Saturday, June 20, 2015

Hey Man, You Just Exposed My Film!

Granted, in the big picture, it's not that big of a deal, but what happened today was frustrating enough for me to sit here at this moment and dedicate whatever amount of time it takes to tell you the story of the camera repair guy who exposed the film in my Leica M3, which included the first pictures I ever took with it, for no good reason reason. Much like the movie "Lone Survivor" the title of this blog post gives away the ending, still, for some reason, you  still want to know the rest of the story...

I just took possession of my very first Leica camera, a Leica M3 I purchased on eBay for a deal too good to pass up. The camera looked to be in good mechanical condition with a few minor dings and a slightly dirty rangefinder. I also found that the moving parts of the lens weren't as smooth as they could be. I wasn't unhappy with the condition but I know enough to know that a nice full service cleaning, lubrication and adjustment would have this already beautiful Leica M3 kicked up a notch looking like the "Belle of the Ball" and mechanically as sound as a fine Swiss watch.

Turner and I frequent the Chungmuro area of Seoul and it's commonly known as a center for photography related commerce. As I mentioned in Episode 6 of Hey Don't Shoot if you can't find it in Chungmuro, you can't find it anywhere. Chungmuro is also where you would go if you need any kind of expert camera service or repair.

One of the main reasons for our trip to Chungmuro on this particular day was to pick up a vintage Agfa Karat that I had serviced back to working condition. The repair shop that did the job was selected almost randomly as it was recommended by a shopkeeper that we just happened to ask "Hey, where can I get this thing fixed?" The camera shops are all on street level but the camera repair shops are hidden and tucked away upstairs in any number of non-descript buildings. The signs to find these repair shops are almost non-existent. You pretty much have to be led by the hand by someone who knows where they are to find one.

My Agfa Karat was serviced and repaired back to like new, near perfect condition. When I took it in, the focus ring was frozen stuck and the aperture ring didn't turn either. But the guy did a GREAT job on it and I was more than pleased with what I got in return for my 72 US dollars.

I stuck two additional cameras in my bag that I wanted to have looked at and get an estimate for repair. The first was a Zeiss Ikon Contaflex which is another of the batch of vintage cameras I recently purchased on eBay. I had put a roll of film through it and none of the pictures turned out. Turner was able to identify that the shutter curtain failed to close after each time the shutter was fired, therefore, the entire roll was exposed. A repair was definitely needed. I also put my Leica M3 in my bag because I wanted to get an estimate for a complete service, cleaning, lubrication and adjustment. However, the repairman that did the fine job on my Agfa Karat was not in the office and was not available to give me an on-the-spot quote for either camera. I was comfortable enough to leave the Zeiss Ikon  Contaflex in the shop and wait for the guy to call or text me with a quote but I did not want to leave my Leica M3 without knowing exactly how much the service would cost. I also knew there were other reputable repair shops that could do the job, including a Leica Factory store and Service Center.

Our next stop was Il Chul, one of our favorite camera shops in Chungmuro. I whipped out my Leica M3 and asked one of the friendly shopkeepers if they could do a full service and cleaning on it. He led Turner and I around the corner and up to the sixth floor of an adjacent office building then into a small office and custom repair shop called "Sam Sung Camera Repair Shop". This is where the incident in question occurred.

It all happened in the blink of an eye, almost too fast for me to react...

I handed over my Leica M3 for the repairman to have a look at. He gave it a once over, then flipped the camera over to look at the back side. He asked me if the camera had film in it, I said yes very clearly. I even said it in Hangeul, "Nay". I then noticed he was turning the lock on the base plate as if to open the film compartment and I said "It has film in it". Perhaps I didn't say it forcefully enough because dude keeps on doing what he's doing. I said it again, "It has film in it."

Dude opens the film compartment and flips open the back plate, EXPOSING THE FILM which included the first photos I ever shot with my very first Leica camera. Now there was certainly nothing iconic on that roll of film. I'd only fired off 10 shots or so, but those images had sentimental value. What's worse is, the guy didn't need to open the back to give me an estimate and he didn't even apologize!

I wore the frustration on my face and exclaimed, "Dude, you just exposed my film. I told you there was film in there." He just looked at me as if nothing special had happened and quoted me 150,000 KRW to service my Leica M3. Now this repairman may be the most expert, most reputable camera repairman in all of Korea, I don't know, but I did know that I wasn't about to pay him roughly the equivalent of 140 US dollars to service my Leica after he just exposed my roll of film. No, fuck that guy.

I took my ass to the Leica Factory Service Center right down the street, where I should have gone in the first place, and happily paid 90,000 KRW MORE (total price for the service was 240,0000 KRW or roughly 215 USD) for the complete service of my Leica M3. I am sure that the Leica Factory repairman will restore, clean, lubricate and adjust my Leica M3 back to like new condition. I am sure it will be as smooth as butter and I will be a happy camper, ready to shoot a lifetime's worth of memorable images with an iconic Leica camera. But I will never forget the day that the dude in the sixth floor camera repair shop in Chungmuro EXPOSED MY FILM for no good reason even after I told him clearly, multiple times, that there was film in it. That bastard.

Leica M3

Zeiss Ikon Contaflex

Agfa Karat

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