Monthly Archives: November 2019

REPLACING THE INTERNAL BATTERY IN A LEAF APTUS 22 DIGITAL BACK

November 2019

I’m a film photographer again….having been through the ‘digital phase’ …and come out the other side. I love shooting film in my 30 year old Hasselblads. But V Series Hasselblads come with wonderful interchangeable film backs of course…and they can use digital backs instead of film and yes I do now also have a digital back. Not a Hasselblad CFV-50C or a Phase One, but very old Leaf Aptus 22MP model from way back in 2005. Even I know there are many advantages to digital…as sometimes I want to see or use an image immediately and it’s great for portrait work.
So lets see what was required to change the old dead internal battery in my Leaf Aptus 22.


The back wouldn’t keep it’s date when switched off and the menus selected by the touch screen were often shaky to change (yes even in 2005 it had a somewhat crude touchscreen!)

To do this…and I will confess that I wouldn’t be doing it if that digital back was a Phase One worth the price of a luxury car…you need to set yourself up very carefully. I’ve taken circuit boards out of things before and you can soon find you’ve drop the screws or forgotten the assembly order. So do get prepared.

I have a little kit of screwdriver bits that fit on a special driver. It is called the ‘Gocheer 115-in-1 Screwdriver set’ that I see is being sold for under £20 from that internet site named after a large river…although I do try not to buy from them because they just aren’t ethical are they! I mean, not paying their proper taxes and tracking everything you do. Oh well perhaps I bought it somewhere else after all.
You’ll need a few different screwdrivers, hex drivers and sockets for doing work like this so a kit like this is useful from time to time and this has everything you are likely to need.

Lets start, having laid out our work area, set up a good working light and prepared some little plastic pots to store our removed circuits boards and all the screws we take off. I remembered to remove the CF memory card, in case it got in the way…and I had looked up the replacement battery I would need, a 3 volt CR1220. Not the most common ‘watch battery’ these days.

Here is the Leaf Aptus 22 with the protective cover off, looking at the sensor…..I know you don’t really want to be poking around a digital camera sensor do you. Well luckily, after you have removed the 4 x 2.5mm Torx bolts, that are on the sides, reasonably far from the sensor housing, you can slip the protective cover plate back on over the sensor and know that it’s safe.

The Leaf Aptus 22 sensor exposed, showing the 4 TORX bolts that connect it to the back assembly.

Now you can pivot the sensor housing assembly to the right and revealed are the first set of connections to work on, a ribbon cable, 2x grey cables fitted with very small co-ax plugs and an IDE type plug.

First circuit board exposed when sensor assembly is rotated revealing connections.

Support the sensor housing so that it won’t put stress on the cabling and start with either the the ribbon cable or the small co-ax cables. As I was mulling over how to pull the ribbon out one of the co-ax plugs came out of it’s socket. I then noticed there were two of these grey co-ax cables, one above the other. I stuck a small tape label ‘1’ on the first cable and tried to work out how to ease the second off.

First circuit board in close-up. One of the two small co-ax plugs had popped off the socket when I took this.

It turned out that in order to ease it up without bending I needed to use my small plastic tool to pry it up near the cable sheath as it entered into the little co-ax plug. Gentle force should prise it up without causing it to tilt or bend as it comes up. You really musn’t bend small sockets like these out of shape.
So I gave that grey cable a small taped ‘2’ label and I noted it’s location in a small drawing.
The ribbon cable is of the type that has ‘bare ends’. These sometimes ease out after the top of it’s matting socket has been ‘flipped up’.

I tried this but it didn’t happen, so I guessed the small black plugs on each end of the connector probably ‘did something’ and I eased these very small black lugs up…well sideways actually, as they move away from the socket towards the side walls. I used a small scewdriver blade to ease them towards the right, as seen in the picture above.
The ribbon cable then slid out…I just hoped getting it back in was going to be easy.

The little ‘IDE type’ plug and socket (remember them from computer hard drives?) had also to be teased out with a pair of plastic ‘spatulas’ (as found in the ‘Gocheer’ tool kit). Gently does it.
I marked it on both plug and socket to make sure it was returned the correct way.

We haven’t actually done with the connectors on this board as there are 4 more carrying ‘little cable plugs’. 3 of these can be seen on the left of the picture below, with the 4th on the right side. I called these ‘A’ to ‘D’ in my drawing when I removed them and noted all the cable colours on each connector as well. I wanted them back correctly afterwards.

The first circuit board removed…but it is rotated in this image…the ribbon cable socket is under my top finger here. Facing left are 3 of the 4 small sockets that take ‘little cable plugs’, with the 4th on the right opposite side of the board.

OK the ‘circuit board 1’ is now free of connectors and 3×2.0mm screws can be removed on it’s edges to get it out. Alas these 3 screws weren’t magnetic, so wouldn’t ‘stick’ to my screwdriver. Take great care not to drop them inside! The photo above shows it out of course, but when you start to lift it upwards you discover it is also held by a long board mounted plug and socket underneath it. Gently prise it up, the picture below of circuit board 2 in place shows the long connector.

It gets easier now as we move on to removing circuit board 2. This only has the same connector, a fairly long plug on it’s underside that mates it to circuit board 3 underneath it. Board 2 is held in by 3 threaded hex bolts that will need a 4mm socket head, Luckily these 3 were magnetic so my 4mm socket driver lifted them cleanly out. Into one of my storage pots they went.

Here is circuit board two, the long connector and the 3x4mm socket bolts can bee seen. The dangling cables are the ones removed from circuit board 1.

After circuit board 2 is out, no 3 is exposed. It has the battery on it! But alas you can’t get it out. Circuit board 3 will have to be removed.
Below the 3rd circuit board, at the bottom of the picture above, is a long black flat metal plate (opposite side of the board to the ‘fan’). It is a protective grill to stop ingress of ‘grot’ and I removed it by unscrewing the 2×1.0mm screws and lifting it out. You may not need to but I thought it gave me more space .

Circuit board 3 has the same 4mm hex bolts holding it …and it has another long plug connector assembly (as held the earlier boards, but this is on the opposite side. Ease up circuit board 3 and rejoice….now the battery is ‘get-at-able’!

3rd circuit board lifted out, although the battery is a bit hard to see in this picture…it’s on the right side of the board here, in the centre.

Easing the battery out of it’s housing is a little difficult but a small screwdriver pushed it out enough for me to pull it all the way.

As I had found out earlier, it’s a 3 volt CR1220 replacement. I found a Panasonic one on eBay. Push it in with the ‘+’ showing upwards and start the reassembly. Do make sure those long plug and socket connectors on each board are carefully pushed in. No broken pins thanks.
That ribbon cable on board 1 is rather close to the aluminium sides of the housing and it may work to put the ribbon back into it’s connector before you screw down circuit board 1. But done that way you have to know that the sensor housing unit can be supported OK whilst you put circuit board 1 back in.
I won’t go through all the re-assembly…after all you made notes, took photos or drawings and had the correct tools didn’t you!

The digital back powered up right away, satisfactorily giving a bleep. The menus on mine now selected very easily, although a re-alignment of the touch screen helped. This was under ‘Set Up’, then ‘Display’, to ‘Align Touch Screen’.
You’ll obviously want to re-set the ‘Date and Time’ also in the ‘Display’ menus…and if you’re like me will sneak back to check after awhile that it is in fact keeping time!
Nice to know the EXIF info will now make sense.

My Aptus is the old ’22’. I now see there’s a mention on the ‘GetDPI.com’ forum (https://www.getdpi.com/forum/medium-format-systems-and-digital-backs/52991-aptus-internal-battery.html ) about doing this battery change on other Aptus models and I can tell they weren’t quite like the insides of mine. However with a small kit of tools you should find you can tackle any version, if handled with care.

I always find great pleasure it tackling something like this…and now my Aptus may get used rather more.

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THE ROAD TO PERFECT NIKON 9000 SCANNING

November 2019

For a few years I have been scanning film, originally my old negatives and more recently my new Hasselblad film images.
I started with an Epson 4870 flat bed and soon learned that it wasn’t giving me the quality of scan that I knew my negatives deserved. There was a trouble with a flat bed like that, it didn’t have any accurate focusing instead relying on a pre-set focus. That required the negative to be at the exact focus point the manufacturer had pre-set. Alas the Epson holders weren’t engineered accurately enough and my images were not ‘grain’ sharp. Just as in the old dark-room printing days I judged the sharpness by the film grain.

I purchased other negative holders, the ‘Better Scanning’ ones but still didn’t get consistent results across the whole negative so went looking for another way. This brought me to using a digital camera to photograph the negatives when illuminated by an LED lightbox. This was much better and if the camera was focused accurately I could shoot a ‘full-frame’ of a 35mm negative using a Canon 5D2 camera with a macro lens. I could also shoot 2 or 4 shots of a medium format negative to get a big ‘scan’, although they had to be ‘stitched together’ in Photoshop.

The LED lightbox was however a bit too dim so I decided to start using flash as the light source but it was quite hard to engineer that. This led me to getting an old Bowens Illumitran Slide Duplicator for a only £5 on eBay. I only wanted it for it’s built in flash tube and didn’t need the camera mounting, preferring to use the vertical camera stand mount I already had. Shortly after obtaining the Illumitran though I decided that stitching negatives was really a pain and I decided to go and find a ‘proper scanner’.

Now the professional ‘big boys’ use drum scanners…..but I would never have to money for one of them, the cost of a luxury car, but the next best was the now defunct Nikon LS-8000 and LS-9000 film scanners.
I bought a ‘mint’ LS-9000 for £2000….still a big sum…but getting a great scan of my images had become very important to me.

Well the Nikon could and did produce really great 4000dpi scans for negatives from, in my case 35mm up to 6×9 and it had really accurate automatic focusing of the negs. Nikon’s software was no longer supported but old machines like the Nikon are saved by Ed Hamricks VueScan programme. It’s really good scanning software that covers hundreds of different otherwise ‘dead’ scanners. The Nikon only had a Firewire 400 interface but my Windows 10 was capable of that.

Switch on the scanner, load VueScan and away I went….and the scans were pin sharp…ahh but only in the centre of the image! The Nikon holders just didn’t hold the negs flat enough.
So more research and I bought Focal Point’s ‘anti-Newton Ring’ glasses for both the 35mm and MF negative holders to make my negs flat. The 35mm ones worked very well and I got totally flat scans and the medium format 645 negatives usually worked OK as well but my 6×6 negatives still often had those damned ‘Newton-Rings’….and both versions had problems with dust. That was because there was now a negative plus 2 sheets of glass…that’s a total of 6 surfaces to clean of dust
. Vuescan was good at removing dust with the ‘infra-red mode’, but monochrome negs had to be carefully cloned free of dust with Photoshop.

Now I decided I needed to do ‘wet-mounting’ for the 6×6 negatives at least. This is the method used in those super expensive drum scanners. The ‘platter’ is given a coat of an oily film and the negative laid on it. Another covering of the oily film is put on the negative and then a sheet of opaque acetate is then laid on top of form a sandwich, which is ‘squeeged’ of air so the negative sits bonded to the ‘platter’, which does indeed hold it dead flat.
After scanning the neg is removed and the oil allowed to ‘air dry’…hopefully without marks.

Translating the wet scan technique into use on a flat bed scanner like the Epson is pretty straight forward and I will continue to do this for 4×5 negatives. However a film scanner like the Nikon 9000 which loads the holder into the machine has to be handled carefully to be adapted to wet scanning. The negative holder has to have a sheet of glass for the bottom plate which is then treated with the oily film onto which the negative is laid. Acetate sheet then forms the top surface after a further oily film treatment on the top surface of the negative of course.
After modifying my old Nikon holders to allow glass plates, this did work really well…providing I had a whole evening to spare for just a couple of negatives…it was so, so time consuming, I could see I was just never going to get through the mountain of old negatives I had. I would have to keep wet scanning for my best images.

FINALLY though ….I was saved by a German photographer/engineer in Hamburg called Stephan Scharf. I spotted an eBay video in which Stephan showed a 3D printed negative holder he had developed for the Nikon 8000 and 9000’s. He had taken the basis of the Nikon holder and totally re-engineered it so that it closely and tightly gripped the negative using a strong magnetic force within the holder. Brilliant!

Stephan promised that his holder would produce a flat negative and therefore I would get the overall sharp scans that I desired. Alas 3D printing is slow, definitely not mass production and I did have to wait a few months before his beautifully holder arrived, complete with negative masks for my range of old negatives, 35mm, 645.6×6 and 6×9. Stephan doesn’t overcharge but a one off 3D printed holder will never be super cheap either…but hey this holder is so superb that I’ve sold my old Nikon holders on eBay and recovered the cost and his service throughout was just great.

Stephan Scharf’s 3D printed holder with my selection of neg carriers-35mm, 645, 6×6 and 6×9.

The new 3D holder uses the ‘mode’ that the original Nikon FH-869GR holder uses. That’s the holder that Nikon produced with a ‘rotating glass’ carrier. It expects one negative at a time and does therefore require you to eject the holder between each scan and re-position to the next negative. This is required so each negative can be very tightly clamped for each scan, so the negative is truly flat overall.
I don’t find this a problem since I get great scans, as good as the Nikon 9000 will allow and can also shift along a set of 35mm negatives pretty quickly since Stephan produced a little ‘holding plate’ that allows this
.

At last therefore the Nikon 9000 has become my perfect scanner and I can start tackling the negative mountain….thanks to Ed Hamrick’s VueScan software and Stephan Scharf’s amazing 3D negative holder system.
So it’s become possible for the ‘little guys’ to transform existing products and give them years of life, often even better than the were before. Thanks so much!

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