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Minolta Autocord Red Leather Custom Covers

Milly’s cameras are always pleased to receive feedback from customers and when Lee from Australia got in touch with us, we were delighted with his results. So much so, that we decided, with his permission to make this post about his restoration.

Lee tells us, being my 1st ever covering I found it a bit challenging. Unlike the Rolleiflex that has real leather that comes off in one piece. The Minolta TLR covers are delicate and well glued in random places. To overcome this problem I removed all the old crispy leatherette with a bamboo barbecue stick and then proceeded to clean the old glue with lighter fluid.

Working to a PDF print out of a template for the covers and using a rubbing technique with paper and pencil I was able to make paper cut outs. Using a set of vernier calipers I was able to make slight adjustments until I was happy with the fit. I didn’t want to make a mistake working with the leather as this would be irreversible and making paper templates first seemed the best way to go, especially without having the original covers to work from.

Once I was completely happy I moved on to using the newly made templates for cutting the leather. I started by sticking double sided adhesive tape on the back of the paper templates to stop them from moving while I cut. The tools I used for cutting were a combination of  fine tip scalpel and a pair of fine Minlota Autocord TLR Restorationtip scissors. The film back holes were made with multi belt hole cutters and for the circles I used  a draft compass with a rotating wheel adjuster that locks in place with a super fine needle point. I had to customise the compass by replacing the drawing lead with a stainless steel needle for wool sewing, this I sharpened to a razor to use for the cutter. As I envisaged this worked well and made light work of the job in hand.

The next thing that needed attention was the back door, the black paintwork was scuffed and damaged in places. So before placing the new covers I resprayed it.
Once dried the covers were stuck in place and then the job of resembling the camera took place.

Lee tells us that his Minolta Autocord needed some TLC and was in need of being brought back to life, we think he has certainly achieved his goals and it looks stunning in red leather, well done Lee! For anyone interested the red leather and other colours can be purchased from here.

Minlota Autocord TLR Red Leather

Below is taken from McKeown’s Price Guide To Antique & Classic Cameras 1996-97
“There are 24 different models of Minolta 6X6 TLRs. Any internal or external change is considered to be a new model of that camera. All use either 120 or 220 rollfilm and have f3.5/75mm lenses. The shutters are Konan, Citizen, Sekosha, and Optiper.”

Lee’s camera is the non-metered Autocord RA model that was produced around 1958 for the export market.

The Autocord was Minolta’s equivalent of the Rolliecord, and in some respects was better than the Rolleicord. The infamous Rokkor lens is said to be that bit better than the Zeiss Tessar found on Rolleicord’s, with that in mind I leave you with two sample images taken by Lee with his lovely restored Minolta TLR.

Photos in this post remains the copyrights of Lee Lira and should not be used without contacting him first.

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Pentax K1000 Red & Black Snake Custom Covers

Pentax K1000 by Chris MacWe’ve got a new customer from down under! Chris, from outback Australia, is an avid photographer and collector. He’s sent us photos of his Pentax K1000 sporting our Red & Black Snake skin leatherette.

His skills at cutting and recovering cameras are exceptional. As the photos clearly show, his attention to detail is that of a true craftsman. Great work, Chris!

While Chris’s interest in cameras is purely recreational, it has attracted the attention of his friends who have requested his services. This isn’t at all surprising but is clear recognition of Chris’s skill.

Chris’s talents have been honed for many years, but anyone from newbie to expert can get into camera recovery. Recent messages from other customers have asked how to cut new skins for a given camera and ensure they fit perfectly. One way is to examine the original skins and, if they fit well and can be removed from the camera without stretching, simply use them as a template. A tutorial for this method can be found here.

Pentax K1000 by Chris Mac

But what if the original body covers don’t fit very well? If this is the case, then decorators’ masking tape can be used to fill in the gaps. Simply, stick it on the original skins, cut the edge of the tape to where the covers should be and then remove.

If you do stretch the skins, the best thing then is to make paper templates. This is a slow process but good results can be achieved through this route. Here at HQ we often use this method to ensure a tight fit.

And what if your camera has no skins? In this circumstance, the solution is to make paper templates and use them as guides for cutting the leather/leatherette.


Pentax K1000 by Chris Mac

There are plenty more tutorials coming soon to help others with camera recovering and fitting new camera light seals. Plus, Chris is going to provide us with tutorials based on his experience of recovering Pentax K1000 cameras. These will include information on the tools he has fashioned for the process, preparation of a K1000 for recovery, and the recovery of his much-loved models. Camera advice from 9,000 miles away!

If you have any photos of your own experiences, we’d love to see them. Get in touch via our contact page. We look forward to your submissions!


Photos in this post remain copyright property of Chris McNamara and must not be used without his consent. All rights reserved.


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Fujica ST605 Camera Light Seal Replacement

Fujica ST605 Camera Light Seal ReplacementCamera light seals are straightforward and require no real skill to replace. To prove this my eight-year-old son has achieved camera light seal replacement with great success, under a little guidance of course!

Please do follow the instructions carefully and take great care as you go; knives are sharp and cleaning products can do damage.
As with many online tutorials, please observe the following disclaimer: Milly’s Cameras cannot be held responsible for any accidents or damages to persons or goods, so please use this tutorial at your discretion.

Time Taken; 40 minutes

Tools and Materials needed;

The green lines on the following photos show where the old light seal foam will need cleaning. Usually, I start by placing masking tape over the opening for the shutter curtains. Be careful not to press onto the curtains and focus solely on the outer frame; this helps to stop old sticky light seal foam from entering this area and jamming the curtains.

Fujica ST605 light seal replacementThen, using the window cleaner or lighter fluid, I start cleaning to begin to soften the light seal foam. Make sure you do not flood the area, rather you just need enough product to help loosen the old foam. With the use of a cloth, start to clean the hinge area and backdoor. Once clean, I use a toothpick to focus on the thin channels (top and bottom of the film compartment). This step is time consuming and can be tricky so be patient and avoid rushing.

Fujica ST605 light seal replacementThe final areas to clean are the door and catch area, as seen in the photo above. Once all of the areas listed are cleaned – with the exception of the mirror damper which we will address later – you are ready to start cutting new light seal foam.

Cutting the light seal foam is relatively simple and doesn’t require a laser cutter, as is sometimes assumed. For the cutting, we will start with the channels and will be using the 1.5mm closed cell for these tracks.

Cutting light seal foam thin stripsThere are two main reasons for using the closed cell over any other foam. Firstly, my foam is modern foam that will do the same job as the original foam compared to compression values and also by density in blocking the light. The closed cell also has the added bonus of high resistance to avoid it perishing over time. The other main reason is that it can be easily cut by hand to extremely thin strips; in the case of this camera to 1.75mm in width as seen in the photo’s to the right.

One tip for my customers is to use a scalpel with a new blade and a steel ruler. Using the appropriate tools – and avoiding scissors, craft/hobby knives, kitchen knives or any other inappropriate cutting implement – is my best advice on how to cut the foam successfully.
I begin by cutting the tracks for the top and bottom channels. You will need to use the 1.5mm closed cell foam, cutting two strips 1.75mm wide and 1.48mm long. These will need to be trimmed further to allow for the film counter pin on the top channel and the film canister cut out for the bottom channel.

Fujica ST605 light seal replacementCut 9mm off the end of one of the strips and place this piece in the top channel, from the door hinge to the film counter pin. To place these strips in the tracks, remove the adhesive backing and lick the adhesive. This will deactivate the adhesive long enough to allow you to position the foam correctly with the use of a toothpick.

Once the saliva has dried, which will take approximately 20 minutes, the foam can be pushed down so that the adhesive makes contact. Remove 5mm off the rest of the trimmed strip and disregard this small piece. Place the rest of the strip in the top channel, starting from the other side of the camera.

Again use your saliva to deactivate the adhesive and push in using a toothpick. Repeat the above steps for the bottom channels. Cut the strip down to two pieces, one at 1.22mm and the other 17mm long. The 17mm long piece will go from the left hand side to the cut out for the film canister; the other piece will go from the door hinge end back to the cut out.

Next, cut two pieces from the 3mm open cell foam, 49mm x 6.5mm for the door hinge and 49mm x 6mm for the door at the catch end. Remove adhesive backing sheet and stick in place. Please note that there are two small pieces either side of the catch which need to be cut from the 1.5mm foam. The sizes for these are 4mm x 24mm and 4mm x 18mm. To stick these in place, remove the backing and give the adhesive a lick and then position using tweezers. 3mm foam may seem too thick for these areas – and with standard foams it usually is – however my open cell foam has a good compression rate with a minimal stress factor and a high cell count to block light while still compressing down to 0.3mm (-+0.1mm).

Fujica ST605 light seal replacementThe next step is to do the mirror damper foam, which requires great care to be taken. One friend once told me that he placed paper inside the mirror housing to stop old foam from falling inside however I strongly urge you not to do this; this can actually cause more damage than sticky foam will. Having replaced 1000s of mirror damper foam, care and patience is all that is needed to avoid any issues.

Camera mirror damper foam replacementMy technique is to place the camera in one hand and hold it up over scrap paper, high enough for me to see what I am doing. With the other hand, I use a toothpick to scrape the old foam away, letting it fall onto the scrap paper. Once all the lose is removed, I use my scalpel and tweezers to further clean the area. Though do remember to change the scalpel blade and clean the tweezers after using them!

Once clean, cut a replacement piece from the 3mm. The piece should be 38mm x 3mm. Once cut, remove the back, lick and use the tweezers to place the foam in its correct place.

Once this is done, remove the masking/decorator’s tape and give the camera a light clean. And voila! Your Fujica ST605 is finished and ready to load up with film to test.

Click to see test photo’s.

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Lens Caps Off to Moshi Monsters Holga

Topps Moshi Monsters HolgaLens Caps Off to Moshi Monsters Holga Camera indeed!

It thrills me to see photography being introduced to kids through a form of media served up via television or books. Why? Surely it helps to develop an interest or at least a small connection with photography from an early age.

Photography is a great skill that has the ability to make people of all ages more perceptive to their surroundings. Getting a child to develop this at an early age can only be a good thing right?

I was very pleased when my 8 year old came running in about a month ago shouting “Dad I have a card with one of your cameras on”. The card he held in his hand was the Holga card from the Techies set, Holga belongs to the Happy Snappy species who likes to take photo’s and hand them out to other Moshlings. Having been collecting the now poplar Moshi Monsters game cards, produced by Topps for some time. His collection is of a modest one compared to my camera collection! It seems many of his friends also collect these cards, and long may it continue.

Having failed at get him interested in photography in the past, maybe be just that, in the past. Today it’s different, and thanks to Topps he now owns his own camera, (film camera) and understands the basics of photography with the zest to learn more. He has also asked for a digital camera for his next birthday. I won’t say if we will buy him one or not as he has access to the computer and this website.

So lens caps off to Topps for their Holga card, thank you!

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Developing Tank Leak Repair

Developing Tank Leak Repair My old faithful Jobo developing tank unfortunately leaked from purchase but recently it got to the point that a new developing tank was called upon. After searching the forums for a good developing tank that was reported as not leaking, and to be a good buy! I decided to place an order for a new shiny Paterson System 4 tank after reading so many good reports about it and wanting to buy British. When it arrived I was excited to put it to the test, but I could not believe it, it leaked! OK admittedly not as much as the Jobo but never the least it still leaked.

So I had two options, send it back and get another or put up with it. I decided to put up with it as I had accumulated quite a bit of 120 roll that I desperately wanted to get developed. Over the last couple of weeks the leak has developed, (sorry I could not resist the pun) so I decided to take a closer look. On closer inspection I noticed that it was leaking from below the red band that the lid clips on to. This was good as it meant the lid it self was not leaking and the red band could be repaired. Below is how I repaired it and I’m very pleased with the results, for the first time I have a tank that does not leak.

Tools needed:

  • Decorators Masking Tape
  • Tube of White Silicon Sealant
  • Silicon GunDeveloping Tank Repair
  • Small Cup of Water with a dash of Washing Up Liquid
  • Old Cloth

Making sure the tank is clean, begin by placing the masking tape along the bottom of the red band, you will have to do this with small pieces of tape. Then do the same about 5mm below the red band but with one long length of tape .

Now squeeze a nice bead of silicon in-between the masking tape under the red band all the way around the tank. Once completed dip a finger of your choice into the water washing liquid solution and smooth out the bead you have just laid. Be careful not to rub too much of the silicon off, the aim here is to push it into any gaps under the red band while leaving a nice smooth bead of silicon as you go. Any excess silicon can be wiped from your finger onto the cloth as you go along. Developing Tank Fix

Before allowing the silicon to dry and once you have a nice smooth bead remove the masking tape. If you leave the silicon to dry first before removing the tape, you will pull up the silicon bead with it and will have to start all over again. Once the tape is removed allow at least 1-2 hours to fully dry before use.

Developing Tank No More Leaks

I think I know why leaking happens with this specific tank. After every inversion when using the tank I tap it on the side as do most people to release air bubbles. I believe that the adhesive or heat weld of the red band breaks which in turn allows developing chemicals to leak. If this is the case then Patterson should look at the design and instead of using glue or heat weld maybe use a rubber sealant along with a male/female profile of the two parts to be fixed. The reasoning behind this is using a rubber sealant in connection with a male/female profile would make it a strong fix but also much more flexible to inversion knocks and bangs.