Oh, Noooooooo! I Dropped My Nikon F6!

A few days before Christmas, I dropped my Nikon F6 on the hard laminate floor of the studio. Actually, the strap slipped through the adjustment buckle. I had the strap around my neck, but was not holding onto the camera. I’m a big believer in neck straps because I am obsessive about not dropping a camera. Disappointingly, it was a Nikon strap and it wasn’t stitched. It’s one of those heavy elastic straps that is easy on your neck.

Upon examination, it looked like the camera body was okay and that the only damage was to the attached 24-120mm f/4G lens which had the zoom ring knocked out of position. Focusing, vibration reduction, and aperture all seemed to be working fine and I was able to manipulate the zoom through its entire range without any obvious impairment.

Damaged 24-120mm Nikkor f4/G lens. Zoom ring loose and out of position.

Sending the lens to Nikon for repair

I went to the Nikon website and filled out the self-service repair submittal form where they give you an estimate based on how you describe the problem. Since I dropped the lens, the estimate was for $493 which is not unreasonable as an average for a $1100 lens that’s been dropped. They explain, of course, that it could cost more in which case they’ll request further approval before doing the repair.

I shipped the lens via UPS on December 22nd. Since I insured the shipment, they required that I drive 15 miles to drop the parcel off at their main facility rather than any of the many UPS drop-off places scattered around town. I would have foregone the insurance if they mentioned that detail before I completed the entire online process including payment by credit card. It also never occurred to me that they wouldn’t have normal business hours, especially right before Christmas, so I went there before lunch only to find out that they’re only open from 2-4 PM. Thankfully, a guy sweeping the parking lot took me to the back office where they accepted my parcel. Yay! Thanks, UPS.

As shipped. Note UPS shipping label as well as the Nikon shipping label. UPS removed the hazmat sticker.

The lens arrived at Nikon on December 27th and they sent me an acknowledgement on January 2nd. Two weeks later there was a charge on my credit card for $326, so I logged in and checked the repair status and the website had a UPS tracking number listed. Oddly, they don’t email status info, a final invoice, or tracking information. They apparently just expect that, if you want that information, you’ll log in and check it yourself periodically.

Lens comes back from Nikon

On the bright side, I got the lens back one month, to the day, after they received it. The box was pretty beat up, but the lens was padded with two layers of thick sturdy bubble wrap and there was no visible damage to the lens. So, the saga has come to a happy ending, although I have not yet run a roll of film through the camera and lens to test it.

Lens was came back from Nikon with no visible damage despite the box being beat up.
Lens wrapped in bubble wrap on return trip. Maybe the same bubble wrap I used to ship it to them.
Paperwork described what was repaired and what functions were tested as well as a QC checklist.
Camera with repaired lens attached.

I think I saw on their website that normal turnaround is 5 days for repair which seems extraordinary. I was very pleased to get the lens back in a mere month which included the New Years holiday. When I sent my F2 off for repair a few years ago, it was gone for 11 months. When I sent a Rolleiflex lens off for repair in 2022 it was also gone for 11 months. Film camera repairs are no trivial matter anymore. Shops are backlogged, parts are scarce, and experienced film repair technicians are retiring (or worse).

Who really repaired my lens?

Interestingly, the UPS info listed “Nikon/Camtech Svcs” as the shipper so I am assuming that the repair work was contracted out to John Hermanson who is an Olympus guru and a one time Nikon service technician. The Nikon repair center address (Jericho, NY), Nikon USA Headquarters (Melville, NY) listed on the invoice, Camtech Svcs (Huntington, NY), and the UPS facility that picked up the package (Uniondale, NY) are all within a few miles of each other on Long Island.

About that camera strap…

Immediately after I dropped it, I checked all the straps on my cameras to see which of them are vulnerable to having the strap come loose from the adjustment buckle. The strap that came with the Rolleiflex Hy6 is the only other strap I have that does not have the strap stitched to the buckle. The OP/TECH strap that I use on my Hasselblad is stitched, as is the strap that came with the Leica M-A. My Ape cases also have stitched straps, although I had to stitch the strap on the oldest Ape case myself. I have since also stitched the strap on the Hy6 as well as the Nikon strap that started this whole chain of events. I hand-stitched them with doubled tough polyester thread and coated the stitching with epoxy to ensure the stitching would never fail.

Strap made secured to the buckle with stitching covered on both sides with JB Weld epoxy.

I did consider replacing the straps with newer ones, but I wasn’t very impressed with what’s out there today. Most stitched straps were very long, apparently to double as a neck and shoulder strap and I just didn’t like the fasteners or the general configuration. I just like the straps I already have,

Lesson to be learned

Check your camera straps and don’t drop your camera. It’s a little embarrassing that I let this happen to me, especially after having been so concerned about the strap on my Ape camera cases a couple years ago.

Defective Right Out of the Box

Serious Quality Control Failings with New Rolleiflex and Leica Film Cameras

Leica M-A and Rolleiflex Hy6 Mod2

I have never been able to afford high end German cameras, but I always wanted one. Almost all the cameras I have owned were from Japanese companies like Nikon, Minolta, and Mamiya.

Finally, in October 2020, being retired and having some cash available, I purchased a new Rolleiflex Hy6 Mod2 system from the US distributor and a new Leica MP and lens from Camera West. Since 1966, I have purchased many cameras, new and used, but these two recent purchases were the first time I ever bought a camera that was defective right out of the box. The Rolleiflex wouldn’t focus correctly and the Leica MP meter wouldn’t automatically turn off after the time-out. These were also the first cameras I purchased that included little cards, signed by hand, letting me know how committed the manufacturer was to reliability.

Personally signed quality control assurance cards

Long Story Short: Rolleiflex Hy6

Rolleiflex Hy6 with 80mm, 50mm, and 40mm lenses

Seven days after receiving it, I sent the Hy6 to DW Photo in Germany and, within 3 hours of Fedex delivering it to them, they sent me an email declaring that I had an incorrect menu setting on the camera. After arguing with them for a few weeks, I paid the bill of 320 € to get it back. After receiving it back, I confirmed that the camera still wouldn’t focus, but it turned out that someone much smarter than me on the Photrio forums had the identical Hy6 focusing issue and corrected it by adjusting the film pressure plate position. In fact, the serial number on my film back differed from his by a single count, so they were likely assembled at the factory on the same day. Thanks to him, I was able to repair my Hy6 the same way.

Rolleiflex Hy6 6×6 Film Back

Think about it: If not for “that guy on the internet”, I would be stuck with a very expensive paper weight. Since then, myself and others have discovered other issues in common with our Hy6 cameras. These include light leaks, film transport issues, scratching of film (which defies solution to this day), and the interesting claim from Rolleiflex that 6000 series and Hy6 lenses are not designed to focus out to infinity, but only as far as the hyperfocal distance. As far as I know, Rolleiflex is the only high end camera manufacturer that lays claim to that unique feature (or bug, depending on whether you want distant objects to be sharp in your images). One recent Hy6 seller on ebay noted in the description that the focus “is soft at infinity at any aperture wider than f/11ish” and that’s after having had the pressure plate adjusted at the factory soon after buying it in late 2020.

Long Story Short: Leica M-A

Leica with 50mm Sumilux and 28mm Elmarit

I sent the Leica MP back to Camera West for a refund and bought a new Leica M-A through B&H Photo. Later, after more thorough testing at wide apertures, I discovered that that the new 50mm Summilux has a case of front focus. A 28mm Elmarit, purchased shortly thereafter, works fine. By this time, having read all the horror stories of people having had to send their Leicas back to Leica (New Jersey or Germany) multiple times to get them properly repaired under warranty, I decided to adjust the range finder to accommodate the defective 50mm lens out to about 70 feet which is about as far out as it will focus. While that means the rangefinder is not accurate for the 28mm f2.8 lens, the depth of field will cover the error for my purposes. For distances beyond 70 feet, the rangefinder is useless. Close focusing (1-10 meters) for the 50mm is now quite accurate wide open and is also fine for the 28mm. At apertures of 4.8 and above, the 50mm lens works reasonably well at all distances if you’re aware of the quirks of the maladjusted rangefinder.

The End of an Era

Nikon F6, Leica M-A, and Rolleiflex Hy6 — How much longer can they last?

I don’t dispute that there are many happy Leica and Hy6 owners, but I don’t think I am alone in being frustrated by problems with new cameras and atrocious customer service. I don’t believe there is sufficient sales volume anymore to support the manufacturing cost of high end film cameras. The companies that have remained in production this long most likely had to cut costs resulting in a diminished level of quality control during factory assembly and service.

Leica and Rolleiflex have a long history of turning out top notch film cameras and their optics are unsurpassed. You cannot hold these cameras in your hands and not marvel at the caliber of engineering they embody, but the production defects and poor customer service I’ve encountered have completely knocked the shine off the joy of owning and using them. I baby them because I don’t have much confidence that they can be properly repaired by the manufacturers without it becoming an ordeal and I don’t plan to invest anymore money in them for additional lenses or other accessories. Hy6 film backs, which seem to be where the bulk of their problems lie, are as common as unicorns used and outrageously expensive new.

Before buying the Leica and Hy6, I took it for granted that new cameras worked right out of the box because that had been my experience for over 50 years. No camera company is perfect, but I got a new Nikon F6 in 2019 at half the cost of a Leica or Hy6. It has no problems or quirks. The F6 was discontinued in late 2020, but I just bought a new lens for it and never worried that it wouldn’t work fine right out of the box. I wasn’t disappointed. I will never have that level of confidence in Rolleiflex or Leica, despite their little hand-signed inspection/test cards. My reason for buying new was to avoid the risks and “surprises” of buying used, so if I knew a year ago what I know now, I would not have purchased either of them.  Both cameras, if they work properly, are a pleasure to use, but the experiences I’ve had are not something I would ever care to repeat.

For Potential Buyers

It’s human nature to want to feel good about something you already own or are about to buy, making it easy to reject contrary views. Most product reviews available on the internet are little more than a thinly disguised sales pitches, describing features and telling you what you want to hear. If you are thinking about buying a new Leica or Hy6 film camera, I hope things go well for you, but I have a few suggestions to offer:

  1. Above all, buy only from a seller that has a written policy of accepting returns if you’re not satisfied. Don’t assume that they are as customer-friendly as reputable retailers like B&H Photo, Amazon, and Adorama.  Even ebay provides more buyer protection than merchants who simply claim, “Don’t worry.  I’ll take care of you.”
  2. If you buy pricy equipment direct from any merchant, I recommend you check that merchant’s feedback from buyers on ebay. If they don’t sell through ebay, it may be because they’re unwilling to comply with ebay’s customer protection policies.
  3. Insist on a written warranty that tells you where you have to send the camera for repairs and under what circumstances you’re required to pay for shipping and service costs within the warranty period.
  4. After you get your new camera, check it out completely, including functions you’ll rarely use. Check the focusing accuracy by shooting a roll or two of film with the lens at maximum aperture, both at close distances and at infinity. In the case of the Hy6, be sure to have the lens at maximum aperture when you do the lens offset determination.
  5. Shine an LED flashlight through any any lens you buy that was advertised as new. It should be virtually free of haze, dust, and fungus, particularly on inner surfaces. Compare it with other lenses you have.
  6. Finally, if you want more detail on Hy6 issues that I and others have been contending with, you can scan through comprehensive discussion threads here and here.

My Test Data

Three sets of test data follow, each described in PDF form with links to full size negative scans. This may not be meaningful to anyone who doesn’t have a Hy6, but may be useful for someone with a Hy6 who is experiencing similar focusing errors.

  1. The first set is the test pictures and data sent to the factory with the camera to illustrate the auto focusing problem as well as pictures to show that the camera wouldn’t even manually focus at infinity with all three lenses (80mm, 50mm, and 40mm) even with the lens manually set to infinity.

Hy6 Focusing Tests Sent To Factory

  1. The second set of tests was conducted after the Hy6 was returned from the factory, showing that the focusing problems remain exactly as they were before the camera was sent to the factory. In other words, they did nothing to fix it and, to add insult to injury, charged me 320 € to get it back.

Hy6 Focus Tests after return from factory

  1. The third set of tests was conducted after adjusting the pressure plate gap from 0.70 mm to 0.30 mm, showing that adjustment fixed the auto and manual focus problems. It should be noted that the adjustment also fixed the infinity focus as expected. The narrowing of the pressure plate gap to 0.30mm has never caused an issue with uneven frame spacing or stalling of the motor drive, problems which I suspect are more likely related to the binding of the spool hubs on the film insert.

Hy6 Focus Tests after I adjusted pressure plate


I do not recommend attempting to fix camera problems yourself.  It could damage the camera and/or void the warranty.  On the other hand, some people are quite comfortable repairing their own cameras.  I am not one of those people but, with the Hy6, I was left with little choice. With regard to the Leica, there was a lot of information on the web about rangefinder adjustments because rangefinder problems are a common complaint on Leica analog and digital cameras. Also, there is no disassembly required to access the basic adjustments.