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Replacing camera leather
Replacing camera leather
By Bruce Robbins (Brock)
Published by Brock
23rd July 2012
Default Replacing camera leather

One of the issues that confront users of certain 70s and 80s 35mm SLRs is severe degradation of the leather covering on the body. Contax, Konica and Minolta cameras in particular suffer in that regard although, thankfully, it's a cosmetic defect only. Where the last two are concerned, the slightly padded leatherette shrinks leaving gaps around the edges of the camera. Contax cameras have a different problem: the upper leatherette surface eventually peels off leaving a denim-coloured, cloth-like backing behind.

That's what had happened at some time in the past to the Contax 137MD and 137MA that I use. To be honest, I quite liked the denim look but it felt like slightly brushed cotton and offered no real grip. After checking some online sources, I decided to do something about it and ordered a couple of replacement leatherette kits from Aki Asahi in Japan at a cost, including postage, of about 20.50. Mr Asahi is a good guy to deal with and despatched the kits very promptly.

There's quite a selection of colours and textures to choose from. Normally, I'd have been boring and gone for something that was a close match for the original Contax covering. In an uncharacteristic fit of derring do I decided to opt for a tan-coloured finish with a very fine texture instead. First of all, though, you have to remove what's left of the old covering. I used ice lolly sticks cut at a 45-ish degree angle and some lighter fuel to remove the old covering and the gummy deposit it leaves behind. Sometimes just rubbing a finger over the gum is the best way of getting it off. It didn't take long to have the bare camera body completely free of gunk.

The kit comes just the way it looks in the pic. The leatherette is very well cut to match the cameras and is sticky on the reverse. Mr Asahi includes fitting instructions on his website so I followed these as closely as I could. Fitting the front panels was quite straightforward but getting the cover to fit neatly around the film reminder on the back was a pig. I ended up going slightly askew when sticking the narrow strip just above the reminder but that was just my first attempt and the camera looks quite good.

The second time round I got the back pretty much spot on but had a wee problem with one of the front panels. Mr Asahi suggests moistening the leatherette in certain places with pure alcohol to reduce its tackiness and make repositioning easier. I didn't have any to hand so I brushed on some lighter fuel which helped a little. When applying the new panels, they have to be very accurately positioned as a 0.5mm misalignment at one end expands into a couple of mms at the other - and that's a big gap. However, I got one of the panels slightly out of place and had to pull it off. In doing so, I must have stretched it by just a couple of mms. It was enough to make the cover just marginally too long to fit properly but I eventually persuaded it to do the right thing and comply. Next time, I'll get some alcohol.

So was it worthwhile? Overall, I'm very peased that my Contaxes have some new clothes and, more importantly, give me a much more secure grip. The kit sticks very firmly and I can't see any future peeling problems.

Was it easy? It's not difficult in the brain surgery sense but is pretty finicky although the effort (about 20 minutes) was worth it and I'd do it again.

Would I go for the tan leatherette again? Not a chance! I suppose it's a matter of taste but these classy German (ok, Japanese) cameras now look like something a pimp might carry around. It'll be sober black the next time.

Mind you, it could have been so much worse. Mr Asahi included a free kit to practise with first of all but I didn't use it. The colour? Pink lizard skin. I keep getting this recurring daydream that I'll pick up another 137MD and give it some extra bling...

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By Dave miller on 23rd July 2012, 12:09 PM

Thanks Bruce, I'm sure many here will be interested in this.
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By David Brown on 24th July 2012, 04:15 AM

There has been much discussion on APUG about Apparently his product is outstanding, but you may or may not ever receive it, or take months of emails and phone calls to do so. I have no "dog in this hunt", as we say in Texas, but I thought I'd mention it.

On the other hand, the Japanese vendor has gotten good reviews.
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By Brock on 24th July 2012, 11:30 AM

I read some of that, too, David. It seems the cameraleather guy isn't too efficient at getting things done but it's that rather than any dodgy practices that account for the delays. Most people say that if you're patient you'll get what you ordered. That will be good enough for some but not everyone. Mr Asahi, on the other hand, handles orders very promptly and I've certainly no complaints at all about his efficiency or the quality of his products. There's also a German supplier who is on Ebay from time to time but I couldn't find him when I was writing this article and can't remember his name. Maybe someone here will know.
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