How-To Dismantle and Repair a HorizonT Russian Camera

by Pierre Kerr

Last modified July 2013

I got my HorizonT from e-bay with a warning that it jammed while winding the film. I really wanted one of these cameras but couldn't afford the average price of $250US. This one was a bargain at $38US. When I got it, I tried a spoiled film in it to see how bad the winding was. It skipped every few frames but not always. I put a good roll of film in and went out and tried it. As I was winding I could certainly feel that sometimes it was skipping. You'd wind but the film wouldn't move. Of course, that would mean frames overlapping.

I searched the Internet for any help with dimantling one of these but, apart from a few paragraphs in German about which screws to remove, there was nothing.

So, here goes.

As with any project like this it's important to have trays under everything so you don't drop a vital part. Dark room paper trays are perfect for the job. It's also a good idea to record everything. I used an 8mm camcorder that I could then capture frames from to get stills of interesting bits. I will use these in this document. If you click on the images it will display the full size image. Just use your back button to get back to the document.

Looking at the camera, there are four screws on the bottom and two obvious ones on the top. The top is not quite so straight forward though. The screw holding the shoe also holds the top as do the swivels for holding the strap. You also need to remove the winder and re-winder knobs as well as the shutter speed and aperture wheels.

Let's get started

The top

You will need a small slot screwdriver and something to remove the screws with two holes. I used a tool that is for removing split rings. Actually something I needed to take of the wheels of my snow blower. Hey, this is a Russian camera. Anything with two points would work. A compass from a math set perhaps.

I suggest you wind and cock the shutter before starting. Make a note of the shutter speed and f-stop because when you put this back together you'll need to know what they were.

Remove the winder knob. Under the winder is a ring screw. I removed it with the same tool, there's two slots in it. There's a spring under compression so hold on as you loosen it.

The exposure controls come off with the small screw holding the ASA reminder ring and under is a ring similar to the one under the winder. Once that's out you can lift the controls. One of them, the shutter speed I think, had a gear just held with friction hanging underneath. Again, good idea to always do this over a tray. The aperture control has two notches on it so it can only drop in one way but the shutter speed control can go anywhere. This is why it's good to know where you were.

The re-winder is the easiest part. Remove the top screw and it comes out.

Now you can unscrew the three screws. One on each side and one holding the shoe.

The strap swivels are held in with another split screw thing. My tool had several tips and one of them was at an angle. The point was too big to fit into the slots but good enough to grab it and turn. Once you loosen it you can use you fingers to take them off.

Now you can try to lift off the top. Look on the side of the hinge for the back. On mine I had to pry the top over the hinge to allow the top to come off. Lift it straight up.

Once off, you can admire the Russian gears.

The winder mechanism comes off as a module. There are three screws. Notice that there are also two locater pins. At least on mine there were two. These are tiny bits of brass wire that are used to align everything. The screws just hold it together. After removing the three screws you will have to gently persuade the locator pins to let go. Pry gently around the uniut and/or lift using the shaft that held the know. Maybe you could screw the know back on to give yourself a good grip. Here's a picture of the winder module just being lifted out of the camera.

Theres a spring in the hole under the shutter release. That's where my camera had the jamming problem. I stretched the spring a little bit and polished the shaft of the shutter button. It seemd to be sticking and that would prevent the film from advancing when you turned the winder.

This was as far as I went the first time I took apart the camera. I re-assembled it and shot a roll of film. It only jammed once and I could feel that as I turned the winder the shutter release hadn't popped up. Now I give the winder a little jiggle before winding and I can hear the sutter release reset. I suppose either the spring could use a little more streching or the shaft still has some rough spots on it.

However, in developing the next film I then notice a bad light leak. I had the camera out on a sunny day and if I left it in the Sun for a few minutes, that rame would have two bright bars on each side of the frame.

The light seals are around the lens turret so I knew I'd have to disassemble a lot further.

I started by removing the top again. I also removed the winder because it's gears mesh with the turret. There is a bracket holding the turret. You can see it in the picture above. Remove the three screws and it should come off. Again, you might have to gently persuade it.

There's a small strap held by two tiny screws on the left side. Note carefully the orientation of the strap. In this picture the two screws are removed but the strap is still there. The red arrow is pointing to it. You can also see the spring poking it's head out of the shutter release hole.

That's all you need to remove from the top. Now to the bottom

The Bottom

Simply remove the four screws and pop off the bottom.

I got a bit of a surprise here. I should have known better. If your camera is functional, you know that winding it sets the turret and clicking the shutter release allows the turret to rotate. It needs something to provide that energy. A big spring!

The bottom has a piece in the centre held with three screws. We'll call that the turret holder I removed the screws and then wrrrrrrrr, the spring unwound.

The picture below shows the turret holder out(blue arrow). There are three screws but six holes. You might want to remember which ones had screws. I think they are all threaded but I made sure to put screws back where they were.

I was worried that I would have to know how many winds to put into the spring. Never mind. It's a long spring. Not to worry. But, it would be nice to know how many there were.

If you take apart one of these and have an opportunity to count how many winds were in the spring, please share it with me.

There is a clever set of gears and a spinning thing (red arrow) to control the speed of the turret. Since this engages the gears on the turret, it's probably a good idea to remove it. Three screws hold the top plate with the spinning thing. In the pictures I'm showing the underside of the top plate. The two large gears simply lift out. Remember which one was where.

Now you should be able to coax the turret out. Push gently at the bottom and it should slide out. Remember the way that it was facing. If you had cocked the shutter then the opening will be to the side of the re-winder.

One the bottom of the turret there are two loose things. One is a gear and the other is a spacer. Remember their orientation, especially the gear in relation to the opening on the turret. It can only go two ways because of the positioning pins.

The Spring

Okay. So, I messed up. Hopefully you won't. When I was surprised by the spring being released when I removed the turret holder, I panicked and tried to rewind it. I turned it the wrong way! That messed up the spring. In fact, it wrapped it around backwards. Now I had to open up the turret to get to the spring. I could see that the spring was twisted.

The bottom of the turret has a cover that contains the spring. Here's a picture of me removing it.

The spring is covered with a metal plate that can be removed and then sprang....the whole spring can unwind! I had to straighten the end of the spring so I didn't really need to take off the cover, but I did, and sprang, out came the spring.

It's made of unusual metal. You would think it would be blue steel that is stiff and not malleable. Not so. This metal can be bent easily. With needle nose pliers I attempted to put a simple bend on the end of the spring to catch into the slot in the turret holder. Snap! Oaky, so now my spring is inch shorter. No big deal. It's long because I've unwound it. I cleaned up the end with a good break and a small right angle bend and wrapped up the spring and put it all back together.

You shouldn't have to do any of this.

The light seals

Now that I had the turret out I could see what the problem was with the light seals. They're on either side of the turret opening and are made of a stiff backed felt with a light foam backing. The foam on mine was totally disintegrated but the felt was in good shape.

At first I replaced the felt with some hobby felt and glued it to some dense foam. After re-assembly, the turret wouldn't move. It was too tight.

I decided to re-use the original felt and glued it to some light foam from a synthetic sponge. It doesn't have to press hard. The space where the light seals fits it is about inch deep so you can use a good piece of foam. This is not like changing a light seal in a 35mm SLR.

I just renovated the felt with a bit of brushing.


I cleaned anywhere I could get in with a swab and alcohol or lighter fluid. I put tiny drops of light machine oil on the gears and any big bits. Remember, in this camera the lens is in the turret so you don't have to worry about getting oil on it.

My turret was painted black and the paint was peeling and actually sticky. Since this rubs agains the light seals I didn't think that was good. I looked at other pictures of the HorizonT and realized that someone had painted the turret. Probably thinking that the affect of the light leaks was actually light flare. Anyway, a bit of paint remover and the turret became aluminum again.

The metal that the film slides against when it's behind the lens was also black, apparently painted. The file squeaked when I wound it and that also didn't seem good so I used the paint remover on that as well.

Apart from that my camera was very clean.

The first step to re-assembly is to get the turret in, with the loose gear and spacer in the right place.

Next you need to get the turret holder engaged with the spring. I had a lot of trouble since the spring end was probably not the right shape. Don't force it or, like me, you'll become expert at taking the spring out and bending the end, again and again.

With the spring engaged, you now need to wind it. I used needle nose pliers stuck in two of the screw holes to wind it. Be sure you wind the right way! Remember, the spring forces the turret to the side of the winder.

I wound it until I felt it was as tight as possible then backed off about a full turn. It's a long spring so I think it was about 20 full turns. Don't force it. Stop when you feel the slightest change in tension.

Now, while holding the turret holder, drop in a screw and tighten it. You may need three hands for this part.

If all is well, you should be able to push the turret towards the re-winder side and when you let go it should pop back quickly. There's no speed regulator in yet. That's the next part.

Put the speed regulator gears back in. They just pop into holes. I put drops of oil there too. Place the top plate on and everything should fit easily. You can move the turret a bit and see it work. Put the screws back in and test the turret for easy movement again. Now when you let it go it should move in a constant speed.

That's it for the bottom. Now the top. Put the top bracket back on. Test for easy movement of the turret. Put the small metal strap back on being careful of orientation. Put the winder module in carefully being sure that the gear mesh easily. Don't forget the spring that drops into the shutter realease hole. Push the alignment pins in before putting in the screws. Then screw it in.

At this point you should probably test the shutter and winder. Everything should work easily and listen the the turret movement for a constant whrrrr. If it gets stuck or slows down, find out why.

Put on the bottom and top covers and top controls.

The shutter speed and aperture controls are slightly tricky. Remember you made a note of the speed and f-stop, you want the controls to be pointing at those spots. Note, however that you have to cock the shutter first for them to be in the right place.

Put on the strap swivels and the three top screws and that's it.

You shouldn't have any spare parts.

Some more notes

When I was testing to see if I had fixed the light leak, I put the camera partially together and shot a roll of film.. The results were no vertical light bars but lots of other light leaks. Yikes. I took the camera in a dark room with a flashlight to find where it was leaking thinking that it must be my light seals. I was just about to give up when my eye was hit with a tiny beam of light coming from the shoe screw hole! I didn't bother putting the swivels and shoe screws back in but the shoe screw goes all the way through to the film chamber. That's where I was getting my latest leak. I put the screw in, shot another roll of film and voila. No light leaks. And I left the camera in the Sun for at least 20 minutes.

The film advance still has a tiny problem but, as I mentioned above, before I wind the film I give the winder a little jiggle until I hear the shutter release pop up and that seems to do the trick. I think the shutter release pin or shaft may be bent. There's a slot at the bottom and it seems to have a slight curve. I sanded the edges a bit to give it some play but I think that's where the problem is. I can live with it. Also, when I push the film release button to rewind I have to keep it depressed. It's connected with that shaft.

There was one more problem.

After my first successful film, I could hear that the turret wasn't moving easily. Instead of whRRRRRR, it went wHRRRrrrRRR, sounding like it was slowing down in the middle.

And, here's a sample picture. Notice that it's overexposed in the middle. It was hanging somewhere in the middle of it's travel. I took the top off and listened and it sounded fine. It turns out that the shutter speed and aperture controls were touching the top. I must have pushed the top on from the centre and that was enough to bend the metal in. A little push in the opposite direction and all was well again.

July 2013

A friendly e-mail from Ziga had a suggestion:

"I have two comments on your text:
"1) First Horizont I took apart, the spring unwound without control. With the second one I was careful and there were approximate 2 and 3/4 winds.
"2) When taking out the drum there is an additional metal shaft (strap) that can obstruct it's way. Again, with the first Horizont I just took the drum out and apparently bent it. The purpose of this small shaft in the front right part of the drum is to close the exposure slit when the shutter is being cocked (and drum rewound back to the initial position). After I discovered that I managed to move and bend the shaft back and now the slit closes as it should.

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