Text and Photos by Bob Warkentin

My Counter Won't Count!

Getting tired of reading all of these Nikonos Workshop articles and finding out just how you have been "taking such good care" of your Nikonos III camera all these years? Well, here is another example.

Using a shoe horn as a "guide" to guide your foot into a shoe saves undo wear and tear and damage to the shoe and pain to your foot. But, after a while of wearing the shoe, you assume that the shoe is now properly sized to your foot so that all you have to do now is just stick your foot into the shoe, and wiggle your heel until the shoe is finally on your foot. But what about the Nikonos III's "shoe horn"?

My Counter Won't Count!

After problems with water drops (and rusting of gears) which can easily fall through the counter's engaging linkage arm hole and which were covered in the Winter 1990 issue of Ocean Realm, "counter not counting" problems on Nikonos III cameras are a frustrating but common problem.

When the camera "guts" are installed properly and fully down into the outer casing, the narrow upper shoulder of one of the metal "guides" (which is cast as part of the inside wall of the metal outer casing-photo 1) should squarely push upwards on the center of the spring loaded counter engagement arm to engage the counter gears (photo 2). Likewise, when the camera is removed from the casing, the spring loaded arm is now free to spring itself downwards, thereby releasing the counter gears and allowing the spring loaded counter indexing wheel to return to zero.

Metal casing
Photo 1

Counter arm
Photo 2

So, how does the camera get so messed up that it doesn't count? Simple! People who own Nikonos III's simply assume that all they have to do is just stick the camera's "guts" anywhere into the opening of the outer casing's mouth; no concern whether it is centered, no concern whether it is straight up and down with the casing. No concern because they believe that the casing will be the "SHOE HORN" to guide everything properly together for them!

Well, since this counter engaging metal "guide" is triangular in shape (narrower at the top; see photo 1 again), it's really of no use as a TRUE guide. So, what sooner or later happens is the human's unknowing but somewhat natural tendency to install the camera's "guts" like we put on shoes: just get part of our foot into the mouth of the shoe somewhere because the shoe will guide the rest of our foot and heel into it if we wiggle the foot enough.

In the beginning years, it will seem to the Nikonos III user that he has been doing everything properly: all operations work properly, counter included, and therefore his techniques of putting together the camera has obviously been correct. It's not until sometime later that problems show up: the counter won't begin to count until 3-5 pictures have been taken, or won't start at all. By then, what has happened is that the counter engagement arm has become so bent (photo 2), and the shoulders of the guide on the outer casing so worn (photo 1), that sometimes the arm can easily slide off the edge of the shoulder, and thus doesn't get pushed up to start counting.

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First, you must determine that both the counter engagement arm and the counter itself are working properly. To do this, simply guide the tip of a ball point pen up the channel and push pressure upwards onto the arm (photo 3). Now, while holding upwards on the arm with the ball point pen, trigger the camera several times. You should see in the counter window that the counter wheel indexes frame number by frame number each time the trigger is brought backwards to its cocked position. Do so at least up to frame #5. Then release the upwards pressure applied by the pen, and the counter should return to zero. Mechanically, if everything works OK so far, the problem is certainly due to bent or worn parts as described above. So, read on. (If the counter does not index, then you probably have got corrosion in these counter mechanics. Better reread the Winter 1990 Nikonos Workshop issue again. You will probably need professional servicing.)

Ball point
Photo 3

Next, inspect the counter engagement arm and determine if it is extending out of and directly centered in the hole, and not bent. If bent, then use a pair of fine tip needle nose pliers and LITTLE BY LITTLE carefully apply pressure to the tip area of the arm in order to bend the arm in whatever direction necessary to center the arm. Again with the ball point pen, repeat the above procedure to insure you haven't broken or over bent something and that everything is still freely working.

[ PLEASE NOTE: The keywords here are "LITTLE BY LITTLE" and "tip area". Why? Because if you are not sure of your own strength, or decide to use a tool which is too large (because it is the only one you have, and you are going to fix the camera no matter what), or try to shove a tool into the hole to bend (straighten) the entire arm, you will cause damage to the camera's ability to ever count again. So, take your time. If being cautious with your tools and this technique does not allow you to reinstate the counter's function during your trip, I say smart person! You can either count your own frames (what a drag!) or just wait: when you are out of film, the camera will tell you. When back home, get professional servicing.]

Re-seat the "guts" into the outer casing and see if you "fixed" the counter's counting by triggering the camera. If it still doesn't count, then the guide shoulder on the inside of the outer casing is mostly likely also very worn. If unfortunately this is the case, then please do not decide to go for broke and try your luck one last time to REALLY BEND the arm to center it with the remaining highest point of the shoulder (if any remains)! If you break this arm off of the counter assembly, the assembly will cost as much or more than the outer casing. Give this "one last try" some deep thought before doing it!

When the guide shoulder inside the outer casing becomes this badly worn as in photo 1, only luck and professional servicing may, I said "may", be able to save the expensive casing by careful reshaping. But please don't try to reshape or modify this shoulder yourself or there may not be much anyone can do about this except to sell you another expensive outer casing. Regardless, profit from your mistakes and change the way you have been inserting the "Guts" into the outer casing: i.e., the camera's "guts" should be carefully well centered in the mouth of the outer casing before pushing the "guts" directly perpendicular into the casing so that there will be no side-to-side slipping-and-sliding.

Just remember that what you are dealing with here are a number of camera parts which have been either worn, bent and/or misaligned. And, your years of mistakes may not be inexpensively corrected by just a few moments of adjustments. But more importantly to remember is that the camera can still be used to take good pictures even though the counter doesn't count!

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  1. If the counter doesn't count, perform the ball point pen test to be sure the counter still counts and that you haven't rusted up the gears.
  2. Have you been using the Nikonos III's "Shoe Horn" right?
  3. Inspect the alignment of, and wear to, the counter engagement arm, and straighten it little by little carefully, testing as you go.
  4. Inspect the counter engagement guide located on the inside of the outer casing for wear. If badly worn, inspect your pocket book for sufficient money to possibly buy another casing. Don't try to fix the casing yourself!
  5. Learn how to put the camera's "guts" into the outer casing properly so that you don't wear out or bend parts again.
  6. Most importantly, if the counter doesn't count, the rest of the camera ain't necessarily broke. So if your day has been one of "those days", and you would prefer to count your frames or just shoot until you run out of film rather than run the risk of messing up something else by trying to fix it yourself, I say smart move.

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Reprinted with permission from Bob Warkentin's Southern Nikonos Service Center, Inc.
9459 Kempwood, Houston, TX 77080 • 713/462-5436