Unsticking the Copal MXV Shutter in a Yashica D TLR Camera

Created: 2010-02-13 Updated: 2022-07-15 (Added speed regulator fix and more shutter assembly!)
By popular request, I’ve uploaded and linked my original, full-sized, uncropped (and unfortunately unmarked or annotated) images for all of the photos in this guide. Just click on any of the images of camera guts below to see a big version so you can zoom in and see all of the detail.

A typical, non-functioning TLR

My tale begins with an eBay auction. Some strange fascination with TLR (Twin Lens Reflex) cameras has brought me here. $32 later (plus shipping) and I’ve got my very own Yashica TLR. I discern that it is the D model from the manual shutter cocking, right-side focus and film advance, and other visual cues.

When I started to play with the critter, I realized that the shutter was not opening. Well, the eBay seller had made no promises to the contrary. It was time to crack the camera open. Join me as we enter a world of gears and springs where life is cheap and parts are small.

A picture of myself in the mirror taking a picture with the Yashica

The above is a picture taken with the Yashica after its successful surgery.

Remove the leatherette

the leatherette removed

First, I had to remove the leatherette from the front of the camera. This exposes the screws that secure the two metal covers. I had read about some horror stories of people trying to remove this ancient material from old cameras, but mine came off in one piece and was still flexible. I could probably glue it right back on.

Remove the top cover

remove the top cover

To remove the top cover, simply remove the four screws holding it in place. Maneuver it carefully over the controls and it’s free.

Remove the twin lens assembly

free the twin lens assembly

Removing the twin lens assembly is simple. Unscrew the four screws holding it in place. It now comes free of the camera body. With my Yashica D, there is absolutely no linkage between the lenses and shutter and the film-holding portion of the camera. They are completely discrete units. Pay attention to any thin shims that could be under the top cover. Those shims were put there by the factory for perfect planarity, infinity focus adjustment, and the focus tracking between the upper lens and the take lens. You will want to replace these exactly as you found them when reassembling. Don’t forget to draw diagrams or take pictures as you go!

shutter sync mode lever Here the lens assembly and top cover are separated from the camera body.

Remove the shutter knob

unscrew the shutter cock knob

The Yashica D camera has a manual shutter cocking mechanism. For the metal lens and shutter cover to clear the cocking lever, the small knob must first be removed. It simply unscrews from the lever. But there’s a catch: since the camera operator will be applying a downward force on the lever, the knob would tend to be unscrewed over time. So to prevent this, the knob is screwed into the lever in reverse. You must turn the knob clockwise to remove it.

Remove the shutter cover

remove the shutter cover shutter sync mode lever

Here’s the shutter cover off.

For me, removing the shutter cover was one of the most difficult steps. My self timer lever was stuck in the fully armed position. The M/X flash sync lever was stuck in the X position. The self timer apparently wouldn’t activate because the shutter was stuck, preventing the lever from moving. The sync lever was stuck because the lockout prevented it from going in M mode while the self timer was activated.

self timer lever shutter sync mode lever

Here you can see my self timer lever and shutter sync mode levers.

Normally, this would be at least somewhat simple. The sync lever goes into the M mode where the cover has a cutout and the self timer would be in the resting (right) position where there is a cutout. You remove the five philips screws holding the cover in place. Then, by moving the shutter cocking lever as needed, you carefully jostle the cover free. Regrettably, I had to force the hell out of mine, and bent the self timer lever pretty badly. I know no way around this. If someone out there knows a better method, please send me a message (link should be at the top of this page) and I’ll post the answer here.

Update 2014-11-20 Visitor "snikulin" has these instructions, which may prove helpful:

"I think I have found the correct answer: start from the back of the assembly.
  1. Remove taking lens barrel
  2. Remove viewing lens ring
After 1 and 2 the back of the assembly is easily removable and I have full access to the shutter itself."

Update 2021-10-22 Visitor "jieelyuu" sent in:

"I was in the same situation as you described: self-timer fully armed, so it cannot make its way out of the cutout on the cover. I resolved it by removing the back barrel lense and poked the shutter blades. Then magically the self-timer started to wind down and returned to the resting position. I don't know if this method is universally possible but at least worth a careful try!"

Remove the lens barrel and free the shutter

unscrew the taking lens barrel

The Copal MXV shutter is easily released from the lens mounting plate by unscrewing the taking lens barrel from the back of the shutter assembly.

shutter is free keep rings as they are

Now the shutter is free. Be sure to keep the stack of rings just as they are. The order is important.

On the other hand, getting the shutter release out of the mounting plate takes a few moments. It’s like one of those twisted nail puzzles you find in gift shops where you must find the right way to align the two elements to free them. Take your time and don’t force it. There is a right way to do it. Work slowly once you’ve got it, you’ll want to keep that stack of rings in the exact order you found them and placed carefully somewhere so you can remember the correct orientation to the shutter itself.

Remove the shutter speed cover

remove the shutter speed cover ring is loose cover is off

With the ring removed, the cover comes right off.

The shutter speed cover is held on with a screw-on ring. A set screw keeps the ring from unscrewing by fitting into the half-circle notches in the ring. You can see that the makers put a handy dab of red paint to indicate the position of the set screw on the ring. If you do not have a mark like this already on your ring, I recommend adding one to help get the tension correct when reassembling. Turn the set screw a half turn so that the flat side faces the ring. Now you can use a blunt instrument to push against the notches in the ring to unscrew it. Beneath is the shutter speed cam.

Release the speed cam

remove the speed cam

The speed cam itself is a circular metal plate that moves various pins in the shutter as it rotates. You can simply lift it out to remove. Underneath are the goodies.

Identify the parts

identifying the parts

Now it is easy to identify the various parts.

  1. The self timer is the part with the red lever at the bottom
  2. The shutter speed regulator is the unit right next to the yellow flash sync lever
  3. The shutter release is a jumble of parts
  4. On my manual shutter reset model, I have a shutter reset lever
  5. The shutter release lever (if you have one) is at the bottom
  6. The self timer module

You can operate these various levers in this state and get an idea of how the shutter works. What really impressed me about this shutter is that each unit is a discrete mechanical unit. They can pretty much work independantly of each other. This was especially great in my case because my self timer was damaged. I was able to get the camera working without it! At this time, you’re going to want to remove the speed cam detent spring. It’s the one that spans across the top of the self timer (F).

Remove the self timer unit

remove the self timer self timer is out

The self timer comes out neatly.

The self timer is held in with just a single snap ring. Remove it by sliding it off the post with a flat-bladed screwdriver. You can now pull the self timer unit out. Aparently some models have a screw with a flat side at the base of the self timer unit. If this exists, you may have to give it a turn to release the self timer.

Remove the flash sync (optional)

removing the flash sync

The flash sync can be removed with a single screw. You do not need to remove the flash sync. My pictures from here on out will not have it, so I figured I would explain it now. At the very least, you’ll want to consider disengaging the tiny flash spring (under the aforemented screw.) This is because the spring pushes against a post - a post that happens to be the end of a screw from the other side which we will be removing to get to the shutter blades.

the flash spring

The flash sync spring!

Remove the speed regulator

removing the speed regulator

Removing the speed regulator.

the speed is out speed shim one speed shim two

The speed regulator is out. You can see the location of the two shims.

There are two screws holding the speed regulator in the shutter. Remove these. The speed regulator is now free to come out. Take careful note of the placement of the shim(s) under the unit where it is attached by the screws. My unit had a small brass washer on one side and a small black triangular shim under the other side. Apparently, some models may have two triangular shims or one single large shim.

Open and clean the shutter

removing the shutter from the aperture

Removing the shutter from the aperture.

the two halves are separated speed shim one

The two halves are apart. The shutter blades are free!

The next step is one of the scariest. We need to separate the shutter unit into two halves: the shutter and the aperture. Both units have metal blades that open or close when they are rotated. When the two halves are separated on the Copal MXV shutter on the Yashica D camera, the shutter blades are completely freed. They can and will jostle around. Be very careful during this step not to lose or damage them. The nice thing is that the aperture blades stay put and you can still work the aperture mechanism while the halves are separated.

There are four screws on the aperture side of the unit. Rotate the aperture until the four screws are visible.

All four screws were subtlety different on mine. You will want to number these or make a drawing, etc. so that you can figure out where each one goes when you put it back together. Once the screws are out, you can pull the two halves apart. This is where the shutter blades become a jumble.

Now is the time to clean the shutter blades. Mine were stuck together with old oil or grease. The standard advice with these shutters is that they were meant to run dry. So you’re going to want to get them completely clean. A lot of people recommend naphtha (white gas, lighter fluid, Coleman camp fuel). I used mineral spirits (Stoddard solvent, white spirit.) Either will work. "Odorless mineral spirits" is what I happened to have on hand and can highly recommend it for this task. I put a bit in a bottle cap and used a cotton swab (aka "cotton bud" or "Q-Tip") to wipe the blades and let them dry several times. I just let the blades lay on a paper towel and flipped them over with a tiny screwdriver to access both sides.

From here on out, you’re going to want to avoid touching the blades with your bare hands. The oils from fingers could undo the cleaning you’ve just done. Manipulate them only with clean tools such as tweezers.

Replace the blade shims

arange blades 1

There is a very important sequence to re-assembling the shutter blades and their shims. These pictures should save you the considerable time I spent figuring it out. Place four of the five shims on the screws and posts in the orientation I show here.

Hint One: before you do this step, you may want to take a moment to practice putting the shutter assembly back into the housing with the aperture. When you complete the next few steps, you’re going to have to put the shutter (loose blades and all) back into the assembly. You’ll be holding the shutter so that the blades are on top to keep them from falling off. So practice in this manner. After a while, you’ll get good at it.

Hint Two: you may find in your above practicing that the shutter release mechanism doesn’t clear the edges of the housing unless the shutter is cocked and the shutter release is pushed partly in! Yes, rebuilding the shutter while it is in this state is a little scary (imagine the chaos if it were triggered while the blades were still loose!). Just remember, that will not go off by itself. Still, I leave it to you to decide whether or not to put your release in this state while assembling the blades. I did.

Place the first blade

arange blades 2

Now begin placing the blades on the shims, starting at the first shim in clockwise order. Not shown in this picture is a hint for this process: put a small object on your work surface that is about the same height as the shutter ring. This will help support the shutters and keep them from falling inward as you arrange them. Any object the correct size will work. I used a polishing cylinder made for the Dremel rotary tool.

Place blades two through four

arange blades 3

Now the next blade goes atop the first in clockwise order. Here you can see the Dremel polishing cylinder I mentioned above. Use whatever will prop up the blades at just the right height.

Put the shutter back together

arange blades 4

The fifth and final blade goes atop the fourth. All blades except the first should overlap in clockwise order. Now you should have a single shim left. Put this on top of the fifth blade. You’re done with the arranging portion. Now break out the chamomile tea, peaceful music, and take some deep breaths. Perhaps do some yoga. You’ve got to take your blade arrangement and put it up into the aperture housing, essentially putting the two halves back together. I hope you followed my hints above and practiced this maneuver several times. I was able to get the thing together in the first try, thanks to the practice.

Now, you’ve got the thing held together? Great! Now keep it together and put in your screws. Now you can see why I had you label them. You don’t want to be like me, holding the unit together for dear life while examining each screw and hole under a magnifying lens to figure out which one went where! With the four screws in, you should have a fully functional shutter. You’ll want to cock and release it several times to make sure it works before you go any further. The blades should snap open and snap shut smoothly and quickly.

In case you need to disassemble and re-assemble the aperture assembly

Lou S. was kind enough to provide additional images and description of his re-assembly:

Click images for full size.

"The trick in putting it back together is that when six of the ten blades are in place, four of those have to be lifted to put the remaining four in place as the ones currently in, place cover up the remaining slots. I ended up making a partial ring of cardboard to hold the pins of four of the blades in place while allowing me to slip the remaining four underneath, one at a time. As I placed each one, I moved the cardboard ring.

"The really difficult part was removing the ring without disturbing the blades once they were all in place, but I got it on the second try. Then I put the two halves together and loosely fastened them with the two screws while I used the tip of an Xacto blade to carefully nudge any pins not quite seated into the top half. Then I tightened the screws almost snug, operated the aperture to make certain it worked properly,and tightened down the two screws."

Put the rest of the camera back together

shutter back together

Now you’ll be rebuilding the camera. This is a great time to clean everything as you put it back together. When’s the next time you’ll be able to get the dust and muck out of all of these nooks and crannies? Putting the camera back together is pretty much just the reverse of the above. Here is a handy checklist to make sure you don’t miss anything:

  1. Put the flash sync spring back on the screw/post and replace the flash sync (if you took it off)
  2. Put the shim(s) or washer(s) in place where the speed regulator goes
  3. Put the speed regulator in and screw it down
  4. Put the self timer back in and secure it with the snap ring. My self timer was damaged, as I have mentioned. The shutter works fine without it, but at least the frame of the self timer is needed so that the speed cam detent spring can be placed on it.
  5. Put the shutter speed cam back on the shutter mechanism. Be sure that all of the pins (shown in the picture) clear the various holes and slots provided.
  6. Put the shutter speed cover on the cam so that the holes line up with various pins (on mine, the printed "B" aperture setting lined up with the post protruding out of the top of the speed cam.)
  7. Carefully screw down the cover ring. Be sure it is threading properly before applying any force.
  8. Turn the set screw to secure the cover ring
  9. Work the shutter to make sure all of the controls work properly
  10. Align the shutter release lever so that it fits into the slot in the mounting plate
  11. Underneath the shutter, arrange the stack of rings so that they align. On mine, I needed the ring containing the manual shutter reset lever to be in the right position and all of the rings needed to have a slot lined up with a hole in the mounting plate so that a post from the shutter went through them all and secured them
  12. Screw the lens barrel onto the back of the mounting plate, breath a sigh of relief
  13. If detached, re-connect the small spring that resets the shutter reset lever
  14. Line up the aperture and shutter speed levers with the controls inside the shutter cover and put the shutter cover back on. Make sure that rotating the aperture and speed wheels on the cover operate the shutter controls. Secure the cover with the five screws
  15. Screw the shutter lever knob back on counter-clockwise
  16. Re-attach the twin lens assembly to the body of the camera with four screws. If you had any factory-installed shims here, don't forget to replace these as you found them.
  17. Put the top cover back on the lens assembly with four screws
  18. If desired, re-glue the leatherette. You'll probably want to play with the camera for a while to make sure it works before you do this. I've still got my leatherette off and am debating whether or not to glue the old one back on. Update: I still haven't. I think it looks fine without.

Good luck, and I hope the Copal Shutter in your Yashica camera is now fully functional!

Years later

I’ve been able to expose several rolls of film through the Yashica and it works like a charm. It’s a delight to use such a fun camera. It’s been educational developing the film as well. Someday, perhaps, I’ll invest in a cheap enlarger and actually make some big prints.

Many Yashica owners have contacted me to let me know that they were able to use my instructions to get their cameras running again. Thanks for the feedback and good luck with your cameras!

Something to try (from a Yashica manual)

I just got a very interesting email from R. Cole, who writes:

"Let me share a story: I own an estate sale company and I come across things that I have never seen or used before ALL.THE.TIME. I came across a Yashica Mat24 and the shutter was stuck. I did a google search and everybody talks about the MX synchronizer, and this is a big problem, and you have to send the camera in... "Out of desperation, I looked at the owners manual and came across a section "Shutter Locking Lever" and it instructed "To minimize the trouble in loading your next film, it is advisable to take out the empty spool from the lower film chamber and set it in the upper chamber..." "I removed the empty spool in the lower chamber and put it in the top, and now my shutter works! There isn't a blog or website on earth that instructs you to do this as a fix, I think you should be the first! I know it may sound like the stupidest thing you've ever heard of, but imagine the people who find or inherit these things (or receive them from a widower on consignment) and have no idea why the shutter's not working. I was ready to go to the camera shop..."

I had a request here to the community to help explain why these instructions would work. B. Tang wrote in with this (lightly edited):

"I have a 24 as well. When I got the camera, I didn't know about the MX sync issue, and the shutter was working for a bit before I jammed it. Alas, it is because the shutter was always working correctly, and is entirely unrelated to the MX sync issue. The reason is that the film advance crank actually winds the takeup spool directly, and only cocks the shutter by way of a gear that interfaces with the spool in the upper chamber. If the upper chamber does not have a spool present (empty or otherwise), this gear is not turned and the shutter is never cocked. Indeed, without a takeup spool present, the shutter crank can be wound indefinitely and never reaches a stop."

So, while not a cure for stuck shutter woes, this is certainly a good thing to know about the operation of these cameras and I would advise checking if it works before going to the trouble of taking it apart.

A note on the speed regulator module

An extremely helpful note (and image!) from Lou S. about the speed regulator. First, the problem:

"Shutter works perfectly on B setting, but remaining speeds are identical regardless of speed selected. Moving the flash sync lever changes the speeds to a slower speed but, except for B, they are all the same."

Then the solution:

"When I was taking the shutter apart, I mistakenly removed the screw on the top of the speed regulator assembly instead of the one down and to the right (as you're looking into the shutter). Although, I got the cover back in place, the partial gear on the left rotated clockwise to where it wasn't engaging any of the other gears.

"I discovered that after I emailed you yesterday, and took the speed regulator completely apart. I had to use thin strips of blue painter's tape to hold the partial gear in place as well as the pallet assembly, since they both have small springs which need to be in place for the assembly to operate. See photo attached."

speed regulator with blue masking tape and arrow pointing to fan-shaped gear on the left.

Click image for full size. (The red text next to the arrow reads, "This gear was 180 degrees away from this position against the case so it was not doing anything.")

"The assembly is back together and all speeds operate correctly!"

Also, for Yashica-Mat owners:

Roman owns a newer Yashica-Mat. He was kind enough to share this information (edited lightly) and a high-res image:

"I bought a Yashica Mat with a rewind knob that was sometimes stuck. I opened the right plate and found that the problem is in the gears and spring circled in red."
yashica mat with gear and spring circled in red

Click image for full size.

"The gear has a groove on its side, but in my case, the spring had jumped out of the groove. So when you rewind shutter back, the second round gear (which is connected to film spool) turns back for a couple steps too. This happens because the first gear can't block the second one without the spring. This causes the the shutter to stick and you can't rewind the knob.

"To solve this problem, put the end of the spring into the groove on side of the first gear and lubricate everything. You may loosen the screw a half-turn and put a thin spacer between the body and the first gear. This will ensure better contact between the gears."

Also, for Copal SV shutter owners:

Apparently the MXV and SV shutters are very similar. Check out this excellent page (in French) with side-by-side pictures comparing these shutters: