Inevitably, collecting old Nikons means that the subject of repairs and overhauls comes high on ones list of priorities. In order to accomplish them one has a simple choice; undertake the work oneself or find someone who is an expert.


I tend to split things - some repairs are easy and well within my limited skill range, whilst the majority fall into the sphere of the expert. I am quite happy to clean bodies and lenses, remove top plates from bodies in order to remove the worst dents and dings, strip and overhaul eye-level prism finders and fit new leatherette (a common repair), whilst anything that requires mechanical skills; shutters, meters, motor drives - in fact pretty much everything else - is way beyond my pay scale!


Finding an expert who can repair, re-fettle and possibly re-manufacture items long since out of production is an essential part of maintaining an old camera collection. Luckily there are a number of good sources for old Nikon items, although almost all seem to be in the USA which makes things somewhat slow to accomplish.


Nikon F-36 and F-250 Electric Motor Drives for F bodies are, after the S-36 drives for the Nikon SP rangefinder cameras, the most sought after, yet also the hardest to find in good, working condition. Many on the market suffer from severe internal corrosion, mechanical damage caused by poor attempts to repair them or the shameless butchery caused by unscrupulous sellers. Sadly, if buying over the internet, the first time you discover the problems are when the items are delivered. By then there is little realistic chance of redress if purchased from individual foreign sellers. I have learnt my lesson and seldom buy from eBay these days. Prices have been pushed too high, eBay's percentage has rocketed sharply and there are too many sharks out there. I only use eBay to buy from established, trustworthy sources these days.


By way of illustration I purchased two 1970/71 Nikon F-250 Motor Drives from UK sources a few years ago. I always expect to have to send forty-plus year old items to my repairer, if only for a clean, lubricate and adjust, so I wasn't unduly surprised that when the motors arrived neither worked as I anticipated. Cosmetically the one from Mr Cad, a well-known UK dealer, looked almost perfect although the Remote Battery Pack had some screws missing on the top cover. However, even with the addition of new batteries it failed to power up any of my motors. The other motor drive had been modified at some stage in its life with a directly wired power supply so I had no immediate means of testing it. It also needed a terminal jack socket in order to return it to ‘factory’ specification. After a degree of hunting I got an original factory fresh terminal socket set from a source in the USA at a very reasonable cost and finally found time to take both motor drives to my repairer.


Sadly, first appearances can be deceptive; the great looking Nikon F-250, S/No 105756 - a 1971 model - from Mr Cad was, in the words of Phil, my repair man, “Beyond economical repair, having been butchered internally with many of the components either missing or damaged.” However, the other Nikon F-250, S/No 104952 - a 1970/71 model - was returned to working condition when the new terminal socket was fitted and the battery pack overhauled! The good news is that Mr Cad offered a substantial refund in view of the damage, for which I thank them. I also managed to pick up a damaged Nikon F-36 from France that was stripped for spares, in order to return the Nikon F-250 to working condition - or vice versa.


That was the plan but sadly both proved too damaged to repair, with not enough components being available to get one working! Both are now kept for display purposes only, which I dislike, although it's better than throwing them away. The very early 1962 model F-36 Electric Motor Drive fitted to the Nikon F Photomic shown above has been completely stripped and overhauled and is, mechanically, as good as new. For an electro-mechanical item over 55 years old that's remarkable, considering the engineering in some of the very early Nikon products was not quite up to the standard found in the latter years of production.



Nikon Electric Motor Drives

Slightly off track, although linked through Phil, is the accompanying shot of the mammoth, and eyewateringly expensive, Fisheye-NIKKOR 6mm f/2.8 lens that he recently had in his workshop to service and overhaul for a well-known dealer before sale.


As so few were ever made, spares for them are as rare as rocking horse droppings, so he was able to clean it up but not replace any parts before returning it - just having enough time to take a shot of it.


I've owned four Fisheye-NIKKORs over the years; an early 8mm f/8 with the separate viewfinder, an 8mm f/2.8 and an early 16mm f/3.5 - all which I foolishly sold - and the latest AF 16mm f/2.8D that I still own. It's one of those lenses that is hard to justify buying based on the extremely limited use that I give it, even when mounted in aircraft and cars, but selling it would be equally silly!

© Phil Gillam