Photography and Clock Repair: Choosing the Right Camera and Lens

Photography can be a useful tool in almost any hobby, including clock repair. While written instructions can be helpful, a well-crafted video or series of detailed still images can be even more effective. As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Homemade click spring repair

In this article, we will explore the benefits of using any type of camera to record the process of repairing a clock. However, we will also discover that there is a specific type of camera and lens that offers the best results for this purpose.

Not all cameras are created equal. While cell phones can take decent pictures, they have limitations when it comes to isolating foreground from background and producing high-quality macro images. Nevertheless, if a dedicated camera is unavailable, using a cell phone camera is still better than having no documentation at all when it comes to clock repairs.

Working on an escape wheel bridge

My preferred setup

The author has used several cameras for clock repair photography but their go-to camera is a digital interchangeable single-lens reflex camera, the Olympus E-330, which was made in 2006. Despite its age, the camera has more than enough megapixels (7.5mp) and is fully capable of producing superior results. The photos can be resized to a smaller dimension for publication on a blog, without a significant loss of quality.

To avoid any shaky images while capturing photos with a low shutter speed, I utilize a sturdy and high-quality Manfrotto tripod with a ball head. Using a tripod is crucial when taking photos with a low shutter speed because it helps to stabilize the camera and prevent any unwanted camera shake or blur, resulting in sharper and more professional-looking images.

E330 with Olympus flash
Olympus E330 with 50mm macro lens

Paired with an Olympus 50mm F2 macro lens, the Olympus SLR is excellent for taking close-up shots and producing a pleasing soft out-of-focus background blur or bokeh.

All closeup photographs on this page were taken with the Olympus 50mm f2 macro lens.

Inspecting a pivot for wear

A dedicated macro lens is important for close-up photography because it allows for a high degree of magnification with minimal distortion and high image quality but most importantly it isolates the subject.

Macro lenses are specifically designed to produce sharp images at close range, with a flat field of focus and minimal aberrations. They also typically have a wider maximum aperture, which allows for better control over the depth of field.

A very worn pivot

Using a non-macro lens for close-up photography can result in image distortion, reduced sharpness, and difficulty in achieving accurate focus.

Balance wheel hairspring showing a slight kink

A capable and versatile camera is also essential for macro photography. One of the E-330’s best features is its ability to switch from automatic to manual focus mode and lock onto an extremely close subject through a 10X magnification box, making it ideal for clock repair photography.

The author takes dozens of photos from every conceivable angle during a repair job and catalogs them for future reference.

New main wheel bushing for a banjo clock

Can I use my cell phone?

Yes, it is possible but with an understanding of its limitations!

Many modern cell phones have a built-in macro feature that allows you to take close-up photos of small objects. However, the quality of the macro feature can vary greatly between different phones and models. In general, the camera features of a cell phone improve with a higher price point.

Some phones have dedicated macro lenses or sensors that allow for better magnification and clarity, while others may rely on software, often called digital zoom, to enhance close-up shots. Phones with higher-end cameras and more advanced features tend to have better macro capabilities.

That being said, even with a macro feature, even the best cell phones can still have limitations when it comes to close-up photography. They may struggle with focusing on small subjects, produce lower-quality images with more noise or distortion, or have a limited depth of field.

A dedicated camera with a good macro lens that can be focused manually is still the preferred choice for serious close-up photography.


Based on my personal experience, I would recommend using a dedicated camera with a high-quality macro lens for achieving the best possible results when documenting clock repairs.

Having a good camera with a dedicated macro lens can greatly enhance the clock repair process. It doesn’t have to be the latest and greatest or the most expensive, but it should be decent enough to produce high-quality results.

I believe that a camera is one of the most indispensable tools for repairing clocks. There have been several instances where I had to consult a photograph to ensure the precise placement of a clock component on a movement being repaired, which has saved me hours of frustration and prevented any potential mistakes.

Overall, the utilization of photography as a tool in clock repair enables repairers to document their work and have a visual reference to ensure accuracy and consistency in their repairs, ultimately resulting in successful and lasting repairs.


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