Category Archives: Repairs

Zorki 4 shutter problem

_A1P0176I recently got my hands on a Soviet Leica clone, the Zorki 4. There are many different versions and I believe mine to be version no. PM1800. That is not really important, but always nice to know what you have. See link at the bottom for more information about this.

There is one important thing about the Zorki 4 – before you change the shutter speed, you MUST cock the shutter. Otherwise you mess up something internally in the shutter mechanism. Lucky for me, I had a friend tell me that before I had a chance to break my new camera. So I made sure to cock the shutter, then change shutter speed. What is important to know here is that the shutter speeds are divided into two categories. The fast and the slow. The slow shutter speeds range from 1 sec. to 1/60 sec. and, with the exception of 1/30, use a governor to time the delay, the shutter is completely open. The fast shutter speeds (and also 1/30) range from 1/125 sec. to 1/1000 sec.  and does not make use of the governor. The bulb mode does not make use of the governor either, since it is the user who controls how long the shutter stays open. For more information on Soviet shutters, see link below.

I went through all the shutter speeds and at some slower speeds, around 1/4-1/8 sec. it seemed to stick a bit and suddenly, while in bulb mode, the rear curtain got stuck and just didn’t close. I tried fiddling with it in different ways, banging it lightly on the table, etc. to try to release the curtain. But it was just stuck.
I consulted the members of the Facebook group “Vintage Camera Collectors” about my problem and Dan Howard and Mike Eckman of the group provided me with possible solutions to my problem. First was Dan’s solution to what seemed to be the most obvious cause of the stuck shutter: Dirt and hardened grease.

For this you need two things:

  • Lighter fluid like Ronsonol or Zippo Premium Lighter Fluid.
  • Sewing machine oil, gun oil or similar light lubricant. Camera mechanics are very fine precision mechanics, so don’t be using any heavy duty motor oil or something like that.
  1. Take your Zorki, and unmount the lens and the film compartment cover.
  2. Cock the shutter and set the shutter speed to bulb.
  3. Press and hold the shutter button to keep the shutter completely open.
  4. Take the lighter fluid and pour it into both the top and bottom shutter curtain runners. Alan Starkie from the group noted that you should be a little careful not to get too much on the shutter curtains themselves as it might, in the worst case, dissolve some glued assemblies on the curtains – and that will most likely render your camera useless. This, however, is not an issue with the Zorkis as the shutter curtains are crimped rather than glued onto the shutter tapes. But it could present a problem if you try this method on other cameras with focal plane cloth shutters, without knowing how they were assembled.
  5. Let go of the shutter button.
  6. Cock and fire the shutter repeatedly until the curtain move freely again.
  7. Put a few drops of oil in each of the shutter runners and fire again a few times to spread out the lubricant to the entire shutter area. This time, be careful not to use too much as you don’t want excess oil to get on your film or on the back element of your lens.

Now, when I did this – nothing at all happened. It did not work at all. So I set down the camera and began looking into the information, Mike Eckman had provided me with. It was an in depth guide to disassemble the shutter speed selector system in order to fix a pin that is supposedly stuck in the wrong place somewhere. Hours went by before I grabbed my tiny screwdriver set and started dismantling the camera. But I did not get very far because I didn’t have a screwdriver small enough to actually get to the smallest of the screws. Bollocks…
I then started just playing a little with the camera – testing out different shutter speeds, with the rear curtain still stuck. Suddenly, when I fired the shutter at 1/4 sec. the curtain closed as it is supposed to. I fired again, and again and it seemed to work. However the speeds around 1/4 and 1/8 were rather sluggish, which led me to believe that the governor had been clogged up by grease and dirt and had jammed the shutter. Having been rather liberal when administering the lighter fluid (still keeping my fingers crossed that I didn’t mess up any glued parts of the curtains), I am certain some of the fluid made its way to the governor and after a while loosened the stuck parts enough for the shutter to work again. After a few more goes, it now seems the slow shutter speeds are no longer sluggish.

Even though my Zorki 4 seems to work fine now, I would still like to take it apart and do a full cleaning and lubrication of the internal mechanics – but that will have to wait till I have a screwdriver small enough.

Here are a few links related to this article:
List of Zorki 4 editions at sovietcams.com
Mike Eckman’s blog
Information about the nature of the Soviet shutter speed selectors.