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Nikon S2 Focus Patch
Old 05-24-2016   #1
ColColt
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Nikon S2 Focus Patch

I recently bought a Nikon S2 that was in great shape and the lens even better. The one problem I have is the rangefinder focus patch. It's not square and well defined as shown in the owners manual but rather a faint, faded look that has an undefined shape. It makes it hard to focus and you're never really sure if you're in proper focus or not.

Can this be fixed or am I out of luck?
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Old 05-24-2016   #2
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Is it contrasty?

The Nikon patches are fuzzy edged. That's normal.
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Nikon RF patches are soft-edged
Old 05-24-2016   #3
alfredian
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Nikon RF patches are soft-edged

That's normal - the Nikon RF patches were "feathered" at the edges. The main focusing is done with the coincedent image overlaying. Leicas give you the option of that, or using the sharp edges for the split-image approach.
I have both brands, and one nice feature about the "soft" Nikon is that it is so easy to "ignore" - as in, completely transparent. Combine that with the 1:1 non-magnification viewing and the S2 is maybe the best action grab or quick-compose camera ever. Once your exposure is set up for the conditions and you have a pretty good focus/d.o.f. and you can just concentrate on the subject. I used to have some of the fancy techno-viewscreens for my Nikon F/F2, but after awhile it was like making photographs via a Norden bombsight. Just enjoy the S2 and get used to it. Some practictioners advocate some sort of colored eypiece filter (blue or yellow, I forget) to bring up the contrast of the patch itself, which is supposedly tinted, maybe. Hope this helps.
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Old 05-24-2016   #4
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It's not what I call contrasty...more or less soft in comparison with the M2 for instance. The patch itself is small in comparison with the M2 or M3. I don't have another S2 to compare it with as this is the first one I've had. I have three Leicas and that's all I could compare it with. I guess I'm trying to say I don't know what I'm looking at is normal or not.
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Old 05-24-2016   #5
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As already mentioned, the shape of the focus patch is more of a fuzzy blob than a clear cut rectangle. But focusing is still very easy with a clean finder.

You can check how clean your finder is by holding the camera with the finder eye piece pointed towards a bright light source, then looking through the small window on the front of the camera. When you get the angle right, you can see a circle of light through the small window. If the circle of light looks clear and contrasty, your patch is as good as it gets. If the circle of light looks a bit hazy, your finder needs cleaning. The good news is that S2 finders are simply constructed and easy to clean, and improve dramatically after cleaning.

If it was me, I'd try cleaning the three surfaces of the half mirror prism just behind the small window. You only need to remove the front cover (4 screws) and the small window (3 screws) to access these prism surfaces. Cleaning the diagonal rear surface usually yields the biggest improvement to the RF patch. It's a bit tricky, but definitely not impossible to access from the front. I use folded lens cleaning paper slightly dampened with lens cleaning fluid. Below is what an S2 half mirror prism looks like when removed from the camera. The diagonal rear surface here is the one with the lens cleaning paper running along it.

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Old 05-24-2016   #6
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I looked at a 60w light bulb the way you mentioned and it looks pretty clear-not as bright and contrasty as with the naked eye of course but pretty good.

I guess I need to get use to the patch not being like the Leica patch.Not having seen an SP or S2 before, as I mentioned, I didn't know quite what to expect.
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Old 05-24-2016   #7
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Supposedly this camera was CLA'd by DAG about seven months ago so, that may not be necessary but definitely some instructions to be filed away. I may do it anyway if I muster up enough courage. Maybe it's just me not use to the "fuzzy blob" you mentioned as opposed to the sharper defined patch in the Leica.
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Old 05-24-2016   #8
Peter Jennings
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An S2 viewfinder in good condition should have a high contrast rangefinder patch that is very pleasant to focus with even though the edges of the patch aren't sharply defined. I've owned a handful of S2 bodies and some had better patches than others. Don't try to get used to it. Keep searching until you find a good copy and treasure it.
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Old 05-24-2016   #9
Peter Jennings
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I've followed jonmanjiro's advice on cleaning S2, S3, and SP finders and it can help a lot. Doing this on an S2 is a lot easier than an SP, so definitely try cleaning it. Even with cleaning, some Nikon bodies have better patches than others. I guess that's to be expected after 60 years.
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Old 05-25-2016   #10
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What Jonmanjiro wrote.

Yet, cleaning the most important surface of the RF half-mirror (that is, the rear 45° one) is almost impossible without removing the top cover.

Then you might be tempted to remove the half-mirror to clean it, because the removal is easy (two screws). Do NOT do it or you'll be in a hard-to-solve mess to get the RF properly aligned after reassembly.

With some custom cut paper strips moistened with alcohol, you can clean it very properly. You'll have to be patient and repeat the operation many times.

Don't use some cleaning paper which may tear out once moistened. Having a piece of paper trapped between the half-mirror surface and the metal casting isn't something funny to sort out.
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Old 05-25-2016   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Highway 61 View Post
Then you might be tempted to remove the half-mirror to clean it, because the removal is easy (two screws). Do NOT do it or you'll be in a hard-to-solve mess to get the RF properly aligned after reassembly.
Excellent point! Thanks for pointing that out, Nicolas.

Definitely don't do this unless you know what you're doing (including how to correctly align after cleaning).
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Old 05-25-2016   #12
Erik van Straten
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To clean the short side of the prism (not the back of it) when removing only the front plate of the S2 a pointed bamboo saté stick wrapped in a piece of moist toilet paper works fantastic. Dry the cleaned surface with the same bamboo stick wrapped in a dry tissue. On the right of the prism there is a small opening specially made for cleaning this surface.

Erik.
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Old 05-25-2016   #13
Larry Cloetta
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ColColt,
Great advice here, as usual. Only thing I might add, since you said this was your first S2, is that, if the S2 is up to S2 standards, it will be just as easy, fast and precise to focus as your Leicas. A little different in execution, but just a little. That has certainly been my experience. If you can't get this one to meet those expectations, I'd say it was just that particular body, and not representative of the S2 experience in general.
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Old 05-25-2016   #14
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The camera itself and its functions, far as I can tell without running a roll of film through it, is flawless. Shutter speeds sound about right but that's difficult to discern without a shutter speed checker of some sort. The patch is the biggest concern.

I'm a bit hesitant to get into it. I have realigned my M2 about a year back but hat's an easy tweak having to remove just one front screw to expose the inner screw. A good 2mm screwdriver fixed it in a matter of minutes. I'm unfamiliar with the S2, however.

I may send it to Youxin ye to have a look see. This is a couple pics of it.

_1DF4578a by David Fincher, on Flickr
_1DF4576a by David Fincher, on Flickr
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Old 05-25-2016   #15
Erik van Straten
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With the rangefinder spot of the S2 it is important to have a sharp image, contrast is less important. The green/orange color effect helps too. You have to practise focusing for a while. When the image in the finder isn't sharp, you need a diopter.

Erik.
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Old 05-25-2016   #16
ColColt
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I took the S2 and the M2 outside to compare and it's like daylight and dark. The M2 was much more bright, contrasty and easier to focus. I thought maybe it was my eyes with the S2 until I focused on the same subjects with the M2. It seems for one thing the S2 is a bit out of focus calibration. The "movable" image through the viewfinder is slightly on top(or a little higher) of the fixed image on a given subject while the M2 is right in line as it should.

I have no idea how to calibrate this one as the M2 has a chrome screw right at the front top to allow access to the adjustment screw. Where is the calibration screw, if it has one, on the S2?
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Old 05-25-2016   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ColColt View Post
Where is the calibration screw, if it has one, on the S2?
Of course it has one. It even has two.

You have to remove the front cover to get access to them.
The horizontal calibration screw is in a recessed hole in the front body casting around the lens mount.
The vertical calibration mechanism is near the main VF window. You have to loose a set screw, then rotate a vertical wheel.
Caution : the set screw is very fragile.
I have lost the tracks of all the photos and the tutorials available out there and displaying that but some other folks will provide them for sure.

Nikon RFs are sensitive to bumps. A simple sudden downtilt of the camera on a table can disalign the RF. If it was mailed to you, having to adjust the RF is normal.

Your S2 looks beautiful. There is no doubt in my mind that the VF will be excellent once you have cleaned the RF light path.
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Old 05-25-2016   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Highway 61 View Post

Nikon RFs are sensitive to bumps. A simple sudden downtilt of the camera on a table can disalign the RF. If it was mailed to you, having to adjust the RF is normal.
That sounds awfully sensitive. How these were used in a combat zone seems a mystery. It was mailed via UPS but packed to the hilt with paper and peanuts.
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Old 05-25-2016   #19
Larry Cloetta
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ColColt View Post
I took the S2 and the M2 outside to compare and it's like daylight and dark. The M2 was much more bright, contrasty and easier to focus.
This is not remotely normal for an S2, which IMO, gives up nothing to an M2 in this regard. I currently have both.
So.....don't give up.
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Old 05-25-2016   #20
Peter Jennings
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Camera looks great. The sync post in front of the accessory shoe is not original. It looks like a later post from a Nikon F.
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Old 05-25-2016   #21
ColColt
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This is what the manual shows the patch to look like. Mine looks nothing like this...it's close to invisible. More annoying is the vertical alignment is a bit out.

ScreenHunter_01 May. 25 18.23 by David Fincher, on Flickr
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Old 05-25-2016   #22
NIKON KIU
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The S2 patch has held up better than the S3, at least that's been my experience.
A lot of the S3 patches have dimmed and are not usable but most of the S2s have held up pretty well.
It is possible a bit of cleaning would do it some good but it could have faded with time.
Your camera is over 60 years old.

Kiu
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Old 05-25-2016   #23
Peter Jennings
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The manual inaccurately depicts the patch edges, but the depiction of the double image is accurate. If yours doesn't have that level of contrast then the mirror is either dirty or faded.
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Old 05-25-2016   #24
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I talked with the company I bought it from about all this and they asked me to return it. They indicated they had spent a fair chunk of change to get DAG to go over the camera before they put it up for auction and if it wasn't perfect they would handle it and either get him to look at it again or give me a refund.

Something could have gone haywire between the time he worked on it and they time I received it...I'm not sure. I am sure it doesn't look up to snuff.
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Old 05-25-2016   #25
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Probably for the best, as it's clear you aren't happy with it. I have an SP in great condition that I am very happy with but, like your S2, it has a weak patch. The RF is usable, but not close to as nice as the patch on my S2. I'm torn as to whether to keep it or let it go and try to find another with a stronger RF patch. I went through five S2 bodies until I found one that was just too good to let go. It's a keeper. If you otherwise like the S2, keep looking. I'm sure you'll find one that pleases you.
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Old 05-26-2016   #26
ColColt
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It's really in such good condition and the lens is probably second only to a new one. It's a shame the patch can't be "replaced" somehow. It's also a shame nothing was mentioned in the auction about the patch.
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Old 05-27-2016   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ColColt View Post
That sounds awfully sensitive. How these were used in a combat zone seems a mystery. It was mailed via UPS but packed to the hilt with paper and peanuts.
I have been using several Nikon RF cameras for decades and all in all I have had to adjust their rangefinders four times.
In one case it was after I had dropped my camera bag from a shoulder height (S3).
The two other cases were after the cameras had been shipped to me (two S2).
The fourth case was after a sudden downtilt of a naked camera body on the table (S2).

In the meantime I have adjusted two friends' Leicas RFs twice (M6 and M3) for some sudden and unexplained heavy misalignment at infinity. Both friends are climbers and used to take their Leicas (wrapped in several layers of clothes) in their backpacks.

One of those two friends got me rotflmao'ing with a message telling me that according to his M6 the moon wasn't at infinity any longer !

Given the amount of time anyone has to give to properly clean the RF halfmirror on a Nikon, this is fairly possible that DAG didn't dare to do it like it had to be. Most of the repairers are now overwhelmed with work and won't spend several hours of their time at cleaning an half-mirror trapped into a metal casting if they think that the camera is usable as it is. Hence the great interest of having some basic skills to maintain that kind of gear oneself.

If you don't like that S2, send it back to the seller. This is not a rare camera and you'll be able to find another one with an excellent RF patch.

You can try to remove the small square mask which is screwed over the RF window. Like this, there'll be more light entering the RF light path. It can help the RF patch to be more "punchy". Basically, that little square mask has no real purpose but for reducing the size of the RF patch (and without making it a RF patch with definite edges).
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Old 05-27-2016   #28
Erik van Straten
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I do agree with Nicolas. I have three S2's. I never had to adjust their rangefinders.

Another point is that one should not compare an S2 with a Leica M3 or M2. M3s and M2s are much more sophisticated cameras. It is better to compare the S2 to the Leica IIIf. Then it has advantages.

Erik.
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Old 05-27-2016   #29
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Thanks everyone - this has been a typical and extremely useful RFF thread. I've found it most helpful b/c I recently acquired an S2 and the rangefinder patch isn't as clear as on my SP. Following Jon's advice and can see a major reason is the haze on the diagonal side of the prism - I'm just not ready to try digging in that far as I assume that besides the front panel, the top has to come off to access the prism. Anyway I did remove the mask as suggested above, and it helps some.
Thanks again
David
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Old 05-27-2016   #30
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I suppose one question to myself is how, if that be the case, did the patch become faded or faint. I have some Leica M cameras that are just as old and they have about a perfect a patch as it gets.
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The envy of all the other S2's
Old 05-27-2016   #31
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The envy of all the other S2's

If that's the S2 you bought, it is the envy of all the other S2 Nikons in RFF. Cosmetically it is a treat. If you want to let it go, let me know. If the curtains & film compartment match the exterior, it's a gem. --alfredian
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Old 05-28-2016   #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ColColt View Post
I suppose one question to myself is how, if that be the case, did the patch become faded or faint. I have some Leica M cameras that are just as old and they have about a perfect a patch as it gets.
Your S2 has more than likely a dirty RF half-mirror. The diagonal rear surface of the half-mirror gets dirty on almost all the Nikon rangefinders due to some grease outgassing from the lens mount helical, the winding geartrain and the shutter speeds cams, all of those being very close to the RF half-mirror. Like explained above, the diagonal surface of the RF half-mirror is trapped inside a metal casting. That helps the critical optical surface to get dirty.

As far as this optical surface hasn't been cleaned like Jonmanjiro told you to do it or have it done, you can't know the actual condition of the whole RF unit.

I have seen dozens of Leica M3 with totally blank viewfinders because of a lethal prism separation, which isn't fixable unless you have somebody at CRR Luton re-do the prism for you, or replace it with a new M6 one.
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Old 05-28-2016   #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alfredian View Post
If that's the S2 you bought, it is the envy of all the other S2 Nikons in RFF. Cosmetically it is a treat. If you want to let it go, let me know. If the curtains & film compartment match the exterior, it's a gem. --alfredian
The pictures I showed is the one I bought. The film compartment looks clean and the curtain looks as new. My one gripe mostly was the patch.
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Old 05-28-2016   #34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ColColt View Post
My one gripe mostly was the patch.
Still we can have no idea of how your patch is since you seem to expect the same thing as what you see in your Leica M finders.

There is something you should try, it's 100% reversible and you need a bit of black tape, or a black sharpie only :

http://rick_oleson.tripod.com/index-165.html

When done, if you see a huge improvement within the patch (brightness, contrast), then your problem is with the main prism (in the main VF) which suffers from desilvering. Do you see some black spots in that VF or "golden droplets" at its periphery when you closely look at the VF window from the front of the camera ?

If, when done, there is no really very visible improvement within the patch, then you've got an S2 on which the diagonal surface of the RF half-mirror has to be cleaned.
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Old 05-28-2016   #35
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I can't perform those checks until it's sent back from the seller and depending on what they do with it...if anything. I don't recall seeing any black spots in the VF, however.
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Old 05-30-2016   #36
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First, Thank You Highway 61 for the black tape tip. It made a big improvement on my Nikon SP.

Second, is there anyone who can repair or replace the degraded parts in the finder?

Many Thanks, Joe.
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Old 05-30-2016   #37
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I'm wondering if there's any fix to one that suffers from desilvering. You may be up the creek, that being the case.
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Old 06-02-2016   #38
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Due to how the Nikon S2 prism was made (cemented with Canada balsam and half-mirror surfaces layered with gold not silver or platinum) the "desilvering" of the main prism starts from the edges (hence the "golden droplets" which can be seen at the main VT periphery once looked at from the front of the camera) and doesn't cause any global fading of the VF image, unlike what happens with the Nikon S3 viewfinder.

All in all the Nikon S2 VF prism holds very well over time, and frankly better than the Leica M3 one, prone to sudden blindness due to instant and total separation of the two parts of the prism.

In your case the culprit is very likely the small RF half-mirror, which more than probably has either a dirty or a corroded rear diagonal surface.
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Old 06-02-2016   #39
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The place I bought it from has sent it back to DAG since it was still under his warranty. Hope to hear something next week one way or the other. I'm hoping it's an easy fix. I talked with them over the phone and reiterated our conversation via a note I stuck in the package.
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Old 06-02-2016   #40
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A question about cleaning the prism (as shown by Jon) - checking its condition as suggested above, mine is very hazy. So do you have to take the top plate off to ckean the prism 45 diagonal? I took of the front plate bit was unable to get cleaning tissue more than 2 mm behind the diagonal prism surface.
TIA
David
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