WHEN YOU WALK, DON'T CHEW GUM
Text and Photos by Bob Warkentin
Most of us have probably known someone who, as they would say, "could not walk and chew gum at the same time". Just too many things going on in their life at one time for them to contend with that they couldn't figure out their problem nor how to control nor order nor eliminate the problem(s). Life was just one "gum ball machine" after another.
For a Nikonos V, there are also "gum ball machines" which suddenly appear along your pathway of camera use. As your focus of attention becomes preempted from continuing to perform your seemingly simple task (cocking the camera) to that of sampling the flavor of the moment (watching and chasing the fish into a better photo position...with your camera?), attention to detail becomes split and camera jams occur.
There are so many mechanical operations going on within the camera during those seemingly simple operations of cocking the camera and firing the camera that they would boggle the mind the first time they were mentioned. The fact that these operations can be easily jammed by improper operation should not, then, come as a big surprise. Until it happens to you!
Photo 1 shows the shutter cocking linkage in its at-rest position; Photo 2 shows the operations of both the take-up cam's rotation and, in turn, the linkage being pulled to the right as you are half way through YOUR cocking of the camera (by you simply moving the film advance lever). Upon completion of your process of cocking the camera, the cam will have been rotated a full 360 degrees and the linkage will be pulled back to the left via a spring located on the shutter assembly (i. e., everything will again return to their positions as seen in photo 1).
Nikon also provided 2 trigger blocks which I think you will appreciate: first, on the shutter cocking linkage (photo 1) there is an extra amount of metal which, during cocking, slides under the trigger (photo 2) and blocks the trigger from accidentally being pushed downwards and firing the shutter while you are cocking the film (ruining not only the picture you just took but also the new unexposed film for your next picture), and second when you turn the shutter speed dial to "R", this moves another linkage (this linkage is mounted on the film advance assembly) which also blocks the trigger's movement.
The Nikonos V has what is basically an anatomically correct grip on the right side of the camera. For those of us who shoot the camera with the strobe dismounted from the camera tray, we say of this design: WONDERFUL! Holding the camera comfortably in one hand, we can not only reach the trigger to fire the camera with one finger, but we can also reach the film advance lever with our thumb and re-cock the camera (usually by "pumping" the advance lever). We no longer are required to use our left hand (and juggle the dismounted strobe somehow) to hold the camera while we completely take our right hand off of the camera just so that our right thumb can be used to cock the camera.
But, as your anatomically correct fingers of your right hand CLUTCH your anatomically correct dismounted camera, your anatomically correct index finger which is typically resting over the trigger may also be "clutching" the camera as well, and pressing down on the trigger. When this happens, two things occur: (1) advancing the film with your thumb feels very difficult but you can complete the advancing operation fully, or (2) nothing moves at all.
What has happened is either that (1) the trigger's linkage (believe it or not, there are four parts, not to mention springs and screws, that operate when you push on that simple little button on the outside of the camera) is being pushed downwards and rides against the shutter cocking linkage, or (2) remains fully depressed downwards from your taking the last picture, and remains completely in the path of the shutter cocking linkage's trigger block preventing any movement (photo 3).
Note: Photo 3 is a cutaway of the camera's casing showing how the "trigger button" operates the external trigger linkages which, in turn, operate the internal linkage. The trigger guide (photo 1) has been removed from the bottom edge of the frame to show the full extent of the "blocking" extension of the trigger's internal linkage during camera firing. Photo 4 shows all of this in its up, "ready for the next shot" position, and also the sole spring that operates all of those parts that comprise what we simply call the camera's "trigger."
From (1), normally nothing yet, except possibly the loss of getting that picture because it took you longer to get that darn camera cocked. But from (2), the trigger becomes stuck in a down position, jammed up against the shutter cocking linkage. And, further efforts on your part hoping that by your forcing the thumb lever just a little more you would clear the jam and be able to cock the camera, results in bending the shutter cocking linkage (part must be replaced professionally) and killing the camera for the rest of the trip (photo 5 & 6). But, if that big screw (combination screw and pivot axle for the shutter cocking linkage; see photo 5) gets broken during your continued force, guess what: you may be told to buy another camera!
Although the head of the steel axle appears big, its threaded end going into the camera's aluminum frame is very very small: drilling out steel that small is difficult at best, but when it must be 100% accurately done or else, you can just about hang it up all together! And, NO, frames are not available as a separate part from Nikon.
For those of you who have been too preoccupied with everything else about preparations for that diving trip except "required" maintenance of your Nikonos (And why not! You never ever had to spend a dime on a camera before in your life because you never knowingly "damaged" one!), but are now having problems with a "sticky trigger" that you are having to push up from the bottom with something like a tooth pick or a straw, better listen up. And, you better reread the Problem #1 again. All you have to do is to forget to push up that trigger once after firing the camera. Since the trigger remains fired, and therefore in the path of the trigger block, you will jam the gears just like above.
But, possibly worse than bending a linkage is the fact that this problem is caused by you not maintaining the camera properly. Oh, you clean and soak the camera in fresh water when you get back to the room, you say! Too late, I say! And, the fact that the trigger is binding ought to be proof that what you have been doing (washing/soaking back in the room) was not the correct cleanup procedure.
What you have allowed to happen is evaporation of the salt water's water leaving behind now insoluble salt and mineral deposits (ALL OVER THE CAMERA in addition to the trigger port). The results are many (photo 7): the residues have built up dive after dive and now restrict the movement of the trigger via the one little spring in the camera (photo 4) (remember, the "trigger" is made up of a lot of parts, all of which are functioned by this one spring). And worse yet, the metal of the O-ring port of the camera's casing has become pitted from corrosion (photo 8). At a cost of $256.00 for a replacement outer casing, if the casing's loss of metal from pitting (and user neglect!) is so extensive, you had better plan on buying another camera and treating this new one right from "day one". And, no, simply replacing rubber O-rings won't make a pitted case water tight either. All this was discussed in corroded detail the Nikonos Workshop Fall 1988: better pull out your back issue again.
So, be aware all ye "sticky trigger" owners. You must have periodic professional maintenance (yes, "professional" means this is something you aren't supposed to do yourself, and "yes" it means paying money) servicing of this camera and other Nikonos equipment just like your annual servicing of your regulator and BC. Continued use of a tooth pick to push up your sticky trigger, rather than having the problem serviced, will definitely result in water leakage/flooding!
True, these two problems are the most frequently encountered reasons for causing a gear jam. But there are others such as rust from water droplets from improperly opening the camera (see Photo #6 closely), or by pieces of plastic from a broken battery compartment floating around loose inside the gears just looking for a place to jam.
For those of you who just have to prove things to yourself before you will believe anything, then I better give you some ideas on how to SAFELY demonstrate to yourself the linkage/trigger jam phenomenon. Please exercise caution and light force throughout these operations, or else get your pocket book handy to pay someone.
1. TRIGGER BLOCKS: Cock the camera. Now, turn the shutter speed dial to "R". Notice that you can not depress the trigger. Turn to any other setting, and you can fire the camera. Next, cock the camera only HALF way! Pushing down on the trigger, you notice that it will not move. Continue the cocking of the camera, and now you can push the trigger all the way down.
2. SHUTTER COCKING LINKAGE JAM BY HOLDING DOWN TRIGGER: First, be sure the camera has been fired before starting this procedure. Holding down on the trigger, start to advance the thumb lever slowly until you feel it stop moving (which happens almost immediately!). Keeping LIGHT forward "cocking" pressure on the thumb lever, remove your index finger off of the trigger. Observe that the trigger is still in the down position and that you can not advance the thumb lever. Now, as you begin to reduce your forward thumb pressure on the lever, you will observe that the trigger begins to "jump" (spring) up back to its normal position. To be sure that you didn't mess up something during your testing, cock the camera and fire the shutters several times.
Sometimes (but not always), you can clear a (Problem #1) trigger jam from the outside of the camera without requiring a full disassembly if you have not already stressed the gears too much. Simply hold the camera in one hand (FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER!), then swing it such that you strike the base of the camera in the palm (or heal) of your other hand. No, don't beat your poor little camera against concrete, just your hand. And, no, don't beat it against your hand so long or so hard that you injure your hand. This procedure is like striking the bottom of a hammer's handle in order to seat a loose hammer head. But if the gears are jammed, THEY ARE JAMMED!
Reprinted with permission from Bob Warkentin's Southern Nikonos Service Center, Inc.
9459 Kempwood, Houston, TX 77080 713/462-5436