A Couple of Bodged Fixes for a Pentax PC35AF – By Seb Copley

After returning to analogue photography a few years ago with a Minolta Hi-Matic 7 rangefinder, I began looking for a second film camera. I was looking for something totally different, in particular something smaller and lighter. I soon discovered I have missed the boat by a few years to get a reasonably priced premium contact, with prices for the likes of Contax T2, Olympus Mju-ii, Yashica T5 etc. reaching higher and higher prices. My experience in buying a rangefinder showed me not to be disheartened and there are lots of hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

So I started looking on eBay and camera shop websites for something affordable, and ideally film tested. Having no particular brand loyalty or camera in mind I was very much open to any camera I came across. I found this camera on eBay, actually very cheap and film tested. The only issue, and the reason for the low price, was the film advance thumb wheel was broken. The seller assured me it was still useable and the thumb wheel could be rotated with the aid of a pen or toothpick. Considering the low price I decided to take a gamble and go for it. I looked up some reviews for the PC35af (including Hamish’s here) and they are generally very positive so figured didn’t have anything to lose.

The camera arrived and first impressions were quite positive. The broken thumb wheel was obvious straight away, but was able to be used with the aid of an extra push from something small and pointy. The rest of the camera was in good condition though obviously well used, the flash worked, and the clam shell over the lens opened with satisfying spring. The body of the camera has a few rust spots, mainly on the film door, but only really noticeable if you go looking.

I loaded some film and tested it out. It quickly became apparent that the thumb wheel advance, while very easy to rotate with no film loaded, was a lot stiffer and more problematic when winding film. I experimented with various implements until I found something with the necessary size and stiffness, a plastic kiwi fruit spoon with a reshaped end. I put a hole in the other end and attached it to the wrist strap; this served me well for about a year.

After shooting the Pentax for a while I was beginning to get annoyed with the kiwi spoon. So I did what I have never done before and opened a camera up to take a good look inside. I refreshed myself with the article on this website about removing the low light alarm and had a look inside.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, maybe a hope the thumb wheel would just lift of the top of a spindle or something… However the structure the thumbwheel is attached to looks too complex and goes too deep for me to feel confident messing with. Instead I fashioned a replacement segment for the missing portion and glued it in place, this looks messy but actually works pretty well and saves the hassle of pushing the wheel round with a tool.

I am now enjoying the PC35AF, and have got some pleasing results with it and a few mistakes too. Most often my mistakes are focusing errors where the camera has focused on background not the foreground subjects. I missed a potentially lovely shot of my daughters this way, the centre point of the focus on the background between them, being aware of this now I am more careful to focus then recompose if necessary. I have also had some randomly underexposed shots, usually in between perfectly exposed ones in similar scenes; I am not sure how to account for these. Here are a few successful images:

Thanks for reading,

Seb Copley


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4 thoughts on “A Couple of Bodged Fixes for a Pentax PC35AF – By Seb Copley”

  1. Sacha Cloutier

    Very nice article. I’m always happy to read about someone giving an unsung hero a try or rescuing a broken camera. You got some pretty good shots!

    1. Thanks.
      After buying it I read some very positive reviews of it, definitely a cheaper option than a Mju II. The only real issue I have found are a few random under exposed frames, which I cannot really account for, in the middle of well exposed shots of the same scene.
      All in all though I am very happy with it.

      1. Hello,

        i have the same camera.I wouls like to know which film did you use for the fotos above?

        with regards,

  2. Very nice images! These cameras are the sweet spot for me in terms of portability and automation (meaning they have little, except for the meter). I wonder if your underexposed shots were at the same exposure, meaning a certain shutter speed is not working correctly?

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