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O'Connor 1030 fluid head servicing


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#1 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 27 May 2011 - 07:48 AM

I just got an O'Connor 1030 head. I'm not sure the exact version it is. I attached a photo, taken when I bought it. I like it a lot, but this version is designed in a way that allows the pan and tilt fluid adjust spindles to get bent easily. Both are slightly bent. Also the head has more play in the pan axis than I think it should. If you lock the head you can make it rock slightly with the control arm. Also I think the head was stored on its side with maybe quite a lot of leakage out of the pan fluid adjust.

I'm in Auckland New Zealand and there is an O'Connor agency with access to a local tech with O'Connor training (who they hide quite effectively). This is probably the default option, but may be expensive. I might like to have a go at doing some of the servicing myself.

So some questions for anyone familiar with this model, or generic O'Connor facts:

- What exactly is the fluid? The agents here said it costs about US$400 for 500mls (a bit less than a pint). Is there a cheaper option?

- The drawings downloadable from O'Connor give enough info to work on the fluid adjust spindles, but not for this exact model. Does anyone have drawings or a service manual for this model? I can put some more photos up or send photos if it helps.

- The play in the pan axis. Is this maybe due or partly due to low fluid? Are the bearings in these heads adjustable?

- Anything to be wary of before opening the fluid chambers? Do the cover plates have damagable gaskets? If so what sort of matereal?

- Anything wrong with just trying to straighten the outer part of the fluid adjust spindles? The steel looks quite soft.

Thanks for any help.
Regards
Gregg.
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#2 Dom Jaeger

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Posted 27 May 2011 - 09:49 AM

The 1030 is pretty rough and ready compared to larger versions like the 2575.

The tension adjust knobs are always a bit stiff on O'Connors - I wouldn't worry about them being bent unless they leak fluid.

The fluid is a very viscous substance with a silicon base, I think. It's designed to give similar drag at various temperatures and be non-corrosive. I don't know of a cheaper suitable alternative. If it's leaked out you will know about it - the exterior of the head will be very sticky.

Play in the pan could be a number of things. If it has play when locked off it's usually because the lock-off is loose in its bushing, due to wear. If it has play when panning (ie there is a change in tension when you change direction, a brief looseness before the drag kicks in) then the drag unit inside is worn and can rock within the housing. There is a certain amount of flex in the whole head, especially the smaller models.

The gasket seal is an anaerobic silicon sealant, which needs to be carefully removed before a new seal is applied.

I wouldn't recommend trying to repair it yourself.
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#3 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 27 May 2011 - 05:00 PM

Hey Dom,
Thanks for those ideas. I'm digesting them carefully.
Compared to my old Miller, the 1030 is quite a sophisticated head (smiling).

Just briefly, for now, to be clear on what I'm describing as play in the pan axis.
The head doesn't have to be locked off to see it. If I apply an up/down force to the pan handle (control arm) I can clearly see a fraction of a mm change in the gap between the head body and the 100mm bowl fitting. There is a viscous feeling when I do that.

Setting up a 16mm camera and working the head a bit feels (looks through the finder) fine, but I didn't look carefully yet zoomed in. Maybe this.

I really would prefer not to open the head myself, but I may work on some of the external mechanical things.

Talk more later.
Cheers
Gregg.
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#4 Dom Jaeger

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Posted 29 May 2011 - 10:34 PM

OK, if you remove the bowl (8 screws with a 3/32 hex driver), there is a thrust bearing beneath held by a single hex bolt (5/32 driver). This acts on the main pan bearing within. If the top race of the thrust bearing (which you can see around the bolt) is freely turning, the bolt needs to be tightened until the race can no longer be turned with your finger. Don't overtighten it though.

If there is sticky residue around the base, the pan seal needs replacing, and there is possibly wear to the hub (where the bowl screws into), which can also cause that kind of play. That repair would be best done by a technician.
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#5 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 30 May 2011 - 05:08 PM

Dom,

I removed the bowl fitting and tightened the centre screw until my fingers just couldn't turn the thrust bearing. This did reduce some of the play in the pan axis, but not all. Whether I tightened the bearing enough, don't know, I was wary of going too tight.

There was some leaked fluid around the bearing. It had spread to about the diameter of the bowl fitting, was dirty and congealed looking, like it had been there for a while. The leaked fluid from the pan fluid adjust spindle was cleanish looking. Don't know how long that took to leak out. I think the head was in storage, maybe on its side. I wiped it off and haven't seen any since. I'm assuming it will take a while.

In terms of how the head movements feel, the pan is quite smooth with a nice transition when reversing direction. The tilt, with the mid to lower drag settings, has a noticeable low drag zone of about 3 degrees wherever the camera is or was last positioned. If you tilt the camera back and forth over that spot it's a very noticable gap in the drag feel. I've worked the head back and forth like warming up the old Miller, and I think that helped a bit. Going to higher drag settings almost removes the problem.

One fault I found on this head that I can easily fix myself if I can find the part. There is a geared dial on the pan fluid adjust. There is a tiny idler gear between the spindle and the internal ring gear on the dial. The idler is broken. If I had been able to speak directly to the service tech I would have got the gear and fixed this already.

The pan fluid adjust spindle has a slightly grinding feeling as you rotate it, as though the edge of a bearing area is scraping or there is some grit.

Thanks again for the ideas. I now at least have a better feel for what the tech might have to do.
Are you a camera tech? I see that you are in Melbourne. Do you know ACL's?

Cheers
Gregg
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#6 Dom Jaeger

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 04:15 AM

Hi Gregg,

I'm guessing you bought this head second-hand without a warranty huh?

In all honesty it sounds like it needs a proper service. Leaking is no good. It sounds like the pan seal is damaged, and probably the hub it acts against. The fluid loss will cause that sort of drag pause you describe, if the drag unit isn't fully immersed. So the tilt may need a top up, too. Plus the other problems you mention need a look at.

Yes I'm a camera/lens tech in Melbourne. 15 years ago as a junior technician I was averaging one O'Connor service a week, but these days I try to stick to equipment that doesn't have so much goo. B)
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#7 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 06:32 AM

Dom,
I bought it for NZ660 with a set of Sachtler legs and spreader. Cheap enough but yes some risks with the repair costs.

Do you have people there good with servicing Eclair ACL? Do you have any parts? Or is that all history now?

Thanks again for the ideas.
Gregg
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#8 Dom Jaeger

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 08:46 PM

Do you have people there good with servicing Eclair ACL? Do you have any parts? Or is that all history now?


I don't know of anyone in Australia currently servicing them.

One of my camera teachers (now retired) used to work on Eclairs and took me through an ACL some years back. I've only worked on one since, so I'm certainly no expert. My camera training and experience is mainly with Arris, Moviecams and Bolexes.

But I have the service manuals, and they're relatively simple cameras. It depends what the problem is. I don't have any parts and I suspect they are quite hard to come by.

Feel free to PM me about it.
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#9 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 30 June 2011 - 07:15 PM

.......In all honesty it sounds like it needs a proper service. Leaking is no good. It sounds like the pan seal is damaged, and probably the hub it acts against. The fluid loss will cause that sort of drag pause you describe, if the drag unit isn't fully immersed. So the tilt may need a top up, too. Plus the other problems you mention need a look at......


Dom, are you still there?
A friendly local tech who services O'connor (Gary Oliver at Panavision) had a look. The thing needing attention he decided was the apparent gap in the tilt drag feel. He topped up the tilt fluid but could see nothing wrong in the chamber. It's an earlier model 1030 than he's familiar with. I think there are several small drag units aranged radially around the centre in the tilt drag chamber.

The result was only slightly better. His conclusion was that the problem may be with the spring system. Lag in the spring response might explain the "gap" feel, but I can feel this gap at different tilt positions. Without understanding the spring kinematics that seems a bit counter-intuitive.

Only cost me a case of beer sofar. I'm wondering whether to bide my time and send it to the States for a service or rebuild, or maybe Melbourne. The serial number is: 319003

Cheers
Gregg
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#10 Dom Jaeger

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Posted 01 July 2011 - 08:36 PM

Hi Gregg,

the counterbalance mechanism has two pairs of springs, arranged either side of the tilt axis. Play in the system will usually cause a free spot as you go through the level position, as compression moves from one set of springs to the other. So if you're getting a lag at different tilt positions it's unlikely to be the counterbalance, as you intuited.

Sometimes it can be something as simple as play in the pan handle, or a loose rosette. Or the whole head is rocking at the pan bearing (which you said yours was doing). But if you think it's something more, my suspicion would still be the tilt drag system. Without spending a bit of time examining it (probably more than a case of beer will buy B) ), detecting where the play is could be tricky.

Your cheapest option is probably to get Gary to do a proper service, or just live with it.
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