Nikon D2H goes to pieces
If you’re curious like me, you’ve wondered what’s inside your camera, especially a pro DSLR. So, of course, I couldn’t resist the idea of a “teardown project” with this broken Nikon D2H. I really wanted to see if I was up to the task of replacing the shutter – get it working again, not just tear it apart.
Planning to try this yourself? I’d like to hear from you – drop me a note below!
Click images for large versions
Note: I finished the repair, and it works! This post is a work-in-progress – I’ll resume updates in a few days when some cosmetic parts arrive to finish the project.
Note to self… Don’t use the “bulb” shutter speed when cleaning the sensor. This D2H’s owner couldn’t keep his finger on the button – the shutter was destroyed when it closed on his cleaning tool.
Now, having the shutter replaced isn’t a cheap proposition – it’s around USD$350. However, Nikon will sell you a new shutter mechanism for USD$100. (I bought through my local repair shop, but the Nikon Parts Department also sells direct if you know the part number.) As an avid do-it-yourself guy the challenge was irresistible, and the lure of getting a like-new D2H for $100 was too tempting. Plus, it was a great excuse to take apart a top-end camera.
Surprisingly, I found virtually no documentation on the web to help with this project – no how-to guides, no pictures inside a D2H. Since I’m taking copious photos anyway to help with re-assembly, I decided to share them here for your entertainment.
A point of interest: the D2X is reported to be the same camera with improved electronics, so what I’ve documented here should apply equally for the D2X.
- #0 Philips screwdriver
- A small hard toothbrush, for scrubbing
- Plastic scraper – something small and hard to scrape the grip adhesive off (or a strong fingernail)
- Painter’s tape – like 3M’s blue tape that doesn’t leave residue
- Sharpie marker for labeling the tape
- Isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) swabs – 70% strength works fine
Replacement shutter (USD$100)
Here’s a look at the replacement shutter module; it comes as a complete assembly. It’s mechanically pretty complex, and fairly heavy too. I’m looking forward to getting another 150,000 clicks out of this body.
It’s not obvious whether this mechanism mounts from the front or the back, but it doesn’t look too daunting – the real challenge will be figuring out how to disassemble the camera to get to this module (e.g., whether it gets accessed via the front or back of the body). I’m hoping it’s accessible from the front, because there are more fragile electronics to work around in the back.
The electronics on the module are very simple – just electromechanical, really. The only chip package appears to be a power switch used to energize the magnetic coils that drive the shutter. So, the memory chip that holds the number of shutter clicks does not appear to be stored in the shutter itself, which means if the shutter count is being reset after a shutter replacement, it’s being done via software – if so, that’d mean it’s possible to “roll back the odometer” fraudulently; if the counter doesn’t get reset after a shutter replacement, it means you can’t really know if the shutter has been replaced like a seller might claim. Hmmm. If you’ve had Nikon replace the shutter in your camera, please let me know – was the ShutterCount reset to zero when you got it back?
First, strip it down
You’ll notice the D2H case only has 6 exposed screws. Looks are deceiving… there are actually 25 more screws hidden underneath the grip rubber. Yep, that’s right – you have to peel off the grips to disassemble the camera.
Not finding any info on the web, I didn’t know about the other 25 screws and I was really hesitant to start peeling off the grip rubber. After I saw replacement grips for sale on eBay, I had a little more confidence so I peeled a section back for a peek. Jackpot! And it was surprisingly easy too.
Jumping in with both feet, I removed all the grip rubber, taking care not to stretch or damage the pieces. (Although you can buy replacements from Nikon, a full set costs about USD$75. Nikon installs new grips when they do a shutter replacement, which is one reason the repair costs USD$350.) The factory adhesive is thin strips of material – I scraped most of it off with my fingernail then used alcohol wipes to remove the residue. Don’t use a metal scraper, since it’ll scratch.
Saving the screws
One of the first challenges here is organizing all the parts so you get the right screws back in the right holes – the screws are different sizes and lengths, so don’t mix them up. And taking a lot of pictures can be valuable when it comes time for re-assembly.
Here’s my technique: Foremost, be very methodical – don’t go hog-wild and unscrew everything. Remove screws for one component at a time (e.g., the bottom) and put that part back together as soon as you can. As you remove screws, lay them out left-to-right in the order they’re installed, then tape them down to your work surface (or the inside of a parts bin) using a piece of painter’s tape; label the tape with the part they were removed from, and mark dots on the tape to show placement of the screws. Now you’ll be able to put every screw back in its original hole.
My first venture was to open the battery case and see how much was accessible. Removing the bottom takes 6 screws – the three exposed ones on the back and right side, then three more on the front, hidden under the rubber apron.
I didn’t find much of interest here, at least for replacing the shutter assembly. There don’t appear to be any screws inside that are essential to disassembling other parts. There’s a metal access panel that looks curious on the bottom of the body inside the battery cavity, but it’s not the right shape or size for accessing the shutter mechanism. It didn’t open easily, so I stopped and reassembled the bottom.
Inside the back
The camera back proved very easy to open – there are two screws on each end of the rear panel, just under the grip rubber on each side. Lift the panel off carefully – there’s a flexible circuit board connecting the rear panel to the body. Although these strips can be unplugged, I try to avoid it.
There’s a large metal cover over the main electronics, likely to shield electromagnetic interference – from leaking out (for regulatory compliance) and from leaking in (affecting the sensor’s accuracy). There are a couple large grey screws that I suspect mount the main sensor circuit board – I wasn’t too eager to unscrew that PCB at this point because I didn’t want to start unplugging ribbon cables, and I wasn’t sure if I’d create any alignment problems for the sensor.
On the back side of the rear panel are circuits to drive the LCD screen and the control buttons.
On the left side of the main body is a pair of small PCBs for the power input, USB jack, and video out. The white strip across the back is a ribbon cable that connects the USB and video ports to the circuit boards on the right side.
On the right side is the CompactFlash socket, plus several circuit boards installed parallel to the CF slot.
USB & video ports
The connector panel on the left side of the camera is trimmed with a panel using 3 screws (top, bottom, and left). Behind the panel, there are 2 circuit boards connected together. The white ribbon cable connects to one of them. I left this assembly intact because it also has several soldered wires for power running in other directions.
The strap eyelets are fitted into place and held with a screw through their side, so the screw holds them in place but doesn’t bear the load. This camera happened to have a loose strap mount near the USB jack, and I was able to reach the screw once the USB panel was removed. Normally, the best way to access the strap mounts is by removing the top of the body.
Losing the “lid”
The top of the camera body is fastened with 5 screws – one exposed near the strap eyelet on the right side (when looking at the camera face), one under the rubber near the 10-pin connector, two on the face under the Nikon logo, and one under the rubber on the left side below the strap eyelet.
The top cover lifts straight up, but there’s a catch, literally – the diopter adjustment knob sticks through the cover and keeps it from being removed. The center of the diopter knob has a removable cap with a screw hidden underneath – this had me stumped for a while, until I found a D2H parts list online (see Resources, below). The diopter knob’s cap can be pried off by inserting a pointed knife (e.g., X-acto) into the seam at the edge of the knob. Mine was apparently glued on (and a bit crusty) so the seam wasn’t obvious, but the cap popped off easily. See Figure 15 in the D2H Parts List PDF for an exploded view.
The top can be lifted off after removing the diopter adjustment knob, but there’s very little slack in the ribbon cable connecting the top to the body. Before removing the top, open the side panel on the grip – this provides more slack in the ribbon cable. The right side of the panel is sealed with a strip of grip adhesive, so it takes a little prying from the left side. The ribbon cable can be disconnected by unlatching its connector there, but I don’t recommend it – there are still power wires soldered in place. (The second close-up here shows how to unlatch the connector to remove the ribbon cable.)
As a side comment, I’m impressed by some of the little details. For example, the mechanism used for the thumbwheels is simple but effective. In this image, there are 3 “wiper” contacts to detect thumbwheel motion – the wiper near the center is the “common” lead (typically supplying a fixed positive or ground voltage); the outer two wipers detect movement when they touch the outer pads on the pinwheel pattern. Notice the staggered pattern on the pinwheel – depending on which wiper (A or B) makes contact first, the camera can detect which direction the wheel is being turned (e.g., AB-AB-… vs. BA-BA-…) and how many steps. A slick touch is the 2-pronged fork – wipers can break or wear down in one spot, so having two fingers on the wiper yields better reliability and longevity.
You might also notice the foam strip around the edge of the body – this is the weather seal you hear about on the pro bodies. It’s a thin strip of dense foam set in a groove along the seam, and every seam on the D2H has this seal.
Once the top is removed, the viewfinder frame comes off easily with two external screws near the eyepiece. On the backside you can see the blade mechanism for shuttering the viewfinder. There’s also a clever latch that keeps eyepieces from coming unscrewed unless the shutter is closed.
From the D2H Parts List PDF I just found, it looks like the face of the camera should detach in one assembly along with the upper electronics. The shutter module should be mounted just behind it. See Figure 3 of the D2H Parts List PDF (below) for an illustration.
Studying the exploded diagrams in the D2H Parts List, it looks like the flexible circuit board on top of the camera needs to be removed first, along with the rigid circuit board on top of the grip. Then, the lens mount and viewfinder assembly can be removed intact, followed by the auto-focus motor module – then the shutter module can be replaced. This will require a series of delicate steps with the circuit boards.
Remove the upper printed circuit boards (PCBs) – On top of the prism is a strip of yellow tape that holds the flexible (brown) PCBs in position. Carefully peel back the yellow tape right-to-left, leaving the left end attached. The tape remains attached to a flexible PCB on the left side of the prism – gently pull that flexible PCB to the left and it’ll disconnect from the rigid (green) PCB underneath.
On the top right side of the prism is another narrow flexible PCB that also needs to be disconnected. This one slides directly out of the connector by gently pulling and wiggling it. During re-assembly, I discovered that the black section on the connector slides out to release the cable (it doesn’t pivot up or come off).
On top of the grip area is a remaining rigid PCB with two flexible PCBs that connect to it and route down the front of the body. The small flexible PCB is the control cable for the shutter module – to disconnect it, very carefully unclip the tan part (one clip on each side) and slide it out of the PCB socket; this clip is probably the most fragile piece on the camera, so use care. The wider flexible PCB goes to the motor module, and it attaches to a latching connector on the right of the grip PCB – unlatch the connector by flipping the dark brown part up. Remove the 3 screws from the grip PCB, and also one screw from the face of the body where a tiny PCB is connected to the grip PCB.
With these flexible PCBs disconnected, the tented green PCB can be gently lifted off the top of the prism, and the green grip PCB can also be lifted off and moved to the side. Be careful of the soldered wires from the tiny PCB – they connect to the motor module. Also take care not to damage or stress the flexible PCBs, particularly where they connect to the rigid PCBs. Now the optics assembly is able to be removed.
Remove the screws – The optics assembly is fastened with 6 screws on the face of the D2H – 3 along the bottom, one on the left, and two on the right. Two more screws are on the back of the camera, underneath the viewfinder on each side. (The rear screws are stiff because they were assembled with thread lock.) Finally, there is one screw from the top, under the forward-left corner of the grip PCB that was removed.
Detach the optics assembly – Eureka! The entire optics assembly lifts off in one piece, except for a pair of orange & black wires attached to the left PCB on top of the prism. As with the other parts, it can be laid to one side without disconnecting these soldered wires.
With the optics assembly removed, the shutter module is directly accessible – it’s tucked up against the shutter motor, but not blocked by it.
Another example of clever details – the body’s interior is lined with patches of double-stick tape, to grab and hold any particles that might get close to the sensor. This body has quite a collection of little bits stuck in the tape.
Replacing the shutter module
Without too much effort, the broken shutter module can be removed without disturbing the motor module. The shutter module is held by 4 screws – two on the top corners, and one on the lower left. A fourth screw secures the flexible PCB. This is one dirty sensor!
With the shutter removed, it’s amazingly easy to clean the sensor – I used a bit of 91% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol on a Q-tip swab (dampened, not dripping wet). (91% has lower water content so it evaporates fast and streaks less.) Normally I’d heartily recommend against using Q-tips because they leave lint behind, but in this case it’s very easy to see and remove. A hard light at a side angle to the sensor makes it really easy to spot smudges and remaining dust.
Installing the new shutter module is a snap. The upper-left screw is tucked behind the motor module, but with some patience it can be installed without removing the motor module. Although the shutter module sees more vibration than any other part of the camera, the screws don’t use thread-lock; make sure they’re good and tight.
Digging into the broken shutter
There are actually two curtains in the shutter module – one for the opening of the shutter (aka “front curtain”), one for the closing of the shutter (aka “rear curtain”). The shutter leaves are made of a paper-thin metal sheet; all the shutter leaves are painted black except the lens-side of the curtain closest to the sensor – that’s the one that got damaged here. When the shutter is charged and ready to fire, the white face of the front curtain is visible. Curiously, the new shutter module was packaged pre-charged.
Here’s a rear shot of the broken shutter module – you can see one of the leaves on the curtain got pretty mangled. I was poking around the mechanism and triggered both curtains to fire, damaging the leaf even more as it tried to retract into the top part of the module – almost to the point of shearing it off. There’s a lot of force in the movement springs.
In the process, I discovered a bit about the shutter’s inner workings. On the very top side of the mechanism is a lever with a roller on it – this is a cocking (aka “charging”) lever, and pushing it to the right resets the curtain positions for the next exposure. During charging, both curtains move downward – the rear curtain stows in the bottom of the module, and the front curtain slides down right after it, keeping the light sealed out. That large motor in the grip? As I discovered below, it drives everything in the camera except the auto-focus screw.
Sticking out the right side of the shutter mechanism is a release lever that’s triggered by the two magnetic coils. This one lever releases both curtains to slam upward. I discovered that the charging lever plays a role in the shutter duration – when the charging lever is at its halfway position, the release lever only fires the opening shutter (which stows in the top of the module); at its far left (relaxed) position, the release lever fires the closing shutter. So, the magnetic coils would fire twice – once for each curtain. This also dispels the idea that the camera must “hold open” the shutter for long bulb exposures – the shutter holds itself open indefinitely until the curtain release is triggered a second time. Correction: the release lever only fires once – this releases both of the curtains, but the movement of the charging lever determines when the rear curtain fires – so, it seems the shutter motor actually controls the length of each exposure. Still, there’s no effort in “holding” the shutter open during a long exposure – when the charging lever relaxes to the left, it trips an internal release lever for the rear curtain to snap closed.
Other points of interest – the purple and green wires connect to sensors that detect whether the shutter is a) charged and ready for an exposure, b) shutter open (front curtain fully open), or c) rear curtain fully closed. These are the only way the camera could know when things go awry, so it must watch for steps to fail or perhaps not complete in the expected time. Also, it appears the two coils are redundant for each other, complete with separate channels through the triggering switch chip (the black six-legged chip on the mechanism’s circuit board).
Looking at the left side view, the screw head on the right is for tensioning on the closing spring for the rear curtain – it drives the gear on top of the spring. The front curtain has a similar adjustment gear on the left, but it’s held in position with a ratcheting catch. The brass post in the center of the bottom is the contact for the purple and green sensor wires – you can see the twin fork of the purple contact just to the top left of it, and the more obvious green contact on the lower right.
On the left side of the photo is a bright L-shaped piece, pointing up near the silver screw post – this is the catch for the shutter release in its ready-to-fire state; the thin metal part touching it near the tip is the other end of the release lever. The roller at the very left of the photo is the charging lever. I’d love to pop the top off this gearbox to study the release mechanisms a bit more, but that’s a task for another day – there are some strong springs and some very fine coil wires involved in that piece of disassembly.
The curtain movements – to get a better look at the curtains themselves, I pulled the back off the shutter module and picked it apart layer by layer. As expected, there are two separate curtain assemblies. Each curtain is assembled via only one one side; the other side of the curtain floats loosely. Each curtain is sandwiched between spacers made from the same material.
If you look closely, you’ll also spy a trade secret… Darth Vader was propping up the shutter module for these shots. Legos are an indispensable tool for tabletop photography – you can make all sorts of stands to hold parts off the background, stand them up at an angle, etc. The little round pieces are a popular choice; this time, Darth Vader’s head happened to be handy and just the right height.
Some “quiet shutter” speculation… The “quiet shutter” mode in the new D300s is likely a change in how the charging step happens. The shutter mechanism really can’t be quieted during exposure, since it needs to operate quickly; however, the re-charging step doesn’t need to be blazing fast – if a slower frame rate is acceptable, the charging step could be slowed down. This would reduce the shutter noise for half of its movement, reducing the sharper shutter noise. Similarly, the mirror movement could be slowed on the return stroke to reduce its sound.
FYI, to clarify a detail… in this shutter module the “rear curtain” happens to be the one physically closest to the lens, and the “front curtain” is physically closest to the sensor. In the descriptions above, I’m referring to the curtains by their function, not whether they’re physically front or rear in the shutter module.
Curious Bulb mode behavior – The curtain that got damaged in this case is the front curtain (the one closest to the sensor). Oddly, it got damaged while slamming closed on the cleaning tool, but it’s not the curtain that closes at the end of an exposure; I would have expected the rear curtain to be the one to get damaged. From this, I’ll conclude that the shutter behaves differently in Bulb mode (which was being used when this shutter was damaged) – instead of firing the rear shutter to complete the exposure, the camera simply re-cocks the shutter mechanism, which closes the front curtain downward. For short exposures this isn’t acceptable (because one edge of the frame would get significantly more exposure than the other), but for a bulb exposure it’s insignificant that one side of the frame might get 1/250th of a second more exposure; presumably Nikon did this because it’s a little more efficient for the camera.
The optics assembly
The guts of the camera come apart in 3 major sections – the sensor / processor / storage / display electronics in the back of the body, the shutter assembly in the center of the body, and the optics assembly in the front of the body. Like the shutter module, the optics assembly is another mechanical marvel.
The white and brown module below the eyepiece is the in-viewfinder LCD. The module at the bottom of this photo is the AF sensor. The round black part to its left is the back end of the auto-focus motor – its about half the size of the shutter motor, and it connects to a gearbox that’s flat under the bottom of the lens mount.
On the grip side of the optics module is a large spring-loaded gear that drives the aperture stop-down lever – when rotated clockwise it drives the aperture stop-down lever upwards. Adjacent to it is a bright red solenoid that drives a piston to affect the gears. Tucked away on the lower right is another solenoid – this one releases a spring-loaded mechanism to slap the mirror up. There’s one more solenoid hidden on the lower-left side.
As the discoveries unfold… on the right side of this photo is a roller lever that moves toward the front and back of the camera. It’s driven by the shutter motor, which better explains the motor’s size. The mechanism is shown here in the mirror-down state. In this state, the aperture stop-down lever is pressed upward by a medium-strength spring.
How the lens aperture is controlled… The solenoids can be tripped independently, and moving the roller lever downward (toward the camera face) resets them. Tripping the upper-left solenoid releases the aperture stop-down lever, allowing the lens to stop-down (e.g., when the DOF button is pressed). Tucked behind the large gear you’ll see a heavier, black, flat piece – that’s the “under the hood” end of the aperture stop-down lever; its left end is shaped like a slice of pie with gear teeth on it, and as the large gear turns it directly moves the lever up and down; the lever is hinged at the round silver cap to the right of the large gear.
To the lower left of the large gear is a smaller gear with index slots in its middle – as this index gear turns, the slots are counted by an encoder tucked to the left, so the camera knows how far the aperture lever has moved. I suspect (but can’t test) that the hidden solenoid on the lower left is a brake that will engage when the aperture has stopped down to the desired point. If you look closely, you’ll see this index gear has one-way ratchet teeth (not gear teeth) around its perimeter.
The auto-focus system is housed at the bottom of the optics assembly, underneath the mirror box. On the left (hidden by PCBs) is a small auto-focus motor that controls AF lenses that don’t have built-in SWM focus motors – you can see the black end of its cylinder sticking up. The motor couples into the brass gearbox at the bottom, which links to the screw drive coupler in the lens mount (see below). Behind the PCBs is also the AF sensor mechanism. The viewfinder mirror is actually a half-mirror with a rectangular cut-out in the middle; a tiny secondary mirror pops out behind it when the mirror is down – while you’re looking at the main mirror through the viewfinder, part of the image is passing through the mirror and being reflected down to this AF sensor for focusing.
Here’s a view of the AF sensor from inside the mirror box, facing down. I’m not sure about the round lens underneath – it looks like a white (or maybe infrared) LED, but I’m not sure why it’d be there.
The “rewind” side of the optics assembly isn’t too exciting – mostly just circuitry.
Inside the lens mount
I’ve had a request to peek behind the lens mount (e.g., how the camera senses the aperture ring setting). The inner-workings detail is covered above in the optics assembly section – here, I’ll open up the lens mount and show the business end of the aperture’s mechanical coupling to the lens. Mostly this is for position reference, since this piece is the most likely to get bent during coupling and might need a “field repair”.
The lens mount is fastened with 5 visible screws. The odd piece sticking out of the lens mount on the lower-left is the auto-focus motor coupling, a.k.a. the screw drive – you’ll notice it’s spring loaded and presses flush with the lens mount during lens attachment (or for non-AF lenses). The mirror box is shown here in an unnatural state – I’ve triggered the mirror up, but the aperture stop-down lever on the left side has not been tripped. Normally, the aperture lever would be down when the mirror is up.
For Lenny – here are a couple close-ups of the aperture stop-down coupling lever in its normal mirror-down state. The first shot gives you an side view; the second shot is straight-on.
Behind the mounting plate is a spring steel ring that keeps tension on the lens when its mounted. Under the top edge of the lens mount is a series of contacts for the newer “chipped” lenses to communicate with the camera. Not all lenses have 8 ball contacts, depending on how advanced they are. Often when you get a lens error like “fEE” or if auto-focus becomes non-responsive with an AF-S lens, it’s because these contacts aren’t coupling well – they may need cleaning, but I’ve also noticed that some bodies and lenses get loose over time (especially rental lenses), and the slop or “play” in the lens mount can cause these contacts to mate poorly.
Around the outside of the lens mount is a spring-loaded aperture-sensing ring that physically engages the aperture ring on non-G lenses, so the camera can detect the manual aperture setting. It’s connected to to the faceplate, which is fastened with four screws – two on the bottom and one one each side of the lens mount. The CSM selector switch has a cover button taped in like the diopter adjustment knob – pop it out to unscrew the selector switch so the faceplate can be removed.
There’s not much behind the front faceplate except the wiper contacts for the aperture-sense ring; it appears to be a resistor strip. On the backside of the faceplate you can see the spring and the wiper. Depending on the amount of electrical resistance, the body can detect the position of the aperture ring on a manual lens.
Re-assembling the D2H
The moment of truth – will it still work after I’ve been fiddling under the hood? Fortunately, I’ve got a lot of photos or it’d be like trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
Reassembling the camera is a little more than reversing the process, and the photos were really useful reference. If you didn’t label the screws really well, you’ll be scratching your head. The photos quickly answer questions like “Just how far is this cable supposed to be pushed into the connector?” and “Does this cable go over or under this circuit board?”
Naturally, I didn’t wait to get all the screws back in before I had to get a battery and test it. I slid the battery in, and the top LCD came alive. I held my breath, turned it on, and… (drumroll)
I was crushed. The D2H was still a paperweight. The project had been interesting, but I’d blown $100 on the new shutter and I didn’t get a working camera. I squeezed the shutter button for the heck of it. “Click.” Nothing new – it’d done that before I started work. Then I noticed…
Hmmm. No more “Err” on the LCD! Click. Click. Yep, it’s alive! Apparently the “Err” is a remembered condition that doesn’t clear until a good shutter cycle. Set it to 1/125 and CH. Listen to it purr off rapid fire!
Restoring the rubber grips
Apparently it’s normal practice to install new grips when a repair shop does work inside a Nikon body. In the D2H’s case, that adds at least USD$75 in materials to the project. In the interest of keeping this project low-budget, I was careful when removing the grips and I’ll be cleaning them and re-installing them.
I did check into whether Nikon sells the die-cut adhesive strips, but they don’t – those only come with a new grip. I had thought to use a gel adhesive (Welder Adhesive by Homax – it’s like a strong rubber cement), but my local repair shop recommended DuoBond, which is apparently available at hardware stores. Someone else suggested using a high-strength 3M double-sided tape, which I might like better than a gel; 3M makes some pretty strong stuff, especially if you buy the automotive versions. Whatever you do, don’t use a hard adhesive like cyanoacrylate (super glue) or epoxy with rubber – it won’t stay stuck to the rubber, but it’ll never come off the hard body material.
Now, I do need to buy one piece of grip – the one on the CompactFlash door. It’s a popular part to lose, but the trouble is you can’t buy it! Once upon a time it was available for about USD$4, but Nikon no longer offers it separately – you have to buy the whole door for USD$43 with the grip on it. Yeah, the NikonUSA Parts Department agree that this stinks – it’s the only way Nikon Japan provides it to them.
Getting the goo off – I’m sure there are chemical strippers, but good old-fashioned elbow grease works pretty effectively without damaging the body. Using something hard but not sharp (say, a fingernail), scrape the adhesive starting at its edge – it’s basically a thin paper tape with two-sided adhesive, and it’ll come off in sections if you’re patient. Sticky residue can be removed using a Q-tip dampened (not dripping wet) with 91% isopropyl alcohol; the 91% version is more potent, but doesn’t seem to affect the body at all. The alcohol won’t work to remove the tape itself, just the residue left behind.
Cleaning adhesive off the grips is another matter, and I can see why repair techs just replace them instead – the adhesive sticks much better to the rubber. For this, I’m trying a heavier application of alcohol, along with a metal blade as a scraper (holding it 90° to the surface so it only scrapes, and doesn’t cut). Don’t use more aggressive paint thinners because they could attack the rubber grip, causing it to deform.
This is the section I’m currently working on.
[Cleaning the adhesive off the grips]
[Gluing materials, technique, etc.]
[Order parts from Nikon – how long to arrive?]
[Cleaners / reconditioning]
Replacing a cracked LCD cover
The rear panel has a secondary small LCD, whose cover was broken when I got this camera. A replacement is only $6 and includes the plastic plate and the die-cut adhesive tape.
The LCD cover is attached using a die-cut adhesive tape, so the cover can be peeled off like the grips. I’ll use a dull pocket knife because I want something fairly sharp but sturdy enough to pry with.
[Insert photo of the LCD cover removed]
[Insert photo of the replacement LCD cover]
Refinishing the brassing
“Brassing” is the term used to describe where paint has been worn down to the metal due to heavy use, usually polishing the underlying metal in the process. (In this case, the body is a composite [plastic?] material rather than metal, so the wear reveals a dull grey material underneath.) Some folks like to see paint restored to new condition; other folks value the genuine wear, since it’s just cosmetic.
I debated stripping the paint and giving this camera a cosmetic facelift, maybe with a gaudy “international orange” paint job. In the end, I decided simpler is better – several buttons have silkscreened icons that would have been beyond my skills to replicate. In the end, I think I’ll leave the paint as-is – I dabbled with a permanent-marker re-touching technique, but it doesn’t hold up. In the end, it’s a tool, not a showpiece.
[Stippling method with toothbrush; cleaning materials]
- Nikon D2H Parts List (D2H = VBA10301)
- Nikon D2H Repair Manual sources
- Nikon D2X Parts List (D2X = VBA10501)
- Nikon D1 Parts List
- A few other Nikon service manuals
- Nikon Parts Department
Finding the Nikon parts list diagrams
It took a lot of scouring to find the first one, but now I’ve got a method that’s easier – here’s how:
- Do a Google search for the common part name – e.g., Nikon D2H “parts list” (with the quotes). This will find tons of hits, including several from repair manual shops that want to sell you PDFs.
- In the descriptions that come up (or the sample cover pages), find the Nikon internal part number for the product (e.g., the D2H is VBA10301)
- Search again for the part number – e.g., Nikon +VBA10301 “parts list” – the quotes tell Google to find those words next to each other, and the plus sign makes the part number a mandatory match (Google won’t return any results without that word). This will find a small number of hits, hopefully including a free source.
- The “parts list” contains the exploded diagrams like I’ve linked here. Nikon also publishes a “repair manual” for each product.
While I’ve got this camera opened up, let me know if there’s something you’d like to see that I haven’t torn into. Once the grips go back on, they’re staying on!
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Yep, this content probably has errors and omissions – there are no warranties. This is an “over-the-shoulder” look at my work and opinions, and is neither a how-to guide nor or a recommendation that you undertake a similar project. I wish you well, but if you attempt this project it’s at your own risk.
©2009 Richard Hornbaker. All rights reserved.