With the rise in popularity of film over the last few years, it’s no surprise that a lot of old (really old) cameras are making their way back into the used market. Some of these cameras can be 50+ years old and they’re wonderful cameras to go out and run some film through. The problem, though, is that when they get that old (and sometimes not even that old) the seals that prevent light from leaking into your camera can disintegrate and need replacing.
You can, of course, get your old camera cleaned and sealed at a local camera shop (assuming there’s one still left near you that knows what they’re doing) but you can also do it yourself. In this video, Jonathan Paragas of KingJvpes walks us through swapping out the light seals in one of his old Nikomat FTn cameras using nothing but stuff he found in the local craft aisle at his local Walmart.
The trick to Jonathan’s solution is adhesive-backed thin foam. It usually comes in big packs for a few dollars (or your local currency equivalent), providing enough material to put fresh seals on dozens of old 35mm SLRs. You’ll need a few tools, of course. Like a box cutter or craft knife, and a ruler of some kind (metal’s probably going to be easier) to make sure you’re cutting straight. And that’s pretty much it.
You’ll want to use a black piece of foam for the best results. After all, while you have essentially blocked the light leaks, when you take a shot, there’s light coming in through your lens and hitting the film. You don’t want stray light to bounce off a brightly coloured piece of foam inside your camera and create a colour cast on your images. But it’s just a case of cutting a couple of long thin strips for the film door, and a shorter, wider strip for where the mirror flips up and then carefully sticking them on.
It’s a pretty simple procedure for most old film cameras, especially fully mechanical ones. It’s also an inexpensive one, given how inexpensive the foam is. You’re still usually going to get the best results by either getting it done professionally or by doing it yourself properly with the correct materials, but given that local camera stores are shutting down faster than Windows 98 when you plug a USB device in, this may ultimately be your only option.