5 Tips for Buying a Film Camera

We may be living in a digital age, but film photography still has a strong following among camera aficionados. Getting a pristine condition film camera can be something of a challenge. However, a little bit of TLC can give an old shutter new life. Casey Cavanaugh shares five tips for buying a used film camera:

1. Test out the shutter speeds

Old cameras sometimes run into issues processing slower shutter speeds. Old lubricant gunking up the inner workings of the camera is often the culprit. Sometimes a thorough cleaning and lubrication are all it takes to solve the issue.

But how can you tell if there’s something wrong with your shutter speed? Simply take a look inside the camera (while it’s empty, of course) and grab a timer. Set the shutter speed to one second, press the shutter, and check to see if the lens doors are indeed open for a full second. If there’s a glaring inaccuracy, you’ll know for sure that something is going wrong.

Shutter leaves stuck together

2. Check the light seals

One of the most problematic issues with aging used film cameras is the potential for light leaks. You want the only light hitting your film to be controlled by the opening and closing of the shutter – not from cracks or ruptures somewhere within the camera. Look around the edges of the doors of your camera and be sure that the cushioning isn’t deteriorating. If you do come across a problem area, you may be able to rectify it using Liquid Tape (or a similar sealant).

Example of light leak

3. Take a good look at the lens

Be sure that there isn’t “haze” or fungus growing in or around your lens; if the camera you’ve received was stored improperly, this is a possibility. For obvious reasons, this can be problematic and really impact the quality of your photographs. If you’re willing to take your lens apart, however, there’s a good chance that you can clean off the internal components to workable order.

mold detail in camera lens

4. Play around with the focus

You may find that your photographs aren’t looking quite sharp enough through the viewfinder. Always check to see that your rangefinder is properly aligned and that it’s focusing to the right distance (approximately). If you notice an issue, the focusing screen could be dislodged.

camera lens focus

5. Bring a flashlight and a battery

When you’re testing out an old film camera, have a pair of fresh batteries on hand. Sometimes “busted” equipment just needs a refresh.

The other most important tool that you could have on hand is a flashlight. This will make the task of looking into the lens and checking for light leaks much easier.

new camera battery

Have you purchased a used film camera recently? What other tips do you have to share with our readers?

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