Cleaning a Mamiya TLR lens
I cleaned and fixed the lens on this camera. It was scary but educational. Hopefully you find this guide useful.
I picked up a Mamiya C220 recently along with an 80mm f2.8 lens, both in great shape. The lens had some issues though—shutter speeds were off, and the shutter blades stuck 50% of the time resulting in blank photos. I read that these lenses are relatively easy to take apart, so I decided to give it a try. Keep in mind that I am an amateur at best.
Taking this lens apart was actually extremely simple and with a little patience, you can easily clean and even repair some common issues. The Mamiya chrome TLR lenses are a bit older than the more modern black ones, and seem to have more problems.
The first thing you gotta do is go out and buy some Ronsonol lighter fluid, some 99% isopropyl alcohol, some q-tips, and whatever lens cleaning cloth you want. I have no idea if other lighter fluids can be substituted, but every camera repair person in the world seems to specifically recommend Ronsonol, so just buy it. The only special tool you need is a size 1.0 slotted micro screwdriver. Don't try anything larger than 1.0 or you'll have a bad time.
You start by simply unscrewing the front lens element by hand. Mine was extremely tight, but if you wear latex gloves, you can grip a lot easier. Once removed it will reveal the shutter blades which can be immediately cleaned.
To clean the shutter blades, you can simply pour lighter fluid directly onto them and trigger the shutter a few times to get everything worked in. Don't worry about getting the rear lens element dirty because you can clean it later. The lighter fluid will completely evaporate on its own, and you can repeat the process a few times to thoroughly clean everything. If the lighter fluid left any weird streaks on the blades as it evaporated, you can dip a q-tip in isopropyl and gently wipe away the streaks. Just make sure not to leave any cotton fibers in there.
The aperture blades are below the shutter blades and do not require cleaning because they are controlled manually with the dial on the left of the lens, rather than opening and closing automatically like on a SLR. It doesn't matter if they are sticky. But since you're here, you can clean them for the fun of it. Simply set the lens to the Bulb mode and close the aperture to the smallest setting. Cock and fire the shutter while keeping it held down. The shutter blades should open and reveal the aperture blades underneath. Repeat the above process with the lighter fluid to clean the aperture blades.
With the blades clean, you can reveal the rear lens element by opening the aperture to the largest setting and holding the shutter down in Bulb mode. Simply clean with isoproplyl and wipe with a lens cloth.
Now that everything is clean, you can stop here. But if your lens has any issues like slow/fast shutter speeds or if the shutter doesn't stay cocked, you can go deeper. It goes without saying I take no responsibility for any damages you make to your lens from here on out.
Start by removing the tiny screw at approximately the 2 o'clock position on the inside rim of the lens opening. It's an extremely small screw, so don't lose it.
With the screw removed, you can unscrew black the notched ring that the screw was holding in place. Then carefully wiggle out the shutter and aperture setting rings. You should have three loose rings, set them aside.
Now you are in the guts of the lens, and you'll see some tiny cogs and springs under yet another thin metal ring. This is getting intense.
This ring falls off easily, so I am going to assume that you've removed it by now, hopefully instilling a bit of panic as you worry that you'll never be able to put this thing back together. Don't worry, it's not that difficult.
To clean the shutter mechanism, I simply applied a small amount of lighter fluid in and around the little gears with the hope that it would free up any dust or gunk that would have been slowing things down. I highly recommend against using any kind of oil because you risk it seeping onto the shutter and aperture blades that you just cleaned. They need to be bone dry.
A couple things can go wrong here. The shutter cocking lever is attached to a ring, and the whole thing can slip out of place easily. Putting it back isn't hard, but can be frustrating when you don't know how—I figured it out after trial and error. I've made a few notes below that should help. Please forgive me, I do not know the technical terms for many of these parts.
#1 - The edge of the shutter ring should be level with the small lever directly above it at this spot. This lever is responsible for locking the shutter in place when it's cocked. When replacing the shutter ring, the lever will want to sit underneath. Simply nudge it back out.
#2 - Under the shutter ring at this spot is a small peg that sticks down and makes contact with a stopping block under the ring. When inserting the ring after it has been removed, you need to rotate the ring clockwise a bit, and place this peg to the right of the stopping block. If the peg sits on the left, you won't be able to cock the shutter. Sorry I could not get a better photo of this.
#3 - When the shutter ring is at it's resting position, remove and replace the above gear at this spot so that just the end teeth are making contact with the ring. It should look exactly like the photo above.
With everything back in order, replace the cover ring making note of the two pegs sticking up at the bottom of the shutter mechanism.
These pegs control the shutter speed. As you rotate the cover ring, you'll see it change position as it rides the edge of the cutout. Rotate the ring clockwise until the rightmost peg rests as far to the right of the cutout as possible (bulb mode). Ignore the position of the peg in the photo above—it is in the 1 second position, which isn't quite all the way to the right. Also now is the time to move the aperture dial down to its largest opening.
To replace the shutter and aperture rings, nest them together and make sure that the shutter speed pointer is pointing at the B marking, for bulb mode. Wiggle the two rings back into place, making sure that the aperture dial on the side of the lens is pointing at the largest aperture setting (2.8 for this lens) on the ring. Replace the black notched ring to keep everything in place, and test that it's tightened properly by changing the shutter speed. You should feel it click and there should be a small amount of resistance, but not too much. Adjust the tightness of the notched ring until you're happy with the feel of the shutter speed dial. If this ring is too loose, it will cause the shutter lever to flip back up immediately instead of remaining locked down when you cock it. Finally replace the tiny screw to hold the notched ring in place and screw on the front element again.
Holy hell, you did it. Hopefully that solved any issues you were having with your lens. It improved my shutter speed accuracy considerably, and the shutter blades no longer stick at all. I hope my instructions were clear—if not, let me know in the comments and I will try to clarify anything. For any camera repair pros out there, please feel free to correct me as you see fit.
This is a great camera. I've wanted a TLR for a long time, and this satisfies my never ending lust for more photography gear—at least for now. So far I have only put one test roll through it, but I plan to do a lot more shooting with it now that the lens is fixed.