• Complete shutter disassembly on any of the cameras described here should only be attempted by those with specific training in shutter mechanics. The cleaning procedures described below require only that you remove the lens elements and the cover plates for the shutter assembly. You then flush or 'flood' clean either just the shutter blades or the shutter assembly with naphtha. These are different operations and the caveats that apply are different.
  • Careful flood cleaning of shutter blades should not affect the main shutter mechanism, a good thing if the only problem with your shutter is grunge in the blade pivot points and/or on the blades. If the main shutter mechanism is dirty, you will have to either flood clean it or have it serviced.
  • Flood cleaning is not equivalent to having your shutter disassembled and cleaned by a technician. If you do not use your cameras heavily and are not depending on them to complete UP assignments, this may be sufficient. Obviously, if you plan to use a camera regularly and want the best performance from it, cleaning by a qualified technician provides the greatest assurance.
  • User, collector, and technician opinion about the efficacy of flood cleaning vary. Naphtha will soften and remove lubricants that may have congealed over time. Flushing with naphtha is sometimes enough to soften the lubricant and free up parts. Conversely, you may wash away lubricant that is still functioning or wash lubricant/dirt residue to some area that doesn't need lubricant and is otherwise clean. Many writers have offered opinions on these issues, ranging from almost-anyone-can-clean-shutters to give-it-to-an-expert. Here are links to a sampling:
    • Ed Romney has written and published many books, encouraging others to follow his DIY strategy of camera maintenance.
    • Thomas Tomosy, a technician, has written four books on camera maintenance and restoration.
    • Richard Knoppow is a camera and lens technician with many years of experience.
    • Steve Grimes describes himself as a 'Feinmechanik' which can be translated as precision mechanic. Beyond traditional camera maintenance, he specializes in custom designed photo apparatus, both optical and mechanical.
  • Shutters on most premium Kodak cameras were either Compurs or Supermatics, both of which were fairly reliable. Two highend Kodaks had very problematic shutters. Most Ektra shutters are nonfunctional at this point. Unless I've missed something in my review of Brian Coe's book, this was the only focal plane shutter that Kodak ever built and it proved unreliable in longterm use. If you have an Ektra with a broken shutter, you can probably locate a specialist technician that can repair it. Rebuilding an Ektra shutter is a job for a qualified technician. Copies of the original Ektra service manual are available to technicians. Kodak's attempt at designing a shutter that broke the 1/400 - 1 /500 barrier - the Synchro-Rapid 800-- was also not very successful. SR 800s appeared on the Chevron, Tourist II and on press cameras like the Crown and Speed 23 Graphics. You may find it impractical to repair a broken SR 800.
  • If, after reading this page, you decide that required service is beyond your interest or capabilities, you can review the section on professional service.


  • Naphtha is the solvent of choice, in being safe, relatively benign, and residue free. Naphtha is cigarette lighter fluid--the kind that is used in Zippo's that the Marlboro man lit up with. It is very volatile and flammable. Use it in a well-ventilated room and away from all ignition sources.
  • You may see suggestions to use trichloroethylene - it is a carcinogen and an environmental hazard.
  • Carbon tetrachloride is a carcinogen and an environmental hazard.
  • WD-40 is basically kerosene and will act as a solvent but also leave a residue that is destructive to shutter parts in the long term.
  • The solvent MEK dissolves rubber
  • Acetone dissolves paint, plastics and ???, so it isn't recommended for shutter cleaning.


  • If you know that a camera hasn't been used for years, you may find that a little exercise will restore its operation. If you can cock and release the shutter, doing this repeatedly at different shutter speeds may restore reliable operation, or it my just confirm unreliable operation. If the shutter is jammed, don't force it, which may do additional damage. If after an exercise period, the shutter speeds sound about right, you can test shutter accuracy by shooting a roll of film. Find a subject that has a good representation of tonal values, meter a middle tone area, then begin shooting at the smallest possible aperture and continue with other aperture, adjusting shutter speeds so you are making the same theoretical effective exposure. Inaccurate shutter speeds will show up as over- or underexposed frames.



  • You can flood clean a shutter at two levels--just the blades or the entire mechanism.
  • Sometimes oil will get onto shutter blades, where it shouldn't be. Squirting naphtha on the shutter blades and working the shutter will dissolve the oil, which you must remove by absorbing the solution. I use a facial tissue to gently swab up the naphtha from both sides of the blades. Repeat this until you see no more oil. Consider that if there is oil on the blades, it had to come from somewhere and that it may reappear on the blades.
  • To flood clean the shutter mechanism, you must remove the front facia rings. The amount of naphtha and the repetition of this operate is a calculated risk. Determining factors are how much grunge you see inside the shutter, whether it is operating at all or just in an irregular manner. It is probably best to use as little naphtha as possible to get the shutter to work reliably.

06/15/2006 1:09