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Aperture Blade Oil & how to clean it
  • So I've been looking at some old lenses on Ebay, and many state that the lens may have some oily aperture blades. Anybody know of how to clean aperture blades the proper way? I've search on PV, and I've only found to use an ultrasonic cleaner which I don't know what that is.
    Is this something worth doing to bring back the glory of old vintage lenses? It's true they don't make them like they used to. And how bad is having oily aperture blades? Where does it come from and what does it look like?

  • 2 Replies sorted by
  • First, if you're using a mirrorless camera or shooting video, oil on the diaphragm blades usually doesn't matter. Oil just slows the blades down. That matters for still photography with an SLR, because when you take a photo, the camera will quickly close the aperture down to whatever setting you set, expose the frame, and then open the aperture all the way. But that doesn't happen when you put a manual lens on a Micro Four Thirds camera. You just set the diaphragm with the aperture control ring manually, and it stays how you set it.

    Cleaning the blades depends on the construction of the diaphragm. If the diaphragm can be removed, you could potentially clean it by submerging it in some cleaning fluid. But on some lenses, the diaphragm cannot be removed. You have to disassemble the diaphragm and remove each of the blades, and then wipe or wash the oil off of each of them. Re-assembling the diaphragm can be tricky.

  • I have disassembled quite a few lenses and I can tell you a couple of things. First, if you are not handy with small complex machines, you could mess this up. Next, if you have a nice old lens with oil on the blades, and you can find a step by step teardown guide, you can fix it. You will need some gloves, a sharp scribe to mark positions for reassembly, some small high quality screw drivers and an ultrasonic cleaner. You will need a rubber suction cup, like the end of a crutch or chair leg, to assist with some of the teardown for some lenses--some are easier than others. You can buy a small US cleaner on eBay for a few dollars. When you get to the part where you remove the leafy iris, just plop the whole thing in the cleaner unless you really know what you are doing as they are difficult to put back together. I use Isopropyl alcohol 80-90 percent and one tiny drop of soap to create the bubbles needed for the US cleaner. IT is very easy. the hard part is reassembly. You can also take little photos as you go to help with backtracking.

    As @balazer says, you may not need it. I survived for a few years by jamming the end of a toothpick into the aperture pin and just left it. Then I got annoyed and disassembled it. Other lenses I take apart to remove the oild and fog, and then I clean the blades while I have it open. In the heady days of hacked GH13, I was refurbishing a lot of lenses. When I figured out that for example the Panny 20mm was just wasy better, I became less interested. Time is money.

    But if you have a lens with a special quality or as in my case sentimental value, feel free to destroy it forever.

    So for example my Minolta AF 50/1.4, which paid a lot for money for in 1983 or so, the blades were stuck, and after a long afternoon and dip in the US cleaner, works better than ever. And that would be so cool if used the lens, which I don't because I have the Olly 45mm. Oh well.......