DIY Lens Disassembly and Cleaning


Mu-43 Regular
I've developed a recent obsession with acquiring MF glass for my E-P1, and have eBayed a number of Pen F and OM lenses. The ones I've bought have been in generally good optical shape, but most of them have a little bit of dust or debris between the elements. While I appreciate that this has little effect on the quality of photos taken with them, it bugs me enough that I'm tempted to try cleaning it myself.

I am quite comfortable with handling and cleaning optics (I build lasers as part of my day job), and I'm reasonably comfortable disassembling and reassembling little mechanical bits. Having never disassembled a multi-element photographic lens, however, I have some trepidation about doing so. Given the impressive feats of lens modification on display in some of the threads around here, I was hoping that someone might have some knowledge about disassembling and cleaning lenses that they could share with me.

I have concerns about two particular pitfalls that have occurred to me (again, I'm mostly talking about older Olympus OM and Pen F lenses): First, are there likely to be glued/cemented (or otherwise nigh-impossible-to-separate) components inside the lens? Second, will reassembling the lens require a careful optical realigment procedure, or is everything sufficiently registered that a naive reassembly will not likely degrade the performance of the lens?

Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Brian S

Mu-43 Top Veteran
Buy a set of optical spanners, some fine-nosed tweezers, jewelers screwdrivers, and cotter pin pliers. You will need a set of small files as well. Rangefinder lenses are easier to disassemble that SLR lenses.

Most lenses screw back together fairly easily. On some optics, I put the lens into an ultrasonic cleaner to "vibrate" the front element as I tighten the retaining ring.

I would buy a cheap set of junk lenses to practice on.

Also, from now on you have to say "I build 'LAHZORZZ'". and do the quotes with your fingers. That's what we do when giving briefings in the optics lab.

The sister forum at has a projects section. I "focus" on Leica mount lenses for my projects.


Mu-43 Regular
Thanks for the information and other forum links! I have (or have access to) all of the tools, and I already have one "disposable" lens on which to practice. We'll see how it goes.

Brian, at the lab right now, we're working on making some sharks (or maybe just sea bass) with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads, so your advice will certainly be put to good use.


Mu-43 Veteran
So Dr. Evil is in the house, building "LAHZORZZ" :D

When you get started, would really be great if you post photos of the process :)
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Brian S

Mu-43 Top Veteran
On a really humorous note: we were clearing out an old cabinet, and an optical engineer pulled out something just slapped together with glass tubes, wires, etc.
Asked him, "Bob, what is that?".

"It's a LASER"

"Bob, it looks pretty crude."

"Well, it was a 6th grade Science Fair Project. It actually did work."

And rebuilding lenses... So Easy, a FORTRAN programmer can do it.