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PepperJay

Iscorama Pre-36 (Rescue) Project

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Greetings, Anamorphic Community,

I've been working on trying to restore an "as is" 36 purchase I made in a foggy haze of ebay madness earlier this year. See original listing pic below: (Those are dead bugs under the front element. Yep, dead bugs. The inner elements have what was believed to be either fungus or deteriorated glue.)

59d125163a3a9_IscoPre-36g.jpg.a33cb48a169dbea03ec20391abee9325.jpg

After sending it out to a well-known specialist for servicing, it was returned to me with regret that it couldn't be worked on because the front focusing element was not accessible due to tightness in the threads (after the four front screws were removed). Also, the plastic ring w/ label took a little beating in the process, but I'll get to that later.

However, it seems that before sending it back to me, lubricating oil was generously applied inside in the hopes of loosening up the parts, and by the time I was able to inspect it again, the lens was able to open up this far without any tools.

IMG_0184.JPG.2569e0f01f497bebe47940d0a6274025.JPG

At this point, I have only to attempt to unscrew the inner element housing (2nd from the left) in order to clean the lenses, although I'm a little nervous about alignment after the work. It's very possible I've already set myself up for some extra trial & error work because I pretty much accidentally opened up before I even realized what I was doing, let alone set some markers (or, yes, even some masking tape to protect the glass--will be rectified immediately, I promise).

Anyway, I'm a sort of crossroads here. I could use my spanner wrench to get in there and do the deed myself, or send it back to the service shop to clean, lube and align for several hundred dollars. The other option, however, is to send it to Van Diemen for the $1,100 VI housing (assuming the optics are up to snuff, naturally). What hurts, though, is knowing that the VII exists for more than twice the price. If they ever sold the (what seems to be vastly improved upon) updated version for around $1,500 USD (or even via another batch purchase like Andrew Wonder's in 2014--any takers?) , I'd be in, but right now it'll come in over $2,600--a bit too rich for my blood.

Another option is to go with a half-mod, at an appropriately lower price, but given the age of the current plastic housing (and the unsightliness of the damaged ring--a merely cosmetic, but still costly hit in the hypothetical future of selling my stash for recreational drugs), I'd really like to explore a full-metal body design, despite the weight increase. Also, the improved minimum focus and the shorter focus throw are a given if I'm spending anything more. I know I could file the stopper myself, but the anxiety of either worrying about it separating on me by rotating it too far on a shoot or even popping a hole and screw in the lens just seems too stress-inducing and/or ghetto for what I've already paid. BTW, no offense to anyone ghetto-rigging anything--I just have a knee-jerk reaction to this particular op on this particular class of lens.

Any suggestions/comments/news on the housing front? I heard Rich was developing something a few years ago, but it seems viable options are fairly limited in this understandably niche market. The perfect scenario would be if someone could just 3-D scan the shit out of the current plastic housing parts and simply recreate it out of a far more durable material. Note: I say "simply" because I probably don't know what hell I'm talking about. :D

Best to all, and thanks to everyone for your contributions past, present and future.

-Jason

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Hey, Hans, I don't want to Bern the guy because he was very nice and sent it back with only my shipping cost (and albeit cosmetically scarred lens). That said, I'm hesitant to send him any of my other gems, despite his reputation, but probably will as I'm really not set up for lens servicing. I can't even apply a a screen protector on my cell without botching it up with dust.

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You could also send it to Bernie ant Super16 Inc if you are in the US. He services these and will look at it for free and let you know how much it costs to fix if it can be fixed.

This iscorama is basically like a normal anamorphic projector lens set to infinity focus with a variable strength diopter in front. The rounded front element on the main optical block can be removed without messsing up the alignment, if that gets you far enough in to clean it then you maybe able to to that yourselft depending on what is actually on the lens. I believe the next element back after that one is the front anamorphic element, the alignment of this elment to the rear element is critical and very sensitive. If you remove it it has to go back exectly how it was before otherwise the lens will loose sharpness.Once removed you should be as far in as you would ever need to clean out as much as you can. The focus of the anamorphic block is probably set by the rear element, it is my own policy to never remove or even loosen the rear element of any lens. Without a collimator you will never get it set right again.

Having not opened one of these before I cannot say for sure but I have serviced an Iscorama 54 years ago and I suspect they are very similar.

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@PepperJay If it indeed was the lovable Irish man then it sounds like he tried everything to get that lens open (and technically succeeded) - must have been seized really bad to resort to those methods. He sure knows what he’s doing, probably the best/most experienced lens tech still around for such work. Now you have the lens opened, he will properly be able to do his magic (if the optics are not a total right-off that is). If you unsure about going any further yourself, he’s the guy to call again IMHO.

Once optics are cleaned and alignment all ship-shape, you could then invest in the really impressive ‘proxiscope’ front rehousing mod that @redimp has devised...a metal replacement front for your pre-36 with integrated gear that has close focus hard stops built in. It is non-destructive and requires no permanent modification to your lens. Advantage is that is a heck of a lot lighter than the VD full rehousing and since it is an easy DIY kit - it won’t require you to send your lens away and wait hundreds of days for it’s return.

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do not give it 2 van demon  the logo speaks for vandiemen

a little forked devil check it out a devil with a big smile

 

the greatest company in the world for lens works is truelens uk same town as cooke expensive in the movie lens world repair biz you have panavision la then true lens

then p&s technique germany slow   and van demonics slower uk

 

truelens has many folks that have worked at cooke so that small town has some mighty talented lens repair guys probably the lead in the water.

repairing rehousing spherical and anamorphics

 

 

i was the clown that first used that company with the devil logo they solved some problems on an iscorama rebuild project that i started.

they then started  offering an iscorama  rehouse before even finishing my prototypes.

very dubious i could say more but i will not

 

bernie o is a great man the problem is in bernies day he could leave a lens soaking for months today the pressure is on turn around .

the old cooke speed panchro from ww2 often got seized up in the brass housings sometimes the raf would paint the metal again causing problems years later.

sometimes you would have too put the lens aside and go back try again weeks later.

bernie is indeed an old gent i am sure it was frustrating for him as hans says if it is know open  and you feel he owes you a favour email him.

 

john at focal point lens repair is another great old geezer based  in the usa  east coast like bernie also maybe able too repair optics i have done jobs using bernie and focal point working on the same lens in the past.

focal point is great with optical decay bernie breakdown service rebuild..

 

failing that an iscorama is still worth good money for spare parts no matter what the condition  optics and mechanical.

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i once shipped a box of iscorama parts a  rare zeiss baby focus iscorama the first ever iscorama and 2 baby moller 1.5 optics to super 16

5 optics all the metalwork mixed up the glass protected it had been sitting on a shelf for 2 years at one of the demon money grabber repair places.

 i stuffed a note for bernie that simply said sorry about this can you see if you can rebuild parts maybe missing 2 weeks later an email saying ready for shipping

no moaning no huffing and puffing he just did  the best he could

  i wish i had yaken a picture of that dustry old pile of germanic junk  before the bern and after.

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9 hours ago, dhessel said:

You could also send it to Bernie ant Super16 Inc if you are in the US. He services these and will look at it for free and let you know how much it costs to fix if it can be fixed.

This iscorama is basically like a normal anamorphic projector lens set to infinity focus with a variable strength diopter in front. The rounded front element on the main optical block can be removed without messsing up the alignment, if that gets you far enough in to clean it then you maybe able to to that yourselft depending on what is actually on the lens. I believe the next element back after that one is the front anamorphic element, the alignment of this elment to the rear element is critical and very sensitive. If you remove it it has to go back exectly how it was before otherwise the lens will loose sharpness.Once removed you should be as far in as you would ever need to clean out as much as you can. The focus of the anamorphic block is probably set by the rear element, it is my own policy to never remove or even loosen the rear element of any lens. Without a collimator you will never get it set right again.

Having not opened one of these before I cannot say for sure but I have serviced an Iscorama 54 years ago and I suspect they are very similar.

Yes, dhessel, based upon all the praise I've read across these forums about Bernie, he was natural first choice to try and save what I hoped was a perfectly salvageable lens in need of a little expertise and/or love. From what I heard, unfortunately, after hours of negotiating with it and even damaging the the ring in the process of unscrewing it, he just wasn't able to get the front focusing element loose, and decided to send it back rather than risk damaging any other parts of the lens. However, before packing it up, he flushed the inner workings (including the main elements in the rear) with liberal amounts of oil. A few days later I received it back, and before I knew it, the lens opened up where the main cylinders overlap. I immediately told him about it and he figured the oil did its job, offering to continue on the work if I wanted to send it back should I be worried about attempting to myself. I told him I might do so, along with a couple of other lenses that could use some help.

So that's where I left it with Bernie. From my (albeit limited) experience thus far over email and phone, they are responsive, fair and very nice people. Not at all regretting sending it to them in the first place. Which brings me to...

6 hours ago, Tito Ferradans said:

 

wasn't that what he just implied? :(

Yeah, Tito, I was worried it was a little too on-the-nose, but I also don't want to be coy and just PM inquiries. I feel that as a noob, despite our lack experience in this field, our experiences can still be of use to all. Anyway, regarding Bernie, I certainly don't wish to be the one to tarnish his reputation; God knows how little hope there is left in the world, particularly in people. Since starting this thread, though, I've written to Van Diemen and inquired about what their housing job entails, and I was immediately responded to and told that should my unit pass muster (optics & mechanics), they'd be happy to include any cleaning and aligning in the process. Considering I was expecting to pay about 25% of that just for the cleaning, I'm inclined to pay the full amount and insure that not only does my lens not spontaneously pop apart at the center, but that it'll be well-housed and modded adequately for real-world use (granted, not as well as the VII, but NASA I certainly ain't). And it's mainly because of how easily the two halves are easily disassembled now that...

5 hours ago, Hans Punk said:

@PepperJay If it indeed was the lovable Irish man then it sounds like he tried everything to get that lens open (and technically succeeded) - must have been seized really bad to resort to those methods. He sure knows what he’s doing, probably the best/most experienced lens tech still around for such work. Now you have the lens opened, he will properly be able to do his magic (if the optics are not a total right-off that is). If you unsure about going any further yourself, he’s the guy to call again IMHO.

Once optics are cleaned and alignment all ship-shape, you could then invest in the really impressive ‘proxiscope’ front rehousing mod that @redimp has devised...a metal replacement front for your pre-36 with integrated gear that has close focus hard stops built in. It is non-destructive and requires no permanent modification to your lens. Advantage is that is a heck of a lot lighter than the VD full rehousing and since it is an easy DIY kit - it won’t require you to send your lens away and wait hundreds of days for it’s return.

I hesitate to contact Max again about the Proxiscope at this stage. I like his design and particularly his price point, but that and the cleaning would already run me 2/3rd's of the VD job.

Thanks, Hans and Tony, for your votes of confidence in Bernie. As per my phone conversation with him, his main consideration at the time was trying his best to open the lens for repair with as little damage as possible, and I don't hold the ring damage at all against him. If I ever had to sell it, fair or not, cosmetically it's a mess, but for now it's not that big of a deal that I can't give Bernie another go should he still be accepting requests. In fact, the best compromise I've come up with is to ship him my pair of Bolex-Möllers (19 & 32) on the same day I send the Isco to VD. Everyone gets their beak wet and I'd be the proud parent of some very nice glass. Any opinions to the contrary?

Tony, I'm honored that you'd reply to my post considering your standing in the community, but I hope you understand that whatever falling out you seem to have had with the Van Diemen company, they only real complaint I've been able to research has to do with working time frames, and not with actual quality of work, despite the high price. Maybe I have to learn this lesson myself (wouldn't be the first--definitely not the last), but with all the considerations (cleaning, functionality, stability) regarding this particular lens, it seems like VD might be the best route to go. Naturally, I'll bitch to high heaven should it prove to be a bad choice, at which point you are more than welcome to rub it in ;). And as I said above, I'd still love to give Bernie my business, but if any vintage anamorphic deserves the silver tuna treatment, I think something like this Isco is right there. You and a handful of other members are an awesome wealth of experience, ingenuity, and inspiration, and maybe it's none of my business, but I can only hope that one day I'll see the fruits of whatever work you've already put in towards a working optic in the marketplace. The clamps are awesome, but it sounds like you've got some old scores to settle. I'd just love to be there when you do!

I greatly appreciate all the input so far, and any other opinions are still most welcome. For any future developers out there, there's still a big hole to be filled in terms of an update to the Iscorama design, and considering the patent doesn't sound like an issue any more, I wouldn't be surprised to one day see a Kickstarter campaign with an oddly familiar profile...

-Jason

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11 hours ago, Hans Punk said:

Once optics are cleaned and alignment all ship-shape, you could then invest in the really impressive ‘proxiscope’ front rehousing mod that @redimp has devised...a metal replacement front for your pre-36 with integrated gear that has close focus hard stops built in. It is non-destructive and requires no permanent modification to your lens. Advantage is that is a heck of a lot lighter than the VD full rehousing and since it is an easy DIY kit - it won’t require you to send your lens away and wait hundreds of days for it’s return.

Thanks for mentioning me, actually @PepperJay already contacted me about this one. Seeing bugs inside this lens gave me chills, poor 'rama :(

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17 hours ago, redimp said:

Thanks for mentioning me, actually @PepperJay already contacted me about this one. Seeing bugs inside this lens gave me chills, poor 'rama :(

Hey, @redimp, I'm sorry for not getting back to you directly. When my lens came back and just twisted open, I figured it probably needed a complete housing to keep it together. As it is, I still wouldn't be surprised if Christopher at VD sends it back due to hopeless optics (that chalky looking fungus between the inner elements). But the good news is I was able to wipe the bugs off of the back of the focusing glass. Yay.

While I have you on the horn, I hope you've given some serious consideration towards a custom rear half that attaches to the front you've already developed. The weight and price point you're offering thus far has tantalizing potential and would serve as a great alternative to the limited housing choices out there. Speaking purely out of ignorance for the task, I guess the reverse engineering part wouldn't be nearly as complicated as designing anything from a functioning outer housing to full replacement of all the plastic parts. But one can dream. Anyway, thanks again for your help and encouragement earlier!

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5 hours ago, PepperJay said:

Hey, @redimp, I'm sorry for not getting back to you directly. When my lens came back and just twisted open, I figured it probably needed a complete housing to keep it together. As it is, I still wouldn't be surprised if Christopher at VD sends it back due to hopeless optics (that chalky looking fungus between the inner elements). But the good news is I was able to wipe the bugs off of the back of the focusing glass. Yay.

While I have you on the horn, I hope you've given some serious consideration towards a custom rear half that attaches to the front you've already developed. The weight and price point you're offering thus far has tantalizing potential and would serve as a great alternative to the limited housing choices out there. Speaking purely out of ignorance for the task, I guess the reverse engineering part wouldn't be nearly as complicated as designing anything from a functioning outer housing to full replacement of all the plastic parts. But one can dream. Anyway, thanks again for your help and encouragement earlier!

The full body prototype is in production already, but it's far down in the queue, not a top priority. Also the price is yet unknown, though it will definitely less then VD.

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Hey Jason

I am also disassembling my Iscorama atm and i am wondering if you could tell me how you get off the part in the middle of your picture. I was able to losen the two from the right but now i cant see a mechanism for the middle part... and I am too afraid to use force. 

--******

_________________________________

Hi, ******,

I probably won't be of much help to you because I didn't keep it around long enough to study the mechanics (sent to VD a few days after--a decision I regretted immediately after I shipped it), but I'll tell you the little that I remember.

As you probably read in the thread, I got it back from the shop after they worked on it for a few days trying to open it up from the front (hence the damaged Iscorama identifier ring). In the process of trying to loosen everything, they flooded the entire internals with oil, figuring they'd be able to clean it all out after. After finally removing the ring, they found that they couldn't get past the 1st focusing ring retainer (w/ the four screws facing front), so they packed it up and sent it back.

After I got it back, I simply twisted the lens halves back and forth without expecting anything to happen but found that it immediately split apart (1st two from left in photo from last three to right). I don't know if it split apart completely or if I had to unscrew the back two rings (from right side of photo), but I remember they were very easy (probably due to all the oil) to unscrew by hand at that point, and that I actually twisted it back on and managed to lock it back.

Fearing that I somehow blew my one chance to open it and examine the damage, it took me about 5 agonizing minutes before I was able to unscrew the main halves again. At its widest point, it kept hitting an internal catch, but by pulling and squeezing it in different directions whilst rotating, it somehow bypassed the catch again and I unscrewed it into the five parts you see in the photo. Again, it's possible I unscrewed the rings on the right by hand either earlier or definitely by then.

Again, I wish I had had at least a couple of hours with it, but as I was in the middle of other things, I made the decision to just ship all the parts to VD and hope they'd be able to convert it, cleaned and all. But here's probably my only worthwhile thought on the subject of opening it up: if I were designing these lenses, I'd build approaches from both directions, the 1st being to get to the main elements from the front, and the second from the rear. If I were you, I'd leave the front alone and focus on unscrewing the rear retaining rings, after which try to somehow bypass that catch that for me, at least, was a bit too easy to unlock. Had I more time, I'm fairly certain that I would have found the unlocking pin or lever to press/pull to open it up. Hope this helps.

I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to post this Q&A on the thread for others, just in case it helps anyone. Feel free to ask more, although VD even now is evaluating whether my lens can be saved and modded.

Best,

Jason

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@Romano. The last glass elements are cemented for eternity inside the metal housing. I asked VD for polishing them but they can't …
There are even lens elements glued together with organic glue which lets fungus grow.
The separation in the picture looks like this glue … 

 

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On 3/30/2019 at 2:51 PM, jaquet said:

@Romano. The last glass elements are cemented for eternity inside the metal housing. I asked VD for polishing them but they can't …
There are even lens elements glued together with organic glue which lets fungus grow.
The separation in the picture looks like this glue … 

 

Will try to expose to direct sun and UV light. Will use the lens as-is. Thanks for info

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On 4/1/2019 at 11:04 AM, Romano_Soprano said:

Will try to expose to direct sun and UV light. Will use the lens as-is. Thanks for info

While it looks bad if it doesn’t spread towards the center you should be fine. I was surprised how small the circle is used, I think it was less than 10mm radius from centre point.

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