Vintage and Classic Cameras
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Project 14, deep clean on the humble Hunter 35.
Hunter 35 camera

The Hunter 35 is a name variant of the Steiner Steinette. A fairly cheap and cheerful camera produced in Germany in the mid to late 1950s and made available to a number of companies for resale. European destined models had focus scales calibrated in metres, whilst the Hunter 35 and Steinette destined for UK and US respectively were marked in feet. The example in the collection was donated in 2012 and had a number of issues relegating it to the display case. The main issue was the missing film spool, the camera is useless without one and you can't simply use an old 35mm core as the camera needs a wide take up spool to ensure frame spacing. There was also internal lens haze, access to the rear element isn't straightforward as the camera is a bottom loader, although the exposure plate can be removed to allow the rear face of the back element to be dusted. The final issue was the film counter, this span wildly giving no clue as to the remaining film, which is very irritating even if not a fatal flaw. In February 2022, despite the camera's basic design it was given a thorough overhaul with a view to giving it an outing.

Dismantled Hunter 35

The Hunter 35 is simple to take apart with few difficulties. Later examples with the rewind button need to have that pressed in to remove the top housing, but that's about it. Here the camera is completely stripped down to sub assemblies. The camera is based around a Bakelite thermosetting plastic core which whilst not unheard of for cameras is fairly unusual. Bonded to this is an aluminium wrapping, making one complete sub assembly. All the other components are screwed down or riveted in place. Unusually, the rewind knob and shaft lifts out with the top housing, there is no need to remove it as seen here.

To clean the rear lens element of internal haze the camera really needs to come apart as the rear element cannot be removed through the back.

Hunter 35 shutter cover The Hunter 35 differs only in name from the Steinette, the name being stamped into the chrome plated steel box surrounding the lens extension and shutter mechanisms. The part is not structural, it merely serves as a cover and a bit of style, and only a bit at that. The chrome is poorly applied without an intermediate copper layer and doesn't need much of an excuse to wear off. The cover is attached with four screws and clamp plates tucked under the faux leather covering. The aperture setting control will need to be positioned at f/8 and bent flat though before wiggling off the cover, raising it on the opposite side to the flash contact clearing the speed selector ring before it will come free.
Hunter 35 serial number

This Hunter 35 has this number scratched into the aluminium shell z959 or possibly 2959. I'd be interested to know if others out there are marked similarly, and what those numbers are.

Hunter 35/Steinette gooey bonding

Hidden away from prying eyes beneath the top housing is the evidence of bonding used to unite the plastic inner core with the aluminium wrap around shell. It's all a bit messy, but it works. Despite the lack of finesse with that, Steiner took the trouble of using threaded brass inserts for the housing mount, rather than threading directly into the plastic shell. Curious why they took the trouble to do that whilst shedding costs elsewhere. The spring you see here is part of the shutter lock mechanism that prevents double exposures, it's simple but effective.

Steinette shutter.

Externally the shutter is styled to look like a half decent leaf shutter. Hidden away inside that rather nicely machined housing is a small collection of bent wire and stamped spring steel bits forming what I rudely call thwacker shutters. The single blade is thwacked out of the way briefly by the action of the mainspring releasing after it's tensioned by the user depressing the shutter plunger. The main spring itself is the piece of bent wire you see at the bottom. Shutter speed control is achieved by sliding a main spring restraint back and fourth connected to the the rim set control. Only the opening speed is altered, the closing speed is fixed. Externally this gives the impression of being a much higher quality item than is the case. It's all in the packaging, but I rather like the cheek of it all and there's precious little to go seriously wrong with it.

Aperture for Steinette The shutter mechanism separates cleanly into two sub assemblies, the front containing the shutter itself and the back contains the five leaf aperture mechanism. There was no evidence of tampering since the camera was made, so the fingerprints on these leaves probably identify one of Steiner's employees back in the 1950s. This is mounted to a plastic tube to mount the entire assemble the correct distance from the focal plane.
Hunter 35 exposure guide plate This plate on the rear of the camera can be removed by undoing the four corner screws and leaving the two centre ones in place. This will remove the pressure plate and give access to the face of the rear lens element for dust removal. It's not possible to unscrew the rear element to clean more thoroughly however, if you need to do this, you'll need to take the shutter assembly off. As this camera's lens had a fairly bad haze, the entire camera was stripped down for a deep clean.
Steinette frame counter This Hunter 35s frame counter was misbehaving. The fact that the scale had detached from the wheel wasn't helping, but the main issue was hardening of the rubber washer that acts as a brake and no longer working as such. You can see it here as the ring with the spotted impressions, originally designed to grip the inner face of the top housing, being held there by a spring. This was repaired by making a new brake washer from bicycle inner tube, which was the correct thickness. The film counter can be reset using a matchstick or similar and driving the counter around using the toothed edge you see here.
Steinette stripped down Here it is going back together after it's deep clean and repair, showing the correct orientation of the shutter plunger, it has a flat on one edge, that faces forwards. After reassembly the tab for the aperture control is bent back to it's original position. There's a limit to how many times this can be done before it fails of course, but Steiner probably never expected it to last this long in fairness.
Aperture for Steinette The last major hurdle for this Hunter 35 was the missing film spool. This needs to be of diameter 22.5mm, with drive slots either side of a 10mm diameter top hole and a 9mm lower hole. It would be fairly simple to turn one from wood and cut a slit in to grip the film. But why do something simply when you can massively over engineer from some aluminium bar and tube to produce this weighty monstrosity? It works very nicely though! The cylinder is 21mm across, the spring gripper adds the additional diameter, then a bit of film leader for the first dead part of the roll brings it close to 23mm to allow the correct frame spacing for the beginning of the roll. The frame spacing will grow progressively as the film is used up. This approach simplifies the camera design enormously but was used by relatively few cheaper 35mm cameras in fact.
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