Please note that there
is a certain amount of risk involved in this project or any modification.
Please assess your own skills carefully, as I am not liable for any damage
to person or property.
The Russian Sputnik stereo camera is the only
medium format stereo camera that was mass produced after 1960, and surely
the easiest to find. Its reasonable price on the collectors' market has
helped bring many into the field of MF stereo. Unfortunately, it is a camera
of many design faults. The most serious are light leaks, internal reflections
and lens flare. Once these problems are eliminated or at least reduced,
the Sputnik is capable of producing excellent results. This guide gives
you my suggestions only, as there may be other ways of improving performance
as well. Some of the modifications are reversible, an advantage should
you decide later you would rather return your Sputnik to its original state.
While far from definitive, these suggestions may prove useful for those
who have despaired over the poor quality of their Sputnik images. I expect
many revisions to follow.
HERE'S A BRIEF LIST OF RECOMMENDED MODIFICATIONS:
Reducing Internal Reflections
Reducing Light Leaks
Reducing Lens Flare
Adding Lens Shades
Improving Advance Performance
Adding Strap Lugs
Adding a Tripod Screw Adapter
Adding a Flash Shoe
General Cleaning of Optics and Relubricating
PLEASE NOTE: As Sputniks differ from body to body, all dimensions
here are approximations only. Please measure your own camera carefully
before making baffles or plates.
Probably the silliest of design concepts
was having a shiny surface to the inner chambers of the Sputnik. Light
reflects off the sides and fogs the image, thereby greatly reducing contrast.
There are two ways to reduce this: flocked paper and baffles.
Flocked paper is a fuzzy black material
that looks like very fine velvet. It is available from Edmund
Scientific Co. at a very reasonable price. To line the inside, cut
out separate pieces for each of the sides as well as top and bottom of
the film chambers. Making a paper template first would be helpful. When
they fit, glue them in place with contact cement.
Baffling involves making walls inside
the chambers to block the reflections. These can be made of cardboard,
brass or aluminum. Mine were K&S #255 aluminum .016 thick. These were
53x55mm frame with 33x40 square openings. A 5mm bent strip along the edges
was also needed for securing. This was painted and placed to butt up to
the edges of the spool well. A slight bend on the top was needed to accommodate
the mirror well. Next, I made a second set of baffles to go closer to the
film plane. For these I used K&S #173 3/16" angled brass. This is a
strip of brass with a 90 degree bend across its width, perfect baffling
material. I cut and bent it into a couple of squares 57x53mm, painted them
matt black, and stuck them inside 16mm from the film plane. All baffles
were secured with contact cement.
My first suggestion is to paint all shiny
or metallic surfaces inside or around the doors with flat black enamel,
especially the inside parts of the back lock. Next line the space between
the doors with a strip of black velveteen using contact cement. Velveteen
can also be used as a baffle around the inside hinge area. Attach strips
on the inside door where the hinge meets. Attaching some thin black string,
like crochet wool, to the inside grooves may be effective as long as there
If the above method doesn't work, more
drastic measures may be needed.
One method is a camera bra. It has a similar
function to the camera case, but it's more light tight. Using 1/8" matt
board from a framer or art supplier, cut four pieces to cover the bottom,
back, and sides. Leave about 1/8" each dimension, and leave an extra 1/8"
width for the sides and bottom. Cut a hole for the film counter, measuring
from the top of the board. Also cut a hole for the tripod socket, measuring
from the front. Now tape these together with duct tape. It should fit loosely
from the bottom and back. Now cut two pieces 2 1/2"x 3", and glue these
vertically to the inside of the back, one butted up to each side. This
gives a little groove for the door lock. Now cut 1/2" wide strips of matt
board for the side tops and back. Cover the inside with black velveteen,and
the outside with vinyl. A piece of vinyl attached to the front top corners
of the sides will secure the front. You could even add latches for a strap.
The most effect option is to make a brass
or aluminum plate that completely covers the top and bottom of the body.
The top piece will be c-shaped to allow for the viewfinder, with holes
for the knobs. If you drill holes in the top plate to allow for the six
screws that attach the knob assemblies, you can simply attach the top plate
with those screws without having to glue. This will cause the film posts
that fit into your spools to not fit all the way down into the spools,
so some modification would have to be done to the knob assemblies. You
may also want to make little protrusions to hold the lug straps, especially
if you don't use a case. The bottom will have a hole for the tripod mount.
Attach velveteen around the door edges of the plates, then glue the base
to the bottom using contact cement.The advantage to this method is that
it allows you to include lugs for your camera strap as well as a flash
Reducing lens flare
Loosen the tiny set screws around the lens
mount (three to a lens) Just loosen them enough to remove, or you'll lose
them ! Pull off these covers. You'll see a ring clip holding the middle
element in place. Carefully remove these clips with a dental tool or small
screwdriver. Don't let it spring! Hold a tissue over the front of the camera
and face the camera down. The middle elements should drop out. These are
the ones that desperately need the edges coated. A good quality permanent
black marker should work. Cover the edges as well as the etched bevel that
forms a 45 degree ring around the optic. After they have completely dried,
dust off and replace. You may want to do further dusting with a dust gun
as well as clean the other optics while you are in there.
These are definitely a must. Some Sputniks
did have them, but if yours doesn't, try the following:
27mm series V adapters with series V shades.
These are sometimes found in used camera stores for a few dollars. The
adapters slip over the lens mounts, then the shades screw into the adapters.
Another ingenious way I've stolen from Stan
White. Take two caps from Ilford Multigrade Paper Developer and cut the
appropriate holes in the middle. The screw threads even act as light baffles!
Another common problem is a sticky advance
knob. It can bind and be very hard on the fingers. Removing the advance
knob and assembly, cleaning off the old lubricants and replacing them with
a little vaseline or a proper non-migrating lubricant will help performance
a little. The next option is to replace the original knob with a bigger
one. Removing the tension spring will reduce friction, but you would have
to instal a ratchet gear inside to prevent film slippage.
Cosmetic and Other Modifications
Since I'd done so many modifications, I decided
to also give it a Mod look. I used a textured splatter paint to liven up
an incredibly ugly camera!
The shutter trigger is too small and hard
to find. Other than attaching a new trigger mechanism to the side, you
could try using an accessory release that screws into the cable release
socket. These should be available at used camera stores.
The tripod screw mount needs a 1/4" insert
to use with standard tripods. These should be avialable through most camera
Although I really hate the viewfinder, I've
left it intact for the time being. I would like to replace the big viewing
lens with a ground glass, then add a prism to the top, like the 45 degree
prism the Russians made for their Hasselblad copy, the Kiev.
On my version, I've installed a flash shoe
on the top plate. This was salvaged from an old folder and attached to
my top plate with screws. I use a Sunpak Auto Zoom 2400 with several tilt
positions. Placement of the shoe will depend on the type of flash you use.
General Clean and Lube
Lens cleaning is pretty straight forward,
just be sure you use the appropriate lens cleaner and tissue. Focus lubricants
must first be removed with a distillate like naptha, then replaced with
a non-migrating lubricant. I would like to thank John Bercovitz, Joel
Alpers and Greg Erker for suggestions in this guide. If you have any comments
or suggestions for this page, please email me.
Last modified on May 20, 2005
Copyright © 1998-
by Stereoscopy.com and Alexander
Klein. All rights reserved.