Zenit E: Shutter Curtain Repairs

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Getting half overexposed or simply way overexposed film back from the lab? It's time for an inspection, your Zenit is most likely suffering from old age!

So you get faulty exposures and you just don’t know why?

You go to the lab to pick up your film and you find out that they are all badly overexposed or they are half overexposed. This could be due to a faulty shutter curtain this is sadly a pretty common problem with old Zenits.

We’ll start off with a introductory story.

Stashed away at the attic in an old box is a lonely neglected Zenit E, the owner an eighty years old man, flips trough old dusty albums full of super nice pictures, washed by the essence of time. While swimming through memories of the old and sunny days, he suddenly realizes that his photography stuff is still packed up in the attic.

With crackling bones he rises out of his chair and makes his way to the stairwell. After a 4 minute climb, he arrives at the hallway on the second floor. While muttering about his old bones he reaches for the cord to pull down the ladder. While ascending the ladder, the man slips, and with a loud huff, he blowed out his last puff while breaking his back on the floor.

A few days later his children come to the house to remove the belongings of their late father. ‘If it still looks good, we’ll sell it on Ebay’, said his oldest son.

And so the old Zenit E found his way to a new owner via Ebay. The new owner didn’t know much about the camera and after fiddling with it for a bit he loaded a film and set out to shoot. He sent his film to the lab and after a few days, went back to pick it up and was horrified by the outcome…

’The Zenit is sick," he cried out and went to his room, crying for the rest of the day.

Now, this is a sad, but fictional story that leads us to a problem: faulty Zenits!

The shutter curtain may be the problem so let’s do a check up, pop open that sexy back and wind on, release the shutter and see if the curtain closes nicely. In case it does not, it will either not close at all or get stuck somewhere half way.

This is due to the curtain losing the tension after several years

But fret not! This is easily fixed, my friends!

“this is how it should be after releasing, nicely closed all the way trough”

There are but few things you will need for this repair:

  • a very small screwdriver, flat head
  • an unbreakable concentration
  • a potion for steady hands
  • a big pot of patience
  • about 10 minutes of your life if you are well prepared and handy with very, very small screws.
My set of super screwdrivers

Now, let’s get started!

So we grab our feisty little screwdriver, ready, steady, unscrew that bottom!

Use something to put the screws on, if you lose them…well you know what you are when that happens!

Now, the bottom plate is off and we get a nice look at the not so very interesting inside. We see here, a couple of screws…

So you should hold it like in the picture, we zoom in on the important part, to the left.

The two star-shaped screws are the ones that are in connection with the shutter curtain.

So the one we need is the one I am unscrewing on the photo’s below.

First, we need to unscrew the teensie tiny ‘locking’ screw. That done we can now turn up the tension on the curtain.

As you turn that screw, you can feel the tension building up, that is what we want but don’t go too far! If you do, the spring might break and that would be a very, very sad ending for your glorious Russian friend.

So you turn up the tension afterwards lock the screw by fitting in that teensy tiny locking screw. When you finally, got that screw back in it’s place and locked down the star shaped tension screw you can cock the shutter and release to check how it’s doing.

If it shuts like a train on all shutter speeds, you are a hero and you fixed this in no time! Bravo!

If not, you will have to unscrew the locking screw and turn up the tension some more and try again until it’s working smoothly again!

I left the locking screw on the bottom plate so that I could not lose it, unless I would drop the camera along with it.

Remember, this is a repair done by an amateur and I cannot guarantee that you will succeed with your own competence, as I cannot see if you are capable. Be patient and cautious as not to break anything.

Now, this tipster on repairing the Zenit E is sort of part of my guide to using this wonderous Russian camera.

That guide is to be found here: Zenit E: The Sturdy Metal Heart of Russian Photography.

More articles are coming up containing shooting tips and reviews on cameras. You can always contact me to ask questions about all sorts of stuff! Or, you can become my friend so that you’ll be posted with my new reviews and tips for ever and ever, aaand ever.

Thank you for reading and have fun!

All information for this article were taken from Tom tiger's Lair.
You can find more repair tips and photography tips and stuff on this site, have fun reading!

The Zenit E is one of the most popular SLRs ever. This camera oozes ‘60s Soviet charm with its built-in Selenium light meter and Helios 44-2 lens. Lightweight and functional, the Zenit E is ready for anything. Get your hands on this piece of photographic history here.

written by reminator on 2012-07-20 in #gear #tipster #tipster #camera-modification #zenit #35mm-film #repair #lomography #minor-camera-repairs #zenit-e #tutorial #shooting-tips

17 Comments

  1. herbert-4
    herbert-4 ·

    Outstanding... this can apply to a lot of cameras with cloth shutters!!

  2. reminator
    reminator ·

    Thank you very much, I haven't seen the problem with other camera bodies, nor have I seen how it works with other cameras. But I assume it is quite the same yes. The site of Tom Tiger has a lot more to offer!

  3. ester_s_ch
    ester_s_ch ·

    :D Genial :D

  4. materne
    materne ·

    looks about the same I fixed my zorki. I guess all those ancient russians have the same shutter-boddy

  5. anthropus
    anthropus ·

    Loving this article. I have a broken Zenit E too ;( On mine the shutter curtain is "ripped" at the seams/joints. In other words, it is not joined together anymore. How can I fix this?

  6. reminator
    reminator ·

    Hmmm, haven't found anything on fixing a ripped shutter curtain. You could try the page of Tom Tiger and links from that page may lead to other sites that could have usable info.

  7. schemerel
    schemerel ·

    just preformed surgery, all went well, the patient is stable, and the shutter works great, thanks !

  8. reminator
    reminator ·

    That's just great, good to know this article helped. And how is the doctor doing, no mental breakdowns?

  9. earlybird
    earlybird ·

    thank you @reminator problem fixed! great tipster!!

  10. reminator
    reminator ·

    @earlybird Awesome!

  11. madielz
    madielz ·

    So, I'm trying what you're suggesting... but did you have any trouble unscrewing the star screw? Mine seems to be very tight, and won't budge!

  12. andrethunder
    andrethunder ·

    Hi! I think I've got a big problem and I'm sad that my camera looks dead.
    I've lost the "teensie tiny ‘locking’ screw" and then the star-shaped screw broke :( It didn't even moved...looks like it was calcinated. I tried to put some lubrificant and tried to move it with a nippers but nothing resulted. :(

    Do you think it still have a chance to survive or its my zenit dead?

  13. davecmorrow
    davecmorrow ·

    This was a lifesaver for me. Managed to fix my first SLR :)

  14. ragnarokkr
    ragnarokkr ·

    I'll try to describe my problem. Patient is an Zenit ET and while observing the rewinding and shooting process with open back, following happens: Before anything, the cloth is revealing about 1/3 of the aperture. Then, when I wind the next frame, it starts moving when the shutter winder is halfway. When winded, the cloth covers the whole hole :) Then I snap a picture, and it moves back, so it covers again 2/3 of aperture... I don't know how to repair this, it seems different than the situation described in this article. Also, the screws pictured are too tightly screwed, so trying what is here was not possible. Anyone experienced in repairing this problem? Message me, I can post photos if needed

  15. ediee
    ediee ·

    Hi, my Zenit Em is a new one for me. I have been playing around learning how everything works and I have come across an issue that is similar to this; as I try to pull across the shutter curtain is sometimes starts coming across then halfway through snaps back, sometimes it doesn't even start coming across at all! Meaning I would be wasting my film and it means I cannot really use it, when I first started playing with the camera it worked perfectly the one time it didn't catch on and now it is barley making it to the other side. I tried your ideas about the screws but no sucess. If you have any ideas I would be so thankful:)

  16. reminator
    reminator ·

    @ragnarokkr He, sorry for the late reply. But if I recall correctly my shutter curtain had that same problem. If it doesn't close all the way it keeps exposing the film, resulting in half overexposed pictures. Anyhow, you can try lubricating the screws I guess but trying to repair it is never risk free.
    The choice is yours I guess, but as it is now it can't really take very good photos without overexposing your film here and there.

  17. reminator
    reminator ·

    @ediee This sounds a bit bad. It kind of sounds like something snapped seeing as it did work well before. But it could also just be that the tension just dropped completely due to wear. If you really can't get it repaired following my guide it could very well be the worst. But it is kind of hard to judge without seeing it, also been a while since I have done this myself. I wish you the best of luck.

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