Repair: Nicca 3S (part 1)

Hello, everybody! I hope that you enjoyed my article on the bootleg Nikon MH-25. I really don’t tolerate bootlegs because it takes away business from company that made the real ones. Clones are more acceptable because they’re not marketed as the real thing. Some of the clones are even better than the original because they have more freedom to improve on the original design while the bootlegs are just there to cheat you out of your money. It is amazing how such “culture” is being tolerated in China (mainland). Today, I am going to show you a clone of a legendary camera and while it’s not as good as the original, it is almost every bit as good and the succeeding models are in fact, better.


Today, we are going to tackle the Nicca 3S! The Nicca 3S was made by the Nicca Camera Co. Ltd. in the post-war years. It was based on the Leica IIIa/c model and is one of their early efforts in producing Leica clones. These clones became possible because Germany had to give up many things as war reparations and the patents for these cameras are part of it. I don’t know how it got to Japanese hands because Japan was also part of the Axis powers but rumor as it that America gave it to Japan because she has the production capability and the price was also right. Capitalism was clearly at play here and this partly explained how this happened. Now, I am sure that you are wondering why a Leica clone is here in a Nikon site. Well, these clones were the basis of much of Japan’s early 35mm cameras. The pre-war Kwanon (Canon) was also a clone so this says a lot. I can’t begin to talk about the Nikon S with mentioning these clones so it can’t be helped. Besides, Nikon began with the consumer side of things with screw-mount lenses for these clones.

IMG_7299I got this Nicca 3S in a junk box at Alps-do Camera for ¥5000. This is a great deal because I got it for more than 2x less than the going rate for these. Niccas tend to cost more due to their reputation here amongst Japanese camera enthusiasts. The exterior of the camera’s in OK shape but I had to deal with the gunk and crunchy rear curtain. It was just waiting for me to discover it and restore it back to working condition, it’s like “The Sword in the Stone” with me as the boy Arthur and this camera as Excalibur.

Many will say that the Niccas are the best of all the Japanese clones and I will agree with that statement. It certainly feels better-made than the efforts by Canon, Leotax and other smaller companies. The Nicca was also said to be just as good as the Leica by Nicca fans, this is very much debatable so don’t debate that with me and go find a Nicca enthusiast! I have overhauled a Leica IIIa and the German camera is better-built but the Nicca comes close but not “quite there” yet. With that said, it’s still a robust little camera that will last you more than a lifetime’s worth of daily use so long as you take care of it well.

IMG_7606Here it is after the near-complete overhaul. Notice how shiny it is again? Everything is a charm to operate and I really enjoyed shooting with this because of all the work I put in.

IMG_7604Like all Leica clones (and originals), the Nicca 3S is a very quirky camera to use. Loading film is a pain as you need to trim it properly or else it will jam the camera. The finder is not coupled to the rangefinder and you will have to peek into one finder for focusing and move to another for framing. The shutter speeds are separated into 2 different dials and you don’t have a advance lever for charging and advancing to the next frame. Shown in the picture is the Nikkor-Q.C 13.5cm f/3.5 RF in Leica thread mount.

This article will seek to document the near-complete overhaul of this camera and I will also show you my lazy way of replacing shutter curtains. I will not tackle this subject if I didn’t use a Leica clone as an example first. Everything started with these and it will be a big injustice not to mention these. They also make for a cheap way to practice your skills before you touch something more expensive like a Nikon or Leica. Go get yourself a nice but cheap Japanese or Russian clone to practice with, you’ll be glad you did.

Let’s now begin with the main article!

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.

Disassembly (Outer Shell):

The thing with almost all Leica clones is that you will need to remove the shell to access anything in the lower-half of the camera. This sounds easy but involves more work than it sounds. The later models based on the Leica IIIf is easier but is still time-consuming. It’s not something that I enjoy doing to be honest but it can’t be helped.

You will need the proper drivers for this, it’s not unusual for a repairer to have dozens if not more of the same type in their workshop. You will need the drivers to perfectly fit the slot or else it will just ruin the head. I personally grind my drivers to fit just to be safe.

There are many small things that needs special attention here and if you’re careless, you will most likely lose the smaller parts here. This is not a job for an amateur, if yours need attention then send it to a qualified repairman or risk ruining your camera.

IMG_7339Begin by removing the lens mount by removing these 4 screws. Face the camera up so its lens mount is facing the ceiling. This is very important as you will soon see.

IMG_7340The reason why we need this to be facing the ceiling is because there are shims under its lens mount. These shims were installed at the factory so that the flange distance is up to factory spec. Never lose any of these, I mark each one with a Sharpie so that I will know which one came from which hole. You will need to put them back later and this will help you remember where the washers should be. Store these in a safe place.

IMG_7341These plates are now free to be removed. They were seated under the shell and serve as abutments for the lens mount’s screws. Don’t forget which one should go where and also remember which side should be facing front. The top one (A) has a depression so that the  cam of the rangefinder coupling arm won’t get in the way.

IMG_7342Next, to remove the slow-speed dial you will first need to remove its nut. This one doesn’t have any set screws securing it so it was easy to unscrew it off.

IMG_7343The dial itself can be removed by unscrewing the screw at the center. It’s the one holding it to the slow-speed cam underneath. I am not sure but my sample doesn’t seem to have any small bearing ball or a detent spring for clicking but yours may be a bit different.

IMG_7344Remove all 4 screws so you can remove the bezel.

IMG_7345The slow-speed cam can now be removed. It doesn’t matter which way you put it back, it will be easy to determine how it should be oriented by turning it and seeing which one is going to trigger the time mode (T).

IMG_7346Looking through the hole for the slow-speed dial will reveal the slow-speed lever. it’s the one that gets in contact with the slow-speed cam and this is how you control your speed.

IMG_7347Remove the brass plate under the slow-speed dial will reveal a screw. Remove this screw so you can remove the shell. You should also remove the 3 black screws at the face of the camera (around the lens mount).

IMG_7348Remove these screws and be careful so that you will not scar any of them.

IMG_7349Remove these screws, too.

IMG_7350The Nicca 3S is synced so you will have to disconnect some wires under this cover before you can remove the shell because both terminals are situated at the front. The left-most screw is secured to a nut glued to a piece of bakelite so be careful with this.

IMG_7351Removing the cover will reveal the sync mechanism as well as the adjuster for the front and back curtains. It would have been very easy to adjust the camera’s shutter speed if it had an openable back but this is not the case for the Nicca 3S.

IMG_7352These are found under the cover. These 2 washers go under the 2 holes at the ends of the support. This protects the shutter curtain spring adjusters from pressure.

IMG_7353This is how the support should be positioned. Thank goodness, the adjusters on this thing are of the ratchet-type variety and not the primitive cross-type nut as seen on the Leica.

IMG_7354Carefully remove the screws holding the bakelite insulator so you can lift it up and away.

IMG_7355This is how this should look like. Be careful with the solders, they are very old and can be very delicate at this point. I hate soldering so I just went this route. Some people prefer to unsolder the connections instead of doing this. There are merits to that because the sync mechanism is undisturbed so you don’t have to check the flash sync again later. I’m sure that I will not be using any flash with this camera so I don’t really care.

IMG_7356Now that everything is out of the way, you can now begin removing the shell. Remember to push the rangefinder coupling cam to get it out of the way or else you will damage it. It is also important to note that you should not force it and you may need to wiggle it a bit to free the shell from the camera. Just be patient and go about it slowly.

IMG_7357Success! The shell is now out! Clean the shell properly inside and out. When removing it, be careful not to damage the wires or any electrical components.

IMG_7358You may notice this thing fall out from the shell as you remove it. The pressure plate is a simple casted plate. Don’t forget which edge should be facing down when you reinstall it. The springs also look worn and rusty, clean it with oil and cloth. The pressure plate looks rough but it’s really smooth. I will buff this later with some very fine rubbing compound just to make it shiny again.

That’s it for the shell. See what I mean by time-consuming? Later models will have a back that opens for easier access. If a piece of junk got stuck inside the camera, you will have to do this just to get to it. The same can be said if you want to test the shutter speeds. It’s tedious to remove and install the shell so make sure that everything is working correctly before you put the shell back.

Disassembly (Top Cover):

The top cover has to be removed in order for you to access what’s underneath it like the shutter speed mechanism and the rangefinder. When buying one of these cameras, make sure that the top cover isn’t bent or warped because it can affect the camera’s operations if the damage happens to be near something important.

Just like the shell, you will need to remove plenty of things in order to get this out. It can be very tedious but just use this as an opportunity to clean your camera. You will need a few frictions wrenches of the correct diameter to remove some of the parts here and you will also need a small precision lens spanner just in case. The big ones will just scar your camera and is overkill for something small like the parts seen in this part of the camera.

IMG_7359Remove the bezels for both windows. These can be difficult to remove if they were glued. I use a thick rubber band to add friction to my grip and that helped a lot. They both look identical but they aren’t interchangeable so remember which one should go where.

IMG_7361Remove the big screw at the center. Underneath this screw is where you can adjust your rangefinder’s vertical alignment, I will expand on this in part 2.

IMG_7360You can remove this ring on the rangefinder window with a pair of sharp tweezers. This is not screwed so you can just pick it out. Be careful not to damage this because this is the place where you adjust your rangefinder’s horizontal alignment. It’s not flat glass plate, it is actually a very shallow prism so rotating it will alter your rangefinder’s focus.

IMG_7362It can be difficult to pick out but here it is.IMG_7363Next, carefully unscrew this spacer. Don’t let your hand slip because your tool will hit the prism just below it. Look carefully at the picture and you will see what I mean.

IMG_7372Remove the finder window’s glass. It can be difficult to remove so just be patient. I use a pair of very sharp and thin tweezers to get this out. Ideally, you wound want to use a real tool for this and by that I was referring to the pipe key. If you haven’t read it, please read my article on how to make a pipe key alternative.

IMG_7364Time to remove the things at the back. The big screw can easily be removed but the bezel for the finder window is another story. You will need a friction wrench for this, don’t use a pair of pliers for this because you will just ruin it beyond repair. I make my own set of friction wrenches with acrylic instead of brass and I will show you how in the future.

IMG_7365To remove the diopter, you must first remove this screw. This screw acts like a key so this diopter will move in and out. It can be difficult to pull it out but I use a strip of tape and it  made things a lot easier. Unscrew it first and then use the tape trick that I just described.

IMG_7366Now that the screw is gone, you can now easily pull the diopter from the camera. See all the grime underneath it? This is because the diopter’s tube is greased. Carefully clean all of the old grease and clean the diopter’s glass carefully. Grease this part sparingly so this will not happen again after years of use or storage.

IMG_7367The cold shoe can easily be removed by unscrewing these 4 screws.

IMG_7368The shoe can now be easily removed.

IMG_7369The shutter speed dial can be removed by loosening this grub screw. I’m not sure but you may have more than 1 screw on your sample, if you do then you should loosen them all.

IMG_7370You can now lift the dial away. Make sure that you loosened the grub screw enough for it to come off easily.

IMG_7371The shutter guard can be unscrewed with your fingers. See how oily everything is? This is why you should never put too much oil when you’re lubricating a camera.

IMG_7373Now that everything that’s in the way of you removing the top cover is gone you can now proceed with removing the top cover.

All that effort just to get that top cover out. Remember, use the correct tools to remove or loosen anything here. Another note on using friction wrenches, only use them to loosen a something and use your fingers to remove the part completely.

Disassembly (Top Panel Components):

Further disassembly of the camera is needed if you really want to go deep but there are some things here that are best left alone. I will show you what are the things that are OK to remove here for you to make a thorough cleaning.

If you need to work on the curtains of your camera then you will have to remove some of the parts here in order for you to access the drums and rollers better. You will have to be extra careful when working with the rangefinder assembly or anywhere near the shutter speed mechanism because both parts are delicate.

IMG_7376Unscrew this big screw so you can remove the film speed indicator dial.

IMG_7377There is nothing underneath the film speed indicator dial because it’s just a display. It’s a reminder to tell you what kind of film you currently have in the camera.

IMG_7378The film advance dial can be removed by unscrewing it while you have something like a chopstick jammed at the film advance fork in the film chamber. I like to use chopsticks, it is economical and soft so it will not damage anything.

IMG_7379There is a spring underneath the dial so be careful not to lose it.

IMG_7380You can remove the film counter dial by picking it out with your fingers.

IMG_7381There are washers and discs underneath the film counter dial and you should never lose any of these. Don’t forget where they should be facing as well as their order.

IMG_7382To remove the baffle, you will need to remove this screw. If you don’t have the right type of screwdriver for this then you can make one yourself by grinding a driver so that it will have an oblique edge instead of a perpendicular one. This will help you reach it from an angle. Using a straight-edged driver is not impossible but you may strip the head with it.

IMG_7383A diagonal-edged driver is useful for removing these screws but if you can’t get to these, I will advise you to remove the rangefinder assembly first so you can access these screws.

IMG_7384The rangefinder can be removed by unscrewing a couple of screws. Start with this one.

IMG_7385Never touch any of these screws! You don’t need to touch these.

IMG_7386You should also remove this special screw. Don’t forget to reinstall this screw once you’ve removed the rangefinder. Take not how the spring on the slow-speed lever is attached to it and you should put it back the same way. Without it, you cannot properly test how the shutter operates. Don’t over-tighten this or it may snap. The last screw is on the other end of the rangefinder and it can easily be removed.

IMG_7388Don’t force the rangefinder assembly when removing it from the camera. Carefully push on the rangefinder coupling cam while you pull it away so it doesn’t snag. There is also a baffle/light shield that’s in the way and you will want it out of the way, too. This baffle is tricky to put back but I will show you how later.

IMG_7395Now that the you direct access to the screws, you can easily unscrew the baffle off.

IMG_7396The baffle isn’t going to come out easily and you will need to wiggle it a bit just to get that out. Putting it back in can also be a bit tricky because it’s so tight inside. If you need to fix your slow-speed governor then you will have to remove all these things just to get to it as you can see here.

IMG_7397This is what you should have at this point. Clean this properly with naphtha and a brush. The mechanism you see to the left is in charge of the shutter speeds and you will need to carefully clean it by flooding it with naphtha and using a soft artist’s brush to clean away any stubborn dirt. Make sure that you don’t bend anything here or it will affect how the shutter operates. Take note of all the positions of the springs and make sure that they are properly installed. Avoid losing anything here or it’s game over for this camera.

IMG_7398This eccentric screw is what you use to adjust the high speeds. Avoid touching this at all cost unless you know what you are doing. This is a fine adjustment point and you usually don’t have to mess around with this. The lever where it sits is also fragile and easily bent so if you warped it then your shutter will not operate properly.

IMG_7399These 2 screws secure the last baffle that you need to remove.

IMG_7400Here’s the last baffle. You don’t really need to get this off to be honest but it’s better not to have this while you work on the shutter, it will help you free up some space.

As far as my method is concerned, this is all that’s needed in order for me to begin work on the curtains. This will give me better access to the drums and I can now finally make an assessment as to how and where to approach things.

Disassembly (Rangefinder):

This is a bonus sections because this should really be in part 2 but I was in the mood so I am adding it here. Generally, you will want to clean the rangefinder assembly when you got a camera that hasn’t been cleaned in a very long time. Light cleaning of this part will be very beneficial as it will make both finders clearer. I will only tackle how to take this assembly apart but cleaning it will have to be in part 2 as it will make part 1 too long.

IMG_7389Remove the light shield by removing these 2 screws.

IMG_7390Once the light shield is gone, clean it properly with naphtha and a Q-tip. There is a film of oil here and I don’t know how it got there but it has to be cleaned!

IMG_7391The rangefinder’s barrel will also need to be removed. Unscrew these 2 to remove it.

IMG_7392Clean it properly just like what you did with the light shield.

IMG_7394This is unnecessary but I just want to be sure. The rangefinder coupling are can easily be removed by unscrewing 3 screws. Be careful when putting this thing back because it has to be reassembled correctly with the wedge contacting the mirror’s arm inside correctly.

Clean this properly by soaking it in naphtha to remove all of the dried gunk in it. This is a free-moving part so everything must move smoothly. Further disassembly is not needed, I would only go so far as removing the roller but that’s it. Only use fine watch oil for this.

That’s all for the rangefinder. Be sure to have plenty of Q-tips at hand. Also have alcohol and naphtha ready because some of the gunk here will only react to one or the other. A fresh breath is also useful so long as you keep your spittle to your self.


I would like to break this down into 3 parts just like the article for the Nikon SP but it will going to eat up so much of my time so I condensed it all into 2 parts. I hope that you got a good idea on the work involved in overhauling these cameras. I think this one took me 9 or more hours to work on with much of it spend adjusting the speeds and cleaning away decades’ worth of gunk. Looks like restoring old cars is not much different from cameras, they’re both time-consuming and costs money just to work on it. Check out Part 2 of this series to see how we are going to work on the shutter itself.

If yours need attention, you can send it to Alan Starkie over at the UK. He specializes on Leicas but he will take on Leica clones. I forgot how much he charges but I recall that it’s not much and is certainly worth every cent because working on these little cameras are a pain in the ass. Don’t risk it, send yours to a real professional with years of experience!

Thank you very much for reading this blog post. If you enjoyed this, please share this on your social media platform or with your friends at your local camera club. See you guys again next time and as always, my gratitude for your continued patronage. Ric.

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 account ( 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.

Buy me a roll of film or a burger?

Thank you very much for your continued support!


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.

15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Repair: Nicca 3S (part 2) | Richard Haw's Nikon Maintenance Site
  2. Trackback: Repair: Nikkor-H.C 5cm f/2 (LTM) | Richard Haw's Nikon Maintenance Site
  3. Trackback: Review: Voigtländer VC Meters | Richard Haw's Nikon Maintenance Site
  4. Trackback: Repair: Nikon S (Part 1) | Richard Haw's Nikon Maintenance Site
  5. Trackback: Repair: Nikkor-Q.C 5cm f/3.5 | Richard Haw's Classic Nikon Repair and Review
  6. Trackback: Repair: W-Nikkor.C 3.5cm f/3.5 (LTM) | Richard Haw's Classic Nikon Repair and Review
  7. Trackback: Repair: Nikkor-H•C 5cm f/2 LTM (collapsible) | Richard Haw's Classic Nikon Repair and Review
  8. Trackback: Repair: Nikkor-Q•C 5cm f/3.5 (Collapsible) | Richard Haw's Classic Nikon Repair and Review
  9. Trackback: Repair: Nikon S2 part 4 | Richard Haw's Classic Nikon Repair and Review
  10. Trackback: Repair: Nikkor-S•C 5cm f/1.4 (LTM) | Richard Haw's Classic Nikon Repair and Review
  11. Trackback: Repair: W-Nikkor•C 2.8cm f/3.5 (LTM) | Richard Haw's Classic Nikon Repair and Review
  12. Jeff Douglass
    Jul 23, 2020 @ 23:08:30

    This is a wonderful writ-up on working on a Nicca IIIs. I just finished a complete tear-down and CLA on my Nicca IIIs. It does not have as many precision machined parts as an equivalent Leica, but none the less, I completed this tear-down & CLA without any problems with much thanks to your write-up. What truly impressed me about this modest Nicca camera was that it now performs beautifully. The full range of shutter speeds are in tolerance, something that I have found difficult to achieve with several Leica IIIc bodies I have. And after cleaning the rangefinder optics, it aligned spot-on, achieving perfect vertical and infinity alignment with an excellent RF patch. Now I am reluctant to sell this fine modest little camera.

    Richard, you have helped me on working on several Nikkor lenses as well. Thank you!



  13. Trackback: Shopping: Ameyoko Camera (Ueno) | Richard Haw's Classic Nikon Repair and Review
  14. Lee
    Apr 06, 2021 @ 15:14:54

    Hi Richard,
    Nice works again, question, do you know how to remove the top cover of the Nicca III L (3L),I need to clean the view finder, it has some fungus on it, thanks for your time


  15. Trackback: Nikkor-O 2.1cm f/4 | Richard Haw's Classic Nikon Repair and Review

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: