Although I love the use of old lenses with modern digital cameras, there are some cosmetic issues that can make them less enjoyable to use. These are some easy and inexpensive ways to make your old lenses look better. This is not for rare or collectible lenses. It is only for “user” lenses.
These things do not affect the internal functionality of the aperture or focus, nor the condition and quality of the glass. All of this should be in order before you even consider it. It doesn’t make sense to improve the ergonomics of a lens if it isn’t worth using.
Step 1: Prepare the Lens
Clean the glass as best you can and make sure it is operational. Tighten any loose lenses. Remove the focus ring if it is being replaced.
Now, clean the lens body. While wet cleaning is the best option, it’s important to remember that “wet”, means only slightly damp. It is important that no liquid can get into the lens. Metal-bodied lenses can be cleaned with soapy water, alcohol, or very little other solvents. You can use either cotton swabs or paper towels to clean them. For cleaning intricate details such as engraved letters, a little alcohol on a cotton wipe is best.
Step 2: Reduce visibility of wear marks
You can use a permanent marker to cover any wear marks on the black metal. You should only color the marks. After coloring the marks, you can gently clean/rub any extra marker ink.
You can color them with this method, but they will not be filled in if there are deep nicks or engravings. Wait until the next step to color the marks. Then, use several coats of black acrylic paint to fill in the gaps.
Step 3: Recolor Engraved Markings
Colored engraved letters are often very easy to read once they have been cleaned. If the engraving is intact, you can use unthinned acrylic paint (which allows water cleanup when wet) to apply the paint and rub off any excess. Fine engraving can be done with a toothpick. A bit of cotton swab or paper towel are good options.
This method works well for mounting alignment dots. The Sony NEX-5’s E mounting uses a white alignment dot. However, third-party E-mount adapters seem to have red dots. This is how I have been changing the red dots from brand-new E mount adapters to white dots.
The first coat should leave an extremely thin layer of hair in the engraved areas. The coverage is very important so only one coat should suffice. If you dry the paint well, additional coats can be applied to fill in any indentation.
Step 4: Replace the Focus Grip
Measure and cut a piece of sticky-back craft foam to replace the focus ring. Wrap the strip around your lens starting at the bottom. Trim the end to fit the length of your lens. Finally, press the strip down. To help the ends stay put if they pop up, you can apply a little glue. Craft foam is not very durable but is inexpensive and easy to cut with scissors. It also has a wonderful “cushy” feeling.
Craft foam feels better than any other coverings. Many leathers don’t provide enough grip. Sugru might be very effective but it would look very hand-made.
Craft foam sheets are available in black but can also be made in other colors, such as the orange on the lens at the beginning of this instructable. Color-coding camera equipment is a great idea. But, color can also be a fashion statement. This material is even available in glitter sparkle colors so that you can color-coordinate your lenses to match bridesmaid dresses …. ;-?