think I felt happiest with the box on a tripod rather than handheld, which makes it a little more cumbersome to use, but it is pretty light and easy enough to lug around if you have the space.

Internally the film follows a curved path – sweet and simple.

The Kodak Panoram certainly gives you a unique perspective and Simon used it a great deal on his trip to Equador recently.  I can’t wait to see the results!

These are just a couple of test shots.  Simon’s one is all cool and creative an that, but then he is a bit of a genius.     :)

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Holga 120 (Black Ops Version)

When I got my first Holga I kinda went mad modifying it.  It is such a simple and badly made camera that the thought that I could ‘damage’ it in any way scarecly occured to me.

It is incredibly lightweight after lugging round vintage cameras made of sheet steel and titanium bolts, but then it is just a plastic box with a bit of glass (yes I splashed out on the glass lens model) wobbling about on the front.  I think it has a total of three screws holding it all together.

I had to modify it anyway as the foam came off on the first roll and got eaten by my roll of 120 – not a pleasant sight.  An hour later and I found that a happy band of people all over the world had taken the black plastic box simply as a starting point for their adventures in photographic experimentation.  I’m sure you’ve seen the Holga Mods on the net, and even home-made Holgaroids, but have you seen the mighty and utterly brilliant Holgavue? I was inspired!

Anyway, the mods I did were: replace foam with plastic tensioners, drilled out lens to give me f/8 and f/22, close focus down to 60cm, velcro secured back, velcro red window cover, cable release, and finally blacking out almost everything.  I made it mine – and that’s not a feeling you get with all cameras.

The shutter is comparable with ancient box cameras!

I haven’t used the Holga as much as I would like.  It’s certainly an easy camera to use, and not one you have to worry about or mollycoddle.  It’s lightweight and easy to stuff in your bag if you have room.  Double exposures are so trivial you actually have to make sure you don’t double expose (or leave the lens caps on).  On the other hand I find loading film a bit awkward, and I haven’t been using fast enough film (should have used 400 but was using my usual 160). It’s cheap though and a lot of fun.  A great place to start in medium format and in the hands of a master, simply genius…

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Zeiss Ikon Box Tengor 54/2

This could be the oldest camera I own.  It comes all the way from 1934(ish) and for its time is actually quite advanced.  Not just a simple 6×9 box camera, oh no! It comes with three apertures and three focal lengths.  Ok, so they are simply holes and auxillary lenses swung behind the main Goerz Frontar lens, but for 1934?  This was the camera that left other boxes in the dust.

It is a well made little piece of history, that’s for sure.  It feels very good in the hand with its leather strap.  Of course it is really a tripod camera, and that’s the way I use it, with a cable release as well to keep it all steady, but it is a lovely way to wander around taking photographs.  It’s a relaxed and cultured exercise that I rather enjoy.  And to help with that it has two viewfinders and two tripod sockets.

Also – what can possibly go wrong with it?  The construction is excellent and it is all mechanical.  A real beauty.

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Zeiss Ikon – Ikonta 521/16

Now this is a bit of style!

This is my very first medium format camera and was purchased during an early visit to the wonderful and very dangerous Clocktower Cameras in Brighton.  What a machine!  I think I fell in love straight away.  The Germans certainly know how to make a quality product and the Zeiss name is rightly famous.

I think this is my favourites of the Ikontas.  Not only because it was my first, but I think I love the light weight, the sparseness, the simplicity and the square format.  I only shoot black and white film in it – due to some strange idea that I’m staying true to its own heritage.  Whatever.  It just seems right.  Anyway, that’s why it has an orange filter on the front.

Using it is an exercise in basic photography.  You have to set the shutter speed and aperture on the dials with no meter, so you have to learn the ‘sunny 16’ rule pretty quickly.  The focus is set on the scale round the lens which means acquiring a skill in judging distances.  Then you compose with the finder, which is just a hole and a piece of glass popped up on top of the body.  Only my Holga is simpler.  Actually I tell a lie – my Vivitar UWS is the simplest camera in the world.  Anyway – I digress.

I think I like the completely manual setup.  It puts me in touch with the very core aspects of photography.  There are no batteries to run out.  No electronics telling me what to do or taking over the task of making a photograph.  Just me.  And a machine.  And the simplicity belies the sheer quality of the results that are possible.  That Zeiss glass is superb.  The Compur shutter goes to a mean 1/500th and the whole thing is just a marvel.  Plus it smells of leather and history – what could be better!

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Cosina CX-2

This was practically my first camera.  I say ‘practically’ because I seemed to acquire several cameras all at once, but this was the one that gave me instant joy and the one that I carried around faithfully, stuffed full of chrome ready for the xpro magic that Lomokev had promised me on that beautiful hillside.

Anyway, I wasn’t going to spend all my hard earned cash on an overpriced LC-A when I could get the real Japanese deal, the original, the camera that the Russians copied in their LOMO factories.  So I acquired a Cosina CX-2 in all its clunky loveliness.

Just like the LC-A, it has a sweet 35mm f/2.8 lens, auto-exposure and zone focus.  Unlike the LC-A you actually twist the front cover to reveal the lens!  This is so cool you won’t believe me until you use one.

It feels solid and ready in the hand and for street photography it is hard to beat.  I had a lot of fun with mine before I got seduced by Maitani – damn his insane genius hide!

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