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Fixing RF alignment on a Super Ikonta A or C

Nothing to fear.

A number of times, people have asked me to reiterate how to fix the alignment on a Super Ikota A or C rangefinder (they are identical). The same trick works for Moskvas. I am not going to go into Super Ikonta B adjustment, because it is considerably more complicated (it is a lot harder to disengage the lens from the RF assembly, but otherwise conceptually similar. Any repair undertaken using these directions is strictly at your own risk.

Horizontal: Horizontal problems are minor and usually involve helicoid lube going bad and that drag overcoming the friction-fit of the RF mechanism.

On the Super Ikonta A, loosen the screw in the center of the focusing thumbwheel slightly (be very careful doing this). My Super A was pre-war. Newer ones may be like the C, below.

On the Super Ikonta C, take out that screw, remove the leatherette disc, and you will see two screws underneath. Loosen these.

Turn the lens (barrel) to infinity (400 meters for the A, 800m or more for the C). Aim the RF on a faraway object. Rotate the thumbwheel while holding the lens barrel in place. The spot should line up on the object (i.e. at infinity). Tighten the little screw (or the two screws on the C). Now try focusing normally. If the rangefinder spot goes the wrong way, remember this - if you loosen the screw slightly and turn the thumbwheel, the spot will go left then right then left. If you don't get it right the first time, take it through another rotation. Make sure your lens barrel is lubed and make sure the set screw on the thumbwheel is tight to avoid slippage (it's all done by friction). It may be better to focus the camera in the future by grabbing the lens focusing ring instead, because the mass of the lens is much less than that of the RF mechanism. Note: if the lubrication in your lens barrel is bad, you need to take the camera to a repair facility.

Vertical: Do not buy a camera with this problem.

Vertical alignment problems indicate a problem with the beamsplitter (not economically feasible to fix), a bent front standard (=dead camera), or someone's having disassembled the RF mechanism and put it back together incorrectly (too expensive to fix cost-effectivey). The *best* you can hope for is that someone botched a repair. More likely is the more serious damage.

How to diagnose and correct a botched repair: watch the vertical alignment as you turn the focusing wheel. If the vertical alignment is on at one end, and off at the other, then someone has likely disassembled the rangefinder assembly and assembled it incorrectly. This means that the double image is not following a true horizontal path but is going diagonally. The solution to this is to disassemble the RF arm cover. You will see that the circular glass is surrounded by two toothed wheels. When you turn the thumbwheel, these prisms rotate at different rates, in opposite directions. This is what lets the two prisms "walk" the double image across the rangefinder. You need to gently remove one and rotate it one tooth. Then run the thumbwheel back and forth. Eventually (and this could take an hour), the image will be vertically aligned at all distance settings. This means that you have managed to get the correct relationship between the wedge prisms (i.e., the correct "walking" angle. If there's any consolation to this time consuming process, it's that there are only a finite number of gear teeth on the wheel. Then redo the horizontal alignment as above.

How to diagnose a bent front standard or separated beamsplitter: watch the vertical alignment as you turn the focusing wheel. If it is off at all distances, either (a) the beamsplitter inside the camera has separated or (b) the front arm or standard has been bet (likely as a result of impact). Problem (a) can be corrected by a competent repair shop. Problem (b) is pretty much reason to throw away the camera.

Vertical adjustments should really be left to professionals.