DAMAGE AND SERVICING
Just to be clear: all the anamorphics taken into account for this research are no longer in the making. The last batch, for the digital video market, was discontinued around the year 2000. Before these, most of them come from sometime between 1960 and 1980, for 8mm or 16mm projectors and cameras. Due to the fact that people are so curious about them and all the weirdness involved in putting them to use, a great number of lenses go through multiple different owners over a short amount of time. Not to mention those which were kept stored away for decades in less than adequate conditions and have suffered with humidity, heat and fungus.
A lens can present a multitude of problems. The most common ones are scratches and fungus but there’s also glass separation (when the cement between glass blocks grows weaker and they start to fall apart from one another), cleaning marks – which can ruin image contrast -, and many others: focusing can become stiff, threads might crack or bend, screws and bolts get lost, plastic parts break, I think you got the idea…
It’s quite common that a recently purchased anamorphic requires some servicing, polishing, recoating or collimating. In many cases the lens is still working good, but these procedures bring its quality up sensibly.
When I bought a LOMO Foton-A, it had to go through a lot of mods – mount replacement, declick the aperture, general cleaning and gear installing. The chosen one for the job was Olexandr Kalynychenko, a specialist in russian cinema lenses based in Ukraine. Communication was always in english and Olex is always very clear and straight with the things he informs and suggests, sending pictures and explaining every single detail including the costs for the operation and if it’s a good investment or not.
Using myself as an example, we had a lot of talk about how we could adapt the anamorphic front support to work with 15mm rails (light rig standard), in which I sent him ideas and he also gave me his input. We ended up with such a practical solution that he decided to make one for himself as well and offer it to future customers.
During the servicing process he also sent me a couple pictures of the disassembled lens pointing out a small plastic piece that was partially cracked. He said that the lens would still work as it was, but the thing could snap at any moment. He offered to make me a new one and gave me his price. I decided not to take chances with a small plastic piece messing up the lens and asked him to replace it. The pictures below are the exact ones he sent me.
The Foton-A wasn’t the only lens that gave me trouble. My original Iscorama came with its front glass very messed up. After some questions and tips at EOSHD Anamorphic Forum I shipped the lens to John Van Stelten at Colorado, USA. John is the guy responsible for Focal Point Lens, and before ISCO closed its doors, he was the man officially responsible for all fixes and repairs on ISCO glass in the USA.
Communication was quick, we exchanged a couple messages and I showed him the problem using a couple pictures. He explained me his theory about the damage and gave me instructions on how to check if it wasn’t too serious as well as a price for polishing the external surface of the glass and recoating, but could only be totally sure of the process once the lens got to his hands. On his message after receiving the package and taking a closer look at it he pointed out other problems and the fact the he couldn’t fix them: a deeper scratch in the rear element and the torn off focus stopper (this was explained in Chapter IIIB – Iscoramas (1.5x)). There are some pictures to compare the lens before and after shipping it for servicing at Chapter VB – Isocramas – Episode 02.
In both cases – LOMO and Iscorama – the servicing wasn’t cheap, but it was way cheaper than I expected (living in Brazil gets you thinking awful things about the price of things), and even cheaper than trying to find a new, perfect model of the same lenses. If you have a defective lens and it did cost you some serious cash, trying to fix it is a much better option than just giving up hope.
In order to make this task easier, here’s a list I’ve put together with reputable “lens doctors”. I feel the need to repeat that I only had personal experience with Olex and John but the others are tips and suggestions from other anamorphic users who had lenses fixed by these guys.
ANAMORPHIC IN GENERAL
Super 16, Inc (New York, USA) – Bernie O’Doherty fixes and collimates anamorphic lenses. According to him, a slight 1/64 to 1/32 of a degree off in alignment can mean the difference between a perfect image and one that needs f/4-5.6 to look ok. And customers ares used to this low quality when it comes to anamorphics! Of course, some lenses have design flaws that prevent perfect images, but the great majority of lenses – anamorphics included – can benefit from good servicing. Redstan always says wonders about Bernie too, that he fixes lenses since the 70s.
contact info: email@example.com
Focal Point Lens (Colorado, USA) – John Van Stelten was the official tech assistance for ISCO in the United States until the company was bought by Schneider. John has seen a lot of Iscoramas. He’s one of the few techs who offer polishing and recoating. It’s not cheap and can be risky but in many cases it’s the only way to completely kill any trace of damage to the coatings or to the glass. He uses an autocollimator, which is an essential tool to reassemble lenses properly.
contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org
Olex Camera Services (Ukraine) – Olex is amazing. His messages are always clear and show that he A LOT about any lens you might need some more information. If you have questions, shoot him an email, I’m pretty sure he’ll tell you what you need to know, and quickly.
contact info: email@example.com
RafCamera (Bielorussia) – Rafael is a businessman. When LOMOs were first coming to the DSLR market he was the first one to grab the opportunity and sell a great deal of lenses and accessories. He currently still sells some old accessories and makes custom gear for LOMOs as well (adapters, gears, levers). He has a good reputation at eBay and can provide you with some ideas of where to look when seeking specific parts for lenses.
contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org
One thing is key when walking the path of servicing you lenses: patience. Every single piece is fagile and the adjustments are quite delicate. Besides, if you pick a decent guy to fix your lens, he’s very like to have a queue before you because of his good work that many other people want.