I enjoy photography, and I love to tinker. I'm a died in the wool engineer, so I love to take things apart and see how they work. I'm also frugal (some would say cheap). Because of this, I've taken an interest in mounting old, high-quality, inexpensive manual lenses on my new digital SLR camera body. I've already collected a couple dozen great, old lenses, some dating back to the 1960's. I'm always on the lookout at garage sales, estate sales, and pawn shops for more good deals on old glass.
Since this Micro-Nikkor's oily aperture blades are such a common problem, I was surprised that there were no detailed instructions available on dismantling this lens, so here you go. Rick Oleson and Seymore from the ManualFocus.org forum were extremely helpful in directing me through this DIY repair. It took me nearly two hours the first time through. By the third time I had to do it, it only took me 30 minutes.
- Tiny Phillips screwdriver
- Really tiny flat-head screwdriver
- Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol or lighter fluid
The repair procedure itself isn't terribly difficult, either. Here it is, step by step with photos:
Note: Be careful not to smudge any of the lenses -- especially the interior ones -- during this process. Use clean hands and tools, and try not to touch any of the glass.
Sit the lens on its nose, mount facing up.
Remove the three visible screws on the lens mount.
Pull the lens mount up and off the rest of the assembly. Set aside the mount.
Remove the three screws from the thick tabs along the outer edge.
Slide the outer body up and off the lens assembly. The aperture lever fits into a slotted track on the body. This track is spring loaded, and can be pushed outward to provide clearance for the lever to come out. Set aside the outer body.
Remove the three rounded screws from the aperture mechanism.
Lift the aperture mechanism off the main lens assembly and set aside the lens assembly.
Remove the spring from the bottom of the aperture mechanism. This is where the really tiny flat-head screwdriver comes in handy. Set aside the spring.
Remove the two flat Phillips screws from the top of the aperture mechanism. Do this while it's sitting on a table, so that the aperture blades don't fall out. Lift off the top half of the mechanism. Clean off any oil you see using Q-tips and alcohol, then set it aside. If alcohol isn't strong enough to do the trick, try using lighter fluid or a petroleum-based degreaser. Avoid turpentine, acetone and paint thinners, as those may remove the paint. Just make sure your work area is sufficiently ventilated for whichever chemical you choose.
Lift off the blade cover plate with the lever and the dog-leg slots in it. Clean off any oil you see using Q-tips and alcohol, then set it aside.
Remove the blades from the lower enclosure by flipping it over and using a pin or tiny screwdriver to push the brass hinge pins out of their holes. Be very careful not to bend the blades as you handle them.
Clean any oil off the lower enclosure using Q-tips and alcohol. Make sure you clean inside the hinge pin holes.
Clean any oil off the aperture blades using Q-tips and alcohol. Use tweezers to handle the blades, and be very careful not to bend any of them. Make sure you clean the hinge pins, too.
Replace the aperture blades inside the lower enclosure. The blades lie so that their tips hook clockwise. The clockwise blade must lie beneath the counter-clockwise blade, so that the CCW blade doesn't hit against the CW blade's hinge pin when you try to open up the aperture. I made that mistake the first time. Make sure that you tuck the final (seventh) blade back underneath the first one.
Now, reverse the disassembly procedure.
Install the blade cover plate with the lever and slots. The brass guide pins on each blade should fit into the slots. Make sure that the blades open and close correctly when you rotate the plate using the lever.
Install the top of the aperture mechanism using the two flat-top screws. There's some wiggle room in the top piece's screw holes. If you can see where the screw heads lined up before, line them up with those marks again. This wiggle room will slightly affect how far the aperture blades open at a given setting.
Install the spring on the bottom of the aperture mechanism. One end of the spring seemed slightly larger than the other, and I put that end around the brass pin. The smaller hook was put around the tab that protrudes from the bottom of the blade cover plate. If you did a good job cleaning, the spring should quickly and easily return the blades to their minimum aperture when at rest. Moving the side lever should open the blades all the way.
Install the aperture mechanism onto the lens assembly using the three rounded screws.
Slide the lens assembly into the outer body. There is a tab on a brass ring near the bottom (front) of the lens assembly that must fit into a groove inside the body's barrel. Press the spring-loaded aperture ring bracket outward in order to slip the lever from the aperture mechanism into the slot. This part gave me lots of trouble until I realized that the slotted bracket was spring loaded.
Secure the outer body using the three screws in the thick mounting tabs.
Move the aperture ring on the body while watching the blades. Verify that they make a perfectly round circle when opened to f/2.8. If not, you can loosen the five inner screws on the aperture mechanism and then use a larger screwdriver or something to rotate the bottom of the aperture mechanism relative to the top of the mechanism.
Install the lens mount and secure it with the remaining three screws.
That's it, you're done! Enjoy your fully functional macro lens. If you want to use it on a Canon EOS, Olympus 4/3, or Micro-4/3 body, try one of these adapters:
And finally, before I go, I want to apologize for the lousy lighting in these pictures. I've learned so much since they were taken several years ago... really.
I originally wrote this article for Jedi.com in June 2008.
For more about how to dismantle camera equipment, check out my instructions for increasing the flash head rotation on a Canon 430EX. More info on Nikkor lens differences can be found in this article. Got a comment or question? I'd love to hear your experiences or answer any questions by leaving a comment below!