Dropping your single lens reflex lens usually brings out an involuntary gasp of disbelief. These lenses usually cost a lot of money, or at least did before SLRs went digital. If you drop one, the main components that can get damaged are the lens elements, the focusing ring, the aperture ring, the lens mount and the filter mount. Some of these components are much easier to fix than others.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Jeweller's loupe
- Needlenose pliers
- Light lubricant
- New lens mount
Assess the damage to the lens. If you look through it and see cracked or shattered lens elements, you will need to take the entire lens apart and replace the unusable element or elements. This is the main deciding factor for most people as to whether to fix the lens or discard get a new one. Replacing lens elements takes a lot of delicate work and strong skills. You also run the risk of getting the wrong lens element or one that is just slightly off from the other lens elements. In either case, the new element can distort or at least change the way your lens takes photos. If you see a single small chip in the front or rear lens element, try shooting some photos to detect if the ding actually affects the images. In some cases, a very small chip or pit will not cause problems on the film.
Look for dents in the filter mount or lens mount. Dents in either can be fixed with a little controlled pressure from a pair of needlenose pliers, if the dents are small enough. Be careful to align the dented area correctly with the rest of the mount or it can affect mounting. You can replace the lens mount, usually by unscrewing several small screws and obtaining a new mount for your camera. Because the filter mount is a much more integral part of the lens, you will need to straighten it without flattening the screw-in grooves or you will no longer be able to use filters on the lens.
Test the focusing ring to make sure it turns smoothly and brings your images into sharp focus without difficulty. If it does not, again you will need to disassemble the lens to discover what got bent or damaged during the fall of the lens. You can replace the focusing ring, but since it is quite integral to the lens, you might need to salvage the entire assembly from another, similar lens. You may be able to get it to work a little better by using a light lubricant oil in the crevices. This should make it turn more effectively.
Hold the lens up to a dim light source to avoid hurting your eyes and watch what happens when you turn the aperture ring. The leaves of the aperture should come together smoothly and fully, just a little bit more each time you click to another f-stop. If the leaves do not move smoothly, or one or more are missing, take apart the lens and either replace the aperture leaves or replace them.
Tips and warnings
- Because SLR lenses are quite old now, you might want to consider simply replacing your dropped lens if it is not working properly. You probably can get a close replacement for a fraction of what the original lens cost a decade or two ago. Look for used lenses at your local photo store or online.
- To avoid future damage to the front lens element and filter mount, always use an ultraviolet or haze filter on the lens. The first step when buying a lens for an SLR or DSLR should be to place one of the two filters on the lens and never take it off. If the filter breaks, it is much cheaper to replace then a lens.
- If you really love your SLR lens and do not trust your own abilities to fix it properly, and take it to a professional repair shop.
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