The first camera I ever tore apart and put back together was this Kodak 35 rangefinder.  I bought it for that very purpose as I had read it was a very easy camera to work on.  Basically this camera is an updated version of the Kodak 35 which was manufactured from 1938 to 1948.  Intended to compete with the Argus A, the most popular and affordable 35mm camera at the time, the Kodak 35 couldn’t keep up; nor could this updated version.

For this model an external coupled rangefinder system was slapped onto the original body to compete with the best-selling Argus C series of 35mm cameras. This particular model features the 50mm coated Anastar lens and the Flash Kodamatic shutter, produced during the final run from 1947 – 1951, while the earlier version included the Kodak Anastigmat Special uncoated lens and simple Kodamatic or Flash Kodamatic shutter.   I’ve read that both of these lenses are of the four element design.

The camera itself is fairly simple and features bakelite and steel construction.   The removable back unlocks much like the Argus C series cameras, and it feels solid in the hands, if a little front heavy due to the massive rangefinder linkage.  The shutter is a bit odd, as with the first Kodak 35 it seems to have come from an old bellows camera.  The shutter is self cocking as the film is advanced, but the trigger is a small lever on the side of the lens mount.  The small button on the top of the camera is actually the film advance release, which must be pressed after each exposure in order to advance to the next frame.   Also, when advancing the film turn the wind knob until you hear it click, not until it stops or you might strip the film sprockets and get some interesting spacing between frames after development.  Since the act of advancing the film actually cocks the shutter, it is not easy to test the shutter without either opening the camera and turning the film advance spool (try not to tear your fingers apart) or removing the top of the lens assembly near the base, which exposes the shutter cocking mechanism.

When I received the camera I found that the rangefinder mirrors had come loose due to deteriorated glue.  This is a common problem with this model.  The focus and shutter rings were also less than smooth.  A perfect specimen for dismantling; exactly what I wanted.  To access the inside of the viewfinder/rangefinder assembly remove six screws from the top of the camera. The advance knob, rewind knob and frame counter each have a screw to be removed. Then there are three small flathead screws, one by each knob and one on top of the viewfinder. The metal viewfinder housing can now be removed to access the mirrors and rangefinder calibration settings.

For take apart the lens housing, first remove two screws from the focus dial. Once the focus dial is separated from the lens, the front element can be removed turning it counter clockwise. The shutter faceplate can then be removed and the middle element can be accessed. There is also a small plate on the top of the lens assembly near the base of the camera; removing the two screws gains access to the shutter cocking mechanism. Use this to cock the shutter if necessary. The entire lens assembly can be removed by removing four screws at the base of the lens and turning the interior brace counter clockwise from inside the camera. I always advise keeping track of all of the parts and screws, even drawing a diagram as you disassemble. This makes reassembly that much easier.

I find haze, fugus and dust are easily removed from the lens elements using a 50/50 solution of ammonia and hydrogen peroxide. Glass cleaner is idea for the rangefinder/viewfinder windows. The metal rangefinder housing on the 35RF is not polished so a non-abrasive metal cleaner will clean up this portion but don’t expect it to shine. All in all the Kodak 35RF is perfect for that first attempt at disassembling a classic camera.

I picked this camera up on EBay for a song, and I’ve seen them as low as five dollars.  They are fairly common and most people consider them very ugly, so finding one at an affordable price shouldn’t be too difficult.  They are a heavy little bugger so shipping cost can vary. Quality photographs can be produced using this odd little camera, and if you’re looking to try your hand at repairing cameras, the Kodak 35 RF and the Argus C3 would be good places to start.

Eastman Kodak
Kodak 35rf
Kodak Collectors Page
Matt’s Cameras – Kodak 35 RF
Kodak Camera History

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