Troubleshooting: Oily Aperture Blades

9/26/2012 5 Comments A+ a-

The aperture blades are a very important component in a lens. When the blades are oily, it can cause many problems such as exposure issues. The oil causes the rate in which the blades open and close to be affected, which may over or under expose your image. If there is excess oil on the blades, they may not work correctly. Therefore, the blades should always remain dry in order to open and close properly.

Oily aperture blades are most commonly caused by age and heat exposure. Due to lubricants in the focus helicoids of your lens, there are times when that lubricant can leak.

An additional issue is oil getting on the lens elements. With continued use, excessive oil may splatter from the aperture blades on to the interior glass elements. If this is the case, you may now have soft focus spots, lower contrast and additional exposure issues.

How do you know if your lens has a problem? There are several steps you may follow to detect potential issues with a manual focus lens. First, take the lens off the camera and stop the lens down (closing the aperture). Using the aperture lever to open and close the blades, see if the blades snap back. If the blades close slowly instead of instantly snapping back, there is a definite issue which may be caused by oily aperture blades. You can also visually inspect the aperture blades (make sure you look at both sides). If you notice areas on the blades that are more shiny and darker than the other areas, or a liquid-like substance that looks pooled, this is a sign of excessive oil (see images above).

Some auto-focus lenses will be harder to inspect than manual focus ones. When these lenses are removed from the camera body, the aperture will remain in the open position. You may be able to inspect the blades from the front while the lens is on the camera. Some of the newer digital lenses may even give you a lens error code on your digital camera body if there is an issue.

The exception to the rule here is older, pre-set lenses. Since you manually stop down the aperture, oil on these blades does not affect the exposure. Common examples of the lenses that it does not affect are Leica M and Leica Screwmount lenses. If there is oil present on these aperture blades, it is okay and no cause for concern. It won't affect function, but will factor into the overall lens condition or grade. 

The only way to fix this problem is to remove the oil. The blades will need to be removed, inspected, cleaned and reassembled to make sure they are working properly. We do not advise anyone to take their lens apart to try and make the repair themselves. If you have a lens with oily aperture blades, you can contact the KEH Repair Center for a free repair estimate. We'll be happy to assist you with all your repair needs.

The Evolution of Photo Lab Life

9/24/2012 6 Comments A+ a-

Today we're welcoming back contributing writer Jake Bouchard (for the 3rd time!) to share some information about the way the photographic film industry (specifically the photos labs) have changed over the years. He will share his personal story, along with some interesting facts, and a great overview of what has been happening over the past 18 years...

KEH and I discussed a few options for this guest post and decided on the general topic “The Evolution of Photo Lab Life.” As I sat to write the post however, I realized I couldn’t tell the story of what it’s like to work in a struggling and declining industry without talking about how I got here. My career in the photographic industry and the industry in general share a couple of significant milestones; milestones that make me feel as if I am a curse to the world of “film photography.” It sometimes feels like I’m the last of an endangered species, but I’m trying to hold on and there is some light at the end of the story, so please stick around…

My Life Before Photo Labs:

My grandmother, who had a large role in raising me, was an avid photographer who always had a camera with her and the book shelves at her house had a large section devoted to the art of photography. When I was in my early teens, my interest in making my own photographs began to rise, and by 1994 I was borrowing my grandmother’s camera quite often and begging to be shuttled to the local Kmart to have my film processed. (In 1994 Apple released the Quicktake 100, the first popular consumer-level digital camera.) Eventually, I became bothersome enough that in 1996 she gave me one of her old cameras, a Yashica Electro 35 GSN, and since I had a license and a job by then, I was off and spending my own money on film and processing. (1996 saw the release of the fist Sony Cyber-Shot digital camera.)

I had a difficult time deciding what direction my life would take, but I stuck with adage “Make your avocation your vocation”, and headed off to photography school in 1998. (The late 90s saw marketing partnerships between Kodak and companies like Kinko’s, Microsoft, and IBM to help introduce and popularize the idea of digital photography.) The Hallmark Institute of Photography (HIP) was a short 10 month photography program that focused on traditional portrait and commercial photography. HIP was an amazing program and while there, I learned how to process film, print in the darkroom, and retouch negatives and prints with graphite, pencil, and dyes – everything a film photographer would want to know. I graduated from HIP in 1999 and went out into the world to look for a job. (1999 saw the release of Adobe Photoshop 5.5.) The summer after I graduated from Hallmark, they demolished the negative retouching room and installed their first full size computer lab – my class was the last one to learn all of the old-school techniques of film photography. (1999 was the year photographic film sales in the U.S. peaked, before dropping off over the next decade.)

Photo Lab Life, The Early Years:

While attending photography school, I found that I had more talent and interest in the processing/printing/finishing end of the photographic world than in the image making end. After graduating, I tried to make a living as a photo assistant and a freelance photographer, but kept gravitating back to lab work and eventually decided to make photo labs my full time job. My first full time lab job was at a small family run lab in Yarmouth, ME called Photo :59. Photo :59 was a single mini-lab operation that could process and print only 35mm C-41 film. We serviced a few local customers, but the bulk of the income came during the summer months when travelers would come in to have their film processed. Over the year or so that I was employed at Photo :59, we noticed a significant drop in film processing revenue and started having issues with the C-41 negative processing machine due to the low volume (more on that later). It seemed that the travelers were the ones with the money and access to early digital cameras, and tended to be early adopters. In the spring of 2000, I left Photo :59 to work for a larger lab in So. Portland, ME called 60 Minute Photo.
60 Minute Photo offered a wider range of services than Photo :59, and had a larger mix of customers that included professional portrait and wedding photographers. The lab at 60 Minute Photo employed 6-8 people and included 2 mini-lab printers, 2 darkrooms, C-41 and BW dip and dunk machines, and a fledgling digital service. When I left 60 Minute Photo they were still going strong, but there were dark clouds on the horizon and after 25+ years, the owner retired and sold the lab.
By the mid 2000s, both Photo :59 and 60 Minute Photo were closed. When I moved to Portland, ME in 1999 there were at least 7 independent labs in the area that serviced professional and amateur photographers. Today, I know of just one that still processes and prints traditional film.

The Middle Years:   

I moved to Manchester, NH in 2002 and was lucky enough to find a great commercial lab called Image 4 Concepts. When I started working for Image 4 they were running a color and a b&w darkroom, and E-6 and C-41 dip and dunk film processors. They had a wide customer base that included a large number of commercial and art photographers. During the first year I was there, Image 4 saw a sharp decline in color negative film processing, but the E-6 volume continued to be strong for quite some time due to the fact that commercial photographers still relied on slide film for product shoots. The mid 2000s brought some impressive advances in digital image capture and our commercial photographer base dropped off almost entirely over the next five years. During the time I worked for Image 4, I helped shut down and dismantle all of the darkrooms and both film processors as the company adapted to the declining demand. Image 4 had been early adopters of drum scanning and Lightjet digital printing, so they remained flexible and over time changed their focus from a photographic lab to a Point of Sale and Trade show graphic production house.

My wife and I moved to Dover, NH where I started working around 2006 for River’s Camera and Telescope as a camera sales person, but I quickly moved into the lab. River’s was another small lab, but had some new machines and the company had been in existence for over 70 years when I started working for them. The lab maintained a C-41 machine, an E-6 roller transport film processor, and a small drum processor for black and white film. Within a year of employment at River’s, I helped break down and remove the E-6 processor which couldn’t be maintained due to low volume. When the owner decided to try to sell the River’s name and the lab, I decided it was time to move on and ended up at Photosmith just down the street.

Photosmith's main location has been in the same little building for over 30 years and has expanded and contracted with the photo industry over the years. At its peak, Photosmith had two other locations (one included a portrait studio), and the lab also had a courier that would travel around to local businesses every day to pick up and drop off film for processing. When I arrived at Photosmith, one of the first things I helped do was to remove the E-6 roller transport film processor. It looked like we were heading down the same inevitable path that every other film lab I had worked for went down, and we were down to processing color negative film on just three days per week because of low volume.

Why Do Labs Close Or Stop Processing Film?

There are a large number of reasons why photo labs have closed their doors, but some keep on struggling through them and chugging along, but they will often have to work very hard to maintain the quality of their film processing. In-store equipment sales used to be large sources of income for labs and photo stores, but the increased popularity of digital photography and online camera sales have made it much more difficult to maintain staff and service. When commercial photo chemistry has low volumes of film passing through it, especially in large dip & dunk machines, the balance of the chemistry will be affected. Film processing machines run with a replenishment system that pumps fresh, concentrated chemistry into the tanks for each roll of film that passes through. When the volume of film drops and the chemistry sits for long periods of time, evaporation and oxidation will occur and this affects the balance of the process. Small adjustments can be made to correct these imbalances, but long term it becomes too costly and too difficult to maintain. Chemistry problems and low volume have hit photo labs of every size and type over the past decade.

There are a number of labs that have been able to adapt and maintain business by diversifying into digital services, digital press printing (greeting cards, photo books), and gifting (mugs, mouse pads, etc.), but the early stages of adaptation almost always include jettisoning their film processing. Usually it starts with black and white services (due to low demand and high labor), then it moves onto E-6 film processing (E-6 is very sensitive to chemistry imbalances and changes are very apparent). C-41 processing is a bit easier to maintain and labs can correct for some chemistry issues when printing, so it will usually be the last thing for a lab to decide to shut down. Labs can run small single-use chemistry drum processors, but it is quite labor intensive and often not viewed as worth the time.

Light At The End Of The Tunnel!

There were some dark days here at Photosmith, but we kept pushing along. We had a few loyal customers shooting film that kept pushing us to continue, and would recommend us to any friends they had. One customer in particular was a big fan of toy cameras and pointed us towards the people in the Lomography “movement.” We decided that since we could still handle medium format films (which 1-hour chain labs generally don’t handle), we should start a website dedicated to toy cameras and 120 film processing and launched for mail order film processing. started to get a fair amount of work, and people using us started asking if we offered other services… so we launched a full service mail order site called We’re still running relatively low volumes of E-6 and B&W film, but we now run drum processing units for those types of film.
In the end, what may have been viewed as the death knell for film photography may end up being the savior! The Internet had been a great resource for smaller independent companies like Photosmith to reach out past their normal geographic area, and through Twitter and other forms of social media fans of the old-school types of photography are connecting and sharing tips. Companies like Lomography are bringing back older types of film (like 110) and selling new, inexpensive film cameras, and retailers like KEH Camera who carry used equipment, in addition to online auction and selling sites are putting film cameras into the hands of people who might not have a store locally.

One of the areas that worries most people in the area of film photography is the supply of photographic film itself…. With news over the past year about Fuji cutting film lines, Kodak declaring bankruptcy and announcing the sale of its film division, and Efke stating that it is stopping production in the near future, it is hard to stay hopeful. Until you see that there are companies out there like Adox who are developing new photographic film emulsions and claiming that their film sales in Europe are on the rise. Kodak has stated that even after selling its film manufacturing, that they will continue to work with the new company for marketing and sales. In the darkest days of hope for film photography, a shining light is The Impossible Project, who is working to bring back instant film for Polaroid cameras and backs, and even most recently in an 8x10 format! Finally, we can’t forget the story of Ilford. When Ilford announced it was closing a few years ago, the employees joined together and purchased the company and the company is still going strong today.

There are so many people who still want a tangible, real physical product that they are finding ways to make it happen. There is hope for film photography in the world! Even if your local lab had to shut its doors, fear not! Reach out online and find the resources, we’re out here and we’re not the only ones!

Contributor Bio: Just read the above article!
Also, read Jake's other guest posts on the KEH Camera Blog: 

Fall Clearance Sale + California Sales Tax

9/21/2012 0 Comments A+ a-

Fall Clearance Sale Reminder:

Today is the last day to take advantage of our 3-Day Fall Clearance Sale!

Click on the link below to go straight to the MARKDOWNS section of our website. From there, you can browse the Table of Contents for the gear you're looking for. Hurry, these deals will end tonight (Friday, September 21st) at Midnight EST!

Tons of gear at 17% off- Click HERE to get started! (Prices have already been discounted on the web, so the price you see is the price you pay.)

* Is this the first you're hearing about the sale? Don't miss out on important information- Sign up for our email list (see the "Add me to the KEH email list" box towards the bottom of the right sidebar on the blog) and follow us on Facebook or Twitter!

California Sales Tax: 

Just a reminder for California residents... the new state law requires large out-of-state online retailers to now collect California sales tax on purchases. Therefore, KEH is required by law to do this as well as other sites like Amazon and eBay. This went into effect last Saturday (9/15). 

The Battle for Skin Texture in Photo Restoration

9/20/2012 2 Comments A+ a-

The original image

Photo restoration provides plenty of challenges, and some of them keep coming up time and time again. One such problem is the perpetual warfare between bringing an image back to life in terms of its dynamic range and “pop” on the one hand, and turning charmingly smooth skin texture into a case of serious blackheads on the other.

Here’s what’s going on... In many really old pictures, especially those from before 1920, the whites have dulled down, and so have the blacks, so you’re left with a murky picture characterized by a “camel hump” histogram – one big bump in the middle, and flat lines on either side. When you adjust levels to intensify both the blacks and the whites, you increase the contrast of the image. Great, that’s what we want! But not so great – the more contrast in the faces, the worse the acne that results.

The same photo before and after level adjustments. The photo is shown at actual pixel size (otherwise known as a 100% crop). Notice both the differences in this histogram and the skin texture.

This is a challenge you’ll face time and again. But what do you do about it? There is no one right way – every photo is different. But there are a series of techniques you can try.

When doing restorations, always work in layers. Duplicate your background layer, then make the original layer invisible. This protects you from disaster. Better still, duplicate the original image, then work on the copy after saving the original. Or do both, as you cannot be too careful about this.

When you create a new layer, always opt to create a layer mask with it. This way, you can easily erase your corrections in one or more part of the image, leaving them alone in other parts. You can un-erase them if needed, without messing up your work on the next layer down. Also, before you do something you know may not work out, make a snapshot in the history panel, so you can revert to where you are.

So, the list of things to try in order to smooth out skin texture once you’ve adjusted the exposure is:
  1. Select the faces and try adjusting the levels a bit, making the faces slightly flatter (less contrast).
  2. Isolate the faces and use “Command J” to put them in a new layer. Switch to “pin lighting” blending mode, and play with the opacity of the layer. Alternatively, use the brush tool with an opacity setting of about 15 to erase the layer a bit at a time. Do this work at actual pixel size, then switch down to print size from time to time so you don’t over do it.
  3. Use the “auto tone” function under the Image menu. Play with the results, either using the Fade function or by erasing a bit at a time. You can even try switching the blending mode of your “autotoned” layer to Soft Light or Pin Light and see what happens.
  4. Use the Noise Control filters. Select the faces and put them on a new layer. Apply the “scratch and dust” filter at a setting of 1 or 2, then use the mask tool to remove the effect from eyes and mouths. Alternatively, use the Remove Noise filter and experiment with the settings. Ditto about erasing the effect from eyes and mouths.
  5. If you’re using CS6, which has a new Contrast algorithm, you can try using the contrast slider, moving it SLIGHTLY to the left (less contrasty) side. NOTE: DO NOT USE THIS APPROACH IN EARLIER VERSIONS, BECAUSE THE CONTRAST ADJUSTMENT IN THOSE VERSIONS CAN BE DESTRUCTIVE.
The "before" (right) and "after" (left) images

There are half a dozen other techniques of varying complexity, but one or more of these will work most of the time; it all depends on how messed up the original was, and on how much enlargement you plan – the bigger the final print, the more skin texture matters.

Remember, what you are after is a smooth skin texture without loss of detail. It really helps to vary between actual pixel (or at least very large) views and more distant ones; if you don’t do that, you’ll get lost in the details and lose track of your overall goal.

Finally, stop often and have a cup of coffee or admire the lawn or start a load of laundry, then return to the project. You’ll be amazed how much more clearly you see your work after a short break. About 30 minutes is all I can take without going buggy, but your mileage will vary!

The final restored image (colorized)

Contributor Bio:
Eric K. Hatch focuses on travel and fine art photography, and is an expert in digital photo restoration. Panoramas are currently one of his favorite photographic forms. He has won numerous regional awards and a number of competitions. His work has appeared in several AAA magazines, Oxygen Magazine, Bicycling, Alaska Milepost (annual) and Wooden Boat, to name a few. He has served on the board of the Southwest Ohio Professional Photographers Association, an affiliate of the Professional Photographers of America.

Eric has also written over 70 articles, essays, speeches, features, and professional articles in the last 30 years. His work has won two national awards: a Gold Quill from the International Association of Business Communicators, and Communicator of the Year from the Aviation/Space Writers Association.

In his youth, Eric studied under Guido Organschi, and later under Skip Schiel. He is the author of Explorations in Photography,  Adventures and Advice for Advanced Amateur Photographers, which was recently released.

Explorations in Photography is an entertaining and informative how-to for advanced amateur photographers. The book covers artistic issues, explains some fundamental technical issues, and provides many hints from buying equipment to editing your photos. It also covers taking people pictures outdoors, handling nasty lighting situations, and includes a bonus chapter discussing photo restoration. Find it on Amazon here.

General Portfolio-
Photo restoration-

Nikon One System: Refurbished Promotion

9/18/2012 0 Comments A+ a-

We currently have a wide selection of Nikon One system cameras and lenses in stock!

We previously posted about the J1 and V1 when they were originally released last year. You can read more about these two cameras HERE

J1 in red
J1 in white

V1 in black

Not only do we have a bunch of these in stock (both new and used), but we have a great selection of refurbished Nikon One items as well! What's the big deal with refurbs? Well, there are several great reasons to buy refurbished photographic products including:

- Most refurbished gear is brand new, returned product, from a retailer or was used as a demonstration display unit.

- The item's manufacturer (in this case, Nikon) is the one who actually does the refurbishing, so the piece of equipment has gone through their inspection process like a new camera does.

- Quality is usually indistinguishable from new.

- The savings can approach 40% off buying the same item new.

 - The manufacturer includes a factory 90 day warranty.

- And buying refurbs from KEH Camera is even extra special because we stand behind all refurbished products with an additional 3 month warranty, giving you our 6 month warranty at no charge!

As an example of the savings, the current difference between a New J1 (with 10-30mm lens) and the same camera and lens in refurbished refurbished condition is $250.95!

And for a limited time, we are also offering Free Shipping* on Refurbished Nikon One products! (* Shipped via FedEx Ground to anywhere in the contiguous (48) U.S. International and expedited shipping upgrades will receive a $9.95 credit towards shipping costs.)

This promotion may end at any time, so go ahead and take a look at the Nikon One System cameras and lenses on here

iPad Giveaway Winners

9/17/2012 4 Comments A+ a-

And the winners are... Dawn Drozdick and Ross Daly!

A huge thanks to everybody who participated by entering and sharing the giveaway, and congrats to our two lucky winners!

Winners were chosen at random via a random number generator. Secondary winner was randomly selected from all participants with 10 or more referrals. Winners have been contacted via email and have 14 days to claim their prize. In the event that a prize is not claimed, another winner will be selected.

Wide Angle Lens Promotion at KEH for a Limited Time Only!

9/14/2012 0 Comments A+ a-

For those of you wide angle shooters that thought we forgot about you during last week's telephoto lens sale, KEH Camera has got you covered.

Now is the perfect season for wide angle shooting.  Leaves are and will be turning, and nothing's better than a wide angle lens to capture the beauty.

For a limited time, receive FREE FEDEX GROUND SHIPPING (with $100 minimum purchase) for any USED interchangeable lens that is 35 mm focal length or wider.

The promotion applies to both fixed focal length lenses & zoom lenses.  Fixed lenses of all formats just need to be 35 mm or wider.  Zoom lenses just need to have 35 mm in the range or are below that range altogether (i.e. 18-200, 18-55, 35-70 all qualify because they have 35mm in their range.  Likewise, 12-24 qualifies because it's wider than 35 mm).  

Promotion is based on focal length marked on the lens and does not take into account factor figures based on sensor size or format.

We have hundreds of qualifying lenses by dozens of manufacturers!  This promotion could end at any time without notice, so hurry & jump on this now!! Start shopping on HERE.

To qualify for free shipping, simply place an order of $100.00 or more on a USED lens which offers a 35 mm focal length or wider, and receive FREE shipping via FedEx Ground anywhere in the contiguous United States.  This is a limited time offer, and is subject to end at our discretion.

An Introduction to Editing Video in Photoshop CS6

9/14/2012 0 Comments A+ a-

One of the newest and most exciting features in the new Photoshop CS6 is the video editing option. Yes, I said video editing! Since most newer digital cameras have the ability to record video, it is no surprise that Adobe made this option a reality in the New Photoshop CS6.

Screenshot showing a video file opened up for editing in CS6

The CS6 video editor allows editing in one program rather than using several time consuming steps. I am still not exactly certain how excited experienced videographers will be about this feature since this is a similar to a watered down version of Adobe Premiere. A photographer with less video editing experience will probably love it however. This feature can provide a photographer or graphic designer with many quick, new profitable ideas to add to their workflow arsenal. With the ease of functionality and a little practice, we can all be Expert Photoshop CS6 Videographers.

Let's review the steps in utilizing this new feature. First, at the bottom of the screen, select the video editing option (see image above). You will notice that the new timeline is based on the Layers panel. Layers become tracks within the program which allows you to combine video with graphics and apply all of Photoshop’s photo-editing functions. Only a limited set of controls can be keyframed however, including position and opacity. 

Screenshot showing a video file created from multiple still images in CS6

Next, we will proceed by placing a clip in the timeline. Once the clip has been placed, you can then control the length of your video as well as decide whether to import other videos or stills. We can also apply basic transitions between clips. To do this, click the “+” button on the end of the timeline and select a second clip. Then, open the Transitions panel and drag a crossfade (or a different transition) between your clips. You can also add music to your video, and perform color corrections in the video which ranges from simple touch-up to color scheme changes. Once you've finished the editing process, you will have to render your file and will notice a few different file formats to choose from which makes the rendering a rather simplistic process.

For more detailed information and tutorials on how to use this feature, check out these sources:

- Mack Dillingham 

Giveaway Reminder: Last Day to Win a New iPad!

9/12/2012 0 Comments A+ a-

Have you entered our current giveaway to win a brand new Apple iPad (3rd generation) yet? Today is the LAST day to enter. Giveaway ends tomorrow, September 13th at Noon EST.

Find complete details on the contest and on the new iPad here.

Enter the contest via our Facebook page HERE.

10% Off Used Medium Format Gear This Weekend!

9/07/2012 0 Comments A+ a-

For a very limited time, we are offering 10% OFF + FREE SHIPPING* on all USED Medium Format gear from Friday, September 7th- Sunday, 9th (Eastern time). 

All brands under the Medium Format heading on our website qualifies, including camera bodies, lenses, and accessories. We have TONS of viewfinders, motor drives, backs, caps, straps, manuals, adapters, grips, cases... YOU NAME IT, we probably have it!

So what are you waiting for? You have three days to take advantage of this sale! Start shopping on HERE.

You can also call one of our knowledgeable, professional sales associates at (770) 333-4200. Our sales staff will be happy to assist you during operating hours Monday - Friday 8:30 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time, and Saturday 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Prices are already discounted on the web so the price you see is the price you pay. To qualify for Free Shipping, simply place an order of $300.00 or more of USED Medium Format gear and receive FREE shipping via FedEx Ground anywhere in the contiguous (48) United States. Are you placing a qualifying international order, or perhaps looking to upgrade to expedited shipping? No problem! We will credit $9.95 towards your shipping costs!

Photos of the Month

9/06/2012 0 Comments A+ a-

All images submitted to and chosen from the KEH Camera Flickr Group pool (join our group!). To view a photographers profile, click on the image to be directed to their Flickr page. 

daddy's home.
Daddy's home, by Kate T. Parker Photography
Anticipation, by Paul Vecsei
little secrets
Little secrets, by SL_Photos
Horses!, by Rolf Schmolling
Twins, by Eastview Photography
Untitled Multiple Exposure, by Tan Camera
Psychedelic Dreams Self Portrait Cover
Psychedelic Dreams Self Portrait Cover, by Jeff Briggs Photography
Untitled, by Jeff Weinstein
ICA, by Chase Elliott Clark
Untitled, by Alexi Hobbs