How to Care For Your 35mm Film Camera

Our 35mm film cameras are precious to us and keeping them working is so important, not just for your finances but also for the environment. 


No one is currently manufacturing a new SLR 35mm film camera, or even a really decent affordable point and shoot camera, so keeping the vintage cameras alive is our mission at Cameras By Max. 


Here is our guide to looking after your film camera so that it will live to see another day.

Why do I need to look after my 35mm film camera?

Film cameras were first mass produced in 1888 with the original Kodak Box cameras. These cameras were manufactured on a conveyor belt system and Kodak created about 150,000 cameras. 


Shown here is the Kodak manufacturing for the Brownie Flash II Jubilee cameras. 

Kodak manufacturing conveyor belt

The point we're trying to make is that: depending on the model of 35mm film camera you have, your 35mm film camera is now way over twenty years old. 


For example, the Canon AE-1 Program was introduced in 1981, which means your camera could be 40 years old. 


During those 40 years, there is no doubt that your 35mm film camera has been all over the place: the beach; on a camping trip; through an airport; kept on a shelf for a while; in your camera bag; the list goes on! Dust and other small particles can easily work their way into the mechanism through the tiny little gaps that are around your dials, top and bottom plates, lens mechanisms, etc. 

These pieces of dust and particles can get into the mechanisms of your 35mm film camera and start to make pieces stop working. You'd be surprised the amount of damage bits of sand and dust can do!


It is important to look after your 35mm film camera to minimise the risks of your camera breaking and no longer working the same way as it should.

Olympus trip lens piece with bits of sand encrusted into it

Over time, your 35mm film camera can also start to lose some of its accuracy. The shutter speeds may change slightly and the light meter may not be calibrated correctly. 


We aren't trying to instil fear about your camera not working, but the opposite. We're here to help show you how to look after your 35mm film camera so that these things don't become bigger issues in the future.

What can I do at home to look after my 35mm film camera?


There are lots of things you can do at home and whilst using your 35mm film camera to make sure it is working at its best and you aren't putting it in harm's way.

When you are using your 35mm film camera:

Store it in a camera bag away from dust and damp. Add some silica gel to your camera bag if you are worried about it being damp.

Use new batteries that are good quality. Sometimes using old batteries or bad quality batteries can make your light meter less effective.

Clean the exterior regularly. Don't let dust and particles build up on your camera. Use a cotton bud and some rubbing alcohol to gently clean the camera.

When you are storing your 35mm film camera:

Take the batteries out. These can corrode and cause lots of issues.

Make sure it is somewhere dry and away from dust.

Don't leave the shutter mechanism cocked. This can put undue strain on the mechanism. Instead, fire the shutter but do not advance the film.

What else can I do to look after my 35mm film camera?


This is the most important part of the article, so read carefully. 


Whilst looking after your 35mm film camera is great, and making sure you aren't putting it in harm's way will help, there are other things that you can do to make sure that your 35mm film camera is going to live a long life.


Some of these have to be done by professionals, such as ourselves, but some you can try to do at home (although we don't advise it).

Get your 35mm film camera serviced. 


This is the most important piece of advice we can give you. A 35mm film camera service involves many different aspects, from checking and calibrating your shutter speeds, to re-lubricating your mechanisms.


Generally, 35mm film camera services cost around 75% of the cost of your camera, depending on the model you have and how much work it needs done. 


Having a camera serviced will significantly increase its lifespan, and an unserviced camera is not worth as much as a serviced one. Dishing out for the expense of having a professional camera service is well worth it.


This is a service that we offer!

Replace your light seals.


Light seals protect the camera from having leaks of light touching your negatives. After many years, they go sticky and aren't effective anymore, so replacing them is essential. You can send your camera to us for this service.

Summary

Doing these things will help your 35mm film camera last longer and perform better. Get in touch with us if you have any questions about the things we have described in this article. You can book a repair and service here.


To summarise:

  • Store your camera somewhere dry and away from dust.
  • Use new, good quality batteries.
  • Clean the exterior regularly.
  • Take your batteries out when not using the camera.
  • Don't leave your shutter mechanism cocked when storing your camera.
  • Get your camera serviced.
  • Replace your light seals.

Get in touch with us if you have any questions about things we have talked about in this article! You can also contact us to book in a repair or service.

If this article helped you, please consider buying me a coffee so that I can keep creating great content for photographers like yourself.

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