How to replace the light seals on your analogue camera

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The light seals on older film cameras have a tendency to deteriorate over time. This results in light leaks that will burn your film. Sure, it can create a cool Lomographic effect, but if it gets bad enough you can permanently ruin your precious shots. Here is a quick guide on how to avoid that with a simple fix that will make your classic camera light tight for many years to come.

Complexity of operation: 1 out of 7

Time: 1-2 hours, depending on the camera model and amount of light seals that needs to be replaced.

Minimum amount of tools and material you need:

  • Scalpel
  • Ruler
  • Toothpicks
  • Q-tips
  • Tape
  • Solvent like denatured alcohol or naphtha
  • New light seal material

Before you start doing anything, make sure you cover the back opening that goes to the lens. I did so by sticking two strips of gentle tape over it. This is to avoid any accidental debris and gunk from falling in and smudging the rear lens element.

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Your second step should be to cut out fitting pieces of new light seals. I ordered three sheets of light seal foam of varying thickness on Ebay, and was very happy with the product. I got mine for $6 with free shipping, which should be enough to fix about 6-8 cameras. There is a ton of different variants out there so have a look for yourself.

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Dip a q-tip in your solvent of choice and carefully spread it on your deteriorated light seals. Don’t use too much to avoid dripping, because there is a lot of sensitive stuff inside your camera. Scrape off the old foam off as you go. Be sure to get everything off. This can take some time and effort, but your hard work will pay off as a quality fix will last a longer time. By doing it right you will most likely never have to do this ever again with the same camera.

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For the smaller cracks I used a wooden toothpick. Be careful when using any harder material tools so you don’t scratch your camera.

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All you have to do now is to clean up the interior of the camera thoroughly and place the new strips where the old ones were. My foam sheets were self adhesive, which saved me some time and extra work messing with glue.

Cut the tip of a toothpick off, round it and use it to direct and press the strips in place. Voila! You now have a light tight camera ready to make beautiful pictures.

Final word of advice:
I have learned that you shouldn’t use (i.e) Acetone, MEK or Toluol as solvents because they are really too strong. But if you have no other option, be extremely careful and never use it on or near your mirror damper or focus screen if you are cleaning up an SLR.

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