Keep The Light Out!

One of the drawbacks to collecting old film cameras – apart from expense of film processing, and the risks of buying old things – is that the light seals disintegrate in a really unpleasant way. The light seals are the foam strips around the film door and hinge to keep stray beams of light from buggering up your lovely photographs. After 30 years or so, the foam turns into a nasty sticky, staining, black gunk.

Hinge light seals

Not all cameras need light seals, depending on how the camera was made, but most do. Some older cameras, made before plastics and foam were common, use wool as a light seals. I’m replacing these defunct seals with embroidery yarn, as it’s cheaper than foam, and a little easier to work with.

Cleaning this mess up is a time-consuming job. I’ve just cleaned up the light seals on my new (for me) Yashica 72-E, and it’s taken me hours. My prefered tools are:

  • lighter fluid (great multi-purpose solvent. some people use isopropyl alcohol)
  • toothpicks  (the wood is unlikely to damage the paintwork on your camera)
  • cotton buds (for wiping away gunk. watch for stray fibres in the camera)
  • kitchen towel (to catch the gunk before it stains carpet, furniture, etc)
  • sharp knife (for when toothpicks just aren’t enough)
Cleaning out the old seals makes quite a mess
Cleaning out the old seals – this mess is just from removing the hinge seals

To replace the seals I use 1mm foam (bought in a sheet from eBay) for the hinge area, and 4-ply black embroidery yarn (for the narrow slots where the door edges sit). The foam is self-adhesive, and there was enough sticky residue left in the door slots to stick the yarn in place.

So now, I’ve loaded the Yashica with some black and white film, and I’m ready to start shooting.  Only when I get the developed film back will I know whether I’ve done this job properly. If so, I’ll post results here.

Yashica 72-E half-frame camera
Yashica 72-E

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