Making the Most of a Broken Camera

It's disappointing when an old SLR friend no longer works. And it's even worse when that bargain deal you scored on eBay turns out to be a rip off. In either case, don't be too quick to toss the loss.

As part of my efforts to stock TheFilmCameraShop, I've weeded out many cameras that failed testing for one reason or another. Yet I still have all of those bodies. Why?

For two primary reasons: 1) they have usable parts that I can use on another camera, and 2) I can practice taking apart these SLRs to learn more about how to fix them.

Take a look at the above Pentax ZX-5. The seller said it was in "good working order." When I received it, the mirror mechanism was broken. This happens on these models because of a plastic gear that sometimes gives out. 

Since that disappointing day, I've used its bottom plate to fix an otherwise good ZX-5, pulled off the lens release button for another Pentax, and learned how to remove the focusing screen so I wouldn't mess up a perfectly good camera with a first attempt. (Never practice on a good SLR!)

One of the keys to successful repurposing is to stick with a line of cameras that you like. My preferences are Contax and Pentax. So I have plenty of spare parts (and practice!) for those bodies that are in basically good shape, but need a little TLC, such as a new bottom plate or focusing screen.

I once heard a wonderful Native American saying, "Use all of the buffalo." Never has that applied more than my work with used cameras.


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