Yashica TL-Electro Viewfinder Cleaning

The Yashica TL-Electro is a relatively simple all-manual SLR camera.   Batteries are only needed for the light meter.   The light meter switch is on the left hand side of the mirror box.   When the switch is activated, the lens' aperture closes down, and over- or under exposure is indicated by an illuminated symbol in the viewfinder.   The camera has a self timer and a hot shoe, but with these the list of non-standard features is exhausted.   Consequently, working on the TL-Electro does not pose many challenges.

The particular camera I will be looking at in this blog actually worked OK when I got it, but it desperately needed a good clean outside, as well as, inside the film compartment and in the viewfinder.   To get inside the viewfinder the camera top has to be removed, so let's start with that.

Taking off the top cover

Remove the film rewind knob.   To do this, open the camera back, stick something in between the prongs of the shaft to prevent the shaft from turning and then rotate the rewind knob counter-clockwise until it screws off.   The shiny disk under the knob must also come off.   As there is nothing on it to hold onto, it must be tackled with a piece of rubber.

Next comes the shutter speed setting dial.   This is the most difficult part.   The first thing that must be done is to set the dial to a certain shutter speed and film speed (ASA value) and make a record of the settings.   We will use this as a guide when re-assembling.  

The top plate with the numbers is glued on and it is not easy to get it off.   Before trying to pry it off use a few drops of methylated spirits to soften the shellac.   (In the old days they used - very wisely - shellac for glue.)   Look at the layout of parts in the picture below and find the area where remnants of the glue can be seen on the relevant part.   You want to get the methylated spirits to seep into that area somehow.   Give it some time to do its work then very carefully lift off the cover plate.   What tool and trick you use is up to you.   Just be aware that it is very easy to mark the plate.

There is a screw underneath.   It is tight and has a narrow slot, so use a good, perfectly fitting screwdriver to unscrew it.   Once this is done a spring underneath will start pushing things up.   Remove the parts one by one.   Look at the picture below to see what parts to expect.   By the way, it is not necessary to remove the three tiny screws on the side of the knob.

Unscrew the black top of the film advance lever with a pointy tip spanner wrench.   Remove the parts underneath (refer to the picture).

A few more things to remove: the lid of the battery compartment, a screw at the back, one at the side, and one at the front (this is longer).   Now the camera top should come off.

Before moving onto the next task it is probably a good idea to spend a little time with the shutter speed / film speed setting knob and try to understand how it fits together and how it works.

Dismantling the viewfinder

The penta-prism is held in position by a couple of springs and is easy to remove.   Unlike in some other cameras, the plastic cover in this camera serves its purpose really well.  

To dig deeper into the viewfinder, one has to first remove the black plastic frame on top of the mirror housing.   There is a screw at each corner, but to remove these is not enough.   (In fact, leave them until last.)   The triangular bit of the viewfinder eyepiece also has to be lifted up a little bit as it sits tightly on top of the rear side of the frame.   This is possible after removing two screws.   Still more to do: undo two tiny screws at the bottom of the battery compartment (a plastic cylinder) and lift the battery compartment up to reveal a couple of red and yellow wires.   There are two tiny light bulbs at the ends of these wires tucked into the side of the black plastic frame.   Pull these out.   Now it is possible to remove the plastic frame.   It will already try to rise as there is a curved wire frame under it which behaves like a spring.

Now we have access to the focusing screen.   This is actually an assembly of four components which come out as a unit: a bottomless metal tray in which sit the condenser lens, a plastic spacer, and the focusing screen.   On the picture above you can see how this assembly is half removed from its place.   The focusing screen is very delicate, so handle it carefully.   On one side it is frosted (this side faces up) and the other side is very finely grooved - this is a Fresnel lens.

The viewfinder eyepiece can also be taken out for cleaning. Just undo two screws at the back. The lens is a combination of two lenses stuck together. When cleaning make sure liquid does not get in between the two halves. Put the lens back, so that the slightly thicker half is on the outside.

This completes the disassembly.   Now the parts are to be cleaned and everything put back together in reverse order.

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