Yashica TLR Light Seal Repair

I bought a Yashica 124G a couple of years ago off of Ebay.  It was an amazing deal as the seller spelt Yashica incorrectly, so I was the sole bidder (he also listed it in the “film” section, not the “film camera” section).  The camera arrived in absolute mint condition except for a small scratch on the back and a non-working light meter.  On a Yashica TLR, the light meter turns on when you open the top.  Upon taking the top apart, it was discovered that the switch was simply sticky from having sat closed for many years.  It’s always nice when it’s a simple repair!

I’ve taken many rolls of film with the Yashica, both 120 and 220.  Something I could never figure out was that I often got strange red stripes across my pictures.  This only ever happened on colour film.  I initially suspected the film as I had some rolls of 220 that were recently expired but always cold stored, as well as some rolls I got off ebay that were incredibly cheap.  I asked around and a few mentioned xray damage, but nothing conclusive.  Finally I posted the question on the I Shoot Film group on Flickr.  For those of you who have never used the groups on flickr, I find they are an amazing resource as you get answers to your questions from across the globe.  As you can see, 8 replies later and the problem was solved!

Turns out the colour film I was using was all 220, meaning there is no paper backing for the majority of the film.  The red streak was actually because of a light leak, likely on the top hinge.

I compared the light seal in my Yashica (what was left of it) to my Seagull (used in the Pan-o-gull experiment).  The Seagull actually uses black yarn as a light seal, leading me to believe that I didn’t need to buy a special Yashica light seal kit.  A search of the net brought me to this site which suggested that you could replace the seals with some sticky back felt which I just happened to have left over from the Pin-Cube.

Using a cutting mat and straight edge, I cut strips of black felt.  I then set about cleaning out the old left over light seal off of the camera. What was left of the seal was bits of sticky black foam.  There wasn’t much left but it still made a mess.  The professional light seal kits come with a “special tool”.  It’s basically a slim piece of wood to help push the seal into the grove. I simply took a bbq skewer and with a chisel shaved the end flat so that it would fit in the grove.  To remove the stickiness I used mineral spirits. Not sure if this is the best thing to use, but I had it lying around and it seemed to work ok.

It was a bit tricky getting the new felt into the thin groves around the camera, but with a bit of patience, I was able to get it all in in under 15 minutes.  Once finished, I realized how bad the old seals were and I’m sure the new felt can only be a huge improvement.  Looking back at some old 120 BW negs from this camera it was obvious that it was actually leaking along both sides as well, not enough to affect the pictures, but it was only going to get worse.

As far as DIY camera repair goes, this was a pretty simple job, highly recommend anyone with this issue to try the repair themselves.