Text and Photos by Bob Warkentin
How Not To Make a Nikonos V a "Paperweight" On Your First Dive: Rubber O-Ring Seals
O-Ring Grease and the O-Ring Seals
How Much O-Ring Grease Do I Need?
What If I Use Too Much Grease?
What About Greasing the Other User Serviceable O-Rings?
How Do I Inspect O-Rings and the Camera For Debris Stuck To the Grease?
Hopefully, you bought a Nikonos V intended to be sold in the United States, or at least in an English speaking country. If so, the instruction manual contains a lot of information you need to know about how to use your camera. But remember, the pictures alone do not tell you everything-the words must be read. (photo 1.)
Since the Nikonos V looks and feels tike a conventional land camera, the biggest mistake most new owners make is to rely upon their previous knowledge of "land use only" cameras and expect their knowledge to be sufficient to also apply to the safe and successful use of any camera without additional information being required. However, a Nikonos amphibious (underwater) camera must not only function like a "land use" camera but also must function like a "water tight" camera. Therefore, each "land use" and "underwater use" forms of preparation must be observed before use or the results you will see can be full flooding of the camera on the first dive out of the box, leakage of water at O-ring seals or jamming of operations, and so on. If you want a Nikonos V door stop or paper weight, treat it like a land camera. Mother Nature will do the rest of the work!
On pages 7-11 of your Instruction Manual entitled, "Preparation" great length is taken to explain O-ring seals. But why remind you of this? Everyone has read them and understands them, Right? Sure you did!
However, our experience has been that people don't understand (or haven't read) the purposes of O-ring seals. Neither do they understand proper maintenance, lubrication, installation or how to even inspect them properly. So, let's talk about those "rubber things" that aren't on land cameras.
Your Nikonos V contains 15 O-RING SEALS IN THE CAMERA BODY ALONE, and 4 more O-rings in the lens (photo 2). So every time you dive the camera/ lens combination, you are diving a "19" O-ring system and praying that all 19 are in good condition. But in the bag of 4 extra USER SERVICEABLE O-rings supplied with a new camera (photo 3), there are only 3 O-rings for the camera and 1 for the lens.
Gosh! Why so many
So you can make all those "land camera" type of adjustments you want underwater and allow you to see what the automatic functions and electronic meterings are doing for you. Remember, consumers always want more and more functions available to them with each new generation of Nikonos. Nikon provides these functions, but they must each have O-ring seals.
The purpose for O-ring grease is to lubricate the O-ring. "But why?" You ask. Well, O-rings prevent water from coming into the camera ONLY when they are uniformly compressed in the O-ring channel. When you install each of the user serviceable O-rings, you must install them under "uniform" compression.
Example: Closing the hinged back door starts O-ring compression on the right side of the camera (photo 4). Compression here means squeezing the rubber O-ring between the door O-ring channel and the main body wall. When you squeeze rubber in one place, it wants to get bigger or longer somewhere else. So as you "squeeze" the rubber O-ring into a compressed condition between the door channel and the main body, if the O-ring is lubricated with O-ring grease, the rubber has its own elasticity to pull itself back UNIFORMLY around the O-ring channel (photo 5). However, if the arraign and metal channels are dry, as illustrated by the rubber band in photo 6, there will be too much friction to allow the O-ring's own elasticity to reshape it uniformly. The result: unevenly compressed O-ring and thus flooding.
Do I really have to grease these o- rings before my very first dive?
This type of question opens a person up to a thousand answers, the nicest of which is YES! But the real reason is that grease attracts all kinds of lint, packaging material, and other debris which will be explained later. Because of this, the user serviceable O-rings are not greased for diving use when you get the camera out of the factory box.
The real question is how much grease to use on each O-ring. Simply put, the "proper amount" is about as meaningless a term as "just enough to make it shine; no more-no less". In fact, any smooth, round, black O-ring, completely free of grease, will "shine" on its own.
So, how do you judge your greasing of the O-rings. We will start by taking the lens O-ring and use this as a training tool because you can feel the grease applied, fill the restriction (friction) when you mount it to the camera, and there are less sharp edges for you to ruin a O-ring here then other O-rings you will have to deal with.
Start by taking the O-ring off of the lens. With as many cotton swabs as you feel necessary, clean the lens O-ring channel of all grease, as well as the silver color metal lens mount ring on the front of the camera body. Clean off the grease from the O-ring itself with liquid soap and warm water.
Now that both O-ring and O-ring channels are cleaned of any grease, replace the O-ring on the lens. Now try to mount the lens to the camera. Notice that the lens will not go on (don't force it) because the O-ring is dry.
Now, take the O-ring off again. With the tube of O-ring grease, squeeze out onto one of your fingers a uniform 112 inch long line of grease (photo 7). No, don't put this grease on the O-ring, its for your dry fingers first. Since most people use their thumb and index fingers to Tube O-rings, spread this grease on them first.
Again, squeeze out a 1/2 inch line of grease, uniformly, onto one finger. Grasping the O-ring, begin to spread the grease uniformly over the O-ring. Three to four rotations of the O-ring through the grease between your fingers should do it.
Replace the O-ring on the lens and now mount the lens to the camera. Notice that it goes on with some restriction, but very little restriction as compared to the dry O-ring experience before.
You say "Still not enough grease?" It looks shiny (meaning there ought to be enough grease). There are no globs of grease (meaning you didn't put on too much). But you still feel some restriction.
So, "What's happening". Well, before we answer this question, let's
do one more thing.
Again, remove the lens O-ring, apply a 1/2 inch line of grease to your finger, and again spread this grease onto the O-ring, 3 to 4 full O-ring rotations. Even though globs of grease are now present, go ahead and remount the O-ring to the lens, and again mount the lens to the camera. Notice that it goes cm with the same restrictions you felt after the first grease application.
"Hey, what's going on here? I couldn't put the lens on without any grease! I did what you said and I can get the lens on, but I still feel a restriction! Even with more grease. What am I doing wrong? Do I have to use the whole tube of grease on this one O-ring?"
Believe it or not, you have now answered these questions for yourself by training yourself as to what is "not enough," "just enough" or "too much" grease. Even with too much grease, it didn't make the lens go on easier than the first grease application. Reason: you have been feeling the compression of an O-ring which is always necessary to make a watertight seal between the camera body and the lens.
Grease is a "liquid" that never dries. Remember trying to pick up something with the tip of your finger and you can't? Then you wet your finger with your tongue and press your finger again on the item and, presto, it sticks to your finger.
O-ring grease will do the same thing to particles of sand, lint, grit,
etc. They will stick to the grease. If you never opened the camera to
change film ever again, or any of the other O-rings, the debris would
remain outside and never get into the O-ring groove or channel.
But when you have to open these areas to change film or just take apart for cleaning to prevent salt corrosion from happening, it is then when problems can occur. The debris can roll around on the O-ring and when you close the camera, the O-ring is now forced to seat against a channel with pieces of debris trapped. In short, the O-ring has raised areas for water to tunnel through and into the camera.
The other 3 O-rings are bigger or smaller than the lens O-ring. So, use an amount of grease compared to the size of the lens ring. For the battery compartment and flash connector, use about 1/4 inch line of grease. For the rear door O-ring use 2 applications of about a one inch line of grease. Remember to first apply about a 1/2 inch line of grease to the fingers if they are dry. If you are unable to grease all the O-rings at one time, then remember to add more grease to the fingers before greasing the other O-rings.
Excess grease allows the dirt to be trapped and hidden from view. Even worse, applying more grease to an O-ring's surface, like when opening the door to change film, instead of removing the O-ring and degreasing with soap and water and cleaning the O-ring channel properly, only hides grit from view or forces these particles down the side of the O-ring channel (photo 9).
So, excess grease isn't a good idea for insuring a water tight camera. It only wastes the grease, it causes you to have to clean the other areas of the camera, it can get onto the film and ruin the pictures, but even worse hat that is it will trap particles which prevent a watertight seal. Remember it doesn't make the O-ring seal better as you proved to yourself.
By using the magnifier Nikon supplied you, free! No, don't start looking in the box or trash can thinking it fell out, it's the 35mm (or 28mm) lens you have. By holding the lens close to the subject and your eye, you will see things you may wish you hadn't!
Looking through the front of the lens with the f-stop fully open, and holding the lens close to your eye and the object close to the lens, you will find that this is one of the clearest, sharpest magnifiers you have ever used (photo 10). You will also find that there is a lot of fine particles of lint on that "clean" O-ring of yours.
When "linting" to them ring occurs, you must remove the O-ring, degrease with an unscented liquid soap and water ( and of course your hands will be cleaned at the same time).
Each O-ring channel of the camera must also be cleaned. Use cotton swabs ( many of them), followed by a generic brand of facial tissue ( its a coarser paper and less likely to lint), which will help to remove any lint that remains.
Inspect the O-ring and it's channel with your magnifier and when clean, re-grease the O-ring and replace it.
Reprinted with permission from Bob Warkentin's Southern Nikonos Service Center, Inc.
9459 Kempwood, Houston, TX 77080 713/462-5436