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Do 15mm's need servicing?

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#1 diver21



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Posted 09 December 2014 - 10:26 AM

Hello all,


After reading Pawel's article, I'm now toying with the idea of bringing my Nikonos 15mm lens out of retirement (hasn't been used in years!). I think this is especially interesting in the age of travel restrictions (weight, size, etc.). If I could ditch a large dome by using this with a housing that supported the direct attach of the lens, I think that would be cool.


That said, other than the main body o-ring, do 15mm lenses need servicing (given that it has set in a box for many years)?






#2 pointy


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Posted 09 December 2014 - 05:21 PM

Hello David,


In 1985 I bought a 15 mm lens that was used a lot until 1992. Then it was put away until 2011, when my son used it on an old Nikonos V during a trip to the Red Sea. That lens had never been serviced. The knobs worked smoothly, the pictures were in focus, and there were no leaks during the 40 dives he did.


The 15 mm lens is very complex. If it seems to be working OK, then I think there is less risk in taking it on a dive than there would be in having it serviced by someone who may not have worked with one for many years. Do you know anyone who could be trusted with the job?


John McCracken

#3 diver21



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Posted 09 December 2014 - 06:48 PM

Thanks, John.


That's my thinking as well. Even if I could find some shop that claimed they had the capability, I'm not sure I'd trust them with that lens!


I've found that the servicing shops tend to be of dubious capability on things as simple as housings. That 15mm would likely be well beyond them.



#4 TimG


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Posted 10 December 2014 - 08:59 AM

I agree with David and John. In 40+ years of photography I don't think I have ever had a lens stop working after a period of non-use. I may run it through a serious of shutter activations at differing speeds and apertures just to "freshen it up" - but apart from that, I'd just use it. I certainly wouldn't get it services.


But storage and the possible accumulation of mildew/mould is something else. I've had 3 Nikkor lenses go mouldy: a 60mm which was written off as a result, and an 18-200 and 40-800 both of which could be repaired but, for the later especially, at eye-watering cost.

(PADI IDC Staff Instructor and former Dive Manager, KBR Lembeh Straits)
Nikon D500, Nikkors 105mm and 8-15mm, Tokina 10-17mm,  Subal housing

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#5 Paul Kay

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Posted 10 December 2014 - 11:47 AM

'O' rings can deform over time and may dry out too and be a point of potential flooding. And any salt not washed out can case corrosion too of course. Its a tricky one because I have a suspicion that 15mms may be awkward to strip down and some spares may be difficult to get, but I can't remember whether this affects the first or second version, or both. Try www.aquaphot.com (UK) as Kevin knows his Nikonos gear and I would happily take his advice and entrust him to service anything Nikonos.

Paul Kay,Canon EOS5DII SEACAM c/w S45, 8-15, 24L,35L, 60/2.8 (+Ext12II) & 100/2.8 Macros - Sony A7II SEACAM 28/2 & 50/2.8 Macro - UK/Ireland Seacam Sales -see  marinewildlife

#6 diver21



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Posted 10 December 2014 - 06:13 PM

Thanks, all. I'm going to pull the lens out of the closet this weekend and see how smooth the aperture and focus distance knobs feel. I'll ping Kevin as well just to get another opinion.



#7 jmauricio


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Posted 23 December 2014 - 11:11 AM

Were you able to speak to Kevin? Did you decide any course of action?

#8 ratfish


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Posted 24 December 2014 - 07:30 PM

I thnk the main problem with servicing the o-rings on this lens would be getting compatible o-rings. I serviced mine back in the 1980's, when I had to replace a damaged front element, and seem to remember that the o-rings were relatively soft (softer than 70 duro) and possibly an unusual size. If you can get original Nikon o-rings that would be good.


It is so long ago I may be mistaken, but I think that there are only three o-rings that would really need to be replaced if you take this lens apart: the two shafts o-rings and possibly the o-ring under the front element as well.


It was relativley easy to service the lens. The screws on the shaft on my lens were glued and needed a little heat to loosen. I made up a tool for the front element retaining ring. Be careful to tighten this up carefully as pressure will tend to allow it to loosen underwater and too tight might damage the element. Don't know what the torque settings for this would be. I guess there is also another o-ring behind the inner housing - but that is static and not expsoed to friction while assembling the lens so replacement is not so important although if you can get a replacement it would be worth rplacing at the same time.


Nikonos (non RS) lens control shaft o-rings were considered to be very reliable, but they are getting to be so old that effects of time will introduce some uncertaintly. Might be worth sacrificing a cheaper 35 mm lens to see what the o-rings are used on the controls if no other information is available.  

#9 ianmarsh


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Posted 30 November 2016 - 09:22 PM

I bought a beater 15mm Nikonos UW to see how it ticks.


It is elegant in its simplicity compared to modern lenses. To work on it you need a small philips, small flat blade screwdriver, and an adjustable lens spanner with points. This is a specialty item, and available on Amazon. Don't try and remove the front glass without the proper tool... you will fail.


Really only the control shaft "o" rings need to be replaced. These can be sourced on the internet from a fellow in France for a few dollars. The three big "o"rings behind the front glass and the acrylic window are not really "o" rings but compression gaskets.


In order to replace the shaft "o"rings you need to strip the lens down to its underwear. That is, completely disassemble the lens mechanically. This is not hard, but take photos and make notes as you go.


Be carefull not to damage the large gasket "o"rings,  you will have to reuse them. THEY ARE NOT AVAILABLE ANYWHERE.


Some penetrating oil on the retaining ring (with the engraved writing)  for the front glass is wise, but not much. Same for the tiny screws holding the shaft knobs on. These can be a deal breaker if corroded on. You may be able to sacrifice a 28mm lens for its knobs and screws.


Also be really careful removing the six spring loaded screws at the back. If you strip these you wreck the aluminum body of the lens. Same goes for the six philips screws that hold the front lens element /sunshade to the body. Corrosion can be a problem with these screws.


Remove the 2 control knobs with six TINY set screws. These may have a coat of laquer over the heads. They are super delicate.


Remove the front glass retainer first. Don't ding the glass.. you can't replace this.


Remove the front half (Sunshade) with the six philips screws. These are 2mm x 4mm. I replace these with SS socket head cap screws which are available at a bolt supply house, likely special order.


Remove the six rear spring loaded screws with a small flat screwdriver. These are delicate.


Remove the front lens element inside the dome with a lens spanner. That will allow the main optical body to slide out the back. I believe the knobs must be set at f/2.8 and infinity for the control tabs to line up and fall out. I recommend vinyl gloves when handling the optics to keep grease off them.


Dismantle the inner mechanics completely down to the back wall of the housing. Work slowly and photograph or make notes of this. When you get to the back wall look out for a tiny spring and ball that sits in a recess and provides the click for the aperture scale.


Push the control shafts back into the housing and remove the 'O'rings from the outer seat. Note which shaft goes where, as they are different lengths.


Clean everything of old grease. I used alcohol wipes to do this but DON'T LET ALCOHOL TOUCH THE ACRYLIC WINDOW. It will wreck it.


Reassemble: Use Nikonos grease on the new shaft "o"rings. The shaft is passed through the housing and "o" ring and the knob replaced pushing the gear from the inside. This is why you cant just replace the "o"ring from the outside.


I use a tiny coating of white lithium bicycle grease ( I like Campagnolo) to lubricate the mechanicals, but only a trace.


Reassembly is the reverse of disassembly. Take your time and it is actually fun.


Use a thin layer of Nikonos grease on the "o" ring gaskets, just until they are shiny.


Any locktite inside can be replaced with a dab of nail polish or touch up lacquer.


Make sure you get the right knob on the right shaft, or you'll be tearing it apart again (I did).


Use a small drop of laquer on the screw heads of the shaft lockscrews and note the orientation of the screws relative to the flats on the shaft. The screw positioning is assymetrical.


When you replace the six screws that hold the front element/sun shade, watch the orientation of the shade. It goes with the sun shade projections at the 12 and 6 oclock position.


Place the lens face down and preload the body with a bit of downward pressure as you tighten the six philips screws or the SS socket head capscrew replacements. This takes a bit of the load off the threads as this is a delicate area, and may have some corrosion already. Also I use a tiny bit of Lanocoat on all external threaded fasteners, as well as the six spring loaded screws in the back..


Anyway. That's my experience. No guarantees, but a fun way to spend a winter afternoon thinking about your next trip.

#10 ianmarsh


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Posted 17 August 2017 - 05:09 PM

Thanks to Mike Mesgleski for this:)




Attached Images

  • Nikonos 15mm JEA103AA.jpg

Edited by ianmarsh, 17 August 2017 - 05:16 PM.