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Repair: Nikon F Photomic Ftn (Foam)

Hello, everybody! Summers here in Japan can get really hot or rainy. All the heat and water will result in high humidity and we all know what that means. If you got the misfortune of having one or more of your lenses infected with fungi then head this fungus removal post to remedy the problem.

Introduction:

This is a part of our Nikon F series. Last time, we talked about how we can fix and clean the film counter display of Nikon F and now we are going to talk about how we are going to fix and clean the very popular Ftn finder!

IMG_1075The Ftn finder can be distinguished from earlier models by the lever on it’s right side. This lever is used to open the 2 clasps that help secure it to the front plate of the camera’s face. There are 2 other earlier finders with a light meter attached and this Ftn finder is the last and most advanced iteration, making this the most popular metered head for the F so far.

We will not be discussing the operations of this thing as this is not the reason why you are here anyway and this is supposed to be a short write-up. Let’s begin!

Before We Begin:

If this is the first attempt at opening a lens then I suggest that you read my previous posts regarding screws & driversgrease and other things. Also read regarding the tools that you will need in order to fix your Nikkors.

I highly suggest that you read these primers before you begin (for beginners):

Reading these primers should lessen the chance of ruining your lens if you are a beginner. Also before opening up any lens, always look for other people who have done so in Youtube and the internet. Information is scarce, vague and scattered (that is why I started this) but you can still find some information if you search carefully.

I highly recommend that you also read my working with helicoids post because this is very important and getting it wrong can ruin your day. If I can force you to read this, I would. It is that important!

For more advanced topics, you can read my fungus removal post as a start. This post has a lot of useful information here and there and it will be beneficial for you to read this.

About Me:

I am a photographer based in Tokyo who scours the junk section of the camera shops here on a regular basis. I started this hobby of fixing old lenses and cameras because I kept on getting scammed before when I purchase online. This turned out to be a blessing because I now buy junk lenses for a fraction of the price and then fix them to add to my growing now collection. This allowed me to buy gear that were otherwise off-limits to me if I were to get them in better condition.

I was a scale modeller before who built models for other collectors for a very longtime, got an education as a dental prosthodontist (but didn’t pursue dentistry) and growing up in a watch repair shop gave me the useful skills that would help me in this craft. Fixing my car also contributed some know-how.

Having mentioned the above, I will tell you now that I am not a professional repairman! So please take what I do with a grain of salt and I will never be held responsible for anything wrong that will happen to you and your project. I hope that the pros would guide and teach us but nobody is writing anything.

As my collection of repair notes grew, I get requests from people with similar interests and from professionals who just needed some notes just in case. Now, I am sharing my library with you for your entertainment and reference. I hope that you find my work useful.

Disassembly:

This can be a pretty complicated project and I will advise that you send this to a repairman if you are not confident with your repair abilities or lack the correct tools. For people who are experienced with repairing stuff this will be a good project to keep your afternoon busy and productive.

You have to be careful where you start. I made some silly mistakes when I worked on this the first time around so I will show you the proper disassembly sequence here so you will not get confused.

Now, if you are not comfortable with your repair skills then you should let a professional do it for you. I am not a professional so my workmanship is a bit shoddy. The people on the list below can fix the foam problem for you.

You can contact them and ask for a quotation. I can vouch for the people above so do not worry about it. There are many techs out there with really bad workmanship and amateurs like me are even a notch better than some of them. Some of these techs work on the basis of commission so they rush things in order to finish more things in a short time. I’ve had people tell me horror stories. There is a saying in the car restoration hobby – “once you got a good mechanic, do not let go of him.“, the same can be said for camera repairs.

IMG_1086Begin by saturating the edges of the rubber on the upper part of the finder with alcohol to soften the contact cement (rubber cement) that was used to make it stick to the surface of the top cover. Reapply until the leatherette can be peeled off effortlessly.

IMG_1087The leatherette came off after about 30 minutes of alcohol treatment. Be careful not to rip this leatherette. Replacement leatherette sheets are available but you really do not want to bother with it’s replacement. I will make a template for this and upload it to the net one of these days just in case you ruined yours.

IMG_1088Now that the leatherette is gone, you can now access these 4 screws on the top cover. Just unscrew them to get the top cover off.

IMG_1089With the top cover out of the way, you can now access these 2 potentiometers or whatever people call these. One is for meter adjustments and another is for battery check. I did not have the need to fiddle with the battery check but I had to adjust my meter so that it is in line with my light meter and DSLR’s.

Be careful with the meter readout window’s plastic cover, you do not want to accidentally poke it and pop it out of place.

IMG_1090Remove these four screws to open up the finder housing. From this view, you can see the places where the old foam was positioned. They were all dry and crumbled when I used my blower to blow off whatever remained. We will replace these with fresh ones later.

IMPORTANT: Even with the 4 screws gone, you will NEVER be able to separate the housing until a few steps later so do not attempt to open it now.

At this point, you should also remove the batteries before proceeding because you will be dealing with the electronics soon.

IMG_1072Now that the batteries were mentioned, I would like to show you these adapters that I got. They will take in normal LR-44’s (1.5v) and convert them to 1.35v. That is the same voltage of the original type of batteries these finders take (mercury). Unfortunately, the mercury cells are not openly available anymore due to their toxic chemistry. The voltage difference is enough to affect the light meter’s readout and these adapters help prevent that to some extent.

The adapters are also needed in order for the LR-44’s to fit into the compartment because the old mercury cells’ casing is shaped differently. There are other alternatives including the popular Wein cells and the 625A cells but this adapter is pretty good but the initial cost is something that turn many people off. In the long run these adapters will pay for itself so  I recommend that you get these (LR-44’s are cheap).

IMG_1091Before you can separate the housing you should remove the front plate first. Remove the 3 screws and carefully remove the front plate. Make sure that you do not damage anything in the front like the delicate connections to the rabbit ears and the mechanism underneath the front plate. The circles on the picture show where these screws were previously.

If you see some grey or black paste in the aperture feeler mechanism, simply use a cotton swab saturated with lighter fluid and wipe away the gunk. The gunk is a mixture of metal filings and old grease. It may not hamper with the operation of the mechanism but it may affect how smooth you turn your aperture ring when the lens is connected to the finder by way of the rabbit ears. You do not need to lubricate this part, just keep it clean.

IMG_1093A few steps back, we removed the 4 screws holding the housing together but you will never be able to get the housing apart until this step. Simply loosen these 3 screws a little bit but never remove them from their holes. Simply slide the ground and terminals (is that what these are called?) away from their respective screws and you’re done. These 3 connections belong to the top part of the housing so you will not be able to open this thing up until you disconnect these things.

IMG_1094You can now safely separate the housing. As with the aperture feeler mechanism, you will want to look for solidified grease/filings in the big brass ring and wipe them clean while this part is accessible. Remember not to oversaturate the cotton swab with alcohol or else you will soak everything up with alcohol!

IMG_1096Here is the bottom half of the housing. The printed circuit board (PCB) is brittle so be very gentle when handling this. I accidentally cracked one of these and I was not even forcing it and that ruined my evening so I had to ask my wife to bring me a glass of ice-cold Coke to bring the situation back under control or else I will turn into a big green monster.

Looking at my notes for that ruined PCB, there is a hairline crack present. That and the age of this part made it a delicate part. I learned my lesson so I hope that you do not make the same mistake. I can fix the ruined PCB with a little epoxy, copper wire and solder but that will have to wait until I get into the mood to tackle that because the crack occurred in an inconvenient place with 3-4 connections but thankfully the important parts were spared.

Check the picture and you will see 4 brass washers in each corner of the lower housing. Do not lose any of these and secure these with a dab of nail polish on the other edge / rim of the washer.

Unscrew the encircled part and proceed to the next step…

IMG_1097Now it’s time to remove the cadmium light sensors. Remove this brass brace thing. This is responsible for securing the cadmium cells in place by applying pressure into it. These are old and many do not function properly anymore. Symptoms will vary from a jumpy needle to faulty readings. Replacement parts can be salvaged from other finders or bought from Akihabara. The Japanese camera repair magazine Camera GET (カメラGET) sometimes show listings of who sells these items and where. Yes, camera repair and maintenance is a real hobby here in Japan.

IMG_1098Before you proceed with removing the light metre electronics you should unscrew this part first because a wire runs under this brace.

IMG_1099Now that the brace is gone, you can now safely remove the electronics (next step)…

IMG_1100Just look at that thing. In the first decades of Japanese SLR manufacturing, people did not realise that the foam seals will rot on day and harm the prism. I remove whatever is there mechanically by using a toothpick and then scrub it with cotton swabs and alcohol. I will require several tries and plenty of Q-tips so be patient. Be careful not to further damage the prism by being gentle with the scrubbing.

A damaged prism will result in irregular shapes when you peep into the viewfinder and it is very annoying to see this every time you peek into finder. There are a few ways to fix the corrosion and I will discuss it in a later blog post as soon as I find a good and reliable way of fixing this. For now, I will just get by with replacing this damaged prism with a good one.

By the way, these corroded foam seals that directly get in contact with the prism will not be replaced. Instead, we will be using black electrician’s tape in place of the foam. Stick a strip of tape in the cadmium housing with the sticky side facing away from the prism. Just be sure that you do not obstruct the lenses of the cadmium cells and cut some parts away if you have to.

IMG_1101To completely clean the prism housing, simple loosen the circled part to remove the prism and remove the remaining foam seals. The brass part in between the foam is the “tunnel” or baffles for the viewfinder. That thing is loose and not glued in place so be careful.

All of the foam seals used throughout most of the finder are of the 1.5mm (thickness) type I think. I have the 1.5mm and 3mm varieties and these looks like they are made form the 1.5mm type. Please do your own research.

IMG_1102Now, a close-up view of the nasty corrosion on the prism. This is caused by the foam seals found on the plastic cadmium housing. I am really itching to get this thing fixed!

IMG_1129This is a good replacement prism that I got from another finder and all finders with good prisms aren’t cheap! It hurts me inside just thinking about this so I will skip the topic for now.

IMG_1130I made a cover to protect the replacement prism from the plastic cover of a notebook. The part that this thing covers in the prism do not get into contact with any foam seals so you can even argue that this is useless but I want to be safe. This thing is a popular mod in the Olympus community here in Japan to protect the prisms of the OM series of small cameras. Nikon F2 finders (apart from the DE-1) have this plastic cowl so I guess Nikon learned from their mistake.

IMG_1131OK, the only part that gets in contact with the foam is the small ridge on top of the exit to the viewfinder but whatever…

IMG_1132Here is the cover with everything else in place. This is the PCB that I ruined, I can see the hairline crack from this angle. Notice that the electronics are clean.

IMG_1133And now we are back with the old and dirty PCB. Shit happens…

Conclusion:

Before you put the top cover back, be sure to adjust your meter while it is accessible. Use a precision minus (-) screwdriver and adjust the small screw on the potentiometer until the exposure is where you want it to be. Please refer to the pictures in the earlier steps to find where the potentiometer is.

IMG_1137

That’s it for today! Our short write-up ended up being a long a long teardown guide. If you have any ideas or suggestions, you can reach me via our community Facebook page or the comments sections so I can add your feedback to this page. Until next time, Ric.

PS: Special thanks to Keith and Peter for pointing out that the photosites were not made of selenium but cadmium (CDS).

Help Support this Blog:

Maintaining this blog requires money to operate. If you think that this site has helped you or you want to show your support by helping with the upkeep of this site, you can simple make a small donation to my paypal.com account (richardHaw888@gmail.com). Money is not my prime motivation for this blog and I believe that I have enough to run this but you can help me make this site (and the companion facebook page) grow.

Helping support this site will ensure that this will be kept going as long as I have the time and energy for this. I would appreciate it if you just leave out your name or details like your country and other information so that the donations will totally be anonymous it is at all possible. This is a labor of love and I intend to keep it that way for as long as I can. Ric.

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17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Vince Tanching
    Jul 17, 2016 @ 15:04:52

    Hi Sir! Appreciate all the informative content you have been posting 🙂 been following your blog since early this year and by far have been very impressed with your articles 🙂

    Aside from the leatherette template of the FTN finder you mentioned you would be posting, hope you can also post the leatherette templates pf the Nikon FM/FE/FM3a series as I am really itching to have mine redone well but sadly, the PH has really no dependable shop to have it done with a nice output.

    Looking forward to it Sir Richard! Cheers and more power!

    Reply

  2. Vincent Tanching
    Jul 17, 2016 @ 15:06:57

    Hi Sir! Appreciate all the informative content you have been posting 🙂 been following your blog since early this year and by far have been very impressed with your articles 🙂

    Aside from the leatherette template of the FTN finder you mentioned you would be posting, hope you can also post the leatherette templates pf the Nikon FM/FE/FM3a series as I am really itching to have mine redone well but sadly, the PH has really no dependable shop to have it done with a nice output.

    Looking forward to it Sir Richard! Cheers and more power!

    Reply

  3. Keith Barefoot
    Jul 17, 2016 @ 15:43:38

    Hi Rchard. Just a small note: The photocells in the FTn finder are CdS(Cadmium DiSulfide) cells, not selenium cells. -KB

    Reply

  4. Trackback: Repair: Nikon F Eye-Level Finder | Richard Haw's Classic Nikkor Maintenance Site
  5. BKeeper3 (@BKeeperIII)
    Aug 22, 2016 @ 20:00:19

    Hello, Richard. This will be a very helpful guide for me as I recently acquired two Nikon F Photomic FTns – one in chrome and one in black. I was fortunate in that the foam has not eaten though to the silvering on the prism in the chrome version, but I definitely need to get in there to remove the foam and residue before the damage occurs. You mentioned that there are ways to fix the corrosion, and that you will feature info on that in a future blog. I will look forward to that post as the black finder did not escape the damage. I am very much enjoying your blog. Keep it coming!

    Reply

    • richardhaw
      Aug 23, 2016 @ 01:03:23

      Thank you, mr. Bee keeper!
      I am Itching to try a resilvering method but i need to test it myself first. If I successfully resilvered my prism, i will show it here in the blog. Thanks again!

      Reply

  6. swbobcat
    Feb 21, 2017 @ 10:13:35

    Very interesting. Most of the DEAD Nikon F heads are due to DEAD CdS cells. A) Did you replace them while you were at it? B) Sover say that the CdS Cells used in the Nikon F are different than the ones used in the F2. Do you have a Source for these CdS cells??

    I recently changed my Photomic T head for a FTn head. Why? Because I had a nasty BLACK line that bisected the finder I was told it was caused by the degrading of the foam. My big fear is that the CdS cells will give out.

    One thing I would like to do is change my Mercury Batteries for some Silver Oxide Batteries.

    Have you thought about re-silvering the prism? If they can re-silver mirrors they should be able to re-silver a prism.

    Thanks for the info. I’m bookmarking this page.

    Reply

    • richardhaw
      Feb 22, 2017 @ 04:49:00

      Hello, Bob!

      Glad that you bookmarked this page! There are shops selling the CDS cells here in Japan but without the housing, however there are individuals selling them from time-to-time on camera repair magazines here. What I do is salvage some from junks, especially Nikkormats since they are dirt-cheap.

      As for re-silvering, there are people that can do that like people who restore headlights. You can approach them. The correct way is to use vacuum deposition with aluminium. Aluminium is brighter than silver (compare F and F2) and telescope shops that cater to hobbyists will have contacts for people making their home telescopes. If you find one who will accept small orders, please tell me. Ric.

      Reply

  7. MarlonC
    Mar 20, 2017 @ 15:09:46

    Hello Mr Shaw, would you by any chance have time to fix or quote me for a repair on my FTN meter? Is it even worth paying to get one repaired or is it better to buy a working one?

    Reply

    • richardhaw
      Mar 21, 2017 @ 02:58:18

      Hello, Marlon!
      It’s Haw 😀

      I am currently busy so I cannot accept any jobs plus I am not a professional so my quality would suck. However, I know a few people will do that for you. It is not difficult so lung as you have the right tools.

      I am not sure if I have made an article about fixing the FTn meter. I replaced mine some time ago from a junk that I got and it’s all good. It is not a difficult task but you will need to solder things here and there. Be sure to also use the correct batteries. If I haven’t made an article yet, I will write one when I am not busy. Ric.

      Reply

      • MarlonC
        Mar 22, 2017 @ 17:39:07

        Thank you Richard. You did post that video where you did fix the meter. I’d have to watch it a couple of times to see if I’m able to do those things at home.

        Thank you!
        M

      • richardhaw
        Mar 23, 2017 @ 06:26:26

        Hello, Marlon.
        I think there is one on the net that teaches how to work on the Ftn but I am not sure if he went as far as changing the meters. I think you should look for a donor body first. In my case it is easy to find cheap junks here in Japan but it may be different in your case. I salvage my last meter from a junk Ftn. Ric.

      • MarlonC
        Mar 23, 2017 @ 15:49:55

        You’re right, finding a junk replacement to work on or replace might be best. Thank you!!

  8. S. W. Katz
    Mar 23, 2017 @ 08:22:09

    A few other comments:

    1) I want to use Silver Oxide Batteries for my F. You mentioned that there are adaptors that will convert the 1.5 or 1.55V to the 1.35V used by the Nikon F . Do you have a name, model number, and source where you can buy these battery adaptors?

    2) I recently had Sover Wong service my DP-2 head (on my F2S) and while it did not really need it I had him change out the Prism for a new one. He sent me back the old one, which is still in pretty good shape. Do you know if the Nikon F Prism is interchangeable with the F2 Prism?? I know that the F and F2 Screens are interchangeable I’m wondering if this might also apply to the prisms.

    3) You state, “I did not have the need to fiddle with the battery check but I had to adjust my meter so that it is in line with my light meter and DSLR’s. …Before you put the top cover back, be sure to adjust your meter while it is accessible. Use a precision minus (-) screwdriver and adjust the small screw on the potentiometer until the exposure is where you want it to be.”

    OK Given that I don’t have access to to a DSLR, and you don’t mention HOW to adjust the light meter, could you tell us how to adjust the light meter so it is reasonably accurate.

    4) For my own knowledge. On my F T Photomic Head, and on my F2 Photomic (DP-1) head, and on my F2S (DP-2) head, the meter prong that engages the “Rabbit Ears” points FORWARD which makes it easy to remove the lens as it simply lifts straight off of the prong, but I noticed on my F FTn head the prong points BACKWARDS towards the camera body. Is this something strange with my FTn head (like someone botched a re-assembly and installed it backwards) or are all FTn heads like this?? After studying my FTn head and a few pictures of the bottom of various FTn heads it *seems* that this backwards orientation of the “feeler” prong is normal. But I want to confirm that it is not just my head that has the backward prong. It makes it a pain for removing lenses that much I know for sure.

    5) You mention you do not use foam but black tape: “By the way, these corroded foam seals that directly get in contact with the prism will not be replaced. Instead, we will be using black electrician’s tape in place of the foam. Stick a strip of tape in the cadmium housing with the sticky side facing away from the prism. Just be sure that you do not obstruct the lenses of the cadmium cells and cut some parts away if you have to.”

    What “cadmium housing” are you talking about?? If the sticky side of the tape is pointing AWAY from the prism, is it pointed INTO or taped to the INSIDE of the “cadmium housing?

    6) After saying that you will not be using foam and will be replacing it with the black tape, you then say, ” All of the foam seals used throughout most of the finder are of the 1.5mm (thickness) type I think. I have the 1.5mm and 3mm varieties and these looks like they are made form the 1.5mm type.” This is confusing. Could you please clarify since I thought we were getting away from using foam.

    Great post, I hope to continue learn from this. I will be very curious to find out about those battery converters and where I can buy them from.

    Reply

    • richardhaw
      Mar 23, 2017 @ 09:42:06

      Hello, Kat!

      Holy shit that was a mouth-full! Thank you for enjoying the site, it’s people like you that I want to reach out to and people like you motivate me to maintain this blog.

      1) Go to Google or ebay and search “MR-9 battery adapter”. I am not endorsing anybody so caveat emptor.

      2) Depends on which heads. For the metered heads, they are NOT interchangeable.

      3) Get a camera that is known to give accurate meter readings. Set your Ftn and play around with the potentiometer so that they both give roughly the same reading on different environments. Indoors, outdoors, artificial lighting, sun, sky, what have you.

      4) I am not so sure about this. The best way is to search Google and look at the pictures of the feelers and see which way they point. I will admit that I never paid any attention to these.

      5) The cadmium cell housing is the plastic thing that holds the photodiodes.

      6) I replaced all of the foam seals EXCEPT the ones that come into contact with the prism, this is what I have been doing since. The seals are there for something but this will work without it. To avoid the prism getting damaged, I made a plastic cover for it.

      In case you are unsure of anything, you can ask Mr. Sover do the repairs. He may be busy but he is still one of the best options for many people. This blog is just to inform people and to help repairmen who wants to see what they are going to get into in advance.

      Ric.

      Reply

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