Saturday, January 26, 2013


This is a common problem for the reflex series. The needle itself  can 'stick' to one side. This is typical after 50+ years of dirt and grime. If the camera is used in a smoking environment, cigarette tar can also contribute to the problem. The needle actually 'sticks' to the plastic stop(s) on either side the galvanometer.

Next time it happens, try rotating the ASA dial all the way in one direction and then the other, and finally back to your normal ASA setting. If the needle was stuck, this will usually dislodge it. The permanent cure is to remove the eyepiece diopter, and very carefully, clean the sides of the needle with a small swab soaked in alcohol. If you can see a 'fuzzy edge' on either side of the needle, through the diopter, the needle absolutely needs cleaning.

If rotating the dial may temporarily "cures" the problem. The permanent fix is to clean the sides of the needle. You can do this. Here's how:

1) You need: denatured alcohol or vodka. Very small amount - an ounce or so,  just enough to wet a small cotton swap, like a Q-tip (

2) Unscrew the diopter. It turns counterclockwise. It's on tight but you can usually remove it by hand. Once its loose, be sure not to loose the extremely thin adjustment rings. There may be as few a one or as many as 3 rings. They are black and almost invisible. Very easy to loose. The rings are used to make the initial adjustment matching the diopter to a 'relay lens' inside the body. Put these pieces to the side.

3) Rotate the dial to the smallest ASA setting by turning it counterclockwise as far as it will go. This will place the needle all the way to the left side.

4) Using a Q-tip ( or any other small swab, soak it with the alcohol or vodka, and very carefully, clean (see next) the side of the needle thru the diopter's threaded opening.

5) Carefully touch the top of the needle and brush from the top of the needle downward to the bottom with a very light pressure. Do not brush in / out! Do not brush upwards! The Q-tip can snag on the needle if going upward or bend the needle if it goes in / out. Repeat several times.

6) With the one side finished, remove the swab, rotate the ASA dial fully clockwise. This will move the needle to the right. Soak the unused side of the Q-tip or swab, and again, brush the needle as above. Top to bottom as before. Repeat several times.

7) Reinstall the diopter - don't forget the rings.

If this is successful, the needle will no longer stick to the meter stops at the sides. If it still sticks, the meter stops will, most likely, also need to be cleaned. Trained personal can usually reach the meter stops from the side and clean them. If not, the meter (galvanometer) will need to be removed for cleaning.

Monday, January 14, 2013


Letter to a new filmmaker after shooting his 1st roll...

Congratulations! You are now a filmmaker!


The 20 seconds of black is a leader (unused film) that is wound onto the reel before shooting. There will always be some 'lost' film as 'black' from winding onto the reels. This is typical. Some developers may add a white colored leader to the beginning of the finished film.

This allows threading of the film through the projector from the supply reel to the take-up reel without using any 'good' film footage. In your case, the developer has glued both ends of the two pieces of double run film together after processing. 

What you would do next is to edit the film on a "flatbed or editor" to remove the black areas of film and to edit for content and then add a white leader to the beginning. Leader material:

Typically one would run the film up to the black portions and cut out the black to make an seamless edit from one section to the next. The editor usually has a device to hold the film so it can be cut with a single-edge razor blade. 

After cutting the two ends to be joined are roughened up a bit, overlapped one frame,  and then cemented together using film cement:

Here's a PDF on how its done. The PDF talks about Super 8, but all film is essentially done in the same fashion.

The PDF also speaks of "Kodak Presstapes". These are double sided tape used in place of film to splice two pieces of film together. Cementing the two pieces is also common. Some people prefer splices; some prefer glue. I like glue, as I learned it that way. if you decide to do your own editing, practice first on some old footage. You can find exposed reels of film on eBay.

As the footage with be 3 minutes or less, you can mark the box the reel came in with the subject and date, etc. You may want to edit and the collect like footage for inclusion on a larger reel. 7" reels are common and fit most home 8mm projectors. 

You can find the reels on eBay. Make a printed sheet of title indicating which subjects are on that particular reel and tape it to or put it inside the reels box. You should also gives dates, times, places, etc.  20 years down the road you be glad you did :)

Re: Exposure.  I recommend keeping a log of f-stops settings were used. And then afterwards, some notes saying what worked, and what didn't. Too light? Too dark, etc. You'll get a feel for how the film works and what adjustment to make when shooting.

Be sure the projector bulb is the correct size for the projector. Some people will use a smaller (or larger) bulb. Start with the correct wattage bulb for you projector. Since you'll be showing footage you shot (compensating the light with the cameras f-stop settings), both what you shoot and what you project are interactive.

Also note that some 8mm projectors have a light control. Sometimes its a 2 position switch and sometimes it's a knob. With it, you can increase the brightness of the projected footage. 

Finally, you can have the film transferred to video. Transfer houses can adjust light or dark footage during transfer. The adjustment will be small. Typically they cannot correct footage shot several stops too dark or light.