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Note: if you just want to look at the photos of me sawing a lens off my camera body, go straight to the photos. If you want to know what the hell happened to get myself into this mess in the first place, read the text first.

Update 7/12/2008: I got an email update from Jason, another Pentax stuck lens victim. He managed to remove the stuck lens without damaging either the camera body or the lens itself, definitely worth a look.

I recently decided to hunt for a used macro lens that would work on my Pentax *istD. I don't need anything fancy, just a faster lens: hopefully 2.0, but 2.8 would be ok, too. There are plenty of new lenses on the market that would work, but they're expensive while used lenses are cheap. Even though older used lenses might not have automatic focus or aperture, they can save you a ton of money. After doing some research, I found several options in the $40 to $50 range.

So I was out running errands the other day, had a little bit of time to kill, why not go inside that pawn shop across the street and see if they have an old macro lens I can buy for cheap? I even had my camera with me! Seemed like a great idea (it wasn't), so I went inside...

Most of the pawn shop's selection was crap, but I did find an old Albinar 1:2.8 macro lens on an old Pentax SLR body (I didn't recognize the body itself, it looked boxy and old). Everything I've heard over the years about Pentax lenses is they've used the same K-mount for many, many years, so any old lens you've got should work great with any other Pentax SLR body. So cool! Of course, it's not entirely true - any old Pentax lens should work with another Pentax body (especially if the body is newer than the lens), but not all Pentax compatible lenses will work.

What does that mean?

It means Ricoh (known culprit) and possibly others (by my experience, Albinar should be included on the offender list) might get stuck on your camera body.

As in, the lens won't come off.

As in, you just bought yourself that lens and rendered your camera totally useless in one, swift motion.

Nice going.

It's not all bad though, right? You can put up a web page, share your story, take pictures, and then nice people like yourself will read about it, like you're doing right now for me, and then say things like, "Wow! What a loser!", and " I'd sure never make a mistake like that! Ha! Ha!".

Let's recap: if you have a Pentax body and are considering a non-Pentax lens, don't do it unless you know for certain that the lens will physically fit on that body. If you aren't sure, be aware that they might not detach. This advice also applies to any other lens and SLR camera body. I know that's a broad statement to make, but it seems wise to only try out lenses that you're sure won't get stuck. I don't care how good a price that lens may be, it's not worth the hassle.

As you can guess, I mounted that Albinar lens on my camera body. And yes, it got stuck. Why? Some googling showed that older non-Pentax lenses might get stuck on a newer camera body that supports autofocus. Apparently Ricoh lenses are known for this. Something in the mount area (on the lens) doesn't move the way it should, so the thing will kinda go on but won't come off. That's about as much as I could find online.

There I was, old crap lens stuck on my nice camera body. I would have probably bought the lens if it had been $20 or less, but it was part of a kit - a shitty, lame kit that will probably never sell, but a kit nonetheless - and wouldn't you know the kit was more than $20. In fact, it was $90, and after tax that's pushing $100. That's twice what I was hoping to spend on a lens in the first place, so I really didn't want to do that. And even if I had, it wouldn't have done anything to solve the bigger problem of removing the stuck lens from my camera body.

What do you do? Beg. I begged the pawn shop guys to let me leave the store without buying the lens, promising to return the lens to them later, and then I went to Precision Camera for help. The guys at Precision are super cool, and even though it was a busy Saturday they had one of their service guys take a look. After a while, Shaun came back and said the tech couldn't remove the lens. Further demonstration of their coolness: they didn't charge me anything for making a repair attempt. I don't know what their standard policy is on stuff like that, but I thought for sure they would charge me $20 bench fee or something. Everyone else does. Lens is still stuck. What do I do? Their suggestion: send the whole mess to Pentax, pay a flat-rate repair charge (quite possibly $200 to $300), plus any additional costs that might arise (for example, if something on my camera body is broken in the process), and hope they can get me fixed up. Basically I had ventured into uncharted territory where you start hearing things like, "we don't know how long it will take or how much it will cost". Scary stuff. Paying Pentax $200 to $300 for that level of uncertainty is kinda ridiculous, because I can buy a perfectly good replacement body (another *istD) for about $400 (they even had one for sale at Precision, I was tempted to buy it).

I decided I'd rather risk damaging the body myself and try to chop off the old lens with a hacksaw. Of course, the destruction of the lens meant I had to settle with the pawn shop somehow (it still didn't seem worth $100 to buy the whole kit from them). That's where craigslist came to the rescue - a quick search turned up someone in Georgetown who was selling almost exactly the same lens (another Albinar 1:2.8 macro, who would have thought I could find one so easily?), I met up with her and bought her lens for $10, went back to the pawn shop, explained everything, and they thankfully accepted the lens swap. Then it was time to get home and break out the saw.

In the end, I managed to remove the lens using a combination of hacksaw, pliers, screwdrivers, and power drill. The only negative is I got a small amount of metal dust inside my camera body, but it's quite minimal and the guys at Precision cleaned it out for me. My Pentax works fine, and I ended my macro lens quest by purchasing a used Pentax 2.0 for $45.

Taking the suggestion of a friend, I took a bunch of photos with my point-and-click to capture the lens destruction process. Enjoy.

written by Kaan Erdener in Austin, Texas
January 21, 2007

A few shots before the party started. This is the old Albinar macro lens stuck on my camera body.
Another shot of the lens on my Pentax *istD.
Since I was going to use a hacksaw on the lens, I wanted to be sure I didn't cover my camera in metal shavings. I grabbed a large ziploc bag and stuffed the camera inside...
... then poked a hole in the ziploc bag to push the lens through...
... and squeezed the bag around the lens so that it fit nice and snug.
That's it! Dust seal is complete. I'm going to start a side business selling Do-It-Yourself Lens Chopper Offer Dust Seal Kits (tm).
Time to move into the garage and break out the hacksaw. Normally I would be really nervous with a saw so close to a camera lens...
A few attempts at cutting the lens showed how annoying it is to cut a moving object - the blade kept turning the focus barrel. Vise grips kinda helped, but it was cumbersome and bulky. I had a lot of sawing left and needed a better solution.
Power drill! I'm always excited to find an excuse to use my Dewalt drill. Favorite tool ever. Buy one today (the 18v with a clutch). You'll thank me later. I used the drill to put hole through the various layers in the lens...
... and then I ran a screw through the hole to keep all of those damn moving parts in one place. This worked much better than the visegrips..
Back to cutting...
It's slow going, but if you look closely you'll see a line on the lens barrel where I've cut through the metal. You'll also notice that I'm covering the work area in a nice powder of silver metal shavings.
Using a hacksaw on something that's wrapped in plastic is annoying, so I made a jig to help keep things in place on my work bench.
Still cutting. My choice of screw location doesn't seem so random anymore, does it? It's a nice prop to support the lens off the table surface.
Almost done! If you look closely you can see the two lines of hacksaw cuts are about to meet. Whoopee!
Hmm, I cut all the way through but the ring wouldn't come off the end of the lens. So I drilled a few pilot holes with a small bit...
... and then drilled a few larger holes with a larger bit ...
... and finished up with an even larger bit and some pliers. The ring was now free. Go! Be free! Live your own life, little ring around the lens! Just do it in the trash.
This is where things got both exciting and scary at the same time: the entire optic piece came out...
... and was just about to break free altogether....
... when I realized there was nothing protecting the insides of my camera body. Free and clear from outside air into the mirror. Not great. This definitely meant no more drilling or sawing.
I had no idea what to do next, and thought I'd take a little break. What better than a nice, cold Shiner?
I drank half a beer, thought of a few ideas, started tinkering, and pop! The lens disengaged from the body! Success! See, this is why alcohol is good. I had a problem, I drank beer, and my problem was fixed. The photo still shows my Ultra Mega Dust Protector in place, but you can clearly see that the lens is fully detached from the body.
Here's the final mess. Those three chunks of crap on the work bench used to be an old Albinar 1:2.8 macro lens. Now they are a story on the internet. That's the Shiner I drank just before everything worked out.
I took a closer photo of the remnants for posterity. This photo (and the previous one) were both taken with my now-happy Pentax SLR, and I'm taking it to Precision tomorrow for a thorough cleaning.