Repair: Nicca 3S (part 2)

Hello, everybody! We are going to finish our Nicca 3S repair article and I’m going show you how to change the shutter curtain the lazy way. This is a fundamental skill that we need to tackle before we get to do this with more expensive cameras and there really is not shortcuts here but to do it first with a Leica clone. In part 1, I showed you how to fix and open up the Nicca 3S for further work inside the camera and we will get into more advanced stuff here so I hope that you will enjoy this.

IMG_7597The Nicca 3S is such a wonderful camera to use. I am loving mine and I am shooting with it more these days. It’s very quirky but it’s fun to use, it’s kind of like a VW Beetle. It is for that relaxing Sunday drive where you can take things slow.

If you want to replace shutter curtains then you will have to invest on a shutter tester. It is important that you have one because it will save you plenty of time in the long run by preventing any unnecessary work just because you got it all wrong using guess-work. It’s also important to get the correct type and I will elaborate on that later. Please DON’T ASK me for recommendations because I will not give any. I only advertise people and things I trust and recommend, if I don’t recommend something that I use it doesn’t mean it’s bad it’s just that I don’t like something associated with it or I had a bad experience regarding the seller or brand. Do your own research for this.

New curtain or ribbon material can be bought from Asahi Aki, he speaks English and he’s an honest vendor. I highly recommend Asahi-san for all camera leather, ribbon, curtains and straps. He is fast and economical and I consider him to be the best in the industry.

Before doing this, be sure that you are in a well-ventilated area because you will make a mess. You will also need a sharp knife, a cutting board, a straight metal rule and a lot of patience. Be sure to have tissues, Q-tips, solvents and contact cement handy before you begin because there’s nothing worse than missing things while on the process of doing it. Let’s now begin with the repair 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.

Repair (Shutter Replacement):

My method is largely based on Asahi Aki’s method. I modified it to suit my style and I will show you how here. Some people like to pull out entire curtain assemblies with the ribs, ribbons and curtains attached and work on it from there. What I do is I replace one thing at a time which takes longer but it has a smaller margin for error. This way, I can be sure that things are closer to their original alignment as possible because I am just changing a single thing at a time as opposed to changing 3 things simultaneously. So if both ribbons are bad, I’ll first change one ribbon and then change the other ribbon once the first one has been replaced and the glue has dried. I will repeat this pattern until I changed all of the problem parts. This may be tedious but it sure beats guessing where things should be attached and at least I can keep things at my own pace.

IMG_7421This is the 2nd curtain and it’s brittle, crunchy or whatever you will call it. The previous owner smeared white glue and black ink as a quick fix for burn holes. While it may seem OK at the start the thing will deteriorate as years go by. While removing this, it reeked of the stench of glue and ink.

IMG_7422Saturate the drum with alcohol and carefully lift-away the old curtain. Before doing it, it is a good idea to scribe a line to remind you where the old curtain’s edge used to be. Just add a few drops at a time and don’t follow what I did, what happened here is my syringe has built-up pressure and it squirted alcohol all over. If it doesn’t react to alcohol you will want to try naphtha and see if that will work, different glues react differently to solvents.

IMG_7423Here is the line that I scribed. It’s roughly where the edge of the film aperture is when it’s viewed from the back.

IMG_7424The old curtain should come-off cleanly just like this. I still remember the stench of India ink (Chinese ink) up to this day, it stinks and it reminds me of my calligraphy class when I was young. Everybody hated writing Chinese calligraphy repeatedly on a piece of paper until you get your strokes correct, it’s like torture. I call it “death by 小楷”.

IMG_7473In my case, the 2nd curtain was the problem so I un-tensioned the spring for it. Release it by pressing on the ratchet to free the cog for the 2nd curtain. The cog is just a lock for the main screw at its core. You turn the screw CCW to tension it and CW to release it. When I want to tension it back, I turn the screw CCW and then turn the cog to tighten it while the screw is being held by a driver. I know it sounds tedious because it is.

IMG_7474Completely releasing the 2nd curtain’s tension will allow you to pull it out easily without any resistance from the spring. This will allow you to work on it better and there will be less risks of damaging anything.

IMG_7475Remove the old material by slicing the leading edge open with a sharp knife and don’t be afraid to go as close as you can because the rib is made of metal so it won’t scrape but it’s vulnerable to warping if you applied too much pressure. Be careful not to damage any of the ribbons while you’re at it, if you damaged the ribbons then it’s going to be trouble.

IMG_7476The curtain is now free!

IMG_7477The reason why I cut this thing open at the leading edge is because we need to get the old curtain’s original length when it’s installed. Cut your replacement material with the same dimensions as the old curtain. I used Asahi Aki’s rubberized curtains because they are so good and cheap. Make sure to leave enough material at the end so you will have enough material to do a fold, I would say 1cm is more than enough.

IMG_7478I stuck 3M’s double-sided tape on the end where it should stick to the rib and cut-off any excess material.

IMG_7479I placed the leading edge of the rib exactly where I thought the old curtain’s end was, it’s easy to see because I marked it with white pencil. Make sure that the rib is parallel to the edge of the material, this may take several tries but you can get it eventually.

IMG_7480Fold-over the excess material and pull the new curtain and see if it’s still parallel. If not, I would suggest that you do it again until you get it to be as parallel as possible. This is why I used double-sided tapes instead of cementing it right away, at least I have the liberty to adjust it if I failed. It’s better to fail now than later!

IMG_7481Getting the other end of the curtain over the drum can be difficult so I taped it to a piece of paper. That paper will help me guide the new curtain into-position like a shoe horn.

IMG_7482This is how it works in practice. You can tape it over the drum and roll it until your get it out at the other end.

IMG_7483You can finally pull everything out at this stage.

IMG_7484Remember the mark that we made at the drum? Stick another tape there to temporarily anchor the new curtain to it while we make adjustments.

IMG_7485Stick the curtain and burnish it with your fingers to prevent any lumps and making sure that the new curtain is flat on the drum. Tense the 2nd curtain and see how it holds, if it’s not looking good and is not parallel then re-adjust your curtain until it is. I would also do a simple check by rolling the drum to open and close the 2nd curtain and see if the edge is parallel to the aperture’s gate. This is the last time for you to make adjustments so this is your last chance to get things right!

IMG_7486Once you are happy with it, prepare some contact cement and thin it with naphtha. If the cement didn’t coagulate then it’s good, if not then use another solvent like acetone. It will all depend on which solvent your contact cement uses, the final test is to let it dry and if it dried fine then use the solvent that worked.

IMG_7487I tried to remove any trace of old glue but some are really stubborn. Never mind, they’re still OK to use as a guide so I will know how much glue I should apply and where.

IMG_7488At this point, I will again release the tension on the drum apply the cement. Thin it out to suit your taste but don’t thin it too much or else the bond will not be strong. Just thin it so it will not set too quickly and it will be thin enough for you to make a nice and clean job. See the line that we made awhile ago? That’s going to be very handy. Prepare yourself, it is going to be very tense for you because you will have to do all this before the cement is beginning to set! I would say 5 minutes is all you have!

Once you made sure that the new curtain is neatly-wrapped on the drum without lumps or creases, tension-up the 2nd curtain again and see if everything is till parallel. If it’s not then go back again and repeat it until you get it right. Another thing you will have to look for is whether the ribs are lining-up perfectly with each other or not. The overlap is very important and you will have to make it as close to how it was so pictures and notes will be very important here. Once you are sure of your work, clean any excess cement with a Q-tip saturated in alcohol and rub-off any excess cement with your finger.

IMG_7489Time to sew the other end of the curtain! Get the thinnest needle and thread you can get. Ask your mom how to insert the thread into the eye of the needle because I won’t teach you how. You will have to go to a specialty store that sells these because the regular shop for upholstery won’t be carrying these.

IMG_7493Sew as close to the rib as you can and as straight as you can. Leave some thread on either end of your job and then glue it to the flanges of the rib with contact cement. You should also trim the excess material on the overlap. I forgot to do that to be honest as I was busy and I left it as is only to find out about it a day or two later, by that time I was too lazy to get back to this and do the trimming. The added weight of the material will somehow be affecting the curtain’s travel by a very small amount. Don’t follow my example.

Don’t despair if you can’t get it right the first time. You will probably ruin your first try so just charge it all to experience. Once you get comfortable with it, you can be sure that the next try is going to good. It’s rare that people get this right the first try because you’re not familiar with how the shutter mechanisms work but once you get how things work then it’s only a matter of time that you will learn how to do this properly. This is an advanced topic so it’s natural that you will fail along the way.


Reassembly simply involves you going through each step in-reverse. I’ll show you some of my notes here just in case. The only things that’s going to take time here is the actual testing of the shutter and calibrating that so that it fires correctly at the most important speeds. I will reiterate again, if you don’t have the proper tools then you should not begin doing shutter replacements. Having the correct tools makes things a lot easier and it will save you a lot of time as well because you don’t have to open the camera again and do it all-over again every time you do a test roll. It’s an investment to save time and effort.

IMG_7494Clean any accessible glass on the rangefinder with a Q-tip saturated with naphtha and do a follow-up with alcohol. Make sure that the glass is very clean and blow some air just to make sure you get as much dirt out as possible. Don’t push too hard on any of the glass or you may knock one of them out of alignment.

IMG_7496Reinstall the rangefinder to the camera and then slip this baffle underneath it. Set it into position and then secure it with when you’re OK. This is the easiest way that I know off.

IMG_7497Set everything back together like the picture above. It’s important to have the dial for the faster shutter speeds and the advance dial installed because you will be using these often during shutter testing.

IMG_7498Here’s what we have so far. I now, the overlap looks ugly. The baffle needs to be there so reinstall it, you will need that to be there to get more accurate readings from the tester.

IMG_7499Tense the spring for one or both drums. Get both to be sounding roughly the same when you fire it in B mode. Listen for the first curtain first as you press the button and then do the same for the second one. Tense or relax the drum until you got both to be sounding about the same. This is a good starting point for you to adjust the speeds.

IMG_7500Fine-tuning shutter speeds can take plenty of time because you’ll have to repeat things as you go until you get things right so setup your workspace before you begin.

IMG_7593I taped the sensor to the back of my camera so it won’t fall-off as I test it. Notice that I had the top cover installed here. I was satisfied with my job so I deemed it safe to put it back.

A word on shutter testers: when doing a curtain replacement, you will need a tester with at least 2 sensors. One for each edge, if you can get one with 3 sensors so you can also see what’s going on in the middle then that’s going to be perfect. A tester with only 1 sensor at the middle will not cut it because it will not help you catch fading or bounce.

Test it first on the speed that you use the most, in my case it’s 1/100s and then adjust both curtains by tensioning or relaxing them individually until you get 1/100s or at least close to it. Both curtains should travel roughly about the same speed and you should get them to be within 10% difference or else you will risk getting some fading in your pictures at the higher speeds because one curtain is traveling significantly faster or slower than the other. You may also notice that you can get most of the speeds firing properly except for the highest speeds which will most likely be slower by about 1 stop at worst. This is due to some hardened dirt and also to spring fatigue. This is caused by storing the camera for a long period of time with the shutter cocked. Some people will dismiss this but I will tell you that this is true, even the big-name repairers acknowledges this here. Cleaning every single thing including stripping the springs will help a lot but it still won’t “cure” a tired spring and the only way to fix it is to replace it with a new one.

There is an eccentric screw that you can adjust for the high speeds but it will be of little to no help if the springs are really worn or dirty. Besides, fixing it may not be a good idea because you may end up damaging your camera beyond repair.

IMG_7586Lubricate the pivots of the important parts with launa oil diluted with naphtha. Maybe 1 to 5 parts is OK, naphtha will carry the oil deep into the part and it will leave a thin film of oil when it evaporates. Only apply a very small amount and in most cases, all you need to do is touch the part with the tip of the needle and the solution will flow to the holes of the part you need to lubricate. Don’t lubricate the teeth of moving parts if you can help it, the oil there might accumulate dirt and it will end up clogging the gears later. I grew up in a watch repair shop and I recall what I was told, grease for big gears, fine oil for small ones and leave the dry for really small ones. This is not a rule but just a guideline.

IMG_7420Grease the cogs for the film advance part with good molybdenum grease only after it has been cleaned very well. I had to take apart the advance sprocket and its spigot just to get to the spring inside and cleaned everything to the best of my ability using alcohol, zippo oil and a lot of Q-tips. The molybdenum grease will make the advance feel so smooth like butter. Only apply it to the teeth, the gear pivots will have to be oiled just like the rest of the others with the naphtha/oil trick.

IMG_7594The pressure plate has been polished with a fine rubbing compound and is not smoother and shinier than before. There are still some marks left by fungi but it’s all shiny now.

IMG_7595Reinstall everything back and clean any oil marks left from your oily fingers with alcohol and a Q-tip. Remember not to oil the moving parts too much or the insides of the camera will be covered in oil as it spatters uncontrollably each time the shutter fires. Launa oil is very good and it doesn’t dry-up as quick and is resilient to many things so you only need a little bit of it each time you do a CLA (Clean, Lubricate, Adjust).

IMG_7600Adjusting the rangefinder involves matching the horizontal and vertical alignment of the rangefinder patch. You can adjust the vertical alignment by rotating thing collar slowly. I would advise you to be cautious here because you may damage the glass. Read my article about adjusting the rangefinder patch for the Nikon S2 because it’s also relevant to what I am about to show you.

IMG_7601Inside this hole is a screw that you can turn and it will adjust the horizontal alignment of your rangefinder. Do this with a lens installed and focus to infinity, focus on a far object like a building 3-4km away and see if the image on the patch lines-up. Adjust the screws for either the horizontal or vertical alignment until you get it right. I would start with the vertical one and then adjust the horizontal one later. Once the picture at infinity is good, focus on something about 1m away from you and see if the distance scale is showing the correct distance. Once you get infinity right then all the other distances should follow.

I guess that’s all you need to do to get the camera back in working condition. Remember to go easy with the oil and also don’t forget to do a test roll or two. Check for light leaks and shutter anomalies at higher speeds and at lower speeds. One important test to do is to leave the camera on the cabinet for weeks and check and see if everything still works after that. There are times when things will go wrong if the camera is not exercised and this will help show any faults in your work or the camera. This is the reason why good repairmen give out warrantees. You get what you paying for.


That’s all for our Nicca 3S repair article! I really wanted to do this for a long time but I’m always busy so I only got the time and mood to do this now. I know that I will have to do this sooner or later so I might as well do this now or else my blog will be missing a very important fundamental skill to teach which is shutter replacement. If you are new to this and you want to repair a valuable camera such as a Leica or a Nicca 5, just skip it and let the professionals do it for you. Alan Starkie will also accept Leica clones despite being a Leica specialist. I hope that seeing this article will make you understand how tedious this job is and you will appreciate what goes on in a shutter replacement. Remember, we are just talking about one curtain here. If your camera has ribbons and curtains that needs to be replaced then it’s going to take more time. Pay a professional to do this and you will be glad that you did. If you are a hobbyist like me who is trying to learn the ropes then I hope that this will be useful for you.

IMG_7596Wow, see how clean it is now? All the grime is now gone! The Nicca 3S is shiny again! I’m very happy with this camera now that it’s performing properly except for 1/500s which is the highest speed. It yields 1/350s and it is probably about 1/2 stop slower than ideal. It is not a big deal because I rarely shoot at this speed. The most important thing is 1/100s is firing properly and that’s all that matters to me because that’s the most-used speed for me, anything else is just extra so I don’t really mind.

IMG_7606Here’s the proof that everything works as it should (except for 1/500s). There is no fading or any weird things happening at all speeds and my exposures are all good. The focus is also spot-on. I will consider this a success, all that hard work paid off!

That’s it for this article, did you enjoy this? If you found this helpful, please share this to your local camera club. If you really liked this and you think that I deserve a burger then don’t be shy and donate to this blog, just think of it as treating your friend out for lunch. I consider my readers to be part of my extended circle of friends and I have met some of you here in Tokyo. I’m happy that my work has been part of your life and each time I see a spike in my views every weekend, I get a rush to write something because I know that people are expecting something new every week. Because of that, our site has grown to what it is now. It’s quickly becoming a respected repository of knowledge, some of what we see here is only exclusive to this blog. Thanks again and see you next time, Ric.

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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.

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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.

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Repair: Nicca 3S (part 1) | Richard Haw's Nikon Maintenance Site
  2. Trackback: Repair: Nikon S (Part 2) | Richard Haw's Nikon Maintenance Site
  3. jon campo
    Jul 28, 2018 @ 01:11:24

    Thank you for this tutorial. I just got one of these in a junk shop. To be honest I only bought it because of the very valuable wide angle lens on the front. It looks like it survived a war zone. I would never spend any cash to repair it, but with this help, I may try to put it back into service. I guess if I can rebuild transmissions I can clean a filthy camera.


    • richardhaw
      Jul 29, 2018 @ 14:26:58

      Hello, Jon!
      Just make sure you have the right tools. A proper shutter tester is also important. If you don’t have one and you’re not experienced with camera repair then you’ll waste plenty of time doing trial and error until you get it firing accurately or at least without a problem. The iPhone apps are OK for a start but they’re useless for people like me who would want to do a decent job. You at least need something that can measure the opening and closing curtains speeds. Ric.


  4. Trackback: Repair: Nikon S (Part 3) | Richard Haw's Nikon Maintenance Site
  5. Dan Epthorp
    May 07, 2019 @ 09:17:40


    Thank you very much for all the great information. I have a question if you don’t mind. Where did you get your shutter speed tester?


  6. Trackback: YF shutter … Barnack!!! | This Old Camera

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