I've just found myself a second ML 35-70mm f/3.5 that was woefully underdescribed as part of a 7 lens lot. The good news is that all 7 of them cost me less than dinner for two, and the optics and cosmetics are great. The flip side is that there's no way to tease the aperture to anything beyond about mid way. All the levers appear to do what they should for movement, but the ring doesn't change the iris at all, and no amount of coaxing and flicking the lever does very much at all, so there might be 1/4 stop of movement to the blades, but they spring right back to the middle when spring travel is finished.
Focus and zoom seem fine and properly damped, and I don't really see any oil on the blades either, so I'm stymied on what's keeping things stuck where they are. This isn't exactly a common lens version, so I have doubts that this is a prevalent or well known issue with these... plus their rare-ish nature means that there may not be a lot of broken samples that have been torn down to effect a fix either.
Has anyone ever dismantled one of these before, or have some insight on what I can do to diagnose the problem? I'd be interested in sending it off for repair too, so if there's someone qualified, I'd like to find out where it could go for a checkup.
I'm unfamiliar with anyone other than Mark Hama in the US who can still carry out Contax/Yashica repairs but I have recently sent a couple of lenses to an American member of this Forum and he is going to send them for a CLA. I'd be happy to ask him for details of the possible repairer; of course, it may well turn out to be Mark Hama's company. I'll also check my emails from about 2 years ago as there was a New England family-run photo business that did offer repairs to a camera and lens but it'll take some serious searching to retrieve their details.
I did a bit of investigating beyond the initial once over, and it looks like there's more than meets the eye. Fitting the lense on half dozen bodies as well as several digital adapters has brought out more clues. The lens doesn't attach as easily as it should and feels like its mounting plate isn't exactly flat. It take a bit of persuasion to get it turned and locked, and once in place, the DoF preview on C/Y camera bodies does get the iris to move a bit more... but it still doesn't spring back into place like it should. Everything has my gut thinking that it's been dismantled before by someone unfamiliar with how lenses work and it's been quickly reassembled without as much care as it needs. That's not to say that a simple rebuild might fix it - only that it's probably been mistreated during some previous fix attempt.
At the right price it might be worth a trip in for repair anyway, so I might try contacting Midwest Camera and see what they'd be able to do. They have a long history with the big 3, and with the newer digital players as well, so it might be worth asking. They have several techs on staff, and the last time I checked, wait times seem reasonable too.
My last email and response to/from Mark Hama didn't leave me with warm fuzzies as he'd seemingly glossed over a lot of the specifics of the request and left key questions unanswered. It may be that the repair market has been pounding him with more work than ever. I may be reading too much into it, but I think it would be better to send only TLR stuff to him and find others for 35mm gear... especially considering the prices he'd likely ask.