Leica Shutter Curtain Burn and Repair
After returning from Brazil it was difficult to get back in to photography.
And, not being a huge fan of flare/burns spots in every image, burning a hole in the M7’s shutter curtain made that a whole lot harder…
It is unclear exactly how the burn happened, but at a guess this was the result of the early morning sun streaming in to the kitchen while the camera sat on the bar.
The Leica uses rubberised cloth shutter curtains, which are both reasonably quiet and mechanically robust. Unfortunately, black rubber is even more combustible than paper. If the camera is aimed at the sun for a short time with the lens wide open, this is the result:
The burn is quite small – a few mm. To make it more obvious, these photographs were taken with a bright light shining from behind.
Probably the correct thing to have done would have been to send the camera off to Germany to have the curtain replaced. But this would be both time consuming and expensive. So, after reviewing the collected wisdom of the internet, I decided to try to patch the hole. After all, if it failed I could still send the camera off to Germany…
Apparently it is possible to apply thin fabric patches over large areas of shutter curtain damage, not unlike fixing a punctured bicycle tyre. But in this case the hole was small enough to just paint over with liquid PVC – usually intended for waterproofing marine electrical connections:
This stuff is terrifying. It looks suspiciously like a precursor to the tar creature that killed Tasha Yar. It is not the sort of thing you really want to paint all over the delicate moving parts inside an expensive camera. At least not if you want it to work again.
It is quite tricky to apply the paint, partly because the target is very small and partly because the liquid was quite thick (thanks to near zero temperatures at the moment). I practised initially with some paper – which also helped convince me that the PVC would actually work. Remarkably, it dries to a thin flexible and robust skin, durable enough to allow the paper to be creased without problem. It is also completely opaque.
The result, seen from the front of the shutter curtain:
I have run two films through the M7 since the repair, and so far the camera seems to be working perfectly.
There is no obviously light-leakage, and the exposure timing appears unaffected:
However, it is remarkable that a camera that is still sold new for nearly four thousand euros can be so fragile.
Leica is currently celebrating 60 years since the Leica M was first released. It is a shame that their camera body engineering and design skills have advanced so little that a camera at this level can not use more resilient modern materials.